I found myself traveling through one of those out of the way places that one would not normally think to venture into. A section far off on the periphery of the largest of cities of the land. That fabled far off land of the very wealthy. A place over-filled with natural foliage bereft of the normal wide highways that might disturb this luxuriant cover left standing since time immemorial. Somewhere upon its border, or perhaps,centered within its midst lay a small quaint village. Two lane streets subtending a somber grid of small elegant shops the spokes of narrow lanes connecting somewhere beyond to large tree cloistered magnificent estates. Their owners being those who one could surmise from the understated aura of understated magnificence were of that very class of mankind which secretly conducted the affairs of governance of the entire land. Their enigmatic shadowy presences whispered to one from everywhere. The men and women from longstanding family lines that were unofficially proclaimed as the foundation of interests influencing all national and international leaders from afar. Those well-publicized puppets who served as little more than a cardboard public mask for these anonymous entities. That class seeming to exist exclusively outside the reach of laws levied over conventional men many steps farther down the food chain like myself. Of course, I not knowing this till much farther along in this tale!
This town that I had wandered within the borders of seemed innocuous enough in a manner that looked farther back into the boundaries of a century before the last. Though any sight of a modern convenience would be found evident to a wandering glance as being in its most advanced modern form, the overshadowing motif was significant of a time before such conveniences existed. Convention being in the form and structure of something resembling a nineteenth century perspective of ‘genteel‘. The people that inhabited this environment being overtly formal to the point of a tyranny of well-studied politeness driven relentlessly from within a highly-refined framework of enforced silence. The mental pressure of existing betwixt so many time-honored estates in close surround suggesting that this town was merely a convenient conveyance for supply of material wants and services. It was easy to spot any interloper, such as myself, as being completely out of step in both tenor and temperament of those residents of this hamlet that served uncompromisingly with expected rigor of grace to the whims of the ‘phantom‘ presences surrounding. I might have felt immediately put off to immediately depart such a drafty mental climate? But for some odd reason attributed to a quest for unfamiliar vicinage, this locale seemed the proper cushion to accede to a latent desire within for complete solitude. I sought out a room to rent. There was no exact reason provided in this process, which in hindsight, evaded memory. But rather a simple desire to be able to find any suitable establishment handy within this town in which to harbor. After politely being informed that there were none to be had in town I was directed to seek the same at one of the estates that much to my surprise offered lodgings to wanderers like myself. I assume that I must have been considered circumspect and not too low born in mannerisms or appearance to be a common vagrant? Though I considered myself as significant enough in portraying a particular class mistaken as a possible academic or professional itinerant wordsmith. I was immediately advanced to my hosts as duly qualified to apply.
And so I found myself standing far past the enclosure subtended by a tall iron gate now far down its accompany winding road before the expansive edifice. The structure seeming antediluvian in scale at four stories plus of long rows of large window studded lining an ornate fixture acquitted hall of ancient limestone. The assemblage of which that was by any standard on an equal level with a full-blown palace far across the ocean to the East. As if by some hidden pre-scheduled itinerary, I was promptly escorted within, quickly vetted, confirmed and tacitly accepted, then directed as a humble lodger to my quarters. Though no instructions were given beyond those assumed by the natural diffident aura of inflexible propriety, I took it as an underlying proviso that I should refrain from exploring the entirety of the mansion. The limits of my world to be specific to my designated chamber and egress to nearby plumbing and back stairwells to exist through the structures side. As such, it was inferred that my station was limited, no doubt even beneath the station of its ruling staff of servants. Though nothing along those lines was ever advanced as a precondition. After all, with what I supposed to be at least twenty or more bedrooms within it was likely that I would be assigned would be a diminutive accommodation in a lesser corner of servant quarters that would not disturb the decorum of the house’s daily activity. Especially if I took the hint to refrain from any physical reconnaissance of the premises beyond that which was initially made familiar with. Every part of these initial transaction concerning my lodging becoming immediately unmemorable but second nature on my part.
It was late afternoon with my valise stowed as the room that was to be my own was supposedly still in a state of preparation, I felt confident enough to take a stroll around the circumference of the estate. Something to bide the time and seek a little private solitude beyond its all too commanding interior. I made sure to travel further back and around parallel to the far boundary wall that separated the grounds of the house proper from that of the larger estate. Many acres of an unruly sprawling wilderness dissuading any inclination to breach these immediate precincts. The tall stone barrier lay broken in several sections and it would have been easy to climb over its low parapet to scatter into the adjoining forest. Yet, some impulse restrained this urge within and I elected to follow along inside this barrier to its ultimate conclusion at the back of the property. The end of the gap produced a reinstated wall that served as a backstop for a tall heavy steel rack supporting narrow slabs of fresh cut granite. A paper sign tacked at eye level in regular handwriting advising all to refrain from purloining any of it. The path beyond now narrowed with further racks tall with small statuary. Busts of some indefinable personage that might as well grace the cornice of a church as the top of a cemetery monument. There were two categories in evidence within the rank and file of multiple racks that ranged up some ten feet from the ground. One being a conventional head and shoulders portrait of what might have been mistaken as the standard classic portrayal of a taciturn Mozart figure. The other set taking up an equal amount of space beside the first on each tray a more sinuous portrayal that seemed to plumb deep inward exposing eviscerated muscle groups. But still maintaining the general sense of proportion and likeness approximating the other. The first example might have been evident of a long series of virtuoso exercises in sculpting raw marble. The other structurally devitalized type just adjacent molded in high enamel glass significant of Italian terracotta enameled in heavy white glaze. Odd little things if one were to consider the amount of time and art to make each one in the two respective sets so perfectly match every other?
Just beyond stood an even more imposing display of a single bas relief of a similar personage once again in white. The singular object seeming a circular disk supporting the same likeness as the other phalanxes of statuary over which this towered. A tarp hanging loosely around it’s upper sloping edge as if haphazardly revealed to the elements in haste. The estate’s inner wall coming to an abrupt conclusion signaled by a right angle deviation of stone and mortar to the left. The sensation of being within an open air workshop of some immensely well-funded personality within the lofty height of the art world striking one at the sight of a greenhouse-like organization of similar artifacts that bore the imprint of the same imagination. It was if this section of the universe had been denoted as a workhouse to create effigies of a notable yet publicly unrecognized deity that could have equally hailed from a distant past? Or possibly of a future that as of yet had not been introduced? Farther down one of the aisles an artist smock clad figure busily pandered about. His actions more reminiscent of creator cast as worker bee preparing some key resource for the benefit of the larger hive. The immediate reaction was to carefully retread my own steps so as not to be accuse of having imposed upon one of the house regulars. Something within subtly suggesting that while my immediate presence might have been peripherally detected, it was of no consequence. The sensation coursing through me of being an undistinguished Ulysses traipsing about beneath consideration within the cave of the Cyclops.
Magic hour was at hand giving way to a sinister dusk and my trip back along the path was now lit with festive strings of lights lining the approach to the mansion giving off a warm lightning bug glow . The overall impression being that even the vicinity of this lesser service corridor some overflowing special occasion would be hosted. It was easy to feel akin to some form of beetle or gnat compelled to hurry its step so as not to be caught in plain sight in the shadow of approaching overbearing giants. The inner portion of the lower level’s side hallway where I had earlier found egress was already a buzz from a social gathering. Distant voices and strange musical going on’s were emanating from what appeared to be a linear series of entrances to a lower auditorium. Random guests, one or two at a time, pacing imperiously past in high-spirited regalia of well-tailored outfits. The odd patterns stitched in classic eighteenth century designs suggesting a nineteen-sixties ‘Mod’ version of traditional court clothing of a Louis the XIV. Glances by these expectant revelers were conspicuously averted to any but the general direction of my travel. This cloak of civil invisibility suggesting the inconvenience that a lesser presence being completely out of character dressed in mortal street dress would be avoided at all costs. Lest it’s conventionality spoil the unique dynamic of this evening’s prospective series of unspecified events. A cold feeling of refracted malice grew like a hair ball in the pit of my stomach. Not having a hint as to the proper direction to take through this massive maze of oak and mahogany my mind was at a total loss as to how I might might outsmart providing further embarrassment. Not fit solution coming easily to mind as how to seek out my intended quarters without causing further interruption to the arriving guests.
The approach at the end of the corridor made a sharp right turn towards what was likely some sort of main entrance. Lodged in the wainscoting near its right angle was the outline of an entrance offering what appeared to be a small room. Its door now being slightly ajar an seeming the most logical way station in which to weather the coming evening in avoidance of whatever strange ceremonial occasion to be conducted without. The inside contained only a few sticks of utilitarian furniture suggesting a generic accommodation. One possibly for a the convenience of providing a footman or other ready servant needed for immediate call late at night. Though dimly lit from outside it seemed apparent that it was presently unoccupied by the fact that its four poster bed was made up in a pristine manner evidently gone long undisturbed. I sat down on the bed facing the corridor watching the commotion of shadows regularly passing by the gap of the bottom of the door. A raucous commotion of grunts and groaning voices in occasional forms of strange tongues that the closed door keep unintelligible to the ear. Whatever their context I that uneasy feeling within seemed to grow progressively that my inadvertent trespass might lead to some form of dire penalty if I reappeared in their midst. I sat there for many minutes far removed in stillness listening to my own heart’s beat pulsate through my breastbone. The door opened and a hand preceded the flood of light that the bright corridor cast into the room illuminating the floor just beyond. The figure walked swiftly past not looking in my direction but directly to a passage door in the wall just across from the foot of the bed. Whether or not this personage had detected my stalwart silent presence seemed completely immaterial. I might as well have been some accessory stick of furniture as much as a sufficiently well-cowed gate crasher to his sensibilities. Two doors now left ajar I continued to sit upright and immobile under the advisement of an instinctual notion that it was better to remain thus and be left alone to my own devises by any member of the wildly cavorting throng in full gavotte just outside.
Perhaps the mental exhaustion of it all and the strain of sitting at attention remaining motions took it toll. I had lost track of time and found myself lying upon the bed head pointed south at its foot. The celebrations had de-evolved into what seemed to be an exercise in hide and seek with an occasional figure darting into the entrance of each doorway then turning away as if abruptly surprised by their sought after companion’s immediate presence appearing just behind them. My eyes now in full focus at the canopy’s ceiling subtended by its surrounding ruffle I felt my face nakedly exposed to view. A flicker of the eye upward and to the side revealing the slow progress of another face floating forward coming over me like a dark cloud. It was a rude combination of unruly male locks dripping wetly with exertion garnishing the weathered face of what could be best described as a profligate continence devastated by too many years of debauchery. The shoulders attached that came into view attired in a frock coat that seemed confused by its camouflage pattern of iridescent pastels. Had I been looking straight into the eyes of a King cobra, I could not have felt more ill at ease. The damnable presence hovered just above my own as if contemplating how to strike. What sort of weapon it would employ as to a blow or more probably a kiss. I could not imagine a more ignoble fate than to have this creatures venom in residue within my mouth. I started with an animal snarl. My words spit back in tightly whispered syllable sternly warning this Xanthippe in no uncertain terms that a limit had been reached and that I was no longer ready to cower from his presence as I had from the throng of his fellows that night. The fiendish continence seemed to float back and away and now out of reach I rolled back up into a sitting position. The shadow following it departing speedily out through the passage that it had crept from.
My eyes then awoke into the glare of bright morning Sun. Though it had seemed that the gap in my perception was but an instant I found to my surprise that not only had the night had long passed but that I was transitioned into a completely different quarter of the house. An impression format he corner of my eye of the tops of tall trees below just outside the reveal of a long bank of windows of a new room. A gloriously appointed place that suggested a carefully considered homeyness that might be accorded only to a close relative or honored guest. My confusion was furthered along by the immediate presence of several servants who initially bustled up to the bed to verify that I was again fully awake. I heard one of them remark in a formal tone addressing another more jovial ‘roly-poly‘ gentleman dressed in the dress down of ruffled shirt and striped vest. The immediate impression of him suggesting a character escaped from the concluding pages of a happily ended Charles Dicken’s novel! The gravity of the servant’s offered conversation ending with the preface of, “m’lord“, and then followed by a, “Sir Edward.” I felt at a total loss at this unexpected introduction to my landlord and patron. Though older in appearance yet spry as a youngster he seemed to bound over pushing his way past his domestics to hop up upon the bed with me like a callow puppy. Peering into my eyes as one might to a reinvigorated invalid with a joviality that might have put Santa Claus he merrily asked, “And how are we feeling today, my boy?” The disparity of the night’s previous events still far beyond anything that could be tossed off as a bad dream I stared back quizzically unable to formulate a fit answer beyond silently reciting to myself, “Just what in the Hell have I gotten myself into?”