Unable to take it anymore, the next day the professor calls the clerk up to his room and asks him the identity of the man who is next door in room 202. Looking startled, the clerk says that 202 is empty: no one is staying there. The professor protests that he saw the guy- it's the same pale man who has been moving closer, room to room, all summer. The clerk vehemently insists that no such person has been staying at the hotel. After the clerk leaves, the professor gradually realizes just who- or what- the pale man is:
I suppose I should have guessed his identity when he skipped the three rooms the night I fell unconscious upon the floor. In a single night of triumph he advanced until he was almost to my door.
He will be coming by and by to inhabit this room, his ultimate goal. When he comes, I shall at least be able to return his smile of grim recognition.
Meanwhile, I have only to wait beyond my bolted door.
The door swings slowly open....
This story reminds me of Emily Dickinson's poem:
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity –