Nick, and all the other regulars, such as Joseph and Ross, were once again talking their troubles over a nice glass of ale. The bar-keep, Betsy, as everyone called her, knew these men well, and accepted them not as drunken trouble-makers, but for men who have nothing else in their lives and need something. Plus, she was making fair profit off of the mens' money. Again, the sun had gone down, and the bar had filled. Nick had just finished recollecting his "awful day in the hell-hole prison at which he worked," when a young lad strolled in. The lad, barely old enough to drink, plopped himself down next to Nick and smiled. He turned to Betsy and said "A glass of ale, if you please, madam."
"Comin' right up, hun," replied Betsy, her gruff voice sounding as happy as it could. She figured if she could get this new one to be a regular, then her profit would increase. Nick studied the lad for a while. The young man was tall, well-built, and looked like a hard worker. He had tousled brown hair, and had round spectacles pushed up on his nose. On his head he wore a ragged black fedora. He was bedecked in a shaggy brown over coat and slick brown pants. His shoes, probably the newest accessory on his body, were newly polished and shone a nice jet black hue.
Nick then said "Hello, lad. Welcome to the Black Horse. I'm Nick, and ever since me life went down the drain, I've been comin' here, drinkin' me life away."
The young man replied with a smile and said "They call me Rich. I work at the library, as an assistant to the head librarian. I live on a ragged side of town in a shabby apartment, but it doesn't bother me. I see you've noticed my new shoes." He pointed down at his feet as Nick examined the dark, shiny shoes again. "Just got 'em for my birthday, from my cousin," explained Rich, taking a sip of his ale.
"So," said Nick, stroking his black beard, "what brings you to the pub this evening?"
"Ah, well, you see, when I was younger, I was always allowed to have a bit of ale when we had a tragic family accident. My mother has just recently died, and, I'm mourning her death. I know I seem chipper and cheerful, but I have to keep positive for all the young blokes at the library," explained Rich, his eyes slightly misting.
"Well, we're here for you, hun," said Betsy, placing a light hand on the lad's shoulder.
"OK," Rich began, "my mother was taken to the hospital shortly after she stumbled and fell in the garden. As soon as she hit the ground, she was out cold. She suffered a severe concussion to the head, and was blacked out for several days. When she finally awoke, she didn't seem herself, and I wasn't allowed to visit her often. Shortly after, I found out that her brain had been bruised beyond repair, and she was proclaimed dead a week ago. Now, I'm left with my wicked step-father and my cousins. But, it's also nice to know that I have you all as comrades now." Rich now wiped his eyes, and then took a long gulp from his ale.
Nick sat stroking his beard, soaking in the story word for word. He then said "I'm sorry, Rich. I hope that you can recover OK. I know what it's like to lose some one close. I work down at the docks, but I would really call it work. My pay isn't good enough to support myself, let alone anyone else. After I was kicked out of me old job, me wife left for some fancy rich-man. I live in a run-down house downtown. I have make just enough to support myself, and keep the house alive. Life ain't good, but at least I got Betsy, and the brew!"
Rich and Nick stayed most of the night chatting, and soon they were the only ones left in the pub. Betsy was cleaning up while Nick finished his life story.
"...So then I started working at the docks, because at the time, the pay was good, and I've always loved the sea," Nick was saying, "but soon after my arrival there, the work conditions went down the drain, and people started leavin'. I'm one of the only employees left, because I know I ain't gettin' it any better anywhere else," Nick finished. He then took one last sip of ale, then slammed the mug on the bar and wiped his scraggly mouth. The whole time Rich had listened and commented, being a really good listener. Nick had taken a liking to the lad, and asked Rich if we like to start attending the pub regularly, like himself. Rich couldn't have been happier to oblige.
The next night, Rich strolled in again, and sat down next to Nick. Nick had just finished a glass of ale, and greeted him with a hearty hand-shake. Rich smiled and ordered an ale, just as he had done the night before. Only this time, Betsy didn't respond. In fact, she wasn't even in sight. Nick peered over the bar, then gasped and quickly jumped over the bar. Good ol' Besy was on the ground, groaning, screaming, the pain eating away. Rich went around and stood next to Nick, looking down at the old bartenders body. He had only met her the night before, but he judged her a good woman.
* * *
A few hours later, Rich was in the same hospital he had been in very recently, and Nick was pacing around, murmuring to himself, and asking Rich question after random question.
"Will she be all right? What's happened to 'er? Why did she moan 'n groan like that? Oh Betsy," he said, constantly rushing from one end of the room to the other.
All Rich could do was sit there and say "I don't know, Nick, I don't know." A few minutes later, a doctor with thick auburn hair came out with a pure look of terror. He was pale, and had a note in his hand.
"Fellas, this note is from Betsy; her will, actually. She said 'Nick, take good care of Rich. Keep my bar, because I know you've had a hard life, and you need better profit. Take Rich in, treat 'im like a son. Promise me you will succeed, and keep the Black Horse alive. Beth Ann Richards. ~' It seems as though she was fond of you, Mr. Burlap," said the doctor, addressing Nick by his formal name. Nick was awe-struck. Rich walked over to the man and hugged him, and Nick embraced him as if he were his own son.
"Rich, how would you fancy livin' with me? Gettin' away from your step-dad and helpin' me at the pub?" asked Nick, trying to fill out Betsy's wishes.
"Nicholas Burlap, that would make me the happiest lad alive," said Rich, offering his hand for another hearty shake. But, instead, Nick embraced the young man again.
* * *
The next day, Joseph, Ross and the other regulars were shocked to hear about Betsy's will, but were happy to hear that a nice man like Nick would be the new owner. Nick had told his employers at the dock to piss off, and was now enjoying serving beer to all his friends, including his new comrade, the young Rich. Rich had left his evil step-father a letter, and gave up his place at the apartments. He was now living happily with Nick. All is well at the Black Horse Pub, and Betsy's happy memory shall live on in the life of the shabby bar.
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