“I worked in this place with my father and grandfather,” Bernard said. “I even have vague memories of sitting at this vary table with my great grandfather. This place is all my family has known.”
“It is a good place,” Layton said, “a fine establishment.”
“There is a story about this place I think you should know,” Bernard said. “My great great great grandfather helped build this place. You see back in his day a shipyard was here. Timber was harvested from just over the ridge to the west of here and some fine ships were built and laid down in this harbor. When the forests were gone so was the shipbuilding. All that remained were some hearty souls. Two hearty souls were William Benson, my ancestor and his friend, Layton Sexton.”
Layton wiped his bowl with the biscuit and placed the final bite in his mouth.
“Do you know any of this?” Bernard said.
“I’m hearing it for the first time,” Layton said curiously.
“So when you walked in here a few years ago I thought my days and my family’s days were numbered when it came to proprietorship of this place,” Bernard said and he poured the brandy.
“Why would you think that?” Layton said.
“Because this place belongs to your family,” Bernard said.
“How could that be?” Layton said.
“The Sexton family was part owner in the shipyard,” Bernard said. “Layton wanted to know all about building ships he could learn. He started working in the shipyard where he and William Benson became friends. On there own they decided to build this place. They built it sturdy like a ship.”
“So our ancestors were in business together,” Layton said.
“Sort of,” Bernard said. “It was all Layton’s money and at least half his labor.”
“So how did Layton Sexton get to America?” Layton said.
“He and his father had a falling out,” Bernard said. “Not only was a tavern owner an disreputable occupation in those days, but he and William Benson’s younger sister Kate hit it off. The Benson’s were beneath the Sextons.”
“So they eloped to America?” Layton said.
“Exactly,” Bernard said. “But on his leaving an agreement was drawn between Layton and William and put in the possession of a bank to administer; the tavern they built would remain in Benson’s hands until a Sexton came back to claim it. Benson’s were to pay what amounts to 2 ½ percent of receipts to a trust and claimed by the Sextons at anytime.
“So our ancestors were business partners?” Layton said.
“Well, William Benson was not business minded, but it seems Layton Sexton was,” William said. “Only 10 percent of the business belonged to William.”
“That was hardly equitable,” Layton said.
“Not so fast,” William said. “Layton was really doing William a favor. The shipyard went belly-up. Sure there were some lean years at the tavern, but once things smoothed out and folks around here took up fishing and processing the Bensons had a going business. And besides it was all Layton’s money, his business plan, and half his labor. There has been never a quarrel about the terms of the agreement.”
“Well we weren’t there,” Layton said.
“Certainly,” Bernard said, “but we have the documents to prove their agreement. I have it all. Would you like to read it. Your ancestor, whose name you bear was a good man. And there is something that may be of interest to you; all these years this place has be waiting for you.”
Layton sipped the brandy and smiled innocently at Bernard. “Much of this is all by accident. I came here knowing only this was as far as I could trace my ancestry and I stayed, that’s the long and short of it.”
“I’m afraid you have only the short of it, lad,” Bernard said. “This building was built stout; four main beans run the width.” Bernard looked overhead. “See them lad?”
“Yes,” Layton said. “Are they the originals?”
“Yes,” lad.” Bernard reached in his pocket for a match and he struck it on the box. He lit a candle that sat on the table. “Now take the candle to that crossbeam,” Bernard said pointing to the one only a few feet away.
Layton held the candle to the beam.
“There just a three feet or so from the support beam,” Bernard said. “There is a carving in the timber; read it aloud, please.”