Callum woke to the sound of a door opening, the creaking of the hinges. It was faint to him, but in the quiet of the predawn hours, it was clear as could be. He pulled back the bed covers and got up, walking across the room to his own door, opening it slowly, he stuck out his head and looked down the hall, seeing the small form of the little one starting to go down the stairs. He smiled to himself, knowing that he might be back up as the front door was bolted and that the little one could not possibly reach the top bolt of the door. Callum waited a moment and then he heard the sound of a chair being drug across the floor. He smiled and shook his head at it and walked out and down the stairs.
Callum watched as the little man had indeed gotten a chair and was using it to stand on to try and reach the top bolt of the door. It was amusing to Callum to watch the youngster trying to climb up on the back of the chair and use it his fingers straining to even reach the top bolt. He was making little grunting sounds trying to reach it but still being short. The youngster climbed back down and stood on the chair looking up at the top bolt trying to figure out the problem and what to do. Callum walked up behind him in his bare feet and stood.
"Might I be of assistance, Mr. Darrow?" Callum asked and the boy jumped, spinning around with wide eyes that showed deep fear in them.
"Please, sir. I,...I,...didn't mean anything, sir."
"It's quite alright, Mr. Darrow, but at this rate you might wake the landlord, and I'm afraid his mood will be quite cross at this time of the morning. You should probably accompany me back upstairs until at least first light. Then we can set on your way." Callum smiled and the boy seemed to relax a little. Callum picked him up under his little arms and set him on the floor, then took the chair and put it back at the table it had come from. He came back to the stairs, and started up them, the youngster followed him, looking wary at what might come next. Callum opened the door to his own room and held out a hand to him. "Now, you must still be tired, why don't you make yourself comfortable on the bed, and we will wait for first light."
"Won't I wake him up?"
"No, he can sleep through just about anything." Callum said in a soft voice as he went and got the chair from the small desk and set it next to the bed.
"Please, sir, what about you?" The little voice asked in a hush.
"I shall sit right here for a while. You get comfortable and we can chat, if you wish." Callum smiled. He watched as the youngster got out of his little jacket and set himself on the bed. He sat there, looking over at Dustin sleeping so sound and then put his little hands on his lap, looking up at Callum.
"So tell me, where is your home? Your mother might be worried, we can send word if you'd like?"
"Me mum, she died a couple of years back." He said very matter of fact, and Callum narrowed his eyes.
"Where do you live?"
"Oh, I have a fine place, it's behind the tailor's shop in the alley?"
"You live with the tailor?"
"Oh no, sir. It's a crate that I have all fixed up."
"A crate? A box?"
"Oh yes, sir, and it's all mine. I have to watch it so the others might not take it from me." His little voice said, again with a little bit of fear in it.
"It's that fine, I take it?"
"It is, sir. I have it fixed with all manner of cloth that the tailor tossed out in the rubbish, sir."
"I see. So you have no one?" Callum asked and the little one shook his head, slowly and looked a little sad. "Makes it kind of lonely, doesn't it?" Callum smiled softly and the little one nodded.
"I miss me mum." He said softly, looking a little sad and lonely clearly remembering her.
"I bet you do. I miss mine from time to time as well, but that will be our little secret." Callum smiled as he put a finger to his lips, and then winked. The little one smiled at him for the first time. "Are you still tired?" He nodded in reply. "Alright, you lie back and make yourself comfortable, sleep some more. Dustin can keep you warm." Callum smiled. "I'll be over at the desk doing some writing for a while, alright?" Callum asked as he squeezed the little hand in his gently. He got up and took the chair back over to the small desk and lit another candle there. He looked over and the little one had indeed gotten down in the bed, with Dustin and snuggled up next to him. Callum looked over, standing on his tip toes and saw it clearly and then settled at the desk with paper and quill.
Callum had written a few pages, several reports to Fitzwarren, giving him outline to what his ideas for the squadron and tactics would be, as well as a letter to Martha that he wanted to post right away, giving her warning about the new stove and that they would be home in a few days' time. He folded the letter to her and put it in an envelope and then addressed it. He was interrupted by a knock at the door. He got up and crossed the floor, and opened the door, he smiled seeing Crawford standing there.
"Good morning, Quintan."
"Good morning, Arthur. Do come in." Callum said as he stepped out of the way of the door. Crawford walked in carrying his bag and then looked at the bed, seeing Dustin and then the little figure next to him.
"What's this?" Crawford nodded toward the bed.
"That is one Mr. Henry Darrow, a wayward young lad that happened across us yesterday while we out doing some errands."
"I see." Crawford turned and looked at Callum raising an eyebrow. "Are you going to be adopting all of the street urchins here in Portsmouth? Or are you starting a recruiting drive for the Admiralty?"
"The lad had been of service to us yesterday. We fed him, and he seemed to fall asleep. It was not my intention to do any recruiting for the Admiralty, no. However, you might be on to something there." Callum smiled. "What brings you out so early, Arthur?"
"Actually, you do. I wanted to check your knitting and then I am off to London. There is a gathering at one of the colleges that I wish to attend, some new procedures that have been discovered."
"I wanted to make sure you are sound before I leave as I know you wish to travel to see Mr. Arvin before you return to Birmingham. It may be several days before we can check on you again."
"Most thoughtful of you. Have you had your breakfast?" Callum asked.
"Not as of yet."
"Well, you can give me a look over and then we can go downstairs and let the lads sleep some more." Callum said, stepping over to the desk, lifting his shirt, letting Crawford check him in the better light of the candle.
"Hmmm, you seem to be healing quite nicely, Quintan. I am most pleased. Now as long as you don't take up another brawl, you should be ready to have those removed in another week or so."
"Excellent." Callum said tucking his shirt back in. "I shall do my best not to do anymore brawling." Callum blew out the candles and then walked out of the room with Crawford following him. They entered the center room and Farrow greeted them, bringing them coffee.
Farrow had served them breakfast and Callum and Crawford ate slowly, chatting about Crawford's trip to London, he seemed rather excited about this gathering of other doctors at the college. Callum saw a look on Crawford's face, and looked over his shoulder, following Crawford's gaze. There stood a young officer, along with a young Marine.
"Captain Callum?" The young officer asked and Callum rose from the table.
"Yes?" Callum said dropping his napkin on the table behind him.
"Message, sir, from the Admiralty." The young man stepped forward, tipping his hand and bowing his head slightly. Callum took the envelope from the outstretched hand and looked at it. He opened it and saw it was from Fitzwarren. It was the letter for Arvin as well as an update from the findings on the Airington. Callum read it quickly and swallowed hard over it. He looked up at the young officer.
"No reply. Thank you, Lieutenant." Callum said and nodded toward the young man.
"Thank you, sir." The young man nodded and tipped his hand and walked out the door, followed by the Marine. Callum turned and sat back down.
"What is it, Quintan?" Crawford asked. Farrow stepped up to the table as well. Callum held out the letter to Crawford. He took it and read it as Farrow read it over his shoulder. Farrow went wide eyed reading it and looked at Callum.
"Dear God." Crawford said in a hushed voice. Callum picked up his coffee cup and sipped from it. Crawford set the letter down. "How is this possible? This madman has to be stopped."
"I agree, Arthur. I had listened to what His Lordship had said, but this is beyond ghastly, beyond criminal."
"There is no reason in this, Quintan." Crawford said, his color had drained from his face. "There are certain rules in war, and it is quite apparent that this...person does not care to follow them. What are you going to do?"
"I am going to stop him." Callum said flatly. "We will hunt him down like the animal that he is, and we will stop him, mark my words."
"Quintan, this is almost...disgusting." Farrow said quietly.
"I think beyond that, Farrow." Callum said softly, looking up at him. "That crew was mostly young boys. He is obviously quite mad with no regard for life itself. He has to be stopped."
"I agree." Crawford said, and then picked up his cup. "Well, count me in for certain. This is one fellow that I would enjoy seeing hanged."
"I doubt we get that opportunity, Arthur." Callum said.
"What makes you say that?"
"He will fight to his last breath, I'm certain, and will more than likely sacrifice his entire crew to see that he is successful in whatever plot he is trying carry out."
"You think so?"
"Beyond a doubt." Callum said. "Think about it. He carries out these atrocities, his crew follows his orders as they are obviously the ones that doing these grotesque mutilations, as he probably stands there and watches it happen, driving them on as it were. He is quite mad and without doubt will never surrender."
"I suppose you're right." Crawford said raising his eyebrows. "It's beyond ghastly for certain."
"I agree. God grant that he never turns to a town population. There would be no stopping him, and as he sees fit to wreak this kind of slaughter on young boys, I am certain that no one would be safe, small children, women."
"Pray that we can reach him and stop him in time before this happens again."
"And you say that he does this only when there is no moon?"
"It's perfect, there is no light to see him coming, striking in the dark, bringing pure terror to those he attacks and showing his true cowardice." Callum said as he poured more coffee for he and Crawford. "That will play quite well for us, actually."
"What do you mean?" Farrow asked.
"All of the ships attacked have been to the north in the Channel. He must be harbored somewhere north, possibly Belgium or the Netherlands perhaps. He takes advantage of that, and can see across the Channel clearly prior to his attacks in the dark. We shall base our approach to capture him from that direction, sailing from north to south along the coast below Amsterdam I would think."
"Sound." Farrow said, "Drive him out as it were."
"Exactly, rob him of his safe port, throw him off guard. He may be a single ship, but with the squadron, we can trap him, force him to our side of the Channel. If he tries to escape, he will have headwinds to contend with, and with the size of the Avion, we can easily overtake him."
"You mean to capture the Avion?"
"It would make a great prize, no doubt, the previous flagship of the French Royal Navy? Yes, quite a prize indeed, but I think he will give us no choice but to sink her."
"You are probably right, if he has no regard for his crew." Farrow said.
"I believe he does not, as I said." Callum said, sipping more coffee. Farrow looked up and saw someone coming. Farrow pursed his lips together. Callum looked over his shoulder, and smiled.
"Ah, Master Perkins, and our newest addition, Master Darrow, awake at last. Come and join us lads." Callum said putting out a hand. The little Darrow looked very nervous seeing Farrow. "Are you hungry this morning young sir?" Callum smiled and pushed out a chair next to him with a hand. He had the boy sit in it, as the boy kept his head down.
"Please, sir, I need to be on my way." The boy wouldn't look up.
"Well you can be back to your box after you've eaten something. Now, how about it?" Callum smiled at him. "Don't be shy, there is nothing to hurt you here, I assure you." The boy looked up a little and saw the smile on Callum's face and felt better. "You are hungry aren't you?" The boy nodded his head slightly. "There you are, see, now was that so bad?" Callum asked and patted his little knee. The boy shook his head. "I thought not." Callum looked up at Farrow. "Would you mind if they had a bit of breakfast as well?"
"No, of course not, since you are paying the bill." Farrow raised an eyebrow and walked away toward the kitchen. Callum smiled and looked at Dustin.
"I did, thank you, a rather bit too much I think. My head is very heavy this morning."
"Hmmm, some coffee might clear it up for you, here." Callum said and pushed his cup in front of Dustin. Dustin picked it up and sipped at it a few times and then set it down.
"Good morning, Doctor. I apologize for being so rude."
"Think nothing of it, Mr. Perkins, it's totally understandable." Crawford smiled, and then looked at the boy who was close to him. "And who have we here?"
"Master Henry Darrow, may I present Dr. Crawford, an old friend of mine." Callum said holding out his hand. The little boy smiled and looked at Crawford for a minute and then looked down.
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Master Darrow." Crawford said and gave him a nod. The boy smiled back at him with a nervous look. "Well, Quintan, I must be off." Crawford said as he stood. Callum got to his feet also. "Remember, no more brawling, and let those heal up. I know you wish to set off, so give my best to Mr. Arvin, and tell him if he requires me to look at his wound, I would be happy to do so upon my return."
"Thank you, Arthur, I will tell him." Callum said and took Crawford's hand, squeezing it firmly. "Safe trip, and I will see you when you return."
"Take care, Mr. Perkins, and give Mr. Tomlin my regards." Crawford smiled and nodded. Dustin smiled back up at him, and nodded his head. Crawford walked toward the door and Callum sat back down as Farrow carried a tray to the table and set it down. He put out two plates, one in front of Dustin and the other in front of the little boy. Farrow raised an eyebrow and then walked away.
"Are we leaving to see Mr. Arvin?" Dustin asked. Callum nodded.
"I received the letter from His Lordship this morning." Callum said, looking at the little one to his left, who was shoveling food into his mouth so fast, it was almost a blur. "The letter for Mr. Arvin and his offer to the Admiralty."
"That was very kind of His Lordship, don't you think?"
"Yes, but he really didn't have much of a choice did he?" Callum asked as he sat back and smiled, and watched the little one clean his plate. "And here I thought you ate fast." Callum said chuckling, looking at Dustin. Dustin looked up and saw the plate was empty and the little face looked bright and cheery. "Are you still hungry, lad?" The little face looked at him and shook his head. "Well, I suppose you wish to be on your way then?" He nodded in reply. "Then come with me upstairs and I will see to it that you are paid for what you did yesterday." Callum smiled and got up from the table, leaning next to Dustin, "I'll be right back." Callum said in a low voice, picking up the letters from Fitzwarren and walked toward the stairs, the little one right behind him. Callum walked up to his door and opened it. He went over to his tunic, which hung on the back of the chair, and pulled out some coins from the inside pocket. The boy noticed the tunic and looked at it and then Callum.
"Please, sir, are you in the service?"
"Yes," Callum said, turning and looking down at the little face, "I am in His Majesty's Navy."
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't even know your name." He was wide eyed, looking up at Callum.
"My name is Callum, Quintan Callum."
"You're the Captain of the Dover. All of Portsmouth knows who you are, sir."
"Well, now that we have properly introduced, here you are, Master Darrow. Three shillings, rather than that half-crown. And at some point I might require your services again, if you're available."
"I will be, sir, thank you." He said and his eyes lit up as the coins dropped in his hand. "Thank you, sir, thank you."
"Think nothing of it."
"Will you be leaving soon, sir?"
"Yes, we will be leaving shortly to make a three day journey and then we will return before going home to Birmingham. I'm certain we will see you again." Callum smiled, and the little boy turned and walked slowly to the door. Callum watched him and waited as he walked out and down the hall. Callum took the letters from Fitzwarren and set them on the desk. He looked over a few of the things he had written this morning and then walked to the door himself. He closed the door behind him and then looked at Tomlin's door for a moment and then walked down the hall. As he came off the stairs he saw the little one standing next to Dustin's chair. Dustin was talking to him and had a hand on the little shoulder. The boy was nodding his head at Dustin and then threw his arms around Dustin's neck squeezing him tight and then let go and ran off, running by Callum as he going to the front door of the inn, opening it and running out into the street. Callum smiled and went to the door and closed it, then walked into the center room.
"What was that all about?" Callum asked as he sat down.
"I was securing more assistance for when we return after our trip to see Mr. Arvin." Dustin said as he finished his breakfast. Farrow walked up, and started to collect plates onto the tray he carried.
"I see that your little street beggar has deserted you." Farrow said, giving Callum a side glance.
"Indeed, but I'm certain we shall see him again."
"Yes, along with probably a dozen more in tow." Farrow said and carried the tray away.
"You think that might happen?" Callum asked Dustin softly.
"No, I don't." Dustin said as he sipped more coffee. "I had him promise me that he would not spread word of his good fortune to his fellows in the street. He will stay silent, if only to continue his good fortune."
"Ah, I see." Callum said. "Perhaps we should get ready for our trip. The freight office is over a couple of streets is it not?"
"Yes." Dustin said. "You think we will be gone for a matter of time?"
"I would say possibly three days." Callum smiled. "We should pack for that, and have Thomas ready as well."
The coach was large and slow moving, drawn by four horses that set a pace to a fast trot. Callum thought that they would be there by dark at this pace. The coach was not as fast as a carriage but it was more comfortable, tit for tat Callum thought. It was now early afternoon as the coach made its way through the edge of London and turned north heading along the outskirts of the city.
"Are we going to London during this trip?" Dustin asked.
"Yes, if only to stop at the Admiralty, I hadn't planned on spending much time there, why?" Callum asked in reply.
"You had made mention of it before that we would see London." Dustin said as he looked out a window seeing the tall buildings of the city off in the distance.
"Well, if we shorten our trip to see Mr. Arvin and can conclude it quickly, I have a few dispatches that need to be discussed with His Lordship." Callum said, and Dustin smiled wide. "Is there something in London that you wish to see?"
"Just everything, I suppose. I understand that they are building a monument to His Lordship, Admiral Nelson."
"Yes, I heard that as well." Callum said. "It would be fitting to have a monument made to him. He was every bit the hero to be sure."
"Not to belittle his memory, but there are others that deserve a monument as well, sir." Tomlin said, from the opposite bench of the coach.
"I agree, Thomas." Callum smiled. "There are far too many that have sacrificed for King and country. They should all be honored, God knows. I hope there is a swift end to this and soon."
"I do not agree with that, sir." A large man said, who was sitting next to Tomlin. "I feel that we need to continue in our efforts to stop all that threaten our great nation."
"I do not argue that, sir." Callum said, "But we should at least try and do with a certain amount of diplomacy and certainly with a lot less bloodshed of our brave young men."
"There is always a certain amount of bloodshed in defending ones interests abroad, sir."
"I do not entirely agree with that, sir. Our interests are one thing, however they should be held up with a larger amount of that diplomacy which will lead to less bloodshed and loss of life."
"I disagree with you, sir. If you have spent any time abroad you will find that our interests need constant defending." The large man said, resting his hands on the tip of his walking stick.
"And our interests, sir, should not include the taking or conquering of lands that we cannot fully support or defend, thereby causing great amounts of bloodshed on both sides." Callum said coolly.
"You speak of cowardice, sir, and of the diplomatic solution hiding in the hems of an apron."
"I think not, sir, there is nothing to be found in the hiding on an apron hem. I have spent much time abroad, in fact most of my life has been spent abroad and I have seen firsthand what the other nations think of us and what we are doing, sir, and let me say that that in most parts of the world, we are not welcomed and are thoroughly disliked."
"I believe you are too young to fully understand the true meaning of what our presence abroad means to our nation." He said and rolled his eyes as if he were speaking to a child.
"If you speak of the empire, my dear sir, then you should think of what our presence means to our nation with the recent loss of the colonies in America. It was very costly, as I'm sure you are aware, and it will more than likely be several generations before that loss is not felt any longer. And it is not just there. Take Greece for example, they are mounting a rebellion as we speak against us and against Germany as well. And then there is further south in the nations of Egypt and the Sudan. There are constant uprisings in those nations as well, even though we liberated them from the grip of Napoleon." Callum said. "If you wish to speak of nations, sir, and what we mean to them, you should take the time to visit them firsthand as I have done, then you will be in a far better position in which to speak. I mean no disrespect at all, but you must see that Great Britain is not the end, but is only the beginning, and we should have the intelligence to know when to remove ourselves from peril and to seek peace through talks and diplomacy, that is where our true strengths should lie, sir. Too much has been lost with the lives of our young men, thousands have died on foreign soil as a result of shortsightedness, and wanton greed."
"I see your point, young sir. You should be working for the diplomatic service. What is your name?"
"My name is Callum, Quintan Callum, Captain of HMS Dover, at your service, sir." Callum bowed his head slightly toward him.
"I am sorry, Captain. I do see your tunic, but I did not realize your position, sir." He bowed his head, giving Callum wide eyes and with some embarrassment.
"It is understandable, and I take no insult in you not knowing who I or my companions are." Callum said and then looked out the window on his right. The large man fell silent. He sat back in the seat of the coach and scooted away from Tomlin slightly. Tomlin grinned slightly toward Callum and Callum replied with a slightly raised eyebrow. The rest of the ride was quiet until they reached Harlow in the mid afternoon. They stopped at the freight station there, getting out.
Callum and Dustin were going to leave on a different coach that would take them over to Chelmsford, the home place of Mr. Arvin. Tomlin was going to continue on after a change of horses to Cambridge, and then on to Norwich. They said their goodbyes to one another, Tomlin was almost teary eyed over it and Dustin was in no better shape as they hugged each other, promising to see one another very soon. Callum said he would have Farrow keep the room open for him and Tomlin smiled, giving Callum a firm shake and then Tomlin pulled Callum to him, hugging him tight and thanking him over and over for all that he had done for him in the past few days. Callum pulled back and smiled gripping Tomlin by the shoulders and squeezing them in his hands. Callum and Dustin boarded the new coach and set off and Tomlin continued on with the old.
The ride to Chelmsford was quiet and pleasant for the two of them as they were the only ones in the coach. Dustin slept part of the way as Callum relaxed, stretching out onto the other bench with his feet resting on it. The scenery was very green and tree filled and Callum had never been here in this part of the country before. He watched the different houses as they went by them, seeing different styles of homes and all manner of types of people and their daily tasks that they were about. He enjoyed the new look that was about him and had lost all thought of what his talk with Arvin might be like since the loss of his leg. Callum was concerned about him and what his frame of mind might be when they reached there. He did not have long to wait as the coach pulled up just outside of the village. Callum stuck his head out and looked about and then called to the driver, his voice waking Dustin up.
"The house you be lookin' for is down that path, gentlemen." The driver said as he leaned down to look at Callum. "There be an inn just about a half mile in the main part of the village, and the coach back to London will be here tomorrow in the late afternoon."
"Very well, my good man." Callum said, gathering Dustin and the sack that he carried with their belongings in it. They got out and Callum shut the coach door, nodding to the driver, who continued on into the village. Callum and Dustin set off down the road that the driver pointed out. There was a sign half covered in brush from a thicket that said 'Arvin'. Callum smiled at Dustin and they continued going around a slight bend in the long drive and then they saw the house. It was an old manor in appearance and seemed very large and in a great state of disrepair. Callum frowned slightly at it not expecting this at all, as they continued. Callum went up to the front door and pulled the chain that hung there. They could hear the sound of a bell clanging somewhere inside and Callum waited, as Dustin looked about. The door creaked open and Callum turned and saw the older lady standing there.
"Yes?" She asked looking him up and down.
"Good afternoon, I'm sorry to be calling so late, my name is Callum, Quintan Callum. I was wishing to see William Arvin if he is here."
"Captain Callum, at last, it is you. A pleasure, sir." She said and bowed her head. "I am Audrey Arvin, William's wife."
"Mrs. Arvin, how do you do?" Callum said, taking off his hat and bowing deeply toward her.
"Captain, won't you please come in. I'm certain William will be very happy to receive you." She smiled and opened the door wider.
"Mrs. Arvin, may I present Master Dustin Perkins, my helmsman."
"Oh, I have heard of Mr. Perkins and his very sharp eyes, sir. William says that they are stuff of legend and I can see that he is not far from the truth in that."
"Thank you, ma'am." Dustin said, bowing a little.
"I will tell William that you are here. Please, won't you come into the study?" She said holding out a hand and Callum and Dustin followed her into a large room filled wall to wall, floor to ceiling with all manner of books on the shelves. Callum was speechless seeing it, it was like a great library in a university. Dustin was overwhelmed and stopped at the door with wide eyes. Mrs. Arvin walked by Dustin and out into a large long hallway and out of sight.
"My word, I wonder if he has read any of them, or if not all of them." Callum said, as he turned slowly about in the room.
"My dear Master Perkins." Dustin spun hearing the familiar voice behind him. Dustin looked down slightly and saw the warm familiar face of Mr. Arvin. He reached out a hand to Dustin, who took it and then Arvin pulled him into a tight hug, patting Dustin on the back firmly. "So good of you to come. I had thought I would never see anyone from the ship ever again."
"Oh, sir." Dustin said in his ear, "We could never abandon someone like you, sir, ever."
"Words that are like music to my ears, my lad." Arvin said, patting Dustin again and then letting him go. Arvin saw Callum and his eyes welled. "Captain." Arvin said, almost in a whisper, almost in a sob. Callum walked quickly to him holding out his hand.
"William," Callum said as he took Arvin's hand, "I am so glad to finally be here with you."
"Oh sir, you have no idea what it means to me that you have come." Arvin said, fighting back tears. He pulled Callum and the two hugged as well. "I am so glad you are well, sir."
"I am working toward that, but it is a long process as you know." Callum said as he pulled back, looking at Arvin. "I must say you look a world better than the last time I saw you in your cabin."
"Yes, my color has returned and my pain is mostly gone now, except for my shoulder. They say there is still a fragment in there somewhere from the Spanish musket ball." Arvin smiled and then clasped his hands together. "There is so much for you to tell me, what has happened, Dover, is she alright? I have not seen nor heard from anyone since my return home."
"There is much to tell, and much to give as well." Callum said. "Shall we talk here?"
"Yes, of course, unless you wish to go somewhere else in the house." Arvin said with bright eyes.
"This is just fine." Callum said as he turned and went over to a settee and sat on the edge of it, dropping his hat beside him. Arvin was wheeled over in his hospital lounger, pushed by his wife. Dustin got out of the way and let them go by and then came to stand behind Arvin. "Let me begin by saying, Dover is fine and is being set in berth for dry dock and her repairs. Fitzwarren wanted to dismantle her, but I showed him the errors of his ways in that thinking." Callum smiled.
"I can only imagine that conversation." Arvin smiled, looking up at his wife, then back at Callum, holding her hand.
"Yes, it was quite the feat, I assure you." Callum rolled his eyes. "Secondly, I took up the tally from the paymaster when we arrived in Portsmouth, knowing they would not find you for another month at least. I hope you don't mind." Callum smiled, as he pulled an envelope from inside his jacket, handing it to Arvin. He took it and looked at it and then Callum and then opened it. "There is a receipt in there as well from the paymaster to show it is accurate." Callum smiled.
"Quintan, I have never once doubted you or your honesty." Arvin said, handing the envelope to his wife. She looked at it and seemed unimpressed by the wages from the sailing, as she tucked it in her apron.
"Thirdly, there was the matter of the prize ships that were drawn in our name, from the engagements at La Rochelle."
"What are you talking about? We never took any prize ships during the engagement, we only repelled them, unless I missed something after being wounded."
"You missed quite a bit, actually." Callum smiled briefly. He pulled another envelope from his lapel pocket and looked at it to see if it was the right one. He handed it over to Arvin, and pursed his lips, as Arvin opened it and saw the tally inside and then looked at Callum.
"This is some kind of a mistake." Arvin said, giving that serious look that Callum was so accustomed to.
"I assure you, it is no mistake. I had them triple check the figures, as I was very wary of it myself."
"I don't believe this. This looks like a King's ransom."
"It is a vast fortune to most, without doubt. I signed for it with the special envoy from the Admiralty, and it was witnessed by three others as well."
"How is this possible?"
"Our actions as we entered the bay of La Rochelle and rescued the squadron from destruction, as well as certain death, prompted the other Captains to sign over their portions of the prize ships and grouping it all to the name of Dover."
"I have never heard of such a thing."
"It was your actions, William, that drove this on and to its conclusion and its eventual payout." Callum smiled. "The Admiralty sees it as brilliant stroke of seamanship and heroism, which leads me to the fourth and final reason for my being here." Callum pulled out the letter from Fitzwarren and it was still sealed. He handed it to Arvin, who took it with a trembling hand. "The letter was written by Fitzwarren but has the endorsement of the Admiralty." Callum said as he rose to his feet. Arvin followed him up with his eyes, and then opened the envelope.
"To William A. Arvin," Arvin read aloud, "Lieutenant 1st class, HMS Dover, you are hereby entitled and promoted to post Captain, with all the rank and privileges thereto, and are requested on the last day of May, in the year of our Lord, eighteen hundred and six to appear before the Admiralty to assume duties as attaché to His Lordship Edmund Fitzwarren, three bells in the forenoon watch..." Arvin lifted his eyes at Callum, "Quintan, what is this?"
"An opportunity, my friend, a chance to show them what a true sailor can do when given the chance and the opportunity. You can use your vast experience to help us win this and end this conflict once and for all, if you take it, and I trust that you will."
"This was your idea, wasn't it?"
"William, we need men in the Admiralty that we can trust, men that can use their position to make change, to make it for the better, not letting the old windbags sit around and just discuss it to death. You know of what I speak, and you know that you can make the difference, William, you know you can."
"Quintan, I don't think you realize that I am not physically the man that I was a fortnight ago. In case you have forgotten, I've lost a leg."
"I know it all too well, and if I could change that, believe me I would give my own to give you back yours. But, I look around at what is there in the Admiralty, and half of those old fools can't even make it up the stairs without nearly dying of loss of breath. You want to tell me that your leg is stopping you, I for one don't believe it. I know William Arvin too well, watched him for too many years, overcoming all manner of difficulty while at sea. And as matter of losing a leg, he will give up an opportunity? That's not the man I know, that's a lesser man, someone else other than William Arvin. The choice is yours, the offer is there, and still stands, and if it weren't for regulations, and not being able to walk a deck, I would have you strapped to the fore rail of Dover and overseeing the refit. The ship under my command will never be the same without you aboard, and that is my loss, but the service will remain and will grow in strength from your knowledge and wisdom, if you take this posting that has been offered to you. You have more than earned it, far above anyone else, this is not charity or pacification, it is because you are William Arvin."
"I don't know what to say." Arvin sat back in the lounge, dropping the letter in his lap.
"I'm certain you will think of something." Callum said. "We will take our leave. We will be staying in the village at the inn until tomorrow afternoon when the coach to London arrives. If you have need of me, send word, we will be returning to Portsmouth in another day to the Heritage Arms, and then on to home in Birmingham." Callum said, stepping forward, putting a hand on Arvin's shoulder. "It is very good to see you in good health, William. You have been heavy on my mind lately. Remember what I said to you in your cabin, I will not change my view on that, I gave you my word and I meant it." Callum said, and walked away out of the room, Dustin followed him after shaking Arvin's hand. Mrs. Arvin followed them to the door.
"Captain, I thank you for showing him that he still is a man." Mrs. Arvin said in a soft voice. "He has always spoken so highly of you, and now I know why." Callum stopped and turned back to her, taking her hand.
"Madame, he was always a man, the man you married, and always will be. He is one of the greatest men I have ever known in all my life, and I am proud to call your husband, my friend." Callum said and bowed down kissing the back of her hand. "Good evening to you, Madame, and it was a pleasure to finally meet you." Callum smiled and let her hand go. She watched as he and Dustin walked down the drive toward the village. She slowly shut the door.
"Well, that was a nice visit with Mr. Arvin." Dustin said as they left the drive for the main road into the village. Callum stopped and looked at him. Dustin slowly turned and looked back.
"You think I was wrong?"
"No, I think you were right, but you went about it the wrong way." Dustin shrugged his shoulders. "But, my opinion doesn't count." Dustin turned and started to walk toward the village.
"Wait, wait just a moment." Callum said, "What makes you think your opinion doesn't count?"
"I am only an able bodied seaman, or hadn't you noticed that? I am not an officer, nor an officer candidate. I will never be anything more than what I already am, and I know it. The Admiralty does not recognize my voice or opinion, and neither do officers unless it is in time of battle, and you know that as well." Dustin said, and started to turn again.
"Wait, I wasn't through."
"You hadn't begun." Dustin said, "Your words should be for Mr. Arvin and for him alone. If I were you, I would be expecting word from him in rather short order, and those words you say to him next may turn this whole thing upside down."
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it. You may not have much time." Dustin smiled briefly and then turned and started walking. "Right now, I would like a cider and to be off to bed, it's been a rather long day, don't you think?"
"Wait." Callum said, then threw up his hands and started after Dustin.
The coach pulled into Cambridge at the freight office. Tomlin got out and went to the back and retrieved his new trunk, and set it on the sidewalk. He looked around, and then went into the freight office, seeing the schedule for the coaches to Norwich, there was one day after tomorrow, early in the morning. He nodded and saw a post office across the street. He picked up his trunk and walked over, setting the trunk down and walked inside. He saw the man behind the counter.
"Good afternoon. I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I'm looking for a family by the name of Holt. They are supposed to be here in the area. Do you know of them?"
"There are several Holts in the area, sir. Do you have any other name by chance?"
"I know that one of the sons is an officer in the Royal Marines."
"Ah, there you have it then. Out on the Klinedell Road. Go down the main street out of the town, the main road forks and take the road to the left, follow it down about two mile and you will see the house on the knoll to your left, those be the Holts you're looking for then." The old man smiled.
"I thank you, sir." Tomlin smiled, "May I trouble you again, is there an inn nearby?"
"One street over." The old man hooked a finger over his own shoulder.
"Thank you again, sir, you've been most kind."
"No trouble, young man." He said and went back to his sorting of letters. Tomlin walked out, picked up his trunk and walked to the next street over. He saw the inn and it made him smile. It was very homey looking and bright with flowers in the front of it in pots and the building itself was whitewashed. He walked over and went in the front door. There was a large counter area just inside the door and he set the trunk down. An older large sized woman came out of a door and walked up to the other side of the counter.
"May I help ya, sir?"
"Yes, I'd like a room, please?"
"How long will ya be staying?"
"Till the day after tomorrow." Tomlin said with a smile. "I need to catch the coach to Norwich then."
"I see, going home to Norwich?"
"I have a nice room right above us that gets morning light till midday. We have supper available every evening until seven, in the dining room to your right. If you like, there is coffee in the mornings just after dawn until ten."
"That sounds very nice. I am here also to see a friend of mine who lives just out of town, out on the Klinedell Road."
"Would that be the Holt family?"
"Yes, it would."
"That poor lad, young Marine, being made into such a cripple like that." She said shaking her head.
"Surely not, a cripple?"
"Such a shame, a very handsome lad he is, or was, some might even say he was pretty. Such a shame. Ya know him well, lad?"
"We serve together, on the same ship. That's why I'm here, to check on him before going home."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, my lad."
"Please, I must get there and soon, sooner than I thought. What is the quickest way there?"
"Well, go round the back, and we have a small livery, see my son back there, you can ride, can't ya?" Tomlin nodded. "Good, tell Baxter to give ya Hiner, he's one of the shires, he'll saddle him and Hiner knows the way all too well." She smiled.
"Thank you." Tomlin said, "How much do you require for the room?"
"Oh, that will be two shillings, and that'll be for using Hiner as well, don't worry my dear, it will be fine. Is that your trunk?"
"Yes." Tomlin said looking down at the trunk next to him.
"Here is the key to the room. The stairs are right there, up and to the right all the way to the front." She smiled.
"I might be a little late this evening."
"That's alright, dear. I don't lock the door until near midnight anyway." She smiled wide. "Now, run along, I'll take care of your trunk for ya." She smiled, shooing Tomlin out the door as she came around the counter.
He went around back and talked to Baxter, a monstrous sized lad who seemed as gentle as a lamb, he saddled Hiner and pointed Tomlin in the right direction. The large shire horse did indeed seem to know the way and in no time Tomlin covered the two miles, and found the house on the knoll, just as the postman had said. It was a very orderly and lovely looking place, and Tomlin stepped off Hiner and tied him to a hitching ring near the corner of the house out on the drive. He walked up to the door and knocked. An older looking lady opened the door in a very elegant looking dress and Tomlin took off his hat and bowed slightly at her.
"Good afternoon, ma'am. I was looking for Christian. I was told that he lived here?"
"Yes, he does. He's not receiving anyone however."
"Oh, I've come from Portsmouth, on my way home. I wanted to see if he was alright."
"You don't look like a Marine to me, sir." She said rather cold and callous.
"I am not, I am an officer aboard the ship he was assigned to, the Dover."
"A sailor." She said almost with disgust in her voice. "Wait here, I will see if he will see you. What did you say your name was?"
"Thomas, Thomas Tomlin." He smiled, as she shut the door. Tomlin looked at the horse that was waiting as he chewed on some flowery bush that was perfectly trimmed, and Tomlin went wide eyed at it. The door slowly opened and the woman was there again.
"If you step inside and wait here, please." She said and let Tomlin in. He held his hat in front of him turning it on the brim in his fingers feeling very nervous about standing in this stuffy house. It was stuffy by its sheer nature, not by its smell. Tomlin waited as she walked away and down a hall out of site. Tomlin was looking up at the ceiling and then he heard it, the thumping sound as it came closer. Tomlin leaned out, but didn't move, he couldn't see anything, as the sound came closer to him getting louder, and then he saw him, hobbling on a crutch, and he took Tomlin's breath away.
"Thomas." The voice said coming with a struggle. Tomlin's eyes went wide seeing him. He wore a long heavy floral printed robe that went to the floor, with wide velvety lapels that were almost a black.
"Christian." Tomlin whispered and went to him. "Christian, what has happened to you?"
"The doctor," Holt struggled to get the words out of his mouth, his face was dragging down to one side, "says it is in my nerves. I,...cannot use...my mouth for...very long." He sighed heavily as it seemed to strain him deeply.
"Oh, Christian, can I do anything?"
"No." He whispered, and his eyes welled. "Yes." He looked around with his eyes, and then tried to with his head, but couldn't.
"What is it?" Tomlin asked quietly. "You want me to do something?"
"Yes." Holt whispered, and weaved a little on the crutch. Tomlin put his hands on his shoulders to help steady him.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Take...me...away." He struggled to get it out.
"Take you away? Take you away from here?" Tomlin narrowed his eyes at him with a concerned look. "Why? This is your home." Tomlin said quietly.
"Not right...doctor..." Holt was trying to shake his head.
"The doctor, the doctor is not doing something right?"
"He..." Holt was trying to cock his head to get it out, "he...no good, he...help me."
"He's helping you?" Tomlin asked softly.
"No,...help me,...take me." Holt's eyes glassed a little and then he began to weave even as Tomlin was trying to support him.
"Christian," Tomlin said, as they started to go to the floor, "Christian!" Tomlin was holding him as he propped Holt on his knee, kicking the crutch out of the way. Holt was more glassy eyed now and slipped away, his mouth dropping open and he exhaled with a hard breath. Tomlin put a hand over Holt's chest and felt his heart, it was beating strong under his hand. Tomlin scooped him up and stood, holding him to him tightly, and then started down the hall the way Holt had come. "Excuse me, ma'am? Excuse me?!" Tomlin said and then she came out of a room, and her eyes went cold with an evil glare to them.
"What has happened?"
"We were trying to have a talk and he collapsed."
"It's his nerves again, I knew it was too much for him. He'll have to have another treatment. I'll send for the doctor right away. Bring him in here, if you would." She walked down the hall to another room and opened the door. It was dark inside, the windows were covered with heavy dark drapes. Tomlin put Holt on the bed and she pushed him out of the way. "I'm sorry, but I cannot show you out, I'm quite sure you understand." She said and her tone cut Tomlin like a dull blade.
"I do, ma'am. I'm sorry about this. I'll come back when he is better."
"I don't think that will be possible. If you care anything about him, you'll leave now." She said as she looked over her shoulder at him and then back to Holt. Tomlin backed out of the dark room. He could barely see Holt on the bed from his place at the door. He had to do something, but what? Christian had almost begged him to help, but what could he do? He had said to take him away, take him where? Tomlin got to the door and walked out, he stood on the walk and looked back at the house. He needed help with this, but who? Tomlin walked over to the horse as he had nearly devoured the entire bush and untied the reins from the ring and climbed up in the saddle, he reined him over and headed down the drive and then onto the main road. He thought long and hard on his way back to town. The only answer was he needed medical help. He needed Crawford and in the worst way. All he had was Christian asking him for help, to take him away, and that was sketchy at best. The horse stopped at the livery, and Tomlin got off, see Baxter there and handed the reins to him, he nodded to him and then walked around to the front of the inn.
"Did you see your friend, lad?" The large lady asked as she saw Tomlin walk in.
"Yes, I did. It did not go very well."
"I told ya that he was in a very bad way."
"There's something not right about it though." Tomlin said, looking down at the floor.
"What makes ya say that?"
"He asked me for help and to take him away." Tomlin said softly.
"What? He asked ya that? Are ya sure?" She asked as she came close to him.
"Yes, and then he collapsed. I had to carry him to a room that was as dark as a cave." Tomlin said, and then looked up at her, "Then she asked me to leave, it was very strange and she was very...rude about it. Snide actually."
"Ah, that would be the housekeeper. She's in charge until the master comes home."
"When is that?" Tomlin asked with wide eyes.
"Probably in another week or two, I imagine."
"Where is he?"
"He is a Colonel in the Royal Marines. He's with his regiment in Scotland."
"Scotland. I've got to get him out of there, she said something about another treatment, do you have any idea what she meant?"
"Probably some kind of crazy potion that doctor from the Orient makes, I'll wager." She shook her head, looking toward the floor.
"Doctor, from where?" Tomlin went wide eyed, grabbing her gently by the upper arms.
"He's from some foreign place in the Orient. No one in the town will be treated by him, they say he practices the black arts."
"Oh my God." Tomlin whispered. "Where can I get a carriage and a team of good horses?"
"What are ya going to do lad? What are ya thinkin?"
"I'm thinking I need to get him to a good doctor, a qualified doctor before this crazy man kills him."
"Alright, lad, alright." She went around the counter. "Ya go up and get your trunk, you're obviously leavin, I'll go get Baxter and have him get a carriage put together for ya." She shut a few little doors behind the counter and went through a doorway, Tomlin thought it had to lead out back. Tomlin went up to the room and grabbed his trunk, but he took a moment and looked around at the room that was to be his and he smiled at it. It would have been nice to stay here, he thought, he turned and walked to the door, closing it behind him and went back downstairs. She came back in, almost out of breath.
"He'll be here in a few minutes. Where will ya go?"
"To London, to the Admiralty, we have the best doctors there in all of England. I've got to save him from all this. I never should have let him go, he said something before he left, and now it makes sense."
"Was he like this when ya saw him last?"
"No, he was weak, from his wound, but mending and was walking on his own. Now he can barely walk and is using a crutch. I wonder..." Tomlin stopped thinking as the carriage pulled up out front.
"He's here. Be very careful. That woman can be very fierce."
"I can handle her, I'm certain."
"Baxter will drive ya wherever ya wish to go. Safe journey to ya, my lad."
"I'll return one day, very soon, and I hope to try that room." Tomlin smiled, patting the back of her hand. "I thank you for everything, you have been wonderful."
"Ya seem like a nice young lad, take care of yourself, and do come back and visit."
"I will, thank you." Tomlin said, taking the trunk and putting it in the carriage, then he climbed up next to Baxter and was dwarfed by him in the seat. "Know where we're going?"
"I do." He growled, and whipped the reins and the carriage took off. The drive was pretty quick out to the house and Baxter slid the carriage into the drive and turned it around as Tomlin jumped down and went to the door. He knocked very loud on it. The woman opened it part way and Tomlin charged through pushing it open farther, catching her off guard. He went down the hallway and to the room, and opened the doors, she was right behind him.
"What do you think you're doing?" She huffed, "I will have you jailed for this intrusion! Stop what you're doing right now!"
"I'm taking him out of here and getting him to a real doctor."
"You'll be hanged for kidnapping! I'll see to it!"
"Madame, you can either help me or you can get out of my way." Tomlin said, turning and getting into her face. "Can't see a blessed thing in here." Tomlin said and went to the heavy drapes and tore them back, letting the light flood in. Christian was lying on the bed, still in the robe, but it was open. His color was pale and he looked lifeless. "Did you give him a so called 'treatment'?"
"Yes, if it's any business of yours."
"Where is it?" Tomlin asked with a growl. She regrouped and folded her arms in front of her. He became enraged, and leaped at her, grabbing her, "Where is it?!" He screamed at her. Her eyes went wide, and they flashed left. Tomlin followed her gaze and saw a bottle of amber liquid on a small table next to the bed. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. He turned and looked at Christian lying on the bed and eyes barely opened. "Christian, it's Thomas. Can you hear me?" There was a gulp and a slight nod. "I'm taking you away from here, I'm going to get you help." There was another slight nod. Tomlin turned on her. "Bag, clothes, now!"
"I will not be a party to this! You are not taking him from this house!"
"I am going to take him and get him good help, and then I'm coming back, and I'm coming back with the Regulars. They'll arrest you and that crack pot doctor and probably burn you both at the stake for witchcraft, or hang you for murder if he dies. Now, bag, clothes...NOW!" Tomlin screamed like he never had before, and she jumped. She went to a wardrobe and opened it, pulling out a bag, putting various clothes in it and then closed it up. She handed it to Tomlin and he gave her an evil glare. He set it on the foot of the bed. He went to Christian and scooped him up, it felt like he weighed nothing to Tomlin, he turned and managed to get the bag with a few fingers and then he started out of the room.
"You'll not make it out of the Shire before you're stopped!" She said, following them.
"You can tell the Colonel that I have him and that I am taking him to the Admiralty in London. You can send the constabulary there if you want." Tomlin said as he made it to the door, once outside, he turned and glared at her. "Remember what I said, I'm coming back for you and that so called doctor, and if the Colonel hasn't got it right in his head, he's next." Tomlin turned and walked toward the carriage. Baxter got down and took the bag and opened the half door, helping Tomlin get Holt inside and settled in the seat, Tomlin got in next to him, and held him. Baxter climbed up and reined the horses and the carriage leaped forward. Out on the road, Baxter kicked them up into a full gallop, the carriage was rocking hard.
"What's your hurry, Baxter?" Tomlin asked.
"It's him, sir, he's been poisoned. I've seen it before. He needs blankets. We'll stop at the inn and get some. We have to keep him warm or he'll have the shakin fits here soon."
"Eha, it's poison for sure! Had a feelin' knowin' that doctor fella from the Orient. Hang on!" Baxter said as he pulled up to the inn. "Momma!" He yelled as he got down. She came to the door. "It's poison like I thought. Need a couple of blankets for 'im." He said and she turned and headed back inside, coming back out with a couple of heavy quilts.
"Here, here, cover him, get under there with him, keep him warm." She said, looking at Holt, her eyes welled as she saw him and his ashen color. "Oh, dear God, have mercy on this poor lad." She said as she put a hand on Tomlin's shoulder, and the other she covered her mouth, and sobbed. Baxter climbed up and reined the horses again and they took off. Tomlin settled in with the rhythm of the carriage as it headed down the road as they left town on their way toward help. Tomlin worked Christian into him, letting him settle against his body as he tucked the quilts around them both getting them all snug. Tomlin smiled to himself, enjoying the feeling of being this close to him now, wanting him to be safe and protecting him from everything. Tomlin watched the road for a while and then drifted off slowly knowing they were going to be alright in just a couple of hours.
"Sir! Sir! We're in London!" Baxter said over his shoulder, "Which way?" Tomlin sat up and looked.
"Take the next left and follow it down." Tomlin said and then sat back, looking at Christian. He fluttered his eyes a little at Tomlin, trying to focus.
"Thomas." He said softly and very weak. Tomlin looked at him, turning to see him better. Tomlin smiled.
"Christian, are you alright?"
"London." Tomlin said. "You asked me to take you away, remember?" Holt raised a hand and touched Tomlin's cheek with his fingertips.
"Yes." He nodded and the tears welled up. "Thomas,...love."
"What?" Tomlin asked as he smiled, feeling the carriage turn. "What are you trying to say?"
"Thomas," Holt's eyes were glassy in the early evening light that surrounded them, "You,...help,...me."
"Yes, Christian, I'm trying to help you." Tomlin said as he put an arm around Holt's weak shoulders. "I'll always try to help you." Tomlin said barely in a whisper.
"Where to now, sir?" Baxter asked, Tomlin cover Holt with the quilt and looked up next to Baxter.
"There, make that right, and then it's just down the street." Tomlin said, and then the carriage made a sharp right turn. "There, see the building with columns and the Marines?" Tomlin asked as he pointed. Baxter nodded and reined the horses faster. Tomlin watched as the horses were moving even faster as if they knew they were out of time, then Baxter reined them back a little and had them come to a stop. He tied the reins quickly and then jumped down and opened the door. Tomlin worked Holt out of the seat and to the door and Baxter helped Tomlin pick him up, letting Tomlin take him fully. "There's a park around the corner with water troughs, you can rest them there while I see to him." Tomlin turned and walked quickly across the street. The Marines moved to stop him. "I'm Lt. Tomlin, this is Lt. Holt of the Royal Marines, open the door, he's been poisoned!" Tomlin said, as they jumped to the doors, "One of you, with me!" Tomlin said as he came through. The Registrar was there in the foyer, and looked up with wide eyes. "I'm Lt. Tomlin, HMS Dover, this is Lt. Holt, Royal Marines, he's been poisoned, I need a surgeon, quickly!"
"Right this way, sir!" He said leading the way quickly across the large lobby, Tomlin and the Marine followed him. The Registrar opened a door as Tomlin came to it.
"Sentry get that other door." Tomlin said and he went through, seeing a surgery, tables and shelves filled with bottles containing powders and liquids of all types.
"You can put him here, sir." The Registrar said, "I'll get Dr. Martin, he's in the next room, just a moment."
He returned with an older man in tow. The older man wearing a rough cut type of coat and his hair all strewn about looked at Tomlin and then down at Holt lying on the table. He clasped his hands together and slowly began to examine him, He used two fingers to open his eyes and then pulled back Holt's lips checking his teeth, as he moved his head about getting close over Holt. Tomlin was looking nervously as the man continued to inspect the pale gray skin, pushing fingertips against it now and then. He stood straight finally and looked at Tomlin.
"You say he was poisoned?" Martin said as he tapped his lip with a finger, "And this so called doctor was from the Orient?"
"Yes, sir." Tomlin said, standing next to Holt.
"This is the most peculiar thing I've ever seen. If I only knew what type of poison it was."
"I have the bottle right here, it's what I was told was his 'treatment'."
"Well that's it! Let me have it!" Martin said as Tomlin handed it to him. He held it up to the lantern light and looked it over carefully. He uncorked it and smelled it and winced at the smell. He swirled it and then walked it over to a table, he pulled out a piece of paper and poured a little bit of it out on the paper. He held it up to the light and then looked back at Tomlin and then at Holt. "It would appear to be some sort of opiate. It is natural, but it has a rather pungent smell to it. I wonder," He said pursing his lips together, "this young man needs to be in a real surgery. Why did you bring him here?"
"For assistance, sir." Tomlin said, looking down at Holt and then up at Martin. "I know that the Admiralty retains the best doctors in all of England. Please, you must do something for him."
"Who is he actually?"
"He is Lt. Christian Holt, son of Colonel Holt, both of the Royal Marines. The Lieutenant is assigned to my vessel, HMS Dover, under the Garrison command of Captain Anders, sir."
"You're from Portsmouth, are you not?" Martin asked. Tomlin nodded in reply. "There is only one man that might be able to something more for him, and I believe he is here in London at a gathering at one of the colleges, if I'm not mistaken."
"Who would that be, sir?"
"You should be familiar with him, as I think he is your ships surgeon."
"Dr. Crawford? Dr. Arthur Crawford?" Tomlin went wide eyed, "He's here in London?"
"Yes, there is a gathering of surgeons studying some rather interesting new techniques or something to that effect. I'm not certain at which college they are attending however. I know that some of my colleagues here at the Admiralty are also in attendance."
"I need to find him." Tomlin said, looking down at Holt. "If there's a chance that Dr. Crawford knows..."
"What was he being treated for? With this 'treatment'?"
"He took a musket shot that cut through several of his nerves in his spine from what I understand. Dr. Crawford had performed surgery on him during the engagement that brought the wound, sir."
"Then Dr. Crawford would certainly be the man in which to render him a cure so to speak, as he is also an authority on poisons and their effects on the body."
"I wasn't aware of that, sir." Tomlin said.
"Harkins?" Martin turned and looked at the Registrar, "Where was that gathering being held?"
"I believe it's at St. Thomas' in Lambeth, if I remember correctly, sir."
"That's right." Martin said and looked back at Tomlin. "If we are to anything for him, time is of great importance to be sure. It's across the Thames, in sight of Buckingham I believe."
"Thank you, sir, I'll go right away."
"We'll watch over him." Martin said as he stepped forward, putting a hand on Holt's foot, patting it gently. "Do not delay long. I'm not sure what else I can do for him."
"I will not, sir." Tomlin rushed out of the surgery, followed by the sentry.
"Dr. Crawford! Dr. Crawford!" Tomlin called as he saw Crawford through the large crowd of men. Tomlin fought his way through, apologizing as he went and Crawford looked to where the voice was calling from. He went wide eyed seeing him.
"Thomas, what on earth are you doing here?"
"Thank heaven I found you, sir." Tomlin swallowed hard. "It's a matter of life and death, sir."
"Alright, slow down, what is it? The Captain?"
"No, sir. It's Lt. Holt, sir, he is near death, he's been poisoned, sir." Tomlin was wide eyed. "I was sent to fetch you, sir."
"Dear God. The young Marine that I patched up on the Dover?"
"Yes, sir. Please, sir, you must come."
"Alright, where is he?"
"At the Admiralty, sir, with Dr. Martin."
"The Admiralty, and you say Dr. Martin?"
"Yes, sir, he said it was only you that could help save him, sir."
"Alright, alright, let's go." Crawford said, as several other of the men were looking at them, following them with their gaze as they were walking away.
"This is very bad, wouldn't you say?" Crawford asked softly as he bent over the young body.
"Yes, I have never seen anything quite like it before. Notice the coloring of his gums, that's what I find so strange." Martin said, as he cocked his head to one side, looking at Crawford.
"Indeed." Crawford said. "They are all so swollen and blackish. You know this strikes me of a jungle type of poisoning. I remember seeing something like this quite some time ago. It was very exotic as I recall. And you say, he is stiff in his muscles as well?"
"Yes, notice the rigidness, it's almost as if he were frozen in some way. I've seen this in some cases in the far north near the Arctic."
"Yes, he does has less motion and feeling to him, doesn't he?" Crawford stood and pursed his lips together, lost in thought. "I think he needs to have it drained of him in some way. This simply will not wear off, I should think, it has gone too far."
"You think he must be bled?"
"It has obviously caused his brain to shut down, as he has slurred speech and poor muscle control."
"I agree." Martin said as he stood, looking at Crawford. "I'll prepare him then."
"Thank you, but I think we should do it rather slowly, having the toxins pulled from him, might have a poor reaction as well."
"Yes, quite." Martin said, and Crawford turned and walked over to a frightened looking Tomlin.
"Thomas, it may be too late. I want you to understand that. There is an incredible amount of poison running through him right now. We need to draw it out of him, and as it flows through his blood, we need to bleed him of it. It's something I do not like to do, but it is becoming very necessary at this point."
"Will he live, Doctor?"
"I'm not certain. I have never seen a poisoning this bad before. His body is fighting it to be sure, but he is very weak. This might help him, or it might kill him."
"Where is his family?"
"His father is with his regiment in Scotland from what I understand."
"I see, well as you are the closest thing he has in acquaintance, I need to let you know before we proceed."
"I know you will do what you can, Doctor." Tomlin smiled as he looked toward Holt.
"We will, I assure you. Time will tell, and speaking of that, it will take quite some time for this to start to work. You should go and rest yourself. There is an inn over on the next street. You should go and secure yourself a room for the time being, I will let you know in due course."
"If you think it best, Doctor."
"I do, go rest yourself. We shall do what we can." Crawford patted him on the shoulder. "I'll send word as soon as I know something."
"Thank you, Doctor." Tomlin gave him a worried look, and then turned and walked away.
"I wonder, don't you?" Dustin asked as he sat at the table and looked at Callum, who was lost in thought over this afternoon and what it meant to him as well as the service. He must somehow convince Arvin to take what was offered by His Lordship. It worked all too well for all involved to have Arvin there, not only for his experience, his opinions, but just his sheer presence, it would provide so much to all involved. "Did you not hear me?" Dustin asked leaning closer, touching Callum's cuff.
"I'm sorry, you were saying?" Callum snapped back to reality.
"I was saying that I wonder how Thomas is faring on his trip home, if he managed to see Lt. Holt or not."
"Yes, I'm certain he is well." Callum smiled.
"What is it that takes you away from here?" Dustin asked as he leaned closer.
"I am concerned about Arvin. He seemed so spirited in seeing us today, wouldn't you say?"
"Yes, he did. You think he will decline the offer, don't you?" Dustin asked and then looked up, seeing a very striking young man in uniform standing at the door to the inn. He looked over at Callum and Dustin and then approached.
"Captain Callum?" He asked as he stood rather stiff. Callum turned and sat up straight in his chair.
"I'm Lt. Arvin, sir." He smiled and tipped his hand.
"Ah, you must be William's eldest son." Callum smiled and rose to his feet, nodding his head toward him.
"I am, sir." He looked at Callum and then his eyes flashed at Dustin and he smiled briefly at him. "I bring a message from my father, sir."
"Would you care to join us, Lieutenant?" Callum asked holding out a hand toward an empty chair at their table.
"Thank you, sir." He nodded and sat down. Callum held up his hand to summon the barkeep. The man came over and smiled at them.
"Two more ciders, my good man, if you please." Callum smiled at him. He nodded and turned away. "I see that you must be not long at home as your uniform seems to be fresh on you." Callum smiled.
"Yes, I have just returned from London, actually. I have received a new posting to His Lordship's squadron."
"Well, congratulations are in order then." Callum smiled. "To which ship have been posted to?"
"The Tarkington, sir. I have been granted as 1st, to Captain Knox."
"Really? You don't say?" Callum smiled.
"Do you know him, sir?"
"I have had the pleasure, yes. I understand that your father and he served as midshipmen together some years back."
"Yes, he made mention of that to me as well."
"Where you previously posted?"
"In Edinburgh, sir. I was part of the attaché's office to the Admiralty there."
"Interesting. Forgive me, where are my manners, this is Master Dustin Perkins, my helmsman."
"How do you do, sir?"
"How do you do?" Arvin nodded across the table. "I carry a message from my father. He wishes to convey to you, sir, that he thanks you deeply for your visit to him this afternoon and wonders if you will have luncheon with us tomorrow afternoon before you depart in the coach."
"Thoughtful." Callum smiled. "You can reply to your father that we would be honored to join him and your wonderful family." Callum bowed his head slightly.
"My mother will be most pleased to hear it, sir. If you will beg pardon, it is all that my father speaks of, serving with you for as long as he has, and my mother seems to have become very familiar with you and your reputation from my father's tales, sir." The young man smiled, and it seemed to light up the whole room when he did.
"Well, I hope I can live up to your father's boasting and not disappoint your mother." Callum said as the ciders were set on the table. Callum reached into his pocket and handed over a couple of coins to the barkeep and gave him a slight smile, getting another nod in reply. "Your father and Master Perkins here had quite an understanding as well."
"Really?" He asked as he picked up his tankard and sipped from it.
"Yes, it has been said that when Master Perkins and your father are together at the helm, that my ship responds to their whims as if she were alive."
"Truly." Young Arvin said, giving Dustin a look.
"I have never met a better sailing master, or a greater 1st in all of my long career with the service." Callum said.
"Most kind of you, sir, to say something like that. My father as you may know, after his recent injury has been rather...withdrawn."
"I think that might be understandable, don't you?" Callum said as he leaned forward on the table with an arm. "The loss of ones limb might present a new way of thinking to one. I'm certain that your father is simply pondering that question. It is rather a recent injury as you know, and he is still probably trying to come to grips with it."
"I hope you are right, sir, and my time at home with him since this has happened has been rather short, but I see a different man in my father now. He is less sure of himself and his position as it were."
"Understandable as well, wouldn't you agree?"
"I suppose, sir, but it is difficult to see the differences between the two, and there is my mother as well. She has also changed."
"In what way?" Dustin asked.
"She has become more...vocal in the affairs of the house."
"Pardon me for saying it, but I think that she might be thinking that her role in everything might be different now with your father's trying to rehabilitate from his wounds." Dustin said, looking at him, and then looking at Callum, then back to young Arvin. "When I met your mother this afternoon, she seems to be a very strong lady, and quite pleasant in her manner."
"That is true, yes, and thank you for saying so, but you do not see her the way I do, the way they speak to one another."
"It is simple frustration, I assure you, she surely must want to just help him." Callum said softly. "I feel the same way myself, trying to heal from my own wounds. They have been married for many years and are very familiar to one another, and I know that they work through this difficulty, given time." Callum smiled.
"You seem to be in good order, sir, and have all of you." Arvin said.
"It is what is under my shirt and vest, I assure you that causes me deep concern." Callum smiled.
"Perhaps you're right, in all of it, sir." Young Arvin smiled softly. "Well, I must take my leave of you, sir. Thank you for your hospitality, gentlemen." He rose to his feet. Callum and Dustin both rose as well. Arvin put out a hand and each took it, and then he tipped his hand toward Callum, and Callum nodded, watching him walk away to the front door of the inn. They sat back down, and Callum became lost in thought again. Dustin saw the barkeep come over toward them.
"Beggin your pardon, gentlemen, would you care for some supper?"
"That would be nice, thank you." Dustin smiled up at him, then looked at Callum, seeing that he was again lost in thought. "Quintan?" Dustin asked, then he reached out and touched his cuff again, "Quintan?" Callum snapped back, looking at Dustin, "He's asking if you would like supper."
"Oh, I'm sorry." Callum said and then smiled, "Yes, that might be nice, thank you." The barkeep nodded and then walked away.
"Truly you are disturbed by something other than Mr. Arvin. What troubles you so?" Dustin asked softly.
"I have trouble in my own thoughts over what has happened on this last mission, I suppose. It has raised some issues within me. I apologize for my lack of attention and my manner."
"Quintan, tell me, please."
"Perhaps later." Callum smiled and patted the back of Dustin's hand. The barkeep returned, setting plates in front of them with a small plate of cut bread. "This smells wonderful, landlord, what is it?"
"It's a rabbit stew, that my misses makes, sir."
"Really?" Callum asked. "I've not had rabbit in quite some time, actually." Callum smiled and picked up a rather large spoon and set to it, as the barkeep turned and walked away. He looked over at Dustin who was devouring it. Callum smiled thinking about the little boy that had been in their company yesterday and this morning and how much Dustin reminded him of that little one that inhaled everything that was put in front of him.
Tomlin sat at the table of the inn, turning the tankard that was in front of him on the table in his fingers. He stared at it intently, not paying attention to those that were around him at all. The barkeep had come to him a couple of times and had spoken to him, but Tomlin had not paid attention to him, as he was deeply concerned about Holt and if he would survive the ordeal that he was going through.
"Excuse me, sir." The soft voice said. Tomlin was lost to his thoughts and didn't hear it. He snapped around as he felt the touch to his shoulder. He looked up and saw the young girl standing there. "I beg your pardon, sir."
"Yes. I'm sorry, what can I do for you?"
"My mother, sir, she was asking if you required a room for the night?" She smiled briefly.
"I'm not certain. I'm waiting for word from someone."
"You were told to wait here?"
"Yes, I was." Tomlin smiled briefly at her. "Am I causing some difficulty?"
"Not at all, sir. My mother was asking as she saw your trunk and the bag here." The girl said, pointing next to Tomlin.
"Oh, yes, I suppose I should have secured those somewhere else, shouldn't I?"
"I can see to them, sir, if you'd like? We have a cupboard that I can put them in in the main hall."
"Most kind of you. I suppose if it's not too much trouble."
"No trouble at all, sir." She said as she picked them up and walked to the main hall out of sight. Tomlin went back to his tankard and sipped at it again, then went back to his thoughts. She came back into the room and walked along the bar watching over at Tomlin.
"What troubles you my girl?" The barkeep asked, making her stop.
"That young man over there, father. He is deeply troubled by something." She said softly.
"He seems to be, yes. Did he say anything to you?" He asked as he rubbed an empty tankard with a cloth.
"Not much, he said he was waiting for word from someone. Mother had asked me to find out if he required a room, he said he wasn't sure."
"Well, why don't you go up and prepare one for him anyway. I'll try and speak to him again. He paid no mind to me earlier."
"I'll do that." She said and walked away, leaving him to watch her only with his eyes, and then he looked back over at Tomlin, putting down the empty tankard and then picking up another one, rubbing the new one in the cloth.
Tomlin looked up, seeing a man come in the tavern, standing in the doorway, he looked down at Tomlin and then walked toward him.
"I beg your pardon, are you Lt. Tomlin?"
"I'm Reeling, from the Admiralty, sir. Dr. Crawford has asked that you return. He has word of your young Marine that you brought in." Tomlin jumped to his feet. He looked over at the barkeep and pulled out a couple of coins and dropped them on the table. The barkeep nodded at him.
"We'll watch your box for you, sir." The barkeep said aloud. Tomlin nodded and followed Reeling out of the inn. The walked along the street together and entered the Admiralty, the two Marines holding a door open and snapping to attention. Reeling led Tomlin into the surgery and stopped.
"Dr. Crawford, Lt. Tomlin is here, sir." Reeling said, bowing his head and then leaving the room, closing the door behind him.
"Thomas," Crawford said, wiping his hands on a cloth and walked over toward him. "I wanted to let you know about Holt."
"Is he alright, Doctor?"
"He is strong, but the poisons in him have left him very weak. We have bled out quite a bit of the toxins. I have placed leeches on him, but they are working very slowly. They seem to be not taking too well to the toxins themselves. In fact, many of them have died. It's a miracle that the lad has survived this at all so far."
"What else can be done?"
"We will have to wait, and let this run its course, unfortunately. Too much time has passed and too much of this has been given to him. His color is improving slowly, and the blackness of his gums has improved. I can only hope that if he survives that no permanent damage has been done. Did he say anything else to you?"
"No, sir. He only asked for help and to take him away."
"Well, you did the right thing. Another 'treatment' or two and it might have surely killed him."
"Can he speak?" Tomlin asked with pleading eyes.
"He can, but he may not know who you are or what you ask. You may try however. Keep it brief, and we must let him rest through this, it will be his best ally."
Thank you, Doctor." Tomlin said. He walked slowly over to Holt, seeing him lying on the table in the bright light of the surgery, his still form and all of the cuts on him from being bled by the doctors. Tomlin could see a few leeches that clung to him, their shiny black bodies on Holt's pale skin. Tomlin swallowed hard and leaned down over Holt's face, getting close to him. "Christian, can you hear me?" Tomlin watched and waited for a sign, any movement. "Christian?" And then there was movement in the eyes. They slowly opened, and were slightly glazed. "There you are." Tomlin smiled.
"Yes, Christian, I am here." Tomlin said, taking Holt's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "The doctors are doing what they can to help you." Tomlin said softly. "You must trust in them."
"Do not talk." Tomlin said softly. "Save your strength. I will be here, waiting for you to return to yourself."
"I will, trust in that. I will never leave you." Tomlin whispered, and Holt smiled a weak smile in reply. "Rest now, come back to me." Tomlin said and squeezed Holt's hand gently again, then let it go. He stood and turned, seeing Crawford standing at Holt's feet.
"Well, that is a miracle in itself." Crawford said. "Perhaps your very presence will speed this along in his recovery."
"When he does recover, I am wondering where we can have him placed."
"Yes, he can't stay here for very long. He will need some place where he can rehabilitate, and that may take quite a long time, you must understand. He will need constant care."
"I'm not sure what else to do for him, Doctor, but I feel that I must do whatever I can. He seems to have no one else at all."
"Between you and Quintan, I think you would both adopt everyone in the countryside." Crawford smiled.
"He and I have been through quite a bit together and I will not abandon him."
"Admirable." Crawford said, "And quite right, he is a fine officer and needs tending to certainly. Alright, you need to rest, yourself. Did you secure a room at the inn?"
"No, however they offered me one."
"Well, then you should take it, and I will share it with you as this will take quite a bit of both of our time. You go and get some sleep, and then return here in the morning. I will trade places with you, taking the room myself, while you can watch him here with the other doctors that will arrive in the morning." Crawford smiled. He stepped around Tomlin and came up to Holt and leaned down. "Lt. Holt, this is Dr. Crawford, can you understand me?" Holt nodded slowly. "Good, I am sending Tomlin to get some rest. He will return to watch you in the morning, do you understand?" Another slight nod, "Excellent. Rest yourself now, and we will get all of this poison out of you, and get you back on your feet." Crawford saw the nod and then a slight smile. "That's my lad." Crawford said putting a hand gently on his shoulder. Crawford turned and looked at Tomlin, giving him a wink and a nod. Tomlin looked down at Holt and the turned walked away.