"The Marquis!"

The house was dark. Dark furnishings surrounded the dark atmosphere. It was particularly dark. The curtains were dark, the lamp shades were dark, the tables were dark, the mirrors’ reflection was peculiarly tinted to a darkish hue, and the face of the large grandfather clock in the left corner of the oblong room was dark. As the clock struck midnight, the large window seemed to spy the swirl of a black cape in the midst of the lightning crash. The raindrops trinkled.

"The Marquis!"

The house became still as the rain faltered. After a moment, one could hear a trickle. Sure enough, our rain resumed, and our house grew darker still. The flowers sitting on the long, oaken table became blackened as coal, the solitary candle (the only candle left burning after the chill of the cold night air wiped against them) lost its flame and became dark, and the deepest nooks and crannies of the room near the curio and around the player piano were darkened. It was dark.

"He is here, the Marquis!"

The figure in the swirling black cape and top hat came up to the door, as one could see through the large picture window, and knocked on the brass knocker. A sudden fear swept the dark room. A silent screech filled the space, so silent that only the best trained dogs or persons with massive hearing aid devices could hear. So silent yet so loud.

"The Marquis!"

The little, portly woman scampered by. She was in grey, which seemed black at the time, since it was pure darkness throughout the room in which she was. Her red hair was revealed under a servant's kerchief, which was pulled over her head like a proper maid should wear one. She scampered about, looking up, genuflecting, and saying, "The Marquis! The old Marquis!" under her breath repeatedly. The old woman made her way over to the door, where upon contact with the knob it flung opened. The Marquis burst through the door with his cape flying in the air, and the maid was flung to the wall. After her recovery, she was encouraged by her conscience to curtsy like a proper housekeeper, but her feelings subsided, and she soon found herself crying and cowering in fear.

"Please, your Honor, please!"

The Marquis looked down on the maid and sighed. He then made his way across the dark room with his cape flying in the air. The room had gotten darker since the Marquis’ presence graced the room. The Marquis made his way around the pathway. He went past the piano, past the bookshelf and curio, past the table, and past the candle, whose light was put out by the wind. He then came upon a woman in the far right corner of the room in fetal position on the floor, with her bed clothes on and blood all over them. There was something else sitting in front of her on the floor. The Marquis followed a purple-ish green cord with his eyes as the lightning cracked against the cold, wet ground, where he stared straight at what he had come for. A dead child. Cold. Purple. Dead. Yes, the child was dead, which added to the feel of the dark room. The dead child made the space seem ever so darker, but the Marquis seemed delighted at this gruesome sight.

"The child is dead, Lordship. Dead an’ gone!"

The Marquis lifted up the child in his palms. The newly born -- newly dead baby was no bigger than the Marquis’ palm. The little child was oddly positioned in the Marquis’ hands, with it’s back facing him. When the Marquis’ turned the baby around he drew back in fear. The child was deformed. Gruesome. Ugly. A freak of nature. No wonder it had died at its birth. Its nose was not in the proper position. In fact, the nose was not there at all. The eyes, two just like a normal human baby, were uneven with each other. The child was clearly dead. Dead as a door knob. Then all of a sudden, the child squirmed. A twitch. The Marquis’, shuddering in fright, dropped the baby. Did the baby cry? No, it did not cry. Not one peep came from the mouth of the infant.

Our Marquis de Chameloux was known throughout France. Too widely know, presumably. He stood tall. The Marquis looked a man of 42 or --3, and whenever he walked, or rode, down the streets, the passers-by would bow their heads. Marquis de Chameloux was pretty well to-do, you might say. That is to stand if you didn’t know his history. The Marquis was actually a servant. He was the servant to an individual. No ordinary man, I am sure. He was the servant to a man known as nothing else but Death. Yes, the Marquis de Chameloux worked for the one and only Death himself. Why would Death need a servant? Death was a god in those days. No one had ever seen Death, unless, of course, the moment they died. The Marquis was responsible for taking care of the dirty work, shall we say, for Death. The Marquis was sent in a coach to every house of mourning in France, as to collect the dead bodies and bring them back to the icy hand of the Unknown. He would then ride off into the mist, never to be seen with the dead again. Some brave souls have followed this coach into the darkness, but the second the coach trailed off, it "disappeared." Yes, The Marquis took the dead souls to the House of the Master Death to be dealt with. The Marquis was a curious man indeed yet to be fully explored.

The child lay on the floor, squirming and not making a solitary sound. The Marquis quickly picked the child up again in terror and puts a towel that the housekeeper handed him over the child. He then stuffed it into a black bag and headed toward the door.

"What are you doing with our baby, Marquis? What?" the old maid screeched as she bowed her head.

"I am taking it to the master for judgment," said the Marquis. "It is truly dead, for I have dropped it on the floor. Do not pay attention, old nurse, for it is in the lord’s hands now."

"No!" screamed the maid, as she took the bag from the Marquis and stepped back.

"Give me back my bag, crone, or I shall take you, too!" the Marquis threatened.

The woman in the corner groaned. She moved around and wallowed in the blood.

"Where is my baby? My beautiful baby girl?" asked the woman.

Madeleine was in and out of a deep sleep caused by the birth. She found herself in a dream of the olden days, where her father used to sing with her at luncheon. Everyone was sitting around a large table, waiting for food. As the company was talking, in walks her father from the door. He took off his brown jacket and hat, and he seemed to have come home from a very busy work day at the masonry. Madeleine, in her pig-tails, ran up to her father and hugged him tightly. One could notice that the two shared the same brown eyes, hair, and features. As Madeleine’s papa sat down, she followed with a smile. Mama soon came out from the kitchen with the food, and almost as fast as it was prepared, the food was swallowed by the family. After the afternoon feast, Madeleine and her father sat at the piano and sang old opera arias, such as ‘Caro mio ben’ and ‘O del mio dolce ardor’. Her father was preparing her for the day where she would grace the stage of the Parisian opera house. He was very happy with her beautiful voice indeed.

"Where is my beautiful baby girl?" asked Madeleine as she flashed out of her dream. "Where?"

Madeleine flashed back into the dream again. This time the memories of her father and singing were erased. Now she was on honeymoon with her husband Charles. There were tucked away in the hotel room in London, where she first conceived her child, her precious child. She woke up.

"Christine!" she screamed, and went back into her sleep.

At the current time, the Marquis and the old maid were listening closely to the thrashing of the woman on the floor.

"I’ll bet she’s dreaming of the child, Marquis! Please let it be!"

"I cannot!" demanded the old Marquis. "I cannot leave it with the mother. It is dead. As dead as dead can be! It cannot stay here with the mother!" the man screamed at the maid as he walked out the door. The housekeeper followed the man out, yelling.

"Christine! Christine! Where are you, Christine?" asked the mother on the floor, wallowing in blood and gore.

Madeleine was now dreaming of the future. She lived in Paris with Charles, and raised a little girl named Christine. Madeleine was working at the Parisian opera house as a singer on the grand stage there. She taught her daughter, a pretty thing of 6 years old with dark brown hair and eyes, how to sing a beautiful aria like her mother. Madeleine was sitting at the piano playing along to Christine’s song and thought about the past, when her father used to do the same thing with her as a child. She instilled old values in the child, which actually resembled her to perfection. Madeleine taught the techniques that she learned in her many years of voice to her child. Christine was going to grow up like her mother, well to-do in Paris and famous to top it off.

The maid ran back into the door, kneeled in the corner and sobbed.

Madeleine woke up. This time, for a while. "What is the matter, Eloise? Eloise, where is my beautiful Christine?"

"Madame, the Marquis was just here and – took," she tried to explain.

"What do you mean, Eloise? What? What is the matter? I wish to see my baby!"

"You could, Madam, but," Eloise explained, "but the Marquis done took her!"

"What? He took my girl? But why, Eloise, why?"

"He is the servant. The servant of Death himself, Madam! My mother told me ‘bout him long ago, Madam, but I never believe. The room was dark, Madam, and I couldn’t see! I couldn’t see him coming! He came and he took your little Christine! He picked her up from you, cut the cord, yelled, dropped, covered it up, put it in his little black bag and done took it away! I tried to steal it, Madam! I fight him! I fight him to his carriage, Madam! But he don’ let it go! He never let go! He say he wanted to take the child to ‘him’, but I figure that ‘him’ is Death, so I figure that the child must be dead! But it wasn’t dead, Madam, it wasn’t! I saw the child laying on the floor and squirming. When he dropped it, it didn’t cry! Not a peep from your little Christine! I tried, Madam! I really tried!"

The sounds of the room were silent. Nothing stirred. The sun was rising in the east, filling the room with a faint glow.

A knock at the door.

Several hours had passed since Madeleine had heard the tragic news of her little Christine’s death. She had fallen asleep, and was snoring away to the continuation of the dreams she had. Madeleine was full of sorrow and pity for the child she never knew.

Another knock.

Eloise answered the door. She flinched her eyes at the morning sun, because she had drew the shades in the living room as to not let light inside. Her clothes were disheveled from the night’s experiences, and her face was dirty with rouge.

"Hello, Marie! Hello, Stuart!" greeted the old nurse, as she straightened her hair.

"Hello! May we see Madeleine and the baby now?" asked Marie.

"Well, you can see the Madam. . ." said Eloise as she let the guests into the house. To the side of the living room there was a bucket of water, a rag, and some white and red clothes. Eloise was apparently cleaning the ‘accident’.

"What is that there, Eloise?" asked Stuart, Marie’s lifetime companion.

"That is nothing," Eloise stuttered. "Now, please direct yourselves into the bedroom now to see the Madam."

"All right. Thank you, Eloise." Eloise curtseyed to the two and went over to the mess.

"What an odd housekeeper. But Madeleine has taught her well. Couldn’t speak the proper English when she got her, now look at the improvement!" Stuart remarked.

The couple entered the bed chamber, where Madeleine was laying on the bed. She was dressed in fresh, white night clothes and was pale, as expected of a woman who had just given birth. Madeleine look as an angel on her bed, almost.

"Madeleine? Wake up?" asked Marie.

The woman awoke from her deep ‘night’ of slumber. She was suprised to see who she actually saw! It was Marie! Marie was her best friend from her many days of Catholic schooling. She was even the bride’s maid at her wedding to Charles. Marie was very plain, but that didn’t stop Madeleine from loving her like a sister of sorts.

"Marie! It is you! If I could get up I would hug you, but I am beaten weak!" she said in excitement.

"That is fine! You rest! Now, when we heard that your baby was to be born, we rushed here from St. Martin-de-Boscherville to greet it!" she remarked. "Oh, and allow me to introduce my husband, Stuart. He is a stubborn man who won’t even say hello to strangers, isn’t he?" Marie poked at Stuart.

"Oh, hello, Madeleine. Marie has told many a story about you!" he said.

"Yes, and you ought not repeat them, dear," she said with a glare. "Now, Madeleine, where is the baby?"

Madeleine stood up on the side of the bed with great effort. "The baby," she explained, "is dead."

A knock.

Eloise answered the door. "Hello?"

A boy stepped up to the door. He couldn’t have been but 7 or 8, for he could not reach the bell nor the knocker. "A letter for Madame Madeleine." He handed her a note with the name of ‘Chameloux’ signed to it.

"Thank you." Eloise shut the door. ,br>

"The baby is what?" exclaimed Marie.

"It is dead. Really dead. And it is gone from this house. It all happened while I was unconscious on the floor," explained Madeleine.

"That is terrible! Is that the mess we saw coming from the living room?" asked Marie.

"I’d suppose so, dear. I cannot believe it!" replied Stuart.

"Yes, and I have been asleep these many hours since 3."

"Madam, a note for you," said Eloise. She entered the room with a sealed sheet of paper in her hand. She handed it to Madeleine. "It is from the Marquis."

"Bastard! He takes my baby, then writes me a note of sympathy! How dare he!" yelled Madeleine in shock.

"Yes, but only if you would re –"

"I cannot believe it! Whenever I see him, I shall get him good! I will show him to evade my feelings! I will show him to steal my child! My Christine!" she screamed. Madeleine was so torn up over this event that she collapsed back on the bed.

"Madam? Madam?"

The company of Marie and Stuart were sitting on the chairs by Madeleine’s bedside. They were each drinking something. Marie - from a glass, Stuart - straight from the decanter.

"Madam? Wake up, Madam? Wake?"

Madeleine awoke. She saw blurred visions of both Stuart and Marie. Then, clearly, she saw Eloise put a cold rag on her head.

"Have I been asleep long?" she asked.

"No," said Eloise. "Now, if you please, read the letter?"

Madeleine looked at the piece of paper with the black seal lying in her lap and picked it up. She slowly broke the seal, and read.
Chapter 2 - Coming soon. Very soon.