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The Haunted Hotel

Chapter 22
Having closed and secured the door on Lady Montbarry's departure, Agnes put on her
dressing-gown, and, turning to her open boxes, began the business of unpacking. In the
hurry of making her toilet for dinner, she had taken the first dress that lay uppermost in
the trunk, and had thrown her travelling costume on the bed. She now opened the doors
of the wardrobe for the first time, and began to hang her dresses on the hooks in the large
compartment on one side.
After a few minutes only of this occupation, she grew weary of it, and decided on leaving
the trunks as they were, until the next morning. The oppressive south wind, which had
blown throughout the day, still prevailed at night. The atmosphere of the room felt close;
Agnes threw a shawl over her head and shoulders, and, opening the window, stepped into
the balcony to look at the view.
The night was heavy and overcast: nothing could be distinctly seen. The canal beneath
the window looked like a black gulf; the opposite houses were barely visible as a row of
shadows, dimly relieved against the starless and moonless sky. At long intervals, the
warning cry of a belated gondolier was just audible, as he turned the corner of a distant
canal, and called to invisible boats which might be approaching him in the darkness. Now
and then, the nearer dip of an oar in the water told of the viewless passage of other
gondolas bringing guests back to the hotel. Excepting these rare sounds, the mysterious
night-silence of Venice was literally the silence of the grave.
Leaning on the parapet of the balcony, Agnes looked vacantly into the black void
beneath. Her thoughts reverted to the miserable man who had broken his pledged faith to
her, and who had died in that house. Some change seemed to have come over her since
her arrival in Venice; some new influence appeared to be at work. For the first time in her
experience of herself, compassion and regret were not the only emotions aroused in her
by the remembrance of the dead Montbarry. A keen sense of the wrong that she had
suffered, never yet felt by that gentle and forgiving nature, was felt by it now. She found
herself thinking of the bygone days of her humiliation almost as harshly as Henry
Westwick had thought of them-- she who had rebuked him the last time he had spoken
slightingly of his brother in her presence! A sudden fear and doubt of herself, startled her
physically as well as morally. She turned from the shadowy abyss of the dark water as if
the mystery and the gloom of it had been answerable for the emotions which had taken
her by surprise. Abruptly closing the window, she threw aside her shawl, and lit the
candles on the mantelpiece, impelled by a sudden craving for light in the solitude of her
room.
The cheering brightness round her, contrasting with the black gloom outside, restored her
spirits. She felt herself enjoying the light like a child!
Would it be well (she asked herself) to get ready for bed? No! The sense of drowsy
fatigue that she had felt half an hour since was gone. She returned to the dull employment
 
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