A Conversation for Pilgrims' Inn

The Pilgrims' Inn, Chapter 29: Wayside Inn

Post 1

paulh, the apocalypse is coming, it's just late



Some days it didn't pay to get out of bed. This was one of those days. Ozymandius was barely on his feet before the strangeness of his surroundings hit him. The Inn, to put it briefly, seemed to have aged about a hundred years overnight.

It had weather stains on the wall, worn stairways, crazy doors, creaking and uneven floors. You know, some of these things even seemed to rhyme. Had the Inn meandered into the clutches of some dark, gothic 19th-century poet?

Maybe today's adventures could be predicted by a glance or two through the Inn's front doors. Ah, it probably was a 19th-century landscape that Ozymandius saw when the doors opened. Actually, the Inn had only ever had one front door, and now it had two. A sign with a red horse on it stood at the end of the front walk. Barnyard fowl were wandering across the front yard. Great oaks threw tangles of light and shade on the Inn's gabled roofs (Wait, gables? How had the Inn acquired them?). Across the road could be seen some barns, with open entrances through which lines of stalls and haystacks could be seen. In the far distance, an old-fashioned steam locomotive could be seen chugging its way toward some distant destination.

Well, serenity seemed to come with the place, wherever it was, except when the odd gust of wind sent leaves rattling along the gravel road.

Ozymandius didn't see any guests approaching, so he closed the door and headed for the dining table, intent on having some breakfast. But the Inn's furnishings had also been rearranged since he last noticed them. There was a roaring fire in the fireplace, and above the mantle was a portrait of some young royal. "Princess Mary" was the legend inscribed along the bottom of the frame. The fire's ruddy glow turned the overhead rafters to bronze, and reflected off the face of the grandfather clock. Lastly, there was a coat of arms displayed prominently on the wall. It featured three wolves along with chevrons and crests. Above this, someone had hung a Revolutionary War musket.

Ozymandius heard piano music and noticed someone playing on a spinet piano. A violinist joined in. Looking closer, Ozymandius realized that these were ghosts playing for the enjoyment of people who had come here to escape from the bustle of the busy cities.

A team of horses stopped in front of the Inn, and some people got out. "Hello, squire," said a stranger who seemed to know Ozymandius better than Ozymandius knew him. "I hope you'll be in good storytelling form tonight."

"Ah, and do you have a particular story you wish to hear?" Ozymandius wondered.

"Well, I never get tired of hearing about Paul Revere."

Ah, so this was what was going on. Ozymandius had studied Longfellow in school, but could remember no more than five or six lines from that poem about Revere. Okay, it was time to let the oracle show off what he knew.

"Maybe you could also tell about Merlin and Lancelot," said a bookish-looking young man (a student, perhaps).

"Per favore, I would enjoy something from the Decameron," said a bearded man.

There were also a man clad all in black, as well as one with a clerical collar and another who held a lute in his hand.

Well, at least a recital by the lutenist would please the gentlemen who were assembled there, while buying Ozymandius some time in which to arrange a graceful way of *not* reciting Longfellow.

Mrs. Sprat saved the day by serving a ploughman-style lunch for the guests, along with hearty ale and hard cider.

By the time they had finished eating, Ozymandius had coaxed the oracle into reciting the desired poem about Revere, complete with an image of a lively poet on his screen. Then, Ozymandius turned the tables by asking the guests to take turns telling tales of their own. This worked wonders.

The bookish man told of a falconer in Florence. The man in black told a tale of a rabbi. The bearded man told a tale of a king in Sicily. The musician told tales which were often about Odin or King Olaf.

There were more tales, then a further round of ale and cider, accompanied by some light snacks.

When there was a lull in the conversation, Ozymandius sat down at the piano and absent-mindedly started playing some ragtime music. This startled the guests, for whom this music was several decades
in their future. Reading the expressions on their faces, Ozymandius reddened and segued into some pieces by Stephen Foster.

Getting up from the piano, he excused himself and headed toward one of the guest rooms. Behind him, he heard someone else playing (the ghost who had been playing earlier?). There was a bit of Beethoven, followed by "Tenting tonight on the old camp ground" and "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Some of the guests appreciated the last two pieces, while others shook their heads in disapproval. Why couldn't the Inn be a haven where one could escape thoughts of the terrible war raging in the country?

Why, indeed?

Well, the afternoon would pass pleasantly enough, and then Mrs. Sprat would serve a light supper, and those who wanted accommodations for the night could have them. Ozymandius had not checked on the condition of the guest rooms. Maybe it was time to do that, aided by the Sprats.

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The Pilgrims' Inn, Chapter 29: Wayside Inn

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