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The Haunted Hotel

Chapter 17
The Palace Hotel, appealing for encouragement mainly to English and American
travellers, celebrated the opening of its doors, as a matter of course, by the giving of a
grand banquet, and the delivery of a long succession of speeches.
Delayed on his journey, Henry Westwick only reached Venice in time to join the guests
over their coffee and cigars. Observing the splendour of the reception rooms, and taking
note especially of the artful mixture of comfort and luxury in the bedchambers, he began
to share the old nurse's view of the future, and to contemplate seriously the coming
dividend of ten per cent. The hotel was beginning well, at all events. So much interest in
the enterprise had been aroused, at home and abroad, by profuse advertising, that the
whole accommodation of the building had been secured by travellers of all nations for the
opening night. Henry only obtained one of the small rooms on the upper floor, by a lucky
accident--the absence of the gentleman who had written to engage it. He was quite
satisfied, and was on his way to bed, when another accident altered his prospects for the
night, and moved him into another and a better room.
Ascending on his way to the higher regions as far as the first floor of the hotel, Henry's
attention was attracted by an angry voice protesting, in a strong New England accent,
against one of the greatest hardships that can be inflicted on a citizen of the United
States-- the hardship of sending him to bed without gas in his room.
The Americans are not only the most hospitable people to be found on the face of the
earth--they are (under certain conditions) the most patient and good-tempered people as
well. But they are human; and the limit of American endurance is found in the obsolete
institution of a bedroom candle. The American traveller, in the present case, declined to
believe that his bedroom was in a complete finished state without a gas-burner. The
manager pointed to the fine antique decorations (renewed and regilt) on the walls and the
ceiling, and explained that the emanations of burning gas-light would certainly spoil them
in the course of a few months. To this the traveller replied that it was possible, but that he
did not understand decorations. A bedroom with gas in it was what he was used to, was
what he wanted, and was what he was determined to have. The compliant manager
volunteered to ask some other gentleman, housed on the inferior upper storey (which was
lit throughout with gas), to change rooms. Hearing this, and being quite willing to
exchange a small bedchamber for a large one, Henry volunteered to be the other
gentleman. The excellent American shook hands with him on the spot. 'You are a
cultured person, sir,' he said; 'and you will no doubt understand the decorations.'
Henry looked at the number of the room on the door as he opened it. The number was
Fourteen.
Tired and sleepy, he naturally anticipated a good night's rest. In the thoroughly healthy
state of his nervous system, he slept as well in a bed abroad as in a bed at home. Without
the slightest assignable reason, however, his just expectations were disappointed. The
 
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