"Hard to larboard, Mr. Knox." Smythe said, hands clasped behind his back.
"Helm, hard to larboard."
"Aye, sir." Knox and Smythe heard the wheel spin hard without looking.
"She's coming around, sir."
"Eyes on the targets, Mr. Knox. Have the gun crews stand by."
"Aye, sir." Knox answered, stepping forward to the rail. "Gun Crews! Eyes on target! Stand by to fire!"
"At your pleasure, Mr. Knox." Smythe said, as he looked to his left, a cabin boy carrying a tray, standing near him. It was Smythe's usual tea. Smythe reached down and picked up a cup off the tray. Smythe, with tea in hand looked forward.
"At the ready?! FIRE!" Knox's words were almost drowned out by the cannon fire. Smythe looked to his right, slowly as the smoke cleared. He frowned, seeing that most of the barrels still floated intact. Smythe sipped his tea slowly. "Hard to port, Mr. Knox. Let's try it again, shall we?"
"Very good, sir." Knox looked over his shoulder. "Hard to port, bring us back around. Flatten out the jib to port! Gun crews reload!"
"Are you up for the task, Mr. Knox?"
"Yes, sir." Knox turned toward his Captain.
Smythe stepped up to the rail, next to Knox, tea still in hand. "I think not. My dead grandmother has better aim. Get your gun crews on target, Mr. Knox, or they will answer for it."
"Very well, sir."
"We have a young captain to best."
Smythe drank the last of his tea, holding his cup back behind him. It was taken by the young cabin boy, who then walked away. Smythe smiled and looked over Knox. Knox narrowed his eyes at his Captain.
"I'm sorry, sir. I do not take your meaning, sir."
"I speak of our young Captain Callum of the Dover. Have you heard of him, Knox?"
"Yes, sir. Most in Portsmouth have heard of him, sir."
"And what do they say, Mr. Knox?"
"That he is one with,... that has the true meaning of how to handle a vessel, sir."
"Meaning, that I do not?" Smythe asked, gripping the rail tighter, making his knuckles white.
"No, sir. It's just that..."
"What is it, man?"
"Well, sir, it's just that he knows his vessel, sir. From having been aboard her for so long, sir. It's said that he was practically raised aboard the Dover, sir."
"They are connected, in other words."
"In plain speaking, sir, yes, I would agree with that."
"Thank you, Mr. Knox." Smythe said, as he released the rail. "Have your gun crews standing by ready to fire."
"Aye, sir." Knox said, watching Smythe walk away.
"Your wine, sir." Carson said, as he entered the cabin door. Callum was bent over the maps, reading and rereading every sounding indicated on it.
"Thank you, Carson." Callum said, not looking up. "Put it here on the table if you will."
"Very good, sir." Carson said, setting it down carefully. "Would you like me to pour for you, sir?"
"What?" Callum asked, looking up. He smiled briefly at Carson. "No, thank you, I can manage."
"Very good, sir." Carson said and turned to leave. "Sir, I thought you would like to know..."
"Yes?" Callum asked, looking up.
"I am following your suggestion, sir." Callum looked confused for a moment. "About cooking for the men, sir? They shall have a good meal tonight, sir, with your compliments."
"Thank you, Carson." Callum smiled. "But, it doesn't have to be with my compliments."
"I understand, sir." Carson nodded and opened the door. Callum smiled. The door closed and then there was a knock. Callum did not look up.
"Sir," Mr. Talon looked inside the door.
"What is it, Mr. Talon?" Callum looked up.
"Mr. Tomlin's compliments, sir. The powder monkeys have greased all of the blocks, sir. Mr. Tomlin thought it might be a good idea to have the wheels of the chocks greased as well, sir."
"Give Mr. Tomlin my compliments, and my commendation for positive thinking. I should have thought of that myself." Callum stood, smiling, looking at young Talon. "You may pass that along at your discretion, Mr. Talon."
"I will, sir." Talon beamed. "Thank you, sir."
"Was there something else, Mr. Talon?"
"Well, sir. I was wondering, we have all of this extra shot and powder on board, sir."
"And?" Callum waited, putting his hands on his hips.
"Well, sir, it is stowed below on the storage deck, sir. I would assume that it will be used once we reach our destination."
"Well, sir, it will take time to get it up from below deck to the gun decks, sir."
"Again, positive thinking." Callum smiled. "I like that in my officers. So, what would think we should do, Mr. Talon?"
"I should think, sir, that with the extra shot and powder, it should at ready hand, sir."
"I agree, Mr. Talon." Callum smiled. "Has Camden finished his refit of the stanchions?"
"Not quite, sir."
"Tell, Mr. Arvin that I am putting you in charge of moving the extra shot and powder once we are underway tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir." Talon beamed. Callum returned the smile. Talon grabbed the doorknob and opened the door.
"Oh, and Mr. Talon?"
"You may not wish to thank me yet."
Talon smiled wide again. "It's alright, sir. I don't mind the extra work, sir."
"Very well." Callum said, going back to his charts.
"Coming back around, sir." Knox said back to Smythe.
"Very good, Mr. Knox. Bring us within range."
"Helm, steady your course." Knox said.
"Gun Crews! On your marks! Make every shot count! Stand by to fire!" Knox looked over the rail, counting in his head. "FIRE!" Thunderous booming went off almost simultaneously, thick clouds of smoke hung in the air, and then the breeze took it away. Knox looked over the side, smiling briefly. "All targets destroyed, sir."
"Finally, Mr. Knox. Take us out further into the channel. We shall have another run at it."
"As you wish, sir." Knox turned back to the helm. "Run out your course, three points to larboard."
"Aye, sir. Three points to larboard." Knox turned back to the rail. "Gun crews! Reload! I want new targets over the side!"
"Beg pardon, sir?"
"What is it, Carson?" Callum looked up. May I get you something , sir, to tide you over until dinner, sir?"
"Hmmm." Callum said. "Have we a wheel of cheese?"
"Oh, yes, sir. A nice sharp cheddar, sir."
"I should think that and possibly an apple?" Callum looked up. "To go with the wine, of course."
"Of course, sir. Right away, sir." Carson beamed.
"Is something wrong, Carson?"
"Why all this buzzing about?"
"It's the crew, sir."
"They are all a buzz, sir, about your actions on the gun deck, sir."
"I see." Callum stood up from his charts. "And so, your thoughts from earlier have changed slightly?"
"They are so engaged, sir, all of them." Carson looked so excited. "They can't stop talking about it, sir."
"I see. Then perhaps, I should make an appearance on deck." Callum smirked.
"Shall I wait on your cheese and fruit, sir?"
"Let me see what's happening topside first." Callum said, as he reached for his tunic. Carson jumped and helped him on with it. Callum fluffed out his tail off the collar. Carson handed Callum his hat, Callum lifted one eyebrow at him. Callum walked out first of the cabin.
Callum walked out on the Main Deck, seeing most of his officers standing around the Main Deck mid-rail, looking below onto the Gun Deck. Callum walked up behind them and then leaned in, looking down. Almost all of them jumped seeing him standing there in their midst.
"How is Camden doing, Mr. Arvin?"
"Work is slow, sir." Arvin said. His voice hesitated. Callum looked at him.
"And why is that, Mr. Arvin? I directed Camden and Mr. Tomlin to pull what men he needed to get it accomplished."
"Yes, sir. But, you know Camden, sir. He likes to make sure it is done correctly."
"Commendable, Mr. Arvin. But, time is of the essence."
"I agree, sir."
"Call Camden, if you will."
"Pass the word for Mr. Camden!"
Within a minute, Camden appeared on the deck below the railing. "Yes, sir?"
"A moment of your time, Mr. Camden?" Arvin asked, and then turned away from the railing.
Camden came up on deck and walked up toward Arvin. "The Captain wishes to speak with you." Arvin said, using his hand to point toward Callum, who had his back to the group. Camden walked up, and came up and around to the front of the Captain, tipping his hand.
"Mr. Camden., I gave express instructions on what I wanted done for the guns. I understand that the work is taking too long." Callum spoke in a soft tone.
"I'm sorry, sir." Camden tipped his hand.
"I'm not interested in apologies, Camden. I'm interested in results. I need to have this done before we set sail tomorrow afternoon."
"I understand, sir."
"Apparently not. I told you to pull what men you need to assist you in this. I'm told that you are proceeding basically alone? " Callum raised an eyebrow at him.
"Well, you see, sir..."
"Yes, yes, very commendable, I'm sure, Mr. Camden." Callum said, holding up a hand. "Let me ask you, is there anyone or group of men on board that you would trust to assist you in this?"
"Well, yes, sir?"
"Did you enlist their aid?"
"Well, no, sir." Camden dropped his head.
"I see." Callum said, stepping closer to Camden, keeping his voice down. "I want you to hand select them. Whomever you trust, to get this done, is that clear?"
"Very clear, sir."
"If I wanted it all done by tonight, is it possible?"
"And how many men would you need?"
"Six in all, sir."
"Are they on deck already?"
"They are, sir."
"Then I shall go to the rail and have you select them." Callum narrowed his eyes at him. "Our very lives will depend on this, do you understand me?"
"It will be done, sir. You have my word."
"And that is all that I need, Mr. Camden. Carry on."
"Thank you, sir." Camden tipped his hand and walked away. Callum waited a minute and then turned and walked to the rail. Camden was pointing out a few of the men, and once he had given them instructions, he looked up at Callum and tipped his hand again.
"Amazing." Arvin said, quietly to himself.
"I'm sorry, did you say something, Mr. Arvin?" Callum asked.
"It was merely an observation, sir. It was nothing, sir."
"No, I'm sorry, Mr. Arvin, my mind was elsewhere. Were you saying something?"
"It was about Camden, sir. How he dotes on the ship, sir, like he's married to her, sir. And yet you have him setting a work detail to actually work on your request, sir. I am awe struck, sir, that's all."
Callum smiled. "It's all in how you put it to him, Mr. Arvin." Callum winked, Arvin smiled. "Would you care to join me in the Great Cabin? There are some charts I'd like you to see and get your opinion on."
"I would be honored, sir."
"You have the deck." Callum said, walking with Arvin toward the door below the Quarterdeck.
"Carson?" Callum called out as they walked through the galley.
"If you could fix that tray now for me, please? Mr. Arvin will be joining me as well."
Callum opened the cabin and led Arvin to the table. Callum used one hand to spin the chart around, to face them as they stood side by side. Callum was running a finger down the line of the coast but out a little ways. Arvin was watching him trace his finger.
"I think," Callum was saying as Carson came in with a small tray, setting in on the table, "if we stay off shore, possibly a half kilometer, oh, thank you, Carson, the current will be in our favor, the tide should be out as we sail in into the evening. Now, here is where it becomes tricky,..." Callum was pointing at the dots on the chart.
"Rocks." Arvin said.
"Exactly. That's why I believe that we have to stay out about a half kilometer or so. If the tide is out, they should be more visible, even at night."
"But, sir, if the lookout should call out, we may be given away.
"Another reason why I am studying these so carefully, committing them to full memory. There can be no lookouts, no noise whatsoever. For this to be successful, we must remain in absolute silence. I do not wish to wake the bear sleeping in his den."
"I understand, sir." Arvin said, looking down at the blot on the bottom of the chart. "La Trechre?" Arvin pointed at the name.
Callum smiled. "A French map maker. Who else would know those waters better, eh?"
"Very clever, sir."
"I hope it's clever enough." Callum said, as he picked up a piece of cheese. "There are a hundred things that could go wrong with this."
"Captain, if I may," Arvin lightly touch Callum's sleeve, and then removing his fingers. "Sir, you are probably over thinking this whole thing. The men trust you, sir, and your judgment. You will see us through this, I know it."
Callum smiled at Arvin. "I thank you, Mr. Arvin. Kind words." Callum held the small tray up, offering something to Arvin. Arvin sampled an apple slice. Callum set the tray down and poured two small amounts of wine. He offered a glass to Arvin. Arvin set his hat down and then took the glass.
"Did Talon inform you of the moving of the shot and powder?"
Arvin smiled as he sipped the wine. "Indeed, sir. He was very...enthusiastic over it."
Callum chuckled. "He does try very hard, doesn't he?"
Arvin smiled. "That he does, sir."
"He's a good lad." Callum said, hearing a knock on the door. "Enter." A young man entered. "Mr. Middleboro?"
"Sir, a longboat is approaching."
"Captain Anders and the Marines?"
"Uh, no sir. Beg pardon, sir, but it's more of the crew."
"Very good." Callum's heart raced for a moment, but it was too early for Dustin to arrive. "See to it, Mr. Middleboro. Have them registered in the ships book."
"Aye, sir." Middleboro stepped back out of the door.
"Sir," Arvin said, looking down at the chart again. "are you thinking of taking the fleet or attacking the fortress?"
Callum sat down in one of the chairs. "I would think that Captain Smythe is going to be making that decision for us. If I judge anything about him, I should think he will be more interested in taking the fortress."
"I see." Arvin was staring at Callum as he seemed to be lost in thought. "You seem to think that the fleet is less of a threat, sir?"
Callum snapped out of it, looking up at Arvin. "On the contrary, Mr. Arvin. I think that their fleet is the more dangerous element. French gun crews can react very quickly, as you well know. No, it will take time for the enemy to get to their guns in the fortress. I am of hopes that Captain Smythe can incapacitate them long enough for us to sail in. If I am correct in knowing how the French sail, every rudder of every vessel should be exposed to us." Arvin's eyes were wide as Callum spoke. He sipped his wine and picked up a piece of cheese. Callum picked up his glass and took a sip as well.
"Should be like shooting fish in a barrel then." Arvin smiled.
"I am hoping. The thought is that there will only be frigates at anchor. We should be able to strike quickly. I doubt that any of them will be able to get underway in any reasonable time, especially if we can reload in double time."
Arvin smiled and sipped his wine again. "Nicely done, sir. I see that you have thought this through very well."
"I hope so." Callum said, indicating with a hand to have Arvin sit down. Arvin took up a chair near Callum. Callum looked up as Carson walked in. "What is it, Carson?"
"Dinner will be ready in an hour or so, sir."
"Very good." Callum smiled at Carson, and then looked over at Arvin. "Was there something else?"
"Well, sir. Mr. Perkins has come on board, sir." Carson said, Callum's eyes went wide. "He has your trunk, sir, in the longboat." Carson said, rubbing his hands together. "Shall I have it brought in for you, sir?"
"By all means, Carson." Callum said, trying to compose himself in front of Arvin. But, Callum's chest was pounding, so loud he could hear it in his ears. Dustin left a day early, why, Callum wondered. He tried to settle himself, picking up his wine, taking a rather large drink of it, and then realized that he had emptied the glass.
"Are you alright, sir?"
"What? I'm sorry?" Callum asked, looking up. It was Arvin that had asked.
"Are you alright, sir?"
"Yes, I'm fine, why?"
"It's just for a moment, sir, you lost all of your color."
"Nothing, I assure you, Mr. Arvin. I was thinking of the strategy that's all."
The doors opened to the cabin. Carson backed into the cabin, carrying one end of the trunk, the other was carried by Dustin. He kept his mind on his work, and did his best not to look at Callum.
"Where would you like it, sir?"
"Why not next to the other one, I would think, Carson."
"Yes, sir." Carson said, as he looked across to Dustin. Carson gave him a knowing soft eyed look. They walked in unison over to the bulkhead wall, and set the trunk down next to Captain Powers trunk. "Would you like me to unpack it for you, sir?"
"I don't think that's necessary right now, Carson. I'm sure you have other duties to perform."
"It is no bother, sir."
"Perhaps after dinner." Callum said.
"It should be ready in about an hour, sir."
"Very good." Callum said, half turning in his chair. He looked at Dustin fully and winked, knowing that Arvin couldn't see it. "Glad to have you back with us, Mr. Perkins."
"Happy to be here, sir." Dustin said, tipping his hand. He turned and smiled, "Good to see you, Mr. Arvin, sir."
"Mr. Perkins." Arvin nodded, then looked at Callum. "Well, at least we have a good set of eyes at the wheel now, sir."
Callum smiled, looking at Arvin. "That we do." Dustin was walking to the door. "Oh, Mr. Perkins?" Dustin turned as he reached the door, Carson was behind him.
"How are your studies coming along? I seem to think that we have possibly fallen behind since we have been off ship."
"Yes, sir. I, well, sir, have been a little busy."
"I see." Callum said, giving him a false stern look. "Perhaps, if there is time, we should start anew?"
"I'd like that, sir. Thank you. I don't wish to be any trouble to you, sir." Dustin said, Carson put a hand on his shoulder.
"I would hardly think that, Mr. Perkins."
"Thank you, sir." Dustin said, he and Carson walked out of the cabin, closing the door behind them.
Carson stopped Dustin on the Companionway, grabbing his shoulder, turning him around, giving him a knowing look. Dustin was wide eyed. Carson looked around to see if anyone was nearby.
"Be very careful, lad." Carson said in almost a whisper.
"What do you mean, Mr. Carson?"
"I mean, lad, that some of the crew knows of you being with the Captain." Carson whispered, looking around again. "They won't think anything of the Captain for it, but, they may make it hard on you. Watch your back."
"Thank you, Mr. Carson." Dustin whispered in reply. He turned and walked toward the stairway to the storage deck, where his berth hung. Dustin felt as if every pair of eyes was on him that was in the ship. He felt uncomfortable, very uncomfortable. All of a sudden, this was not the ship that he had known and loved so.
"So, Mr. Arvin, shall we ready for dinner?" Callum asked, as he stood. Arvin stood as well, while Callum rolled up the charts that were all across the table.
"With your permission, sir." Arvin said with a slight bow and walked out of the cabin, leaving Callum alone. Callum smiled to himself, knowing that he could be with Dustin, with a plausible reason. But he knew caution was the word.
Finally, the officers were in the Great Cabin. Callum was at the head of the table when Carson brought dinner in, followed by Shem, carrying another tray. Callum put out his hands, indicating that they should be seated, and Carson began to serve them. Callum looked about and Shem was nowhere to be seen. Conversation started between the officers about past voyages and whom they had served with. Callum was silent through most of the evening, just listening, smiling, and would give brief answers to their questions. The upcoming mission was never brought up.
Below decks, Carson had Shem set out and began to serve the crew. Most saw what was in the pots and were surprised by it. A few asked Shem why there was a more fancy faire. Shem merely answered, "Captain's orders." They all talked amongst themselves about it, and settled into eating what they had. The vast majority of the crew was pleased with what was there, a few others were suspicious. One of those suspicious was Jarter, a topman. He was known to have a mouth on him, and most of the crew avoided him, as he could be trouble. Jarter eyed Dustin, sitting at another table and walked over, eyeing Dustin.
"So, what is with the fancy?" Jarter asked. The others at the table knew it was leading to trouble. Most of them got up from the table, leaving Dustin alone. "I said, what is the fancy?"
"Why ask me?" Dustin asked, looking up.
"I thought you would be the one that would know what the Captain is planning."
"I have no idea what the Captain plans." Dustin said, clearly, plainly, staring at Jarter. The rest of the crew was standing back away from it all.
"Really now? Now, that's not what I heard. I heard that you know everything there is to know about the Captain."
"I know no more than you do." Dustin said, turning back to his board, picking at his supper.
Jarter reached out and grabbed Dustin by the shirt and drug him across the bench to him. Jarter pulled Dustin to his feet. He was twice Dustin's size, towering over him.
"I think you're a liar." Jarter said, going face to face with Dustin. He held Dustin's shirt with both hands tight.
"I think," Dustin said, scanning Jarters eyes, then narrowing his own, "you're an idiot, and don't know what you're talking about."
Jarter picked up Dustin and slammed him on the table full force, knocking the wind out of him. Jarter let go of Dustin's shirt with one hand, and began slapping him across the face hard, then backhanded him, then slapped him again, with his large hand backed by powerful arms. The power of the hits was blinding and powerful. Dustin was trying to use his legs and feet to get away, pushing and kicking Jarter, but he was too powerful. Another hard backhand and the blood came. Jarter went to hit again, but his hand was stopped. Jarter felt intense pressure where his wrist was being gripped. He looked over and it was Shem.
"He's had enough." Shem said in his quiet deep tone.
"When I say. He's the Captain's pretty boy." Jarter looked back down at Dustin, sneering at him.
"Enough." Shem said.
"When I say." Jarter sneered at Shem. Jarter was so focused on Shem, that he did not notice what was behind him, nor did he notice that the crew had backed up completely. Jarter looked down at Dustin, and spat in his face, as he lay helpless on the table.
"Master At Arms? Clap this man in irons! Shem, you may let him go." The voice of Mr. Talon made Jarter let Dustin go. He turned around seeing the young office standing there, still enraged, but he calmed himself. Three crewmen stepped forward, two flanking Jarter, holding his arms, the third clasping irons about Jarters wrists with a chain connecting them.
"It was just a little joke, Mr. Talon, sir." Jarter said with a smirk.
"Call for Dr. Crawford." Talon said out loud. One of the crew turned and ran down the Companionway. "Your jest has assured your night in irons, Jarter. And from what I saw, it was no mere jest. Get this man out of my sight." Talon said, then looked at Shem. "Could you help Mr. Perkins up, Shem?" Jarter was dragged off by the two crewmen. The deck and all of the crew were so quiet, you could hear the footsteps of Dr. Crawford. He came through the crew, pushing them out of his way. He stopped next to Mr. Talon, watching as Shem helped Dustin off the table to one of the benches. Crawford stepped forward. He knelt down in front of Dustin.
"Fetch me another lamp." Crawford said loudly. Another lamp was brought forward and set on the table. "Lord God." Crawford said. "This is going to hurt, lad. I'm sorry." Crawford said softly, as he put his fingers to Dustin's face. "Finch." Crawford called out. The large man stepped through the crew. "Go and fetch my bag. Someone get water and a cloth."
Dustin's right cheek was already puffy and swollen, but his left eye was completely swollen shut now. Crawford touched Dustin's face here and there, pressing fingers into and around the swelling. Crawford did not hear a sound come from Dustin, only a tear drop from his eye. Dustin was reeling from the pain. A minute later, Finch returned with the bag as water and a cloth was set on the table next to the lamp.
"I have to drain the swelling on your eye, or you will lose it. Do you understand?" Crawford said. As Finch was opening the bag and laying some instruments out on the table. Dustin nodded slightly at what Crawford said. Crawford picked up a knife that was long and looked like a razor, but it had a slight hook at the end. "Lend a hand here. Finch, hold his arm there." Shem stepped forward. "Take his other arm. Finch, hold his head steady." Crawford said, and then looked right into Dustin's eye. "Now, don't move a muscle." Dustin took a slight breath and held it as Crawford took the knife and put it to the swollen area, pushed in, slicing the skin. Blood splattered all over Crawford and ran down over Dustin's face, Crawford moved the knife along slowly and then stopped. He pulled it out and picked up the cloth. He pulled the cloth away as more blood spilled. Crawford dunked the cloth in water, squeezed it out, and put it back to Dustin's incision, holding it there. "Damn." Crawford said.
"What is it?" Talon asked.
"It will not stop bleeding. There's too much pressure inside. I have to sew him up." Crawford looked up at Finch. "Carry him to the Wardroom. Make it quick before he bleeds to death." Crawford hastily grabbed all of his instruments and dropped them in his bag. Dustin passed out in Finch's arms as he scooped him up.
Talon turned and watched as Finch carried Dustin away, Crawford right behind him, yelling to make way. Talon stood there, as the crew turned to look back at him, waiting to see what he was going to do.
"Anyone know what started this?" Talon asked. The crew looked down at the deck almost as one. "If he dies, we will lose one of the best helmsman I have ever sailed with. Now, does anyone know what started it?"
"Jarter." Came Shem's voice from behind Talon, making him turn around. "He wanted to fight, just to fight. Baaad blood in him."
"Did Perkins say anything to provoke him?"
"Jarter, bad blood. Perkins stood up to him. Jarter much bigger. Boy have no chance. He will die."
"You don't know that." Talon said.
"Bones, very bad." Shem said using a finger to circle his own face. The entire crew was speechless. They had never heard him say more than two words in all the years he was aboard. Talon turned and walked through the crew, each tipping their hands as he went by. He headed to the Wardroom as quickly as possible. He opened the door and looked in. Dr. Crawford was sewing Dustin on the table as fast as he could, but also trying to drain the blood out of the swelling. Talon closed the door, and stepped down to the Great Cabin doors, he composed himself and knocked.
"Enter." Came a voice from inside.
"Mr. Talon?" Callum's voice said from the end of the table.
"Sorry to disturb you, sir. But I have an issue on deck that requires Mr. Arvin's presence, sir."
"Everything alright, Mr. Talon?" Callum asked, seeing the youth looking flustered.
"In due course, sir." Talon answered, standing stiff. Callum looked at Arvin, Arvin looked back at Callum. "I'm sorry to have interrupted, sir."
"The ship takes priority, Mr. Talon." Callum answered. Young Talon nodded slightly.
Arvin stood, giving Callum a slight bow. "If you'll excuse, sir. I'm certain this won't take long." The junior officers went to stand. "As you were, gentlemen." Arvin said, following Talon out of the Great Cabin, closing the door. "Alright, Mr. Talon, what is so urgent?"
"If you'll come with me, sir, please." Talon turned and walked down the way to the Wardroom. He opened the door. Arvin stepped in, watching Talon and then saw the scene on the table. Crawford bent over stretching out silk with one hand, the flashing of the hooked needle in the lamp light, Finch holding the lamp steady over Crawford. Arvin stepped forward and saw who it was on the table.
"Oh, my..." Arvin said, turning and walking back over to Talon. "Who did this?"
"Jarter, sir. I saw most of it, before he could be stopped."
"Where is he?"
"He is in irons, sir, below decks."
"May I remind you, Mr. Talon, that as the officer on watch, you are to stop things before they go this far?"
"Yes, sir. I was up on deck, and heard the commotion, and came below as quickly as possible."
Arvin shook his head and breathed out of his nose, then turned and walked back to the table.
"Doctor?" Arvin simply asked.
Crawford never looked up. "If the bleeding gets stopped, he may survive. He probably has a severe fracture to the skull. I won't know until morning." Arvin turned and walked back to Talon. "You did the right thing by informing me, Mr. Talon. Return to your duties."
"But, the Captain..."
"The Captain will know in due course. Return to your duties."
Talon walked out, and Arvin knew he had to tell Callum but he also knew it was going to be difficult. Arvin looked back toward the table. He opened the door and walked to the Great Cabin, and opened the door.
"Well, gentlemen," Callum said, as he stood. "a most pleasant evening. I thank you all for joining me for dinner."
"Thank you, sir." They all said, almost in unison. They filed out, but Arvin remained. Carson was beginning to clear things and stack plates.
"Everything alright on deck, Mr. Arvin? It couldn't have been that serious. You weren't gone but a few minutes."
"I beg your pardon, sir." Arvin said, stepping to the end of the table. "But, I feel that you should have a look in the Wardroom, sir. Your presence might be required, sir."
Callum looked at Arvin, he narrowed his eyes. "What is it, Mr. Arvin?"
"Well sir, you should see it for yourself, sir."
Callum walked toward the door, opening it wide, and then down the way to the Wardroom. Arvin was right behind him. Callum put his hand on the door and opened it. He saw Dr. Crawford and Finch over the table. Callum could see legs and feet on the table but not much else. He walked over into the light, coming around Finch. Callum saw Dustin, blood everywhere on his face, Crawford running more stitches, the swelling on his cheek discoloring, turning a deep purple, the eye puffed, and the swollen closed eye that Crawford was just finishing.
"Doctor?" Callum asked softly. Crawford did not answer. Callum cleared his throat, leaning closer to Crawford. "Arthur?" Crawford stopped and looked up, going almost eye to eye with Callum.
"Captain, I need to finish this. Then we can talk." Crawford said. Callum went to say something. "I'm doing my best to save his life right now. Leave me do my work. I will let you know as soon as I can." Callum stood straight and stiffened. He watched Crawford finish the last of the stitches and then set about to clean up the blood. Callum walked over to Arvin.
"Do you know what happened?"
"Talon apparently heard something below decks and when he got there, he witnessed most of it. Jarter is in irons below decks." Callum went to leave. Arvin stepped to block him in the door. Callum had rage in his eyes. "Sir, you're not thinking of going down below, are you?" Callum paused and Arvin had his answer. "Sir, do you think that wise?"
"You're right, Mr. Arvin. I will wait." Callum turned and looked at Crawford. "I'll be in my cabin, Doctor, waiting to hear from you. Mr. Arvin?" Callum walked out and back to the cabin, Arvin right behind him. Carson was putting things on a tray. "I'm not worried about that now, Carson."
"Yes, sir." Carson said.
"Would you put on some coffee for me, please, Carson?"
"Yes, it's going to be a long night." Callum said, as he sat at the table. Arvin came and stood by him. "Who has the next watch, Mr. Arvin?"
"Mr. Tomlin, sir."
"Send Mr. Tomlin to see me, if you please."
"Yes, sir." Arvin said. "If you need anything else, sir, do not hesitate to ask, sir."
"Thank you, William." Callum smiled briefly. As Arvin walked out of the cabin, he looked back and saw Callum just staring at the bulkhead, drumming his fingers softly on the table. Arvin shut the door.
A few minutes later, Carson returned with another tray, carrying a pot and a cup on it. He set it on the table. He poured a cup for Callum and set it next to his hand, that was still drumming fingers. Carson picked up the larger tray and walked out the door with it, leaving Callum in silence. Callum smelled something. He looked and saw a cup of hot coffee next to his hand, not realizing where it had come from. He leaned over and sniffed, it was coffee. He picked it up and sipped at it. Carson's coffee, Callum thought. He sipped it again. There was a knock at the door.
"Enter." Callum said quietly. Crawford came in, closing the door. Callum got to his feet quickly, putting the cup down. "Well?"
"He'll live." Crawford said. Callum sighed to himself with relief. "He is in a bad way. I won't know if there is a fracture to the skull until morning. He is sleeping. I have given him Laudanum to make him rest. He is quite the young man."
"When he was coming in and out of consciousness, his only questions were of you. If you knew, not to tell you, he did not wish to bother you with this." Crawford shook his head and then sat down. "Extraordinary really. Most in his condition would be screaming at the top of their lungs. He never made a sound." Callum's chest was pounding in pain.
"May I see him?"
"Of course. He is sleeping though." Crawford said, as he stood. "And here I thought that I was going to have nothing more than a quiet evening before we got under way."
Callum walked to the door and out, down to the Wardroom. He opened the door, seeing Finch cleaning things up. Dustin was still on the table, but covered with a shabby blanket. Callum walked up to him, seeing Dustin's hair matted from the blood. Callum stood next to him, just staring down at him. He wanted to fall apart and just hold Dustin. Dustin was breathing very slowly, his chest rising and falling very slightly under the shabby blanket. Callum was being ripped apart inside. Crawford walked up beside him.
"Can we move him someplace else rather than this table?"
"I wouldn't advise it. If his skull is fractured, it might make him start to bleed in the brain. It will kill him."
"I see." Callum whispered. Carson walked in. He carried the tray with the coffee pot and cup. There was another cup added to it though. Carson set it down, handing Callum his cup. "Thank you, Carson." Carson smiled only and poured a cup for Crawford, handing it to him.
"Thank you, Carson. Your timing is excellent." Crawford said.
"I'll bring a chair in for you, sir." Carson said to Callum and walked out. In a couple of minutes time, Carson reentered carrying a wooden armed chair from the Great Cabin. He set it near the head of the table. "Make yourself comfortable, sir. As you said, it will be a long night."
"Thank you, Carson." Callum said, turning and sitting down. There was a knock at the door. Carson opened it. Tomlin walked in seeing what was going on in the room. His eyes were wide at all of it.
"Mr. Arvin said you wished to see me, sir." Tomlin said, in a quiet voice.
"You have the watch tonight, Mr. Tomlin?" Callum asked, not looking at Tomlin, just staring at Dustin, as he lay on the table.
"Secure a grating to the railing of the Main Deck. I want it lashed tight so it will not move." Callum said in a low voice, almost a growl to it.
"I understand, sir. I'll have it done immediately, sir."
"Thank you, Mr. Tomlin."
"Anything else I can do, sir?"
"No, that will be all."
"Very good, sir." Tomlin walked out and went up on deck. The bell was sounding for change of watch, the third dog watch, it rang quietly. The crew changed hands, and Talon was relieved by Mr. Tomlin.
"All quiet, sir. Nothing to report." Talon said.
"I beg to differ with you, Mr. Talon."
"You're right, sir." Tomlin said, looking at him. Talon lowered his face a little and then looked back up. "Don't worry. You did the right thing. The Captain will not find fault with you. I would have done the same in your place."
"Thank you, sir." Talon said, tipping his hand.
"Crane, Latch, Simms." Tomlin called, turning, out to the new watch. They looked in his direction. "Secure a grating to the Main Deck railing, tie it tight, top and bottom. There will be no moving it."
"Aye, aye, sir." They all knew what it meant, and gulped to themselves. Talon knew as well, and turned to walk away from Tomlin.
"Good night, Mr. Talon." Tomlin said, not looking at him.
Talon turned back, "Good night, sir." He tipped his hand, to Tomlin's back, turned and walked away.
Callum sat, just staring at the sleeping Dustin. Crawford had rolled something up, placing under Dustin's head, and around the sides to support him, to keep him from moving. Callum thought to himself how hard the table must be under him as he watched the shabby blanket rise and fall slightly. Callum didn't hear the door open, lost in thought, watching Dustin. Crawford told Callum that he should get some rest, that sitting here was pointless. Callum ignored him. Crawford came close to Callum and said he would check in on him again and left the room. They were alone together, finally. Callum could only sigh softly.
"Shall I get you a covering, sir?" Carson softly asked, almost startling Callum. Callum looked over at his face, as Carson was kneeling at Callum's elbow.
"No, I will be fine, thank you, Carson. My thought is if he will be warm enough."
"I will fetch one for him, sir." Carson said, warmly.
"Get it from my berth, if you will."
"Of course, sir." Carson said with a soft voice. Carson opened the door silently and left. Callum leaned forward a little. He picked up his cup and sipped his coffee. It was cold. He didn't care, he set the cup back down as Carson slipped back into the Wardroom. Callum got to his feet. He took the blanket from Carson and carefully covered Dustin with it, going slowly, so as not to wake him or hurt him in any possible way. Carson watched and then stepped close to Callum. "Is there anything else you require, sir?"
"No. Thank you, Carson. Why don't you turn in for the night."
"As you wish, sir." Carson whispered, then left the room silently. Callum returned to his chair. He watched Dustin carefully. He wasn't sure how much time had actually passed, but he nodded off. Callum heard something and it woke him. He sat up in his chair, the dim light from the lamp hanging from the beam above the table. He looked about and saw it was Crawford.
"Morning, Captain." Crawford said in a low voice, looking at Callum.
"Morning?" Callum sat forward in the chair, looking at Crawford.
"It is predawn. I wanted to check on the lad." Crawford said as he turned in his crouched position, turning to look at Dustin's puffed face and eye. "It would seem that the laudanum has helped." Crawford turned back to Callum. "You can do nothing more by sitting here, Captain. Why don't you try and get some rest in your cabin?"
Callum stood and looked down at Dustin and then at Crawford. "Perhaps you're right, Doctor. He hasn't moved at all."
"I would not expect him to." Crawford almost whispered. "It was very severe. His body is trying to mend itself. Any change, I will notify you, I assure you."
"Thank you, Doctor." Callum said, taking one last look at Dustin and then went to the door. He walked to his cabin and closed the door behind him. He slipped out of his tunic and placed it on the back of one of the chairs at the table. He walked to the aft windows and clasped his hands behind his back, staring out into the darkness. He waited and wondered. He knew what his duty was and the anger that was in him from this was subsiding. The memories of something like this happening to him came flooding back. Memories of being beaten while in school, being taken, then beaten again. Callum closed his eyes thinking of it. Most of what had happened to him as a youth had been done to him by Farrow. Callum took in a deep breath through his nose. He opened his eyes and looked back out through the windows. The dawn was now here. Callum heard the door open behind him. He knew it must be Carson.
"Would you care for more coffee, sir?" Carson asked quietly.
"No, thank you, Carson. I believe that I have had enough for the time being."
"How about some breakfast, sir?"
"No." Callum turned from the windows. He walked over and pulled his tunic from the back of the chair, and slipped it on. He picked up his hat. "I shall be on deck."
"Very good, sir." Carson said, stepping out of the way of the door. He followed Callum out, closing the door behind him. Callum walked past the Wardroom and then through the galley, Carson stopped there, as Callum proceeded up on deck. Callum walked through the door under the Quarterdeck and walked up the port side stairs. Tomlin was at the rail aft. Callum walked over to join him slowly.
"Anything to report this morning, Mr. Tomlin?" Callum asked quietly. Tomlin jumped not hearing him coming up. Tomlin stood stiff, then raised his hand.
"Nothing, sir. It was quiet all night." Tomlin looked into Callum's face, seeing his features looking tired and worn. "Is there something I can do for you, sir?"
"Thank you, no, Mr. Tomlin."
"Mr. Arvin should be on deck presently, sir."
"I'm aware of that, thank you, Mr. Tomlin."
"And the grating is secured, sir."
"Very good, Mr. Tomlin." Callum turned and walked to the front rail, looking over the Main Deck. Callum could see that the grating was in place and secured fast. Callum narrowed his eyes and then almost sneered at it. He looked forward, seeing open water ahead, feeling the breeze stiffen as it came off the Channel. It chilled him in the early morning hours. He almost welcomed it. He thought he wanted to be cold, to match his mood, to be callous when he exacted his punishment on Jarter. He hoped that there would be a lesson learned by this to the crew.
"Captain?" Came a voice next to him. Callum looked to his left and saw Arvin standing next to him. "Is everything alright, sir?"
"Yes, Mr. Arvin. I needed to stretch my legs this morning."
"I see, sir." Arvin said, then looked forward following Callum's stare.
"I shall have a look forward, and walk the deck."
"Very good, sir." Arvin said, and stepped back out of Callum's way. Callum walked slowly over to the port stairs and looked over at Arvin.
"Care to join me, Mr. Arvin?"
"Pleasure, sir." Arvin said, and walked to join Callum. They went down the stairs, Callum in the lead. Arvin came up beside him.
They walked the deck, slowly moving forward, Callum was noting riggings and lashings that were about, as did Arvin. The men on deck tipped their hands and stood back out of the way to let them pass. They walked by the rail looking down to the Gun Deck. Callum stopped for a moment.
"I believe it was an excellent idea to have the blocks greased, sir."
"I thank you, Mr. Arvin." Callum said softly. "I am certain it will prove very useful."
"Without a doubt, sir." They continued on their way.
"I think we should have the extra canvas hauled out, Mr. Arvin."
"I have a feeling that we might need it. It would be best to have it mended, if necessary."
"I'll see to it, sir." Arvin said, as he looked aloft. "I was also thinking of having the cat line rerun along the Main Mast, sir. It looks a slight frayed from here." Callum turned his eyes upward. He looked the line over and grunted softly.
"I agree." Callum said. "Let's make sure to do that before the second dog watch. We shall get under way then. If, Captain Anders decides to grace us with his presence."
Arvin smiled slightly. "I'm certain that he will, sir."
"Without doubt." Callum chuckled. They continued moving forward till they reached the bow. Callum put a hand on one of the bow guns. "I was thinking of having two of the nine pounders placed here at the bow. I'm not sure that the rail guns will be sufficient."
"Shall I have them moved up from the storage deck, sir?"
"Probably. Let's take one from each side from the aft quarter. Have these placed at the aft rail of the Quarterdeck at the joint rails. Then before the second watch starts, and if Captain Anders is aboard, I shall have all officers convene in the Great Cabin."
"I'll see to the guns right away, sir. With your permission, I shall have Mr. Middleboro oversee it, sir."
"Good." Callum smiled slightly. "He shows great promise, wouldn't you agree?"
"Indeed, sir. He is eager and attentive."
"Yes, reminds me of another young midshipman." Callum said, raising an eyebrow. "He, too, was eager to please, once upon a time."
"You, sir?" Arvin smiled.
"Yes." Callum looked aloft on the Foremast, then back to Arvin. Callum turned and walked back along the deck, Arvin walked again with him.
"If you don't mind my saying, sir, you look tired this morning, sir."
"There was not much time for sleeping last night."
"Any change in Mr. Perkins, sir?"
"He was sleeping when Dr. Crawford came in to check him. Time will tell."
"I see, sir." Arvin was close to stepping over that line, and knew where to stop. He did not pursue it any longer. They walked in silence together back toward the Quarterdeck. Once Callum was at the rail, Arvin called out for several of the hands to carry out the Captain's orders. Some went below deck to pull out the extra canvas, a few went aloft, Arvin watching as the cat line was restrung on the Main Mast. Callum stood at the rail watching his crew move about, carrying out his orders, hands clasped behind his back. Callum looked below the rail, seeing the door open, Dr. Crawford came out, turned and looked up. Callum saw the look on his face.
"Mr. Arvin, you have the deck." Callum said and walked to the port stairs. He came down them and walked up to Crawford. "Well?" Callum asked quietly.
"You'd better come to the Wardroom." Crawford said and went through the door. Callum followed him. They went through the Galley, Carson watched them as he was working over the stove and nodded toward Callum. Crawford reached the door and opened it, Callum followed through, taking off his hat.
Dustin was sitting on the table, his feet resting on a bench. He looked up with his one good eye, seeing Callum standing there. He raised his hand and tipped his obedience to Callum. Crawford looked over at Callum. Crawford walked over to stand next to Dustin.
"He has a fracture to the skull, but it is here." Crawford said, pointing around Dustin swollen closed eye. "I dare not drain his face of the swelling as the bone might shift." Callum stepped forward, slowly, looking at Dustin. His heart was pounding in his chest so hard, he thought everyone could hear it. Callum smiled at Dustin.
"You don't look all that bad, lad." Callum tried to be cheerful.
"I'm sorry to have troubled you, sir." Dustin mumbled, as it was hard to speak with all of the swelling.
"Think nothing of it at all." Callum said, then looked at Crawford, and then back to Dustin. "You merely gave the good Doctor something to do last evening." Callum gave another brief smile. Callum heard the door open behind him, and Carson was at his elbow. "I would imagine that you are hungry." Callum said.
"I doubt he will be able to open his mouth to chew anytime soon." Crawford said.
"I would be happy to make the lad some soup, sir." Carson chimed in.
"Very good idea." Callum said. "Would you care for that, lad?" Callum asked with a softness in his eyes. Dustin could barely nod from the pain.
"I shall administer some more Laudanum." Crawford said. "Some soup might help to restore his body as well."
"See to it, Carson." Callum said, slightly turning his head.
"Right away, sir." Carson said and left the room.
Callum stepped closer, putting a hand gently touching Dustin's shoulder. "Now, Mr. Perkins, mind what the good doctor tells you. And he shall have you on your feet in no time."
"Sir..." Dustin mumbled.
"Captain's orders, lad." Callum said, giving Dustin that look. Dustin tipped his hand slowly.
Callum turned and looked at Crawford. "Is there somewhere else we can put him to make him more...comfortable?"
"I'll have Finch set up a berth here in the corner. He'll be comfortable enough, sir." Crawford smiled.
"Very good." Callum said, turning his eyes back to Dustin. "I'll look in on you a little later." Callum said. He turned and walked over to the door and went out. Shutting the door, he took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He walked back through the Galley, seeing Carson busy preparing soup for Dustin. Callum paused for only a moment and then continued on his way toward the deck. He reemerged and closed the door behind him. Callum went back up the stairs, taking his usual spot at the railing. Arvin stepped up close to him.
"Is the lad better, sir?"
"He appears to be."
"I'm glad, sir. It will be good to have him back at the wheel."
"I'm not certain if that will be anytime soon, Mr. Arvin."
"I see, sir."
"What shape is the spare canvas in?" Callum changed the subject.
"The men are pulling it out now, sir."
"Have them drape it over the long boats and inspected thoroughly."
"Aye, sir." Arvin said, and walked to the stairs, heading for the Main Deck. Callum watch Arvin as he instructed them on what to do. Callum looked aloft and saw the men retying the cat line, securing with the double eye blocks on the Main Mast. Callum saw two men carrying one of the small cannon from the bow coming toward the Quarterdeck. Callum watched as Camden came up the starboard stairs with a brace and bit in his hands. Callum turned and walked over to join Camden.
"Bore your set hole here, Mr. Camden." Callum pointed to a spot on the rail before the corner of the rail, that met the aft rail.
"There, sir?" Camden asked.
"Yes, there." Callum said. "They are for proximity shot. Then I want larger stanchions placed in the corners of the deck to hold more three pound shot."
"Aye, aye, sir." Camden said, and then went about his work to drill large holes for the holders. Callum watched him for a minute and then stepped back as the men carrying the gun walked closer.
"Set it there, lads, and then fetch the other for the port side." Callum said. They set it down carefully, and tipped their hands. They turned and walked away.
Callum saw Middleboro approaching out of the corner of his eye. Callum turned and looked at him. Middleboro tipped his hand.
"Cannons are being moved, sir."
"Very good, Mr. Middleboro." Callum said. "Has the extra shot and powder being placed yet?"
"That it has, sir. Mr. Camden's detail has all the new stanchions installed, sir."
"Very well. I will have Camden place new ones here as well on the Quarterdeck. Once they are in place, I will want them filled as well."
"Very good, sir."
"Have the powder monkeys bring up extra fuses also. You had best have the extra halyards in place with double blocks to lift the cannon once they are brought to the open hold." Callum said.
"Aye, sir." Middleboro tipped his hand again, and turned and hurried away. He stepped aside for Arvin, who was coming up the stairs.
"How is the canvas?" Callum asked.
"It's molded, sir." Arvin turned and nodded his head toward the center of the Main Deck, as the men were spreading it out over the long boats. "It needs only slight repair. There are no rips or tears. I have set a few of them to do the mending."
"Excellent." Callum said.
"The gun placement seems to be going well, sir."
Callum looked back at Camden, who did not look happy boring a hole in his beautiful rail. Arvin was watching as well.
"I think Camden might shed a tear or two over it." Callum said, as he leaned close to Arvin. Arvin smiled wide.
"You might be right, sir."
"Deck, there!" Came a voice from above. Callum and Arvin both looked up. "Longboats approaching!" Callum shifted his gaze, and then he could see them coming, off in the distance. White longboats, carrying brilliant red uniforms. Callum smiled to himself.
"Captain Anders and the Marines, sir." Arvin said.
"It's still a little early, for Captain Anders, don't you think, Mr. Arvin?" Callum chuckled. "You know how he does not care for early mornings." Arvin chuckled himself, looking down at the deck, then cleared his throat. "I am certain it will reflect in his mood as well." Callum said softly.
"It appears to be a larger squad, sir." Arvin said, trying to be serious.
"Lord Fitzwarren's idea." Callum said, leaning close to Arvin. "In case we meet heavier resistance." Callum cleared his throat as well. "I, for one, will feel more comfortable with more sharpshooters aloft."
"I agree, sir." Arvin said. "We might have a bit of a problem to get them placed."
"Yes, I see your point. We might have to do some shifting of stores in the hold. Let's wait and see what Captain Anders has to say about it."
"I'm certain that he will have no issue with whatever you decide, sir."
"Yes, but if we have to divide up his men to accommodate them all, I'm not certain if he will have issue with that."
"I see your point, sir."
"Looks like it will be some time before they are aboard. You have the deck. I'll be in my cabin."
"Very good, sir." Arvin said, as he stepped back out of Callum's way. Callum walked down the port stairs, seeing the men carrying the other gun. Callum waited as they came to the stairs. They looked at him. Callum half smiled, then turned and walked to the door. He walked through and into the Galley. Carson was there being busy, cooking, on the large stove. Shem was helping him. Carson looked up smiled his famous smile at Callum.
"May I get you some breakfast, sir?"
"Yes, I think so, Carson. Something small, if you wouldn't mind. And some coffee as well."
"Certainly, sir." Carson said. "Right away, sir."
Callum walked through and stopped on the Companionway. He looked toward the Wardroom door, and just stared at it. He turned and walked in the Great Cabin. He placed his hat on the table and slipped off his tunic, and sat down. He felt drained, but better, knowing Dustin was going to be alright. He wanted to just hold him, but knew he couldn't. He started drumming his fingers on the table absentmindedly again. Carson came in, carrying a small tray, setting it on the table. Callum was not paying attention, being lost in thought.
"I heard Captain Anders and the Marines are approaching, sir."
"What?" Callum asked, coming back to reality, noticing that Carson was there, setting a plate in front of him, and then started to pour coffee.
"Captain Anders, sir. I hear they are approaching."
"Yes." Callum answered, looking down at what Carson had made him. "There seems to be quite a few of them. Looks like you will be busier in the Galley."
"That's alright, sir. It's just a few more mouths as it were." Carson picked up the tray, tucking it under his arm. "Is there anything, sir?"
"How did the soup come out?"
"Oh, fine, sir." Carson smiled. "He seemed to like it, sir."
"That's fine, just fine. Thank you, Carson."
"You're welcome, sir. If you'll excuse me, sir?"
"Certainly." Callum said as he started into his breakfast. Carson had given him one fried egg, a sausage, and a scone that was almost like a brick. Callum suddenly missed Martha very much. He dunked the scone in his coffee to make it edible. Callum ate rather quickly, and then got up from the table. He slipped his tunic back on and fluffed out his tail and walked out of the cabin. He went to the Wardroom and opened the door. He didn't see Dustin on the table. He looked over toward the corner and there was Finch very carefully placing Dustin into a hanging haversack suspended from the beams. Callum walked over, as Finch was backing up a little. Callum looked up at Finch and then looked down at Dustin and smiled.
"Feeling any better?" Callum asked, putting a hand on Dustin's lower leg. Dustin tried to rise to tip his hand. "Now, rest easy." Callum smiled again. "I thought I would check in on you."
Dustin just looked up at him with his one good eye. It was breaking Callum's heart seeing him this way. Inside he was boiling all over again, over what had happened to him. Callum did everything he could not to let it show. Finch turned and walked away out of the Wardroom.
"Dustin...I am so..."
"It is nothing, sir." Dustin mumbled. "I should have listened to you and not come."
"Well...you're here now." Callum choked out. He was doing his best not to tear up. Looking at Dustin was killing him. "I can send you back ashore if you wish. Nothing will be said. There is time before we sail."
"No." Dustin mumbled. "I want to be here, with you." Callum saw a tear run out of Dustin's good eye.
"If that's what you wish, then that's the way it will stay." Callum cleared his throat, trying to choke it back still.
"Please." Dustin mumbled. Callum nodded, and gently squeezed his leg.
"I have to go up on deck. The Marines are coming aboard. I'll look in on you later?"
Dustin nodded slightly, and went to lift his hand. Callum reached out and stopped him. He turned Dustin's hand and leaned down and kissed the back of it. Another tear fell from Dustin's eye.
"Rest." Callum said softly. He turned and walked out of the Wardroom. He went back to the Great Cabin and picked up his hat, and then walked out. As he walked through the Galley, Callum heard the ships bell signaling that the Marines had come alongside. Callum walked out the door and up the port stairs, coming to stand at the rail.
"Mr. Arvin, man the side, if you please."
"Man the side!" Arvin yelled. Men hurried and the Boson's mate and two others came to the opening of the rail. The Boson's pipe sounded, as Captain Anders, in his brilliant red uniform came up and stepped on the Main Deck. He turned, snapped to attention, and saluted toward the Quarterdeck. Callum nodded in return, which was all that he was required to do.
"Permission to come aboard, sir?!" Anders asked.
"Permission granted." Callum replied as he stood at attention, then relaxed, after Anders saluted again.
"Thank you, sir!" Anders replied. "My men are ready to come aboard as well, sir."
"Very well. At your discretion, Captain Anders." Callum said.
"Sir!" He turned about and snapped his heels. "Lt. Holt! Permission has been given! Bring the men aboard!"
"Sir!" Came a voice from over the side. A minute later, a young officer came up and through the railing. He snapped to attention and saluted Anders. Anders returned the salute. The young lieutenant smartly turned round. "Sergeant! Bring up the men!"
"Captain Anders?" Callum called out. Anders turned to look in his direction. "Would you care to join us on the Quarterdeck?"
"Pleasure, sir." Anders walked to the port stairs and climbed them. He approached Callum and Arvin, and stopped, as Callum stretched out his hand. Anders smiled as he took it in his.
"You are welcomed into the ship, Captain."
"Thank you, sir. It is good to see you, sir."
"Likewise. You remember Mr. Arvin?" Anders smiled, as did Arvin, knowing each other well. They clasped hands. Callum noticed that Eddington was climbing the starboard stairs to the Quarterdeck as well. He came on the other side of Arvin. "Lt. Eddington, may I introduce Captain Anders. Captain Anders, this is Lt. Eddington, our new Warrant Officer."
"Pleasure, Lieutenant." They shook hands, Anders nodding to him.
"A pleasure to meet you, Captain."
They all watched as the Marines filed on deck, the sergeant directing them as they grouped, forming columns six men wide. Arvin watched and was counting heads, as they kept coming and coming. Arvin leaned forward a little looking toward Anders.
"How many are in your company, Captain?"
"Two detachments, forty eight in total, Mr. Arvin."
"My word, sir."
"His Lordship's idea, Mr. Arvin." Arvin said.
"Yes." Callum said. "We can discuss that when your men are all aboard. What of your supplies?"
"They were being loaded on another launch, sir. It should be on its way now, I would think."
"Very good." Callum said. "Mr. Arvin, you have the deck. Lt. Eddington, will you join me in my cabin?"
"Aye, sir." Eddington followed Callum down the port stairs to the doorway. They walked to the Great Cabin and Callum opened the door, taking off his hat, tossing it on the table. Eddington closed the door behind him, as Callum turned round.
"I knew there were more Marines coming than usual, but this many?" Callum asked. "Did you know about this?" Eddington looked hesitant. He could see that Callum was upset. "I find myself in a very unique position having you aboard. As the Attaché to the Admiralty, I know that you are privy to sensitive information. I'm not asking that you betray any confidence that was given to you. But, with the size of the force with Captain Anders, for this size vessel, it looks like we are mounting an invasion."
"Without betraying any confidence, I am certain that once we join the squadron, His Lordship will explain further details."
"Then you do know." Callum said.
"I will not lie to you. In answer to your question, yes, we are."
Callum's eyes went wide.