It was the busiest week I had seen in years. The Governor had just declared a census, and everyone was returning home to register. My inn was packed for the first time in…I don’t know how long.
I had already let out the best rooms to the Priests and Pharisees, and they were beginning to gather in the courtyard for supper.
By the time the bankers and merchants had arrived, all I had left for them was the common rooms – and even those were soon filled.
My servants had finished lighting the torches and lanterns in the courtyard to hold back the darkness when there was yet another knock on my door. It opened to reveal a man who must have been in his late thirties standing beside a donkey bearing his young – and very pregnant – wife.
“We need a room for the night,” he said.
I stepped out of the way to show him my packed courtyard, “You, and everyone else. I don’t have any rooms left.”
His wife looked crushed. “Please, sir,” he said, “my wife is pregnant, and it’s very cold out. We need shelter.”
I shook my head. “I want to help you, I truly do, but all my rooms are filled. I’m sorry.”
The man nodded, and began to walk away, leading the donkey off into the night. I just couldn’t bear the sight of that young woman shivering so. “Wait,” I called, “there might be something I can do for you after all.”
They turned around, and looked back.
“You can stay in my stable. It isn’t pretty, nor is it clean, but it’s warm and dry.”
He looked so grateful it was almost sad. I lead them around back, into the heavy, dusty air of the stable. The donkeys and sheep in their stalls had been busy, the air reeked of dung. I nearly gagged as I entered, but they just slumped down onto the hay and looked up at me with smiles of thanks.
“I won’t charge you anything, just try not to disturb the animals.”
Then I returned to the courtyard and my paying customers.
Towards the end of the meal, the sound of many feet could be heard running past the door, and around into the back.
Curious, I looked out to see the last of a group of shepherds disappear around the back, towards the stable. They must have been going to care for the sheep I had allowed them to keep there during the night. I pulled my head back in and went to my rooms to count the night’s take.
I woke up the next morning still in the midst of my task. I must have been truly weary to fall asleep among that much gold and silver. Then I remembered my guests in the stable, and went to check on them.
They were just leaving, and the woman was holding a child in her arms.
“Congratulations,” I said, “when was he born?”
The woman looked up, “Late last night, shortly before your guests went to bed.”
“Did the shepherds disturb you?”
“No, they simply wanted to see the child.”
“They wanted to see your baby? Why?”
She simply looked at me mysteriously and said, “Oh, I suspect you shall find out why before too much longer.”
Then they were gone.
I didn’t find out until much later what she meant, and by then it was too late.
I missed it.
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