Voices in a Haunted Room

Voices in a Haunted Room by Philippa Carr Read Free Book Online

Book: Voices in a Haunted Room by Philippa Carr Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philippa Carr
can hardly stand aside while its Archduchess follows her husband to the guillotine.”
    “Do you think they will kill Marie Antoinette too?” I asked.
    “Undoubtedly, my dear Claudine. There will be more to gloat over her death than those who have done so over that of poor Louis. They have always blamed her, poor child… which was all she was when she came to France, a pretty little butterfly who wanted to dance in the sun—and did so most charmingly. But she grew up. The butterfly became a woman of character. The French liked the butterfly better. And she is Austrian.” He grinned at Charlot. “You know how the French hate foreigners.”
    “The Queen has been much maligned,” said Charlot.
    “Indeed it is so. Who is not maligned in these ferocious days? France will be at war with Prussia and Austria. Holland too, most likely, and it will not be long before we are drawn in.”
    “Horrible!” said my mother. “I hate war. It does no good to anybody.”
    “She is right, you know,” said Dickon. “But there are times when even peacelovers like Mr. Pitt see the necessity for it.” He looked at my mother and said, “We must leave tomorrow for London. The Court will be in mourning for the King of France.”
    My mother looked at me and said: “We must be back in time for Claudine’s birthday.”
    Dickon smiled benignly at me. “Nothing—wars, rumours of wars, revolutions proved and planned—nothing must stand in the way of Claudine’s coming to maturity.”
    My parents, with Jonathan, were away for the greater part of a week. Charlot went about in a mood of bleak depression; he and Louis Charles were often deep in earnest conversation. The entire atmosphere had changed; the death of the French King seemed to have opened up fresh wounds which brought us nearer to that state of unease which existed beyond the Channel.
    David and I visited the Roman remains and I caught his enthusiasm for them. He told me about Herculaneum, which had been discovered early this century, followed by the discovery of Pompeii—both of which ancient towns had been destroyed by a volcanic eruption from Vesuvius.
    “I should very much like to see those places,” he said. “I believe they are most revealing of how life was lived all those hundreds of years ago. Perhaps we could go there together one day.”
    I knew what he meant. When we were married. A honeymoon perhaps. It sounded most exciting. Then I thought of Venice and a gondolier with a tenor voice singing love songs in the darkness.
    We talked a great deal, naturally, about the revolution in France. It was never far from our minds. David was quite knowledgeable—far more so than he appeared to be during the mealtime conversations which Dickon naturally dominated and where Jonathan also gave a good account of himself.
    I went round the estate with David. That was another side to him. He was a businessman, and eager to do everything he could to improve the lot of the tenant farmers and others who lived on the estate. He was very efficient in a quiet way and I saw again how greatly he was respected, which made me feel gratified.
    I was beginning to think that I could have a very happy life with him—but that was because Jonathan was absent.
    They came back two days before my birthday. I knew that my mother would not allow anything to interfere with that.
    So the great day arrived. Molly Blackett wanted to be present when I put on my dress.
    “Just in case I’m not satisfied, Miss Claudine. Perhaps a little stitch here, a touch there. You never know.”
    I said: “You’re an artist, Molly.” And she was pink with pleasure.
    Guests began to arrive in the late afternoon, for a few had to come from a long distance. The Pettigrews, whose country estate was some thirty miles from Eversleigh, were staying the night. They visited us now and then, as Lord Pettigrew was a banking associate of Dickon’s. Lady Pettigrew was one of those domineering women who keep a very sharp eye

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