The Haunted Hotel HTML version

Chapter 24
Henry and Agnes were left alone in the Room of the Caryatides.
The person who had written the description of the palace-- probably a poor author or
artist--had correctly pointed out the defects of the mantel-piece. Bad taste, exhibiting
itself on the most costly and splendid scale, was visible in every part of the work. It was
nevertheless greatly admired by ignorant travellers of all classes; partly on account of its
imposing size, and partly on account of the number of variously-coloured marbles which
the sculptor had contrived to introduce into his design. Photographs of the mantel-piece
were exhibited in the public rooms, and found a ready sale among English and American
visitors to the hotel.
Henry led Agnes to the figure on the left, as they stood facing the empty fire-place. 'Shall
I try the experiment,' he asked, 'or will you?' She abruptly drew her arm away from him,
and turned back to the door. 'I can't even look at it,' she said. 'That merciless marble face
frightens me!'
Henry put his hand on the forehead of the figure. 'What is there to alarm you, my dear, in
this conventionally classical face?' he asked jestingly. Before he could press the head
inwards, Agnes hurriedly opened the door. 'Wait till I am out of the room!' she cried. 'The
bare idea of what you may find there horrifies me!' She looked back into the room as she
crossed the threshold. 'I won't leave you altogether,' she said, 'I will wait outside.'
She closed the door. Left by himself, Henry lifted his hand once more to the marble
forehead of the figure.
For the second time, he was checked on the point of setting the machinery of the hiding-
place in motion. On this occasion, the interruption came from an outbreak of friendly
voices in the corridor. A woman's voice exclaimed, 'Dearest Agnes, how glad I am to see
you again!' A man's voice followed, offering to introduce some friend to 'Miss
Lockwood.' A third voice (which Henry recognised as the voice of the manager of the
hotel) became audible next, directing the housekeeper to show the ladies and gentlemen
the vacant apartments at the other end of the corridor. 'If more accommodation is wanted,'
the manager went on, 'I have a charming room to let here.' He opened the door as he
spoke, and found himself face to face with Henry Westwick.
'This is indeed an agreeable surprise, sir!' said the manager cheerfully. 'You are admiring
our famous chimney-piece, I see. May I ask, Mr. Westwick, how you find yourself in the
hotel, this time? Have the supernatural influences affected your appetite again?'
'The supernatural influences have spared me, this time,' Henry answered. 'Perhaps you
may yet find that they have affected some other member of the family.' He spoke gravely,
resenting the familiar tone in which the manager had referred to his previous visit to the
hotel. 'Have you just returned?' he asked, by way of changing the topic.