Luckily she spoke a little French. 'It is not
so difficult to live in France,' she thought. 'The thing to
understand is that it is quite different from Easingstoke.'
She took her things one by one out of her bag and
put them away
carefully. She thought about her home in Easingstoke, with flowers
in all the rooms and photographs of the family. She thought about
her poor brother, working
so hard. She felt a little sad, but only
for a minute.
Her time in France was to be quite short. She was going to be home
again soon. Now she must get a good night's sleep. But first that
took off her day things and put on her nightdress. Then she
picked up her washing things and went to the bathroom, closing her
bedroom door quietly. She lay in the hot water and thought about
the nice young girl in the hotel getting her bath ready. People in
this hotel were very friendly – always ready to help. There was
so much she wanted to tell her brother when she got home.
She got out of the bath and put on her nightdress again. She
cleaned the bath very carefully. She did not want French people to
think that the English were dirty. Then she left the bathroom and
went back to her bedroom. She went in quickly,
put on the light
and shut the door.
Then, one of those unlucky things happened: the
came off in her hand. She tried to put the handle back
on the door but she could not. 'How do I do it?' she thought. 'It
is going to be very difficult to open the door now. Do I ask that
nice girl to come and help me? Perhaps by now she is in bed.'
She turned away from the door, and
suddenly, she saw something
much, much worse than the door-handle. There was a man in her bed!
She took one look at his thick black hair and his big black
moustache and immediately felt quite ill with fear. For a minute
or two, she could not think. Then her first thought was: 'I must
not scream!' She stood there but she could not move. She just
looked at the man's dark head and the big line of his back under
the bedthings. She began to think very quickly.
Her next thought was: 'I am in the wrong room. It is the man's
room.' She could see his jacket and trousers lying on a chair and
his big black shoes on the floor. She must get out quickly. But
how? She tried again to open the door with her fingers but she
Here she was, shut in a hotel room with an unknown man – a
Frenchman! She must think, she must think! She turned off the
'Perhaps with the light off, he is not going to wake up,' she
'That gives me more time to do something. But if he does wake up,
what do I do? He is not going to believe my story. Nobody is going
to believe me.
In England perhaps but not here. How can they understand? So, I
must get out of this room.
By waking him?
By screaming? By calling
the young girl?
No, it is no good. If I scream or call out, people are going to
come running immediately. And what do they find? Miss Bracegirdle
from Easingstoke in a man's bedroom after twelve o'clock at night.
Just think of all the talk back home when my friends hear about
And if I
climb out of the window?' She thought of the big hairy
man pulling her back by the legs as she tried to get out. He could
wake up at any minute. She thought that she heard somebody going
past outside the door. But it was too late to scream now.
Suddenly, she had an idea. It was now nearly one o'clock in the
morning. Perhaps the sleeping man was not dangerous. At seven or
eight o'clock, he must get up and go out to work. 'I can get under
the bed and wait there until he goes. Men never look under the
bed. When he sees the door-handle on the floor, he is going to
open the door with something or call the girl to come. Later, I
can come out from under the bed and go quietly back to my room.
Nobody is going to know.'
She lay down on the floor and got under the bed. No sound came
from the man above her, but from down here it was difficult to
hear anything. She tried to think of her nice little bedroom in
Easingstoke with its nice white bed but the floor was getting
harder every minute. She tried to think what her room number was.
One hundred and fifteen? Or was it one hundred and sixteen? She
was always bad at remembering numbers.
She began to think of her schooldays and the interesting things
she learned then. Suddenly, she felt that she was going
She could not stop it. The
sneeze came – a long, hard one. 'This
is the end of me,' Miss Bracegirdle thought. 'Now this Frenchman
is going to jump out of bed and turn on the light. Then he is
going to look under the bed and pull me out.
And then...And then? What can I do then? I can scream if he puts
his hands on me. Perhaps it is better to scream first, before that
happens. If not, he can put his hand over my mouth and stop me
came out of her mouth. Her fear was much too strong. She stayed
very quiet and listened. Was he going to hit her – with one of
those heavy shoes, perhaps? But nothing happened. Miss Bracegirdle
suddenly knew that she could not stay under that bed a minute
longer. It was better to come out, wake up the man and tell him
everything. With difficulty she got out from under the bed and
stood up. She
went over to the door and
put on on the light. She
turned to the bed and said, as strongly as she could, 'Monsieur!'
Nothing happened. She looked at the man and said again, 'Monsieur!
But again there was no answer. She went closer to the bed. His
hair and moustache were very black but his face had no colour in
it. His mouth was open but his eyes were shut.
Then for the third time that night, Miss Bracegirdle nearly died
of fear. Suddenly, her legs felt as
as water. She nearly fell down. Because the man in the bed was
dead! It was the first time that
she stood face to face with a dead person, but there was no
mistake. The man was dead. Miss Bracegirdle could only say, 'He's
dead! He's dead!'
Her difficulties now were not important. She began to feel sorry
for him, lying here dead in a hotel room. But a sudden sound broke
into her thoughts. Somebody outside the door put down some shoes:
the shoe-cleaning boy. She heard the sound of his feet
die away and remembered where she was.
To be in an unknown man's bedroom was bad, but to be in a room
with a dead man was much, much worse! If they found her here,
people were going to think she killed him! A picture came into her
head: the police taking her off to the police station, asking her
shutting her away...
And her sister arriving in just a few hours' time too! She must
get out of the room immediately. 'I cannot call for help now,' she
fighting back her fear. 'Do something, Millicent. It is
now or never!'
But what? She went round the room, looking for something to open
the door with. She could find nothing. Finally, she picked up the
man's jacket. Inside it she found a small knife. She took the
knife and put it in the side of the door. Very slowly she turned
the knife and the door opened. She wanted to run out of the room immediately but she stopped
first and listened. Nobody was there. Feeling very afraid, Miss
Bracegirdle shut the door quickly behind her and ran as fast as
she could to her bedroom.
She lay down on the bed and the fear slowly began to leave her.
All was well!
But then she had another unhappy thought. The living fear came
Her washing things were in there. They were lying there in the
dead man's room! And her name was on them. To go back again now
far worse than the first time but
she had no choice. She could
not leave her things lying there. 'If they find them, they are
going to ask me how they got there,' she thought. She had to go
She went. She did not look at the bed. She quickly took her
washing things and ran back again to her bedroom. Now that the
was over, she suddenly felt very, very tired. She got into
put out the light. She lay in the dark, trying to forget
her fears. Finally, she went to sleep.
It was eleven o'clock when she woke up. The sun was high in the
sky and the fears of the night were far away. In the light of the
day, it was all very difficult to believe. Miss Bracegirdle tried
to think about other things.
Finally, the young girl arrived to wake her up. Her eyes showed
that she was excited. 'Oh madame!' she said, 'a very bad thing
happened here last night. The man in room one hundred and
seventeen – he is dead!
Please do not say that I told you but the police were here, the
Miss Bracegirdle said nothing. There was nothing to say. But the
young woman was too excited to stop. 'And do you know who this
dead man was, madame? They say that he was Boldhu, the famous
killer, wanted by the police. Last year, he killed a woman and cut
her up and threw her into the river. And last night, he died here
in our hotel – in the room next door!
We do not know how. Did you say coffee, madame?'
'No thank you, just a cup of tea – strong tea, please.'
'Very well, madame.'