Mid-morning was a quiet time in the tavern. Most Maydown folk didn’t come in before the noon hour, save the occasional worker escaping the summer heat for a pint.
Yestin sat with his brother at the bar, swinging his legs and chatting to Mrs. Briggs as she polished glasses. The owner of the Frolicking Foal set out cups of last autumn’s apple cider for the boys and bandied jokes with them, her rosy face flushed and smiling amiably.
“I’ve brought a letter from Father for Mr. Pendergast,” said Yannick proudly. “He said we could stop by in here if we hurried, and we did.” He took a swig of the cider like it was a pint. Yestin was watching a table to his left. A man sat there, half hidden in the shadows. Yestin leaned towards Mrs. Briggs conspiratorially.
“That looks like the mayor of Douglas Bridge,” he whispered to Mrs. Briggs. “What’s he doing here?”
“Oh, never you mind,” said Mrs. Briggs. “How does a lad such as yourself go recognizing the mayor of a far-off town, any how?”
“Father took us to deliver some letters once,” Yestin answered. “He said they were too important for the mail service to deliver.” Mrs. Briggs eyed her young customers with a raised eyebrow, but before she could speak, an old man with a shock of white hair further down the bar spoke up in a gravelly voice.
“It’s who’s he meeting, that’s more to the question,” interjected old Thomas. “Haven’t you heard? Mayor Nathaniel Seeford wants that old mill from Portaferry.”
Yannick wrinkled his nose. “Buy it? But it’s on Douglas Bridge property, isn’t it?”
“But it was built by this very town, years ago, it was,” said old Thomas. “When we grew too large, some folks up and left, and went west to built Portaferry. We didn’t have use for no far-off contraption, so it went to ruin. So why the interest now? Some say there have been strange doings in the mill-hocus locus and the like!” His grey eyes widened and his bushy eyebrows wagged like cattails in a breeze.
“Now, that’ll be all, Old Thomas, or I’ll be watering down your ale,” threatened Mrs. Briggs. “And you boys best be on your way with that letter!” Yannick and Yestin said goodbye and scurried out of the tavern.
Out in the bright sunlight, the boys squinted and made their way for Mr. Pendergast’s shop. Yannick stayed to talk with the shopkeeper, but Yestin, who had always found Mr. Pendergast to be boring, ambled out of the shop as fast as he could without being noticed. He nearly ran head-on into an old man, who yelped as Yestin stopped short.
“Watch it, boy!” the man hissed. He used a cane to walk, yet he gripped Yestin’s arm with surprising strength. Yestin wrenched his arm away. This man was nothing like the harmless gossip in the Frolicking Foal.
“Where is the tavern?” the man demanded. His skin was deeply lined but his eyes were a bright green. Yestin gestured in the right direction. The old man’s face softened into a simpering smile. “There’s a good lad, helping an old fool like myself.” He turned and hobbled toward the tavern.
Nathaniel held his cup idly and waited. He hadn’t heard the talk at the bar, or he would have left. Old Thomas had been closer to the truth than he knew. The mayor of Douglas Bridge had seen strange doings at the mill; from his third story office view, he had seen a strange glow a mile away one night. It was early in the black hours before dawn, an odd time for a Douglas Bridge dweller to be awake; and afterwards the mayor was awake often at that hour, watching and searching to see what else happened in that dilapidated building. Only Nathaniel knew his reasons for wanting the mill. Now he was sitting in this dingy tavern, awaiting what he hoped was a simple meeting with the mayor of Portaferry, in which the latter had no suspicions of the former’s true motives, and the former got what he wanted: the deed to that old mill.
But it was not the mayor of Portaferry who suddenly appeared at his table. Nathaniel grimaced at the old codger who slid into the seat, eyeing him with a sharp and appraising glance.
“I am waiting for someone very important,” Nathaniel began in his most authoritarian tone. “So you’ll-“
“I know you want that old mill,” the old man interrupted in a low voice. With these words a layer of pretext fell away and Nathaniel understood that he was dealing with someone of power. The old man sat straight and his gaze was even. “Listen to me. You’d be a fool to ignore what I have to say.”
“I’ve always been a judicious man,” Nathaniel said.
A quarter of an hour later, Nathaniel left a note for the mayor of Portaferry excusing his absence. He was unable to meet him due to urgent business and offered his sincerest apologies.
I intended this story to fill in some of the gaps leading up to the one I wrote for the A to Z blogging challenge. (Read Nathaniel next, and Yestin, for more tales.) Whenever I write more Tales of Enndover, I’ll be sure to indicate where they belong in the line up. Be sure to check them all out by clicking on the Tales of Enndover category to the right on the blog and reading the bottom one first. Also, my apologies for the less-than-conducive formatting…I think I need to make it easier to find this series. A job for a day in the near future. There will be blog revamping to come.
Also, I may have unconsciously given a nod to another tavern where mysterious people convene and secrets are revealed, but then we writers like to do that kind of thing, don’t we?