The Haunted Hotel
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.