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The Haunted Hotel

Chapter 19
Avoiding the crowd under the colonnades, Francis walked slowly up and down the noble
open space of the square, bathed in the light of the rising moon.
Without being aware of it himself, he was a thorough materialist. The strange effect
produced on him by the room--following on the other strange effects produced on the
other relatives of his dead brother-- exercised no perplexing influence over the mind of
this sensible man. 'Perhaps,' he reflected, 'my temperament is more imaginative than I
supposed it to be--and this is a trick played on me by my own fancy? Or, perhaps, my
friend is right; something is physically amiss with me? I don't feel ill, certainly. But that
is no safe criterion sometimes. I am not going to sleep in that abominable room to-night--
I can well wait till to-morrow to decide whether I shall speak to a doctor or not. In the
mean time, the hotel doesn't seem likely to supply me with the subject of a piece. A
terrible smell from an invisible ghost is a perfectly new idea. But it has one drawback. If I
realise it on the stage, I shall drive the audience out of the theatre.'
As his strong common sense arrived at this facetious conclusion, he became aware of a
lady, dressed entirely in black, who was observing him with marked attention. 'Am I right
in supposing you to be Mr. Francis Westwick?' the lady asked, at the moment when he
looked at her.
'That is my name, madam. May I inquire to whom I have the honour of speaking?'
'We have only met once,' she answered a little evasively, 'when your late brother
introduced me to the members of his family. I wonder if you have quite forgotten my big
black eyes and my hideous complexion?' She lifted her veil as she spoke, and turned so
that the moonlight rested on her face.
Francis recognised at a glance the woman of all others whom he most cordially disliked--
the widow of his dead brother, the first Lord Montbarry. He frowned as he looked at her.
His experience on the stage, gathered at innumerable rehearsals with actresses who had
sorely tried his temper, had accustomed him to speak roughly to women who were
distasteful to him. 'I remember you,' he said. 'I thought you were in America!'
She took no notice of his ungracious tone and manner; she simply stopped him when he
lifted his hat, and turned to leave her.
'Let me walk with you for a few minutes,' she quietly replied. 'I have something to say to
you.'
He showed her his cigar. 'I am smoking,'he said.
'I don't mind smoking.'
 
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