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All we had was complete; we wanted for nothing. The marriage took place. They were happy. I was happy, seeing all so bright, being so well situated, going to my own city, teaching my language in the rumble to the maid, la bella Carolina, whose heart was gay with laughter: who was young and rosy. The time flew. But I observed — listen to this, I pray! I think that I began to notice this when I was walking up hills by the carriage side, and master had gone on in front.

At any rate, I remember that it impressed itself upon my mind one evening in the South of France, when she called to me to call master back; and when he came back, and walked for a long way, talking encouragingly and affectionately to her, with his hand upon the open window, and hers in it. Now and then, he laughed in a merry way, as if he were bantering her out of something. By-and-by, she laughed, and then all went well again. It was curious. I asked la bella Carolina, the pretty little one, Was mistress unwell? And what made it more mysterious was, the pretty little one would not look at me in giving answer, but WOULD look at the view.


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For three nights before her marriage, she saw a face in a dream — always the same face, and only One. The face of a dark, remarkable-looking man, in black, with black hair and a grey moustache — a handsome man except for a reserved and secret air. Not a face she ever saw, or at all like a face she ever saw. Doing nothing in the dream but looking at her fixedly, out of darkness.

To Be Read at Dusk

She wonders why, herself. But I heard her tell him, only last night, that if she was to find a picture of that face in our Italian house which she is afraid she will she did not know how she could ever bear it. Upon my word I was fearful after this said the Genoese courier of our coming to the old palazzo, lest some such ill-starred picture should happen to be there.

I knew there were many there; and, as we got nearer and nearer to the place, I wished the whole gallery in the crater of Vesuvius. To mend the matter, it was a stormy dismal evening when we, at last, approached that part of the Riviera.

It thundered; and the thunder of my city and its environs, rolling among the high hills, is very loud. The lizards ran in and out of the chinks in the broken stone wall of the garden, as if they were frightened; the frogs bubbled and croaked their loudest; the sea-wind moaned, and the wet trees dripped; and the lightning — body of San Lorenzo, how it lightened! We all know what an old palace in or near Genoa is — how time and the sea air have blotted it — how the drapery painted on the outer walls has peeled off in great flakes of plaster — how the lower windows are darkened with rusty bars of iron — how the courtyard is overgrown with grass — how the outer buildings are dilapidated — how the whole pile seems devoted to ruin.

Our palazzo was one of the true kind. It had been shut up close for months.

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The scent of the orange trees on the broad back terrace, and of the lemons ripening on the wall, and of some shrubs that grew around a broken fountain, had got into the house somehow, and had never been able to get out again. There was, in every room, an aged smell, grown faint with confinement. It pined in all the cupboards and drawers. In the little rooms of communication between great rooms, it was stifling.

If you turned a picture — to come back to the pictures — there it still was, clinging to the wall behind the frame, like a sort of bat. The lattice-blinds were close shut, all over the house. There were two ugly, grey old women in the house, to take care of it; one of them with a spindle, who stood winding and mumbling in the doorway, and who would as soon have let in the devil as the air. Master, mistress, la bella Carolina, and I, went all through the palazzo. I went first, though I have named myself last, opening the windows and the lattice-blinds, and shaking down on myself splashes of rain, and scraps of mortar, and now and then a dozing mosquito, or a monstrous, fat, blotchy, Genoese spider.

When I had let the evening light into a room, master, mistress, and la bella Carolina, entered. Then, we looked round at all the pictures, and I went forward again into another room. Mistress secretly had great fear of meeting with the likeness of that face — we all had; but there was no such thing. Dark, handsome man in black, reserved and secret, with black hair and grey moustache, looking fixedly at mistress out of darkness?

At last we got through all the rooms and all the pictures, and came out into the gardens. They were pretty well kept, being rented by a gardener, and were large and shady. In one place there was a rustic theatre, open to the sky; the stage a green slope; the coulisses, three entrances upon a side, sweet-smelling leafy screens.

Mistress moved her bright eyes, even there, as if she looked to see the face come in upon the scene; but all was well. Mistress was much encouraged. She soon accustomed herself to that grim palazzo, and would sing, and play the harp, and copy the old pictures, and stroll with master under the green trees and vines all day.

She was beautiful. He was happy.

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To Be Read At Dusk (Annotated)

He would laugh and say to me, mounting his horse for his morning ride before the heat:. We kept no company. The pretty little one was charmed with all she saw. She learnt Italian — heavens! Was mistress quite forgetful of that dream? I asked Carolina sometimes. Nearly, said la bella — almost. It was wearing out. He is called the Signor Dellombra. Let me dine like a prince. It was an odd name.

To be Read at Dusk by Charles Dickens

I did not know that name. But, there had been many noblemen and gentlemen pursued by Austria on political suspicions, lately, and some names had changed. Perhaps this was one. Dellombra was as good a name to me as another. When the Signor Dellombra came to dinner said the Genoese courier in the low voice, into which he had subsided once before , I showed him into the reception-room, the great sala of the old palazzo. Master received him with cordiality, and presented him to mistress.

As she rose, her face changed, she gave a cry, and fell upon the marble floor. Then, I turned my head to the Signor Dellombra, and saw that he was dressed in black, and had a reserved and secret air, and was a dark, remarkable-looking man, with black hair and a grey moustache. Master raised mistress in his arms, and carried her to her own room, where I sent la bella Carolina straight. La bella told me afterwards that mistress was nearly terrified to death, and that she wandered in her mind about her dream, all night.

Master was vexed and anxious — almost angry, and yet full of solicitude. The African wind had been blowing for some days they had told him at his hotel of the Maltese Cross , and he knew that it was often hurtful. He hoped the beautiful lady would recover soon. He begged permission to retire, and to renew his visit when he should have the happiness of hearing that she was better. Master would not allow of this, and they dined alone.

He withdrew early. Next day he called at the gate, on horse-back, to inquire for mistress. He did so two or three times in that week. What I observed myself, and what la bella Carolina told me, united to explain to me that master had now set his mind on curing mistress of her fanciful terror. He was all kindness, but he was sensible and firm. He reasoned with her, that to encourage such fancies was to invite melancholy, if not madness.

That it rested with herself to be herself. That if she once resisted her strange weakness, so successfully as to receive the Signor Dellombra as an English lady would receive any other guest, it was for ever conquered. To make an end, the signore came again, and mistress received him without marked distress though with constraint and apprehension still , and the evening passed serenely.

Master was so delighted with this change, and so anxious to confirm it, that the Signor Dellombra became a constant guest.

He was accomplished in pictures, books, and music; and his society, in any grim palazzo, would have been welcome. I used to notice, many times, that mistress was not quite recovered. She would cast down her eyes and droop her head, before the Signor Dellombra, or would look at him with a terrified and fascinated glance, as if his presence had some evil influence or power upon her. Dellombra has come and gone, and your apprehension is broken like glass.

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But, he was very hopeful of her complete recovery now, and grew more and more so every day. We were all said the Genoese courier, constraining himself to speak a little louder , we were all at Rome for the Carnival. I had been out, all day, with a Sicilian, a friend of mine, and a courier, who was there with an English family. As I returned at night to our hotel, I met the little Carolina, who never stirred from home alone, running distractedly along the Corso. She is gone! Master has come back, broken down the door, and she is gone! My beautiful, my good, my innocent mistress! The pretty little one so cried, and raved, and tore herself that I could not have held her, but for her swooning on my arm as if she had been shot.