Haylee picked up the straw broom and began sweeping the detritus scattered over the wooden floor into manageable piles, sectioning the tavern floor into a grid pattern of long acquaintance. Smashed bits of pottery followed ripped parchment into the mounds, reminding Haylee of a parade she had seen as a little girl, when the King was crowned.
Her husband Devon, resetting the chairs and stools, would occasionally pause to examine a leg and where a fracture was found, carry it out the back door of the Inn to the wood chopping pile. If the leg could not be mended, it would be replaced and the wood recycled into the cook’s oven.
She stepped around a chair lying on its side and her foot slipped in a syrupy mess. With a startled “OH!” she fell to the floor, broom handle clattering to the floor beside her. Her hip smacked the cold stone surface and she groaned as pain shot up her side. I will have a lovely bruise by morning, she thought.
It was as she pushed herself to a sitting position that she saw the flickering firelight reflect off of it. Leaning in a little closer to the rough-hewn underside of the bar she saw a rounded copper tube, wedged between the support brace and the bar.
She reached up and pulled the tube out of the notch and stood up, wiping her sticky left hand on her apron. Haylee limped over to a table with a lamp still glowing and lowered herself into a chair.
The tube was long and thin, shining brightly in the lamp light even though the surface had been roughed to dull its surface. It was stoppered and sealed with melted wax, which bore an imprint, an insignia she did not recognize.
She hesitated, wondering what it contained and whether the contents were in any way related to the brawl that had broken out several hours earlier.
Devon stumped back inside, back from disposing of the broken chair. He now carried a wooden bucket filled with soapy water and a straw mop, having spotted the sticky spill, that Haylee had missed.
He paused by her table, eyes roving over the tube in her slender hands.
“Where did you find that?” he asked, in a hoarse voice.
“It was wedged in the underside of the bar top” she said, motioning towards the sticky spill. “I slipped in the muck on the floor and while lying on the floor I spotted it.”
He took the tube from her and examined it, noting the wax sea. His eyes widened and his face blanched. Haylee’s heart started to race at his expression.
“What is it? Why are you scared all of a sudden?”
He glanced at her and then resolutely turned his back and carried the tube, unopened, back to the bar top and crouching down, located the spot where the vial had been hidden. He wiped it down carefully with his apron, removing all signs of fingerprints and then wedged it tightly back into its original location.
Straightening, he turned back to his wife, a little of the color returning to his face.
“It’s best we heed our own advice and mind our P’s and Q’s, as we told everyone when the brawl started up. This is nothing we want to be a part of.”
She stared at him, then said “It’s about HIM, isn’t it? One of HIS supporters?”
Haylee made the sign of the cross across her bosom and rose stiffly to her feet.
“You and I never saw anything. We know how to mind our P’s and Q’s” and with that she shoveled the piles of debris into a waiting bucket and headed out the back door.
“Another origin comes from English pubs and taverns of the 17th century. Bartenders would keep a watch on the alcohol consumption of the patrons; keeping an eye on the pintsand quarts that were consumed. As a reminder to the patrons, the bartender would recommend they “mind their Ps and Qs”. This may also have been a reminder to bartenders not to confuse the two units, written as “p” and “q” on the tally slate.” Wikipiedia link
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