(Just joining us? Back to Part 1)
David circled into the lobby. A young man, probably in college, stood behind a mammoth desk--a period piece as he had informed David at check in.
"And how is your room, sir?"
"Amazing," David said. "You've done some impressive work here."
"Thank you, sir. We take a great deal of pride in the restorations."
"I can see that," David said, and as if to prove he really could, he paused to absorb all of the craftsman touches.
The doors to the summer night swept open and two couples strolled into the lobby. Laughing quietly, they crossed the center of the room to a doorway on the other side. David watched them. A strange thread of unreality wound through their hushed tones.
"We have a lot of weddings here," the clerk said. "A lot of receptions."
"I understand why. I don't think I've seen a better spot."
A puff of outside air from the doors overtook David. Sweet honeysuckle. So potent, it left a taste.
David wandered toward a wall of dark windows. Outside, huge maple trees cast deeper shadows than the surrounding night.
"For the guests?" David asked, pointing to a small alcove. A Morris chair reclined among several cabinets of bookshelves.
"Help yourself, sir."
David scanned the titles. The old leaded glass in the doors of the cabinets smeared the print.
"We're careful to stock books from the height of the inn's popularity," the clerk said. "Before radio and television, we hosted many orations and literary meetings. A steady stream of writers and artists sat in these same chairs from 1900 through the early thirties when the inn closed."
David glanced up at the brown and white photographs framed over the bookcases. Men in casuals hats. Sun gushing in the windows. A speaker he didn't recognize.
He clicked the latch and released the stale air of a cabinet. A row of small magazines caught his attention. [The Philistine]. He took the nearest.
"Those are delightful," the clerk said. "I've read many myself. Essays. Diatribes. The advertisements are the best. The public was much more literate back then, don't you think?"
David stopped on one for [Anheuser-Busch's Malt-Nutrine]. The clerk wasn't kidding. David recalled that advertisements are written for 6th grade reading level. On those pages, David saw advanced placement English. Maybe even college credit.
"Wow," David said. "This wouldn't stand a chance now. I see millions of thumbs flipping to the next channel."
"Kind of sad, isn't it?"
"Yes," David said, suddenly experiencing true sadness. "It is."
He closed the tiny magazine and returned it to it's protected place. When the glass was resealed, he felt safer. Things like that cabinet were traps. They could steal a piece of the person. Drown them in a lost age. Some souls forever harmonize with a time other than their own.
"Is there anywhere I might get a night cap?" David asked.
"Well, we have a small lounge through the dining room, then to the left. But we're a bit understaffed this evening, sir," the clerk said. "The bartender is with the wedding party at the back of the inn."
"Let me do this for you, though. I'll call back and ask the bartender to come to the lounge for a few minutes. Let him get you set up, then you can relax in the quiet. I'll check in on you later."
David smiled. "Thank you. I really appreciate that. Through the dining room and to the left?"
The clerk already had the phone in his hand. "Yes, towards the front of the inn. And be sure to look at the cocktail list. We've resurrected a few of the old mixes. Prohibition killed some of the flair back then, I'm afraid."
David moved to the same doors where the couples had disappeared. "Thanks again. You have a good evening," David said.
"And to you, sir."
God, David thought, I could die in a place like this.
On to Part 3