Callum was looking out the window of the coach feeling the gentle rocking motion as it rolled down the road, as he was sitting against the wall. Dustin was beside him, sleeping, leaning his head against Callum, The bandage that surrounded Dustin’s head covered most of his long soft brown hair. Callum was silent as they drove on through the night. Tomlin and Holt sat on the bench opposite Callum and Dustin. Holt slowly reached over and took Tomlin’s hand in his giving it a gentle squeeze. Tomlin smiled as he felt it. The coach continued on as Callum could see the lights of Portsmouth off in the distance drawing closer with each passing moment.
The coach finally pulled up to the freight office and stopped, Callum opened the door after he had gently shifted Dustin over. He climbed out of the coach, and turned around. Tomlin and Holt helped move Dustin, getting him out of the coach. Callum swung Dustin into his arms and held the still body up close to him.
“I’ll get him to the Heritage, will you see to all of the traps?” Callum as he looked at Tomlin.
“Of course, get him taken care of.” Tomlin said as he stepped out, “Are you sure you don’t need any help with him?”
“No, he’s as light as a newborn in my arms.” Callum said as he looked down at the soft face he loved so much, “I’ll see you there.” Callum said and walked away. He walked the two streets over and was beginning to realize just how exhausted he was truly becoming, the closer he got to the Heritage. Callum reached the door and opened it, using his foot to close it behind him, and then stepped forward. Farrow came up quickly looking at the both of them.
“Quintan, what has happened?” Farrow asked with a deep look of concern.
“He has been run through with a sword, and his head has been pounded in.” Callum said looking down at Dustin.
“Let’s get you up to your room, I’ll send for Crawford.” Farrow said. Callum stepped forward toward the stairs and struggled to carry Dustin up them, but he had to, just a little bit more to go now to ease his own struggle. Callum went through the door and lay Dustin down on the bed, and sat down next to him, just staring at him.
“I think he’ll be alright in a day or two.” Crawford said as he had one of Dustin’s eyes spread open with his fingers. He let it close gently and took his hand away, and looked over at Callum. “What about you, Quintan, you look absolutely terrible. What happened after I left you?”
“The world fell apart, Arthur.” Callum said as he stared at Dustin. “He asked me for only one thing and I haven’t done it yet.”
“What did he ask of you?” Crawford asked softly.
“To take him home.” Callum said softly.
“Quintan, you’re doing the best that you can. I mean look at all that has happened, you’re right, the world has fallen apart, your world. It’s up to you to hold it together.”
“Arthur, I’m so tired, so very tired of it all. All of the troubles, making the decisions, all of the responsibility, everything.”
“Quintan, you’re just tired, you’re not thinking clearly, you need a rest, a very long rest. Would you like me to give you something?”
“No, I don’t need anything. I just want it to stop, all of it, the constant pounding in my head of it all trying to get worked through. I don’t know what I really need, for once in my life, I just don’t know, there’s no plan, there’s nowhere to go to get away from it, it follows me, haunts me.”
“Quintan,” Crawford said standing up from the edge of the bed and coming next to Callum, putting a hand on his shoulder, “I think you have bitten off more than you can chew. You need to take a moment to stop, to back up a step, and look at it again when you have a clearer mind.” Crawford patted him a couple of times. “If I can make a suggestion, go down to the sea, take a walk along the water, it’s always been your home, you get your strength from it. Let the sea help you find your focus.” Crawford said, and took his hand away, he walked over to his bag and closed it, then picked it up from the table. He stopped at the door, and opened it a little, “I’ll come and check on him tomorrow. He’ll sleep through the night, you should try to as well.” Crawford said, walking out of the room, closing the door softly behind him.
Tomlin and Holt walked through the front door of the Heritage Arms, carrying their burden, Tomlin’s trunk, Callum’s bundles, the two swords, as well as Dustin’s bag. Tomlin set down what he had in his hands just inside the small lobby area near the stairs, as Holt was behind him, setting down the items he carried as well. Farrow walked into the area, having seen them come in. Tomlin stood and looked at Farrow.
“Thomas, it is good to see you again.” Farrow said giving him a warm look and holding out his hand. Tomlin smiled and took his hand, giving it a firm grip.
“Farrow, I’m certainly glad that we have made it back here.” Tomlin smiled as Holt stepped out from behind him. Farrow took his hand back from Tomlin and looked Holt up and down slowly, taking in the absolute beauty of this young man. “Farrow Dunhill, may I introduce Christian Holt.” Holt put out his hand and Farrow took it, feeling the warmth of it, the soft skin.
“How do you do?” Farrow asked, and then looked at Tomlin for a brief moment and then back at Holt, “Thomas, I can certainly see why you were so consumed in your constant talking of him.” Farrow said, Holt and Tomlin both blushed as Holt took his hand back.
“Yes, I did rather go on about him, didn’t I?” Tomlin said, feeling quite embarrassed for a moment. “Are Quintan and Dustin here?”
“Yes, Dr. Crawford just left a few minutes ago. They are up in their room. Quintan didn’t say what happened in London, only that Dustin had been run through and his skull was bashed in, perhaps you can tell me.” Farrow said as he was keeping his eyes on Holt. Tomlin saw it, and stepped over a step to block Farrow’s full view of Holt.
“Yes, if you’d like, I can certainly do that.”
“Let us go in and have an ale and you can bring me up to date.” Farrow said holding out a hand to show the way, while taking in more of Holt as he walked by him. Farrow leaned close to Tomlin and whispered, “My God, Thomas, he is absolutely beautiful.”
“He certainly is, isn’t he?”
“Are there any more at home like him?” Farrow asked, giving Tomlin wide eyes. Tomlin smiled softly and shook his head. “Well, that’s unfortunate.” Farrow said as they reached a table, and pulled out chairs. Farrow continued on and went around the bar, picking up tankards and then filling them. He walked back around and came back to the table and sat down, sliding tankards in front of them as he settled into a chair as well. Tomlin and Holt had been whispering but stopped as Farrow came back. “Secrets, gentlemen?” Farrow asked.
“No, I was only telling him of what your thoughts were about his beauty.”
“Yes, I apologize, you simply took me by surprise that’s all.” Farrow said, blushing a little himself. Holt smiled softly and then looked at Tomlin and the back at Farrow.
“You must excuse me, I am not accustomed to having anyone think or say anything like that about me.” Holt said with a slight blushing.
“Oh my lad, you should learn to get accustomed to it, as it is very true. You are truly more than just striking.” Farrow said, as he picked up his tankard. “So, tell me about what happened in London.”
Fitzwarren stood just inside the door of the surgery watching the surgeons as they worked on the young body that lay on the table. Fitzwarren stood silent, just watching, his arms folded over his chest. The surgeons looked up now and then seeing him standing there, and then went back to their work on the half-naked body below them. The door of the surgery opened behind Fitzwarren and closed softly.
“My Lord, Captain Callum and his party have departed the inn and have gone on to Portsmouth.” The voice said quietly behind him.
“In the morning, I will have orders drafted, I want a block wagon with a squad of Marines. You will accompany them to Portsmouth. Callum is to be arrested and brought back here to me.” Fitzwarren said with a growl in his voice.
“My Lord, are you certain that…” the voice behind him said. Fitzwarren turned and looked at the young face behind him, giving him a glare.
“If he resists, use whatever means, clap him in irons, and have him brought back here to me. That is clear enough, isn’t it?”
“Very clear, My Lord.” Collingwood said softly, bowing his head slightly. He turned and opened the door and walked out, closing the door behind him quietly. Fitzwarren turned back and saw one of the surgeons walking toward him. Fitzwarren lifted his chin a little as the surgeon looked at him.
“Will he live, Doctor?”
“I am not certain, My Lord, he is very weak as he has lost a great deal of blood. He is trying to trying to speak and we can’t really understand what he is saying. His right lung is still punctured and we are doing what we can for him. We will have to attempt to open him back up again after his body has regained some of the blood he has lost.”
“May I speak to him?”
“You may, My Lord, but I am not certain if he will hear you or understand anything that you say to him.” The surgeon said, as he looked back toward the table. Fitzwarren dropped his arms and walked toward the table, the surgeon following him. Fitzwarren stepped to the edge of the table and looked down at the boy lying there.
“Dorland, can you hear me?” Fitzwarren asked. Eyes fluttered a little and opened to just barely being slits. “Henry? I need to ask you, what happened?” Fitzwarren asked as he leaned closer. Fitzwarren saw lips begin to move but couldn’t hear anything coming from them. “Do you remember what happened to you?” Fitzwarren asked, and bent lower, putting an ear over the lips. Fitzwarren stood up and looked down at the face as the slits slowly closed. Fitzwarren turned and walked toward the doors of the surgery and opened one, going out, closing it behind him. He walked by officers and Paiges as they bowed their heads slightly or tipped their hands toward him and reached the wide staircase, he started up them, when he stopped hearing someone call to him, he turned and saw Eddington at the bottom of the stairs.
“My Lord, I have just spoken to Collingwood, I’m wondering, My Lord,…” Eddington said, but Fitzwarren gave him a stern look.
“I know what you’re going to say, Eddington, and I don’t want to hear it right now.” Fitzwarren said and turned and went up the stairs. Eddington pursed his lips tightly for a moment and looked slowly around seeing all eyes were on him, every pair of them seemed to be looking to him with some kind of look of pleading for him to do something. Eddington blew out a breath through his nose and went up the stairs after Fitzwarren. He reached the doors to Fitzwarren’s chamber after Fitzwarren had gone in, Barrington was standing there to block Eddington.
“Stand aside, Barrington.”
“Mr. Eddington, I’m sorry, I really cannot let you enter, sir.”
“Barrington,…I must put a stop to this, and you know that.” Eddington said, reaching for the door. Barrington hesitated and then stood aside, as Eddington went through, closing the door behind him. Fitzwarren stood at the table at the far end of the room, pouring himself a drink from a decanter.
“Not now, Barrington.” Fitzwarren said loudly, not turning round.
“My Lord,” Eddington said firmly, making Fitzwarren turn around and glared at him, “I beseech you, do not follow this course of action. I beg you reconsider.”
“Eddington, you go too far, sir!” Fitzwarren boomed, glass now in hand. Eddington stepped closer.
“My Lord, think for a moment, how would it look, the scandal it would create if Callum is brought here in irons.”
“That man, that arrogant man, has shown blatant disrespect, and created an air of complete contempt for everything that this building and its office stands for! It could be seen as if he spat on the very shoe of the King himself! What he has done, he has done to himself, sir! He will pay for this outrage!”
“My Lord, I beg you, do not do this.” Eddington said as he stepped closer toward Fitzwarren, “You know of what he has done not only for you, but for all, his deeds for his country and for our King should speak for him. I am more than certain that he felt overwhelmed by all that has happened, he was surely acting only out of frustration, My Lord.”
“And to that fact, I should simply let it pass, let his act of complete disrespect simply be dismissed?! Only on the merits of his good deeds of the past?! I think you presume to much, sir!”
“My Lord, he has saved countless lives with his actions, yours included.”
“If I were to excuse his behavior, it would set a very poor example, and would lead to others following him and his way. Do you not see that?”
“My Lord, I beg that you reconsider your decision. The ones that witnessed it can be easily spoken to, their silence can be guaranteed and you know as well as I that their loyalty is without question, as is Callum’s.”
“No! The man has not only insulted authority, he has insulted me! He shall be punished for that, mark my words! Now, get out!” Fitzwarren said as he turned with a growl. He stared at a portrait across the room that hung on the wall, a painting of Fitzwarren’s predecessor, looking proud in his full dress uniform. Fitzwarren threw his glass at it, smashing it against the wall. Eddington, bowed slightly, turned and walked for the door.
Callum sat on the bed, watching Dustin sleep, bandages covered his head, shoulder and his right arm still in the sling, as it lay outside of the bed covers. Callum saw the soft gentle face and it made his heart heavy that his love had endured what he had been through, and it tore at him deeply seeing this gentle caring soul the way that he was now, and it made him wonder what it would be like to see him even worse than this, to see him possibly die and to be without him forever. It more than pained him, the thought ripped through him to his very core. He did not hear the knock on the door or it open. He was startled by the touch to his shoulder, making him jump slightly and turn his head.
“Quintan, you must rest, you look completely done in.” Farrow said, looking down on him. Callum turned his gaze back at Dustin, “He will be alright, you will see. You cannot lay blame with yourself.”
“What do you know of it, Farrow, you weren’t there.” Callum said above a whisper.
“I know enough, Thomas has told me of what has happened. You did everything that you could, you know that.”
“It wasn’t enough, clearly.”
“Quintan, in all the time that I have known you, all the time that we served together, you were the most capable of us, the best of us all. You still are. You cannot continue with blame to yourself, it will eat a hole through your soul, it will blacken your heart.”
“My soul lies in that bed within him, and my heart has already been blackened by everything that has led to this.” Callum said softly.
“That will change once he is back to himself, I’m certain.”
“How could you possible know that?” Callum asked softly.
“Because I know you, I know the man that you are, and the man that you have always been.” Farrow said as he squeezed Callum’s shoulder a little. Farrow looked at Dustin for a moment and then back at Callum and let him go. He turned and walked to the door, and walked out of the room.
“I’m worried.” Tomlin said as he pulled back the covers of their bed.
“What worries you?” Holt asked as he pulled his shirt up and over his head.
“What worries you about him exactly?” Holt asked as he stepped out of his shoes and unbuttoned the flap of his pants.
“Did you see the hollow look in his face as he carried Dustin?”
“Yes.” Holt said softly.
“I have seen that look before, once. It actually frightened me.” Tomlin said as he got into bed. Holt dropped his pants and stepped out of them, he pulled back the covers and climbed in next to Tomlin, covering himself as he settled in next to him.
“When did you see it?”
“The night that we engaged all the ships at La Rochelle, just before he collapsed in my arms on the deck, he gave me that look, that empty hollow look, for only a moment, I had thought that he had died.” Tomlin said as he was settling into the bed, staring up at the ceiling. “I’ll never forget it.” He said softly, bending his left arm up and behind his head. Holt settled next to him, coming next to Tomlin’s side, sliding his right arm over Tomlin’s stomach as he rolled closer to him and draped his right leg over Tomlin’s, placing his leg in between Tomlin’s.
“Thomas, I know he will be alright, just as soon as Dustin is recovered, you’ll see, he will be fine. Do not worry yourself so.” Holt said softly.
“I hope so.” Tomlin said and closed his eyes. “Are you comfortable?”
“Yes, very much, as long as I’m not crowding you.”
“No, I can barely feel your weight against me. I like it like this, you’re so very warm and comforting lying next to me.” Tomlin whispered.
“Mr. Eddington, what are we going to do?” Collingwood asked as he was looking at Eddington. They had all gathered into a small room on the first floor of the Admiralty. The juniors officers, joined by two of the other officers of Dover that had shown up hearing the news of the attack, Lt. Cary Summers, and Lt. Darin Talon. Eddington lowered his head for a moment and looked up at the two officers of Dover, seeing the look of fear that was on their faces, and then Eddington looked at Collingwood.
“We are going to carry out our orders, Mr. Collingwood.” Eddington said flatly. Collingwood huffed out a breath and rolled his eyes. Eddington heard and saw it, “What would you propose we do, stage a mutiny here in the Admiralty?” Eddington asked he leaned forward toward Collingwood, “That would solve nothing and have us all clapped in irons and then hanged. Fitzwarren needs to calm himself, and all of us hiding and speaking of possible insurrection will only further fuel his anger.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Collingwood said softly.
“Look, I consider Callum a personal friend of mine, and this distresses me very much, seeing a warrant issued for his arrest, but Callum was wrong in what he did, he knows it, and Fitzwarren needs to act on it. I tried to talk to him and get him to reconsider, but he is standing fast. And the more I think on it, I have to agree with Fitzwarren, that he has no choice. Our only hope for Callum is that Fitzwarren will give him only a formal reprimand or perhaps relieve him of duty.” Eddington said quietly, “Now, we must go and not be seen gathering like this, it will only bring suspicions upon us.” Eddington watched the junior officers start to walk out of the small room, a few at a time, looking about as they did. Summers and Talon stayed with Eddington and Collingwood.
“Mr. Summers, you and Mr. Talon have served the longest with the Captain, do you think he was right?” Collingwood asked.
“Mr. Collingwood, I might be able to better judge the actions of the Captain if I had witnessed them firsthand, but I did not,” Summers said, “I have served with him for three years, I have seen his many moods over that time, and the night that Captain Powers was killed, I saw anger, deep burning anger in his eyes over it, you remember Mr. Talon,” Summers said, looking at young Talon, who nodded and then dropped his head, “the Captain is a very caring man, especially over those that he is close to, I’ve seen him go into rages over the mistreatment of common sailors that are under his watchful eye or in his work detail aboard ship. I would not want to be in his way when he lets go of that anger within him. His Lordship is going to have quite a handful with the Captain when he is brought in, and I feel for you the most, Mr. Collingwood, if His Lordship is sending you to collect him.” Summers said and stepped back once. Collingwood swallowed hard thinking about it. Eddington closed his eyes and shook his head a little.
“We need to get out of here.” Eddington finally said, reaching for the door to open it.
Callum sat on the bed still watching Dustin sleep. His eyes were very heavy but he forced himself to stay awake to watch over Dustin, thinking to himself that he would never let him down or out of his sight ever again as long as there was breath in his body. Dustin sighed once deeply in his sleep and Callum sat up a little from his position, hearing him and taking notice. Callum saw Dustin’s eyes move a little under his closed lids and then they started to move and flutter lightly. Dustin moaned softly and tried to lift his hand that was bound in the sling, but couldn’t. Callum shifted himself quickly, but moved gently to not stir the bed, coming closer to Dustin. He sat close to him and waited.
“Quintan?” Dustin asked softly. Callum smiled briefly and then leaned forward a little.
“I am right here, my love.” Callum said just above a whisper.
“Where are we?”
“We’re in Portsmouth at the Heritage Arms.”
“Farrow,…is he…?” Dustin started to ask quietly as he opened his eyes.
“All is well, everyone is here and safe. You must continue to sleep, to ease your head.” Callum said softly.
“What time is it?”
“It is the middle of the night, I am not exactly sure of the time.” Callum said softly, “Do not think of it, you need to rest yourself.”
“Come and rest with me, I need you beside me.” Dustin asked and slowly closed his eyes, “You can ease my head from the throbbing that’s in it.”
“We did not want to give you anything until we knew you would regain your wits.” Callum said.
“I think my wits are scattered all across the floor of the Boar’s Head. This hurts just as bad as when Jarter gave me that pounding.” Dustin said lifting his left hand to his head, he felt about at the bandages, and then lowered his hand. “What is all of this?”
“One of the surgeons that tended you wanted to make certain that you were contained.” Callum said, taking Dustin’s free hand in his, holding it softly, “You have a rather nasty cut on your forehead.”
“Yes, from that very sharp and heavy buckle of a boot as I remember.” Dustin said as he tried to sit up. Callum let his hand go and put hands on Dustin to stop him. “What are you doing?” Dustin asked.
“You should not be up yet, you need to lay still and rest.” Callum said.
“You’re one to talk.” Dustin said as he looked at Callum, trying to focus, “Don’t try and give me any lecture about staying in bed, as you never do, even as you are taking your next to last breath. I simply got a little beat up, that’s all.”
“And run through as well.”
“It feels like more of being run over than run through, actually.” Dustin said, getting up again, as Callum took his hands away. Dustin sat up fully and moaned softly at the new position in the bed. “This has got to be the most uncomfortable mattress.”
“Oh, and now you start to complain, you must be feeling better.”
“I would have said something before we left for London, but I found a spot near the edge where I can get comfortable.” Dustin said.
“So that’s why you had a few restless nights.” Callum said as he sat back a little, “I wish you would have said something, I would have had Farrow change the mattress for another.”
“No need to inconvenience him on my account. I found ways around it. I certainly do miss our bed though.”
“Do you feel well enough to travel, to go home to Birmingham?” Callum asked, and Dustin’s eyes lit up.
“You know I do, even trussed up like this. I would lay in our bed for a solid week if we were home.”
“Then home it shall be. We will leave tomorrow on the coach, I’ll see to it, we could be home by dark.”
“Truly? You’ll take me home?” Dustin asked as he put his hand on Callum’s arm.
“To make certain that you are safe and cared for, yes, I will take you home, as you asked of me.” Callum said and gave Dustin a soft smile.
“You make me very happy, Quintan.” Dustin said, “Now, I must get up, I need to go to the privy.”
“Alright, let me help you, as you have done for me, countless times.” Callum said as he got off the bed, pulling back the covers.
The dawn finally came, Callum had not slept at all after he had gotten Dustin back into bed, making him rest more. They had talked a bit longer and Dustin slowly drifted off as he lay against Callum. Callum slipped gently out from under Dustin, making him stir only briefly, but then he drifted back to sleep. Callum decided that he had best get some coffee to stay focused, and then he would set off to see about a coach to Birmingham to finally go home, as Dustin wanted. Callum opened the door to their room to go out as he saw the door across the hall open, and Holt stepped out, closing the door quietly behind him. Callum smiled briefly as Holt saw him, then Callum raised a finger to his own lips, closing his own door, and then nodded his head to go down the hallway. They went down together and entered the tavern, and took up chairs at a table.
“How is Dustin?” Holt asked.
“He is still resting. He woke in the middle of the night and we talked for a while until he went back to sleep. He says he is doing better, but I have my doubts, as I know how he can be.” Callum said as Farrow walked up to the table carrying coffee and mugs. He set them down on the table and pulled back a chair and sat himself at the table.
“You look as though you have been through the worst gale in history, Quintan.” Farrow said.
“Your tact has always been one of question, Farrow, thank you for noticing my appearance.” Callum said as he picked up his coffee. Farrow turned and looked over at Holt and smiled a devilish smile.
“But you, you look as fresh a spring morning.” Farrow smiled and flashed his eyes, “Thomas is a very lucky man indeed to have company such as you.”
“Calm yourself, Farrow,” Callum said, “Christian does not need to hear your smooth talking.”
“Quintan, you have always been the one to try and spoil my fun.” Farrow said, talking to Callum, but looking directly at Holt, “Why is that, I wonder?” Farrow looked down at the table seeing Holt’s hand as it reached for the coffee cup, noticing the smooth skin, the slender long fingers, they matched everything that was Holt that could be seen, but made Farrow’s mind wonder about what was beneath the clothes that he wore.
“Farrow, kindly put your attention to your coffee.” Callum said and Farrow slowly turned his head and looked at Callum, then picked up his cup.
“How long are you staying, Quintan?”
“I am going to see about securing a coach from the freight office this morning, I hope to be leaving before the noon comes.”
“That soon? You’re going to travel with Dustin already?” Farrow asked.
“Yes, he says he is feeling much better, and wishes to go home.” Callum said to Farrow, and then looked at Holt, “Christian, we should perhaps get our traps combined into one trunk so it is easier for the coach. Would you see to yours and Thomas’s thing after we have our coffee and then we can all have breakfast?”
“Certainly.” Holt said, looking a little nervous to Callum.
“Is something wrong?” Callum asked.
“I am not sure about going to Birmingham.”
“Nonsense, we are all going home, to my home, to rest and finish our healing from all of our wounds. The only one that seems to be uninjured is Thomas.” Callum smiled, thinking about it for a moment, “Once we have rested and fully healed then we can decide on what else to do.”
“You have a mission, don’t you?” Farrow asked, “That Frenchman that’s hacking up those merchant crews.”
“Yes, well, that will be someone else’s problem from now on. I am resigning my commission.” Callum said. Farrow and Holt went wide eyed, as Callum sipped more coffee.
“Just like that?” Farrow asked.
“Why not, you did.” Callum said.
“Yes, but that was different and you know it.” Farrow said, setting his mug down, “Quintan, you have worked too hard, done so much,…”
“And that’s the point isn’t it?” Callum asked, “Farrow, I’m twenty-two years old, I have achieved command and have made Commodore already, when most officers my age are barely becoming 3rd Lieutenants. I have been fortunate so far, I know that, but I don’t wish to go any further.”
“You don’t have to, you can decline another promotion, but I don’t really see why you would.” Farrow said, “Quintan, with the way you’re going you could be an Admiral by the year end.”
“I could, but as I said, I don’t wish it. The responsibility, the decisions, it’s not worth it. I actually had this conversation with Arthur last night. He said I should take time to clear my head and to take a step back.”
“Sound advice, you should follow it. Crawford is a very wise man, you know that as well as I, when he says something, you should follow it.” Farrow said, “I think you are making a terrible mistake, Quintan. You love the service as much as you love Dustin, and that’s saying a lot, I know, and I also know that you know that as well. You’re hiding from something.”
“What am I hiding from?” Callum asked
“Yourself, Commodore.” Farrow said, “And again, you know that. If you resign, it will be the biggest mistake you ever make in your life. I wish someone had told me that when I resigned.”
“You wouldn’t have listened, to either myself or Captain Powers, that’s why we didn’t try and stop you.” Callum said, “You’re too stubborn once you’ve made up your mind.”
“And so are you, Quintan.”
“I beg to differ, I learned to change, after seeing your example.” Callum said and finished his coffee, setting the mug down. “But there is something else, something that happened yesterday at the Admiralty.”
“What?” Farrow asked.
“When I came in and Fitzwarren called me down, in front of all that were there, stopping me from gaining more information from the men that attacked us, I became so angered that I pushed him out of the way.”
“Oh dear God.” Farrow said in a whisper with wide eyes, Holt who had been silent the whole time, and had seen the incident himself, only cleared his throat slightly, and then looked down at the table. “What happened after that?”
“I stormed out, with the thought that I was going to find the one that caused all of this, stopping him, foiling the plan. I was going to show Fitzwarren that I was right in all of it. He simply was standing in the way at the time.” Callum said.
“Quintan, you know what his duty requires now.” Farrow said.
“Yes, and I need to get Dustin home before something else happens.”
“Alright, I’ll help you with it.” Farrow said, “As you seem to have made me a part of it, by harboring a fugitive.”
“You will not come to harm, Farrow, I assure you.” Callum said.
“Have you ever known me to back away from a fight?”
“No, I can honestly say I never have.” Callum smiled. “Christian, have you finished your coffee?”
“Yes, I have. I’ll help you with everything upstairs.” Holt said and pushed back is chair getting up from the table, Callum and Farrow stood as well. They walked to the stairs together, Holt looking at Callum a couple of times as they went. They went up and as they neared their own doors, Holt stopped and put a hand on Callum’s arm, touching him softly, making Callum stop and look at him.
“Something troubles you, Christian?” Callum asked softly.
“Yes.” He said as he looked into Callum’s eyes, seeing a determination there, a look of purpose. “Quintan, I just want to say before anything else might happen…”
“Christian, everything will be alright. I know it will. You need not worry. Promise me that you will you will make certain that Dustin reaches home safely.”
“You have my word.”
“Then I can ask for nothing more. Thank you.”
“No, it is I that thanks you, for everything that you have done for me.” Holt said softly.
“I will always take steps to make certain that my friends are looked after.” Callum said and smiled as he opened his door. He went inside the room and closed the door behind him. Holt stood there in the hall, just looking at the door for a long moment and then went into his room, closing the door as well.
Callum was taking things out of Dustin’s bag and putting them into his trunk that had been left in the room while they had gone to London. Callum made sure that all of Dustin’s thing were carefully folded and laid with his and then folded the canvas bag and put it in the trunk as well, then closed the lid. He turned and looked at the bed, seeing that Dustin was awake.
“What have you been doing?” Dustin asked as he was sitting up in bed.
“I have been preparing for the trip home to Birmingham.” Callum said as he sat on the edge of the bed. “How are you feeling now?”
“Much better actually.” Dustin said giving Callum as soft smile.
“Good.” Callum said, returning the smile. “I was just downstairs having coffee. Did I wake you?”
“No, I have been just lying here, thinking.”
“Oh, about what?” Callum asked as he moved up closer to Dustin on the edge of the bed.
“About going home. I know we haven’t spoken much of Thomas and Christian joining us there, but, given the present circumstances,…” Dustin said softly as he took Callum’s hand in his.
“Dustin, I have already spoken to them about it. Christian is actually packing as we speak for them to join us. I wouldn’t even think of them not joining us.” Callum said, making Dustin smile wide, “They are a part of us now, with everything that we have all been through. Don’t be concerned. I want to make certain that Christian is completely healed before he goes back to duty. As far as Thomas, I know that he had planned on returning home to see his mother, but given how he is with Christian, I don’t think that he will let him out of his sight.”
“That much is certain.” Dustin said, “Are you going to take the time to see about Dover while we are here?”
“No. I will trust in the fact that all will be well regarding her.” Callum said giving Dustin a look that made Dustin realize that there was something else going on.
“Quintan, what aren’t you telling me?” Dustin asked as he squeezed Callum’s hand.
“What makes you ask that?”
“Because I know you, just as well as you know yourself, there is something you’re not saying.”
Callum sighed softly, “I suppose you’re right, I don’t think I could hide anything from you ever, could I?”
“No, you couldn’t. We have become to close, and I can read you as if you were a book with bold print, even though I can’t read.” Dustin said, his voice going a little deeper, giving Callum that feeling that Dustin gave him when his insights were proved correct. “Tell me.” Dustin said softly.
“I am resigning my commission.” Callum said flatly, and Dustin widened his eyes and let his hand go.
“Why?” Dustin asked as he sat back in the bed, “I hope it is not on my account, because if it is…?”
“No,…well, partly, but mostly because of all of the events that have taken place. I sat here last night and came to a decision about it while you slept.” Callum said, giving Dustin a look of almost…loss, of giving up. Dustin gave Callum back a look of being angry.
“That is not you speaking, it is someone else. The Quintan Callum that I know, that I love, has never given up, has never walked away from difficulty of any kind. The Quintan Callum that I know has dealt with everything that has been thrown at him and has overcome every difficulty put before him. There is something else in all of this that would prompt you to resign. What is it?”
“There were difficulties at the Admiralty after The Duke and I arrived, I have not had the opportunity to fully explain it to you yet.”
“Henry explained part of it to me, before we were attacked.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Dorland. I’ll explain that later.” Dustin said, “What other difficulties at the Admiralty?”
“There was an incident between Fitzwarren and myself, I…disrespected him,…greatly. He will have no choice but to act upon it. If I resign my commission, it will prevent scandal within the fleet.”
“You’ll be arrested.” Dustin said with wide eyes. “You can’t resign. Everything that you’ve done, everything that you have accomplished, it will be for nothing.” Dustin said as he sat forward again, his voice sounded almost frantic to Callum, “Quintan, there has to be a way…”
“Calm yourself.” Callum said taking a hand and put it on Dustin’s good shoulder. “I had this conversation with Crawford and Farrow already. They both said basically the same thing. But the fact remains of what happened with Fitzwarren, and because of my actions, I must face the consequences. It will be alright.”
“We must get you away from here, they’ll know where you are and will…”
“And where will we go? They also know of home in Birmingham. There is no place that I can go that they will not find me.” Callum said with such a calm about it that Dustin fell back, the tears were welling in his eyes.
“Do you think they will hang you?”
“No, they will not hang me.” Callum said, lifting an eyebrow. “I am certain that the punishment will be severe, but it was not a hanging offense.”
“Yes.” Dustin said quietly. Callum let out a deep breath.
“Don’t be. I’m not.”
“Here are your orders, Collingwood.” Fitzwarren said, holding out a folded piece of paper. Collingwood reached out slowly and took it from Fitzwarren’s hand. Fitzwarren looked at him for a moment and then turned back to the table behind him, picking up another paper, but it was rolled and was bound with a black ribbon. He turned back and handed it out toward Collingwood, “This is the warrant for Callum’s arrest. Once you have him, bring him directly here, is that clear?”
“Perfectly clear, My Lord.” Collingwood said softly.
“There is a squad of Marines that will accompany you, they are out in the courtyard waiting. I expect your return by this evening if he is in Portsmouth. Do not delay, Collingwood.”
“As you wish, My Lord.” Collingwood said and tipped his hand and then turned and walk away from Fitzwarren.
“Come in.” Callum said, hearing the knock on the door. He got up off the bed as the door opened, Tomlin and Holt came into the room. “Morning, Thomas. I trust you slept well?”
“Only on and off to be sure.” Tomlin said as he came near the bed, Holt closing the door behind him. “Christian told me of what you asked, to have everything consolidated. We are ready, whenever it is time to go.”
“Why the long face, Thomas?” Callum asked.
“I think you know why. Christian told me of what was said downstairs. You would resign your commission?” Tomlin asked, looking a little upset.
“Thomas, you know why, as you were there, standing right behind me. It is best for all involved, and I know you think that as well.” Callum said.
“Quintan,” Tomlin said as he stepped closer to Callum, looking a little angry now, “I mean no disrespect to you, and please, don’t misunderstand me, but I’m going to be a little selfish for once in saying that you need to rethink this decision.”
“Selfish, what do mean?”
“Think about the rest of us if you resign. What will happen to us, all of us? And by that I mean, not just the three of us here, I speak of the crew, the other officers, the squadron that you haven’t even overseen yet, and yes, why not, the entire bloody navy?” Tomlin said, throwing his hands in the air, then letting them drop.
“Thomas, you have learned so much, and I know that you will be an excellent master. I am of hopes that Fitzwarren will see to it that you are given Dover, in fact, I’ll insist on it. You know her as well as I, it only makes sense.” Callum said and then smiled softly, “And as far as the other officers and the crew, they will do well under your care and leadership.”
“Quintan, you can be so blind sometimes.” Tomlin said, and turned away.
“I beg your pardon?” Callum asked, with a shocked look on his face. Tomlin stepped near Holt and turned back looking at Callum.
“No one knows that ship better than you do, no one that’s alive that is. You know her moods, and she responds to you as if she were actually alive. The other officers, yes, they will follow their orders, as well as the crew, but you miss the point of it all. It is you, who you are inside that makes it all come together as a whole.” Tomlin said as he held up a clenched fist. “I am not ready to assume command.” Tomlin said as he lowered his head a moment and then looked back up at Callum, “I know that, and I proved it to myself that night when we sailed into La Rochelle, and I went below to ask Mr. Arvin his advice about the approaching ships. I helped him back up on deck, and it’s because of that that he received yet another wound as well as the loss of his leg, because I was not ready. It was all my fault, all of it. You wish to resign to prevent scandal, but I say to you no. If there is to be a scandal, then Fitzwarren should be at its heart. He’s really the one that has caused all of this. His poor decisions in almost every step, and you had to step in and become creative in order to save each and every situation that he created.”
“Be careful, Thomas.” Callum said with a scowl.
“You know that I’m right, Quintan, don’t deny it. And you, resigning, are doing it yet again, covering for his mistakes, taking his blame.”
“That’s the mark of a good officer, Thomas, you know that.”
“Yes, I suppose it is. It’s always duty, isn’t it?” Tomlin said.
“That’s quite the speech, Thomas.” Callum said, “And what you said about Arvin, that was not your fault at all. You did what I would have done in your position.”
“I apologize for speaking out of turn. I was not trying to make you upset.” Tomlin said lowering his head a little.
“And you didn’t. You spoke from the heart, and it means quite a bit to me actually.” Callum said and Tomlin lifted his head, “You’re passionate over it,” Callum said as he looked at Dustin, “as are others, and perhaps I should take the time to listen.”
“It would be for the best of all concerned if you did listen. I did not speak as well as Thomas did, but I more than agree with everything that he has said.” Dustin said.
“As do I.” Holt said. “And as a matter of perspective, I was there as well, Quintan, and also saw what happened, as did several other officers. I agree with Thomas whole heartedly that is was poor decisions that has led us to this point. You did only what you had to do to save the ship and the crew, as well as everyone else. And it’s not just us that has that opinion. I had quite a discussion with McGuffin at the Garrison. His report was very clear to General Emery, and as he was in the fortress with you, he reported on that action as well.”
“Yes, I was told by The Duke while we had tea.” Callum said softly.
“Perhaps The Duke…” Dustin started to say, but Callum held up his hand to stop him.
“He has already gone beyond the reach, and I would not even dream of asking him. No, gentlemen, I will face the consequences of my actions in this, as I already told you, Dustin, and I will stand by that.”
“What of your resignation?” Tomlin asked.
“That will have to be reweighed, and we will let whatever happens guide in that decision.” Callum said, then looked at Dustin, “Now, are you hungry?”
“Good, let us all go down then, have some breakfast, and then I will go to the freight office and see about the coach.” Callum said as he smiled briefly.
Callum sat back in his chair after having his large breakfast. Dustin was seated to his right and had to have help with cutting up the various items that Farrow had served them. Callum didn’t mind doing it, actually rather enjoyed doing it for him, another way for him to help his love and to care for him.
“Alright, I will set off for the freight office. I should return shortly.” Callum said as he stood. Dustin looked up at him with a sad look in his eyes. “Here now, none of that. It is not the end of the journey, Dustin, merely a bump in the road.” Callum said with a smile. He looked at Holt and Tomlin, “I’ll return shortly. Have him rest, alright?”
“We will.” Tomlin said and they watched Callum walk away from the table. “I suddenly have a bad feeling about all of this.” Tomlin said quietly. Holt pushed back his plate and looked at him.
“What are you thinking?”
“It’s nothing.” Tomlin said, giving a smile that was very false, trying to make Dustin feel a little better. Tomlin looked over at him for a moment and then looked back down at the table.
“I feel it too.” Dustin said. “It’s like I’ve just seen him for the last time.”
“Then I think we need to do something.” Holt said, making the two look at him.
“What can we do?” Dustin asked, “You heard what he said upstairs. He will wait until they come for him.”
“And what if he’s not here?” Holt asked.
“He was right when he said that there is no place that he can go that they won’t find him.” Dustin said, pushing his own plate away.
“I suppose you’re right in that. I just would hate to see him arrested.” Holt said softly.
“I feel the same way, Christian.” Dustin said quietly.
“Well, let’s get you back upstairs.” Tomlin said.
Callum walked back into the Heritage Arms carrying a bundle under one arm, and a hat box in his other hand. He walked into the tavern and set them on a table and saw Farrow behind the bar.
Farrow looked at the packages and then at Callum as he approached the counter.
“What is it that you have there?” Farrow asked.
“Gifts for my aunt to be given to her when they return home to Birmingham, I am of hopes that it will soften the blow somewhat for her.” Callum said pulling out his leather purse from his vest pocket. He opened it and set out some notes on the counter, Farrow was watching him. Callum took some other notes and put them in his pants pocket, then put the purse in his vest pocket. “I wanted to settle up with you over for our stay.”
“I think that is far too much, Quintan.” Farrow said as he put his hands on the counter, “Your money is no good here. I don’t want it.”
“Farrow, let us not argue, please? I don’t have the stomach for it right now. I feel that this is fair for everything that we put you through and the extras as well.” Callum said, pushing the notes toward Farrow. “I will take great insult if you do not accept this.” Farrow sighed as he looked at Callum.
“Quintan, you really don’t listen to anyone but yourself, do you?” Farrow asked as he shook his head, “You can be as pompous as Fitzwarren.” Farrow said, making Callum’s eyes go wide.
“Now that was insulting.” Callum said and then chuckled.
“I suppose it was, but it’s true.” Farrow said lifting an eyebrow, “But, you’re not as loud about it.” Farrow said and then chuckled. Callum laughed, and Farrow did as well. Callum rapped his knuckles on the counter a couple of times and then went and picked up the packages off the table and walked to the stairs. He went up slowly and walked to his door and opened it, seeing Dustin on the bed, propped with pillows.
“You look comfortable.” Callum said as he closed the door behind him.
“What do you have there?” Dustin asked.
“They are for Martha. I saw a hat in a window and it spoke to me. It said that it needed to go to a good home and rest on the head of a lovely lady. I told the hat I knew of such a home and a very special lady was waiting for its arrival.” Callum said as he set the box and the package on the trunk.
“I see.” Dustin said, “And are you beginning to speak to just any strange apparel that you meet in the street?”
“Well, only the ones that catch my eye.” Callum said as he sat on the bed. He picked up Dustin’s free hand and bent down and kissed it softly, looking at Dustin the entire time, “I will leave it up to you to give it to her.”
“Quintan,…” Dustin said softly as the tears filled his eyes.
“Now, as I said earlier, none of that.” Callum said holding up a finger, “Remember what I also said, it is merely a bump in the road. I need to ask you, my love, if you would take care of a few things for me at home.”
“Dustin, do not be troubled over this. I will return in short order, I promise.” Callum said as he let go of Dustin’s hand and got off the bed, “Now, can you oversee a few things for me?”
“Yes.” Dustin said, trying to brighten. He wiped tears away as Callum had his back to him. Callum went to the trunk and pulled out his leather purse. He lifted the lid a little, then held the purse up a little showing Dustin then tossed it inside closing the lid.
“Good.” Callum said as he straightened, “I took care of the tally with Farrow for our stay here and the last time, so worry not about that. Once you reach home, have words with Bockman about building that room onto the house for Martha. The money in my purse will more than cover that. Make sure he understands it is for her, to make the room comfortable for her, and make sure she understands why we have planned it for her.”
“Good.” Callum said as he sat back down on the bed.
“You think they are coming?”
“I know they are.” Callum said flatly, “They probably set out early this morning. I would think they will be here in another hour, if that.”
“May I ask you a favor?” Dustin asked.
“Anything, my love.” Callum said with a warm smile.
“Would you hold me until they come?” Dustin asked dropping a tear from his eye.
Callum gently moved Dustin as they were both propped against the headboard, Callum had been holding him for quite a while as they were nestled into the pillows. Dustin scooted himself over a little and looked up at Callum as he stood.
“I’m going to go downstairs and have a last cup of Farrow’s coffee. Would you care to join me?”
“If you’d like, yes.” Dustin said as he got off the bed. Callum went to the door and opened it. The door across the hall opened. Tomlin and Holt walked into the hallway. “We’re going downstairs to the tavern. Would you care to join us?” Dustin asked. The four of them walked down the stairs and sat at a table. Farrow was asked for coffee and it was brought. Callum had just begun to sip of his when they heard the door to the Heritage open around the corner from their sight. Callum looked up and saw Marines coming into the doorway, muskets at the ready. Callum scooted his chair back as he sat in it. A Marine officer walked in, followed by Collingwood. They saw all of them at the table and Collingwood cleared his throat seeing Callum sitting there.
“Mr. Collingwood.” Callum said, as he rose to his feet.
“Don’t swallow your tongue, lad.” Callum said, “Are you here to do your duty?”
“Yes, sir.” Collingwood said, with a nervous look.
“Well then, do you duty, Lieutenant.”
“I’m,…sorry, sir.” Collingwood said as he reached into his lapel pocket and pulled out the rolled parchment, he undid the black ribbon and unrolled it in his hands, “Commodore Quintan Callum, you are under arrest, charged with gross insubordination, and conduct unbecoming an officer. You are to be taken before His Lordship, Sir Edmund Fitzwarren, and held at the Admiralty until such time as a court martial can be convened.” Collingwood said, rolling up the parchment, “Are you coming with us peacefully or shall we place you in irons?”
“I shall come with you peacefully, Lieutenant.” Callum said, and then looked at the group at the table. Callum reached out a hand and touched Dustin’s shoulder, “The coach leaves at noon from the freight office. Make sure you’re all on it. Wait for me at home or I shall have word sent to you there.”
“Quintan, what is happening?” Crawford said as he came into the inn, coming through the group of marines, looking at them as he walked up to the table. Callum looked at his old friend.
“They can tell you, Arthur. I must go with these gentlemen for now.”
“Well,…I needed to check your stitches. It is time for them to come out.”
“I suppose I can have that done at the Admiralty by one of the other surgeons.” Callum said, taking his hand off Dustin’s shoulder. He looked around at his friends as they gathered about him now, “Remember what I said now,” Callum said holding up a finger, “I won’t be long. Go directly home.” Callum said looking at Dustin, “She waits for you.”
“She waits for you as well.”
“Tell her I will join her later and to have something good for supper when I reach home.” Callum smiled and then turned and walked toward Collingwood and the Marines. They snapped to attention as Callum approached. He recognized a couple of them from the attack at the Admiralty, but did not show his recognition. “Lieutenant,” Callum said as walked up to Collingwood, “I am your prisoner.”
“This way, sir.” Collingwood said, turning, holding out a hand to show the way. The group walked toward the door. Crawford turned and looked at all of them at the table, his eyes wide and mouth open slightly.
“What in the hell is going on? They’re arresting him?”
“Yes, Arthur, they are.” Farrow said, “We could have taken the lot of them.” Farrow said under his breath and turned away.
“Why don’t you have a seat, Doctor.” Tomlin said, sitting back down, “We can tell you why while we have coffee.”
Callum sat in the back of the block wagon as it rolled through the streets of Portsmouth heading out the main road on their way back to London. Collingwood rode a horse alongside the Marine Lieutenant, who was the one that had assisted Callum twice already. Callum could see the buildings starting to thin out as they left Portsmouth. Callum tried to settle back on the hard bench seat as the block wagon rattled and clunked its way down the road pulled by four horses.
Time passed slowly as they drove along through the open countryside, the rolling green pastures that were on both sides of the road. There was the occasional house off in the distance, a few trees now and then, stone fences, small herds of sheep, a few cows now and then. Callum had been along this road a few too many times in recent memory. He had seen it all before, and it was not interesting him. His thoughts were going to Dustin and what this was doing to him right now. Hopefully they were on the coach and on their way as the afternoon sun was beginning to set low in the sky. Callum shifted on the seat and the block wagon was it lumbered on down the bumpy road.
Evening was finally coming, the sun was now gone as the silhouettes of the buildings of London were now seen as Callum looked through the bars of the windows. He thought it wouldn’t be long now as they began to enter the outskirts of London. Collingwood rode up alongside the block wagon and called to the driver to slow and stop the wagon. Callum wondered what he was doing as the wagon came to a stop. Collingwood dismounted and handed his reins to the Marine Lieutenant and went to the front of the block wagon, and then came back to the rear door, opening it.
“I’m sorry that I have to do this, sir.” Collingwood said as he stepped into the back and then Callum saw what was in his hand.
“Were those in your orders, Lieutenant?” Callum asked as he held out his hands. Collingwood looked at him with a sorry look in his eyes that Callum caught in the moonlight through the bars of the windows and nodded.
“They were, sir. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it though.”
“I appreciate that, Lieutenant. I won’t say anything about it, if I’m asked.” Callum said as he watched the irons clasped and locked around his wrists. The chain between the wrists was rather long, about three feet of links as the last iron was clasped and locked. Collingwood looked at Callum again, that sorry look all over his young face, he turned and climbed back out and then closed and bolted the door behind him. He walked over and got back up on his horse and the wagon set off again.
The coach pulled up to the crossroads and stopped at Callum’s Cross. Dustin had a true look of excitement as he opened the door to the coach and climbed out. The driver had climbed down and Dustin was a blur at the back of the coach trying to get everything unstrapped with one hand as Tomlin and Holt, along with the driver joined him. Tomlin and Holt saw the look on Dustin’s face as he would look up toward the small house and then back at their belongings.
“Dustin, why don’t you go up to the house, we’ll see to this and bring it up.” Tomlin said. Dustin looked at him and then took in a deep breath and ran. Tomlin looked at Holt and smiled, shaking his head a couple of times. Dustin ran up the path to the house and opened the door.
“Aunt Martha!” Dustin called out as he stepped inside the door, not seeing her in the parlor, he walked quickly and then came into the kitchen, and there she stood, hands clasped together in front of her and a smile that would light up the entire countryside. Dustin smiled back at her and walked quickly to her as she raised her arms and he stepped into them, kissing him on the cheek as he came to her. She wrapped her arms about him and patted his back so gently, and he put his good arm about her, holding her tight.
“Oh my boy, I thought you would never get here. I have been holding my breath for the longest time after I received Quintan’s letter.” Martha said softly and then pulled back from him. She had seen him bound up in the bandages and the sling and now she took a close look at him, “What has happened to you? Where is Quintan?”
“That will take some explaining.” Dustin said as he looked at her warm caring eyes, “And as far as this is concerned, I should be able to take it off in a few days.”
“What has happened? Quintan said nothing of this in his letter, only of the new stove that was coming. Where is he?”
“He is in London. He is well, and I hope that he will be here soon.” Dustin said, as he heard something behind him in the other room. Martha heard it as well and looked beyond Dustin and then back at him, “Come, I wish to meet someone.” Dustin said taking her hand in his and gently pulled her along into the other room. There stood Tomlin and Holt, looking apprehensive as they walked into the room.
“Aunt Martha, these are two of our dearest friends in the world, as well as our shipmates.” Dustin said as he looked back and forth between the three of them, “May I present Thomas Tomlin, who is Quintan’s 1st Lieutenant on Dover, and this is Christian Holt, our Marine Lieutenant. Gentlemen, may I introduce Martha Bonnington, the lady of the house.” Tomlin and Holt both bowed slightly toward her, and she curtsied slightly in return at them.
“My goodness,” Martha said taking Dustin’s good arm in hers, “are all the young men aboard your ship this good looking?” Tomlin and Holt both blushed and looked at each other for a moment with side glances. “It is always such a pleasure to have fine looking young men in this house.” She said with a smile and then looked at Dustin, reaching up a hand and gently pinching his cheek.
“Aren’t you the one that always saying that Quintan is the charmer?” Dustin asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh, allow an old woman to have a little bit of sport. If I was much younger, I think I would move close to the docks to be able to see such a sight as this.” Martha gave Dustin a smile, and then he leaned forward and kissed her cheek, making her blush slightly.
“How do you do, ma’am?” Tomlin said, taking a step forward and held out his hand. She put hers in his and nodded her head. Holt stepped forward and did the same thing. She took her hand back slowly from Holt and looked back at Dustin.
“So, tell me, what of Quintan? You say he is in London, why?”
“Yes, let’s go into the kitchen and put on some water for tea or coffee and we can explain it.” Dustin said, leading her.
“My Lord, they have returned with him.” Barrington said as he held the door, bowing toward Fitzwarren, who looked up from where he was sitting at the table. He put the parchment on the table that he was reading and got up. He walked toward the door as Barrington straightened.
Fitzwarren looked down at the great lobby as he came down the stairs slowly, seeing Callum standing at its center, surrounded by Marines that were at attention. The rest of the large area was lined with officers and Paiges that stood silent as Fitzwarren came down the stairs. He came down the last step and turned, slowly walking toward Callum, focusing on him, as Callum did not look up at him, rather standing at a loose attention, his chin up a little, clasped in irons on his wrists, they were resting against the front of his long pants. Fitzwarren stopped as he was to Callum’s left, surveying Callum up and down, noting his tall boots, the white long pants, his heavy cotton shirt with the billowed sleeves, and an unbuttoned vest. Fitzwarren slowly came up in front of Callum, a hand on his hip, pushing back his tunic a little as Fitzwarren stood there as if waiting for something to be said by Callum. There was only silence. Fitzwarren was studying Callum’s face, as he never made eye contact with Fitzwarren and it was bringing the anger back into the older man.
“Well, what have you to say?” Fitzwarren said in an even voice, not his usual booming. Callum still did not look at him.
“At your service, My Lord.” Callum said.
“Is that all you have to say?” Fitzwarren said again in his even tone. Callum was silent and it angered Fitzwarren even more. Callum could see the look in Fitzwarren’s face without looking at him directly. Fitzwarren looked at Collingwood for a moment as he stood behind Callum at a little bit of distance. “Take him to the holding cell below, leave him there to await his court martial. Leave him in his irons.” Fitzwarren said and then walked away toward the surgery. All the other officers lining the walls breathed a silent sigh of relief to themselves as they watched Callum being led off to the stairs that led below to the area underneath the Admiralty known as the Crypt.
A heavy door was opened in the rear of the building by a Marine Sentry. The squad of Marines walk slowly down the wide stairs, Callum going down the stairs in their midst going carefully as the stairs were only lit by lamps that were hanging on the walls that lined the stairs. They came to a large room that was cool and damp in the air. The floor was stone and the walls seemed to be cut out of the same stone as Callum was led to a group of cells along one side. The bars were cold dark steel and as they approached the next to last one, Callum was looking to his left seeing two men in one cell. They looked up as Callum and the Marines walked by. The procession stopped in front of the cell next to the two men and the door was opened. Collingwood stepped forward, standing next to the door and Callum walked into the cell. The heavy door closed behind him and was locked with a large key.
The cell had a bunk along the rear wall and there was a bucket at the end of the bunk. Callum turned and looked back at the squad and Collingwood. Their eyes met for a moment, in the low light of a lamp that burned on the wall outside where the group was. Collingwood hung his head slightly before he looked at Callum.
“I will see that you are given supper.” Collingwood said softly.
“Yeah, we ain’t ‘ad ours neither.” One of the men in the next cell said as he came to the door, drawing Collingwood’s attention.
“That’s enough, you.” Collingwood said as he walked near him, “You’ll have it in short order.”
“I ‘ope it’s better ‘han the last one, the slop.” He said.
“I would complain, it may be your last meal before you’re hanged.”
“’E didn’t do nothin’, you have no right to keep us down here with the rats!”
“I said that’s enough.” Collingwood said. The man in the cell went to grab Collingwood but the Marines stopped that, bashing the man’s hands with their heavy muskets, making him groan from having his fingers smashed. Callum watched as he put his fingers around the bars, the wall next to him was only bars as well. He watched as the man was shaking his hand in the air from his fingers being smashed.
They sat around the table in the kitchen, Martha was dropping tears as she had listened to what was said about the events that led to the present time. Dustin got up and came to her, putting his good arm around her neck, hugging her gently. He slowly pulled back and looked at her, as her eyes met his.
“He will come through this, have no fear.” Dustin said.
“You sound so certain in that.” She said as she lifted a corner of her apron and touched her eyes.
“I am.” Dustin said, “You see, if they court martial him, and relieve him of duty, he becomes a civilian, and he told us to wait for him here at home. He will come through this and will be here before we know it. If something else is to occur, he said he will send us word.”
“Will they allow that?” She asked. Dustin nodded. “Then I suppose we wait.” Martha said as she got up from the table. She looked at Dustin and cradled his cheek. “Now what are we to do with these two good looking young men?”
“I will take them upstairs and show them our room. I will take up the settee while everything else is readied.”
“What everything else?”
“Quintan asked that I see Mr. Bockman. Is he still working about the house?” Dustin asked.
“Yes. He will be here in the morning to continue on the old stable, for the life of my why, I don’t know.”
“Aunt Martha, Quintan wants a new room added to the house, for you, so you don’t have to go up and down the stairs any longer. We know it is becoming difficult for you.” Dustin said. “Quintan wants it to be built with the best possible comfort that can be done for you. I will go into the village tomorrow and have the Smith begin to make a small stove to make the room warm in the winter after I see Mr. Bockman.” Dustin said softly. Martha’s eyes were filled with complete astonishment. “He said he wanted it started right away, as there is time before the winter comes. I will also see about a new bed and down mattress for you as well.”
“What in the world is he thinking?” She asked, seemingly in a state of shock.
“He is thinking what I have thought as well, to take care of the most important lady in our lives, to make certain that there is nothing that she lacks or wants, and speaking of that, there are a couple of things that he had us bring for you. I’ll go fetch them.” Dustin said and he walked out of the kitchen. Martha looked at Tomlin and Holt as they were on their feet as well the entire time. Dustin came back in and set the hat box on the table. He put the bundle down as well. She looked at Dustin and tilted her head slightly. “He said this one spoke to him.” Dustin said as he put a hand on the hat box.
“Well, if it spoke to him, then we will open it last.” She said softly, making Dustin smile softly and chuckle. “You would think it is my birthday or something every time that man is in town, he is spending money.” She said as she opened the bundle. Her eyes went wide as she pulled out a beautiful shawl, a heavy floral knit with fringe, it seemed to have been knit. She held it up and the tears flowed.
“For the cool mornings, about your shoulders, to stop the wind.” Dustin said. Tomlin stepped around the back of Martha. He put a hand on the shawl.
“Dear lady, may I?” Tomlin asked. Martha just looked at him. Tomlin took it from her gently and put it about her shoulders, draping the front over her. She took it and nuzzled a cheek into its softness. A tear dropped from her eye, rolling slowly down her cheek.
“I suppose I should open this one now?” She asked, mostly to herself, but Dustin was beaming and nodding his head seeing her. She undid the ribbons on the top of the box and slowly lifted the lid, setting it aside on the table. She reached in and lifted out a satin hat that had its own ruffles and some feathered ends that matched the color of the hat, the long broad ribbons that hung below it to tie it around her chin draped as she lifted it. Her eyes were wide at seeing it.
“He said that it told him that it asked for a good home to able to sit on the head of a lovely lady, and I think that it has certainly found that.” Dustin said. She looked at Dustin as the tears flowed freely as she held up the hat. “You have a hat to match that new dress now for Sunday services. You will be the best looking lady there, elegantly dressed.”
“You men.” Martha said softly as she looked at the hat in her hands, “You spoil an old woman so with your gifts.”
“They are from the heart, and out of love for you.” Dustin said softly as he put his good arm around her shoulders, and then kissed her wet cheek. She tilted her head against his. She looked up and saw a tear drop from Holt’s eye.
“I will treasure it always.” She said as she put it carefully back in the box. She picked up the lid as Dustin pulled away and put it back on the box and tied the ribbons back. “Now, I will see about getting you some late supper.”
“How is the new stove?” Dustin asked as he looked at it.
“It is a marvel to be sure.” She said as she turned and looked at it. “They had a terrible time to get it in here, but they finally managed. It took me a little bit of time, but I think I have figured out how to use it properly. It certainly warms the room.”
“Yes, it does take up quite a bit of space, doesn’t it?” Dustin asked, “What did they do with the old one?”
“Actually, Owen took it for his mother. They carried it down to a cart and drove it into the village.”
“Good, it didn’t go to waste then. Quintan would be happy about that.” Dustin smiled. Martha walked over and got the stove stoked up. “Do you need wood, Aunt Martha?”
“Yes, I have to split some more tomorrow, I’m almost out.”
“I’ll take care of it.” Dustin said, “We’re going to be home for quite a while. We will get a few things done while we are here.”
“How long is a while?” Martha asked as she stoked the stove.
“Near a month, and depending on what happens with Quintan, possibly longer than that. Do we need supplies from the village?” Dustin asked.
“Yes, I can go tomorrow as it has only been me here, you know I don’t need much.”
“We can do that. It will give me a chance to see Owen and to show Thomas and Christian about the village and the square.” Dustin smiled and looked at Tomlin and Holt. “You’ll like Owen very much. He’s been a very good friend to us.” Dustin smiled as he went to the back door.
“Where are you going?” Holt asked.
“To fetch some wood.”
“You can’t with your arm. Show me where it is and I will get it.” Holt said as he went to the door with Dustin.
“May I help you, dear lady?” Tomlin asked. She looked up at him and smiled.
“I could use some more water in this pot. There is a pump outside on the flagstone. Dustin can show you.” She said and smiled.
“Certainly.” Tomlin said, taking the pot from the stove.
Callum was sitting on the hard bunk, it felt like the bench of the block wagon to him that had brought him here. He was sitting with his arms resting on his thighs. The two men had tried to speak to him, but he ignored them as Callum knew who they were very well. They were the ones that had been part of the attack on The Duke and Lord Hood. Both had been wounded by Callum, but they did not recognize him at all, and it was no surprise to Callum as they had only seen one another for the briefest of moments before Callum had dispatched them, plus the fact that he was out of uniform and in irons, the two men had given up trying to talk to him.
Callum was getting lost in his own thoughts now as he sat there in the relative quiet and low light. He thought of Dustin and if he was alright, hoping that they had carried out his instructions and continued on to Birmingham and home. He thought of his dear Martha, picturing her in the kitchen making supper, as she moved about the kitchen from the dry sink to the stove and back again. He thought briefly of Tomlin and Holt and if they were watching over Dustin as he was in his sling and needed tending. Callum did not hear the heavy door open at the top of the stairs as he was lost in his thoughts.
“I would have words with you, sir.” The deep voice said, and Callum looked up. His eyes went wide seeing who was standing there in the low lamp light. A finger was raised to lips to keeps Callum from saying anything. Callum stood and came closer to the cell door. “I see that you are enjoying the accommodations here. Are they treating you well?”
“Yes.” Callum said. He saw eyes flash to the two men in the next cell, and then back to Callum. He understood clearly not to say much at all.
“I heard of what happened, and I want you to know that I support you. Although, I cannot show that support openly.”
“I understand, and I thank you,…”
“Arthur,…” He said softly, flashing eyes at the next cell.
“Arthur.” Callum said softly, bowing his head slightly, “But coming here to see me like this, puts you in a rather compromising position, does it not?”
“Always thinking, aren’t you? Worry not, it will be fine. Trust me, I will have you out of here in the morning.” He said quietly and then Callum saw the warm smile creep across the lips in the low light. “Do not think for a moment that you are going to out of the debt that you owe me.”
“That would never cross my mind.” Callum smiled as he gripped the bars of the cell door.
“Good. Then I will see you in the morning. Try and get some sleep. You look simply terrible.” He said and the smile changed to almost a grin.