The Haunted Hotel
So the Second Act ended.
Turning to the Third Act, Henry looked wearily at the pages as he let them slip through
his fingers. Both in mind and body, he began to feel the need of repose.
In one important respect, the later portion of the manuscript differed from the pages
which he had just been reading. Signs of an overwrought brain showed themselves, here
and there, as the outline of the play approached its end. The handwriting grew worse and
worse. Some of the longer sentences were left unfinished. In the exchange of dialogue,
questions and answers were not always attributed respectively to the right speaker. At
certain intervals the writer's failing intelligence seemed to recover itself for a while; only
to relapse again, and to lose the thread of the narrative more hopelessly than ever.
After reading one or two of the more coherent passages Henry recoiled from the ever-
darkening horror of the story. He closed the manuscript, heartsick and exhausted, and
threw himself on his bed to rest. The door opened almost at the same moment. Lord
Montbarry entered the room.
'We have just returned from the Opera,' he said; 'and we have heard the news of that
miserable woman's death. They say you spoke to her in her last moments; and I want to
hear how it happened.'
'You shall hear how it happened,' Henry answered; 'and more than that. You are now the
head of the family, Stephen; and I feel bound, in the position which oppresses me, to
leave you to decide what ought to be done.'
With those introductory words, he told his brother how the Countess's play had come into
his hands. 'Read the first few pages,' he said. 'I am anxious to know whether the same
impression is produced on both of us.'
Before Lord Montbarry had got half-way through the First Act, he stopped, and looked at
his brother. 'What does she mean by boasting of this as her own invention?' he asked.
'Was she too crazy to remember that these things really happened?'
This was enough for Henry: the same impression had been produced on both of them.
'You will do as you please,' he said. 'But if you will be guided by me, spare yourself the
reading of those pages to come, which describe our brother's terrible expiation of his
'Have you read it all, Henry?'