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The Haunted Hotel

Chapter 26
Entering his own room on the upper floor, Henry placed the manuscript on his table, open
at the first leaf. His nerves were unquestionably shaken; his hand trembled as he turned
the pages, he started at chance noises on the staircase of the hotel.
The scenario, or outline, of the Countess's play began with no formal prefatory phrases.
She presented herself and her work with the easy familiarity of an old friend.
'Allow me, dear Mr. Francis Westwick, to introduce to you the persons in my proposed
Play. Behold them, arranged symmetrically in a line.
'My Lord. The Baron. The Courier. The Doctor. The Countess.
'I don't trouble myself, you see, to invest fictitious family names. My characters are
sufficiently distinguished by their social titles, and by the striking contrast which they
present one with another.
The First Act opens--
'No! Before I open the First Act, I must announce, injustice to myself, that this Play is
entirely the work of my own invention. I scorn to borrow from actual events; and, what is
more extraordinary still, I have not stolen one of my ideas from the Modern French
drama. As the manager of an English theatre, you will naturally refuse to believe this. It
doesn't matter. Nothing matters--except the opening of my first act.
'We are at Homburg, in the famous Salon d'Or, at the height of the season. The Countess
(exquisitely dressed) is seated at the green table. Strangers of all nations are standing
behind the players, venturing their money or only looking on. My Lord is among the
strangers. He is struck by the Countess's personal appearance, in which beauties and
defects are fantastically mingled in the most attractive manner. He watches the Countess's
game, and places his money where he sees her deposit her own little stake. She looks
round at him, and says, "Don't trust to my colour; I have been unlucky the whole evening.
Place your stake on the other colour, and you may have a chance of winning." My Lord
(a true Englishman) blushes, bows, and obeys. The Countess proves to be a prophet. She
loses again. My Lord wins twice the sum that he has risked.
'The Countess rises from the table. She has no more money, and she offers my Lord her
chair.
'Instead of taking it, he politely places his winnings in her hand, and begs her to accept
the loan as a favour to himself. The Countess stakes again, and loses again. My Lord
smiles superbly, and presses a second loan on her. From that moment her luck turns. She
wins, and wins largely. Her brother, the Baron, trying his fortune in another room, hears
of what is going on, and joins my Lord and the Countess.
 
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