A Haunting Melody
In a grass hollow in a house with windows facing the intersection of the hills and churches of the small village a young girl sat in her house crying.
She ached to go to church. Instead her parents compelled her to sit at home and listen as a violin played a random selection of tunes in the corner.
"How'll we know when it's finally done if ye don't?" said her mother.
It played day and night and night and day, but only when the girl was in the house. If she left, it stopped. When she returned it started again.
Her parents had no idea why this happened or even where the fiddle came from. It appeared at their front door one morning encased in a soft yellow cloth like a child in swaddling cloth. It came with resin for the bow and a worn green velvet chin rest.
The father picked it up. He drew the bow over the strings. The high pitched squealing made the family cringe and the neighbour's hound wail to the sky.
But when Elda, the youngest daughter, picked up the bow it moved as one with her hand. The strings pressed against the frets before their eyes. Beautiful sounds filled the room and danced inside their bones as they listened.
She set it back down immediately. Elda had never studied violin or had any kind of music lesson. Music was not part of her house.
Her father gave her a curious look. "We'll rest it in the corner now, young one. Maybe we'll try it again later."
It stayed in the corner for the next few weeks, but it was not quiet. The bow moved over the strings in light melody or dark dirge as long as Elda was in the house.
At the dark of the moon her father picked it up for a closer look. He gave it a few exploratory plucks and then rosined the bow.
"Do you play, daddy?" asked the older daughter, Fril.
"I did once so long ago," he said, a note of wistfulness in his words.
"My own father taught me. When I married your mother we had nothing. I sold my fiddle and put away all the nonsense about music that day."
He put the chin rest on his shoulder and took the bow in his hand.
He tried to draw it over the strings, but it jumped away from them. He pressed it against them and tried again. The sound was like the screech of a rusty door forced open.
"It's no use," he sighed, setting it back in the corner. The fiddle plain doesn't like me."
As soon as he set it down it began playing a sonata. Elda, her gait stilted and eyes lidded, picked up the fiddle and rubbed a hand along its edges. She closed he eyes and rested her chin on it as she drew the bow across it.
The room filled with the haunting notes such as a virtuoso would create, not an untrained five year old.
"There," she said blinking as she put it back in its corner. "Now you'll be happy."
The words were barely out of her mouth when the bow raised off the floor and slid back and forth over the strings.
She sat down and cocked her head toward the sound. The rest of her family tried to step back even as their legs tried to move them closer.
They stopped silent and still as the fiddle moved from classical music to country to a jig and a reel and dirge.
The youngest took the bow in her hand to stop it, and then set it back against the wall.
"What do we do, Brend?" asked her mother.
"I don't know, Matty. It's possessed I'm sure, but it is a lovely sound all the same."
"I think we should burn it," announced Fril sounding braver than she looked.
A crashing jig rose out of the instrument and grew louder and louder until the family could barely hear themselves think.
"Please stop, fiddle," cried Elda. "Fril didn't mean it. Did you, Fril."
"No," she said in a voice hardly above a whisper.
"Apologize," ordered Elda, standing as tall as a five year old could.
And the older sister did.
Angry notes were replaced by the soothing murmur of a lullaby.
"We'll leave it be for now and think of something tomorrow," said Brend. He stood and stretched, "Nice tune, makes me wish for bed."
The fiddle soothed them to sleep. It continued through the night only stopping mid-morning when Elda went outside to play.
It started a lively reel when she came in the house for a drink of water.
It continued for several weeks playing day and night and night and day as long as she was in her home.
"It'll have to stop. For as good as it sounds it's not right. The Father's agreed it's possessed," said Matty.
Loud hard-driven notes filled the house at her words.
I'm sorry, fiddle," she said. "I don't mean a word of it. We love you, we do."
"It might be wife, that it plays itself out. It has to wear down someday."
"I'd as soon we gave it to someone. Left it on a door like we got it."
Brend nodded. "I don't know as we should do that, good idea though it be. It responds to our Elda. I think wife, if we keep her with it, then it might wind down. The fall's come harder this year. She's less likely to go out. And the garden and crops are in so no need for you to go and take her along."
"You say we leave her to it all the day every day?"
"Aye, Matty. And for the church, too."
"Oh, come now. No one stays at home but she's sick, and with a possessed fiddle yet."
"I don't like it, but the more she's with it the quicker it be done."
"She can't stay alone, husband."
"She's as good as six. I was home at six myself."
"And that makes it fine? You survived it and so'll she? She's a little girl."
"Will you skip the Mass to mind her, wife?"
Matty crossed herself. "I'll not deny the Lord. And neither will you I daresay."
"There's no leaving the girls alone together. I say she'll be fine. My word's the last on it wife. She stays home from church."
Elda and the violin spent their Sunday mornings together. Often the girl would pick up the bow and rest the violin on her shoulder. She played and played, often from the moment her family left until she heard the back door open after church was ended.
"You like me, violin. The Lord doesn't since I can't come to his house anymore."
Playing filled her with energy. She hated to stop, but when her family returned she'd set it down and stare out the window beyond the churches and hills.
"It's still playing?" asked her father.
"Aye, daddy. It hasn't stopped yet."
Fall turned to winter and winter to spring and still the fiddle filled the house with jigs and dirges and sonatas.
One Sunday in the early spring it had played the strings open, and each tune was unfamiliar to the girl.
"Fiddle, what's wrong?"
The bow stopped. It tilted up and rested against the wall.
The violin lifted up, twisting and turning until it stood by her feet.
"All this time I've waited for you to speak to me. You've listened to me and talked about me, But not once until this moment did you think to address me."
"Of course I do, silly child. I'm your violin. We've always been together and we always will be." A sad note plucked like a sigh.
"You can't imagine how lonely it's been for me these past few months. All the trouble I went to having myself delivered. And you didn't recognize me."
"Why didn’t you speak up before?"
It twisted and sighed and vibrated to a long, drawn out "A."
"I did as you told me, Carl."
"Elda. My name's Elda. I don't know any Carl."
"Fine. Elda. But you were Carl last time we talked and that's how I think of you."
Memories came to her as it spoke. She was in a fine tuxedo and polished shoes on the stage of a huge theatre. The formally dressed men and women of the audience held their breath as she played.
"Violin, I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
It jumped back to the corner. "Very well. How long must I wait?"
"Until we're back on stage, silly. It's all I want to do. I can't sit in this corner forever."
"I already play you. I guess I could start."
"Child, lets get one thing straight. You don't play me. I play and I do it for you. That's the agreement."
"Are you possessed?"
"Carl. You know you're not supposed to ask me that."
"I didn't know, violin. I won't do it again."
A chill rippled through her. She shifted in her chair and looked toward the back door. He family should have been home by now.
"Getting worried, Little One?"
"Don't. They're fine. Trouble with a friend's carriage. Your father is helping to fix it and your mother is helping the woman with her children. It won't be long. Now, when do we start playing?"
A few weeks later she played her fiddle at a community concert. It met with long and loud applause and everyone marvelled at her talent and skill.
"I didn't know you'd had lessons, dear. Did you father teach you?"
"No," she said.
"Come, Elda. It's time to go home," urged her father.
She performed in nearby towns and then cities as the requests flooded in.
At night when she was alone she'd set the instrument in the corner and thank it.
"I stand by my word," it would tell her. "Do you?"
She did not know what this meant, but she wanted no trouble so she always said yes.
By the time she was 10 she was performing in the great theatre in the largest city she'd ever seen. She was known throughout the country. Her family was rich because of her and always got the best seats in restaurants and went to the front of lines.
But every time someone asked about her skills her father interrupted and sent her off to rest.
Late one night after the lights went out the violin played a soft melody.
"Why are you doing that? You've been quiet on your own since I started playing in public."
"To waken you child. It's time."
"For your end of the bargain."
"What do I do?"
"I'll take care of it."
"Elda, Elda." Several other guests in the hotel were awakened by banging on Elda's door, but no sound came from her room.
Her father tried again. He went to the concierge to have the door opened.
Inside he found the bedclothes turned down and the bed empty.
The girl's nightdress was in a crumple on the floor. Her clothing was packed or hanging neatly and all her shoes were in an orderly line at the foot of the bed.
"She has to be here." Her father searched the room and then the hotel, and then called the police to search the city and countryside.
She was never found.
The violin stayed with the family. It stood in the corner untouched and silent. But when no one looked the strings vibrated below the range of human hearing and a small giggling voice said, "They'll never find me here."