Cold piercing winds sliced through weathered cracks of the tall arched windows.
It chilled the study in spite of the warmth emitted from the fire blazing within the marbled fireplace. Whistling sounds penetrated
the reverberating chords of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony, interposing with Dieudonne's defined preference in music.
He'd been engaged in a good book and gently closed its hand-tooled leather
cover, placing it on the mahogany table next to the chair where he sat.
rose to his feet stretching and reviving his stiffened body, and walked over to the parquetry cabinet, gently turning up the
"Sir, dinner is now served," announced his butler, E'douard.
"Tres bien, E'douard. I shall be there momentarily," he dismissively informed
him. He wasn't particularly hungry but, his servants adhered to a strict agenda unless instructed otherwise. He plumed
on the coherence of his own stringent schedule and demanded they do as well.
returned to his winged-back chair and began reading the tome from the point he'd stopped, prior to being interrupted,
and concluded a few chapters before finally closing the cover. Wrapping his over-sized cashmere
cardigan together, almost
doubling it around himself, the sharp gelid feeling of the room indicated he should attend the dying fire.
Clutching the brass poker with one agile hand, he prodded the fire stirring cinders and carefully
rearranged an almost spent log, revitalizing life into a nearly depleted fire. The warmth sought its way upward, cupping his
face and flushing his cheeks. The sensation brought a smile to his face and into his heart. The appearance of being a stoic
man was only a façade he'd created and a moment of simplicity such as briefly contented feeling, had manifested
a vulnerability within himself.
E'douard pulled the chair out from
the head of the mahogany Louis XIV dining table awaiting his master to sit down. He courteously laid a linen serviette across
Dieudonne's lap and poured an eight-year old Cote de Bourg, filling the crystal glass with the proper etiquette. He
stepped back a few feet in a methodical
fashion, standing nearby while anticipating his next task.
Entering the dining room, Adrienne served a delicious chicken liver pate', Mousse de
Foies de Volatile, which was a favored, and planned to serve the main course of Coq au Vin and Potage aux Champignons later.
As he enjoyed her
delicacy, she refreshed his wine glass and gracefully exited into the kitchen.
Adrienne, both chef and maid for Mr. Dieudonne', enjoyed her employer's delight for her cuisine, knowing
it was his weakness. She'd been employed by his family for two generations, and knew of no different life. His father,
Dieudonne' Benoit Robillard, II, was a precarious man, but generous in all his endeavors, especially to his household
staff. Mr. Dieudonne', III, wasn't much different, though she knew he pretended otherwise.
Twenty-five minutes had passed since the main course. She presented his favorite dessert, Mousse au Chocolat a` la
menth with a flaming brandied coffee, Cafe Brulot, and proffered a fresh linen serviette, then proceeded to gather the used
porcelain dinnerware, and disappeared back into the kitchen.
poured a glass of an aromatic 1942-St. Christeau, Mr. Dieudonne's favorite cognac armagnac brandy, and placed the glass
on a serving tray beside the cut-crystal decanter, then carried the sterling tray into the study for Mr. Dieudonne's evening
Outside, rain surged a diapason of harmony beating down on the
mansion's steep roof, streaming and running down arched windows, and pounding the upper and lower balustrades while resounding
through the chimney into the
Dieudonne' found the rhythm
soothing and relaxing. A warm cognac brandy, Beethoven's brilliance inspiring the atmosphere, serene resonant rain, a
warm crackling fire and a satisfied palate. Life was often good hidden within the walls of La maison de Ruine. He was a man
who enjoyed his solitude, but was lonely for companionship at times.
sat comfortably while staring at the family portraits aligning the eastern wall of the study. Mademoiselle Chloe' jumped
in his lap purring and rubbing
against his chest with her petite body, marking ownership of Dieudonne'. He subconsciously
stroked her soft fur while reflecting back on time past, still
gazing at the portraits that stared back at him.
Flickering shadows born from the flaming fire, danced across the eyes causing them to appear
Six generations of Robillards, he was the seventh, and had no intent
of his portrait joining the condemned collage. For every portrait commissioned and
inevitably hung in the gallery, the
premature death of its subject would shortly follow. His father had suffered an agonizingly slow death, and was the first
to have conceived the malediction of the portrait, and the doom that followed. It had been too late for him. But, at his bedside
on that fateful night of his father passing, his last dying words were of a grave warning to him; take hearkening of the family
While dismally reminiscing, he thought about the legend that
his father had told him of how his great-grandfather had been born in Transylvania, Romania, and his grandfather being born
in France, as was his own father.
The Robillard lore began with his great-grandfather
fleeing and relocating his family to France, where they remained in hiding from Count Pascaly. The Count had
his great-grandfather's first born child to be presented before him, so his bride could raise the child as her own and
have an heir to his own nobility.
The Count had specifically required
a child of particular characteristics and traits. His great-grandparents had qualified for the prerequisite, although a child
hadn't been born to them as yet. The Count was said to have been impotent, thus, couldn't impregnate the Countess
who had threatened suicide if a child wasn't made available to her for rearing.
It was later told, in a fit of raging anger upon receiving the news of the family's flight, the Countess covenanted
a curse upon the Robillard family and all generations to come..."Mai Robillards a surveni la timpuriu moarte prin din
'nt' mplare vanitate ei `i tot generare spre urm 'tor." - Countess Pascaly ... "May the Robillard family,
and all generations to come, suffer the curse of death by their own vanity."
Then a short time later, a son, Dieudonne' Benoit Robillard I, the first generation, was born in France. Dieudonne's
grandfather. Years later, Dieudonne' Benoit Robillard II, his own father, was also born in France.
As he was born in France like the two generations before him, and was christened the third;
Dieudonne' Benoit Robillard III. He never knew his great-grandfather's given Romanian name. He had changed it to a
upon commencement of his hiding.
cracked, clamoring and clattering a sharpness through the night, startling Dieudonne' from deep reflection. Mademoiselle
Chloe' leaped from his lap leaving an abundance of tiny snags in his trouser pants and
scurried under the bonneti're
cabinet that was standing majestically in the far corner of the study.
thunder followed reverberating its powerful wrath, frightening her again. She shrilled a piercing feline squeal as she ran
out the room into the foyer, off to hide elsewhere.
amused by her protesting antics, swirled the remaining brandy inside the confinement of the crystal glass, warming it for
immediate sipping. He took a drink, allowing the warmed liquid to caress his palate, briefly savoring its flavor before swallowing.
He indolently glanced at the pewter long-case clock, that his great-grandfather's father
handed down to ascendant generations, and the face displayed it was half past eleven o'clock. He'd gotten sleepy from
the effect of the cognac brandy, and decided to retire for the night.
called for his beloved pet confidant, Mademoiselle Chloe', intending to take her upstairs to bed with him. But, she didn't
respond like she normally did. He called for her again. No response.
he couldn't summon E'douard for assistance, considering he usually retired at ten o'clock every night, he got
up to look for Mademoiselle Chloe' himself. He turned off the lights one by one as he left the study, leaving the room
barely illuminated from the fire burning its last bit of puissance.
in the middle of the entrance foyer, he called out softly with his cunning feline-enticing tone, which commonly worked on
Mademoiselle. He heard a faint response ensuing from under the bombe credenza, then kneeled down on
the cold, marbled
floor to look beneath it. There she was. Mademoiselle Chloe' was curled up in a diminutive white ball with all four paws
neatly tucked under her frail body, eyes unblinkingly wide open, and issuing a throaty, reverberant purring of security and
Dieudonne' gently picked her up and cradled her warm
softness to his chest and carried her with him upstairs to bed for the night.
master suite was bedecked with gold and red burgundy leaf, silk brocade overlaying the walls, which were richly accompanied
by matching draperies adorning arched windows. Gold accessories tastefully displayed, completed the
the room and spilled into the heart of its grand essence.
The bed, a perfectly
handcrafted mahogany masterpiece, which had been handed down through generations of Robillard's, stood proudly centered
in the epitome of the room. Guarding its magnificent splendor, laid a gold accented brocade spread which countered the walls
Dieudonne' proficiently folded the thick bedspread
exposing the opulent silk sheets and red wool blanket, and placed it neatly to drape over an eloquently carved quilt rack
at the foot of the bed, where it would remain unsoiled until morning.
his jewelry but, before he could undress and slip into his silk pajamas, Mademoiselle Chloe' had selected her place on
one of the bed pillows as though she were the queen of the bedchamber, and awaited him to join her for the night. He got into
bed, comfortably positioning himself on his back, primly arranging the bedding to his preferment, while Mademoiselle snuggled
against his side to sleep contentedly.
His mind wandered with thought,
and realized that tomorrow was his birthday. He didn't like celebrations, therefore, planned to disregard the fictitious
importance of the day.
Mademoiselle Chloe' woke him early daybreak
with gentle rhythmic kneading atop his chest, accompanied by rotund purring of her appeasement.
E'douard knocked on the bedroom door at his accustomed time which he dutifully cleaved every morning. If Mademoiselle
didn't wake him, E'douard professed the punctual obligation.
E'douard," he responded to the knock. E`douard simultaneously opened both double-doors and entered, cheerfully offering
a prodigious morning to Dieudonne', and announced breakfast was served.
he'd finished showering and dressing in approbate attire; black corduroy trousers and a favored matching cashmere cardigan,
Dieudonne' carried Mademoiselle Chloe' with him downstairs for their breakfast.
Dieudonne' sashayed into the dining room where E'douard and Adrienne formally stood in waiting with happy
expectancy of the special day.
In complete accord, they chimed, "Happy
birthday, Mr. Dieudonne'!"
"Merci, Adrienne and E'douard.
But you know I'm not in custom to commemorate my birthday." He was appreciative nonetheless.
E'douard proceeded to pull the head chair out from the table for him, and Dieudonne' sat down respectfully
Adrienne served him one of his favorite breakfast dishes,
L'Omelette Lyonnaise, complemented by a small loaf of ham and olive bread decorated with a single birthday candle eloquently
Dieudonne', pleasantly surprised, gracefully blew out the
candle and cordially thanked her for her kind thoughtfulness.
welcomed him and presented a hot latte' coffee, then took the liberty of softly kissing his cheek.
After he'd finished relishing breakfast, he retreated into his study to entrance himself
with the book he'd been rendering the evening before. Mademoiselle Chloe' predictably took her customary place in
E'douard served a fresh pot of rich coffee with nuggets of
sweet dark chocolate, delivering it to the table next to Dieudonne's chair. The blended aroma of the dyad occluded throughout
the room, annulling the dankness of the previous
began a hearty construction in the fireplace for a pleasing fire to warm the study.After fulfilling the task successfully,
E'douard left Dieudonne' and Mademoiselle alone to their esteemed privacy.
Within an hour, E'douard and Adrienne entered the study jointly carrying a large easel draped with a flax-linen
"What have you both got there?" Dieudonne' inquired.
"It is your birthday present, Mr. Dieudonne'," Adrienne excitedly and proudly
"Adrienne and I, have taken the liberty of joyfully presenting
you with a special gift on your special day," E'douard announced.
certainly shouldn't of. It's not necessary to give me a present. I've already received the best gift that you
both could have possibly given me-- your loyalty."
"May we present
it to you, sir?" E'douard asked, trying his best to mask his elated anticipation.
"Well, since you've gone to all the trouble for me, I accept your kind generosity. I feel honored, and anxious
to see what it is that you've bestowed," he politely
told them. He felt a little more excitement than he'd
liked to admit.
Together in unison, E'douard and Adrienne grasped
the linen cloth, looked one another in the eyes as if mentally counting down; one, two, three, and uncovered the mysterious
gift presenting it proudly to Dieudonne' ... a beautiful life-sized oil portrait of him holding Mademoiselle Chloe'.
Dieudonne's heart careered frantically, eyes widened with utter terror, his mouth dropped
open as if to yell out-- yet no sound emitted from the gaping orifice.
couldn't believe the absurdity that the two people he'd trusted the most, had inadvertently bestowed his early demise.
They hadn't been privy of the curse that the Countess Pascaly had covenanted upon the Robillard family...
...The generations of portraits which hung in the family gallery that had been their demise...Now,
his own portrait would be the seventh and last generation to complete the Robillard collection, when he would soon meet his
ow untimely death... as his father, grandfather, and grandfather's father had before him...
"Pouvoir tout Robillards et les g'n'rations pour venir, souffrir une fin
pr'matur'e et premi're de leur propre vainity."
("May the Robillard family, and all generations
to come, suffer the curse of death by their own vanity.")