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The Devil's Pen

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Author Topic: The Devil's Pen  (Read 1939 times)
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« Reply #105 on: January 11, 2008, 11:01:41 am »

The Game Of Triumphs
A companion piece to “The Devil’s Pen.”

My name is Charles Sterling. I am just an acorn, a nut that has fallen from a very old and noble Scottish family tree and like so many others that lie in the shadow of their mighty forebears. I could gather no purchase for myself in the rich, but hard and root bound soil of the aristocracy. The forest of my ancient lineage cast a twilight shade that daunted me. It kept from me from the life-giving rays of self-fulfillment that I needed to grow straight and tall in my own right. So I took to growing sideways, twisting to capture a bit of rarefied sunlight and glory for myself.

If I could not be numbered among the great and noble of my house, then I would make a name for myself among its fallen. So I took up the scandalous profession of painting, for I knew it would it would be a thorn in the regal foot of my lion-like progenitors. I drove that thorn deeper by concentrating, almost exclusively, on the most scandalous form of that art, the ****. I can still hear the howls of outrage and the threats of disownment, as I brought lovely street urchins and dock prostitutes, one after the other, through the hallowed halls of the Sterling Mansion into my makeshift studio in the attic.

But one unforeseen consequence of this, was that in my own blind stumbling way, I had hit upon the one thing I was truly gifted at… Painting. It held my enrapt attention like nothing in my life had ever done. It began, as a puerile, titillating interest in the naked female form, but grew from there in the most extraordinary ways.

I began to see a symphony of light and shade as it played over the graceful curves, gentle valleys and swelling hills of the female form. Tastes, sounds, textures, smells where all enriched by my growing fascination with the world around me. As time went on my own self-indulgent nature was turned outward enriching my life in so many ways that I cannot begin to recount them all here.

My former atheistic views, and selfish attitudes were challenged and slowly altered by a newfound awareness of the mysterious, panoramic magnificence of creation, which heretofore, had lain entirely hidden from my view. The artistic touch in nature was apparent to me and I saw to my satisfaction, evidence of the masterful brush stokes of the creator’s incomparable hand.

Still my transformation did not happen quickly, it grew within me slowly and change was not without pitfalls. Relapses into vain excesses, sensual over-indulgence, and bouts of self-pity were common enough. My most serious failing was an unreasonable desire to challenge fate and win an unrivaled reputation for infamous behavior. An unnatural desire to punish all those who had sheltered me too dearly, all those who had spoiled me so thoroughly. I would make them pay for what they had wrought in me.
How little I understood of the world then. There was no way I could have seen that even the best of intentions could be marred by unintended tragedy. How could a youth, such as myself, ever fully realize, or appreciate the calamities that await one on life’s sojourn. How life’s temptations and trials await like highwaymen, lying in ambush on dark road at midnight.

There was no need for me to goad fate, no, not in the least… it comes for us all, whether we are prepared for it or not. I was captured in fate’s merciless grasp on, of all things, a sunny Sunday afternoon.

I was invited to the Brettel Estate for the Coming Out Party of Colonel Brettel’s only daughter; with me, I brought William Hargrove. He was a fellow student at Baneford Academy. I remember waiting with the other guests in the grand foyer. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the entranceway. There was a slight murmur rippling through the crowd as we looked towards the balcony in anticipation.

Finally Colonel Brettel emerged at the top of the stairs. I had an instinctive repulsion to the man. He began the formal introduction by discussing at length, the financial and titular benefits of a union with his daughter. In a manner that showed less class and erudition than a greasy auctioneer selling hogs.

She appeared like the sun -- lighting the morning horizon. I was enthralled, time slowed, perhaps so that I might capture each amazing detail and impress it upon my mind throughout eternity. She was dazzling, spectacular in her lacy white formal gown. The warmth of her smile radiated out like a beacon guiding lost souls like mine, giving them a joyous light to steer by. I know the course of my life was forever altered in that halcyon moment, the signal fires of love, set my wayward soul aflame.

After introductions we moved into the immense ballroom of the estate, on one wall were a series of sixteen-foot high windows set with lanterns and from these poured a rich, warm light.  A twelve-piece orchestra began playing Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” as I got my chance to dance with the enchanting and divine Suzette. In my exuberance, I spun her recklessly about the floor, out of time with the music. I was in heaven, when Suzette smiled for me. The dance ended all to quickly. She thanked me with a breathy laugh, and I boldly kissed her hand. 

William was impatiently awaiting his turn. He bowed to Suzette, took her hand and they began to dance. I was watching them enviously, when to my surprise I saw Suzette’s father angrily striding across the floor towards the couple. He grabbed William rudely by the collar, not a good idea.

One day three Academy students were making fun of William, when he ignored them they got rough, pushing his shoulders back.  It was only then he fought back. With a wicked joy upon his face he lit into them with a combination of boxing finesse and street fighting techniques the likes of which, I have never seen. It was vicious. All three were down, bleeding and moaning within five minutes.

It was during the above-described altercation that we first met. With my well-known propensity for attracting trouble, I thought it would be a splendid idea to have a companion who could handle himself so effectively in a brawl.

William’s parents were lost at sea; I guess, as an orphan he had learn to be tough to stay alive. If I hadn’t spoken up for him in the Head Masters office, I am sure he would have been expelled. After that we became fast friends.

Where was I, oh yes, the music stopped and everyone stared horrified as Suzette grabbed her father’s hand trying to pry it from William’s shoulder. I was afraid this was going to get ruinously scandalous. Suzette whispered something in her father’s ear. He grabbed her violently by the arm. She drew back her other hand and slapped him, the sound of the quick blow, resonated throughout the ballroom. The Colonel looked stunned, he stood there silently with his hand covering the spot where she stuck him. Suzette grabbed William’s hand and marched stridently out of the ballroom.


I did not see William until several days later and if the truth were known, I did not want to see him. I felt he had somehow stolen the girl that was meant for me. He told me of his secret meetings with Suzette, after that I avoided him as much as possible. Even though we were once best friends, I could not help feeling a deep bitterness, a violent resentment towards him.

I begged Suzette to let me do her portrait. It was the closest thing to having her with me; at least I would have something of her to light my lonely nights. I spent many hours at the Brettel Estate drawing study after study of adorable face and tempting body, from every angle, under every lighting condition, forestalling the completion of the painting for as long as I could.

She never seemed to notice my obsession for her. Suzette ignored my attempts at flirtation, always laughing as if I were only joking or playing some silly game. This was something new, vaguely disturbing, and yet, fascinating to me. You see, not to brag, but I had always had my way with the ladies and her resistance to my charms only inflamed my passion all the more.

As the heat of summer gave way to the chill winds of fall, I heard from Elisa, Suzette’s dearest friend that Suzette and William were to be married and that William had just written a highly acclaimed novel. I was devastated. I would pick up my brush, sweep out a few miserable strokes, and then drop it in frustration.

I did not care at all what happened to me and decided to throw my life into the winds of chance. My solution was to indulge my natural proclivity for wickedness and frivolity. I tried anything that might bring some measure of pleasure back into my dissolute life.

So one evening, I made my way toward the seedier side of town along the Baneford Canal,
« Last Edit: January 16, 2008, 04:48:22 pm by unknown » Report Spam   Logged

"There exists an agent, which is natural and divine, material and spiritual, a universal plastic mediator, a common receptical of the fluid vibrations of motion and the images of forms, a fluid, and a force, which can be called the Imagination of Nature..."
Elphias Levi
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