In this story, Vestboy takes us time-travelling…
Room at the Inn
The weather was getting chilly and the three travelling men were still looking for signs of a newborn King as they approached Bethlehem. Melchior noticed that there were many more travellers than usual on the roads and commented on it to the others. 'We'll be lucky to find anywhere to stay!' said Balthasar. 'Caesar has called for a census to count how many people he can get taxes from, they are travelling in from all over the place'. Caspar rubbed his aching back and urged his camel to move forward. 'Let's look for somewhere to stay before anything else. I need a rest and the camels are tired, too.'
They rode along asking if anyone knew of anywhere with any rooms left to rent. 'The only place I can think of is on the edge of town towards the countryside where the sheep graze,' said one chap who was in a hurry to get home and warm up. He pointed a finger in the general direction and scuttled off. It took half an hour to get there and the sun was getting low. They came across a very basic inn with a few pack animals in the stables beside it. Melchior knocked on the door and after a while a man came. He was old and unkempt and looked the worse for wear. 'Yes!' he shouted. 'What do you want?'
These men didn't look like his normal customers. Their clothes were well made and they seemed to be more confident than his regulars.
'Do you have three rooms for weary travellers?'
'Three rooms – you must be joking! Look at the crowds. I've got one small room left which you can share. Take it or leave it. It's probably the last room in Bethlehem.'
The three looked at each other. They had shared before and it wasn't good. Melchior snored badly, Balthasar had wind and Caspar's breath was foul.
'Make your minds up. I can give it to the next travellers, there's plenty of them.'
'Alright,' said Melchior, 'We'll take it. How much?'
The inn keeper told them. 'That's robbery!' shouted Caspar and Balthasar together.
He started to close the door when Melchior stuck his foot in and once again said, 'We'll take it!'
He glared at the other two and pushed his saddle bag through the door. He took out his leather purse and handed over the coins to the Inn keeper who quickly put them into his own purse. The other two staggered in exhausted after him. The innkeeper closed the door with a slam and put the wooden bar across.
A man with a woman on a donkey came round the corner and stopped outside the Inn. The man wearily knocked on the door. The Inn keeper shouted through the barred door. 'We're full!'
'Wait a moment,' said the traveller, 'We were told that this was the only place with rooms in the town. My wife is in labour and we need somewhere for her to have the child!'
'Not my problem,' said the inn keeper.
'Please help us!' called the traveller desperately.
The innkeeper could be heard shouting inside the house, 'Does anyone want to give up their room to a pregnant woman about to give birth?'
There was silence.
'Could we shelter in your stable then?'
'So long as you don't frighten the livestock!'
They pushed past the three camels and the pack animals and found a space in the stable to settle down.
The woman said, 'That man on the road said that there would be a room here.'
'By the look of those camels they must have had some wealthy travellers arrive just before us,' said the man as he started to gather straw into a sack to make a mattress for his wife.