Having made this startling announcement, Henry proceeded to inform his brother that Lord and Lady Montbarry, with Agnes and the children, would arrive in Venice in three days more. ’They know nothing of our adventures at the hotel,’ Henry wrote; ’and they have telegraphed to the manager for the accommodation that they want. There would be something absurdly superstitious in our giving them a warning which would frighten the ladies and children out of the best hotel in Venice. We shall be a strong party this time—too strong a party for ghosts! I shall meet the travellers on their arrival, of course, and try my luck again at what you call the Haunted Hotel. Arthur Barville and his wife have already got as far on their way as Trent; and two of the lady’s relations have arranged to accompany them on the journey to Venice.’
Naturally indignant at the conduct of his Parisian colleague, Francis made his preparations for returning to Milan by the train of that day.
On his way out, he asked the manager if his brother’s telegram had been received. The telegram had arrived, and, to the surprise of Francis, the rooms were already reserved. ’I thought you would refuse to let any more of the family into the house,’ he said satirically. The manager answered (with the due dash of respect) in the same tone. ’Number 13 A is safe, sir, in the occupation of a stranger. I am the servant of the Company; and I dare not turn money out of the hotel.’
Hearing this, Francis said good-bye—and said nothing more. He was ashamed to acknowledge it to himself, but he felt an irresistible curiosity to know what would happen when Agnes arrived at the hotel. Besides, ‘Mrs. James’ had reposed a confidence in him. He got into his gondola, respecting the confidence of ‘Mrs. James.’
Towards evening on the third day, Lord Montbarry and his travelling companions arrived, punctual to their appointment.
‘Mrs. James,’ sitting at the window of her room watching for them, saw the new Lord land from the gondola first. He handed his wife to the steps. The three children were next committed to his care. Last of all, Agnes appeared in the little black doorway of the gondola cabin, and, taking Lord Montbarry’s hand, passed in her turn to the steps. She wore no veil. As she ascended to the door of the hotel, the Countess (eyeing her through an opera-glass) noticed that she paused to look at the outside of the building, and that her face was very pale.
Lord and Lady Montbarry were received by the housekeeper; the manager being absent for a day or two on business connected with the affairs of the hotel.