The Best British Short Stories of 1922
The Bat And Belfry Inn
By ALAN GRAHAM
(From The Story-Teller)
It was the maddest and most picturesque hotel at which we have ever stopped. Tony and I
were touring North Wales. We had left Llandudno that morning in the twoseater, lunched
at Festiniog, and late in the afternoon were trundling down a charming valley with the
reluctant assistance of a road whose surface, if it ever had possessed such an asset, had
long since vanished. On rounding one of the innumerable hairpin bends on our road, there
burst upon us the most gorgeous miniature scene that we had ever encountered. I stopped
the car almost automatically.
"Oh, George, what a charming hotel!" exclaimed Tony. "Let's stop and have tea."
Tony, I should mention, is my wife. She is intensely practical.
I had not noticed the hotel, for before us the valley opened out into a perfect stage setting.
From the road the land fell sharply a hundred feet to a rocky mountain stream, the rustle
of whose water came up to us faintly like the music heard in a sea-shell. Beyond rose
hills--hill upon hill lit patchily by the sun, so that their contours were a mingling of
brilliant purple heather, red-brown bracken, and indigo shadow. Far down the valley the
stream glinted, mirror-like, through a veil of trees.
And Tony spoke of tea!
I dragged my eyes from the magnet of the view and found that I had stopped the car
within a few yards of a little hotel that must have been planted there originally by
someone with a soul. It lay by the open roadside five miles from anywhere. It was built of
the rough grey-green stone of the district, but it was rescued from the commonplace by its
leaded windows, the big old beams that angled across its white plastered gables, and by
the clematis and late tea roses that clung about its porch.
I could hardly blame Tony for her materialism. The hotel blended admirably with its
surroundings. There was nothing about it of the beerhouse-on-the-mountain-top so dear
to the German mind. It looked quiet, refined and restful, and one felt instinctively that it
would be managed in a fashion in keeping with all about it.
"By Jove, Tony!" I said, as I drew up to the clematis-covered porch, "we might do worse
than stop here for a day or two."
"We'll have tea anyhow, and see what we think of it." I clattered over the red-tiled floor,
and when my eyes had grown accustomed to the dim light that contrasted so well with the
sunshine without, found myself in a small sunshiny room, with a low ceiling, oak-rafted,
some comfortable chairs, an old eight-day clock stopped at ten-thirty-five, and a man.