vrijdag 2 januari 2015

The Woman in Red: Chapter 11

11. The playing string quartet

           It was a round table, and he was set with the most beautiful crockery Jean-Pierre had ever seen. The glasses were made of the clearest crystal that sparkled in the light of the candles in several chandeliers. The table linen was immaculate white, and the silver cutlery was polished it that way you could see your reflection in it.
            Katarina had arranged that she and Jean-Pierre arrived the first in the dining room. Just as all the rooms this space was filled with antique furniture but restored in a way you couldn’t see they were this old. The seat and the back of the chairs here were also made of red velvet. A color that was very loved on Château Dauphin, Jean-Pierre thought.
            Meanwhile, he had asked what the Baroness’ first name was. Katarina had urged him always to address here as ‘Madame Baroness’. Still, after a while she had whispered the name in his ear. ‘Beatrice…’ but the last name stayed unknown.
            In one of the corners of the chamber, a string quartet played joyful classical music. Two young ladies and just as much masculine opposites took care of a professional and musical setting of the evening.
            A moment later the Baroness arrived with Madame Thérèse Dupont. They were engaged in a conversation about politics, something Jean-Pierre knew nothing at all about that kind of thing. Besides, it didn’t interest him. They who had the power were stuffing their pocket with money. It was this way for centuries, and it would still go on for centuries too.
            Both ladies greeted Katarina and Jean-Pierre while a young man filled the long champagne glasses with the sparkling beverage. The Baroness obviously waited for the rest of the people to come, because she left her glass untouched. Not long after that, maybe a few minutes, the rest of the company joined the already sitting guests. After the acquaintances by the Baroness, she made a toast.
            ‘May your stay here, be pleasant, interesting and above all festive. I know our regular customers will surely affirm this, but our young guest Jean-Pierre must yet experience it first-hand. Santé, cheers.’
            Frau Bertha Hofmeister was sitting left of him and immediately asked when he had arrived and if he liked the castle. ‘Jean-Pierre, in which room have you been settled,’ the corpulent German woman addressed him on a first-name basis. ‘I’m in the Chambre Verte, the Green Room, a spacious room with a large bed,’ she added enticing.
            Jean-Pierre pretended to know nothing and he answered that he was lodged in the red room and that he thrilled with the view. He tried to look not too long at her because he constantly remembered her performance in birthday suit. Jean-Pierre was asking himself, whom her young lover was.
            Jules Tavernier, a quite burly man of fifty, kept his attention on his table lady, Madame Thérèse. While he described, with broad gestures, his experiences during his travel to Mozambique, now and then he put his hand on the arm of the wealthy dowager. She allowed this. She even shoved a bit closer, probably impressed by the charisma of the General. Jean-Pierre suspected Madame Thérèse to push her knee under the table against the muscled leg of the military man. The General blushed, albeit he hadn’t drunk much.
            ‘Monsieur Charles,’ the Baroness started, ‘Someone told me that you can’t be forced to do something against your will. Do you agree as professional in this matter?’
            The man looked at her a moment with his dark eyes, wiped his short beard with his hand and nodded vaguely. ‘Maybe you have to elaborate, Madame.’ With his wild tuft of hair and his beard, he was the perfect caricature of the artist that he was. But looking at his dark eyes, glimmering artificially bright in their sockets, there was something mysterious about him.
            ‘You can’t force someone to do something bad he wouldn’t do in real life. A hypnotist can’t order to do a murder… or to hurt a person… but.’ Monsieur Charles was holding his breath and pulled again at his beard. Probably kind of tic.
            ‘But…?’ the Baroness, repeating his last word meaning he had to give more explanation. Everyone in the company, Jean-Pierre included, were increasingly eating up every word of this flamboyant artist.
            ‘Maybe there are other things you wouldn’t normally do, things that aren’t really criminal behavior, for which a hypnotist can implant a suggestion. The question isn’t strange to me, and I took the liberty to do a little experiment with our musical guests.’ Now he almost talked in a whispering voice. ‘I chatted with them when I arrived here at the castle. Watch closely now.’
            Everybody became silent and looked at the quartet to Monsieur Charles.
            ‘Bravissimo,’ he shouted in the direction of the four persons. They instantly stopped playing and stayed still in their chairs as if they were drugged. Charles got up and hurried to the music corner. He whispered something in the ear of each of them. Nobody could hear what he was saying. Then he went away from them.
            The two young men started to breathe faster, and the two women got up after they had put their instrument on the ground. Both of them sat on the lap of their partner. The first one caressed the young woman on her naked arms. It took only a minute to remove the shoulder straps of her dress and to uncover a lush bosom. The other man had not been inactive, and his hand had disappeared under the lifted skirt of his girl.
            At first Jean-Pierre thought this was all staged, but after looking at their eyes, he knew they were under the influence of the hypnotic suggestion of Monsieur Charles. He felt suddenly a hand in his lap and suspected it was Katarina’s. It was Frau Bertha, who with a dreamy gaze on her face, rubbed with her little fingers upon his masculinity. He just let her do and looked at the playing quartet.

©  Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere

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