The Haunted Hotel HTML version

Chapter 4
On the day of the marriage Agnes Lockwood sat alone in the little drawing-room of her
London lodgings, burning the letters which had been written to her by Montbarry in the
bygone time.
The Countess's maliciously smart description of her, addressed to Doctor Wybrow, had
not even hinted at the charm that most distinguished Agnes--the artless expression of
goodness and purity which instantly attracted everyone who approached her. She looked
by many years younger than she really was. With her fair complexion and her shy
manner, it seemed only natural to speak of her as 'a girl,' although she was now really
advancing towards thirty years of age. She lived alone with an old nurse devoted to her,
on a modest little income which was just enough to support the two. There were none of
the ordinary signs of grief in her face, as she slowly tore the letters of her false lover in
two, and threw the pieces into the small fire which had been lit to consume them.
Unhappily for herself, she was one of those women who feel too deeply to find relief in
tears. Pale and quiet, with cold trembling fingers, she destroyed the letters one by one
without daring to read them again. She had torn the last of the series, and was still
shrinking from throwing it after the rest into the swiftly destroying flame, when the old
nurse came in, and asked if she would see 'Master Henry,'-- meaning that youngest
member of the Westwick family, who had publicly declared his contempt for his brother
in the smoking-room of the club.
Agnes hesitated. A faint tinge of colour stole over her face.
There had been a long past time when Henry Westwick had owned that he loved her. She
had made her confession to him, acknowledging that her heart was given to his eldest
brother. He had submitted to his disappointment; and they had met thenceforth as cousins
and friends. Never before had she associated the idea of him with embarrassing
recollections. But now, on the very day when his brother's marriage to another woman
had consummated his brother's treason towards her, there was something vaguely
repellent in the prospect of seeing him. The old nurse (who remembered them both in
their cradles) observed her hesitation; and sympathising of course with the man, put in a
timely word for Henry. 'He says, he's going away, my dear; and he only wants to shake
hands, and say good-bye.' This plain statement of the case had its effect. Agnes decided
on receiving her cousin.
He entered the room so rapidly that he surprised her in the act of throwing the fragments
of Montbarry's last letter into the fire. She hurriedly spoke first.
'You are leaving London very suddenly, Henry. Is it business? or pleasure?'
Instead of answering her, he pointed to the flaming letter, and to some black ashes of
burnt paper lying lightly in the lower part of the fireplace.