The arrival of the sailors at nearby Purvis Lodge had been all anyone in the village near the great house at Stoke had wanted to talk about, and it made Mr. Martin quite the celebrity with the surrounding shopkeepers.
From where had they come? Upon what ship had they served? Who was their Captain?
Martin had very few answers for them, but every conversation was rife with speculation. He told them the little bit that he knew, but it was shockingly little for the gossip-mongers to work with.
After the allotted three days, Martin was once again at the reins of the horse cart and on his way to the lodge to deliver his two barrels of beer. Even from a great way off, he could hear the familiar sound of hammers and mallets striking wood. Upon arrival, he saw that the sailors had put together a mill where they were fashioning timbers and planks out of the trunks of English Oak trees they had felled on the property. The men were covered in wood shavings and the wood dust from the saws, and the shavings were so thick upon the ground that it looked as though it had snowed! The branches too small to mill were cut into firewood by the boys and stacked in great piles along the side of the barn out back.
Mr. Higgins’ outdoor kitchen had grown into a sizable operation. He stood in a pile of feathers as he picked a chicken clean, he laid it on a rough hewn table with a number of other birds and wiped his hands upon his dirty apron. Higgins tipped his hat to Martin and then whistled and gestured to some nearby sailors to get their attention. Mr. Nithercott, glistening with sweat from hewing logs was among the group that heaved the barrels down. When he was done, Higgins motioned to him and spoke in his unintelligible manner. Nithercott turned to Martin to translate.
“Mr. Higgins desires to purchase two more barrels and wonders if they might be delivered in two days time?”
“Oh heavens, I’m afraid I’m all out of the table beer sir!” Martin replied, “It would seem you have nearly drunk me dry, ha ha!”
Higgins and Nithercott looked at each other with near panic in their faces. Martin caught the glance and in an effort to assuage their fears added, “I do have three barrels of small beer left that I would happily sell you at 10 shillings a piece.”
Higgins nodded his agreement and looked relieved that they wouldn’t have to resort to water alone.
“I have a few more barrels brewing back home,” Mr. Martin added in way of anticipation, “and it should be ready by the week’s end.”
“Are they spoken for? Because if they ain’t, we should be much obliged to you sir if you would sell them to us.” Nithercott said as he pulled out his little purse again to offer up advance payment.