October, 1994 Etext #170

Part 2 out of 4

Baron Rivar, after inquiry at the consul's, secured the services
of Doctor Bruno, well known as an eminent physician in Venice;
with the additional recommendation of having resided in England,
and having made himself acquainted with English forms of
medical practice.

'Thus far our account of his lordship's illness has been derived
from statements made by Lady Montbarry. The narrative will now be
most fitly continued in the language of the doctor's own report,
herewith subjoined.

'"My medical diary informs me that I first saw the English Lord Montbarry,
on November 17. He was suffering from a sharp attack of bronchitis.
Some precious time had been lost, through his obstinate objection
to the presence of a medical man at his bedside. Generally speaking,
he appeared to be in a delicate state of health. His nervous
system was out of order--he was at once timid and contradictory.
When I spoke to him in English, he answered in Italian;
and when I tried him in Italian, he went back to English.
It mattered little--the malady had already made such progress
that he could only speak a few words at a time, and those in
a whisper.

'"I at once applied the necessary remedies. Copies of my prescriptions
(with translation into English) accompany the present statement,
and are left to speak for themselves.

'"For the next three days I was in constant attendance on my patient.
He answered to the remedies employed--improving slowly, but decidedly.
I could conscientiously assure Lady Montbarry that no danger was
to be apprehended thus far. She was indeed a most devoted wife.
I vainly endeavoured to induce her to accept the services of a
competent nurse; she would allow nobody to attend on her husband
but herself. Night and day this estimable woman was at his bedside.
In her brief intervals of repose, her brother watched the sick man
in her place. This brother was, I must say, very good company,
in the intervals when we had time for a little talk. He dabbled
in chemistry, down in the horrid under-water vaults of the palace;
and he wanted to show me some of his experiments. I have enough of
chemistry in writing prescriptions--and I declined. He took it quite

'"I am straying away from my subject. Let me return to the sick lord.

'"Up to the 20th, then, things went well enough. I was quite
unprepared for the disastrous change that showed itself,
when I paid Lord Montbarry my morning visit on the 21st.
He had relapsed, and seriously relapsed. Examining him to discover
the cause, I found symptoms of pneumonia--that is to say,
in unmedical language, inflammation of the substance of the lungs.
He breathed with difficulty, and was only partially able to relieve
himself by coughing. I made the strictest inquiries, and was assured
that his medicine had been administered as carefully as usual,
and that he had not been exposed to any changes of temperature.
It was with great reluctance that I added to Lady Montbarry's distress;
but I felt bound, when she suggested a consultation with
another physician, to own that I too thought there was really need
for it.

'"Her ladyship instructed me to spare no expense, and to get the best
medical opinion in Italy. The best opinion was happily within our reach.
The first and foremost of Italian physicians is Torello of Padua.
I sent a special messenger for the great man. He arrived on the evening
of the 21 st, and confirmed my opinion that pneumonia had set in,
and that our patient's life was in danger. I told him what my treatment
of the case had been, and he approved of it in every particular.
He made some valuable suggestions, and (at Lady Montbarry's
express request) he consented to defer his return to Padua until
the following morning.

'"We both saw the patient at intervals in the course of the night.
The disease, steadily advancing, set our utmost resistance at defiance.
In the morning Doctor Torello took his leave. 'I can be of no
further use,' he said to me. 'The man is past all help--and he ought
to know it.'

'"Later in the day I warned my lord, as gently as I could,
that his time had come. I am informed that there are serious reasons
for my stating what passed between us on this occasion, in detail,
and without any reserve. I comply with the request.

'"Lord Montbarry received the intelligence of his approaching death
with becoming composure, but with a certain doubt. He signed to me
to put my ear to his mouth. He whispered faintly, 'Are you sure?'
It was no time to deceive him; I said, 'Positively sure.'
He waited a little, gasping for breath, and then he whispered again,
'Feel under my pillow.' I found under his pillow a letter,
sealed and stamped, ready for the post. His next words were just
audible and no more--'Post it yourself.' I answered, of course,
that I would do so--and I did post the letter with my own hand.
I looked at the address. It was directed to a lady in London.
The street I cannot remember. The name I can perfectly recall:
it was an Italian name--'Mrs. Ferrari.'

'"That night my lord nearly died of asphyxia. I got him through it
for the time; and his eyes showed that he understood me when I told him,
the next morning, that I had posted the letter. This was his last
effort of consciousness. When I saw him again he was sunk in apathy.
He lingered in a state of insensibility, supported by stimulants,
until the 25th, and died (unconscious to the last) on the evening of
that day.

'"As to the cause of his death, it seems (if I may be excused for
saying so) simply absurd to ask the question. Bronchitis, terminating
in pneumonia--there is no more doubt that this, and this only,
was the malady of which he expired, than that two and two make four.
Doctor Torello's own note of the case is added here to a duplicate
of my certificate, in order (as I am informed) to satisfy
some English offices in which his lordship's life was insured.
The English offices must have been founded by that celebrated saint
and doubter, mentioned in the New Testament, whose name was Thomas!"

'Doctor Bruno's evidence ends here.

'Reverting for a moment to our inquiries addressed to Lady Montbarry,
we have to report that she can give us no information on the subject
of the letter which the doctor posted at Lord Montbarry's request.
When his lordship wrote it? what it contained? why he kept
it a secret from Lady Montbarry (and from the Baron also);
and why he should write at all to the wife of his courier? these
are questions to which we find it simply impossible to obtain
any replies. It seems even useless to say that the matter is
open to suspicion. Suspicion implies conjecture of some kind--
and the letter under my lord's pillow baffles all conjecture.
Application to Mrs. Ferrari may perhaps clear up the mystery.
Her residence in London will be easily discovered at the Italian Couriers'
Office, Golden Square.

'Having arrived at the close of the present report, we have now
to draw your attention to the conclusion which is justified
by the results of our investigation.

'The plain question before our Directors and ourselves appears
to be this: Has the inquiry revealed any extraordinary circumstances
which render the death of Lord Montbarry open to suspicion?
The inquiry has revealed extraordinary circumstances beyond
all doubt--such as the disappearance of Ferrari, the remarkable
absence of the customary establishment of servants in the house,
and the mysterious letter which his lordship asked the doctor to post.
But where is the proof that any one of these circumstances
is associated--suspiciously and directly associated--with the only
event which concerns us, the event of Lord Montbarry's death?
In the absence of any such proof, and in the face of the evidence
of two eminent physicians, it is impossible to dispute the statement
on the certificate that his lordship died a natural death.
We are bound, therefore, to report, that there are no valid grounds for
refusing the payment of the sum for which the late Lord Montbarry's life
was assured.

'We shall send these lines to you by the post of to-morrow,
December 10; leaving time to receive your further instructions
(if any), in reply to our telegram of this evening announcing
the conclusion of the inquiry.'


'Now, my good creature, whatever you have to say to me,
out with it at once! I don't want to hurry you needlessly;
but these are business hours, and I have other people's affairs
to attend to besides yours.'

Addressing Ferrari's wife, with his usual blunt good-humour,
in these terms, Mr. Troy registered the lapse of time by a glance
at the watch on his desk, and then waited to hear what his client
had to say to him.

'It's something more, sir, about the letter with the thousand-pound note,'
Mrs. Ferrari began. 'I have found out who sent it to me.'

Mr. Troy started. 'This is news indeed!' he said. 'Who sent you
the letter?'

'Lord Montbarry sent it, sir.'

It was not easy to take Mr. Troy by surprise. But Mrs. Ferrari
threw him completely off his balance. For a while he could
only look at her in silent surprise. 'Nonsense!' he said,
as soon as he had recovered himself. 'There is some mistake--
it can't be!'

'There is no mistake,' Mrs. Ferrari rejoined, in her most positive manner.
'Two gentlemen from the insurance offices called on me this morning,
to see the letter. They were completely puzzled--especially when they
heard of the bank-note inside. But they know who sent the letter.
His lordship's doctor in Venice posted it at his lordship's request.
Go to the gentlemen yourself, sir, if you don't believe me.
They were polite enough to ask if I could account for Lord Montbarry's
writing to me and sending me the money. I gave them my opinion directly--
I said it was like his lordship's kindness.'

'Like his lordship's kindness?' Mr. Troy repeated, in blank amazement.

'Yes, sir! Lord Montbarry knew me, like all the other members
of his family, when I was at school on the estate in Ireland.
If he could have done it, he would have protected my poor dear husband.
But he was helpless himself in the hands of my lady and the Baron--
and the only kind thing he could do was to provide for me in my widowhood,
like the true nobleman he was!'

'A very pretty explanation!' said Mr. Troy. 'What did your visitors
from the insurance offices think of it?'

'They asked if I had any proof of my husband's death.'

'And what did you say?'

'I said, "I give you better than proof, gentlemen; I give you
my positive opinion."'

'That satisfied them, of course?'

'They didn't say so in words, sir. They looked at each other--
and wished me good-morning.'

'Well, Mrs. Ferrari, unless you have some more extraordinary
news for me, I think I shall wish you good-morning too.
I can take a note of your information (very startling information,
I own); and, in the absence of proof, I can do no more.'

'I can provide you with proof, sir--if that is all you want,'
said Mrs. Ferrari, with great dignity. 'I only wish
to know, first, whether the law justifies me in doing it.
You may have seen in the fashionable intelligence of the newspapers,
that Lady Montbarry has arrived in London, at Newbury's Hotel.
I propose to go and see her.'

'The deuce you do! May I ask for what purpose?'

Mrs. Ferrari answered in a mysterious whisper. 'For the purpose
of catching her in a trap! I shan't send in my name--I shall
announce myself as a person on business, and the first words I say
to her will be these: "I come, my lady, to acknowledge the receipt
of the money sent to Ferrari's widow." Ah! you may well start,
Mr. Troy! It almost takes you off your guard, doesn't it?
Make your mind easy, sir; I shall find the proof that everybody
asks me for in her guilty face. Let her only change colour by
the shadow of a shade--let her eyes only drop for half an instant--
I shall discover her! The one thing I want to know is, does the law
permit it?'

'The law permits it,' Mr. Troy answered gravely; 'but whether her
ladyship will permit it, is quite another question. Have you really
courage enough, Mrs. Ferrari, to carry out this notable scheme of yours?
You have been described to me, by Miss Lockwood, as rather a nervous,
timid sort of person--and, if I may trust my own observation,
I should say you justify the description.'

'If you had lived in the country, sir, instead of living in London,'
Mrs. Ferrari replied, 'you would sometimes have seen even a sheep
turn on a dog. I am far from saying that I am a bold woman--
quite the reverse. But when I stand in that wretch's presence, and think
of my murdered husband, the one of us two who is likely to be frightened
is not me. I am going there now, sir. You shall hear how it ends.
I wish you good-morning.'

With those brave words the courier's wife gathered her mantle about her,
and walked out of the room.

Mr. Troy smiled--not satirically, but compassionately.
'The little simpleton!' he thought to himself. 'If half of what
they say of Lady Montbarry is true, Mrs. Ferrari and her trap
have but a poor prospect before them. I wonder how it will end?'

All Mr. Troy's experience failed to forewarn him of how it did end.


In the mean time, Mrs. Ferrari held to her resolution.
She went straight from Mr. Troy's office to Newbury's Hotel.

Lady Montbarry was at home, and alone. But the authorities
of the hotel hesitated to disturb her when they found that the
visitor declined to mention her name. Her ladyship's new maid
happened to cross the hall while the matter was still in debate.
She was a Frenchwoman, and, on being appealed to, she settled
the question in the swift, easy, rational French way.
'Madame's appearance was perfectly respectable. Madame might have
reasons for not mentioning her name which Miladi might approve.
In any case, there being no orders forbidding the introduction of a
strange lady, the matter clearly rested between Madame and Miladi.
Would Madame, therefore, be good enough to follow Miladi's maid up
the stairs?'

In spite of her resolution, Mrs. Ferrari's heart beat as if it
would burst out of her bosom, when her conductress led her into
an ante-room, and knocked at a door opening into a room beyond.
But it is remarkable that persons of sensitively-nervous organisation
are the very persons who are capable of forcing themselves
(apparently by the exercise of a spasmodic effort of will)
into the performance of acts of the most audacious courage.
A low, grave voice from the inner room said, 'Come in.' The maid,
opening the door, announced, 'A person to see you, Miladi, on business,'
and immediately retired. In the one instant while these events passed,
timid little Mrs. Ferrari mastered her own throbbing heart;
stepped over the threshold, conscious of her clammy hands, dry lips,
and burning head; and stood in the presence of Lord Montbarry's widow,
to all outward appearance as supremely self-possessed as her
ladyship herself.

It was still early in the afternoon, but the light in the room was dim.
The blinds were drawn down. Lady Montbarry sat with her back to
the windows, as if even the subdued daylight were disagreeable to her.
She had altered sadly for the worse in her personal appearance,
since the memorable day when Doctor Wybrow had seen her in his
consulting-room. Her beauty was gone--her face had fallen away
to mere skin and bone; the contrast between her ghastly complexion
and her steely glittering black eyes was more startling than ever.
Robed in dismal black, relieved only by the brilliant whiteness
of her widow's cap--reclining in a panther-like suppleness of
attitude on a little green sofa--she looked at the stranger who had
intruded on her, with a moment's languid curiosity, then dropped
her eyes again to the hand-screen which she held between her face
and the fire. 'I don't know you,' she said. 'What do you want
with me?'

Mrs. Ferrari tried to answer. Her first burst of courage had already
worn itself out. The bold words that she had determined to speak
were living words still in her mind, but they died on her lips.

There was a moment of silence. Lady Montbarry looked round
again at the speechless stranger. 'Are you deaf?' she asked.
There was another pause. Lady Montbarry quietly looked back again
at the screen, and put another question. 'Do you want money?'

'Money!' That one word roused the sinking spirit of the courier's wife.
She recovered her courage; she found her voice. 'Look at me, my lady,
if you please,' she said, with a sudden outbreak of audacity.

Lady Montbarry looked round for the third time. The fatal words
passed Mrs. Ferrari's lips.

'I come, my lady, to acknowledge the receipt of the money sent
to Ferrari's widow.'

Lady Montbarry's glittering black eyes rested with steady
attention on the woman who had addressed her in those terms.
Not the faintest expression of confusion or alarm, not even a momentary
flutter of interest stirred the deadly stillness of her face.
She reposed as quietly, she held the screen as composedly, as ever.
The test had been tried, and had utterly failed.

There was another silence. Lady Montbarry considered with herself.
The smile that came slowly and went away suddenly--the smile
at once so sad and so cruel--showed itself on her thin lips.
She lifted her screen, and pointed with it to a seat at the
farther end of the room. 'Be so good as to take that chair,'
she said.

Helpless under her first bewildering sense of failure--not knowing
what to say or what to do next--Mrs. Ferrari mechanically obeyed.
Lady Montbarry, rising on the sofa for the first time, watched her
with undisguised scrutiny as she crossed the room--then sank back
into a reclining position once more. 'No,' she said to herself,
'the woman walks steadily; she is not intoxicated--the only other
possibility is that she may be mad.'

She had spoken loud enough to be heard. Stung by the insult,
Mrs. Ferrari instantly answered her: 'I am no more drunk or mad
than you are!'

'No?' said Lady Montbarry. 'Then you are only insolent?
The ignorant English mind (I have observed) is apt to be insolent in
the exercise of unrestrained English liberty. This is very noticeable
to us foreigners among you people in the streets. Of course I can't
be insolent to you, in return. I hardly know what to say to you.
My maid was imprudent in admitting you so easily to my room.
I suppose your respectable appearance misled her. I wonder who you are?
You mentioned the name of a courier who left us very strangely.
Was he married by any chance? Are you his wife? And do you know where
he is?'

Mrs. Ferrari's indignation burst its way through all restraints.
She advanced to the sofa; she feared nothing, in the fervour and rage
of her reply.

'I am his widow--and you know it, you wicked woman!
Ah! it was an evil hour when Miss Lockwood recommended my husband
to be his lordship's courier--!'

Before she could add another word, Lady Montbarry sprang from the sofa
with the stealthy suddenness of a cat--seized her by both shoulders--
and shook her with the strength and frenzy of a madwoman. 'You lie!
you lie! you lie!' She dropped her hold at the third repetition of
the accusation, and threw up her hands wildly with a gesture of despair.
'Oh, Jesu Maria! is it possible?' she cried. 'Can the courier
have come to me through that woman?' She turned like lightning
on Mrs. Ferrari, and stopped her as she was escaping from the room.
'Stay here, you fool--stay here, and answer me! If you cry out, as sure
as the heavens are above you, I'll strangle you with my own hands.
Sit down again--and fear nothing. Wretch! It is I who am frightened--
frightened out of my senses. Confess that you lied, when you used
Miss Lockwood's name just now! No! I don't believe you on your oath;
I will believe nobody but Miss Lockwood herself. Where does she live?
Tell me that, you noxious stinging little insect--and you may go.'
Terrified as she was, Mrs. Ferrari hesitated. Lady Montbarry lifted
her hands threateningly, with the long, lean, yellow-white fingers
outspread and crooked at the tips. Mrs. Ferrari shrank at the sight
of them, and gave the address. Lady Montbarry pointed contemptuously
to the door--then changed her mind. 'No! not yet! you will tell
Miss Lockwood what has happened, and she may refuse to see me.
I will go there at once, and you shall go with me. As far as the house--
not inside of it. Sit down again. I am going to ring for my maid.
Turn your back to the door--your cowardly face is not fit to be

She rang the bell. The maid appeared.

'My cloak and bonnet--instantly!'

The maid produced the cloak and bonnet from the bedroom.

'A cab at the door--before I can count ten!'

The maid vanished. Lady Montbarry surveyed herself in the glass,
and wheeled round again, with her cat-like suddenness, to Mrs. Ferrari.

'I look more than half dead already, don't I?' she said with a grim
outburst of irony. 'Give me your arm.'

She took Mrs. Ferrari's arm, and left the room. 'You have nothing
to fear, so long as you obey,' she whispered, on the way downstairs.
'You leave me at Miss Lockwood's door, and never see me again.'

In the hall they were met by the landlady of the hotel.
Lady Montbarry graciously presented her companion.
'My good friend Mrs. Ferrari; I am so glad to have seen her.'
The landlady accompanied them to the door. The cab was waiting.
'Get in first, good Mrs. Ferrari,' said her ladyship; 'and tell the man
where to go.'

They were driven away. Lady Montbarry's variable humour changed again.
With a low groan of misery, she threw herself back in the cab.
Lost in her own dark thoughts, as careless of the woman whom she
had bent to her iron will as if no such person sat by her side,
she preserved a sinister silence, until they reached the house where
Miss Lockwood lodged. In an instant, she roused herself to action.
She opened the door of the cab, and closed it again on Mrs. Ferrari,
before the driver could get off his box.

'Take that lady a mile farther on her way home!' she said,
as she paid the man his fare. The next moment she had knocked
at the house-door. 'Is Miss Lockwood at home?' 'Yes, ma'am.'
She stepped over the threshold--the door closed on her.

'Which way, ma'am?' asked the driver of the cab.

Mrs. Ferrari put her hand to her head, and tried to collect her thoughts.
Could she leave her friend and benefactress helpless at Lady
Montbarry's mercy? She was still vainly endeavouring to decide on
the course that she ought to follow--when a gentleman, stopping at Miss
Lockwood's door, happened to look towards the cab-window, and saw her.

'Are you going to call on Miss Agnes too?'he asked.

It was Henry Westwick. Mrs. Ferrari clasped her hands in gratitude
as she recognised him.

'Go in, sir!' she cried. 'Go in, directly. That dreadful woman
is with Miss Agnes. Go and protect her!'

'What woman?' Henry asked.

The answer literally struck him speechless. With amazement
and indignation in his face, he looked at Mrs. Ferrari as she
pronounced the hated name of 'Lady Montbarry.' 'I'll see to it,'
was all he said. He knocked at the house-door; and he too, in his turn,
was let in.


'Lady Montbarry, Miss.'

Agnes was writing a letter, when the servant astonished
her by announcing the visitor's name. Her first impulse was
to refuse to see the woman who had intruded on her. But Lady
Montbarry had taken care to follow close on the servant's heels.
Before Agnes could speak, she had entered the room.

'I beg to apologise for my intrusion, Miss Lockwood.
I have a question to ask you, in which I am very much interested.
No one can answer me but yourself.' In low hesitating tones,
with her glittering black eyes bent modestly on the ground,
Lady Montbarry opened the interview in those words.

Without answering, Agnes pointed to a chair. She could do this,
and, for the time, she could do no more. All that she had read
of the hidden and sinister life in the palace at Venice; all that she
had heard of Montbarry's melancholy death and burial in a foreign land;
all that she knew of the mystery of Ferrari's disappearance,
rushed into her mind, when the black-robed figure confronted her,
standing just inside the door. The strange conduct of Lady Montbarry
added a new perplexity to the doubts and misgivings that troubled her.
There stood the adventuress whose character had left its mark on
society all over Europe--the Fury who had terrified Mrs. Ferrari at
the hotel--inconceivably transformed into a timid, shrinking woman!
Lady Montbarry had not once ventured to look at Agnes, since she
had made her way into the room. Advancing to take the chair
that had been pointed out to her, she hesitated, put her hand
on the rail to support herself, and still remained standing.
'Please give me a moment to compose myself,' she said faintly. Her head
sank on her bosom: she stood before Agnes like a conscious culprit
before a merciless judge.

The silence that followed was, literally, the silence of fear
on both sides. In the midst of it, the door was opened once more--
and Henry Westwick appeared.

He looked at Lady Montbarry with a moment's steady attention--
bowed to her with formal politeness--and passed on in silence.
At the sight of her husband's brother, the sinking spirit of the woman
sprang to life again. Her drooping figure became erect. Her eyes met
Westwick's look, brightly defiant. She returned his bow with an icy
smile of contempt.

Henry crossed the room to Agnes.

'Is Lady Montbarry here by your invitation?' he asked quietly.


'Do you wish to see her?'

'It is very painful to me to see her.'

He turned and looked at his sister-in-law. 'Do you hear that?'
he asked coldly.

'I hear it,' she answered, more coldly still.

'Your visit is, to say the least of it, ill-timed.'

'Your interference is, to say the least of it, out of place.'

With that retort, Lady Montbarry approached Agnes. The presence
of Henry Westwick seemed at once to relieve and embolden her.
'Permit me to ask my question, Miss Lockwood,' she said,
with graceful courtesy. 'It is nothing to embarrass you.
When the courier Ferrari applied to my late husband for employment,
did you--' Her resolution failed her, before she could say more.
She sank trembling into the nearest chair, and, after a moment's
struggle, composed herself again. 'Did you permit Ferrari,'
she resumed, 'to make sure of being chosen for our courier by using
your name?'

Agnes did not reply with her customary directness. Trifling as it was,
the reference to Montbarry, proceeding from that woman of all others,
confused and agitated her.

'I have known Ferrari's wife for many years,' she began.
'And I take an interest--'

Lady Montbarry abruptly lifted her hands with a gesture of entreaty.
'Ah, Miss Lockwood, don't waste time by talking of his wife!
Answer my

plain question, plainly!'

'Let me answer her,' Henry whispered. 'I will undertake to speak
plainly enough.'

Agnes refused by a gesture. Lady Montbarry's interruption
had roused her sense of what was due to herself. She resumed
her reply in plainer terms.

'When Ferrari wrote to the late Lord Montbarry,' she said, 'he did
certainly mention my name.'

Even now, she had innocently failed to see the object which her visitor
had in view. Lady Montbarry's impatience became ungovernable.
She started to her feet, and advanced to Agnes.

'Was it with your knowledge and permission that Ferrari used
your name?' she asked. 'The whole soul of my question is in that.
For God's sake answer me--Yes, or No!'


That one word struck Lady Montbarry as a blow might have struck her.
The fierce life that had animated her face the instant before,
faded out of it suddenly, and left her like a woman turned to stone.
She stood, mechanically confronting Agnes, with a stillness so wrapt
and perfect that not even the breath she drew was perceptible to the two
persons who were looking at her.

Henry spoke to her roughly. 'Rouse yourself,' he said.
'You have received your answer.'

She looked round at him. 'I have received my Sentence,' she rejoined--
and turned slowly to leave the room.

To Henry's astonishment, Agnes stopped her. 'Wait a moment,
Lady Montbarry. I have something to ask on my side. You have spoken
of Ferrari. I wish to speak of him too.'

Lady Montbarry bent her head in silence. Her hand trembled as she
took out her handkerchief, and passed it over her forehead.
Agnes detected the trembling, and shrank back a step. 'Is the subject
painful to you?' she asked timidly.

Still silent, Lady Montbarry invited her by a wave of the hand to go on.
Henry approached, attentively watching his sister-in-law. Agnes
went on.

'No trace of Ferrari has been discovered in England,' she said.
'Have you any news of him? And will you tell me (if you have heard
anything), in mercy to his wife?'

Lady Montbarry's thin lips suddenly relaxed into their sad
and cruel smile.

'Why do you ask me about the lost courier?' she said.
'You will know what has become of him, Miss Lockwood, when the time
is ripe for it.'

Agnes started. 'I don't understand you,' she said. 'How shall I know?
Will some one tell me?'

'Some one will tell you.'

Henry could keep silence no longer. 'Perhaps, your ladyship
may be the person?' he interrupted with ironical politeness.

She answered him with contemptuous ease. 'You may be right,
Mr. Westwick. One day or another, I may be the person who tells
Miss Lockwood what has become of Ferrari, if--' She stopped;
with her eyes fixed on Agnes.

'If what?' Henry asked.

'If Miss Lockwood forces me to it.'

Agnes listened in astonishment. 'Force you to it?' she repeated.
'How can I do that? Do you mean to say my will is stronger
than yours?'

'Do you mean to say that the candle doesn't burn the moth,
when the moth flies into it?' Lady Montbarry rejoined. 'Have you
ever heard of such a thing as the fascination of terror? I am drawn
to you by a fascination of terror. I have no right to visit you,
I have no wish to visit you: you are my enemy. For the first time
in my life, against my own will, I submit to my enemy. See! I am
waiting because you told me to wait--and the fear of you (I swear it!)
creeps through me while I stand here. Oh, don't let me excite
your curiosity or your pity! Follow the example of Mr. Westwick.
Be hard and brutal and unforgiving, like him. Grant me my release.
Tell me to go.'

The frank and simple nature of Agnes could discover but one
intelligible meaning in this strange outbreak.

'You are mistaken in thinking me your enemy,' she said.
'The wrong you did me when you gave your hand to Lord Montbarry was
not intentionally done. I forgave you my sufferings in his lifetime.
I forgive you even more freely now that he has gone.'

Henry heard her with mingled emotions of admiration and distress.
'Say no more!' he exclaimed. 'You are too good to her; she is not
worthy of it.'

The interruption passed unheeded by Lady Montbarry. The simple
words in which Agnes had replied seemed to have absorbed the whole
attention of this strangely-changeable woman. As she listened,
her face settled slowly into an expression of hard and tearless sorrow.
There was a marked change in her voice when she spoke next.
It expressed that last worst resignation which has done with hope.

'You good innocent creature,' she said, 'what does your
amiable forgiveness matter? What are your poor little wrongs,
in the reckoning for greater wrongs which is demanded of me?
I am not trying to frighten you, I am only miserable about myself.
Do you know what it is to have a firm presentiment of calamity that
is coming to you--and yet to hope that your own positive conviction
will not prove true? When I first met you, before my marriage,
and first felt your influence over me, I had that hope.
It was a starveling sort of hope that lived a lingering life in me
until to-day. You struck it dead, when you answered my question
about Ferrari.'

'How have I destroyed your hopes?' Agnes asked. 'What connection is
there between my permitting Ferrari to use my name to Lord Montbarry,
and the strange and dreadful things you are saying to me now?'

'The time is near, Miss Lockwood, when you will discover that
for yourself. In the mean while, you shall know what my fear of you is,
in the plainest words I can find. On the day when I took your hero
from you and blighted your life--I am firmly persuaded of it!--
you were made the instrument of the retribution that my sins
of many years had deserved. Oh, such things have happened before
to-day! One person has, before now, been the means of innocently
ripening the growth of evil in another. You have done that already--
and you have more to do yet. You have still to bring me to the day
of discovery, and to the punishment that is my doom. We shall
meet again--here in England, or there in Venice where my husband died--
and meet for the last time.'

In spite of her better sense, in spite of her natural
superiority to superstitions of all kinds, Agnes was impressed
by the terrible earnestness with which those words were spoken.
She turned pale as she looked at Henry. 'Do you understand her?'
she asked.

'Nothing is easier than to understand her,' he replied contemptuously.
'She knows what has become of Ferrari; and she is confusing you
in a cloud of nonsense, because she daren't own the truth.
Let her go!'

If a dog had been under one of the chairs, and had barked,
Lady Montbarry could not have proceeded more impenetrably
with the last words she had to say to Agnes.

'Advise your interesting Mrs. Ferrari to wait a little longer,'
she said. 'You will know what has become of her husband, and you
will tell her. There will be nothing to alarm you. Some trifling
event will bring us together the next time--as trifling, I dare say,
as the engagement of Ferrari. Sad nonsense, Mr. Westwick, is it not?
But you make allowances for women; we all talk nonsense. Good morning,
Miss Lockwood.'

She opened the door--suddenly, as if she was afraid of being called
back for the second time--and left them.


'Do you think she is mad?' Agnes asked.

'I think she is simply wicked. False, superstitious, inveterately cruel--
but not mad. I believe her main motive in coming here was to enjoy
the luxury of frightening you.'

'She has frightened me. I am ashamed to own it--but so it is.'

Henry looked at her, hesitated for a moment, and seated himself
on the sofa by her side.

'I am very anxious about you, Agnes,' he said. 'But for the fortunate
chance which led me to call here to-day--who knows what that vile
woman might not have said or done, if she had found you alone?
My dear, you are leading a sadly unprotected solitary life.
I don't like to think of it; I want to see it changed--especially after
what has happened to-day. No! no! it is useless to tell me that you
have your old nurse. She is too old; she is not in your rank
of life--there is no sufficient protection in the companionship
of such a person for a lady in your position. Don't mistake me,
Agnes! what I say, I say in the sincerity of my devotion to you.'
He paused, and took her hand. She made a feeble effort to withdraw it--
and yielded. 'Will the day never come,' he pleaded, 'when the privilege
of protecting you may be mine? when you will be the pride and joy
of my life, as long as my life lasts?' He pressed her hand gently.
She made no reply. The colour came and went on her face; her eyes
were turned away from him. 'Have I been so unhappy as to offend you?'
he asked.

She answered that--she said, almost in a whisper, 'No.'

'Have I distressed you?'

'You have made me think of the sad days that are gone.' She said no more;
she only tried to withdraw her hand from his for the second time.
He still held it; he lifted it to his lips.

'Can I never make you think of other days than those--of the happier
days to come? Or, if you must think of the time that is passed,
can you not look back to the time when I first loved you?'

She sighed as he put the question. 'Spare me Henry,' she answered sadly.
'Say no more!'

The colour again rose in her cheeks; her hand trembled in his.
She looked lovely, with her eyes cast down and her bosom heaving gently.
At that moment he would have given everything he had in the world
to take her in his arms and kiss her. Some mysterious sympathy,
passing from his hand to hers, seemed to tell her what was in his mind.
She snatched her hand away, and suddenly looked up at him.
The tears were in her eyes. She said nothing; she let her eyes
speak for her. They warned him--without anger, without unkindness--
but still they warned him to press her no further that day.

'Only tell me that I am forgiven,' he said, as he rose from the sofa.

'Yes,' she answered quietly, 'you are forgiven.'

'I have not lowered myself in your estimation, Agnes?'

'Oh, no!'

'Do you wish me to leave you?'

She rose, in her turn, from the sofa, and walked to her writing-table
before she replied. The unfinished letter which she had been writing
when Lady Montbarry interrupted her, lay open on the blotting-book.
As she looked at the letter, and then looked at Henry, the smile
that charmed everybody showed itself in her face.

'You must not go just yet,' she said: 'I have something to tell you.
I hardly know how to express it. The shortest way perhaps will be to let
you find it out for yourself. You have been speaking of my lonely
unprotected life here. It is not a very happy life, Henry--I own that.'
She paused, observing the growing anxiety of his expression
as he looked at her, with a shy satisfaction that perplexed him.
'Do you know that I have anticipated your idea?' she went on.
'I am going to make a great change in my life--if your brother
Stephen and his wife will only consent to it.' She opened the desk
of the writing-table while she spoke, took a letter out, and handed it
to Henry.

He received it from her mechanically. Vague doubts, which he hardly
understood himself, kept him silent. It was impossible that the 'change
in her life' of which she had spoken could mean that she was about
to be married--and yet he was conscious of a perfectly unreasonable
reluctance to open the letter. Their eyes met; she smiled again.
'Look at the address,' she said. 'You ought to know the handwriting--
but I dare say you don't.'

He looked at the address. It was in the large, irregular,
uncertain writing of a child. He opened the letter instantly.

'Dear Aunt Agnes,--Our governess is going away. She has had money
left to her, and a house of her own. We have had cake and wine
to drink her health. You promised to be our governess if we
wanted another. We want you. Mamma knows nothing about this.
Please come before Mamma can get another governess. Your loving Lucy,
who writes this. Clara and Blanche have tried to write too.
But they are too young to do it. They blot the paper.'

'Your eldest niece,' Agnes explained, as Henry looked at her in amazement.
'The children used to call me aunt when I was staying with their
mother in Ireland, in the autumn. The three girls were my
inseparable companions--they are the most charming children I know.
It is quite true that I offered to be their governess, if they
ever wanted one, on the day when I left them to return to London.
I was writing to propose it to their mother, just before you came.'

'Not seriously!' Henry exclaimed.

Agnes placed her unfinished letter in his hand. Enough of it had been
written to show that she did seriously propose to enter the household
of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Westwick as governess to their children!
Henry's bewilderment was not to be expressed in words.

'They won't believe you are in earnest,' he said.

'Why not?' Agnes asked quietly.

'You are my brother Stephen's cousin; you are his wife's old friend.'

'All the more reason, Henry, for trusting me with the charge
of their children.'

'But you are their equal; you are not obliged to get your living
by teaching. There is something absurd in your entering their
service as a governess!'

'What is there absurd in it? The children love me; the mother loves me;
the father has shown me innumerable instances of his true friendship
and regard. I am the very woman for the place--and, as to my education,
I must have completely forgotten it indeed, if I am not fit to teach
three children the eldest of whom is only eleven years old.
You say I am their equal. Are there no other women who serve
as governesses, and who are the equals of the persons whom
they serve? Besides, I don't know that I am their equal.
Have I not heard that your brother Stephen was the next heir to
the title? Will he not be the new lord? Never mind answering me!
We won't dispute whether I mn right or wrong in turning governess--
we will wait the event. I am weary of my lonely useless existence here,
and eager to make my life more happy and more useful, in the household
of all others in which I should like most to have a place.
If you will look again, you will see that I have these personal
considerations still to urge before I finish my letter.
You don't know your brother and his wife as well as I do, if you doubt
their answer. I believe they have courage enough and heart enough to
say Yes.'

Henry submitted without being convinced.

He was a man who disliked all eccentric departures from custom and routine;
and he felt especially suspicious of the change proposed in the life
of Agnes. With new interests to occupy her mind, she might be less
favourably disposed to listen to him, on the next occasion when
he urged his suit. The influence of the 'lonely useless existence'
of which she complained, was distinctly an influence in his favour.
While her heart was empty, her heart was accessible.
But with his nieces in full possession of it, the clouds of doubt
overshadowed his prospects. He knew the sex well enough to keep
these purely selfish perplexities to himself. The waiting policy was
especially the policy to pursue with a woman as sensitive as Agnes.
If he once offended her delicacy he was lost. For the moment he wisely
controlled himself and changed the subject.

'My little niece's letter has had an effect,' he said,
'which the child never contemplated in writing it. She has just
reminded me of one of the objects that I had in calling on you to-day.'

Agnes looked at the child's letter. 'How does Lucy do that?'
she asked.

'Lucy's governess is not the only lucky person who has had money
left her,' Henry answered. 'Is your old nurse in the house?'

'You don't mean to say that nurse has got a legacy?'

'She has got a hundred pounds. Send for her, Agnes, while I show
you the letter.'

He took a handful of letters from his pocket, and looked through them,
while Agnes rang the bell. Returning to him, she noticed a printed
letter among the rest, which lay open on the table. It was a
'prospectus,' and the title of it was 'Palace Hotel Company of Venice
(Limited).' The two words, 'Palace' and 'Venice,' instantly recalled
her mind to the unwelcome visit of Lady Montbarry. 'What is that?'
she asked, pointing to the title.

Henry suspended his search, and glanced at the prospectus.
'A really promising speculation,' he said. 'Large hotels always
pay well, if they are well managed. I know the man who is appointed
to be manager of this hotel when it is opened to the public;
and I have such entire confidence in him that I have become one of
the shareholders of the Company.'

The reply did not appear to satisfy Agnes. 'Why is the hotel
called the "Palace Hotel"?' she inquired.

Henry looked at her, and at once penetrated her motive for asking
the question. 'Yes,' he said, 'it is the palace that Montbarry
hired at Venice; and it has been purchased by the Company to be
changed into an hotel.'

Agnes turned away in silence, and took a chair at the farther
end of the room. Henry had disappointed her. His income as a
younger son stood in need, as she well knew, of all the additions
that he could make to it by successful speculation. But she was
unreasonable enough, nevertheless, to disapprove of his attempting
to make money already out of the house in which his brother had died.
Incapable of understanding this purely sentimental view of a plain
matter of business, Henry returned to his papers, in some perplexity
at the sudden change in the manner of Agnes towards him.
Just as he found the letter of which he was in search, the nurse
made her appearance. He glanced at Agnes, expecting that she would
speak first. She never even looked up when the nurse came in.
It was left to Henry to tell the old woman why the bell had summoned her
to the drawing-room.

'Well, nurse,' he said, 'you have had a windfall of luck.
You have had a legacy left you of a hundred pounds.'

The nurse showed no outward signs of exultation. She waited a little
to get the announcement of the legacy well settled in her mind--
and then she said quietly, 'Master Henry, who gives me that money,
if you please?'

'My late brother, Lord Montbarry, gives it to you.' (Agnes instantly
looked up, interested in the matter for the first time. Henry went on.)
'His will leaves legacies to the surviving old servants of the family.
There is a letter from his lawyers, authorising you to apply to them
for the money.'

In every class of society, gratitude is the rarest of all human virtues.
In the nurse's class it is extremely rare. Her opinion of the man
who had deceived and deserted her mistress remained the same
opinion still, perfectly undisturbed by the passing circumstance
of the legacy.

'I wonder who reminded my lord of the old servants?' she said.
'He would never have heart enough to remember them himself!'

Agnes suddenly interposed. Nature, always abhorring monotony,
institutes reserves of temper as elements in the composition of the
gentlest women living. Even Agnes could, on rare occasions, be angry.
The nurse's view of Montbarry's character seemed to have provoked
her beyond endurance.

'If you have any sense of shame in you,' she broke out, 'you ought
to be ashamed of what you have just said! Your ingratitude disgusts me.
I leave you to speak with her, Henry--you won't mind it!'
With this significant intimation that he too had dropped out of his
customary place in her good opinion, she left the room.

The nurse received the smart reproof administered to her with
every appearance of feeling rather amused by it than not.
When the door had closed, this female philosopher winked at Henry.

'There's a power of obstinacy in young women,' she remarked.
'Miss Agnes wouldn't give my lord up as a bad one, even when
he jilted her. And now she's sweet on him after he's dead.
Say a word against him, and she fires up as you see. All obstinacy!
It will wear out with time. Stick to her, Master Henry--
stick to her!'

'She doesn't seem to have offended you,' said Henry.

'She?' the nurse repeated in amazement--'she offend me?
I like her in her tantrums; it reminds me of her when she was a baby.
Lord bless you! when I go to bid her good-night, she'll give
me a big kiss, poor dear--and say, Nurse, I didn't mean it!
About this money, Master Henry? If I was younger I should
spend it in dress and jewellery. But I'm too old for that.
What shall I do with my legacy when I have got it?'

'Put it out at interest,' Henry suggested. 'Get so much a year for it,
you know.' 'How much shall I get?' the nurse asked.

'If you put your hundred pounds into the Funds, you will get
between three and four pounds a year.'

The nurse shook her head. 'Three or four pounds a year? That won't do!
I want more than that. Look here, Master Henry. I don't care about
this bit of money--I never did like the man who has left it to me,
though he was your brother. If I lost it all to-morrow, I shouldn't
break my heart; I'm well enough off, as it is, for the rest of my days.
They say you're a speculator. Put me in for a good thing,
there's a dear! Neck-or-nothing--and that for the Funds!'
She snapped her fingers to express her contempt for security of
investment at three per cent.

Henry produced the prospectus of the Venetian Hotel Company.
'You're a funny old woman,' he said. 'There, you dashing speculator--
there is neck-or-nothing for you! You must keep it a secret from
Miss Agnes, mind. I'm not at all sure that she would approve of my
helping you to this investment.'

The nurse took out her spectacles. 'Six per cent. guaranteed,' she read;
'and the Directors have every reason to believe that ten per cent.,
or more, will be ultimately realised to the shareholders by the hotel.'
'Put me into that, Master Henry! And, wherever you go, for Heaven's
sake recommend the hotel to your friends!'

So the nurse, following Henry's mercenary example, had her
pecuniary interest, too, in the house in which Lord Montbarry had died.

Three days passed before Henry was able to visit Agnes again.
In that time, the little cloud between them had entirely passed away.
Agnes received him with even more than her customary kindness.
She was in better spirits than usual. Her letter to Mrs. Stephen
Westwick had been answered by return of post; and her proposal had
been joyfully accepted, with one modification. She was to visit
the Westwicks for a month--and, if she really liked teaching the children,
she was then to be governess, aunt, and cousin, all in one--
and was only to go away in an event which her friends in Ireland
persisted in contemplating, the event of her marriage.

'You see I was right,' she said to Henry.

He was still incredulous. 'Are you really going?' he asked.

'I am going next week.'

'When shall I see you again?'

'You know you are always welcome at your brother's house.
You can see me when you like.' She held out her hand. 'Pardon me
for leaving you--I am beginning to pack up already.'

Henry tried to kiss her at parting. She drew back directly.

'Why not? I am your cousin,' he said.

'I don't like it,' she answered.

Henry looked at her, and submitted. Her refusal to grant him his
privilege as a cousin was a good sign--it was indirectly an act
of encouragement to him in the character of her lover.

On the first day in the new week, Agnes left London on her way to Ireland.
As the event proved, this was not destined to be the end of her journey.
The way to Ireland was only the first stage on a roundabout road--
the road that led to the palace at Venice.



In the spring of the year 1861, Agnes was established at the country-seat
of her two friends--now promoted (on the death of the first lord,
without offspring) to be the new Lord and Lady Montbarry.
The old nurse was not separated from her mistress. A place,
suited to her time of life, had been found for her in the pleasant
Irish household. She was perfectly happy in her new sphere;
and she spent her first half-year's dividend from the Venice
Hotel Company, with characteristic prodigality, in presents for
the children.

Early in the year, also, the Directors of the life insurance offices
submitted to circumstances, and paid the ten thousand pounds.
Immediately afterwards, the widow of the first Lord Montbarry
(otherwise, the dowager Lady Montbarry) left England, with Baron Rivar,
for the United States. The Baron's object was announced, in the scientific
columns of the newspapers, to be investigation into the present
state of experimental chemistry in the great American republic.
His sister informed inquiring friends that she accompanied him,
in the hope of finding consolation in change of scene after the bereavement
that had fallen on her. Hearing this news from Henry Westwick
(then paying a visit at his brother's house), Agnes was conscious
of a certain sense of relief. 'With the Atlantic between us,'
she said, 'surely I have done with that terrible woman now!'

Barely a week passed after those words had been spoken, before an
event happened which reminded Agnes of 'the terrible woman'
once more.

On that day, Henry's engagements had obliged him to return to London.
He had ventured, on the morning of his departure, to press his
suit once more on Agnes; and the children, as he had anticipated,
proved to be innocent obstacles in the way of his success.
On the other hand, he had privately secured a firm ally in his
sister-in-law. 'Have a little patience,' the new Lady Montbarry
had said, 'and leave me to turn the influence of the children
in the right direction. If they can persuade her to listen to you--
they shall!'

The two ladies had accompanied Henry, and some other guests
who went away at the same time, to the railway station,
and had just driven back to the house, when the servant announced
that 'a person of the name of Rolland was waiting to see her ladyship.'

'Is it a woman?'

'Yes, my lady.'

Young Lady Montbarry turned to Agnes.

'This is the very person,' she said, 'whom your lawyer thought
likely to help him, when he was trying to trace the lost courier.'

'You don't mean the English maid who was with Lady Montbarry
at Venice?'

'My dear! don't speak of Montbarry's horrid widow by the name
which is my name now. Stephen and I have arranged to call her by
her foreign title, before she was married. I am "Lady Montbarry,"
and she is "the Countess." In that way there will be no confusion.--
Yes, Mrs. Rolland was in my service before she became the Countess's maid.
She was a perfectly trustworthy person, with one defect that obliged
me to send her away--a sullen temper which led to perpetual complaints
of her in the servants' hall. Would you like to see her?'

Agnes accepted the proposal, in the faint hope of getting some
information for the courier's wife. The complete defeat of every attempt
to trace the lost man had been accepted as final by Mrs. Ferrari.
She had deliberately arrayed herself in widow's mourning;
and was earning her livelihood in an employment which the unwearied
kindness of Agnes had procured for her in London. The last chance
of penetrating the mystery of Ferrari's disappearance seemed to rest
now on what Ferrari's former fellow-servant might be able to tell.
With highly-wrought expectations, Agnes followed her friend into the room
in which Mrs. Rolland was waiting.

A tall bony woman, in the autumn of life, with sunken eyes and
iron-grey hair, rose stiffly from her chair, and saluted the ladies
with stern submission as they opened the door. A person of
unblemished character, evidently--but not without visible drawbacks.
Big bushy eyebrows, an awfully deep and solemn voice, a harsh
unbending manner, a complete absence in her figure of the undulating
lines characteristic of the sex, presented Virtue in this excellent
person under its least alluring aspect. Strangers, on a first
introduction to her, were accustomed to wonder why she was not a man.

'Are you pretty well, Mrs. Rolland?'

'I am as well as I can expect to be, my lady, at my time of life.'

'Is there anything I can do for you?'

'Your ladyship can do me a great favour, if you will please
speak to my character while I was in your service. I am offered
a place, to wait on an invalid lady who has lately come to live
in this neighbourhood.'

'Ah, yes--I have heard of her. A Mrs. Carbury, with a very pretty niece
I am told. But, Mrs. Rolland, you left my service some time ago.
Mrs. Carbury will surely expect you to refer to the last mistress
by whom you were employed.'

A flash of virtuous indignation irradiated Mrs. Rolland's sunken eyes.
She coughed before she answered, as if her 'last mistress'
stuck in her throat.

'I have explained to Mrs. Carbury, my lady, that the person I last served--
I really cannot give her her title in your ladyship's presence!--
has left England for America. Mrs. Carbury knows that I quitted
the person of my own free will, and knows why, and approves of my
conduct so far. A word from your ladyship will be amply sufficient
to get me the situation.'

'Very well, Mrs. Rolland, I have no objection to be your reference,
under the circumstances. Mrs. Carbury will find me at home to-morrow
until two o'clock.'

'Mrs. Carbury is not well enough to leave the house, my lady.
Her niece, Miss Haldane, will call and make the inquiries, if your
ladyship has no objection.'

'I have not the least objection. The pretty niece carries
her own welcome with her. Wait a minute, Mrs. Rolland.
This lady is Miss Lockwood--my husband's cousin, and my friend.
She is anxious to speak to you about the courier who was in the late
Lord Montbarry's service at Venice.'

Mrs. Rolland's bushy eyebrows frowned in stern disapproval of
the new topic of conversation. 'I regret to hear it, my lady,'
was all she said.

'Perhaps you have not been informed of what happened after you
left Venice?' Agnes ventured to add. 'Ferrari left the palace secretly;
and he has never been heard of since.'

Mrs. Rolland mysteriously closed her eyes--as if to exclude some vision
of the lost courier which was of a nature to disturb a respectable woman.
'Nothing that Mr. Ferrari could do would surprise me,' she replied
in her deepest bass tones.

'You speak rather harshly of him,' said Agnes.

Mrs. Rolland suddenly opened her eyes again. 'I speak harshly
of nobody without reason,' she said. 'Mr. Ferrari behaved to me,
Miss Lockwood, as no man living has ever behaved--before or since.'

'What did he do?'

Mrs. Rolland answered, with a stony stare of horror:--

'He took liberties with me.'

Young Lady Montbarry suddenly turned aside, and put her handkerchief
over her mouth in convulsions of suppressed laughter.

Mrs. Rolland went on, with a grim enjoyment of the bewilderment
which her reply had produced in Agnes: 'And when I insisted
on an apology, Miss, he had the audacity to say that the life
at the palace was dull, and he didn't know how else to amuse himself!'

'I am afraid I have hardly made myself understood,' said Agnes.
'I am not speaking to you out of any interest in Ferrari.
Are you aware that he is married?'

'I pity his wife,' said Mrs. Rolland.

'She is naturally in great grief about him,' Agnes proceeded.

'She ought to thank God she is rid of him,' Mrs. Rolland interposed.

Agnes still persisted. 'I have known Mrs. Ferrari from her childhood,
and I am sincerely anxious to help her in this matter. Did you
notice anything, while you were at Venice, that would account for
her husband's extraordinary disappearance? On what sort of terms,
for instance, did he live with his master and mistress?'

'On terms of familiarity with his mistress,' said Mrs. Rolland,
'which were simply sickening to a respectable English servant.
She used to encourage him to talk to her about all his affairs--
how he got on with his wife, and how pressed he was for money,
and such like--just as if they were equals. Contemptible--that's what I
call it.'

'And his master?' Agnes continued. 'How did Ferrari get
on with Lord Montbarry?'

'My lord used to live shut up with his studies and his sorrows,'
Mrs. Rolland answered, with a hard solemnity expressive of respect
for his lordship's memory. Mr. Ferrari got his money when it was due;
and he cared for nothing else. "If I could afford it, I would
leave the place too; but I can't afford it." Those were the last
words he said to me, on the morning when I left the palace.
I made no reply. After what had happened (on that other occasion)
I was naturally not on speaking terms with Mr. Ferrari.'

'Can you really tell me nothing which will throw any light
on this matter?'

'Nothing,' said Mrs. Rolland, with an undisguised relish
of the disappointment that she was inflicting.

'There was another member of the family at Venice,' Agnes resumed,
determined to sift the question to the bottom while she had the chance.
'There was Baron Rivar.'

Mrs. Rolland lifted her large hands, covered with rusty black gloves,
in mute protest against the introduction of Baron Rivar as a subject
of inquiry. 'Are you aware, Miss,' she began, 'that I left my place
in consequence of what I observed--?'

Agnes stopped her there. 'I only wanted to ask,' she explained,
'if anything was said or done by Baron Rivar which might account
for Ferrari's strange conduct.'

'Nothing that I know of,' said Mrs. Rolland. 'The Baron and Mr. Ferrari
(if I may use such an expression) were "birds of a feather,"
so far as I could see--I mean, one was as unprincipled as the other.
I am a just woman; and I will give you an example. Only the day
before I left, I heard the Baron say (through the open door of his
room while I was passing along the corridor), "Ferrari, I want a
thousand pounds. What would you do for a thousand pounds?" And I heard
Mr. Ferrari answer, "Anything, sir, as long as I was not found out."
And then they both burst out laughing. I heard no more than that.
Judge for yourself, Miss.'

Agnes reflected for a moment. A thousand pounds was the sum
that had been sent to Mrs. Ferrari in the anonymous letter.
Was that enclosure in any way connected, as a result, with the
conversation between the Baron and Ferrari? It was useless to press
any more inquiries on Mrs. Rolland. She could give no further
information which was of the slightest importance to the object
in view. There was no alternative but to grant her dismissal.
One more effort had been made to find a trace of the lost man,
and once again the effort had failed.

They were a family party at the dinner-table that day. The only
guest left in the house was a nephew of the new Lord Montbarry--
the eldest son of his sister, Lady Barrville. Lady Montbarry could
not resist telling the story of the first (and last) attack made
on the virtue of Mrs. Rolland, with a comically-exact imitation
of Mrs. Rolland's deep and dismal voice. Being asked by her husband
what was the object which had brought that formidable person to the house,
she naturally mentioned the expected visit of Miss Haldane.
Arthur Barville, unusually silent and pre-occupied so far,
suddenly struck into the conversation with a burst of enthusiasm.
'Miss Haldane is the most charming girl in all Ireland!' he said.
'I caught sight of her yesterday, over the wall of her garden,
as I was riding by. What time is she coming to-morrow? Before two?
I'll look into the drawing-room by accident--I am dying to be introduced
to her!'

Agnes was amused by his enthusiasm. 'Are you in love with Miss
Haldane already?' she asked.

Arthur answered gravely, 'It's no joking matter. I have been all day
at the garden wall, waiting to see her again! It depends on Miss
Haldane to make me the happiest or the wretchedest man living.'

'You foolish boy! How can you talk such nonsense?'

He was talking nonsense undoubtedly. But, if Agnes had only known it,
he was doing something more than that. He was innocently leading
her another stage nearer on the way to Venice.


As the summer months advanced, the transformation of the Venetian
palace into the modern hotel proceeded rapidly towards completion.

The outside of the building, with its fine Palladian front looking
on the canal, was wisely left unaltered. Inside, as a matter
of necessity, the rooms were almost rebuilt--so far at least
as the size and the arrangement of them were concerned.
The vast saloons were partitioned off into 'apartments' containing
three or four rooms each. The broad corridors in the upper regions
afforded spare space enough for rows of little bedchambers,
devoted to servants and to travellers with limited means.
Nothing was spared but the solid floors and the finely-carved ceilings.
These last, in excellent preservation as to workmanship,
merely required cleaning, and regilding here and there, to add
greatly to the beauty and importance of the best rooms in the hotel.
The only exception to the complete re-organization of the interior
was at one extremity of the edifice, on the first and second floors.
Here there happened, in each case, to be rooms of such comparatively
moderate size, and so attractively decorated, that the architect
suggested leaving them as they were. It was afterwards discovered
that these were no other than the apartments formerly occupied
by Lord Montbarry (on the first floor), and by Baron Rivar
(on the second). The room in which Montbarry had died was still fitted
up as a bedroom, and was now distinguished as Number Fourteen.
The room above it, in which the Baron had slept, took its place
on the hotel-register as Number Thirty-Eight. With the ornaments on
the walls and ceilings cleaned and brightened up, and with the heavy
old-fashioned beds, chairs, and tables replaced by bright, pretty,
and luxurious modern furniture, these two promised to be at once
the most attractive and the most comfortable bedchambers in the hotel.
As for the once-desolate and disused ground floor of the building,
it was now transformed, by means of splendid dining-rooms, reception-rooms,
billiard-rooms, and smoking-rooms, into a palace by itself.
Even the dungeon-like vaults beneath, now lighted and ventilated
on the most approved modern plan, had been turned as if by magic
into kitchens, servants' offices, ice-rooms, and wine cellars,
worthy of the splendour of the grandest hotel in Italy, in the now
bygone period of seventeen years since.

Passing from the lapse of the summer months at Venice, to the lapse of
the summer months in Ireland, it is next to be recorded that Mrs. Rolland
obtained the situation of attendant on the invalid Mrs. Carbury;
and that the fair Miss Haldane, like a female Caesar, came, saw,
and conquered, on her first day's visit to the new Lord Montbarry's house.

The ladies were as loud in her praises as Arthur Barville himself.
Lord Montbarry declared that she was the only perfectly pretty woman
he had ever seen, who was really unconscious of her own attractions.
The old nurse said she looked as if she had just stepped out of a picture,
and wanted nothing but a gilt frame round her to make her complete.
Miss Haldane, on her side, returned from her first visit to the
Montbarrys charmed with her new acquaintances. Later on the same day,
Arthur called with an offering of fruit and flowers for Mrs. Carbury,
and with instructions to ask if she was well enough to receive
Lord and Lady Montbarry and Miss Lockwood on the morrow.
In a week's time, the two households were on the friendliest terms.
Mrs. Carbury, confined to the sofa by a spinal malady, had been
hitherto dependent on her niece for one of the few pleasures she
could enjoy, the pleasure of having the best new novels read
to her as they came out. Discovering this, Arthur volunteered
to relieve Miss Haldane, at intervals, in the office of reader.
He was clever at mechanical contrivances of all sorts,
and he introduced improvements in Mrs. Carbury's couch, and in
the means of conveying her from the bedchamber to the drawing-room,
which alleviated the poor lady's sufferings and brightened her
gloomy life. With these claims on the gratitude of the aunt,
aided by the personal advantages which he unquestionably possessed,
Arthur advanced rapidly in the favour of the charming niece.
She was, it is needless to say, perfectly well aware that he was in love
with her, while he was himself modestly reticent on the subject--
so far as words went. But she was not equally quick in penetrating
the nature of her own feelings towards Arthur. Watching the two young
people with keen powers of observation, necessarily concentrated
on them by the complete seclusion of her life, the invalid lady
discovered signs of roused sensibility in Miss Haldane, when Arthur
was present, which had never yet shown themselves in her social
relations with other admirers eager to pay their addresses to her.
Having drawn her own conclusions in private, Mrs. Carbury took the first
favourable opportunity (in Arthur's interests) of putting them to
the test.

'I don't know what I shall do,' she said one day, 'when Arthur
goes away.'

Miss Haldane looked up quickly from her work. 'Surely he is not
going to leave us!' she exclaimed.

'My dear! he has already stayed at his uncle's house a month longer
than he intended. His father and mother naturally expect to see
him at home again.'

Miss Haldane met this difficulty with a suggestion, which could
only have proceeded from a judgment already disturbed by the ravages
of the tender passion. 'Why can't his father and mother go and see
him at Lord Montbarry's?' she asked. 'Sir Theodore's place is only
thirty miles away, and Lady Barville is Lord Montbarry's sister.
They needn't stand on ceremony.'

'They may have other engagements,' Mrs. Carbury remarked.

'My dear aunt, we don't know that! Suppose you ask Arthur?'

'Suppose you ask him?'

Miss Haldane bent her head again over her work. Suddenly as it
was done, her aunt had seen her face--and her face betrayed her.

When Arthur came the next day, Mrs. Carbury said a word to him
in private, while her niece was in the garden. The last new
novel lay neglected on the table. Arthur followed Miss Haldane
into the garden. The next day he wrote home, enclosing in his
letter a photograph of Miss Haldane. Before the end of the week,
Sir Theodore and Lady Barville arrived at Lord Montbarry's,
and formed their own judgment of the fidelity of the portrait.
They had themselves married early in life--and, strange to say,
they did not object on principle to the early marriages
of other people. The question of age being thus disposed of,
the course of true love had no other obstacles to encounter.
Miss Haldane was an only child, and was possessed of an ample fortune.
Arthur's career at the university had been creditable, but certainly not
brilliant enough to present his withdrawal in the light of a disaster.
As Sir Theodore's eldest son, his position was already made for him.
He was two-and-twenty years of age; and the young lady was eighteen.
There was really no producible reason for keeping the lovers waiting,
and no excuse for deferring the wedding-day beyond the first week
in September. In the interval, while the bride and bridegroom
would be necessarily absent on the inevitable tour abroad,
a sister of Mrs. Carbury volunteered to stay with her during
the temporary separation from her niece. On the conclusion
of the honeymoon, the young couple were to return to Ireland,
and were to establish themselves in Mrs. Carbury's spacious and
comfortable house.

These arrangements were decided upon early in the month of August.
About the same date, the last alterations in the old palace at Venice
were completed. The rooms were dried by steam; the cellars were stocked;
the manager collected round him his army of skilled servants;
and the new hotel was advertised all over Europe to open
in October.



'I promised to give you some account, dear Emily, of the marriage
of Mr. Arthur Barville and Miss Haldane. It took place ten days since.
But I have had so many things to look after in the absence of the master
and mistress of this house, that I am only able to write to you

'The invitations to the wedding were limited to members of the families
on either side, in consideration of the ill health of Miss Haldane's aunt.
On the side of the Montbarry family, there were present,
besides Lord and Lady Montbarry, Sir Theodore and Lady Barville;
Mrs. Norbury (whom you may remember as his lordship's second sister);
and Mr. Francis Westwick, and Mr. Henry Westwick. The three children
and I attended the ceremony as bridesmaids. We were joined by two
young ladies, cousins of the bride and very agreeable girls.
Our dresses were white, trimmed with green in honour of Ireland;
and we each had a handsome gold bracelet given to us as a present from
the bridegroom. If you add to the persons whom I have already mentioned,
the elder members of Mrs. Carbury's family, and the old servants
in both houses--privileged to drink the healths of the married pair
at the lower end of the room--you will have the list of the company at
the wedding-breakfast complete.

'The weather was perfect, and the ceremony (with music)
was beautifully performed. As for the bride, no words can describe
how lovely she looked, or how well she went through it all.
We were very merry at the breakfast, and the speeches went off
on the whole quite well enough. The last speech, before the party
broke up, was made by Mr. Henry Westwick, and was the best of all.
He offered a happy suggestion, at the end, which has produced a very
unexpected change in my life here.

'As well as I remember, he concluded in these words:--"On one point,
we are all agreed--we are sorry that the parting hour is near,
and we should be glad to meet again. Why should we not meet again?
This is the autumn time of the year; we are most of us leaving home
for the holidays. What do you say (if you have no engagements
that will prevent it) to joining our young married friends before
the close of their tour, and renewing the social success of this
delightful breakfast by another festival in honour of the honeymoon?
The bride and bridegroom are going to Germany and the Tyrol, on their
way to Italy. I propose that we allow them a month to themselves,
and that we arrange to meet them afterwards in the North of Italy--
say at Venice."

'This proposal was received with great applause, which was changed
into shouts of laughter by no less a person than my dear old nurse.
The moment Mr. Westwick pronounced the word "Venice," she
started up among the servants at the lower end of the room,
and called out at the top of her voice, "Go to our hotel,
ladies and gentlemen! We get six per cent. on our money already;
and if you will only crowd the place and call for the best
of everything, it will be ten per cent in our pockets in no time.
Ask Master Henry!"

'Appealed to in this irresistible manner, Mr. Westwick had no choice
but to explain that he was concerned as a shareholder in a new Hotel
Company at Venice, and that he had invested a small sum of money
for the nurse (not very considerately, as I think) in the speculation.
Hearing this, the company, by way of humouring the joke,
drank a new toast:--Success to the nurse's hotel, and a speedy rise
in the dividend!

'When the conversation returned in due time to the more serious
question of the proposed meeting at Venice, difficulties began
to present themselves, caused of course by invitations for the autumn
which many of the guests had already accepted. Only two members of
Mrs. Carbury's family were at liberty to keep the proposed appointment.
On our side we were more at leisure to do as we pleased.
Mr. Henry Westwick decided to go to Venice in advance of the rest,
to test the accommodation of the new hotel on the opening day.
Mrs. Norbury and Mr. Francis Westwick volunteered to follow him;
and, after some persuasion, Lord and Lady Montbarry consented
to a species of compromise. His lordship could not conveniently
spare time enough for the journey to Venice, but he and Lady
Montbarry arranged to accompany Mrs. Norbury and Mr. Francis
Westwick as far on their way to Italy as Paris. Five days since,
they took their departure to meet their travelling companions
in London; leaving me here in charge of the three dear children.
They begged hard, of course, to be taken with papa and mamma.
But it was thought better not to interrupt the progress of their education,
and not to expose them (especially the two younger girls) to the fatigues
of travelling.

'I have had a charming letter from the bride, this morning,
dated Cologne. You cannot think how artlessly and prettily she
assures me of her happiness. Some people, as they say in Ireland,
are born to good luck--and I think Arthur Barville is one of them.

'When you next write, I hope to hear that you are in better health
and spirits, and that you continue to like your employment.
Believe me, sincerely your friend,--A. L.'

Agnes had just closed and directed her letter, when the eldest
of her three pupils entered the room with the startling announcement
that Lord Montbarry's travelling-servant had arrived from Paris!
Alarmed by the idea that some misfortune had happened, she ran out
to meet the man in the hall. Her face told him how seriously he had
frightened her, before she could speak. 'There's nothing wrong, Miss,'
he hastened to say. 'My lord and my lady are enjoying themselves
at Paris. They only want you and the young ladies to be with them.'
Saying these amazing words, he handed to Agnes a letter from
Lady Montbarry.

'Dearest Agnes,' (she read), 'I am so charmed with the delightful
change in my life--it is six years, remember, since I last travelled
on the Continent--that I have exerted all my fascinations to persuade
Lord Montbarry to go on to Venice. And, what is more to the purpose,
I have actually succeeded! He has just gone to his room to write
the necessary letters of excuse in time for the post to England.
May you have as good a husband, my dear, when your time comes!
In the mean while, the one thing wanting now to make my happiness
complete, is to have you and the darling children with us.
Montbarry is just as miserable without them as I am--though he doesn't
confess it so freely. You will have no difficulties to trouble you.
Louis will deliver these hurried lines, and will take care of you
on the journey to Paris. Kiss the children for me a thousand times--
and never mind their education for the present! Pack up instantly,
my dear, and I will be fonder of you than ever. Your affectionate friend,
Adela Montbarry.'

Agnes folded up the letter; and, feeling the need of composing herself,
took refuge for a few minutes in her own room.

Her first natural sensations of surprise and excitement at the prospect
of going to Venice were succeeded by impressions of a less agreeable kind.
With the recovery of her customary composure came the unwelcome
remembrance of the parting words spoken to her by Montbarry's
widow:--'We shall meet again--here in England, or there in Venice
where my husband died--and meet for the last time.'

It was an odd coincidence, to say the least of it, that the march
of events should be unexpectedly taking Agnes to Venice, after those
words had been spoken! Was the woman of the mysterious warnings
and the wild black eyes still thousands of miles away in America?
Or was the march of events taking her unexpectedly, too, on the
journey to Venice? Agnes started out of her chair, ashamed of
even the momentary concession to superstition which was implied
by the mere presence of such questions as these in her mind.

She rang the bell, and sent for her little pupils, and announced
their approaching departure to the household. The noisy delight
of the children, the inspiriting effort of packing up in a hurry,
roused all her energies. She dismissed her own absurd misgivings
from consideration, with the contempt that they deserved. She worked
as only women can work, when their hearts are in what they do.
The travellers reached Dublin that day, in time for the boat
to England. Two days later, they were with Lord and Lady Montbarry
at Paris.



It was only the twentieth of September, when Agnes and the children
reached Paris. Mrs. Norbury and her brother Francis had then already
started on their journey to Italy--at least three weeks before the date
at which the new hotel was to open for the reception of travellers.

The person answerable for this premature departure was Francis Westwick.

Like his younger brother Henry, he had increased his pecuniary
resources by his own enterprise and ingenuity; with this difference,
that his speculations were connected with the Arts.
He had made money, in the first instance, by a weekly newspaper;
and he had then invested his profits in a London theatre.
This latter enterprise, admirably conducted, had been rewarded
by the public with steady and liberal encouragement. Pondering over
a new form of theatrical attraction for the coming winter season,
Francis had determined to revive the languid public taste for the ballet
by means of an entertainment of his own invention, combining dramatic
interest with dancing. He was now, accordingly, in search of the
best dancer (possessed of the indispensable personal attractions)
who was to be found in the theatres of the Continent.
Hearing from his foreign correspondents of two women who had made
successful first appearances, one at Milan and one at Florence,
he had arranged to visit those cities, and to judge of the merits
of the dancers for himself, before he joined the bride and bridegroom.
His widowed sister, having friends at Florence whom she was anxious
to see, readily accompanied him. The Montbarrys remained at Paris,
until it was time to present themselves at the family meeting in Venice.
Henry found them still in the French capital, when he arrived from London
on his way to the opening of the new hotel.

Against Lady Montbarry's advice, he took the opportunity of
renewing his addresses to Agnes. He could hardly have chosen
a more unpropitious time for pleading his cause with her.
The gaieties of Paris (quite incomprehensibly to herself as well
as to everyone about her) had a depressing effect on her spirits.
She had no illness to complain of; she shared willingly in the ever-varying
succession of amusements offered to strangers by the ingenuity
of the liveliest people in the world--but nothing roused her:
she remained persistently dull and weary through it all.
In this frame of mind and body, she was in no humour to receive
Henry's ill-timed addresses with favour, or even with patience:
she plainly and positively refused to listen to him. 'Why do you remind
me of what I have suffered?' she asked petulantly. 'Don't you see
that it has left its mark on me for life?'

'I thought I knew something of women by this time,' Henry said,
appealing privately to Lady Montbarry for consolation. 'But Agnes
completely puzzles me. It is a year since Montbarry's death; and she
remains as devoted to his memory as if he had died faithful to her--
she still feels the loss of him, as none of us feel it!'

'She is the truest woman that ever breathed the breath of life,'
Lady Montbarry answered. 'Remember that, and you will understand her.
Can such a woman as Agnes give her love or refuse it,
according to circumstances? Because the man was unworthy of her,
was he less the man of her choice? The truest and best friend to him
(little as he deserved it) in his lifetime, she naturally
remains the truest and best friend to his memory now.
If you really love her, wait; and trust to your two best friends--
to time and to me. There is my advice; let your own experience
decide whether it is not the best advice that I can offer.
Resume your journey to Venice to-morrow; and when you take leave of Agnes,
speak to her as cordially as if nothing had happened.'

Henry wisely followed this advice. Thoroughly understanding him,
Agnes made the leave-taking friendly and pleasant on her side.
When he stopped at the door for a last look at her, she hurriedly turned
her head so that her face was hidden from him. Was that a good sign?
Lady Montbarry, accompanying Henry down the stairs, said, 'Yes, decidedly!
Write when you get to Venice. We shall wait here to receive letters
from Arthur and his wife, and we shall time our departure for
Italy accordingly.'

A week passed, and no letter came from Henry. Some days later,
a telegram was received from him. It was despatched from Milan,
instead of from Venice; and it brought this strange message:--'I have
left the hotel. Will return on the arrival of Arthur and his wife.
Address, meanwhile, Albergo Reale, Milan.'

Preferring Venice before all other cities of Europe, and having
arranged to remain there until the family meeting took place,
what unexpected event had led Henry to alter his plans? and why
did he state the bare fact, without adding a word of explanation?
Let the narrative follow him--and find the answer to those questions
at Venice.


The Palace Hotel, appealing for encouragement mainly to English
and American travellers, celebrated the opening of its doors,
as a matter of course, by the giving of a grand banquet,
and the delivery of a long succession of speeches.

Delayed on his journey, Henry Westwick only reached Venice
in time to join the guests over their coffee and cigars.
Observing the splendour of the reception rooms, and taking
note especially of the artful mixture of comfort and luxury in
the bedchambers, he began to share the old nurse's view of the future,
and to contemplate seriously the coming dividend of ten per cent.
The hotel was beginning well, at all events. So much interest
in the enterprise had been aroused, at home and abroad,
by profuse advertising, that the whole accommodation of the building
had been secured by travellers of all nations for the opening night.
Henry only obtained one of the small rooms on the upper floor,
by a lucky accident--the absence of the gentleman who had written
to engage it. He was quite satisfied, and was on his way to bed,
when another accident altered his prospects for the night, and moved him
into another and a better room.

Ascending on his way to the higher regions as far as the first floor
of the hotel, Henry's attention was attracted by an angry voice protesting,
in a strong New England accent, against one of the greatest
hardships that can be inflicted on a citizen of the United States--
the hardship of sending him to bed without gas in his room.

The Americans are not only the most hospitable people to be found
on the face of the earth--they are (under certain conditions)
the most patient and good-tempered people as well. But they are human;
and the limit of American endurance is found in the obsolete institution
of a bedroom candle. The American traveller, in the present case,
declined to believe that his bedroom was in a complete finished state
without a gas-burner. The manager pointed to the fine antique decorations
(renewed and regilt) on the walls and the ceiling, and explained
that the emanations of burning gas-light would certainly spoil
them in the course of a few months. To this the traveller replied
that it was possible, but that he did not understand decorations.
A bedroom with gas in it was what he was used to, was what he wanted,
and was what he was determined to have. The compliant manager
volunteered to ask some other gentleman, housed on the inferior
upper storey (which was lit throughout with gas), to change rooms.
Hearing this, and being quite willing to exchange a small bedchamber
for a large one, Henry volunteered to be the other gentleman.
The excellent American shook hands with him on the spot. 'You are
a cultured person, sir,' he said; 'and you will no doubt understand
the decorations.'

Henry looked at the number of the room on the door as he opened it.
The number was Fourteen.

Tired and sleepy, he naturally anticipated a good night's rest.
In the thoroughly healthy state of his nervous system, he slept
as well in a bed abroad as in a bed at home. Without the slightest
assignable reason, however, his just expectations were disappointed.
The luxurious bed, the well-ventilated room, the delicious tranquillity
of Venice by night, all were in favour of his sleeping well.
He never slept at all. An indescribable sense of depression and
discomfort kept him waking through darkness and daylight alike.
He went down to the coffee-room as soon as the hotel was astir,
and ordered some breakfast. Another unaccountable change
in himself appeared with the appearance of the meal. He was
absolutely without appetite. An excellent omelette, and cutlets
cooked to perfection, he sent away untasted--he, whose appetite
never failed him, whose digestion was still equal to any demands
on it!

The day was bright and fine. He sent for a gondola, and was rowed
to the Lido.

Out on the airy Lagoon, he felt like a new man. He had not left
the hotel ten minutes before he was fast asleep in the gondola.
Waking, on reaching the landing-place, he crossed the Lido,
and enjoyed a morning's swim in the Adriatic. There was only a poor
restaurant on the island, in those days; but his appetite was now ready
for anything; he ate whatever was offered to him, like a famished man.
He could hardly believe, when he reflected on it, that he had sent
away untasted his excellent breakfast at the hotel.

Returning to Venice, he spent the rest of the day in the picture-galleries
and the churches. Towards six o'clock his gondola took him back,
with another fine appetite, to meet some travelling acquaintances
with whom he had engaged to dine at the table d'hote.

The dinner was deservedly rewarded with the highest approval by every
guest in the hotel but one. To Henry's astonishment, the appetite
with which he had entered the house mysteriously and completely left
him when he sat down to table. He could drink some wine, but he could
literally eat nothing. 'What in the world is the matter with you?'
his travelling acquaintances asked. He could honestly answer,
'I know no more than you do.'

When night came, he gave his comfortable and beautiful bedroom
another trial. The result of the second experiment was a repetition
of the result of the first. Again he felt the all-pervading sense
of depression and discomfort. Again he passed a sleepless night.
And once more, when he tried to eat his breakfast, his appetite
completely failed him!

This personal experience of the new hotel was too extraordinary
to be passed over in silence. Henry mentioned it to his friends
in the public room, in the hearing of the manager. The manager,
naturally zealous in defence of the hotel, was a little hurt at the
implied reflection cast on Number Fourteen. He invited the travellers
present to judge for themselves whether Mr. Westwick's bedroom
was to blame for Mr. Westwick's sleepless nights; and he especially
appealed to a grey-headed gentleman, a guest at the breakfast-table
of an English traveller, to take the lead in the investigation.
'This is Doctor Bruno, our first physician in Venice,' he explained.
'I appeal to him to say if there are any unhealthy influences in
Mr. Westwick's room.'

Introduced to Number Fourteen, the doctor looked round him with a certain
appearance of interest which was noticed by everyone present. 'The last
time I was in this room,' he said, 'was on a melancholy occasion.
It was before the palace was changed into an hotel. I was in
professional attendance on an English nobleman who died here.'
One of the persons present inquired the name of the nobleman.
Doctor Bruno answered (without the slightest suspicion that he was
speaking before a brother of the dead man), 'Lord Montbarry.'

Henry quietly left the room, without saying a word to anybody.

He was not, in any sense of the term, a superstitious man. But he felt,
nevertheless, an insurmountable reluctance to remaining in the hotel.
He decided on leaving Venice. To ask for another room would be,
as he could plainly see, an offence in the eyes of the manager.
To remove to another hotel, would be to openly abandon an
establishment in the success of which he had a pecuniary interest.
Leaving a note for Arthur Barville, on his arrival in Venice,
in which he merely mentioned that he had gone to look at the
Italian lakes, and that a line addressed to his hotel at Milan
would bring him back again, he took the afternoon train to Padua--
and dined with his usual appetite, and slept as well as ever
that night.

The next day, a gentleman and his wife (perfect strangers
to the Montbarry family), returning to England by way of Venice,
arrived at the hotel and occupied Number Fourteen.

Still mindful of the slur that had been cast on one of his
best bedchambers, the manager took occasion to ask the travellers
the next morning how they liked their room. They left him to judge
for himself how well they were satisfied, by remaining a day longer
in Venice than they had originally planned to do, solely for
the purpose of enjoying the excellent accommodation offered to them
by the new hotel. 'We have met with nothing like it in Italy,'
they said; 'you may rely on our recommending you to all our friends.'

On the day when Number Fourteen was again vacant, an English lady
travelling alone with her maid arrived at the hotel, saw the room,
and at once engaged it.

The lady was Mrs. Norbury. She had left Francis Westwick at Milan,
occupied in negotiating for the appearance at his theatre of
the new dancer at the Scala. Not having heard to the contrary,
Mrs. Norbury supposed that Arthur Barville and his wife had already
arrived at Venice. She was more interested in meeting the young
married couple than in awaiting the result of the hard bargaining
which delayed the engagement of the new dancer; and she volunteered
to make her brother's apologies, if his theatrical business caused
him to be late in keeping his appointment at the honeymoon festival.

Mrs. Norbury's experience of Number Fourteen differed entirely
from her brother Henry's experience of the room.

Failing asleep as readily as usual, her repose was disturbed
by a succession of frightful dreams; the central figure in every
one of them being the figure of her dead brother, the first
Lord Montbarry. She saw him starving in a loathsome prison;
she saw him pursued by assassins, and dying under their knives;
she saw him drowning in immeasurable depths of dark water; she saw him
in a bed on fire, burning to death in the flames; she saw him tempted
by a shadowy creature to drink, and dying of the poisonous draught.
The reiterated horror of these dreams had such an effect on her that she
rose with the dawn of day, afraid to trust herself again in bed.
In the old times, she had been noted in the family as the one
member of it who lived on affectionate terms with Montbarry.
His other sister and his brothers were constantly quarrelling with him.
Even his mother owned that her eldest son was of all her children
the child whom she least liked. Sensible and resolute woman
as she was, Mrs. Norbury shuddered with terror as she sat at
the window of her room, watching the sunrise, and thinking of
her dreams.

She made the first excuse that occurred to her, when her maid
came in at the usual hour, and noticed how ill she looked.
The woman was of so superstitious a temperament that it would have
been in the last degree indiscreet to trust her with the truth.
Mrs. Norbury merely remarked that she had not found the bed
quite to her liking, on account of the large size of it.
She was accustomed at home, as her maid knew, to sleep in a small bed.
Informed of this objection later in the day, the manager regretted
that he could only offer to the lady the choice of one other bedchamber,
numbered Thirty-eight, and situated immediately over the bedchamber
which she desired to leave. Mrs. Norbury accepted the proposed change
of quarters. She was now about to pass her second night in the room
occupied in the old days of the palace by Baron Rivar.

Once more, she fell asleep as usual. And, once more, the frightful
dreams of the first night terrified her, following each other
in the same succession. This time her nerves, already shaken,
were not equal to the renewed torture of terror inflicted on them.
She threw on her dressing-gown, and rushed out of her room
in the middle of the night. The porter, alarmed by the banging
of the door, met her hurrying headlong down the stairs, in search
of the first human being she could find to keep her company.
Considerably surprised at this last new manifestation of the famous
'English eccentricity,' the man looked at the hotel register,
and led the lady upstairs again to the room occupied by her maid.
The maid was not asleep, and, more wonderful still, was not
even undressed. She received her mistress quietly. When they
were alone, and when Mrs. Norbury had, as a matter of necessity,
taken her attendant into her confidence, the woman made a very
strange reply.


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