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  1. The White Inn

The White Inn

At Le Ponthou in Brittany there once was an inn known as the White Inn. The people who kept it were good and honest. At the White Inn travellers would stop to sleep; and horses knew the place so well that they would draw up of their own accord before the stable-door.

Autumn had brought in short gloomy days; and one evening, as Flochi, the landlord, was standing at the White-Inn door, a traveller who was mounted on a steed, reined up his horse and lifted his hand to his hat, saying courteously,

"I want a supper and a bed-chamber."

Flochi first drew his pipe from his mouth and then his hat from his head, and answered, "A supper you can have. But we cannot give you a room, for we have six muleteers who have taken all the beds of our inn."

The traveller then said, "Well, I would be grateful if you help me to sleep somewhere. The dogs have a kennel, and it is not fitting that people are without a bed in such weather as this."

The host said again, "I can only tell you that the inn is full." He added, "We have no place for you but the red room."

"Well, give me that," answered the stranger.

But the landlord rubbed his forehead and looked grieved; for he thought he could not let the traveller sleep in the red chamber.

"Since I have been at the White Inn," said he at last, "only two men have ever spent the night in that room; and even though their hair was black when they went to bed, next morning their hair was snow-white."

"Is your house haunted by spirits from another world, is that what you try to tell me?" the stranger asked.

"It is," faltered the landlord.

"I will sleep there anyway. But make me a fire and warm my bed; for I am cold."

The landlord did as he was ordered, and when the traveller had finished supper, he bade good night to all at table and went up to the red chamber. The landlord and his wife trembled.

When the stranger reached his room he began to look about him. It was a large flame-coloured chamber with great shining stains on the walls. They might well have been taken for the marks of fresh-spilt blood. At the further end there stood a four-post bed, surrounded by heavy curtains. The rest of the room was empty. A mournful whistling of the wind came down the chimney and the corridors.

The traveller got to bed and soon slept soundly. But when the hour of midnight sounded from a distant church-tower, he suddenly awoke, heard the curtain-rings sliding on their iron poles, and saw them open at his right hand. He was going to get out of bed, but when his feet struck against something cold, he recoiled in terror. A coffin stood there before him. It had four lighted candles at the corners, and was covered with a great black pall that glittered as with tears.

The stranger turned to try the other side of his bed, but the coffin at once changed places and barred his way out as before. Five times he made an effort to escape, and every time the bier was there beneath his feet with the candles and the funeral pall.

The traveller then thought it was a ghost who had some boon to ask, and said, "Who are you? I am listening."

A voice answered from the coffin, "I am a traveller who was murdered here by those who kept this inn before the one who owns it today, and now I suffer."

"What will it take to give you rest?"

"Some masses said for my soul. Such masses matter."

No sooner were these words said than the lights went out, the curtains closed, and all was silent.

Next morning the stranger told the landlord everything, and added, "I will see to it that such masses are said."

Within a month the red room lost its crimson hue and became white and cheerful as the others. No sound was heard there but the swallows twittering in the chimney, and nothing could be seen but a fair white bed.

The traveller had kept his word.

Anon. Breton Legends (London: Burns, Oates and Co., 1872, 177-81) Burns, Oates, and Co.


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