‘I suspect the nurse is in some way answerable for what has happened,’ Agnes suggested. ’She may quite possibly have been telling Marian some tragic nursery story which has left its mischievous impression behind it. Persons in her position are sadly ignorant of the danger of exciting a child’s imagination. You had better caution the nurse to-morrow.’
Lady Montbarry looked round the room with admiration. ’Is it not prettily decorated?’ she said. ’I suppose, Agnes, you don’t mind sleeping here by yourself.?’
Agnes laughed. ‘I feel so tired,’ she replied, ’that I was thinking of bidding you good-night, instead of going back to the drawing-room.’
Lady Montbarry turned towards the door. ’I see your jewel-case on the table,’ she resumed. ’Don’t forget to lock the other door there, in the dressing-room.’
‘I have already seen to it, and tried the key myself,’ said Agnes. ‘Can I be of any use to you before I go to bed?’
’No, my dear, thank you; I feel sleepy enough to follow your example. Good night, Agnes—and pleasant dreams on your first night in Venice.’
Having closed and secured the door on Lady Montbarry’s departure, Agnes put on her dressing-gown, and, turning to her open boxes, began the business of unpacking. In the hurry of making her toilet for dinner, she had taken the first dress that lay uppermost in the trunk, and had thrown her travelling costume on the bed. She now opened the doors of the wardrobe for the first time, and began to hang her dresses on the hooks in the large compartment on one side.
After a few minutes only of this occupation, she grew weary of it, and decided on leaving the trunks as they were, until the next morning. The oppressive south wind, which had blown throughout the day, still prevailed at night. The atmosphere of the room felt close; Agnes threw a shawl over her head and shoulders, and, opening the window, stepped into the balcony to look at the view.
The night was heavy and overcast: nothing could be distinctly seen. The canal beneath the window looked like a black gulf; the opposite houses were barely visible as a row of shadows, dimly relieved against the starless and moonless sky. At long intervals, the warning cry of a belated gondolier was just audible, as he turned the corner of a distant canal, and called to invisible boats which might be approaching him in the darkness. Now and then, the nearer dip of an oar in the water told of the viewless passage of other gondolas bringing guests back to the hotel. Excepting these rare sounds, the mysterious night-silence of Venice was literally the silence of the grave.