And now at last he raises his eyes. Slowly at first and cringingly, as if dreading what they might see. Upon the board at his feet they rest for a moment, and then glide to the next board, and so on, until his coward eyes have covered a considerable portion of the floor.
And now, grown bolder, he lifts his gaze to the wall opposite and searches it carefully. Then his eyes turn again to the floor. His face ghastly, and with his eyes almost darting from their sockets, he compels himself to bring his awful investigation to an end. Avoiding the corners at first, as though there he expects his vile deed will cry aloud to him demanding vengeance, he gazes in a dazed way at the center of the apartment, and dwells upon it stupidly, until he knows he must look further still; and then his dull eyes turn to the corners where the dusky shadows lie, brought thither by the glare of his small lantern. Reluctantly, but carefully, he scans the apartment, no remotest spot escapes his roused attention. But no object, dead or living, attracts his notice! The room is empty!
He staggers. His hold upon the door relaxes. His lamp falls to the ground; the door closes with a soft but deadly thud behind him, and—he is a prisoner in the haunted chamber! As the darkness closes in upon him, and he finds himself alone with what he hardly dares to contemplate, his senses grow confused, his brain reels; a fearful scream issues from his lips, and he falls to the floor insensible.
Dora, after her interview with Arthur Dynecourt, feels indeed that all is lost. Hope is abandoned—nothing remains but despair; and in this instance despair gains in poignancy by the knowledge that she believes she knows the man who could help them to a solution of their troubles if he would or dared. No; clearly he dare not! Therefore, no assistance can be looked for from him.
Dinner at the castle has been a promiscuous sort of entertainment for the past three or four days, so Dora feels no compunction in declining to go to it. In her own room she sits brooding miserably over her inability to be of any use in the present crisis, when she suddenly remembers that she had promised in the afternoon when with Florence to give her, later on, an account of her effort to obtain the truth about this mystery which is harrowing them.
It is now eleven o’clock, and Dora decides that she must see Florence at once. Rising, wearily, she is about to cross the corridor to her cousin’s room, when, the door opening, she sees Florence, with a face pale and agitated, coming toward her.
“You, Florence!” she exclaims. “I was just going to you, to tell you that my hopes of this afternoon are all—”
“Let me speak,” interrupts Florence breathlessly. “I must, or—” She sinks into a chair, her eyes close, and involuntarily she lays her hand upon her heart as if to allay its tumultuous beating.