CHAPTER FOURTEEN. LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
"The hour was late; the fire burned low,
The Landlord's eyes were closed in sleep,
And near the story's end a deep
Sonorous sound at times was heard,
As when the distant bagpipes blow,
At this all laughed; the Landlord stirred,
As one awaking from a swound,
And, gazing anxiously around,
Protested that he had not slept,
But only shut his eyes, and kept
His ears attentive to each word.
Then all arose, and said 'Good-Night.'
Alone remained the drowsy Squire
To rake the embers of the fire,
And quench the waning parlor light;
While from the windows, here and there,
The scattered lamps a moment gleamed,
And the illumined hostel seemed
The constellation of the Bear,
Downward, athwart the misty air,
Sinking and setting toward the sun.
Far off the village clock struck one."
Before leaving the next morning, we visited the ancient ballroom which extends over the dining-room. It seemed crude and cruel to enter this hall of bygone revelry by the garish light of day. The two fireplaces were cold and inhospitable; the pen at one end where the fiddlers sat was deserted; the wooden benches which fringed the sides were hard and forbidding; but long before any of us were born this room was the scene of many revelries; the vacant hearths were bright with flame; the fiddlers bowed and scraped; the seats were filled with belles and beaux, and the stately minuet was danced upon the polished floor.
The large dining-room and ballroom were added to the house something more than a hundred years ago; the little old dining-room and old kitchen in the rear of the bar still remain, but - like the bar - are no longer used.
The brass name plates on the bedroom doors - Washington, Lafayette, Howe, and so on - have no significance, but were put on by the present proprietor simply as reminders that those great men were once beneath the roof; but in what rooms they slept or were entertained, history does not record.
The automobile will bring new life to these deserted hostelries. For more than half a century steam has diverted their custom, carrying former patrons from town to town without the need of half-way stops and rests. Coaching is a fad, not a fashion; it is not to be relied upon for steady custom; but automobiling bids fair to carry the people once more into the country, and there must be inns to receive them.
Already the proprietor was struggling with the problem what to do with automobiles and what to do for them who drove them. He was vainly endeavoring to reconcile the machines with horses and house them under one roof; the experiment had already borne fruit in some disaster and no little discomfort.
The automobile is quite willing to be left out-doors over night; but if taken inside it is quite apt to assert itself rather noisily and monopolize things to the discomfort of the horse. Stables - to rob the horse of the name of his home - must be provided, and these should be equipped for emergencies.
Every country inn should have on hand gasoline - this is easily stored outside in a tank buried in the ground - and lubricating oils for steam and gasoline machines; these can be kept and sold in gallon cans.
In addition to supplies there should be some tools, beginning with a good jack strong enough to lift the heaviest machine, a small bench and vise, files, chisels, punches, and one or two large wrenches, including a pipe-wrench. All these things can be purchased for little more than a song, and when needed they are needed badly. But gasoline and lubricating oils are absolutely essential to the permanent prosperity of any well-conducted wayside inn.