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The Haunted Hotel

Chapter 27
Henry returned to his room.
His first impulse was to throw aside the manuscript, and never to look at it again. The one
chance of relieving his mind from the dreadful uncertainty that oppressed it, by obtaining
positive evidence of the truth, was a chance annihilated by the Countess's death. What
good purpose could be served, what relief could he anticipate, if he read more?
He walked up and down the room. After an interval, his thoughts took a new direction;
the question of the manuscript presented itself under another point of view. Thus far, his
reading had only informed him that the conspiracy had been planned. How did he know
that the plan had been put in execution?
The manuscript lay just before him on the floor. He hesitated; then picked it up; and,
returning to the table, read on as follows, from the point at which he had left off.
'While the Countess is still absorbed in the bold yet simple combination of circumstances
which she has discovered, the Baron returns. He takes a serious view of the case of the
Courier; it may be necessary, he thinks, to send for medical advice. No servant is left in
the palace, now the English maid has taken her departure. The Baron himself must fetch
the doctor, if the doctor is really needed.
' "Let us have medical help, by all means," his sister replies. "But wait and hear
something that I have to say to you first." She then electrifies the Baron by
communicating her idea to him. What danger of discovery have they to dread? My Lord's
life in Venice has been a life of absolute seclusion: nobody but his banker knows him,
even by personal appearance. He has presented his letter of credit as a perfect stranger;
and he and his banker have never seen each other since that first visit. He has given no
parties, and gone to no parties. On the few occasions when he has hired a gondola or
taken a walk, he has always been alone. Thanks to the atrocious suspicion which makes
him ashamed of being seen with his wife, he has led the very life which makes the
proposed enterprise easy of accomplishment.
'The cautious Baron listens--but gives no positive opinion, as yet. "See what you can do
with the Courier," he says; "and I will decide when I hear the result. One valuable hint I
may give you before you go. Your man is easily tempted by money--if you only offer
him enough. The other day, I asked him, in jest, what he would do for a thousand pounds.
He answered, 'Anything.' Bear that in mind; and offer your highest bid without
bargaining."
'The scene changes to the Courier's room, and shows the poor wretch with a photographic
portrait of his wife in his hand, crying. The Countess enters.
 
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