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Stranger in the Castle - Part 2

Douglas is a young writer from Europe, who has found an outlet on Hubpages to practice with the topics he loves and the genres he likes.

‘There, in the dark,’ Madeline yelled, while she pointed out the corridor in front of them.

Her father sighed.

‘Are you sure?’

‘I am sure,’ she said,’ I saw something moving, if only it wasn’t that dark.’

‘If only you would permit me to light the candles along the wall.’

She squinted. She had seen him, the demon. She thrust the candle in front of her as far as she could and advanced.

‘No,’ she said,’ as I have said: there wouldn’t be any light left for our candle.’

‘What do you think of the chevalier,’ her father answered, to divert from her infuriating stupidity, ’would you consider him matrimony material, as you youngsters say?’

She shrugged, at which a few drops of hot wax just missed the carpet underneath her for the stone floor.

‘Not really,’ she said, ’He looks dumb, staring at me with his big eyes. What is behind them? Nothing it seems. Is he even educated?’

Monsieur laughed. Of all the things, he had least expected this. He didn’t have any words.

After a pause, he at last found some: ‘Maybe he is just shy?’

‘Silly father,’ she answered, ’Men cannot be shy. The sisters taught me it is in their instinct to be boisterous, even violent generally. They have read a lot about it. No, I am sure he is quite brainless.’

Thinking about his current situation, he replied: ‘But a brainless companion is not a companion that is any less capable of inspiring love, or amusement at least. And he is quite handsome. Are you sure you have quite considered him, my dear? I don’t want you to make a mistake. It is not every day that we can catch a real chevalier lingering at our waters.’

They came to the end of the corridor and were presented with a choice between left and right. Madeline immediately chose the left side as the obvious side. Indeed, the sisters had taught her well that the devil always went to the left, to the left.

‘Well, he is handsome,’ she said,’ that cannot be denied, but I just don't feel anything when I’m with him. I have studied enough romances to know that it is important to feel butterflies. I don’t even feel a feverish desire for his, what was it, attention, that I have seen described so many times. Besides, you and mother have given me such a good example. I would not be content with less.’

‘Well, I don't know if we are such a good example, my dear,’ he answered, ‘I like her, but that’s just because she is so silly. She diverts me.’

‘The chevalier doesn't divert me...’

‘Are you sure my dear? Even the scullery maids, I hear, are hot and flustered for his looks.’

She laughed.

‘Aren’t they always hot and flustered? But I do like to look at him, if that's what you mean, but that is not enough. He is not the whole package to me. I have the feeling I can do better.’

‘But you can't get everything my dear. That's impossible. When I first saw an image of your mother, I thought that I had found everything in a woman, but once my order arrived... let's say I had anticipated someone more ravishing.’

‘Order, papa?’

‘Haven't we ever told you? Oh, my dear. I ordered your mother by letter. I found her in a catalogue in the section of my rank. I read about her fancies, her dowry, her ancestry, you know: the common things, but one thing I'll never forget... she had written “Once you can attract me, I will like our sun, stay forever in your orbit." I hadn't laughed so hard in ages. It still makes me ticklish. I knew it right then.’

Madeline stopped, thinking.

‘Does the chevalier appear in such a catalogue as well?’ she asked,’ Maybe that way I can find what he stands for in there...’

Suddenly a swishing sound came from the darkness in front of them. Madeline thought she saw the point of a cape disappearing behind a corner.

‘Shhh,’ her father said, ’did you hear that?’

They advanced, turning the same corner. From not far further there came an abrupt sound, like a strange beast howling. When they stepped closer, cautiously of course, there was a stench as well. Madeline put a hand in front of the light to not make the source of these vile sensations too aware of their presence.

‘The demon,’ she whispered.

‘Shhh,’ her father admonished her, while they stepped closer and closer.

Smelling the putrid air, even he felt his limbs drain and the hair on the back of his neck stand on edge. He wondered if this was wise, whether they shouldn’t turn back and reconsider their steps. Maybe they should have at least brought some kind of weapon.

A second demonic roar followed not far in front of them, followed by a second surge of the decay in the air.

‘Let’s turn back,’ he wanted to say, trembling, but Madeline had already stepped out of his reach. He followed, not wanting to lose the light.

‘Aha, here you are, you demon,’ he heard his daughter cry. The beast shrieked like a common woman this time. When he got closer, he saw Madeline’s hand on the back of a servant. The frightened girl turned around. It was Evelina from the kitchen. The poor girl looked hot and flustered.

‘Are you disguising yourself, you beast?’ Madeline thundered, ’You cannot fool us: we can smell your stench.’

She grabbed the girl’s arm firmly, so she couldn’t escape.

‘Mademoiselle,’ the girl spoke, her eyes cast down,’ I…I am not a demon, nor a beast. I am Eveline, your humble maid.’

‘You are not,’ Madeline kept thundering,’ we smell your stench and we heard your devilish roars.’

The girl shot her eyes between Madeline and her master, fearful. Then she reddened even more.

She swallowed and spoke, casting her eyes down again: ‘I was… farting, mademoiselle.’.’

Madeline let go. The embarrassment was felt by all present for a moment, until suddenly from the dark there came a burst of laughter.

‘The demon!’ Madeline yelled.

Soon they had reached where the laughter had come from. There was nobody. She sighed, looking angry.

‘Maybe we should try things another way,’ her father suggested,’ maybe we should all wait until the morning to look for demons. And stay together meanwhile.’

‘So, should we all get together in aunt Agatha’s bed or do we need to get aunt Agatha to the salon?’

Agatha! Monsieur had completely forgotten about his sister. And now that he was convinced there was actually a presence in the castle, he could slap himself for it. Of course, this demon or stranger was here for Agatha: she was the link with the same occurrence at Valacroix’s! That they hadn’t warned her sooner!

His skin became whiter as he understood that he needed to get to his sister, up in the tower. He ran and his daughter followed him, dripping wax all over the floor, until they had found and climbed the stairs to Agatha’s tower chamber.

‘Agatha,’ he yelled, flinging open the door.

His sister was just pinning her hair up. She closed her night robe when she saw him.

‘Hello, auntie,’ Madeline said, ‘we have come to wake you and bring you to the salon.’

Agatha looked at her, still a bit flustered, reddening under her rouge and powdery make-up.

‘Why? Am I to be sacrificed for a good harvest or something?’

‘Why are you still in powder?’ her brother asked, quite recovered from his apprehension, ’Isn’t it much past your usual bedtime?’

‘This is my night powder, Guillaume, and to answer your probably soon to follow next demand: how could I stay asleep with you two storming my staircase.’

Night powder? He had never heard of such a thing. He told her so.

‘And what do you know about powders, Guillaume? Or about what a woman needs?’

‘I have never seen the sisters use powders, aunt,’ her niece interjected, ‘And have never used them myself.’

‘Yes, dear, but that’s because you are still young, and the sisters have the lord to raise their skin at night. If you are a worldly woman of my age, you need some help.’

‘My Arabella never uses them,’ monsieur spoke, still doubting.

‘Oh please, when do you ever really look at your wife?’ Agatha answered agitatedly,’ Now come, what is the reason for your storming of my chamber? If I hadn’t been such a light sleeper, you would have frightened me to death. Also, there is a knocker at the door, you know.’

‘There is a demon in the castle,’ Madeline began,’ and because we cannot find him, we are going to stick together in the salon and wait the night out until the sun rises.’

‘A demon?’ she asked.

‘A stranger,’ her brother corrected.

She fell silent and then suddenly laughed.

‘A stranger? A stranger in the castle? But brother, how can this be a stranger? Why do we have these moats and defenses if any stranger can just enter the castle? I am much more inclined to believe Madeline when she says that we are dealing with a demon.’

He frowned but didn’t answer.

‘Are you coming, auntie?’ Madeline asked.

‘I was actually rather busy,’ she answered.

‘Sleeping?’ her brother said, ‘you can do that as well downstairs, especially when you meet the chevalier.’

‘Oh, we have a guest?’

‘If you’d rather stay here,’ Madeline said, ‘we can also all gather here in your room for the night.’

‘No!’ Agatha cried out, ‘I will join you downstairs. Come, Madeline, help me in my dress for a moment, so I can be presentable.’

‘Do I need to redo your maquillage as well aunt?’

Agatha turned, walking to her dress, which hung on top of the screen, ‘avoiding the look of her brother.

‘No, dear,’ she answered, ‘the night powder will do.’

Other Parts

Stranger in the Castle - Part 1

Stranger in the Castle - Part 3

© 2020 Douglas Redant