Billy Weaver is an energetic young man looking for somewhere to stay in a town called Bath, London. As he’s walking down the street, looking for a hotel called The Bell and Dragon, he spots a neglected old building with cracked and faded paint and a peeling door. There’s a sign in the window that says “Bed and Breakfast” and a vase of yellow chrysanthemums. Inside is a cozy little scene, with a parrot in one corner and a little dachshund curled up beside the fire. The room had a piano and several overstuffed armchairs. He is about to ignore the place and move on, but something makes him stay there.
He rings the doorbell and an old woman opens the door at once. She has a round, pink face and gentle blue eyes. She knows immediately what Billy is here for. She tells him that she’ll charge five and sixpence a night. Billy is thrilled at her offer and agrees to stay. He goes to hang up his hat and coat and notices that no other coat or hat is hung up. He finds this rather odd, but ignores it. The landlady leads him to his bedroom, which is cozy and charming. There’s a hot water bottle in between the sheets and the bed is made.
The landlady tells Billy that he’ll need to sign the book. She says, “Everyone has to do that because it’s the law of the land, and we don’t want to go breaking any laws in this stage of the proceedings, do we?” Billy can now clearly see that she’s slightly crazy, but that doesn’t bother him at all. He goes to sign the book, and, upon reading the list of names, finds that there’s only two, Christopher Mulhammond and Gregory Temple. He recognizes the names, but frustratingly can’t remember from where.
The landlady offers Billy a cup of tea, and as she’s preparing it, he remembers where he saw the two other boys’ names. They were from the newspapers, and both went missing. As he’s puzzling over this, the landlady gives him his tea and he begins sipping on it. Billy suddenly notices that neither the parrot or the dachshund has moved since he arrived. When he questions the landlady about this, she replies that she stuffs all of her pets when they pass away. She also says Christopher and Gregory haven’t left and are still on the third floor. Billy is a little startled by this. He drinks some more tea and notices a bitter almond flavor. He asks the landlady if there have been any visitors within the past two or three years to which she replies, “No, my dear. Only you.”