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As châtelaines of this elegant Louis XIV castle, the Château de Courcelles-sur-Vesle, we spent many happy years restoring its 300 year-old grandeur.

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Side view of Château de Courcelles- sur-Vesle,
located northeast of Paris, near Reims.


The Castle Magician

This is as good a time as any to jump to a few years later when Hugo and the two girls came to visit my wife Leticia and me at our castle in France.

The first night of their visit we experienced thunder and lightning of an awesome sort. Our Louis XIV castle was never spookier than when the lightning silhouetted it against the sky and against the giant trees growing around it.

It turned out that Brian Blair and his wife were visiting the castle that same week from Los Angeles. Brian at that time was just debuting as a professional magician. After his most successful seance-like performance that night at the castle, he has been referred to ever since as the “Castle Magician.” In fact, ten years later when he had become a serious practicing magician, his card read:
Brian Blair
Castle Magician

For this “magic” night at our château, Brian chose the Western Bar Room, which was on the third floor (the top floor) all the way at one end of the wing. Its great windows blended beautifully the outside atmosphere with his magic. As if by some hand of fate, the lightning bolts would flash just at the right time, amplifying his magic tricks.

Yolanda was the focus of the audience and the magician that night. The other half dozen of us were watching her as much as we were watching Brian. She puzzled at the tricks, she laughed, she pouted. She insisted on more. We all fell in love with her, even our wives did—such childish enthusiasm and innocence.

The next night our group had dinner at the Château-de-Fer-en-Tardenois, a neighboring château-restaurant. The three-star rating given it by Michelin was richly deserved especially for the monumental pyramid selection of desserts—no one could resist fewer than three desserts.

During our fabulous dinner, Leticia spotted Ilyana, Yolanda's inseparable sister, filching dessert spoons. She found seven silver spoons in her handbag, made her put them back on the table, and saved our reputation with our neighbor owners of the château.

Hugo put up with Ilyana because she kept Yolanda amused when he was busy with other things. He couldn’t be attentive to Yolanda very much of the time.

After Hugo’s divorce from his wife, he asked Yolanda to marry him. Hugo, generous to a fault, gave his lovely home on the side of the volcano to Yolanda so that she would not be marrying him just for his money. She took the house and refused his offer of marriage, perhaps objecting to a marriage contract. Everybody thought she was crazy. Hugo went on to marry another Latin lady, fortunately a very nice one.

Two or three years after Hugo died, we received a plaintive little phone call from Yolanda from Costa Rica. She was wondering how to reach Hugo. When she learned that he had died she was very sad and contemplative. She said, “You know, everything nice in my life always came from Hugo. I’m really sad I didn’t realize this sooner. We could have even gotten married.”


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