Chapter 2: Shepherd’s Moon Inn (& Tavern)
“Grampy, I thought it was your left leg that was hurt?”
Moonie paused mid stride to look back at his granddaughter Sylvie. She was standing just behind the bar, dusting sheep hair from the countertop as she observed him with a seemingly innocent smile on her face. Moonie knew he had to think quickly.
“Oh, it was my left but I guess my right must be tired now from over use.”
“Ahh. I’m sure that must be it.”
Moonie continued on without turning. Though he couldn’t see her expression he could hear the smile in her voice. He had to me more careful. He couldn’t afford to upset Sylvie and have her running back to her parents in Bainbridge.
Getting her to come in the first place had been one of his more ingenious ploys, if he had to say so himself. Once Moonie realized how happy Horace had been to have a bit of food and a place to rest for the evening he hatched a plan to turn the shabby cottage into a warm inn and tavern for weary travelers. But while Moonie was quite handy, he updated the inside of the cottage to include a bar, and extended hearth and a large sitting area, he knew nothing of cooking, cleaning or adding those comfy little touches that make a dwelling feel like home. For that he needed help.
To his mind there was only one person he could count on. And though he hadn’t seen her in over a year, he was certain that his eldest grandchild Sylvie would be just what the doctor ordered. The trouble was, Moonie knew it was be a hard sell for his stubborn daughter Abigail to let her daughter stay with a man she thought of as undependable at best.
His deception began soon after Horace’s arrival. It was not lost on Moonie how impressed Horace had been to learn Abigail was his daughter. He had heard through the grapevine that Abigail’s family had become quite prominent in Bainbridge of late, her husband Leopold having some success in the politics in the town. It was said that Leopold was the closest advisor to King Edgar’s closest advisor, the sage Orlando. Moonie didn’t see what the big deal was, being an advisor to an advisor. But then again Moonie was had no appreciation for the political connections needed to elevate one’s status. He built what he need out of his own two hands, well usually.
In any event, Horace was clearly in tune with Bainbridge’s power circles and Moonie saw it as an opportunity. Horace’s first evening with Moonie was a pleasant one. Moonie entertained him with stories, settled his exhausted horse in the sheep’s pen with Al, Bud and Corey, caught a trout for dinner and made up his own room so that Horace would have a comfortable place to sleep. Moonie, on the other hand, had taken up residence in Shep’s dusty room behind the bar. From the flecks of wool littering the floor it appeared that the sheep had found this little haven and had been spending some time in there themselves. Moonie’s evening, in sharp contrast to Horace, had not been quite as pleasant.
The next morning Moonie arose with first light and tiptoed through the cottage to the little barn that housed the three sheep and, temporarily, Fergus. He grabbed a rickety old wooden ladder and carried it back to the cottage, setting it just beside the window of Horace’s room. Bud had followed him outside the barn and observed as Moonie scouted the ground for a rock that would suit his purpose.
“Now you listen Bud, I don’t want you making any noise until I give the signal. Otherwise it’ll be lamb chops for dinner!”
Moonie shook his fist at the placid, puffy creature. The threat was idle, however, as Moonie had grown fond of the three silly sheep that had been his only company for a few long weeks.
“Don’t worry, you’ll know what the signal is when it happens.” Moonie continued. “I just need to find one thing…”
He turned and continued his search for his elusive prey.
“Ah-ha!” Moonie whispered loudly. “This should do it.” Bud lazily trotted to where Moonie was leaning over and glanced in a bored manner at the large boulder Moonie was prying from the ground.
Straining with effort, Moonie hoisted the boulder to hip height and carried it to the cottage. He stood just in front of the fence and began to swing the rock back and forth in his arms. His face was turning purple with effort and little sweat beads began to form just below is brow.
“One, two, three.” He muttered under his breath and upon the last count he launched the boulder at the ladder leaning against the cottage. A loud splintering could be heard as the boulder tore through the ladder and crashed against the wall of the cottage. A tiny network of cracks appeared in the glass encasing Horace’s window, a consequence Moonie had not intended. The cottage window panes had just been replaced not two months ago, at a significant expense. Oh well, Moonie thought. Every plan calls for a sacrifice.
“Oh, my leg,” Moonie bellowed. “Oh, my aching leg.”
Inside the cottage Horace had not stirred. Moonie looked at Bud with a perplexed expression. How could Horace have slept through that?
“OH ME LEG!!! I THINK IT MUST BE BROKE!”
Incredibly still, no movement came from inside the cottage. Frustrated Moonie threw his arms up in the air and paced in circles around Bud. He stopped and picked up a small rock, no larger than a strawberry and winked at Bud.
“If this doesn’t work nothing will.”
Moonie laid himself on his back in front of Horace’s cracked window. The broken ladder lay in splinters all about him. He drew his arm back and hurled the little rock straight through Horace’s window. The window exploded, throwing little shards of glass in Moonie’s direction. He actually got a good gash on his shin; it was bloody but didn’t hurt much. All the better to aid in the deception Moonie thought elatedly.
“HELP ME, HELP ME! I’M INJURED!”
Moonie needn’t have worried; the exploding window had launched Horace from bed and out into the yard.
“Moonie, Moonie, are you quite all right?”
“Oh,” Moonie moaned, clutching his bloodied shin. “I think my leg broke.”
Bud bleated in protest of this ridiculous farce, but Horace paid no attention to the sheep.
“Goodness what happened?”
“I was trying to repair the roof.” Moonie pointed skyward dejectedly. “That rotten old ladder collapsed under my weight. I landed on that big rock!” Moonie pointed at the boulder he had thrown against the cottage.
Horace looked puzzled. “But how did that little rock go through my window?”
Moonie had forgotten about that little detail. Good thing he was fast on his feet.
“Oh, I uh… I picked that off the roof. I guess I must have thrown it when the ladder broke.” He paused and put his face in his hands for effect. “It all happened so quickly. I can barely remember!” He cried.
Here again Bud made his disapproval known.
“Here I was, trying to get a jump on the day and this is what happens!” Moonie looked imploringly at Horace whose face was full of concern.
“After all you’ve done for me, what can I do to help you?”
Just as predicted, Moonie’s ploy was falling into place.
“I fear my leg is greatly injured. I need time to heal but I do have many tasks that I need complete.”
“Moonie my good friend! Let me assist in whatever you need!”
“No, no, I wouldn’t dream of imposing on your good nature. Oh, no when a person is hurt it is a family obligation to help out.”
“Oh, I agree but you have no family here.”
“Not here but I do in Bainbridge.”
“Bainbridge! Of course! I shall ride like the wind back to that city and fetch you some help. Now that Fergus is well rested it shouldn’t take more than a fortnight to get there an back.”
“Aye, that’s what I thought at well.”
“I shall be off this morning!” Horace declared, bustling with pride and purpose. “Are you sure you will be quite well in my absence?”
“Oh, I’ll be fine! There is a kind healer from Fairbanks who checks in on me from time to time. She’s due to come by today in fact!” This healer was a complete fiction, but what Horace didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.
“Wonderful, that makes me feel so much better for leaving you in such a sad, sorry state.”
“Before you go I must draft a letter to my daughter Abigail. She’ll need to know the circumstances of my present situation.”
“Of course, of course.” Horace agreed. Separately, however, Horace was thrilled to have an opportunity to present himself to the up and coming Surrey family. He was already practicing the speech he’d give to the lovely Abigail, toiling the virtues of her injured father – how welcoming and industrious he was. Hopefully, Horace and his wife would then be extended an invitation dinner or perhaps a gala celebration of some sort?
Still on the ground Moonie was shrewd enough to see the inner working’s of Horace’s mind. No doubt he’d press upon Abigail the urgency of the situation. However, Moonie wouldn’t take any chances. To cement his wishes, he drafted a letter that, knowing Abigail as he did, he felt certain would not be refused.
My Dearest Abigail,
I realize it has been some time since I have last had the pleasure of your company. At the time of my departure I had found Bainbridge a bit too traditional for a fellow of my sort. Hence I felt my leaving would enable you and your husband to establish yourselves within the community without the unnecessary strain of a wayward relation. I trust this has been an agreeable situation as I have heard of your families growing prominence.
I have settled nicely just outside of Fairbanks, in a lovely Inn that plays host to weary travelers to and from town. During service to my fellow man, I have become injured – a broken leg that will no doubt take months to heal. Sadly, this leaves both myself, and the travelers I serve, in dire straits.
It is this sad, sorry situation that has prompted my correspondence, through one such patron Horace Davies. I beg of you the service of your eldest Sylvie. She is of the age where it is respectable for a young lady to travel from home, certainly to help a relation in need. And I am certain that your two other children, Hildy and Jack, are old enough to manage without the constant supervision from their older sister.
Please carefully consider my proposal. I will take good care of Sylvie and she will provide an important service not only to myself but to all the worldly people who make the arduous trek to and from Fairbanks. Perhaps in this capacity she will meet a person of prominence, as I have seen Prince Vincent riding on the road that winds past my little Inn. Horace will also eternally grateful for your assistance. How he has grown fond of an old coot like myself I’ll never fully understand, but he is highly concerned that my needs be properly met. A lovely man though admittedly a bit of a gossip. Image the tales he’d weave were I to waste away in this lonely place with no support from my kin?
Well, all this composing has exhausted me and I’m afraid I must now rest. I do hope to hear from you soon and please send my kind regards to you dear husband and lovely children.
Father Gerald (Other wise known as Grampy Moon)
Within a month Moonie’s sixteen year old granddaughter Sylvie had arrived.
“Horace you old devil, you’ve arrived in the nick of time!” Moonie called as he hobbled out into the front yard.
“Goodness Moonie don’t tell me you’ve hurt your other leg?” Horace asked as he watched his friend make his way unsteadily to his wagon.
“Heck no, I’m fine.” Moonie paused as he glanced around Horace’s wide frame. “Hey, who’ve you got there with you?”
Horace eased himself off his carriage and turned to the neatly dressed gentleman sitting beside him.
“Moonie I’d like to introduce you to Melvin Biscuit. Businessman extraordinary.”
Melvin gingerly stepped off the wagon. Once on firm ground he took a white handkerchief out of his breast pocket and dusted his shoulders, forearms, and each of his fingers carefully. Moonie looked over at Horace who just shrugged good-naturedly in reply. Melvin was just finished inspecting his fingernails was he turned to Moonie and held out his hand.
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Moonie, who had not long ago been cleaning the scales off some freshly caught fish, wasn’t sure if he should offer his hand. Surely a man of Melvin’s nature would catch the stink of fish wafting from his palms? Horace gave Moonie a little shove and he grasped Melvin’s outstretched hand. The wrinkle of Melvin’s nose upon contact with Moonie’s hand singled his detection. To his credit, however, the handkerchief did not reappear. Moonie was beginning to like this fastidious little man.
“Horace I’m surprised to see you today. I hadn’t expected another visit until next week.” Moonie clapped Horace on his back as the three men made their way toward the cottage.
“Actually, the reason for the visit has to do with Mr. Biscuit. I’m simply the courier.”
“Really? What can I do for you kind sir?”
They had just entered the cottage and found Sylvie shooing Bud – or was it Corey? – out the back door. When she turned to find her grandfather with two guests she immediately greeted them warmly and help settle the trio in a table near the hearth. A small fire was burning over which a teapot was being warmed.
“Sylvie are you brewing some of your dandelion tea?” Horace asked?
“Yes, actually, it’s almost done.”
“Perfect! A cup for Mr. Biscuit and myself please. “
“No thanks pea pod. I’m not thirsty.”
Sylvie busied herself with producing china for the tea as Horace and Mr. Biscuit waited in eager anticipation. Moonie was still wondering what this was all about.
“Ahh.” Mr. Biscuit smiled as he lifted the tea to his mouth and took a mall sip of the steaming brew. “It’s just as I remembered.”
Sylvie smiled at the compliment as she poured Horace his cup.
“Just as you remembered?” Moonie piped in. “I don’t recall seeing you around these parts before Melvin.”
“Oh, Mr. Biscuit has never had the pleasure of your company before Moonie. What he is referring to is the dandelion tea. You see, the last time I was here Sylvie was nice enough to pack a tin for my wife. She shared a cup with Mr. and Mrs. Biscuit when they joined us for dinner a few weeks back.”
“And we both thought it was remarkable!” Mr. Biscuit exclaimed. “Tell me Sylvie, where did you come up with such a clever idea?”
“Oh, I thought of it when I came across a bottle of dandelion wine left in our cellar. I thought if dandelion’s good for wine, why not tea?”
“You have a dandelion wine!” Agitated, Mr. Biscuit jumped out of his seat and knocked his chair over. “Dear me, dear me.” He muttered as he glanced behind him.
“Melvin please take care!” Moonie exclaimed. “I’d hate to cause any injury to a guest.”
“Mr. Biscuit is fine,” Horace put in calmly as he restored the chair to its proper position.
“He’s just excited.”
Melvin nodded in agreement. “Dandelion wine sounds dreadful! I’m very much impressed, however, that you were able to turn such a silly idea into a delicious tea.”
“Oh, it was nothing. I do like to experiment.”
“Have you tried anything else?”
“Why yes I have! I’ve just perfected a recipe for daisy tea.” Sylvie paused uncertainly. “At least, I think I have.”
“Wonderful! Could I have a little taste? If it’s no trouble.”
“It’s no trouble at all. Just let me go out – “
Moonie reached out and grasped Sylvie’s arm.
“Horace would you entertain Mr. Biscuit for a moment? I need to talk to my granddaughter.”
Moonie lead Sylvie to Shep’s old bedroom in the back of the cottage, behind the bar. He shut the door to ensure that he would no be overheard. Tufts of sheep’s wood blew into the air with the slamming of the door pushing Moonie into a temporary coughing fit. Sylvie looked on with perplexed expression.
“How could you offer Melvin daisy tea?” He gasped when he throat cleared. “We don’t even know if it’s any good!”
“Well, I think it’s good. What’s the harm in letting this Mr. Biscuit a try?”
“What’s the harm? What if he hates it? What if it causes some weird reaction? Our Inn will collapse even before it gets off the ground. Mr. Biscuit is a business man! He could be an investor to help use get this place to the next level! Ohhhh! I had such hopes! Such dreams!” Moonie groaned.
“Are you quite finished?” Sylvie asked tartly.
“Get rid of them Sylvie and leave me be. Better yet, let me suffocate on sheep’s wool in this dank little room abandoned by Shep! It is a fitting end for the failed proprietor of Shepherd’s Moon Inn.”
“Shepherd’s Moon Inn?”
”Well, I couldn’t rightly name the place without acknowledging the true owner could I?”
”Does Shep even know about this?”
”Of course not! I don’t even know where Shep is! You have to strike when the iron is hot!”
”What will you do if he comes back and is unhappy with what you’ve done to his home?”
“Unhappy with all the improvements? Why, I even installed that bar to sell his dandelion wine! Oh, what’s the use? Biscuit out there wants to daisy tea! What if he doesn’t like it?”
“I think the daisy tea is good. Better than the dandelion perhaps.”
“Better?” Moonie peeked over his hands to study Sylvie. “Did you say better?”
“Yes better! If you would have sampled a few of my early batches you would know but instead you choose to focus on only drinks that contained ale.”
“Yes, yes, of course you are right.” Moonie sounded dejected.
“Well you need to trust me on this. The tea is delicious.”
Moonie knew he had to decide. Did he bank his future on his young granddaughter’s inexperienced tastes or did his risk offending Mr. Biscuit by refusing his request? Sylvie stood nervously in front of him, looking not at all confident but perhaps a tiny bit proud. Her dandelion tea was a success, was it not?
“Get the daisy tea Sylvie. We can always lock old Melvin up until spring if he doesn’t like it.”
Sylvie nodded and hurried off to gather her newest brew. As luck would have both Horace and Mr. Biscuit loved the daisy tea and praised Sylvie endlessly. Grampy Moon was struck with a bolt of fierce pride as Sylvie accepted the compliments with grace and humility, along with a small dose of embarrassment. Mr. Biscuit left that afternoon with a large order tea, both the dandelion and daisy varieties. Grampy Moon and Sylvie celebrated – not yet worrying about how they were going to accomplish their task – with a nice trout and fresh garden vegetables dinner on the porch with Al, Bud and Corey in attendance. And thus Shepherd’s Inn & Tavern was born.