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The Other Lodgers

Scary Books: Present At A Hanging

"In order to take that train," said Colonel Levering, sitting in the

Waldorf-Astoria hotel, "you will have to remain nearly all night in

Atlanta. That is a fine city, but I advise you not to put up at the

Breathitt House, one of the principal hotels. It is an old wooden

building in urgent need of repairs. There are breaches in the walls

that you could throw a cat through. The bedrooms have no locks on

the doors, no
furniture but a single chair in each, and a bedstead

without bedding--just a mattress. Even these meager accommodations

you cannot be sure that you will have in monopoly; you must take

your chance of being stowed in with a lot of others. Sir, it is a

most abominable hotel.

"The night that I passed in it was an uncomfortable night. I got in

late and was shown to my room on the ground floor by an apologetic

night-clerk with a tallow candle, which he considerately left with

me. I was worn out by two days and a night of hard railway travel

and had not entirely recovered from a gunshot wound in the head,

received in an altercation. Rather than look for better quarters I

lay down on the mattress without removing my clothing and fell


"Along toward morning I awoke. The moon had risen and was shining

in at the uncurtained window, illuminating the room with a soft,

bluish light which seemed, somehow, a bit spooky, though I dare say

it had no uncommon quality; all moonlight is that way if you will

observe it. Imagine my surprise and indignation when I saw the

floor occupied by at least a dozen other lodgers! I sat up,

earnestly damning the management of that unthinkable hotel, and was

about to spring from the bed to go and make trouble for the night-

clerk--him of the apologetic manner and the tallow candle--when

something in the situation affected me with a strange indisposition

to move. I suppose I was what a story-writer might call 'frozen

with terror.' For those men were obviously all dead!

"They lay on their backs, disposed orderly along three sides of the

room, their feet to the walls--against the other wall, farthest from

the door, stood my bed and the chair. All the faces were covered,

but under their white cloths the features of the two bodies that lay

in the square patch of moonlight near the window showed in sharp

profile as to nose and chin.

"I thought this a bad dream and tried to cry out, as one does in a

nightmare, but could make no sound. At last, with a desperate

effort I threw my feet to the floor and passing between the two rows

of clouted faces and the two bodies that lay nearest the door, I

escaped from the infernal place and ran to the office. The night-

clerk was there, behind the desk, sitting in the dim light of

another tallow candle--just sitting and staring. He did not rise:

my abrupt entrance produced no effect upon him, though I must have

looked a veritable corpse myself. It occurred to me then that I had

not before really observed the fellow. He was a little chap, with a

colorless face and the whitest, blankest eyes I ever saw. He had no

more expression than the back of my hand. His clothing was a dirty


"'Damn you!' I said; 'what do you mean?'

"Just the same, I was shaking like a leaf in the wind and did not

recognize my own voice.

"The night-clerk rose, bowed (apologetically) and--well, he was no

longer there, and at that moment I felt a hand laid upon my shoulder

from behind. Just fancy that if you can! Unspeakably frightened, I

turned and saw a portly, kind-faced gentleman, who asked:

"'What is the matter, my friend?'

"I was not long in telling him, but before I made an end of it he

went pale himself. 'See here,' he said, 'are you telling the


"I had now got myself in hand and terror had given place to

indignation. 'If you dare to doubt it,' I said, 'I'll hammer the

life out of you!'

"'No,' he replied, 'don't do that; just sit down till I tell you.

This is not a hotel. It used to be; afterward it was a hospital.

Now it is unoccupied, awaiting a tenant. The room that you mention

was the dead-room--there were always plenty of dead. The fellow

that you call the night-clerk used to be that, but later he booked

the patients as they were brought in. I don't understand his being

here. He has been dead a few weeks.'

"'And who are you?' I blurted out.

"'Oh, I look after the premises. I happened to be passing just now,

and seeing a light in here came in to investigate. Let us have a

look into that room,' he added, lifting the sputtering candle from

the desk.

"'I'll see you at the devil first!' said I, bolting out of the door

into the street.

"Sir, that Breathitt House, in Atlanta, is a beastly place! Don't

you stop there."

"God forbid! Your account of it certainly does not suggest comfort.

By the way, Colonel, when did all that occur?"

"In September, 1864--shortly after the siege."