Community Spirit – Episode 71

JEANNIE’S firm voice forced Pamela to think about her words.

“Nate should buy the place, of course!” she said. “Then it doesn’t have to close, the village keeps both pubs, and he can continue the good work he has started and make this place a roaring success once more.”

After a stunned silence, Meredith spoke up.

“It’s perfect!” she said.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” the major piped up.

“What a wonderful way for the Mucklebury Arms to continue,” Miss Grace agreed.

“Attagirl, Pammie!” Frank exclaimed, earning himself a good-natured poke from Meredith.

Arthur held up his hands.

“Could you do it, lad? What do you think?”

Nate felt the weight of expectation upon him.

“I . . . I’d love to,” he stammered, “but how? I have some savings put by which could go towards a deposit, but I’d have to see about a loan for the rest, and then there’s the investment needed in the kitchen and the carpark, the decor needs redoing, and most of the tables and chairs would have to go.

“It needs too much; I can’t see how it can be done.”

The room was quiet once more.

“With our help, of course,” Arthur offered. “I’ve got a bit sitting in the bank doing nothing. I’ll invest in the pub with you at the helm.”

“So will I,” the major seconded.

“My sister left me a little nest egg,” Miss Grace added. “I’d happily invest in you, too.”

“Bernard’s always looking for good opportunities,” Pamela said. “I’m sure we’d be in.”

“We have some government bonds we could cash in,” Meredith said, Frank nodding enthusiastically.

“And don’t worry,” Arthur said. “We’d be silent partners; it would be your show.”

“What do you say, Nate?” the major asked. “Are you in or not?”

He looked over everyone’s heads at Cally. Her eyes were shining as Tasha gripped her arm. She nodded, and laughed.

“I’ll do it,” he said, but held up his hand as they started to cheer. “On one condition.”

They looked at him expectantly. He pulled Jeannie to stand beside him, his arm around her shoulder as they faced the assembly.

“I’ll do it if Jeannie will agree to be the chef.”

He turned to face her.

“I know it’s asking a lot of you to give up your new job and take a risk like this, but I don’t think I can do it without you.”

“Are you talking about my culinary skills or me personally?”

Nate grinned.

“All of you! Your fabulous cooking, your kind heart, your generous nature, your beautiful eyes. I need you by my side, in the kitchen, and in my life.”

“Do it, Mum, do it!” Tasha cried.

Now all eyes were on Jeannie, but Jeannie only had eyes for Nate.

“Yes!” she said to him. “I’ll do it.”

This time the Evensong crowd really did cheer, long and loud, as Jeannie and Nate hugged.

“Thank you so much,” Nate said into her ear. “You’ve made me the happiest man alive.”

She had. The Mucklebury Arms would live on with someone at the helm who cared about community, helped by those who cared about him.

In such a short time, the pain of the past two years had been erased, and he and Cally could look forward to a happy and settled future.

Nate and Jeannie kissed, which brought forth another cheer from the gathering, before Cally and Tasha were pulled in and everyone closed in a big circle and hugged each other.

Finally, they broke apart and Arthur pulled Nate to one side.

“Well done, lad, I knew you could do it,” he said.

“Thank you,” Nate replied. “I wish I could have had your belief at times.”

“You’re a trier,” Arthur declared. “I could see that from the off, and triers always get back up even after a knock.”

“I think you might be right.” Nate smiled. “And this time I’m staying on my feet.”

He walked away and stood in the door of the Mucklebury Arms, staring out across the green. The Goose and Gander’s lights were going on as the first stars appeared in the fading sky. Sitting peacefully beneath them, the houses around the green were settling down for the night and the village was quiet and calm.

Cally joined him at the door and tucked herself under his arm.

Nate kissed her gently on top of her head.

“Welcome home,” he said.


Alison Cook