Read Part Five.
Nothing happened that night, or the next. No dark strangers, no visions, no fits. On the third day, letting down my guard, I took the girl to watch Harry look after the horses. It was a brilliant morning, the sun directly overhead. The air was fresh. First, he rode the chestnut mare with the white star on her forehead. Her coat shone like silk in the morning light. Then he rode the Duke's stallion, still ferocious, as if he might live forever--- unlike the Duke, may he rot in peace. The girl quietly watched until she turned to me and said,
"I'll not steal your lover anymore."
I smiled, almost accustomed to her strangeness, and asked, "And why is that, pray tell?"
"Mother sends word that now only the devil has use for me. I am to wait for him in the grove at midnight. And you are to do the same."
"Snow White, listen to me. That is not real. Dreams are not real. This pasture is real," I said, pointing to the two colts, prancing unsteadily in the fied, "I am real. Harry is real. These trees, this sunlight, this day is real. You are not beholden to a devil. And neither am I."
She remained stubbornly silent, and in that moment, I started to doubt my words to her, that my reassurances were hollow, that I might have to leave the castle, the title, the riches, all that I possessed. That I might have to flee in the middle of the night, with nothing but the clothes on my back, and a sackful of jewels. Esmerelda toting the silver and the china, my emerald velvet cloak spotted with mud, as we traveled from town to town. I would return back to who I was, so many years ago--- the daughter of a mother who sold me, and the grandmother who burned as witch.
Snow White ran off to ride her favorite horse, and I wandered over to the orchard, despite the girl's feverish warning. Yet I could sense nothing malovelent. Blossoms from the apple trees, scattered in the wind, rained down upon my head like snow. I could hear a nearby brook coursing over rocks, a whipporwill sang in the trees. Again, was this not real? A large brown hare poked its nose out of hedge, wriggling its pink nose. We he not real? Would he not be delicious braised in red wine? Was not that my castle to the west, hewn from granite, with stable and cemetary, chapel and orchard.
I resolved that when the girl returned to her people, and if I held onto my wealth, I would travel south to a warmer climate. I would sit by the sea in an ancient city of tall stone buildings. A city far, far away. The land of sirens, history, and golden light. This thought cheered me as the sky darkened and it began to rain. There is something to be said, perhaps a story to be written, about the lies we tell ourselves so that we may survive. Later that day, the rain still spattering against the windows, she was unsually subdued at dinner. I teased her,
"I thought you were fond of the game hens. Yet you've not touched a bite."
"--- he's here, she mumbled."
My spoon of broth mid-air, I asked, "Who?"
But she did not answer. I could see she was having another fit. But this time, I believed her. I sent her to her chambers, and made sure the servants double locked the doors, barred all the windows;
"Do not forget," I called out anxiously, "to use the iron chains for the cellar doors. And the side door off the pantry? For the tradesmen? You know it?"
They all looked at me--- a small army in their starched white garments, fear illuminating their faces, hands trembling ever so slightly, nonetheless all nodded yes.
"Good. Use two locks, not three!"
As if this could keep out the devil.
Here is my best recollection of what happened that night: