Old Town Tavern (Part One) by Loni Lynne

The crowds were thick tonight.The Old Town Tavern teemed with an unusual amount of guests for a Wednesday night. Millie Taylor couldn’t concentrate on making her normal ruckus up in the attic to surprise the few who frequented the bar. But then the regulars accepted the story that she was the one moving things about overhead.

Peeking from the stairwell, Millie noticed the tables and benches groaned with all the extra guests. The wait-staff were at a maximum and hustling around, trays laden with crusty crocks of French Onion soup and hearty sandwiches on fresh baked pub rolls. The barrels of fine ale emptied quicker than young Thomas Mather could keep them connected  to the taps.

Now there was a fine specimen of man…young, dark-haired and filled out his breeches quite nicely, in both arse and crotch. She wished she could give him a go or two between the sheets. He reminded her of another man she’d known a long time ago, only this lad wasn’t as flirtatious as James Addison had been.

James could charm the stockings off of a poor girl without even giving her a what fore. His smile alone made the most prudish of women damp by the end of their meal. The rake had taught her a thing…or two. She never forgot the night her and Kiki made a public display of brawling over the likes of him in the middle of the tavern.  Hank, the proprietor, was about to toss them out on their arses had it not been for James’ generosity to handle the situation in a gentlemanly fashion. Whether or not his solution to their problem was gentlemanly, still remained her biggest question after all these years. But he’d proved to her two could be better than one at times.

No, Thomas was nothing like the rapscallion, James Addison. The young man appeared a bit shy for her likes. She wondered if the lad ever had the pleasure of a lady’s charms.

Millie stood unseen on the stairs off to the side of the main room, admiring the young man’s grace and movements as he took up slack and prepared to help out the new tavern maid, Charity, with a table of twelve guests. The young blonde smiled, her cheeks glowing as she mouthed a quick ‘thank you’ before maneuvering around the crowded tables to place her order with the cook. Thomas nodded and blushed, but the turn of his head had him following every sway of the lass’s hips beneath her muslin skirts.

So that’s how it be? Millie smiled to herself and perched her hand on her hip. The lad had an eye for the gal. And if she read Charity’s looks, it just might be reciprocated.

Millie kept her eye on the potential ‘lovers’, noting each smile, innocent touch or casual glance as they served the large party of twelve, as she milled unseen through the crowded tavern. She loved spooking the guests with an occasional brush of her hand or whisper, sending cold chills up the guests’ spines. But tonight, her fascination focused on the youngsters. They worked well together, creating a unique dance in their delivery of beverages and first course platters. Charity did most of the talking to their guests and Thomas followed her lead.

Eh? Too young for her. Millie sighed with an indifferent shrug of her shoulders. A man who couldn’t converse with her didn’t hold her interest, no matter what he looked like. Was she turning soft? Two hundred and twenty years without someone to talk to had her eager for any company; her priorities might be a bit skewed.

A sudden lull in the murmurs of guest conversation caught her interest as the new proprietor; Dave jumped up on the old wooden bar.

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention please,” he called out in his loud, boisterous voice. “I have a special guest tonight who has been kind enough in all the celebration these past few days, to grace us with his presence. He’s not a stranger to Old Town Tavern and has been known to take a pint or two…too many…”

Laughter and ribald comments flew among the guests, as if they knew who Dave spoke of.

“The man needs no introduction but just in case you were born under a rock or not from Kings Mill, I will introduce him anyway. I’m happy to have my good friend, James Addison here with us tonight.”

Applause ricocheted around the room. James Addison here? Impossible! Millie remembered the day of his execution and the pall which had fallen over Kings Mill afterwards. She and Kiki had cried for days, neither one being able to console the other. They couldn’t believe he’d been a traitor to the crown. He’d been a blue-blood and would never consider disgracing his family in such a way!

She strained her neck to see a figure in tricorne and cape make his way into the room only to be blocked by a woman standing in front of her in the stairwell. She rolled her eyes, forgetting for a moment she wasn’t flesh and blood anymore. Floating upward, she seated herself among the original wooden beamed rafters where she had a birds-eye view.

“Thank you, my good man!” The man stepped forward and took Dave’s hand in his, giving it a firm grip and a hearty hand-shake. Dave returned the manly greeting before exiting with the excuse he needed to get James’s keg of ale ready.

The man launched into his spiel, as if he were the James Addison. People tended to dress in costume and try to act for the time frame. Why every weekend of late, a young man gave silly, ghost tours. She’d seen him and the groups of people when they came in, but he wasn’t correct in his speech or manners, though she did have to say he tried.

This man though spoke exactly like James Addison! Closing her eyes, she pretended he was alive again and enthralling the masses with his amusements. That was James. He charmed the ladies and still drew the utmost respect and camaraderie from the gentlemen. He’d known how much to talk, when to listen and never spoke a mean word about anyone. He was a man of good character in her book. When England had put a pinch on things, he’d kept his prices fair over at the mill, even ran credit to those who might be a bit strapped for coin. He hadn’t deserved the horrible punishment he’d received.

She listened intently to the man. He spoke of times in this tavern which no one here would ever know. He mentioned names, told their stories with reverence and even if they’d been slimy-geezers she’d had to deal with, he put a kind light on them in memory. The people ate him up, listening, commenting and enjoying the show. Someone yelled up from the back.

“Tell us the infamous story of you and the two tavern maids!”

“A gentleman does not kiss and tell, my good man! But since it’s written in the history books, I shall regal what is socially acceptable…just so I can set the record straight once and for all.”

This man had the gall to reveal what he thought he knew of their tryst? Millie sat down in mid-air and crossed her legs, showing her upper calves and didn’t give a damn.  Who would see her anyway? Of all the nerve! This man thought he had the know of it? She snorted. This she had to hear.

“I had come into town on a Friday for my usual provisions for the mill. My foreman, Daniel would bring the cart, load it and crate it back to the mill. I would offer him a pint at the tavern each week, but the man couldn’t hold his ale and wasn’t one to socialize much. So I would have a pint for him…then one for me…and a toast to the town and anyone who might be celebrating a wee babe being born healthy and right. Then I always made another pint toast to my tavern keep.  Ol’ Hank was a good friend, God rest his soul… and of course there was Millie, I always raised a pint to her.”

Millie found herself sitting up even taller, waiting to hear what this man said about her. So far, he was uncannily accurate of what James would have done. He was good. She watched as he removed his tricorne and placed it over his heart, looking up towards the ceiling.

“Millie…Millie Taylor—ah yes. A good night was had by her lusty smile alone. She made a man dance a jig just so he had an excuse to adjust his breeches. Fair of skin with dark blonde hair and the eyes the color of a clear sky in spring. Robust and full-bodied, that one…”

“Like your ale?” Dave came back with a full pint in a silver mug.

Taking the pro-offered cup James continued. “Ah… a man who knows what I’m talking about.” James raised his mug to Dave and took a healthy sip, wiping the foam from his mouth on his sleeve.

Oh dear God! This man was excellent! He had James Addison’s mannerisms down to a fine point needle, even the way he wiped the froth of his ale from his upper lip. She sat enthralled as he continued.

“I had a thing for Millie, she’d been my girl for many months, but my libido got the better of me when she took ill for a few days and I befriended a new tavern maid…” he thought for a moment, “Kiki. Feisty as the summer was hot! She didn’t take no for an answer either. Not that I would ever begrudge the company of a young woman’s charms.”

Of course not! Not James, never James. But the laughter ensued. Millie snorted, if they even had a clue!

 Come back tomorrow for part two of Old Town Tavern by Loni Lynne.