The day had advanced to evening. Lord Montbarry and the bridal party had gone to the Opera. Agnes alone, pleading the excuse of fatigue, remained at the hotel. Having kept up appearances by accompanying his friends to the theatre, Henry Westwick slipped away after the first act, and joined Agnes in the drawing-room.
‘Have you thought of what I said to you earlier in the day?’ he asked, taking a chair at her side. ’Do you agree with me that the one dreadful doubt which oppressed us both is at least set at rest?’
Agnes shook her head sadly. ’I wish I could agree with you, Henry— I wish I could honestly say that my mind is at ease.’
The answer would have discouraged most men. Henry’s patience (where Agnes was concerned) was equal to any demands on it.
‘If you will only look back at the events of the day,’ he said, ’you must surely admit that we have not been completely baffled. Remember how Dr. Bruno disposed of our doubts:—“After thirty years of medical practice, do you think I am likely to mistake the symptoms of death by bronchitis?” If ever there was an unanswerable question, there it is! Was the consul’s testimony doubtful in any part of it? He called at the palace to offer his services, after hearing of Lord Montbarry’s death; he arrived at the time when the coffin was in the house; he himself saw the corpse placed in it, and the lid screwed down. The evidence of the priest is equally beyond dispute. He remained in the room with the coffin, reciting the prayers for the dead, until the funeral left the palace. Bear all these statements in mind, Agnes; and how can you deny that the question of Montbarry’s death and burial is a question set at rest? We have really but one doubt left: we have still to ask ourselves whether the remains which I discovered are the remains of the lost courier, or not. There is the case, as I understand it. Have I stated it fairly?’
Agnes could not deny that he had stated it fairly.
“Then what prevents you from experiencing the same sense of relief that I feel?’ Henry asked.
‘What I saw last night prevents me,’ Agnes answered. ’When we spoke of this subject, after our inquiries were over, you reproached me with taking what you called the superstitious view. I don’t quite admit that—but I do acknowledge that I should find the superstitious view intelligible if I heard it expressed by some other person. Remembering what your brother and I once were to each other in the bygone time, I can understand the apparition making itself visible to me, to claim the mercy of Christian burial, and the vengeance due to a crime. I can even perceive some faint possibility of truth in the explanation which you described as the mesmeric theory— that what I saw might be the result of magnetic influence communicated to me, as I lay between the remains of the murdered husband