The Mayor of Fletcher's Hill had ordered a very fine longcase clock, and once it was finished Osgood loaded the piece into his cart and set out for Fletcher's Hill - a journey, by cart, of nearly a day.
For these were horse and cart times, of course. People lived, for the most part, in towns that were separated by broad fields and forests. Since the fastest way to travel was at exactly the speed of a horse the countryside was full of inns and taverns and carriage houses where, at the end of a day's long plod, travelers and tradesmen could stop for the night.
It's easy to think of this as a primitive way to live and to go about one's business. But the interesting thing about it was that in these inns the travelers would meet countless strangers they'd otherwise never have known. These chance meetings might be fleeting, or they might lead to lifelong friendships, preserved by frequent letters; they might bring together long lost relatives; or they might deliver up fresh victims to traveling frauds and charlatans. One simply never knew.
So when Osgood had delivered the Mayor's clock he turned back toward Pugwash, but because it was already late in the day he soon stopped at an inn.
On this evening and in this inn, Osgood found himself at dinner with a stranger who was certainly from distant parts. The stranger's clothes, though finely made, were of an unfamiliar fabric and style, and there was a peculiar quality to his speech that Osgood could not plac