The Woman in Red: 8. Château Dauphin
Four hours later a dazzled Jean-Pierre came awake. ‘What is… have I slept? I feel very muzzy!’ He rubbed his eyes and looked at a smiling Katarina.
‘I think you’ve drunk too much champagne, dear. Don’t be afraid, I didn’t make advantage of the situation.’ She took a black piece of linen and handed it over to Jean-Pierre. ‘To make the surprise completely. We’ll arrive any minute, and you shall see…, it’s worthwhile.’
For a moment, he looked still a bit surprised from Katarina to the black linen and back. A second he doubted but when he noticed the pouting lips Katarina was forming, he smiled and took the clothing from her. Jean-Pierre put it around his head so that he couldn't see a thing. At that instant the car stopped.
Katarina got out first, and he heard the grinding of gravel. Strange, he thought, you were paying more attention to this sounds when you can’t see a thing. She took him by the hand and led him like a guide dog on a meandering path.
‘Watch it, we have five little steps here,’ she warned him. Thanks to Katarina, he didn’t trip and took these obstacles without effort. He heard her opening a door and when she closed it with a squeak, he supposed the house they were visiting must be quite old. Jean-Pierre was smelling flowers, but he couldn't state which kind, probably different sorts.
Katarina stood behind him and turned him a bit to the left; ‘Just a few seconds, be patient, I’ll remove the linen now.’ Turning words into deeds, she removed his blindfold.
His mouth literary fell open in amazement. He stood in a large hall where on his left and right side a broad stairway led to the second floor. On the ceiling of this hallway was a huge chandelier of which the crystals were glittering like stars. The marble floor he stood upon could mirror him and in the center there was a small fountain with a dolphin in the middle. From the animal's mouth flowed water. He didn't know where to look first. On the steps of both the stairways laid a red carpet that colored beautiful with the warm brown of the wood. Upon several tables on the right and left side of the stairs were bunches of flowers. Roses, carnations, and lilies..., you name it, even varieties Jean-Pierre didn't recognize.
‘May I welcome you at Château Dauphin, Jean-Pierre,’ Katarina said.
A girl came through a door on the right side and made a little inclination for him and Katarina. ‘Give her your luggage, she will put it in your room. You have the “Chambre Rouge,” the red room for those who don’t speak French. I think all sound sexier in the language of Molière.’ She laughed her gobbling laugh, something he would recognize everywhere. It came from deep in her throat, very sensually.
'Katarina, you're right, of course, I couldn't have imagined this in a thousand years. A genuine castle..., a hotel?' He looked around and didn't spot something that could pass for a reception desk. The dolphin that had given his name to the castle willingly kept spouting water.
She came closer and gave him a slight kiss on his cheek. ‘For you Jean-Pierre, nothing but the best. You could say this is a sort of a hotel, but for real important guests. Maybe I'll tell you later more about this.'
Out of one the doors under the stairs came a stately older lady. She was wearing a long skirt and a blouse with lace around the arms and neck. Upon the blouse, she wore a brooch that represented a dolphin. Again, probably a reference to the name of the castle. When he directed his gaze at Katarina, he noticed she didn't laugh anymore. Maybe it was his imagination but he thought her face tightened when this woman entered the hall.
‘Bonjour, Madame la Baronesse,’ Katarina greeted with a little bow at her. ‘May I present to you our new guest.’ She pointed at Jean-Pierre. The Baroness just nodded her head so either she had a fear of stains or maybe she felt too distinguished to respond.
‘Oh yes, you’re Jean-Pierre if I’m reliable informed. I presume you had a good drive.' Without waiting for his answer, she went on. 'May I suggest you freshen up in your room and Katarina can show you the Chateau afterward. I would like you to restrict to the public areas, some parts of the castle are private. And we like to keep this so. Isn't that so, Katarina?'
Katarina just nodded. 'Oui, Maman..., Yes, mother!'