|Chapter Title||FRITZ THE FOOL.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OP WHITE SHADOWS.
Br a L. FARJEON, Autiior of " BUde-o'-Orass," " Joshua M*rW," "Bread and Cbeess and Kisses," "Grif," -'London's Heart," Ac
CHAPTER IIL rarrz THS rooL.
As tbe little wooden olook in the ion of ike Seven Liars struok the honr of 5, Fritz the Fool rushed through the open door and cried— " They are coming—they are coming—and will be here before you can cook me an omelette." And having thus delivered himself, ran crat of the inn to the House of White Shadows, and, swinging open the gates, cried still more loudly— Mother Denise I Dionetta ( They are on tbe road, and will be here a lifetime before Old Martin can straighten his crooked back." Within five minutes of this summons there stood at the door of the inn of the Seven Liars the customers who had been pretty grand-daughter Dionetta, and old Martin, whose breathing came short and qtiick at the haste he had made to be in time to welcome the Advocate and his wife. The news bad spread swiftly, and when the carriage made its appearance at the nod of r the narrow lane, and toiled slowly ap the steep hill, a score or so of the inhabitants of Petit Sarconnex were gathered together, carious to see the great lord and lady Who intended to reside in the haunted house. As the carriage drew op at the gates, the courier who acted as valet to the Advocate, and who was to undertake the general management of the establishment jumped down from his seat next to the driver, and opened the carriage door. Tbe curious ones pressed forward ana gazed with admiration at tbe beautiful x lady, and with awe at tbe stern-faced gentleman, who had selected the House of White Shadows as a holiday residence. For their own parts, they would not have engaged themselves to sleep for a week in any one of the rooms in the villa for the value of all the watches in Geneva. There were, however, three jMjrsonfc in the village who had no fears of the house. These were the old housekeeper and her husband Martin, and Fritz the Fool. Mother Denise had been born there, and was ghost and shadow-proof: so was ner husband, now in his eighty-nfth year, whose body was like a bent bow stretched for the fl'gbt of the arrow, his soul. Not for a single night in sixty-eight years had Mother Denise slept outside the walls of the House of White Shadows, and (or forty-three years her husband had kept her company ; but to tbom, they declared, no supernatural visitant had ever appeared. They had no belief whatever in the ghostly sipns. Fritz, on the contrary, declared that thej^ came to him frequently. " But I'm not afraid of them ; not I," ne said. " They don't strike, they don't speak, they don t burn. Let them tome, and welcome. When they leave a mark upon mc I'll turn against them.' 1 Which made him a greater Fool than evor in the minds of both believers and unbelievers. "He is himself a ghost," said the schoolmaster of the village, " with a fleshly embodiment; that is why the Fool is not afraid." Truly Fritz the Fool was ghostlike in appearance, for the skin of his lace was singularly white, and, however strong the sun, it had not tbe power to tan it; and his head was covered with shaggy white locks which hung low down upon his shoulders. From a distance he looked like an old man, hut lie hod not reached his thirtieth year, and so clear were his eyes and features that on a closer observance b'o might have been taken for a lad of half the years he bore. Diouetta did not share his defiance of ghostly visitors. The House of White Shadows was her home, and many and many a Dight had she awoke in terror, and listened with a beating hoort to soft footsteps in the passage outside her room, and buried her head in the sheets to shut out the light of the moon which shone in at her window. Very timid, and fearful of the supernatural, was this country beauty, whom alf the louts in the neighbourhood were eacer to marry, aud she alone, of those who bad lived for years in the House of White Shadows, welcomed the Advocate and his wife with genuine delight. Fool Fritz thought of secretly enjoyed pleasures which might now bo disturbed, Martin was too 61d not to dislike change, and Mother Denise, although exceedingly deferential in her greeting, was by no means prepared to rejoice at the arrival of strangers. Things were well enough before they came, And Mother Denise would have been better pleased had they never shown their faces at the gates. The Advocate and his wife stood looking around them, he with observant eyes and in silence, she with undisguised pleasure and odmiratiou. She began to speak the moment she alighted. "Charming! Beautiful! I am in love with it already. Could anything be moro perfect ? So quiet, and peaceful, ana sweet. Look at those children peeping from behind their mother's gown—airty: but how picturesque! Aud the mother herself, is she not a picture ? What could have been the reason why Mr. Balcombe never lived here ? It is inex - jilicable, quite inexplicable. I could be happy here for ever. Do you catch the perfume of the limes? It is delicious, delicious ! It comes from the grounds—there must be a lime-tree walk there. And you," she said to the pretty girl at the gates, " you are Dionetta." "Yes, my lady," said Dionetta, and wondered how her name could have become known to the beautiful lady whose face was more lovely than the face of the Madonna in the tiny UbapeL of Petit Sarcoonex. It was not difficult to divine her thought, for Dionetta was nature's child. " You are wondering who told me your name," euid the Advocate's wife. " Yes, my lady." " A little bird, Dionetta." "A little bird, my lady," exclaimed Dionetta. her wonderment and admiration growing last into worship. Tbe lady's graceful figure, her pink and white face, her pearly teoth, her lovely mouth, her eyes, blue as the most beautiful summer's cloud ; Dionetta bad never seen the like before. " Aud you," said the Advocate's wife, turning to the grandmother, "are Mother Denise." " Yes, my lady," replied the old woman. " This is my husband, Martin." "1 know, 1 know," said the Advocate's wife, all graciousness ; " my little bird was very communicative. You are Fritz." "The Fool," said the white-haired young man, " Fritz the Fool. Don't mistrust mc ou that account, lean be faithful, if I care to bp.. I was told you were coming." "Indeed," said the Advocates wife, with an air of pleasant surprise. " By whom and when "By whom? The white shadows. When? Night after night in my dreams." " Tliti white shadows, they exist, then. Edward, do you hear ?" The Advocate, upon whom not a word of the conversation had been lost, fixed his eyes upon Fritz. 1 It pleases you to be called a Fool." " Why not? " Why. rather ?" "1 might answer," said Fritz, "because people are uot geuerally called by their right uoinea." " J hat is too wise an answer for a fooL For what reason do you close your eyes "It is a habit of mine. 1 can seo io the dark what 1 choose to see." The Advooato gazed for a moment or two at the face with its closed eyes raised to his, and then said to his wife— "Come, Adelaide, we will look at the house." They passed into the grounds, accompanied bv Mother DeniBc, Martin, and Dionetta. Fritz remained outside the gates, with hiB eyes still closed and a smile upon his lips. " Fritz," said the host of the inn of The Seven Lisrs, " Do you know anything of the great man T Fritz rubbod his brows softly, and opene 1 his eves. " I know everything? " What about him, then!" " Listen, Peter Scnelt," said Fritz, as the neighbours gathered around him. " When niv eyes were shut I had adream of a stranger who was found murdered in your house. People said you murdered him for his money, and it really seemed so, for it was found in your possession. Things were going so hard with you that yori begged tho great man who h&B come among as to plead for yon at your triaL You were safe enough, then. He proved to everybody's satisfaction th.itit was impossible you could have committed the murder. Don't be alarmed, Peter Schelt, it was only a dream." " But did I do it!" enquired Peter Scbclt, in no way disturbed by the bad light in which he was placed by Fritz's faniea. "It docs not matter whether yon did or not Tho great man got you off, and that is all you cared for. Look hero, neighbours. _ If any of you have black goata that you wish changed into white, go to him ; he can do it for you. lie is a great man, a very great man." " Ah," Baid a neighbour, " and what do you know of his wife ?" " What all of you should know, but cannot ace, although it stares you in the facc." " Lot ut have it, Fritz." "She is too fair. Christine," to a stout young woman olose to him, " give thanks to the ^ irgin to-night that you were sent into the world with a squint in your eye, and that your legs grow thicker aoa crookedereveiy aay. fox will never drive a man out of bis senses with your beauty."
Fritz was compelled to beat a swift retreat, for Christine's arms were as thick as her legs, and they were raised to smite. Down the lane flew the Fool, and Christine aftet him, amid the laughter of the villagers.