With all this doom and dread, Walter was starting to feel like the storm outside. When he wasn’t mopping, he spent his days listening to the stories that travelers brought or the scuttlebutts of patrons.
When he saw Alden he always brought him up to speed with what he had heard. Alden wanted to stay but had to get back home. The last time he was late, his folks had sent neighbors to go searching for him thinking he had gone missing, causing a great stir.
Alden got an earful from one of the Black Coats about making his parents worry and having the whole town searching for him. Next time, the Black Coat, promised he was going to set Alden right if he caused such a stir again. Poor Alden was embarrassed and never kept his parents waiting again.
Walter quickly ate his dinner, wanting to know more about the witching hours and the Night of the Withes from the two ladies he’d overheard talking.
Aunt Edith watched him with concern. “Walter, steady your pace. I had an Uncle who ate in such a rush to get somewhere that he got a bone stuck in his throat. He didn’t die right away, but no matter what he did he couldn’t clear the bone from his throat. Do you know what happened? Of course you wouldn’t because he died or he would be telling you the story. The bone was the size of my pinky finger, causing a septic in his throat and he died from the infection. Never made it home. Do you know why he was rushing to get back home? Of course you don’t, you weren’t born yet. He died because he was getting married after being a bachelor for forty years. Do you know why he was a bachelor for forty years? Because he slurped his dinner and it drove woman crazy. Bad manners are distasteful. Please slow down your dinner before you die a bachelor, all because you slurped your dinner and got a bone stuck in your throat, causing a septic.”
“Yes, Aunt Edith.”
He obliged, not wanting to upset her. But once she left, he resumed his haste. When he was done, he dashed back out to continue mopping the taproom, hoping to hear to the rest of the women’s conversation. But they had left, and in their place was a group of residents from the town.
Walter could now discern the difference from the hunters and travelers that came to the inn. The hunters carried bows and arrows or other weapons, while the travelers carried a bindle and dressed in heavy coats or cloaks that was needed for their journey. Walter recognized some of the local regulars that frequently stopped by the taproom for gossip, food or grog.