man looking around a room followed by a ghostly woman

The Furnished Room

by O. Henry

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In “The Furnished Room,” what does the conversation between the two ladies reveal about the previous female tenant?

Quick answer:

In “The Furnished Room,” the conversation between Mrs. Purdy and Mrs. McCool at the end of the story reveals that the girl who rented the room had committed suicide and that she was the missing Eloise.

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In O. Henry's short story “The Furnished Room,” a young man is searching the city's boarding houses for his beloved Eloise. At the twelfth house, he finds a room for rent and asks the landlady about Eloise. She replies that she doesn't remember the name. No one else seems to either, for the young man has questioned dozens of people for five months, and no one knows Eloise.

The young man settles into the room, and as he rests, he smells perfume. He recognizes it at once as Eloise's scent, and he knows that she has been there. He searches the room and then questions the landlady again. Still, he gets no satisfaction. The landlady tells him about several tenants in that room, but none of them are Eloise. The young man goes back to the room, shuts up the windows and doors, and turns on the gas, presumably to commit suicide.

The scene then shifts to a conversation between the landlady, Mrs. Purdy, and her friend, Mrs. McCool. Mrs. Purdy explains that she has rented out the room yet again, and Mrs. McCool asks cryptically, “And did ye tell him, then?” Mrs. Purdy says that she did not, and her friend compliments her prudence. No one would rent a room if they knew that a suicide had taken place in it. Mrs. Purdy agrees yet regrets the “pretty slip of a colleen” with a sweet face who killed herself in that room, and readers know that this girl was Eloise.

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