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.
Meanwhile, the chevalier was being forced into a rather compromising position by madame’s encroaching presence. They had gone back to the fire and she was fanning herself into a tizzy, trying to think of more things to engage him with. He was sipping on a glass of milk the maître had brought, trying to distract himself with it. Madame’s bosom was heaving heavily.
‘You liked…our moat?’ she asked him.
‘Yes,’ he answered.
‘Are you an amateur fisherman?’
‘No, not really.’
She felt as if her brain was melting from all the thinking.
‘Are you well-endowed? I mean I hope your family does not have any issues.’
‘Not really,’ he said, ’When can I go home to them?’
‘Oh, but child,’ she answered, ‘we have only just become acquainted. You wouldn’t want to leave us this fast, would you? Besides, it is already so very late, and we have this demon lurking around. The servants have probably already made you a bed.’
‘I have a rapier on my horse,’ he answered, ’I can defend myself against fiends on the road, if necessary.’
‘Dear, too true. You should stay to defend us.’
She sighed, smiling at him. He swallowed and took another sip.
Then the door burst open. It was Madeline, monsieur and aunt Agatha.
‘We have decided that we should all stay here for the night,’ Madeline said, ’to wait out the darkness.’
‘Marvelous idea,’ madame exclaimed. She stood up, overjoyed.
‘I’d rather not,’ the chevalier said, ‘my mother is probably very worried already.’
Madame shot a defeated look at monsieur. He sighed to acknowledge it.
‘Yes, of course,’ Madeline answered, smiling.
Madame’s hand met her forehead, hard.
‘Really?’ the chevalier asked.
‘Yes, certainly, I will defend my family and you have to go to defend yours. It was nice of you to stay, but I can handle the situation.’
‘Actually, his family is not,’ monsieur began to say, but madame, now by his side, shushed him.
Something was happening. The young ones were looking at each other, smiling, communicating with their eyes as if they had found an understanding. It was difficult for the old ones to see where this understanding had come from, but it seemed to be there.
Madame rejoiced. This was a beginning. Now there was only his family left to subject.
‘I believe we have not met yet,’ Agatha said, reaching out her hand to the chevalier.
The chevalier kissed it and smiled, happy to be able to leave.
‘You are not this stranger in the castle, I presume?’
‘Of course not,’ Madeline answered, ‘he is not a demon.’
Agatha placed herself on the sofa, spreading her skirts.
‘A bit hot here,’ she went on,’ and how do you know that this stranger in the castle is a demon again, dear?’
‘He had a cape on and scared the maids.’
‘Do you have a cape, chevalier?’
‘Yes, madame, but not one that scares servants.’
‘And you have checked and made sure it couldn’t have been anyone or anything else but a demon? Have you interrogated the maids?’
‘No, but…we heard it.’
‘You heard it?’
‘Yes, in the corridors. It laughed.’
‘Maybe that was a servant? Or the chevalier?’
‘No, the chevalier was here, with maman. And it was not a servant.’
‘Servants don’t laugh.’
‘Ah yes, I see.’
Agatha took a moment to consider the situation.
‘So, this means we are definitely talking about a demon?’
‘Of course, what else scares people? Would servants be scared of me, or the chevalier or papa?’
‘I have scared one with a mirror once,’ madame interposed.
Madeline ignored her. She felt angry. Why did everyone question her?
‘Would they fear you or the armor in the hall or the cross in the chapel or the bats or those feet under your curtains? How would they clean those things if they were?’
‘Wait,’ papa interjected, ‘wait, feet under the curtains?’
He looked at his sister. She was bright red.
‘Were there feet?’
She grabbed her chest dramatically.
‘And I was alone in that room with them? Completely by myself with them? Alone? While I have a deep fear of…feet.’
She raised a brow herself before anyone else could.
Monsieur’s eyes grew wide. He looked at the chevalier, whose eyes grew wide as well. Then madame, seeing them grow their eyes wide, did the same. Then they all looked at Madeline, whose eyes were wide as always.
‘Why are you all looking like that?’ she asked.
Monsieur picked up a poker from the stand near the fire and bolted out of the door. Madame took a pin out of her hair and did the same. Madeline jumped of the couch and followed them, laughing, not really knowing what this was all about.
‘Aren’t you going to follow them?’ Agatha asked the chevalier.
She was trying to keep her cool. She tried to swallow casually but failed.
‘Well,’ the chevalier said, ‘I was actually thinking that my mom…’
‘Are you a knight or not? There is a demon roaming our castle and you are standing here, the only young man, being cavalier.’
‘This is technically not my castle.’
‘It might be yours you, dimwit, in the future, but not if you let it get destroyed by intruders.’
The chevalier stared at her. He didn’t understand.
‘They clearly want to give Madeline to you in marriage and, because she is a girl, this would make you the next owner of this place,’ Agatha exclaimed.
His head buzzed. Really? He hadn’t thought about it like that.
‘So, go and defend your future property!’ Agatha screamed.
The young man looked at her, frightened.
‘Well, if you want me to, I guess, I…’
He ran out of the room before she could see his tears.
Agatha exhaled, wiped her face and looked into the fire. She stared, while thoughts raced through her head. New droplets of perspirations began forming themselves on her forehead and her heartbeat began rising and rising with the up and down of her chest. Then she snapped herself out of it and stood up.
‘Damn, that fire is very much too hot,’ she thought.
A second later, she had left the room herself.
A wild goose chase followed. Reaching Agatha’s chamber, madame nor monsieur had found anyone behind any curtains, not under the bed or the desk, or behind the screen. They left the room and split up to search the castle more efficiently. Sometimes they heard a scream or a clattering, but this was mainly due to one person of the party running into another one, some servants or a wall. Madame almost pinned the chevalier to the ground and Madeline and Agatha slammed into each other. Thank god for sturdy bodices, they thought.
Sometimes they also heard a snigger or a swishing of capes, however. This only infuriated them more, making them run harder, search faster. The castle was so full of noise, that it made the wolves in the forest howl in response. And, hearing this, the scullery maids began screaming themselves to hoarseness and sleep in their corners. The clattering and howling and screaming became louder and wilder, until suddenly, the chevalier, turning into a dark corner, bumped into a soft wall and the wall fell onto him.
‘Madeline,’ he thought and hoped also a little -she was definitely the most courageous one of the group-, but he knew it wasn’t her from the fact that the person who he had bumped into did not have the soft chest he had noticed on his late partner of the evening. Also, the person on top of him was bigger and much hairier in the arm.
As the other person struggled up, he quickly grabbed an arm and yelled: ‘I have caught thee fiend. Reveal thyself.’
‘Jacques?’ the man said, ’what on earth are you doing here in this old dump?’
‘Old dump?’ asked Agatha, who was the first to join them, ’What do you mean, old dump?’
The man’s eyes grew big as her light revealed him.
‘Really Vincent?’ she asked.
Soon most of the others had joined them as well.
The chevalier could now clearly see that the man was indeed his father. He seemed unfamiliar, however, in the long black cape he was wearing.
‘Father what are you doing here?’ the chevalier asked.
‘I could ask you the same.’
‘Oh, you have caught the demon,’ Madeline said, just arriving.
Her mother shushed her.
‘I am here to look for you,’ the man said.
‘Oh,’ the chevalier answered, relaxing, ‘I was here. They took me while I was watching their moat.’
‘It is long past your bedtime, boy.’
All onlookers relaxed and smiled, coming to terms with their own new interpretations of the situation, except monsieur. His eyes narrowed.
‘Actually, if that is the case,’ he began, ‘why were your feet…’
His wife slapped him in the belly to shut him up.
‘Welcome,’ she said, ’I trust you are happy to find your son safe and well. I see you are a very loving father, looking for him in corridors and tower chambers of old monuments. He was here, among us and our loving virgin daughter, only recently arrived on the marriage market. We found him by our moat and felt that it was best for all our happiness to keep him with us till your arrival.’
She smiled and looked knowingly at the chevalier and her daughter. Agatha blushed. The man whitened. Monsieur burst out in a loud bellied laugh. He patted the man on the back.
‘Hear, hear,’ he said, ‘come with us old chap. Let’s have a drink in the salon so you can regain some color.
And so, they all went back to the fire. The older ones huddled together and discussed things till the morning, while the younger ones sat by saying little, Madeline beginning to reconsider some of the wisdom of the sisters, specifically when it pertained to demonology, and the chevalier thinking whether mother would be on board with Madeline.
Soon the sun rose and the poor scullery maids could catch a break from whimpering to work on breakfast. Light flooded the castle, signifying to the group that it might be time for a quick nap.
As she saw Madeline dosing away against the shoulder of the mortified chevalier, now her fiancée, madame sighed. 'Thank god for this stranger in our castle,' she thought.
© 2020 Douglas Redant