Dustin showed Tomlin and Holt the bedroom upstairs. They looked about and Tomlin smiled as he saw the bed below the window as Dustin lit the candle on the candle stand. Holt saw the thickness of the bed and walked over and felt it, pushing a hand into its depth. His eyes went wide at feeling it and Dustin saw his look and then the smile.
“I could spend the rest of my life in that bed.” Dustin said softly as he looked at it lovingly.
“Dustin, it seems as if we are putting you out, taking your bed like this. I really don’t like the fact of you sleeping on the settee down in the parlor.” Tomlin said, as he came close next to Dustin.
“Nonsense, Thomas. I have no problem with it at all.” Dustin said as he looked at Tomlin, “If Quintan were here, he would insist on the same thing, I assure you. What’s ours is yours. Martha is right across the way, but I warn you, she has ears like a bat.” Dustin said raising an eyebrow. Tomlin went wide eyed hearing him.
“Oh, I see.” Tomlin said and then pursed his lips.
“Another reason why Quintan wants a room built downstairs for her. We have made too much noise ourselves in the past and she has made mention of it.” Dustin said with a slight smile.
“Oh dear God.” Holt said as he came closer. Dustin smiled wide at them both.
“So, if you gentlemen would kind enough to help me get our things up here, you can get settled in for the night.” Dustin said, “And Christian, the far side of the bed is the most comfortable, that’s where I sleep, Quintan is usually on this side near the door.” Dustin winked at Holt, who blushed slightly. Dustin walked to the door and they went back down and collected their things and went back up, Tomlin and Holt carrying Callum’s trunk. Dustin showed them where to put it, next to the chest of drawers. He opened some of the drawers that were empty and told them to put their things in there, if they wished. Dustin left them alone in the room, saying good night to them. He walked into the kitchen and Martha stood at the dry sink cleaning dishes.
“There you are.” Dustin said as he came up next to her, putting his good arm around her shoulders. “Supper was wonderful as always. I don’t know how you always manage that.”
“Such a charmer you are.” She said, leaning her head against his, “Are your friends getting settled?”
“They are. Thank you for accepting them.”
“They seem to be fine young men.”
“And rather fetching, as I was noticing you were looking at Christian quite a bit.” Dustin teased her a bit.
“Yes, he is very striking, isn’t he? He is almost pretty, in a way. He reminds me of my son in that respect.” She said as she set the dish down for a moment.
“He is rather pretty. I have heard that said of him before actually. You should see him in uniform.” Dustin said softly, “May I be of any help?”
“Not with that wing of yours in a sling like that.” She said, “You haven’t told me what happened to have you like that.”
“It is nothing really. The doctor is just being overly cautious, more than likely.” Dustin said, shrugging his shoulder.
“I think you are not saying anything about it to simply spare me.” She said and half turned looking up at him, “I think you should know better than that.”
“I’m sure I do, but really, it’s not important.” Dustin smiled and then kissed her forehead. “I’m just glad to be here finally in one piece.”
“As am I.” She smiled and picked up the dish again out of the sink.
Tomlin was pulling off his shirt while Holt was just staring at the bed. Tomlin took his shirt and partly folded it and set on the foot, looking at Holt and then stepped next to him. He put a hand on his shoulder and tilted his head to touch Holt’s.
“What troubles you, Christian?”
“I was just thinking, this is their bed.”
“Yes, it is.” Tomlin said as he looked at it, “Are you thinking that we shouldn’t sleep in it?”
“They should be the ones that are here, not us.” Holt said softly.
“I agree, but there is nothing that can be done until Quintan comes home.” Tomlin said as he pulled away. He unbuttoned his pantlet flap and started to get out of them, “I think we should have a good nights’ sleep and then talk to Dustin in the morning.”
“Thomas, you heard him, there is no talking about it with him. His mind is obviously made up.”
“Yes, it is.” Tomlin said as he put his pantlet on top of his shirt, “Now, as this is the only bed, and it looks very comfortable, and I am rather tired, why don’t we use it?” Tomlin said as he walked up to the head of the bed and pulled back the covers and climbed in. He sank into the bed feeling the rough cotton of the sheets and smiled, “Christian, this is so comfortable, you must try it.” Holt continued to stand there, just staring at the bed, “Christian,” Tomlin said and held out a hand, “come and join me,…please.”
Holt started to get undressed, placing his clothes on the foot next to Tomlin’s. He slipped out of his pants and folded them as well, and then walked over to the other side of the bed and pulled back the covers and climbed in on Dustin’s side, sinking into the thick downy mattress. Tomlin was watching him the entire time.
“Are you comfortable?” Tomlin asked.
“Yes.” Holt said quietly.
“Good, now come closer.” Tomlin said and took Holt into his arm and pulled him gently toward him. “Is that alright?”
“Yes, it is.” Holt said as he lay on his side next to Tomlin. Holt put a hand on Tomlin’s chest as he cradled into Tomlin’s neck. “Thomas, what are we going to do?”
“This.” Holt said softly, “Sleeping in their bed, does it not bother you?”
“No, it does not.” Tomlin said, as he rolled his head toward Holt a little, nuzzling into Holt’s hair. “Would you prefer that we stay at an inn?”
“I don’t know.” Holt said softly, “I just am thinking about Dustin being alone downstairs.”
“Would you like me to go and get him?”
“No.” Holt said and tapped his fingers on Tomlin’s chest to silence him, “I just feel awkward about this, that’s all.”
“I can understand that.” Tomlin said, “Tomorrow may show us another way. Right now however, I need to sleep.” Tomlin rolled his head and blew out the candle. He rolled his head back and nuzzled Holt’s hair with his chin and then closed his eyes.
“I love you, Thomas.” Holt whispered.
“I love you as well, Christian.” Tomlin said softly, “It will be alright, you will see in the morning.”
Callum lay on the hard bunk and stared up at the ceiling of the cell, thinking of what his visitor had said earlier to him. Callum did not want to have Wellington interfere with any of this that was happening to him. He felt that Wellington had already gone too far out of his way helping him with the pardon from The King regarding Holt. But as he saw earlier, there didn’t seem to be any way he could stop Wellington, and he was deeply in his debt already, and if Wellington did do something else, then Callum knew he was never going to be able to repay that debt. Callum lifted his head as he heard the heavy door at the top of the stairs. He waited for a minute and saw someone else coming along the cells.
“Quintan.” Callum looked over and saw Eddington standing at the cell door. Callum sat up and looked at him and then at the cell next to him. The two men were watching him. Callum got up and walked to the cell door.
“Paul, what are you doing here?” Callum asked softly.
“I came to tell you what Fitzwarren plans.”
“Paul, I need no special consideration. You might draw trouble from just being down here.”
“Don’t worry about me, Quintan, it is you that is the concern.” Eddington said, and looked over at the two in the next cell and then back at Callum, “Fitzwarren is calling for a formal court martial tomorrow, he is going to use you as an example for full disciplinary action.”
“You mean he’s going to have me flogged?” Callum asked, lifting an eyebrow.
“He might. I’ve never seen him like this before, he is beyond just being angry.”
“He’s hurt by what happened. I can understand that, and I regret my actions even more.” Callum said as he gripped the bars of the door.
“He is carrying this too far. He has called for special counsel to be set, he and three other Captains, all from his squadron. He has seen to it that Lord Hood will not be here or on the panel.” Eddington said softly.
“What has he done with Lord Hood?” Callum asked.
“He had one of the surgeons certify that Hood is be taken home and placed under medical leave with his knee being the way it is.”
“What? Why is he trying to get him out of the way?”
“I’m not certain, but he is being very quiet about all of it. I’m fearful for you at this moment.” Eddington said softly.
“Don’t worry, Paul. I can handle what might be coming and if he simply wants me flogged, then so be it.”
“You know that’s not possible. They won’t have an officer flogged like a common sailor. I think he has something else planned. The other officers here at the Admiralty are behind you, as am I.”
“That’s fine, if we’re going to stage a mutiny, but I won’t hear of it. Fitzwarren will have his say and I will accept what he has planned.” Callum said and turned away.
“Quintan, don’t stand on principles, not right now. Your very life might be in question.” Eddington said, and Callum turned around and looked back at him.
“You know as well as I that what happened is not a hanging offense, how could my life be in question?”
“There is talk of The Tower being readied.” Eddington said and looked at the next cell and then back at Callum, “Barrington said something to me about it earlier after they brought you down here.” Eddington kept looking at the two in the next cell and then back at Callum. “And then there are those two.”
“What about them?” Callum asked softly, “Surely their fate is already sealed. Hanging would be too good for them, after what they have done.” Callum said as he looked at the two and then at Eddington.
“I have no doubt that they will be hanged for their part in the attack, but Fitzwarren is going to have them taken to The Tower as well. He wants more information about what else might be planned and who might also be involved.”
“He should not have stopped me from trying to question them when I wanted to.” Callum said, “Another error in judgment on his part.” Callum looked at the two in the next cell and just glared at them.
“I must go.” Eddington said, touching Callum’s hand that gripped the bar, “Remember, we are behind you, and if necessary will stand with you in this.”
“Do not endanger yourselves, Paul. Tell the others that as well, and that’s an order.” Callum said looking at Eddington.
“That may be an order that we cannot follow, my friend. I will see you in the morning. Try and rest.” Eddington said and patted Callum’s hand gently. He walked away, looking at the two in the next cell as he went by them. Callum went over to the hard bunk and sat down. One of them got up and came to the bars that divided the cells. The man hung his hands through the bars and rested on the half wall staring at Callum.
“You be the one that stopped us outside then.” He said and then spit on the floor of Callum’s cell, “Why do they have you locked up?” He asked and then spit again. Callum ignored him as he sat there in silence. “Might as well talk to us, unless you got something else to do?” He asked and waited as he stared at Callum, who sat very still not moving, just looking ahead at the floor, “You too good to say anything to us? Or is it because of your visitors?” He waited for a reply but Callum continued to ignore him, and then he spit again, it landing on Callum’s boot this time. Callum looked down at his boot and then he lifted his head and slowly turned to look at the man. Callum saw his features in the low light of the Crypt, the dark features that he bore, the crooked teeth in his smile as he got a rise out of Callum now, the bent broad nose and the bushy eyebrows that moved seeing Callum looking at him. Callum leaped up off the bench and grabbed the left wrist of the arm that was stuck through the bars.
The man tried to pull back, but Callum had a firm grip on him, twisting the arm up, pinning it in the bars. The man grunted and let out a cry of pain as he was twisted up against the bars, and Callum reached through and grabbed him by the throat with his other hand, clenching his fingers tight around the windpipe, gritting his teeth and holding on as the other man got up and limped over trying to help his friend. He grabbed Callum’s arm and pulled trying to free the grip of the hand on the throat but Callum held on tight, and the man began to make choking sounds.
“Tell me what I want to know or I’ll choke the life out of you.” Callum growled.
“”E don’t know nothin’, gov…” The other man said as he tried to pull on Callum’s arm, “Ya killin em!”
“Tell me what I want to know!” Callum growled again, “Who else was involved in this?” He tightened his grip and the man was rolling his eyes back and his tongue was bulging out of his mouth, “Tell me!” Callum growled and let his hand go on the throat. The man coughed and choked for air as he gripped his own throat with his free hand while Callum still gripped his other in the bars, “Tell me!” Callum twisted the arm in the bars and the man cried out and coughed. “I’ll snap it in half if you make another noise. Tell me, who else was involved?”
“I don’t know who he is.” The man growled and coughed again.
“Did he pay you? Did you see him?” Callum twisted the arm more, making the man wince with pain and cough again.
“Yes, he paid us. I don’t know his name.” The man growled in pain.
“What does he look like?”
“Finely dressed,…like a gentleman,….he,…” The man was grunting with the pain, “never said his name.” Callum twisted a little more, and the man opened his mouth wide and shut his eyes tight.
“Last chance before I snap it in half, was Maupin the leader?” Callum asked as the other man tried to reach through the bars to get to Callum. Callum ducked back while still holding on and let the other man reach through with both arms. Callum stayed out of his reach and balled up his left fist and then sent it through the bars, landing his fist hard into the nose of the other man, knocking him to the floor as his face erupted with blood. “Answer me, you son-of-a-bitch.” Callum growled, twisting the arm even more. The man went to scream but Callum silenced him, reaching through and pounding his face with his left fist over and over until he crumpled to the floor. Callum let go of the arm and let him drop in a heap. “Spit on my boot again, and I’ll rip your throat out.” Callum said as he looked through the bars at both of them sprawled on the cell floor. He turned and went back to the hard bench and sat back down as the heavy door opened at the top of the stairs.
“So, you see that’s all that there is to tell, Aunt Martha. I have left nothing out.” Dustin said as he sat at the table next to Martha. She had finally persuaded Dustin to tell her everything, every detail of what had happened after they had left to go on their mission. Martha sat quietly listening to everything that Dustin had told including Callum being arrested and taken away.
“And he told you to come home?”
“Yes, it was what he had insisted on, to make sure that we were safe and to check on you.” Dustin smiled at her and took her hand in his. He saw a tear in her eye. “Quintan was more than concerned about Christian and myself healing from all of this that we have been through. I am certain that there will be a visit from Christian’s father as soon as he returns home from Scotland and finds out where Christian is.”
“And you say that he is the son of the Earl of Cambridge?”
“Yes, and from what Quintan and Thomas told me, it is quite possible that he was responsible for Christian’s mothers death. I’m not certain if that can ever be proven, but it is what they believe and I have to agree with them as the facts tend to lean in that direction.”
“Dear Lord, that poor boy, his mother…poisoned by his own father? What are you going to do if he comes?”
“I will stand with Christian and Thomas, and whatever Christian decides. I only hope it is the right choice by not going back. Quintan said that The Duke had told him that Christian’s father has a terrible temper. I hope it does not come to a fight, but if it does, I will stand with my friends.” Dustin said giving her hand a gentle squeeze. She patted the back of his with her other hand and smiled.
“You made the right choice, my boy, standing with them. I can see that they are men of good character, like you.” She patted his hand again, and then pulled them back and got up from the table.
“Are you going to bed?” Dustin asked.
“Yes. Will you be comfortable down here?”
“Yes, I will. Do not worry about that.” Dustin said as he got to his feet, smiling at her, “You know what Quintan says, that I can sleep through cannon fire.” Dustin smiled wider with that little boy look of his. She leaned forward and pat his cheek gently, and then turned and walked out of the kitchen. Dustin followed her into the parlor and went to the settee, and unfolded the blanket that she had provided for him. He spread it out with his good hand and made it look comfortable and kicked off his buckled shoes. He lifted the corner of the blanket and got underneath it and settled on a pillow. Dustin lay there in the dark for a while and then he closed his eyes, thinking of Callum and what he might be going through right now.
“What happened to those two?” Fitzwarren asked as he looked through the bars of their cell seeing them sprawled out on the floor. The two Marines that were with him looked into the cell and then stood back at attention behind Fitzwarren. He stepped forward to the next cell and looked at Callum as he sat on the hard bunk. “Are you responsible for their condition, Callum?” Fitzwarren asked and stared at Callum waiting for an answer. Callum just sat there. “Damn it all, man, you will answer me!” Callum slowly looked up at the cell door.
“Yes.” Callum said.
“Yes,…what?” Fitzwarren said placing a hand on his hip.
“Yes,…sir.” Callum said as he glared at Fitzwarren.
“I have told you before you are on shaky ground.” Fitzwarren said, returning Callum’s glare, “On your feet, sir!” Fitzwarren spit out with a growl. Callum slowly stood. “What has happened to you, Callum? You have never been disrespectful. What has brought this on?” Fitzwarren asked, and waited for an answer. Callum stood silent. Fitzwarren’s anger was growing. “Very well, if you will not answer me, you shall answer the panel at your court martial in the morning. I came here to tell you that Dorland is going to survive his wound, as it was actually your fault that he suffered it in the first place.” Fitzwarren started to turn away, and his words enraged Callum.
“You know as well as I that it was no fault of mine that he was attacked.” Callum said, stopping Fitzwarren, making him look at Callum.
“I beg to differ with you.” Fitzwarren said, “You were the one that ordered him to go back to the Boar’s Head. You are responsible as surely as if you put the knife into his chest yourself.” Fitzwarren said with a calm voice. “That will be brought in evidence against you as well.”
“Why are you doing this?” Callum asked as he stepped forward toward the cell door. “I have been a loyal officer to you. You know that Dorland is none of my doing.”
“You will suffer the consequences of your actions of last evening, Callum, your blatant disrespect and insubordination for all authority. I will see you burn. You have caused me great embarrassment, and for that, I will have you drummed out of the service.”
“If it is my resignation that you want, you shall have it.” Callum said as he gripped the bars of the door.
“That goes without saying.” Fitzwarren said as he came back in front of Callum, “But it will not save you from certain punishment first. I will use you as an example so that other officers will not follow in your footsteps.”
“And what does Lord Hood have to say about all of this?” Callum asked.
“His Lordship is not here. He knows nothing of this as he is resting from his own injury. Something else that you had a hand in I dare say.” Fitzwarren said, looking Callum up and down and then walked away, the Marines following him to the stairs. Callum slumped against the bars of the cell door, the talk with Fitzwarren made his stomach twist in knots.
Callum was sitting on the hard bunk, leaning back against the wall of the cell, one foot was up on the bunk knee in the air, his arm resting on it. He turned his head slightly when he heard the door open at the top of the stairs. Callum put his foot on the floor as he sat forward watching the squad of Marines come into the cell block. They stopped at the cell next to his and opened the door.
“You two,…out!” The Marine officer said as he stood at the door. Callum watched as the two men got up and went slowly toward the door. The Marines had muskets at the ready as the two filed out and the squad went to the stairs with their two charges in their midst. Callum sat back and waited for his time to come.
The time passed slowly for Callum as he sat there quietly, only his thoughts to keep him company. Those thoughts were of Dustin. Callum smiled to himself as his eyes were closed seeing Dustin walking in the tall grass of home, the breeze blowing from behind him, making his long pony tail come and drape over his shoulder, Dustin reaching down and pulling a long blade of grass and twirling it in his fingers as he walked toward Callum, the warm smile as the sun was on his shoulders making his soft brown hair glow in its rays. Callum could see the warmth in his eyes as he drew near to him, as he waited for Dustin to step closer. The heavy door opened at the top of the stairs dragging Callum back to his reality. Callum looked up seeing them coming for him. The door opened and young Collingwood stepped in the cell, flanked by two Marines. Collingwood walked up to Callum holding a key in his hand.
“Are you alright, sir?” Collingwood asked softly as he unlocked the irons that Callum held up toward him.
“Yes.” Callum said softly.
“I’m sorry, sir, for all of this.” Collingwood said barely above a whisper. “We are with you, sir, all of us.”
“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Collingwood, but I thank you.” Callum gave him a half smile.
“I am to take you up and prepare you, sir. They have provided a change of clothing for you and will let you wash.”
“That, too, will not be necessary, Mr. Collingwood. Fitzwarren and his panel will have me just as I am, and will have to be satisfied with that. Where did they take those two?” Callum asked as he nodded toward the next cell.
“The Tower, sir.”
“I see.” Callum said, “Well, shall we go and get this over with?” Callum said as he stood.
“Yes, sir.” Collingwood said with a sad tone. He turned and stood out of the way for Callum, who walked toward the door, leaving the irons on the hard bunk. The Marines snapped to attention and turned as Callum walked toward the stairs, they followed with Collingwood bringing up the rear.
At the top of the stairs, Callum was led down the back hall to the old dining hall. He stopped at the double doors flanked by two Sentries. They opened the doors and Callum walked in. A long table was at the far end of the room with four tall chairs along the far side. Several junior officers were in the room, waiting. Callum did not look at them as he walked toward the table and stopped a few feet away. Callum felt someone behind him, and then felt the warmth of his breath.
“The panel will be coming in a few minutes, sir. They were giving you time to freshen up and weren’t expecting you already.” Collingwood whispered in his ear. “We stand with you and will testify on your behalf.”
Callum slowly turned his head and looked about the room. Then he saw his own officers, Middleboro, Summers, and Talon. They all nodded their heads at him as their eyes met. Callum smiled softly at them. Callum could see fear in Talon’s face as if he was about to burst into tears at any moment. Callum nodded his head toward them as he saw Eddington come toward him and stop next to him.
“Fitzwarren is not allowing you counsel. This is not just a court martial, this is a sentencing under the Articles of War. It’s as if he’s gone mad over this.” Eddington said in a whisper as Callum shifted his eyes, knowing this was wrong, completely wrong. “As I said to you last night, I am fearful for you, and as I also said, we all stand with you in this.”
“He came to me as well last night.” Callum whispered. “He was not himself. He was very calm. I am not certain what he is thinking, but as I said, you will not endanger yourselves.” Callum said to both of them as they looked at one another. The door on the far side of the room opened, near the long table, all eyes turned and watched as three Captains entered the room along with Fitzwarren, Tewles, Barrish, and Knox. They pulled chairs out for themselves and Fitzwarren sat first followed by the others. Callum knew them, except for Knox, who had been Smythe’s 1st Lieutenant, but had been given command of the Tarkington at La Rochelle.
“These proceedings will come to order.” Fitzwarren said and pulled out a piece of parchment from his inside pocket, he opened it and read from it. “Commodore Quintan Callum, you are hereby charged with gross insubordination, conspiracy, dereliction of duty, assault of a superior officer.” Fitzwarren said and then lowered the paper, looking at Collingwood and Eddington as they stood next to Callum. “Why are you two standing there?” Fitzwarren asked the pair, Eddington stiffened slightly.
“My Lord, Commodore Callum has not been given counsel as of yet, I offer my services to that effect.” Eddington said bowing his head slightly.
“That will not be necessary, Eddington.” Fitzwarren said, “This is not a trial, this is a sentencing. You will stand aside.”
“My Lord, under the Articles, the defendant is guaranteed counsel.”
“You will stand aside, sir, or you will join him!” Fitzwarren said as he leaned forward with an arm on the table. “Callum, you have heard the charges, do you have anything to say before sentence is passed?” Fitzwarren asked. Callum went to say something when the doors opened. Fitzwarren shifted in his chair slightly and then went wide eyed. All eyes shifted to who was walking into the large room.
“My Lord, I apologize for the interruption to these proceedings.” Wellington said as he came up next to Callum’s right side. Collingwood bowed slightly and stepped out of the way.
“Your Grace,” Fitzwarren said, “this is a matter of His Majesty’s Navy and hardly warrants your attention or that of the Army.”
“I beg to disagree.” Wellington said, “This is a matter concerning my attention as well as the First Sea Lord, Lord Hood, as this is a travesty of justice.” Wellington said as he glared at Fitzwarren. He reached into his tunic and pulled out a parchment, holding it up in his hand. “I have here an order from Lord Hood that these proceedings are to stop immediately and that Commodore Callum is to be released. All charges, save one are dismissed.” Wellington said as he continued to glare at Fitzwarren. Voices in the room were mumbling. Fitzwarren pounded his fist on the table.
“I don’t believe that! Lord Hood would not write such an order. Let me see that.” Fitzwarren said and Wellington stepped forward holding it out. Fitzwarren took it and opened it, reading it, and then sat back in his chair as the other Captains looked over toward him.
“I think you should read it aloud, My Lord, so that the rest of your panel can attest to its authenticity.” Wellington said and Fitzwarren lifted his eyes with a glare at Wellington as he waited. “No? Then perhaps I should read it to them.” Wellington said holding out his hand.
“By order of the First Sea Lord, all charges levied against Commodore Quintan Callum, save gross insubordination are dismissed. Commodore Callum is to surrender his commission in His Majesty’s Navy forthwith from this day forward. He is to be released and is not to be detained, signed Lord Hood,…” Fitzwarren said as he lowered the paper and stared at Wellington. There were multiple gasps about the room from the other officers. Fitzwarren let out a deep exhale through his nose, as Wellington turned and looked at Callum. “Quintan Callum, you are hereby released from service in His Majesty’s Navy, and of all responsibilities in that capacity. You are free to go.” Fitzwarren said and then got up from his chair and walked out of the room.
Collingwood and Eddington patted Callum on the back as the other officers in the room came forward surrounding Callum. Callum was focused on Wellington as he stepped forward, coming closer to Callum.
“Your Grace,” Callum said as he bowed his head slightly, some of the officers parted out of the way, “I’m afraid this is a debt to you that I will not be able to repay.”
“On the contrary, Callum,” Wellington said as he gave Callum a crooked smile, “you are now free of the service in His Majesty’s Navy, I wonder how you will look in wearing…a red uniform.” Wellington said as he put out his hand, Callum took it and his eyes went wide.
“Your Grace,…I…” Callum said as he held onto Wellington’s hand.
“Something for you to consider, after you return to your home for a time, I believe that your party is waiting for you to arrive. With your permission, I shall call upon you there and we can discuss it further.” Wellington said as he took his hand back.
“Callum, I believe this is the first time that I have actually heard you speechless.” Wellington smiled wide.
“How did you…?”
“I had dinner with Lord Hood last evening. I had opportunity to explain the situation to him. When he returns in the next couple of days, I think there might be a little bit of change in the command structure here at the Admiralty. Now, I must take my leave of you, there is a meeting at Buckingham that I must attend with The King.”
“Your Grace, words cannot express…”
“Callum, ease yourself. I know what it is that you mean. I was only too happy to be of service in your time of need.”
“Thank you, Your Grace.”
“It is all of us that should be thanking you actually. I shall see you again, Callum.”
“I look forward to it, Your Grace.” Callum said with a bow. Wellington looked about at all of the other officers smiling at them and walked then walked to the double doors and out of the room as Callum stood straight following him with a turn and his eyes. The crowd of officers about him drew tighter, hands patting his shoulders and some were laughing. Callum saw his own officers standing in front of him in the midst of the others. Talon again looked on the verge of tears. Callum stepped forward toward them. He reached out and put a hand on Talon’s upper arm.
“Gentlemen, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support. I urge all of you to continue to carry out your duty as with this turn of events, the service will need you even more now.” Callum said and looked at Talon, giving him a warm smile, “Think of me as you do your duty, and know that you are all in my heart.”
“What will you do now, sir?” Talon asked.
“I will return to my home in Birmingham. There is someone there that waits for me. After that, I’m not certain, but it seems to me that The Duke has something planned.” Callum said and then smiled briefly. “Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I’ll be on my way.” Callum walked through the large group, some reaching out their hands, Callum pausing to take them one at a time as he made his way to the doors. He finally reached the doors and the Marine Sentries snapped to attention as they opened them for him. He continued on his way to the front doors of the Admiralty and then went out on the street as the group continued to follow him. He went down the steps he knew so well and out onto the wide sidewalk. Eddington came down and came beside him. Callum stopped.
“Paul, I thank you very much for all that you did, your faith in me.”
“It was easy, Quintan. You have shown me, actually, all of us what a good officer is supposed to be.”
“Thank you.” Callum said, “I have never known anything but the service in all my life. For once, I’m not sure as to what to do.”
“There is a livery on the next street over. They have horses for sale. Do you have any money with you?”
“Yes, I do.” Callum smiled and thought of Dustin, “I wonder if they have a gentle mare. It gives me an idea actually.”
“What is that?” Eddington asked.
“The start of a small herd. Something that someone else suggested once, for me to do in my retirement, raise horses.” Callum smiled, “Which way is it?”
“On the next street over, in that direction, you can’t miss it.” Eddington said as he pointed, Callum followed his finger and then looked back at him, holding out his hand. Eddington took it.
“Goodbye, Paul. You must visit when you have time.”
“I will, Quintan.” Eddington said, “Tell that wonderful aunt of yours I said hello.”
“I’ll do that.” Callum said as he took his hand back. He turned and walked away. Some of the officers were out on the steps and watched as Eddington walked toward them, watching Callum walk away as well.
“Morning, Christian.” Dustin said as he got up off the settee, tossing the blanket back.
“Morning, Dustin. Did you sleep alright?” Holt said as he stepped closer toward Dustin in the parlor.
“Yes, I did.”
“You look tired.” Holt said as he put his hand on Dustin’s good shoulder. Dustin smiled at him as he stepped into his shoes.
“Truth be known, I didn’t sleep very well at all. I was thinking about Quintan most of the night. I can’t stop thinking about him and what he must be going through.”
“I, too, am very concerned about him. But, something else concerns me.”
“Oh, what is that?”
“We seem to be crowding you out here. Perhaps we should be thinking about…”
“Christian, you are not crowding me out. Please, put that out of your mind.”
“But, your bed.”
“It’s very comfortable, isn’t it?” Dustin asked with a smile.
“Yes, it is, very comfortable indeed.”
“Quintan told me that it was made here in the village some time ago. I’m not sure how many geese gave up their lives for it, but it must have been a considerable amount of them.” Dustin chuckled and Holt smiled and then nodded his head as well.
“Yes, judging by its thickness and soft nature, I would agree, it must have been near a hundred. Thomas is certainly enjoying it. He snored most of the night.”
“He snores loudly, doesn’t he?” Dustin asked.
“Yes, how do you know? Did you hear him last night?”
“No. It was at the Heritage Arms, we shared a bed one night after Quintan had to be stitched up again by Dr. Crawford.”
“I see.” Holt said, feeling a pang of jealousy suddenly.
“Thankfully, I sleep heavily I’m told, and after I drift off it is difficult to rouse me.” Dustin rolled his eyes a little and Holt felt better knowing there was nothing between Dustin and Tomlin. “I smell coffee. Leave it to Martha to up before the chickens.” Dustin smiled, “Let’s go and have some.” Dustin said and walked toward the kitchen. Martha was there at the dry sink going through the eggs that had been gathered. Dustin walked up, coming beside her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. She tilted her head for him and smiled wide. “Good morning, my dear.”
“My sweet boy,” She said and turned to look at him, “how did you fare last night?”
“I was comfortable, thank you. But I smelled your wonderful coffee, and we thought we would join you in a cup.”
“Of course, sit yourself down.” She smiled and turned for cups. She saw Holt standing there as well, and she smiled warmly at him. “Good morning, young sir, and how are you this morning?”
“I am well, my lady.” He smiled and bowed his head slightly toward her. Martha smiled even warmer toward him as she pulled cups down and came to the table with them.
“Do you take anything in your coffee?”
“Perhaps a touch of sugar, if it is no trouble.” Holt smiled.
“Ah, a sweet for a sweet.” She said as she turned back toward the stove to get the pot.
“You seem to have stolen another heart, Christian.” Dustin whispered and wiggled his eyebrows a little as he sat down at the table. Martha came back to the table and set the pot down and went to get the sugar bowl and a spoon. Holt sat down to Dustin’s left on the far side of the table from Martha. “I was thinking we could go into the village in a while to start gathering supplies for the house, after Thomas rouses himself.” Dustin said.
“I have the money that Quintan left for that purpose.” Martha said as she set the sugar bowl down in front of Holt. She picked up the pot and poured the coffee for them. “I will prepare your breakfast first and we can all go.”
“That would be nice, all of us having a nice walk together.” Dustin smiled at her. “I see that you have already gathered the eggs.”
“Yes, the new roost for the hens is very easy to use. They seem to be enjoying it as well.”
“Really?” Dustin asked as he turned in his chair and looked out through the kitchen window, “I will have to go out and have a look at it.”
“We had a bit of a problem with a fox for a short time, but I think he was taken care of by one of the workers. He must have snared him, as no more of the hens have been lost.”
“Really, a fox you say.” Dustin said as he sipped his coffee. Martha nodded and put the pot back on the stove. She returned to the table. “Something smells very good, are you baking?”
“Yes, some scones. You may have them with your breakfast. Would you like me to start it now or do you wish to wait for the other master to come down?”
“If there is food cooking on the stove, you can bet that Thomas will be here in short order.” Dustin smiled, and Holt chuckled softly.
“He is another good eater, I take it?” Martha asked, looking back and forth at both of them.
“He is.” Dustin smiled.
“And what of you, my dear? I noticed that you did not take much supper last evening.” Martha said as she clasped her hands in front of her.
“Well, I…” Holt said setting his cup down.
“I think Christian was feeling a little on the polite side, being a little bashful as it were.” Dustin said, teasing Holt a little.
“Now there is no reason in that. All in this house are to get their fill, no reason at all to feel that way.” Martha said, “Dustin was never bashful when he first came here. I have never seen anyone eat as much as he did and stay as skinny as he does.”
“That’s only because I have never tasted cooking as good as yours.” Dustin said, turning a bit red, and then looked at Holt, “Would you not agree, Christian?”
“Oh certainly. Last night’s supper was absolutely delicious.” Holt smiled, with his soft dimples.
“You keep talking that way, putting me up on a pedestal, it will only make me work harder.” She smiled back and then turned to the stove. She opened the door of the oven and looked at the scones. She reached in and touched one and then closed the door. She set out a heavy frying pan and set about to start making breakfast.
“I want to take a walk and look at the roost and the old stable while you do that. Do you need any help?”
“No, you go and have your look while I do this.” Martha said, “Take your coffee but don’t leave your cups outside, there are scant few of them left. The workmen leave them outside sometimes and I am forever chasing them about.”
“We won’t.” Dustin said as they got up from the table. Holt got up as well, carrying his cup and went to the back door, opening it for Dustin and then followed him out, closing the door behind them. Dustin walked over to the new roost, looking it over, the hens were clucking about as they scratched the ground in the large pen area. Dustin smiled seeing the structure, the look of it. He looked at Holt for a moment. “This wasn’t here before, it’s new. The hens were down there in the old stable.” Dustin said as he nodded down toward the bottom of the small rise. He started to walk in that direction with Holt walking with him. They followed the path and Dustin could see the work on the old building, the new look of it and he smiled wider as he walked up to the wide half doors that were new. He went inside and looked about seeing what Bockman and his workers had accomplished. Dustin sighed softly.
“This place is something special to you, isn’t it?” Holt asked seeing the look on Dustin’s face.
“Yes. Quintan and I had…” Dustin said softly as he looked over at the stall and the straw that was lying about the dirt floor.
“You had what?” Holt asked as he stepped close to Dustin.
“Our first night together was here. I’ll never forget it.” Dustin said in a whisper as a tear dropped from his eye with the memory. Holt put an arm about Dustin’s shoulders and squeezed him gently to him.
“You will have many more nights together once he returns.” Holt said softly. Tears fell from Dustin’s eyes freely as he lowered his empty cup. Dustin lowered his head, and Holt looked at him.
“What if he never returns?” Dustin asked softly.
“He will.” The voice from behind them said, making them both look up and turn toward the door. Tomlin was standing there, giving them a soft smile. He stepped forward toward them. “If I know Quintan, he will return. We just have to wait.” Tomlin said as he stepped in front of Dustin. Holt took his arm off Dustin’s shoulders as Dustin looked into Tomlin’s face. “You have been so brave in all of this, Dustin. Be brave a little longer.” Tomlin said and then wrapped his arms around Dustin’s shoulders, pulling him to his chest. Dustin buried his face into Tomlin’s shirt and sobbed. “I know it’s difficult, but you must.” Tomlin said as he pat Dustin’s back gently. Tomlin smiled at Holt.
Callum took the man’s hand at the livery, thanking him, and then walked over and put a foot into the stirrup of the saddle and pulled himself up, swinging a leg over and sat on the saddle. He took the reins and gave the pretty mare a gentle kick with his heels and she stepped out of the livery and out onto the street.
Callum had had many horses to choose from as he had walked about the stables of the livery. The mare had caught his eye as her coat flashed in the early morning sun. She had a narrow white stripe down her face and gentle eyes. When Callum approached her for the first time, she lowered her head slightly and put her forehead against his raised hand. He looked her over carefully, seeing her tone of muscle and she looked very strong to him. The owner of the livery finally settled on a fair price, along with a saddle and tack. Callum gladly paid the price for her as he knew Dustin would love her. She would be his horse, the first of many Callum thought to himself as he rode through the streets of London on his way toward home. She had a comfortable feel to her and he began to enjoy the ride, and also another feeling, something he had never felt before, a relief as if he didn’t have a care in the world now, except to reach home and Dustin.
Dustin walked in between Tomlin and Holt as they walked back toward the house. They were quiet as they went slowly up the path toward the house. Dustin stopped on the flagstone outside the kitchen door, turned and looked out across the property. Tomlin and Holt watched him for a moment and then Tomlin opened the back door. Dustin smiled at him and walked through into the kitchen, setting his cup on the table.
“There you are.” Martha said as she turned from the stove. She looked at the red eyes of Dustin but didn’t say anything about it, and started plating breakfast, setting it on the table for them. They all sat down and Dustin began to eat slowly after Martha sat down herself. She eyed him now and then out of the corner of her eye. Tomlin and Holt ate in silence as well. Martha could see that Dustin was hurting and she set her fork down and reached over and put her hand on Dustin’s. Dustin lowered his head and began to sob silently. Martha got up from the table and went to him, putting her arms around, holding him tightly to her. “Oh, my sweet boy, you go ahead and let it out, let it all out.” She said as she cradled his head against her, “It’s not good to hold it inside.”
Callum rode out of London, not looking back. He walked the mare along the road heading towards Portsmouth. He wanted to see Crawford, remembering to have his stitches pulled out, as Crawford had said it was time. There was nothing that Callum wanted more now, the last of what had happened to him in the service. He saw a coach coming and steered the mare off the road to let the coach go by. He waited as she had stopped and the coach went on its way. Callum gave her a gentle nudge of his heels and she stepped out on the road and continued on their way. He looked about as they went on.
He had been uninterested by what surrounded the road on his many trips to and from London, but now he saw it in a different light. The houses that were off in the distance, the pastures, the small herds of sheep and the occasional cow, and even some horses, who would come to their fences and whiny as they went slowly by on the road. The horses in the various pastures would walk their fences as if they were guarding them and then would stop when they could go no further.
This slow trip was becoming enjoyable to Callum now as he looked about, but he felt that she was tiring slightly. Callum stopped her and climbed down and led her with just the reins. She stayed with him as they both walked now, her head down a little, close to his arm as they walked together. Callum would look over at her and her eye would catch his and he smiled at her. He found himself talking to her as they walked along now, telling her of Dustin and how he would love her so and would probably pamper her as if she were a newborn babe. He told her of his gentle soul and his kind ways and she seemed to listen to Callum and the soft tone of his voice as he spoke of Dustin. Callum knew she didn’t understand a word he was saying, but he felt good about talking to her.
“I’m sorry,” Dustin said, as Martha let him go finally and went back to her chair. Dustin wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, “I don’t know what is wrong with me. I can’t seem to shake this feeling that something is wrong with Quintan.”
“It’s because you don’t know what is happening with him yet.” Tomlin said softly, “As I said earlier, it will be alright, we just have to wait and see.”
“I suppose so.” Dustin whispered and cleared his throat. He looked up and seemed to be embarrassed by it all.
“I would feel the same if I were in your place.” Holt said as he looked at Dustin, “And actually, I felt as you do, once, not too long ago.” Holt said as he looked at Tomlin.
“Really, you did?” Tomlin asked softly.
“Yes, when I left the Garrison that day to go home, after I left you standing there. I never spoke of it to you, but I had a feeling of great dread that took over me.”
“So that’s why you said that to me at the carriage.” Tomlin said softly.
“Partly, but I also knew that I would not heal at home.” Holt said and put his hands on the table. Tomlin reached over and pat the back of his closest hand, giving Holt a soft smile.
“I understand now.” Tomlin said, and then looked at Dustin, “I wish there was something more I could say to put you at ease, Dustin.”
“I will be alright, Thomas, thank you.” Dustin smiled, “I think I need something else to take my mind from it that’s all.”
“Agreed.” Martha said firmly, getting back up from the table, “I will do these dishes and we can all set off into the village.”
“May we be of any help?” Holt asked as he stood up.
“That is very thoughtful of you, but I can manage.” Martha smiled at him, as she collected their plates. She carried them to the dry sink and set them down as there was a knock on the back door. Dustin looked over his shoulder and then got to his feet, seeing Bockman through the glass.
“Mr. Bockman,” Dustin said as he opened the door.
“Morning, young sir, I see that you have come home finally.” He said, and then looked beyond Dustin seeing Tomlin and Holt as Tomlin got up from the table.
“Yes, sir. Please, come in.” Dustin said as he stepped out of the way, “Would you care to have some coffee?”
“No, thank you, sir, I was just on my way out to the stable when I saw you all sitting here.”
“Please, have a seat, I actually need to talk with you.” Dustin said.
“Is everything alright with the Captain?”
“He is in London, actually. He asked me to talk with you about doing something else with the house, if you have a moment.”
“Yes, certainly.” Bockman said, as he was looking at Tomlin and Holt.
“Mr. Bockman, may I introduce close friends of ours, and fellow shipmates, this is Lt. Thomas Tomlin, and Lt. Christian Holt, of the Royal Marines.” Bockman reached out his hand and took theirs one at a time, Tomlin and Holt giving a nod toward him.
“A pleasure, gentlemen.” Bockman said, and then looked at Dustin, who held out a hand to have Bockman sit down at the table.
“I looked over the hen roost and the stable, and I am very impressed with what you have done, Mr. Bockman, and I know the Captain will be as well when he returns. As for what he asked of me to talk to you about, it is for our dear lady of the house. The Captain wishes to have a room added for her, so she does not have to navigate the stairs any longer. Is that possible?”
“Well, of course it is.” Bockman said with wide eyes. He turned in his chair and looked at Martha for a moment and then back at Dustin, “When would you like me to start on that?”
“As soon as possible.” Dustin said as he scooted in his chair, closer to Bockman, “The Captain asked that it be built to give her the most comfort. I was going to go into the village and see the Smith about having a small stove built to heat the room as well for the coming winter. Is it possible?”
“Very possible, sir. You wish it to be built on the back of the house?”
“Yes, where would you suggest?”
“Well, on the other side of the stairs. There is that pantry that could be used as the doorway to a new room.”
“What would I do for a pantry?” Martha asked from the dry sink.
“What would suggest, Mr. Bockman?” Dustin asked.
“We could actually use the empty space under the stairs as a pantry. This kitchen wall here is one of the walls of the stairs. We could open up a door there and put in shelves if you wish.”
“That would put the pantry closer to the kitchen.” Martha said, “Would it make it larger?”
“Yes, I would think so.” Bockman said, looking at Martha, giving her a smile. She smiled back.
“Wonderful, I know he would be pleased to hear what you think, Mr. Bockman.” Dustin smiled, “So you could get started on it then?”
“Yes, today actually. I have two others with me. We need to dig down a bit and set some stone, then we could get some timber and give a good start on it. We wouldn’t cut open the back wall for the door until we were closed in and roofed.”
“Wonderful.” Dustin smiled at Bockman, then looked at Martha, “The only thing left to do is ask how big you want the room?” Dustin cocked his head slightly and Martha went wide eyed.
“I have no idea.” She said.
“It would be up to you.” Dustin said, “You know what he would say.”
“Yes, I know what that scamp would say, but I don’t want to live in a palace.” She said and rolled her eyes.
“Alright, then let’s say, about the size of the kitchen then?” Dustin asked. Martha looked about the room, it being the next largest room of the house actually. “Remember there is the new bed, chest of drawers or a wardrobe.”
“Now, just hold on for a moment. You men and spending all of your money, and on an old woman no less, I’m certain that there are other things you might need.”
“Well, there is something that you do not know as of yet. I will say nothing more of it, and wait for him to tell you himself.” Dustin said, and then looked at Bockman, “Is the size of this area too much?”
“Not at all. I’m sure it would be just fine, if it is agreeable with the lady of the house.”
“Oh, I think I can have her persuaded in that.” Dustin said, giving Bockman a nod, and then looking at Martha with his best little boy look. She sighed to herself and realized there was no winning against this argument. She turned back to her dishes. “There you have it, it’s settled then.” Dustin said as he stood up, Bockman stood as well. Dustin stretched out his good hand, Bockman took it. “Figure out the price and then let me know, it will be settled with you.”
“Indeed, sir, very good.”
“We’re going into the village to get some supplies for the house and show our friends around a bit. We will be back a little later.”
“We will get started right away, and thank you, sir, for the work.”
“You are entirely welcome. I know with the quality that you provide, it will be a wonderful addition.” Dustin said and took his hand back. Bockman walked to the door and went out.
“Feel better?” Tomlin asked.
“I do, actually.” Dustin smiled.
“Good. And I know you’ll feel even better when we do your other favorite activity.”
“What is that?” Dustin asked.
“Shopping.” Tomlin said flatly, lifting an eyebrow.
Callum had walked along with the mare for a few miles and then found a small stream off the road. He led her down to it and she drank from it and then nibbled at some of the grass that grew along its bank. He stayed with her as she stepped along and pulled at the greens and then drank again from the cool water. Callum bent down and cupped his hand and drank from it after she had. The water was clear and sweet to him, making him smile. He led her back to the road and stepped up on her again, continuing on their way. Off in the distance, Callum could see Portsmouth and smell the sea from time to time in the breeze. He heard gulls cry out in the distant sky as she trotted along the road. They passed a freight wagon on its way toward London, Callum steering the mare off the road to let it go by.
It was almost another hour when he reached Portsmouth. He walked her along the streets of the town. Not all of the streets were cobbled, most were just dirt. It was near the heart of town that all of the streets were paved. Callum directed her to the surgery that he knew Crawford worked at. He stopped her out in front of the building and tied her to a hitching ring on a post out in front. Carriages went by now and then as Callum went up the steps of the building. He went in and saw a ward nurse standing there.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for Dr. Arthur Crawford.” Callum said to the man. He looked up.
“He’s over in that ward, through that door there.” He pointed.
“Thank you.” Callum said and walked toward the door the nurse pointed out. Callum opened the door, seeing beds that lined the walls. A few people were in those beds, but not many. He saw his old friend near the far side and walked toward him. Callum stopped as Crawford was looking over a patient. He stood and turned and saw Callum and his eyes went wide.
“Quintan!” Crawford said, stepping up to him, “What are you doing here?”
“I believe you said something about pulling my stitches out.”
“Yes, it’s beyond time. How did you get here?”
“I thought you were…”
“I was, until this morning. I have been forced to resign my commission. I am returning home, but wished to get your strings out of me first.” Callum smiled.
“Well, let’s get you into a room I have over here, and get you taken care of, Mr. Callum.”
“I rather like the sound of that, actually.” Callum said as he followed Crawford into a room that had a table at its center.
“Take off your vest and shirt.” Crawford said, “I’ll get everything I need to do this.” Callum slipped his vest off and then pulled his shirt up and over his head. “You say that you were forced to resign?”
“Yes, part of the price of freedom. The Duke was instrumental in my release actually.” Callum said as he sat up on the table. Crawford stepped next to him setting some instruments on the table. Callum looked down at them and then at Crawford. “How long will this take?”
“Not long, a few minutes only if the stitches pull out easily.” Crawford said as he picked up a pair of small scissors. “Some of these may hurt a bit, I’m sorry.”
“By now, I’m actually used to a bit of pain.” Callum smiled as Crawford stated to cut at them one by one and then pulled them with large tweezers. Callum grit his teeth at some of them being pulled.
Dustin led everyone to the open market, seeing fruits and vegetables in various boxes as they had been placed on either the cobbles or low tables. Martha selected quite a few things as she went along, carrots, onions, potatoes. She placed things in the wicker basket that she carried, Tomlin and Holt stayed close to her as she went along. She would hold various things up, showing them, asking them if they liked this or that. They agreed to most everything that she chose.
Dustin saw the Smith had his shop doors open and went over after he excused himself from them. He walked in and saw the old man sitting next to an anvil, sitting on a log stump. Dustin walked to him, he saw the man had a bottle in his hand, and seemed rather bleary eyed. He lifted his head seeing Dustin standing there with his sling on.
“Sorry, can’t fix your arm, unless it’s made of metal.” He slurred his words.
“I’ll come back when you’re not drunk.” Dustin said and started to walk away. The old man stood up, swinging around, weaving a bit.
“What? Too good to talk to me?” The old man said, swinging the bottle in the air. Dustin stopped and turned back to look at him.
“No, I’ve dealt with many drunkards in the past. I was going to offer you work, but as I can see you would rather look into the bottom of a bottle rather than create something, I’ll take my trade elsewhere.” Dustin said and turned away again.
“You seem rather impertinent for being so young.”
“Age does not necessarily hinder wisdom, sir. Good day to you and your bottle.” Dustin said and walked to the doors.
“I beg you, wait, sir.” The old man said, setting his bottle down. He straightened and looked at Dustin again, “You said you wished something to be created?”
“Several things actually.” Dustin said, looking back, “But as I said, I can take my trade elsewhere.”
“Perhaps I can induce you to tell me what you wish to have created?”
“I will not deal with a drunkard, sir. I mean no disrespect, but with your state I can only imagine you will not even remember my being here five minutes after I am gone.”
“I apologize, young sir. It is I that does not wish to offend.”
“Sober up, and then perhaps we can do business. Do you know of Callum’s Cross?”
“I do, sir. The house of that poor widow on the knoll outside the village.”
“Exactly. Come there tomorrow after you have sobered up. I can speak to you of work then and there, if you can remember.”
“I will do that, young sir.” The old man said as he weaved a bit more. Dustin turned and walked out. He walked across the square seeing Tomlin and Holt as they were picking out things as well with Martha. Another basket had been gathered and loaded. Dustin smiled as he saw another side of Tomlin and Holt, shopping together for fruits and vegetables. Dustin walked up next to Martha, getting close to her.
“You’re corrupting them, you know that?”
“Oh, what makes you say that?” She asked in reply softly as she was rolling around some apples.
“Look over at them, carefully, do not let them notice you.” Dustin said as he seemed to be looking at the apples as well. Martha slowly looked at the pair, smiled and looked back at the apples. “You see what I mean? It’s like they have been doing that together all of their lives.”
“You mean as if they were together?”
“Yes.” Dustin said, “As I said, you’re corrupting them.”
“Oh, and I suppose you are not corrupted as well?” She asked as Dustin was looking over apples, “Then I suppose you’re not selecting apples for a pie either?” Martha asked with a smile, turning away. Dustin stopped and went wide eyed and pulled his hand back. He closed his eyes and stamped a foot. He opened his eyes and looked at her and pursed his lips. Dustin pulled himself together and went over to Holt and Tomlin, looking at their basket and then at them. They both gave him a look like they had been caught at something.
“Well, what have we here?” Dustin asked.
“We,…were, uh,…” Tomlin said. Dustin looked at Tomlin lifting his chin a bit waiting for an answer. Dustin finally smiled wide and then chuckled out loud.
“It’s alright, Thomas, I got caught up in it myself.” Dustin said, seeing Martha come back over toward them.
“I need to go see Silas.” Martha said.
“Silas? Who’s Silas?” Dustin asked.
“The butcher.” She said with a frown.
“I remember him, when you sent me into the village before. I got that rack of lamb.”
“Yes, you remember that. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She said and then walked away toward the corner building of the square, leaving the three of them standing there.
Callum had walked out of the surgery and out onto the street to the mare, who was waiting for him. She moved her head seeing him walk up, looking at him. He walked up and untied the reins, putting them over her head and stepped around to her left side, stepping up on her and sat on the saddle, he turned her and walked her toward the Heritage. He wanted a cup of coffee before he set off for home, and Crawford said he would join him there in a last goodbye.
Callum guided her along the street and he then he saw a little one darting in and out of doorways. He rode up closer and saw the youngster that they had stay with them at the Heritage. Callum stopped the mare as he went by him, and sat sideways in the saddle watching him for a minute.
“Master Darrow.” Callum said. The little boy froze and went wide eyed. He turned his head and saw Callum up in the saddle and then recognized him. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Captain. I was only looking for pennies, sir. Some of the ladies drop them out of their purses sometimes.” The little boy said as he stood on the curb looking at the pretty mare. “Is that your horse, sir?”
“Yes, it is. You like her?”
“She’s a beauty, sir.”
“Thank you, I think so too.” Callum said as he pat her neck. Callum reached into his pocket and pulled out a few coins and then leaned down in the saddle, holding them out, “Here, get yourself something to eat.” The little boy reached up and took the coins. “I’m going home, I may not see you again, take care of yourself.” Callum said and then nodded to the little boy. Callum started walking the mare along the street, but the little one was keeping pace with him.
“Where’s home, sir?” He said as he looked up at Callum.
“I’ve never been to Birmingham.”
“It’s a village to the north of here.”
“You have a house there, sir?”
“Indeed I do.” Callum said as he looked down at the little boy. “Where are you headed?”
“Oh, nowhere.” The little one said, looking where he was going, then back up at Callum, “Are you going home right now?”
“No, I’m stopping at the Heritage Arms for coffee to see my friend, the innkeeper there.” Callum said, but the boy stopped. Callum noticed it, and stopped the mare. “Oh that’s right, you’re afraid of him, aren’t you?”
“He has been…”
“A little mean to you in the past?” Callum asked. “Are you hungry?” The little boy looked up at him and nodded, “When was the last time you ate?”
“I think it was with you that morning at breakfast.”
“What?” Callum asked as he shifted in his saddle, “That was days ago. You haven’t eaten since then?” The boy shook his head and looked sad. Callum got off the horse, coming around under her neck to the curb. Callum knelt down in front of the boy, gripping his little shoulders. “Henry, is that the truth? You haven’t eaten since then?” The little one could only nod his head. Callum rubbed his little shoulders up and down for a moment and looked at him with sad eyes, “Henry, I’m going to ask you something, I want you to think about it before you answer me, can you do that?” He nodded again, “Henry, what if I took you home with me to live in my house? There is always something to eat, you could go to school, and have a warm safe bed to sleep in when the cold winter comes.”
“Is your friend there?” The sad little eyes looked at him.
“You mean Dustin?” Callum asked and smiled softly, “Yes, Dustin lives with me. Would you like to think about it first?” The little head nodded. “Okay. Now, let’s get you something to eat, alright?” Callum asked and the little head nodded again. Callum picked him up and put him up on the saddle. He walked around the mare and climbed up as well, sitting behind the little boy in the saddle. Callum nudged the mare and they set off toward the Heritage. Callum had his arms to either side of the little boy as he held the reins. They reached the Heritage and Callum got off the mare and then plucked the little one off the saddle. He tied the mare and went inside, the little one following him in but was looking around as he was obviously frightened in seeing Farrow.
Martha came out of the butcher shop with a smile on her face and several paper wrapped bundles. They saw her and walked quickly over to help her, Holt taking the bundles from her and Tomlin putting some in their new wicker basket. She smiled at them both.
“I could get used to this, good looking young men to carry things for me?”
“At you service, my lady.” Holt said with a smile. Martha blushed hearing him then smiled softly up at him.
“Dustin!” The voice called from across the square and Dustin wheeled around seeing Owen waving at him. Dustin waved his good hand back and started walking toward Owen as he came close up, and then gave Dustin a hug as they came together. “It’s good to see you.” Owen said, “What happened to your arm?”
“Oh, long story,” Dustin said, with a smile, “it’s good to see you too. Come, let me introduce you to ours friends.” Dustin led Owen over, “Owen, this is Thomas Tomlin and Christian Holt, gentlemen, this is Owen Muir, the good friend I was telling you of.”
“How do you do, gentlemen?” Owen asked taking each of their hands and receiving nods back from them. “So, where’s Quintan?”
“He’s in London, actually.” Dustin said, with a sad face.
“Is something wrong?” Owen asked, seeing the face.
“We can talk about it later.” Dustin smiled weakly.
“Oh, I see. So, Dustin I was able to purchase a couple of new horses. A new stallion actually, he is from the north. He’s quite beautiful and very spirited, you should see him.”
“I’d love to.” Dustin said with bright eyes. He looked at Martha and his friends. Tomlin nodded to him.
“Go and see him, we’ll help her with everything and meet you back at the house.” Tomlin smiled.
“Owen, give your mother my best.” Martha said, “Tell her I will see her Sunday morning at services.”
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll do that.” Owen said with a wide bright smile. He turned and took Dustin along with him across the square. Tomlin and Holt noticed how most of the young girls in the square turned and watched as Owen and Dustin were walking along together. Tomlin elbowed Holt and pointed it out, and Holt nodded in seeing it as well.
“They seem to be the envy of the town girls.” Tomlin said, Martha perked up hearing him.
“You should see them when Quintan comes into the square, they practically swoon.” Martha said rolling her eyes, as Tomlin and Holt smiled at her. “Shameless, the lot of them.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I think they’re just being honest and open.” Holt said.
“Something like that should be done in the privacy of your own home, my young sir, not out where the general public can see it. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“I suppose you’re right in that.” Holt said, and Tomlin thumped his butt with a free hand out of sight of everyone.
“Did you gentlemen need to do anything else here in the village?”
“No, Dustin was going to show us around, but I think we can wait on that until later.”
“He won’t be but a very little bit. He and Owen don’t stay together long. Owen and Quintan are closer friends. They grew up together actually.” Martha said as she turned and started to walk toward home. Tomlin and Holt walked with her on each side of her carrying the bounty that had been purchased.
“Set yourself down, Farrow.” Callum said, looking up at him. “Don’t be afraid of Master Darrow here, he won’t bite you.” Callum smiled and pat the little hand next to him. Callum looked over and the little one was draining the tankard of cider that was put before him. Callum snorted softly out of his nose seeing it.
“What happened after they took you away?”
“They took me down to the Crypt. This morning, there was a sentencing, no trial for the court martial. Fitzwarren was certainly on about something. The Duke stepped in and gave an order from Lord Hood stopping it all. The price of my freedom was my commission, which I gladly surrendered.”
“So, your decision came to be a reality for you after all.” Farrow said, “So what are you going to do now?”
“Go home to Birmingham.” Callum said.
“I mean after that. I can just see you, a life of leisure, sitting around all day with nothing to do. It will drive you mad and you know that.”
“Well, The Duke said something about a red uniform.” Callum said as he sipped from his coffee mug.
“What? You, as a Regular? That will be the day. You’re a sailor, Quintan, you know that as well as I. You won’t be happy tramping around on dry land with the regular Army. You’ll be dead within a month.”
“Thank you for your confidence in my skills, Farrow.” Callum said lifting an eyebrow.
“You know what I mean, and if The Duke knows you half as much as you let on, he will see it as well.”
“Actually he already does. We discussed it once not too long ago.”
“There you have it. So then it will be a life of leisure for you.” Farrow said and sat back in the chair. He saw one of his patrons signal to him. “Excuse me.” Farrow said and got up from the table.
“Did you get enough, Henry?” Callum asked as he leaned toward the little one. He nodded at Callum and smiled that cute little boy smile of his. “Good. So, Henry, I must be going soon. Have you thought about what you want to do?” The little one sat still but looked down. Callum waited for a moment and then the little eyes lifted and were bright. “What is it?”
“Can I go home with you?”
“You most certainly may, my lad.” Callum smiled, “Are you sure or do you want to stay with your box in the alley?”
“No, it gets cold at night sometimes, and the rats come.”
“Henry, I promise you’ll never have to live like that again, alright?” Callum said to him, giving a warm smile. The little one nodded at him. “Good.” Callum looked up as Farrow came back to the table. Callum stood, holding out his hand. Farrow took it. “Farrow, this is goodbye. If I’m this way again, I’ll stop in and see you.”
“Do that. Your room will always be available for you and Dustin. Tell Thomas to keep a watchful eye on Christian, I just might steal him in the middle of the night.” Farrow said with an evil grin.
“I will do that. Thank you for everything, again.”
“What are friends for?” Farrow nodded and took his hand back. Callum looked down at his little companion and smiled as he got out of his chair.
“Ready, Henry?” Callum asked.
“Ready for what?” Farrow asked.
“The lad is going home with me, I’m taking him in.”
“What? Are you sure about that, Quintan?”
“And you were thinking that I would have nothing to do.” Callum smiled and shook his head. “Come on, Henry, Dustin is waiting for us to come home.”
Dustin walked into the house and came through into the kitchen. He saw Holt and Tomlin helping Martha set all of their bounty out of the baskets. Martha looked up and saw him in the doorway.
“Is he a fine animal?” Martha asked.
“He certainly is.” Dustin said, “I only wish there was a way.”
“A way for what?” Tomlin asked.
“A way to have horses here. I would so love to have my own horse. It’s always been a dream of mine since I was very little.”
“A lot of work.” Holt said, “My father has horses. He breeds them for steeplechase.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.” Dustin said as he sat down at the end of the table, “I’ve heard of steeplechase before.”
“Yes, he goes to the big race every year in Ireland. I have been a few times, even competed once myself. It’s very dangerous for both horse and rider.”
“So you can ride well?”
“I suppose I can. I never really gave it much thought actually, huh.”
“I’m not surprised.” Tomlin said. Holt looked at him and smiled softly. “Well, you have the build for it. I assume that to be able to race, you must be very thin.”
“It can give you an advantage, I suppose. Again, I never gave it much thought.” Holt said.
“Could you teach me how to ride, Christian?” Dustin asked.
“I see only one problem with that, Dustin,” Holt said, Dustin lifted an eyebrow, “There don’t seem to be any horses about.”
“True enough,” Dustin sighed, “But Owen has several.”
“Then perhaps, after your shoulder has healed and my wound isn’t as stiff, I would be more than happy to teach you.”
“Thank you, which would be glorious.” Dustin said, sounding so excited as he jumped up from his chair. Martha looked at him giving him wide eyes.
“You’re welcome.” Holt said with a wide smile.
“How far is it, sir?” The little voice asked as the mare trotted along the road, he was bouncing in the saddle against Callum.
“It is quite some time off. We may there about dark. Are you alright?” Callum asked as he bent his head down a little.
“Yes, it’s just a little bumpy on my bum.” He said. Callum chuckled.
“Want me to slow her down?”
“No, sir, it’s alright.”
“Well, you let me know if you need me to stop or anything, okay?”
“Yes, sir.” The little voice said. Callum took the reins in one hand and held the bouncing little body with the other to steady him. It seemed to help the boy a little in the bouncing. He wrapped his little hands around Callum’s arm and settled in. The mare seemed to take this part of the journey in stride. Callum had a feel for her now and what she would do for him. He felt that she wanted to keep up the pace for a while longer and Callum let her go at her own pace. They trotted for about another half hour and Callum let her slow down and begin to walk. He looked down and saw the little one had gone to sleep on his arm, sitting up. Callum smiled, another Dustin, who could sleep anywhere and was probably used to doing it. Callum sat back in the saddle cradling his little bundle with his arm.
When the little one woke, Callum thought they were about halfway to Birmingham now as it was in the early afternoon. There had been a few freight wagons that had passed by as Henry slept, and their rattling did not stir the boy at all. Callum knew that the boy felt safe with him and wasn’t worried at all.
“Where are we now?” The little one asked.
“This is Banbury. It’s a little village. Do you need to stop now that you’ve woken up?”
“Yes, sir.” The little voice said and Callum steered the mare off the road. He reined her to a stop and then swung off her, and then pulled the little one off, and then pointed at some bushes. Callum smiled as he walked over and peed on the bushes, then came back to him.
“Alright, you hold her, it’s my turn.” Callum smiled and handed him the reins. He walked over to the same bushes and did the same as the boy, then came back. “Do you want to walk some, or do you want to ride again.”
“I can walk some if you want.”
“Alright, you take her and we can we walk a little while and let her have a rest without us on her.” Callum said and they got back out on the road with the mare, the little one holding the reins over his shoulder as the mare followed close behind him.
“I think she likes me.” He said as he looked up over his shoulder. The mare was sniffing at him as she walked.
“She seems to. So would you like to go to school?”
“I never thought about it before. What is school like?”
“Well, that depends on the school you go to. Some schools are run by the church, others have just teachers, and schools like the one I went to only teach you how to sail. At home, there is a school that teaches everything with just teachers in it.”
“There are others my age?”
“Yes, mostly boys your age, and those that are older. You might make a lot of new friends. I did when I went to school. That innkeeper for example, he was a friend of mine at school.”
“But he doesn’t sail on a ship.” The little voice asked as he looked up.
“He did, and he did with me. We were both officers on the same ship before he left the Navy.”
“Why did he leave?”
“Well he had some trouble with how he felt about it and his life. He didn’t want to do it anymore.”
“What about you?”
“I’m not doing it anymore either.”
“That’s why you’re not wearing your coat?”
“That’s right. I will have to find something else to do now.”
“Well, I haven’t figured that out yet, but I will. Maybe we can figure it out together, you, me, Dustin, and my aunt.”
“Yes, my mother’s sister. She lives with me as well. She’s a very nice lady, and she is going to eat you up.” Callum said as he grabbed the little one, picking him up, tickling him a little and then swung him up on the saddle. Callum smiled at the dirty little face. He pat him on the leg and took the reins from him. “I think you should ride a bit. I can walk faster than you do, okay?” He nodded his little head. Callum started walking again and the mare followed as the little one hung onto the saddle. Callum looked ahead and saw an older man standing out on the road, watching them come his way. He nodded at Callum as they drew near.
“Afternoon, sir.” The older man said, “Out for an afternoon stroll?”
“We’re going home, sir.” Henry said proudly from the saddle. Callum looked at him and smiled and then looked at the older man.
“You are?” The older man said, “Well it looks like you have the best part of the deal, my lad.”
“He does indeed, doesn’t he?” Callum asked, nodding to him, “Good day to you, sir.”
“And to you, sir. Be careful up there, my lad.” The older man said waving a hand. Henry looked over his shoulder and waved back.
“He was very nice.”
“Most people are here in the country. It’s not like living in a large town or a city. Most people in the country help each other when needed.”
“Like you’re helping me?”
“Yes, just like that, Henry, very good.” Callum smiled. He looked up at the sky and the position of the sun. He estimated is after two, closer to three possibly. He thought there were about three more hours to go till they reached home.
“I was thinking about going out and taking a look at what they are doing outside.” Dustin said, thinking more out loud than anything else. Tomlin looked up at him as he was sitting at the table. Holt had joined Martha at the dry sink helping her peel carrots and potatoes for supper.
“May I join you?” Tomlin asked and Dustin smiled and nodded his head as Dustin opened the door. Tomlin got up from the table and followed Dustin out. They went around the corner of the house and saw all of the digging that had been done. The area for the new room looked massive to Dustin and his eyes went wide. He saw Bockman with the two men that were working with him, setting rock for a foundation inside of where they had been digging. Bockman looked up seeing them standing there.
“Think it will be big enough for her?” Bockman asked as he stood.
“I could berth half the crew of my ship in this area.” Tomlin said.
“Yes, and comfortably too.” Dustin said, “Mr. Bockman, you do wonders in a days’ work, sir.”
“Thank you. We try our best.”
“And you succeed, sir, I assure you. The Captain would be pleased, very pleased.”
“Thank you, again.” Bockman said as he wiped his hands on his pants, and walked toward Dustin and Tomlin, “Near as I can figure, it will take about three hundred, sir, to get it to where you’d like it. I can have timbers set tomorrow and the floor the day after, if that’s alright.”
“That soon?” Dustin asked and was amazed. “Let me get you some money for supplies then.”
“That was not my intention, sir, in saying it.”
“Mr. Bockman, please, I asked you for a price, you gave it to me. I’m sure the Captain will not have issue with it, and besides, you need the money for the materials, do you not?”
“Well, yes, sir.”
“Then it is done. I’ll only be a minute.” Dustin smiled and went back to the house and went in. He went upstairs and went to the trunk, lifting the lid, pulling out Callum’s purse. He opened it, pulling out notes, seeing their amounts and counted as best he could, but he realized that he couldn’t count that high. He cursed himself and took the purse downstairs. He went into the kitchen and came up behind Holt.
“Christian, may I ask for your help for a moment?”
“Certainly, what is it?” Holt asked turning around.
“Could you help me count out notes for Mr. Bockman. I need to give him money for materials for the room.”
“Certainly. How much do you want to give him?”
“Half of three hundred.” Dustin said looking at Holt. Holt pulled out the notes and counted them out. He held them in his hand. Dustin took them, as Holt took the rest and put it back in the purse. “Thank you.” Dustin smiled and put the purse in his pocket and then walked to the door. He walked around the corner of the house, seeing Bockman talking to Tomlin about the structure and how it would go up. Tomlin was paying close attention to what he was saying.
“Here you are, Mr. Bockman.”
“Here now, that’s not all of it, is it?”
“No, sir, only half, which is what I was instructed to give by the Captain.”
“He is a smart man, the Captain. More than enough here, sir, to do what we need to do.” Bockman said as held up the notes in his hand.
“Now, what about the rest that is owed to you, for the roost and the stable?”
“That was already taken care of, sir. The Captain made sure of that before he left. He left it with the lady of the house, and she has seen to it.”
“Oh that’s right, I nearly forgot.” Dustin smiled, knowing full well what had been done. He was testing Bockman for his honesty and he passed with flying colors.
“We’ll finish out the day, sir, in about another hour and be back in the morning after I see the millwright.”
“Wonderful. Is there anything that we can do for you and your workers?”
“No, sir, but I thank you for the offer. Once we get this up and going, it should go quickly and then we can get back to the stable and finish it up.”
“Thank you for everything, Mr. Bockman, you have been so kind to us in all of this.”
“For the lady of the house, sir, nothing is too good for her.”
“I agree.” Dustin smiled warmly and nodded his head. Bockman tipped his hand and went back to his workers and they set more rock for the foundation.
“Henry, are you getting thirsty?” Callum asked.
“A little, sir.”
“I see a stream up ahead. We can stop and give our girl a rest and let her have a drink, and we can too.” Callum smiled at him as he looked over his shoulder. The little one was trying to sit up more in the saddle to see the stream but couldn’t yet. He waited and started to see it as they got closer. There was an old stone bridge that crossed over the stream in the road. Callum led the mare off the road onto a grassy area, and she stopped as Callum went to the saddle and picked his little man off the saddle and set him on the ground. “My goodness, you’re heavy, Henry.” Callum smiled.
“I’m growing fast, I’m told.”
“Oh, who tells you that?”
“An old lady that lives down at the other end of the alley, I talk to her from time to time. She’s nice to me.”
“Does she give you things to eat?”
“No, she only talks to me.”
“Speaking of eating, are you getting hungry?” Callum asked as he knelt by the edge of the stream, scooping water up in his hand. He looked at the little one, and he nodded in answer. Callum drank the water out of his hand. “Well, when we get home, I bet my aunt has something good on the stove. And she probably baked today as well. Apples should be coming down from the north, and I’ll just bet she baked a pie. Have you ever had apple pie?” He shook his head, and gave Callum a questioning look. “You like things that are sweet?” He nodded, “Do you like apples?” He nodded, “Well that’s what apple pie is. Wait till you try it.” Callum smiled. The mare stepped close to the edge of the stream but wouldn’t drink. Callum watched the boy cup his hands and scoop up water and drink it. They smiled at each other.