'Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault'.—Oscar Wilde
I shall relate a tale of life and deception that haunts the core of human madness, and leaves you cogitating within such a grave manner as you ask, how consequential is life seen, through the perceptive eyes of a wretch and of an artist? My name is Edgar Franklin, and of myself I shall only confess the following, I was once merry and connubial, but soon, my life had tumbled into a Stygian despair of an abyss. I became a dispirited man, and participant to the inscrutable fate that was never beholden to my every desideratum. This reminiscence had stirred a maelstrom I could not bear any longer, as the constant murk enveloped within the desolation of living that I struggled incessantly to repress. Never did I suspect that my days of desultory felicity would abdicate and be replaced, with the taunting despondency that I abhorred daily. Thenceforth, my soul began to wane in token intervals of insanity, with the helpless rage and guilt that had foreshadowed brief bouts of enjoyment.
It all began one gloomy day of autumn in the year of 1880, as I had chosen to leave my home behind, and search for better things in this world. I had grown too weary of life and velleity, and the course of its direction was unbearable to endure another day. Thus, with resolution, I had consciously thought it better to quit my home than to suffer such depravation any longer; but fate would supervene and intervene, with a chilling and swift apprehension. I had lost a wife, my home, my status in society and was condemned to the deplorable state of abject poverty. Hope had seemed was nothing more than an unattainable contrivance to aspire, and daily and nightly, I implored the hour of my fruition. My sufferance was so oppressive that I was becoming apathetic to the passing of the illimitable days, weeks and months.
Whither, I had believed to be, my last indelible view of my home. I abode the veil of darkness of death to escort me, to the ambiguous waters of the swashing seas, as I braced myself for my new life. I was a deckhand then, and Scotland was the destination for my first trip. I heard the voice of a strange woman, 'Tell me your name and eke your place of birth! Do not go aboard laddie!'
It was an outré quirk of subtle irony that occurred before we embarked to the sea from the harbour of Dover. I was boarding the ship at that precise moment, when an anile woman of Gypsy origin had stopped me by grabbing my arm and then had said to me these disconcerting words that had perplexed me suddenly. Forsooth, I was not quite certain what had caused this bizarre woman to say and express such ominous words of direness. I saw the profound austere intensity of conviction and meaning elicited in the old lady of cinereous hair, whose penetrating eyes were passionately enthralled with her direful utterance. This stern warning definitely had befuddled me for an instance, but I dismissed her words of severe admonition, as foolish and idle gibberish. I could not understand the significance of her behaviour.
'Avaunt woman, for I do not have time now, for your blatant incoherence. If you must peddle your black magic to someone, then seek another poor soul to deceive!' I had ejaculated.
As I got on board, I heard her voice anathematising me totally, 'Fool, you will remember my words of warning! Thus, you will be condemned to your blind faith laddie!'
Upon the fortnight through the English Channel, the ship sailed the hypenemious seas, until one unfortunate day, a tempest had struck the hull of the ship, leaving the ship to be totally shipwrecked and incapacitated afterwards. The mast was the only remnant salvageable that allowed the boat to reach the shoreline of Yorkshire, beyond the safety of the shale. Of all the crew members aboard, I along with a shipmate by the name of Gustaf Svenson had survived the shipwreck. I had been told that the shipmaster, the crew, were all dead. I was in the lower deck of the ship, when a fire had started. There was smoke all over, and I tried to escape. That was all I remembered, as I reached the upper deck. I had lost complete consciousness, with the smoke and the abrupt and apparent storm, and was left motionless on the beach, and thus abandoned to the undetermined fate that had awaited me.
When I had opened my eyes anew, I saw the presence of a mysterious stranger, who stood in front of me, as I lay in the bed within a listless torpor. The eerie voice of a nobleman I then heard addressing me nigh. I could not speak nor could I move much, due to the severity of my injury I succumbed to, a minor fracture to my right leg that was of an inconvenience.
'The apparent Devil has smiled on you my good man suddenly. You are quite lucky to have survived the tempest. The wrath of the tempest at times cannot be remediable so easily, as one is led to believe it to be soluble. You see my good man, when your ship hit the shore of this island, you were unconscious. This was the state that I found you in'.
'Gustaf, what has happened to him, my shipmate?' I asked.
'Gustaf, I am afraid that he did not survive his terrible wounds and you were the only one that survived the shipwreck', he replied.
'My God! The ship, what can you tell me about the status of the ship?'
'Gone—it was not repairable! It was a lamentable blanscue. You see death is not a facile thing vaguely to be imposed beseemingly. The eternal sea once the watchet and vast sea of beauty and perfection can become a turbulent graveyard, for the deceased sailors of the sea who seek the tropaean winds. Moreover, you are extremely fortunate that you have been found alive'.
'Where am I, and who are you sir?'
'Inherited guilt, will not eradicate any remnant of insurmountable iniquity, my good man. Persuasion will not induce you to a precipitous dissuasion, if you do not acquiesce. As for your question, you are in a chamber of my home. Welcome, to my manor, I am Lord Alfred Collinsworth'.
I was told that the surname Collinsworth was an honourable and proud appellation and venerable lineage of England. At first, the nobleman had frightened me, with his peculiar Gothic attire and physiognomy. He was fully dressed in a sable hue of mystery, from a shirt, waist coat, trousers, and even his radiant polished shoes that reflected. His face was jovial, resembling a young man in his thirties. He had appeared to be reverent and humble in his decorum, but my initial anxiety would not be allayed, by his comportment. My heart had pounded so quickly that I felt within me, the ponderous throbbing that was constricting me like an inexorable serpent. My rapid fear supplanted my rational logic and planning, as I failed to understand my situation. The vast shade of the crescent darkness of the night had been seen looming, from the rear window.
In my opium dream, I could have not envisioned my final demise in a bed, before a man whose odd guise evoked eccentricity and distrust. The invariable thought of death had obsessed my mind, and the dissolution in my soul had depleted the vim and verve I retained ere. However, never—never—did that rumination, preclude my death in the most atrocious form ascertained through clairvoyance. I had attempted to rise to my feet but was unable, and after several minutes, I realised that I could not walk or put much weight upon the leg. Thus, I was at the unfortunate mercy of my injury and the volition of Lord Collinsworth. The pain in my leg was excruciating that he gave me morphine to reduce the swelling along with the pain. I had thought of resisting the morphine, but as I elucidate, I could not bear much the continuous discomfort I was experiencing. Therefore, for two months I had sojourned in the Collinsworth Estate, until my leg had healed.
'Are you a wealthy nobleman, if I may enquire?' I asked.
His response was succinct, but telling as he chuckled, 'Oh, I am not a plutocrat and what intrigues me to know is who you are! I do not want to bore you any more, with such jejune trivialities of my life of self-indulgence so suddenly my good man'.
I had hesitated for a moment, till I answered his question, 'I am Edgar Franklin sir'.
I had no place to go, for I was wantsome. Lord Collinsworth was kind enough to allow me to stay. He was an artist who enjoyed sculptures and wax figures, and I had obtained his confidence. My curiosity of his true identity or origin I had placated for the nonce. Every time I attempted to know more of him, he was evasive, and only was interested in my well-being. I had no actual knowledge of his whereabouts at times, since he came and went like day and night, whilst I gradually began to recuperate. He had offered me employment, and I became his gate keeper and was assigned to guarding the main entrance to the estate, and lived in a small quaint cottage attached to the gate. He was indeed a man of much mystery, for he often travelled from place to place in Great Britain. And often his guests were very convivial, but none stayed more than a night.
The description of the manor I can only describe in the following aspect, it had an ample garden, with a striking rose window above the Gothic portico that displayed a less than apprehensible view. There were lifeless trees of sullen transparency, beside the paved cobblestones leading the way to the front entrance. The former smicker daffodils and clematises that the kinsfolk had said grew were now cernuous or replaced, with teeming black roses and lilies. When I had asked Lord Collinsworth of the Cimmerian colours of gloom of the estate, he said that it was due to his solemn reverence to the colour black. The manor was located upon a mall plateau overlooking a bend in a river, nigh a causeway and tussocks. Inside it had living accommodations upstairs and downstairs. In the stately hall made of ashlar, there was an intimate hearth always lit, surrounded by an oak panel and a plasterwork ceiling. The furnishings were oak and wrought in the magnificence of embroidery. In the rear entrance, there was a small pond adjoined with a prickly thicket of thorns.
It was strange to see the merry revelers, who wined and feasted with Lord Collinsworth, and the numerous wax figures he had in the manor. The manifold corbins who flocked and roosted upon the gable roof of the home in crocitation, from early morning till midnight were as well prevalent. I could see them from the cottage peering below, with their ebony guise of dominion. They were manifest to the eye always, as protectors of the manor, and passionately devoted they were to the house and to Lord Collinsworth. I was told that ruddocks once filled the roof of the manor. There was a mystery to unfold, but Lord Collinsworth had entrusted me, with the solicitude of the estate, and I did not see it proper to betray his deferential trust.
The months became years, and it had been five years, since I was living and working for Lord Collinsworth. We had built a strong rapport between us, and though he was the sole proprietor of the manor, he occasionally invited me to dine with him, when none of the bidden visitors were present, which was rare. Upon one occasion, I had sat with him at his table, and dined with him, and wined as well. Never did he once grouse or chide me, about my obligations, for I was a loyal servant of the ancient manor. Our private conversations were always around the subject of life and death, which he had mastered with his sagacity and connoisseurship. He always addressed me, by my surname Franklin.
'Franklin my boy, what do you perceive death to be, when your soul is condemned to the Hades of eternal sufferance and shent afterwards?'
At first I remained silent, but then I answered as usually I did, 'Oh my lord, I am only a mere man; but if you must know, I believe that when a soul perishes on this earth, the soul must proceed to a place'.
'Are you referring Franklin, to what the Catholics name purgatory?' He asked.
'Perhaps so my lord, but I must suppose that infinity is a definite abode for all of us mortals', I uttered.
'Yes, Franklin, for it is a daring quodlibet. Man who is parviscient is embedded, with the gormless need of rapacity and wealth that he forsakes his soul for this. Thus, he reduces himself to being nothing more than a pompous swine and haughty conniver of prurience and celeberrimous accomplishments that are worthless like Elagabulus. He will never be beneath his predilection and urge to be the mere cockalorum. He could be bequeathed a chancery fortune and messuages also; but he will forsake that, for a castle and a kingdom always. All that he dawdles his time is in senseless trumperies or espiegleries intrinsicated that are inapposite. Wars and destruction are all he knows truly, for it is evident in his genes and lineage. Religion is nothing more than fabrication of human corruption expounded, on the Rhadamanthine beliefs man has altered blindly, when astray or in an abditive manner. Indeed, man may maintain his faculties through faith, but he cannot tame completely his animalistic behaviour and instincts that may appear dormant. He begins to fret with quoddity that I conspue of an inficete dolt, and imposes his maniacal opinions of religion to others, with a fervent zeal to misqueme. I pity Tertullian as a philonoist myself, for he was a blatant fool to pander to religion. Man's reasonable thoughts of logic soon become uncontrollable and impulsive that are understood, as garrulous blateration. I often ponder the ambagious nihilism of Gorgias. Oh, never forget this Franklin. Let it serve as a poignant commonition. Oh, do not be like the archetypal louche gent, for it will destroy you', he replied.
'I shall hope not my lord!'
'What is your opinion on vanity Franklin? What do you perceive exactly of vanity?' Lord Collinsworth quaeritated.
'I am afraid my lord that my humble opinion on the matter is very vague, since I have never considered myself to be extremely vain', I responded.
'Rubbish—pure rubbish Franklin—for man is always Machiavellian in nature in one form or the other. His inclination for vanity is such a prominent and indicative part of his character. Yes Franklin, I was once a vain man of greed and this self-admiration we all crave for. Although I must admit, this is all nothing more than the common guise of self-regard and dishonesty of which I have paid considerably for this fallibility. Henceforth, I have found my comfort and pleasure in the manor, as a galliard, and have been entertained by all the lepid guests who have visited me. You see vanity is a terrible trait to bear, but it fascinates me and has inspired my brilliant sculptures that you see in the manor. I have preserved their essence each of them, and this vainglory that mortal men desire endlessly. They are well deserving of callisteia each, for their beauty is a divinity and kalon I have elaborated, like the statues of the Greek Gods or Goddesses in Athens. Alas, I fancy the whims of the Eupatrids that once lived. I know you may wonder how I stay so young and debonaire in my seemliness and appearance, and do not age or have wrinkles. It is the beauty of the essence of the art found in my wax figures that maintain my youth', he said.
'Indeed my lord and vanity for me has led me astray, when I have sought it as a dizzard', I confessed to him.
'I admire your intellect and jannock wit my boy, and for that reason alone, I entrust you even with the affairs of my estate', he replied.
He paused for a moment before continuing, 'You see Franklin, I shall be away for a week tending to my other demesne, and I need you to be my devoted solicitor. You have served me well and obediently now for five years, and therefore, I shall promote you to the status of my loyal confidant. But for now, I need you to be the steward of the manor. I shall ask that you stay here and not in your cottage, and that you be vigilant—the wandering eyes of the manor. Can I rely on you to execute this course of action?'
I agreed, 'Yes of course my lord. Although I may not be worthy of this position for my lack of experience, nevertheless, I shall be fain to be at your disposition'.
He smiled and responded, 'Oh Franklin, do not fret my boy, for you will soon be wont to the familiar occurrences of the manor’s doing. After all, the manor is always subservient to our needs daily my good man'.
The social intercourse was left for another occasion, and I thought only of the task that was imposed upon me by Lord Collinsworth. Then, he departed upon the early morrow, while I remained in the manor as the steward. His departure was nothing of the unordinary, with the exception that he left his walking cane. When I noticed that the cane was left behind, it was too late, for he was gone. I stood at the gate, as his carriage departed through the country road. I had seldom strayed beyond the vast tract of land of the estate that led to the solitary village, within the area. Although I had a desire to know the village, my tasks would always impede me to venture much outside of the estate. Hence, my contact with the villagers was limited to say the least, aside from the visitors who arrived at the manor. Once Lord Collinsworth had departed, I returned to the manor.
Inside, I accomplished the undertakings of the manor, with the utmost diligence and elements afforded to me. The servants of the manor had remained in their quarters or were away from the manor. The first couple of days and nights, all was calm and silent, except the caws of the corbins, and the bustle of the wind that blew, with a heavy echo. But shortly, upon the placidity of the day and night, appeared a mist of vicissitude that began to engulf the estate including the manor as well. The brume did not seem to bother much the corbins, as they continued with their stir and vigilance. Often the sound of the caws began to inundate me with episodes of terror, as I found myself alone in the fuscous manor with scialytic lamps. The paintings, the armorial shields, the Gothic walls and corridors had also started to haunt me. Even though, I had been inside the manor dining and wining with Lord Collinsworth, never did the manor haunt me as it did then.
Anon, the sound of voices I started to hear, beyond the parlour. It came from the wax figures and behind the walls of the corridor. A wailing sound resounded and raught my chair, as I sat pondering the strange occurrence. The wails had increased, and the wind accompanied the wails wildly, like an orotund chorus in consonance. I rose to my feet forthwith and stood there in the parlour, until I had the courage to proceed to investigate. And thereafter, I did. Manifold thoughts of terror and uncertainty had penetrated my mind, as the lurking conclusion of death resurfaced in me. No, no, no—this is nothing more than the sounds of the eerie nature of the weather, I admitted to myself. But, my body began to quiver with the madness, and the temptation of my demise was manifesting itself slowly. Was my madness nothing more than the insane effects of excessive thoughts of irrational fears?
I passed the corridor slowly and attentively, until I had arrived at the hall. Afterwards, I hesitated and harked to the wailing sound of dread that worried me. I had busied myself at once to investigate more the mystery. It was then that I arrived at the stairway leading upstairs to one of the sundry chambers above of the manor. The stairway had a creepy Gothic guise that could mesmerise or impress with an incantation. There was this unassailable aura of death attached to the manor that was easily ignored by the visitors. I had never felt this sinister solicitude before.
Thus, I made the decision to climb the stairs and head towards the mysterious chamber of wails. Slowly, I walked then towards the corridor, and arrived at the surreptitious chamber. The door was shut, but I had the keys, and consequently, I entered the chamber. And what I descried was a shocking and vile image of sheer horror. Inside the chamber were multifarious figures of human beings murmuring. But they were not human, for they were more wax figures. It was a terrible dream—no, no, this could not be transpiring! Absolute fear had entered my body, as I discerned the figures to be the bidden visitors of Lord Collinsworth. There in the third row of the figures, I noticed the presence of what appeared to be Gustaf, my shipmate. He was standing with a listless expression on his face, as he was stiff and cold.
Using one of the keys that I had at my disposal, I began to carve into his face, and as I did this, his face began to melt and disintegrate, as he shrieked. His figure fell to the ground and had shattered, as I had stumbled to the floor. I rose to my feet quickly and left the chamber and scurried to the stairway. I ran down the stairs, and towards the hall. There, I went to the cabinet to grab some Médoc, so that I could assuage my unsettling nerves. I took a glass and opened the bottle, and had a draught of the Médoc. I had attempted to convince myself that all I had seen was surreal but not real. No, no, it is only the deception of my delusion. The Médoc began to mollify my angst a bit. But, as I lingered in doubt, the sounds of the wailing persisted. The unyielding wailing did not cease, and the clamours of the walls were loud. The walls, the wax figures started to call my name.
The powerful reverberations of the cawing corbins increased. The madness, the madness, compelled me to attempt to leave the manor. I stood before the stairway, whilst the voices intensified. Once more the horrendous voices, but this time, they were louder. The urgent need to escape the manor had prevailed over me even more. My heart beat quickly, as my legs felt a heavy hebetude restraining my movement. I took a deep breath and remained at the front edge of the stairway. However, I would be thwarted then, by Lord Collinsworth, who was standing behind me. Suddenly, I heard his unforgettable voice uttered.
'Indeed, you are a worthy adversary Franklin, but rest assure, you will soon understand the complexity of your fate'.
I had turned around startled by his presence, 'My God, since when have you returned Lord Collinsworth. And what do you mean I shall understand my fate—understand what?'
He had looked into my eyes and replied, 'The absolute voices you hear, the wax figures, the corbins outside. And the oppressive gates around the estate'. He had paused before he continued.
'You see Franklin all is not what it seems'.
'What do you mean by that? What the devil is happening? Who are you?' I eagerly enquired.
He responded, 'I am the artist who saved you, when you were dying and a wretch. Hitherto, you are my splendid work of art Franklin. Through my mansuetude as a philocalist, I have given you this gift of impeccable life to treasure. Oh, do not forsake it my good man, for such unmerited and ruthless cruelty that will be your harsh reality once more, if you forever depart this manor'.
'You are mad Lord Collinsworth. I am leaving this house of hell now!' I ejaculated.
'Go whither Franklin? Can he who was dead emerge, from the utter darkness of his soul? You see my boy you are nothing more than a mere wax figure, like the ones you see around you. Wax is analogous to the ancient ichor of the Greek Gods. For heaven's sake, there is no need to dramatise the situation. We shall prepare for a synallactic dinner to reconcile our simplistic differences and accept it as a genuine prebition of my generosity', Lord Collinsworth responded.
I was mindful of his prevenancy, and I took the lamplight from the corridor and threw it at the draperies causing a massive fire that spread to the manor engulfing the hall we were in. It was then that the fire started to burn Lord Collinsworth, as he attempted to prevent the fire from consuming him entirely. The manor was quickly enveloped in the burning inferno that blazed. His face began to melt as with the wax figures, and then his whole body that was cered melted in the fire. Desperation had compelled me to escape with such urgency. I managed miraculously to escape the manor and the fire, but not before the fire had begun to reach me, as the skin on my arm was melting. I knew then that Lord Collinsworth was correct and I too was made of wax. I did not bleed, for under my skin was the wax that Lord Collinsworth had sculpted my body with and formade. It was a shocking revelation that I discovered. I Edgar Franklin was not human, but instead a walking corpse of wax.
What was discovered about the others and me was known, through a journal I left behind. My body had burnt, with the wreck. I was dying when Lord Collinsworth found and saved me along the shoreline, with the fierce scourge of the tempest. But he kept me alive me through the wrought sculpture of wax. The same wax that burns slowly from a candle. The manor burnt into scant ashes. It was alive only when Lord Collinsworth was alive. The madness of the wax figures of Collinsworth Hall was finally over. And the horrible realisation of living was an eternal breath of no pre-eminence I entreated. I had accepted my fate at last, as I was then cognisant of my unknown truth. I wandered the earth as a liegeless solitudinarian whose heart beat and beat, inside a ceriferous body.
Death is never a wanted preference, but the temptation of living as an immortal we yearn passionately, as a warison. The omphalos of nullibicity is poignantly found, within the seities of human percipience, and the cacoethes to discover the repressible obsession, with the quandary we impose willingly that is called expiry. Too sublunary is the thought that we contrive in our minds, the variable and Barmecidal world we search for that is non-existent and only oneiric. Thus, the unwanted encumbrance that drains us bears no serendipity or edification.
Instead, it is a viduous dourness void of any placentious joy forever susceptible, when it is laden. Therefore let us ponder for a moment, the thought of death, within a vision so stark and luculent. A reality we shall all contemplate at length and our minds shall ponder, within a sheer fright that consumes one like a lambent flame. Horror does not attempt to beguile you with mere deception, but something more feasible to comprehend, the thought of death and the vanity, we all have within us.