|Chapter Title||PREPARATIONS FOE A VISITOR.|
|Newspaper Title||Evening Journal (Adelaide, SA : 1869 - 1912)|
|Trove Title||The House of White Shadows|
THE HOUSE OF WHITE
SHADOWS. Br a U FABJEON, Author of *'Blade-o'-Orass ' "Joshua MirW/, "Bread a&d Cbo»e« lad HIMQI," "tfrif," ILosi* dost Heart,"
CHAPTER XIIL PREPARATIONS FOE A VISITOR.
At noon of the same day the old house* keeper, Mother Deoise, and ner pretty grand - daughter, Dionetta, were baeily employed setting in order and arranging the farnitare in a Brute of rooms intended for an expected visitor. There were bat two floors in the House of White Shadows, and the rooms in vrhich Mother Deniae and Dionetta were employed were situated on the upper floor. Three or four times in the coarse of the morning the Advocate's wife had entered the room to look round and rive new directions as to the disposal of tbe furniture. " I think it will do," said Mother Denise, wiping baagtaaiy dust away with a cloth. * All but the flowers/' sad Dionetta. *' No, -jtother, that desk is wrong; it is my 's own desk, and is to be placed exactly in tills comer by the window. There j it is light now*" My lady is very particular/ 1 Bold Mother Denise, In a voice far from amiable. Yes, she is, but «be is so good and kind be sure/ She has said that twenty times ihis week." " Ah." said Mother Denise, testily, " as i! butterflies could teach bees how to make honey. My lady is turning your head, Dionetta, it is easy to see that; she has Jjetwitched half the people in the village." " No one can help loving her, grandmother: even you do wben she talks to yuuia her soft pleasant voice." " Yea, and when she goes away I come to my senses. I've lived and learnt, and that soft pleasant voice of here can bo set to another tune, or I'm no woman. Here is father with the tlowora. Haste, Martin, baste r "Easy to say, hard to do," grumbled Martin, entering aliwly, with a basket of cut Dowers, which Dionetta took from him. My bones get more obstinate every day. Here's my lady been worrying mc out of my life. ' More roses, more roses, more roses ! And these, and these, and these ! And that, and that!' She would have made the garden a wilderness, aud have spoilt every bed, if X bad let her ; out I wouldn't have it done—uot 1 wouldn't, and so 1 told her." " Aud what did she say ?" "Say. Smiled as sweet as honey, and showed all her white teeth' at once. 1 uever saw such teeth in my young days, nor such eyes, nor such hair, nor such hauds—enough to drive a young man crazy" 1 1 Or an old one foolish," interrupted Mother Denise. " She smiled as sweet as honey, did she ? Well, tme can. You foolish old man, do you think she has fallen ia love ivitb you J' "1 don't say that, 1 don't say that," said Martin. his mouth twisted into :i gratified smirk, but she smiled at me and patted mc on the sleeve"' " And wheedled you, and wheedled you," eoid Mother Denise, in a suajipUh tone, *' until she got what she wanted.' "Pretty well, pretty welt You seo, I>ionetta, there are two ways of getting a thing done, a soft way and a hard way"— " There, there, there!" cried Mother Denise impatiently, "Maudlins and maudling, w ith your soft ways and your hard ways. Do your work with a still tongue aud let us do ours, (iet back to tbe garden and repair the mischief. What docs a man waut with a room full of roses?" abc muttered, when Martin, quick to obey bis domestic tyrant, had cone. " It is a welcome," said Dionetta pleasantly, ** if I were absent from my place for a long, long while, it would make me clad when I returned to see my place as brignt as tbiB." ** You are young," said Mother Denise, " and your thoughts go the way of roses. 1 can't blame you, Dionetta." " It is ten years since Mr. Balcombc was hert^ you have told me, grandmother." " \ OS, Dionetta, yes—ten ycara a^o this very summer." " Did I ace him then ? I don't remember." 4 1 i think not; you were ijuitu a little child at the time. Mr. Jialcombc did not sleep in the house." 4 < How strange. Where then V " At Die inn of the Seven Liars. Dionetta, I will tell you a secret—Mr. Balcombe hates this house, lie is the master and the owner ot it, and he hates it. And of all the rooms in the villa this is the room he would be most anxious to avoid." • " Why, grandmother asked Ditmctta, her eyes growing larger and rounder with Kondcr ; and docs my lady know it?" "My ladv is ii headstrong woman; she would not listen to the story of what took datc in this room, and she declares—in a Iight way, to be sure, but these are not things to be made light of—that she is \ery disappointed to tind that tiie house is not haunted, liaunted ! I have never seen anything, nor lias Martin, nor you, Dionetta." or haven't. Sometimes I have fancied"—— "Of course, of coursc you have fancied, and that is all, and you have woke up in the night, and been frigntenod at nothing ; and mark me, Dionetta, ii you do no wrong, and thiok no wrong, you never will see anything of the white shadows of this house." 4 4 But Fritz says" " Fritz is a fool, cunning, lazy fool. If I were the master here I would pack him off. What does bo do but chattcr like a magpie and idle about the place from morning till night ? And when there's work to be aoue, as there has been this week, carrying furniture here and moving heavy things about, he must run away to the city and hang about the Court-house where that murderer is being tried. Dionetta. I am not in love with the Advocate or his lady ; there is no need for me to tell them so, but I am not in love with them. I shall do my duty and hold my tongue while they are here; and when they go I shall be glad to Bee their backs. The Advocate is trying to get a murderer off; [t may be the work of a clever mm. but it is not tho work of a good man. If I had e son I would sooner have him good than clever ; and I would sooner von married a good man than a clever one." "Oh, grandmother, whoever thinks of marrying ?" " Not you, of course, would you have me believe that ? When I was your age I thought of nothing else, and when you are my ago you will sec the folly of it. No, I am not in love with the Advocate. Who could be, with a man on whose face you never see a smile ?" " Ah, you are mistaken, grandmother; 1 have seen him smile at my lady, and then his facc is quite handsome." " ile is ]>erforming unholy work, Dionetta, down here in Geneva. Tbe priest says as much ; aud as he is not doing it for inonoy, he must bo urged to it by the evil one. If that murderer escapes from justice, the guilt of blood will be ou the Advocate's soul." 4 4 Oli, grandmother I If tbe lady heard you, she would never forgive you." " 1 am saying what the priest says, and there is no fear of my saying it to my lady; if she hears it, which I don t doubt but sno will, it will not be from my tongue. Dionetta, it was a young girl who. was murdered, about the game age as yourself. It wight have been you—ah, you may well turn white; that is tho way mothers think who have young dauphttrs around tbem ; aud you arc my daughter's daughter, doubly dear to me, the ouly one left. This olever lawyer, this stranger it is, who coines among us to prevent justice being done upon this murderous wretch. lie will be punished for it, mark my words. I shall be nappy when I see him and his beautiful wife fairly out of the house." Diouetta, who know how useless it was to oppose her grandmother's opinions, eudeavoured to change the subject by saying— "Tell me. ^randmotner, why Mr. Halcombe shoula be more anxious to avoid this room than any other in the house. I think it is the prettiest of all." Mother Denise did not reply immediately. Sho moved about the apartment, aud looked orouud with tho air oi a woman recalling a picture of long ago. 1 The story connected itvith this part of the tl house," she presently said, " gavo to tho old villa the name of the House of White Shadows. There aro few who know the truth, and none so well as L Von shall hear it, Diuuetta, hut 1 ;idviee you Dot to speak of it to another person. It is a family matter, and should mt oc made common. Let me see—let me sec. Arthur lfcilconibe is now thirty-one years of age. Yes, thirty-one ou his last Lirthday. Ire member the day he wis born " " Hufh, grandmoth< r !*' said Dionetta, holding up her baud. " Mv lady." The Advocate's wife h id entered the room quietly, and was regan'iLg thu arrangement of the furniture ami the ilowei s with eyes of appro Mtl. excellently done," she said, " prei I wished. It was you, Dionetta, ngod the flowers?" !i y lady." b-ivo exquisite taste, rva'dy et'pii- Mother Denise, 1 nin ivatly B J o E B T M I b E U . . DC nnthiiig," said Mother Do- ,.ut i-iy duty to do." ' IU;t there is j, a;. .-f doing things" T ",'iit-t what en. Ua glctfuh ,y." And the i I 1H1- In 1 !" niistreai, A pile tlroi'iicd a curtsey, aud with a bright
colour in her faoe said, " I beg your pardon, my lady." " There's no occasion, child/' aaid the Advocate's wife graciously, " Grandfather Is quite right, and everything In this room hat been done very beautifully." She held a framed pioture In her hand, a coloured oabinet photograph of herself, and she looked round the walls to find a place for it* 44 And this will do," she said, and she took down a picture of a child which hung Immediately above her desk, and put her own in its steaa. " It is nice." she remarked to Mother Denise, with a smile, " to see the faces of old friends about us. Mr. Balcombe and I are very old friends. " The picture you have taken down," said Mother Denise, " is of Mr. Balcombe as a child." " Indeed I How old was he then ?" " Five yearo, my lady." 4 4 He was a handsome boy. His hair is darker now, and his eyes also. By-the-by, Mother Denise, yon were speaking of him when 1 came in. You were saying he was thirty-rae last birthday, and that you remember the day he was bom.' 1 "Yes. my lady." 41 Ana you were about to tell Dionetta why this villa is called the House of White Shadows. Give me the privilege of hearing it" " I would rather not tell it, my lady." "Nonsense, nonsense I Mr. Balcombe would be quite angry if he knew you refused me so simplea tbin^." " Well, my Lady, if you insist——" "Of course I insist, my dear old creature I I am sure there is no one io the village who can tell a story half as well as you. Come and stand by me, Dionetta." She seated herself by the desk, upon which she laid the picture of the lad. and Mother Denise, who was really not lotn to recall reminiscences, and who, although she hesitated at first, soon began to derive great enjoyment from her narration, thus proceeded.