“Do you hear that? That music? Gliding in from the far room.”
I sat up alert upon the chaise, the book falling from my eyes and down to my lap as I looked to Marius from over my spectacles. “I’m sorry?” I said.
Marius, in all his corpulence and majesty, waved his gloved hand to the back room where the sound of violin accompanied by an acoustic instrument carried from the record player.
“The music, my good sir! The music! Do you hear it? Is it not what the gibbous moon creeps out just before she rises to her fullness? Ah!” Marius basked, his arms moving in flamboyant tandem, as though a conductor, his round face beaming, “It is glorious!”
I shifted upon the chaise, listening, Marius standing by the alighted hearth in the dimness of his study, floating like a bee to the music. It was quite lovely, blossoming and falling as only classical music can.
“I have always loved the violin,” I said, adjusting myself back into the nook of the chaise so to continue my reading, “such a romantic sound.”
Marius turned to me with a start, his eyes wide in what seemed to be surprise, or perhaps exasperation. “The violin!” he stated, “Oh no, my sir! That, is none other than the viola. Quite a different instrument. Thicker strings, more finesse! She is deeper, throatier.” He moved with miraculous swiftness for a man his size into the accompanying room, and wheeled the ebony Gothic tea cart which the record player sat on out into the center of the study, the music blooming loudly. With his hand he slowly twisted the nob, the concerto quieting, and with that he turned to me.
“Nicolò Paganini. 18th Century Romantic. Born from Genoa, Italy. His piece,” and with a flourish of his arm Marius renounced me to the record, “Sonata per la Grand’Viola.” and with a finger raised he added, “Part One.”
“Part One?” I said, crossing my legs and officially given up on my book, “How many parts are there?”
“Seventeen!” he declared, “But none so blithe and of such beauty as the first; the solo of the viola. My heart, it bends before those four strings, thick body, and heavy bow. Madame Viola, she is a poet, is she not? Listen! During the inevitable hour to which I shall find myself in her, I feel as though I should be shrouded in black fur, or dining in wine that firms with every drink. Do you hear that? There is little inconsistency in her sound. Not that of the scratching wail of dear violin, though, be assured, I have nothing against dear viola’s sister. Ah! Listen! She is smooth, and high. At times, she ruptures! — as if on fire. Mm, she can quite become anything! Such a shape shifting instrument, and her structure so curved and shapely. She is appealing to the eye. How impossible it is for us men not to associate physicality with the eyes of the soul! She is judged so quickly as being beautiful and pure, most cannot resist the desire to pluck her strings and rake a stick across them… Always such a pure, lovely, and almost tragic sound. You would think she was always singing. For, we always picture beautiful things as having beautiful voices, now don’t we? Whether innocent or haunting, an object of beauty is only really picturesque when coupled with that sensual, perpetually echoing, so angelic of sound, would you not agree? Imagine, in your mind’s eye, the most beautiful creature you can conjure; you got it? Excellent. Now did you picture your rosebud with a voice of gargling tobacco and rasping elderly squall? Of course you didn’t! Mm, and the viola and violin, they are no exceptions. In fact, she, the four string goddess, embodies that image we all know; that of a white, pure, and soft spoken girl, so lost in an evil world. Her song, is the song we reach for when we wish to balance the light and the dark. Oh yes, that cherished light and that wretched, banished dark!”
His theatrical embellishment quieted, just as the viola solo came to an end, and stopping the record and lifting the needle, Sonata per la Grand’Viola filled the room with her aroma again. Marius, in solidness, strolled to the fire, the orange and yellow light dancing over his proud face, and the spark that had been flaring in his deep, cobalt eyes grew dark and serious. As he spoke, his voice was low, and of a foreboding manner, that gave me chills, and the ambiance of the room quite changed.
“What most do not realize, or would even dare to think, is that she, our viola, our great, grand beam of beauty, has nothing of the light about her… She is a wild, maddened creature, that never once held beauty… She is a slit tongue, a cloven hoofed, she is black. Hear now! I do say! She is a CUNT! She is a beggared whore who clinks chains and bites throats in the night! She pusses and oozes disdain she loathes the very hands that pull that sound from out her bowels!” Marius threw his hands up, his shadow menacing and behemoth upon the far wall from the blaze of the hearth, “You think you know! You think you see! So you are a FOOL!”
It was at this time that I knew the conversation, or, perhaps the declaration, had drifted from the sonata and fallen upon darker territory. I sat quite aghast and speechless upon the chaise, unsure of what to say or do, and at the sight of my uncertainty Marius’ face fell; relaxation of a sort as he pulled a kerchief from his breast pocket and wiped his sweaty brow.
“Forgive me… Pardon, dear monsieur. Ah, yes. Yes, I do so doubt she even knows of the word love.” he turned to gaze to the firelight again, his eyes heavy, but calm, “I do doubt, she wears her crown of divine roses bestowed, with any warmth, or satisfaction. Listen… That music… The voice of the viola. You hear it as music, but she is screaming, she is screaming. She screams her lungs out. A cry and a lust for evil that if you spoke to her she would never deny, but none shall ever ask, for none have ever believed.” Marius sank into his desk chair, it groaning under his enormous weight, and his left hand he rested upon the desktop. “No. I do not believe that, Madame Viola has ever, ever sang a song. I think she has been misinterpreted. I think that serpent, will play the role of victim until death, not because she is a villain, but because it is her curse to bear. It is an act, it is a mask, it is a song, for she is a poet. My fucking God is she a poet. And from poetry, all monstrosities come…”
It was with this that the clock chimed midnight, and I rose from the chaise, my book tucked beneath my arm, and I gazed at my poised, mighty friend, with a sense of honor and admiration as I had always held for him, but with new found curiosity. In the firelight he looked shadowed, and grieved. He was an impressive man, and a mystery to the last drop.
“I believe I shall take my leave now, Marius,” I said, “and will retired to bed.”
“Yes, goodnight, dear friend. I shall see you, in the morning.”
To the door I went, and departed from the Count’s presence, and, though I can say with no certainty, as I placed my foot upon the first step of the stair that would lead me to my chambers, I thought, I feel, I heard a deep, stifled crying of that of a man. But the breath went as quickly as it came, and all was unnervingly silent and still in the house.
A mystery to the last drop.