Callum brought the mare up to a soft lope as the lights from Birmingham got closer. The little one was still in front of him, in the saddle, Callum had an arm around him to hold him in place as the mare was in her stride now, sensing that they were drawing near to their destination. The sun was setting and the sky was filled with colors as the thin clouds moved, going from silver to pink and then to an almost red.
“We’re almost there, Henry.” Callum said as he leaned forward, “Just around that bend, you’ll see the house up on the left.” The little head was moving back and forth as the mare continued to lope along. The mare dug in a little more and Callum let her go, the lope became a gallop as they came around the long sweeping bend. The house was coming into view now, they could both see the house and the lights shining in the windows. “There it is, Henry.” Callum said leaning forward a little to his little ear. Callum squeezed him a little more to him, “Do you see it?” The little head nodded as he squirmed a little on the saddle, “That’s your new home, Henry.”
Callum rode the mare by the house and slowed her, he had her at a walk now and they went by the new front gate and continued along the stone fence to the long back gate. Callum reined the mare gently and she stopped at the gate. Callum swung off the saddle and stepped to the gate, opening it, he led the mare through, and then closed the gate and secured it with the post ring. He led the mare up to back of the house and dropped the reins. He reached up and grabbed his little bundle off the saddle and set him on the flagstones. The mare whinnied, smelling the grass that was about her. Callum was going to get a tub and pump some water for her, but needed to wait until she cooled down first.
“Did you hear that?” Dustin asked as he stood in the parlor, “I thought I heard a horse.”
“I heard it as well.” Holt said as he got up off the settee, “Yes, there it is again.”
“I heard, too.” Tomlin said, “It sounded like it was out back of the house.” Tomlin and Holt followed Dustin through the kitchen to the back door, seeing something moving outside the window. Dustin opened the door, stepping out, his eyes went wide and then filled with tears, seeing Callum standing there, unsaddling the mare. Dustin ran to him, and they came together in a deep kiss and then a tight hug. Dustin was sobbing heavily as Tomlin and Holt stepped forward, beaming. Callum reached out and took theirs hand with one of his over Dustin’s shoulder, fingers all coming together, as Dustin continued to sob into Callum’s chest. Callum let go of their hands and pushed Dustin back by the shoulders.
“Now, what is this?” Callum asked as he looked into Dustin’s wet face, “I return home and you go to pieces on me.”
“I have been so worried, Quintan. I have had this bad feeling since they took you away. Are you alright?”
“Of course I’m alright. I told you not to worry, my love, everything would be fine. There is much to tell. And I have brought you a gift,” Callum said as he let go of Dustin and stepped out of the way so Dustin could get a good look at the mare, “She carried us home, and she belongs to you.”
“What? You brought me home a horse? My very own horse?”
“Yes, my love, I took one look at her and knew she was to be yours. And I have something else for you,” Callum said and Dustin turned, seeing the little one standing next to him. He couldn’t see him very well as it was becoming dark. Dustin looked at Callum, and then back down at the little one that stepped closer.
“Who…?” Dustin asked as he looked at Callum again.
“Don’t you remember me?” The little voice asked. Dustin knelt down in front of him, putting his hand on the little shoulder.
“Henry? Is it really you?” Dustin asked, the little head was nodding, his little hands were clasped together in front of him. Dustin let go another tear and looked up at Callum and then back at the little face, “What are you doing here?”
“He said I could come and live here with you.” The little voice said.
“He said that?” Dustin asked, the little head nodded again. Dustin smiled warmly.
“Is it okay?”
“Of course it’s okay.” Dustin said and pulled the little one to him, giving him a tight hug. “It’s more than okay, Henry. You’re home now, with us.”
Callum watched them together for a long moment and then went around Dustin and Henry to Tomlin and Holt, giving them a shared hug. Callum patted their backs and pulled back. They were all smiling at each other.
“Have you had supper yet?” Callum asked. They shook their heads in answer, “Good, where is the lady of the house?”
“She went upstairs for something. That’s when we heard you out here.” Tomlin said.
“Well, let me see to her then. This is the best homecoming I could have imagined.” Callum said, patting their shoulders and then looked down at Dustin and Henry, still hugging. “We need to see to the mare, and get her watered after she cools down.” Callum said to Dustin.
“I can do that, Quintan.” Holt said.
“Thank you.” Callum said and walked to the back door, he went through and Martha was standing there. She raised a hand to her mouth as her lip started to tremble and her eyes filled with tears. “Good evening, my dear, I hope I’m not too late for supper.” Callum smiled as she held out her arms. He stepped into her, giving her a big hug, and lifted her off the floor, swinging her around once and setting her back down. He pulled back and gave her a kiss on the forehead, as he tucked a finger under her chin.
“My boy, I have been so worried about you. Are you well? Dustin told me of your wounds, are you still injured?”
“Shhh, shhh, shhh.” Callum said with a smile, “I am well. I saw my surgeon this morning actually. He removed all of my stitches. I am quite well. The question is, are you well?”
“Yes, but,…?” She started to ask but Callum held up a finger to stop her.
“We can discuss all over supper. I am starving to death, I have eaten since the morning that they took me away.” Callum smiled wide at her and kissed her forehead again, “It is so good to see you and to be home finally.” Callum hugged her again. He pulled back as he heard everyone coming in behind him. He looked over and saw the little one being led in by Dustin. Martha looked around Callum, drying her eyes. Callum looked at her for a moment and then back at his new charge.
“And who is this?” She asked softly, putting a hand on Callum’s shoulder, stepping around him. Callum waved his hand to have the little one come closer. He slowly stepped forward. Callum knelt down on one knee and held out his hand. The little one reached out his own hand and stepped closer watching her very carefully. He took Callum’s fingers with his.
“Aunt Martha, this is Master Henry Darrow, late of Portsmouth. He has come to live with us here at Callum’s Cross. Henry, this is my aunt, the lady that I told you about.”
“Quintan, where did you find him?” Martha asked as she still had a hand on Callum’s shoulder.
“Actually, he found us one morning, the morning that I purchased the stove. He insisted on carrying Thomas’s trunk that he had just purchased. After some arrangement, we took Master Darrow into our little group. I was in Portsmouth this morning to see my surgeon when I came across him again. Isn’t that right, Henry?” Callum said as the little one drew closer with another step. He nodded his head, still watching her. “Doesn’t he remind you of someone?” Callum asked her as he looked up. She looked at Dustin and then back at the little one.
“They could be brothers.” She said.
“Yes, I have thought the same myself.” Callum said, looking over at the little dirty face.
“Well he certainly needs a good washing, and his clothes are a pitiful sight.”
“We’ll take care of that tomorrow in the village at the mercantile. We’ll have him shined up like a new shilling in no time.” Callum smiled, “But as I said, I’m simply starving to death, and whatever you’re cooking smells absolutely heavenly.” Callum said as he stood and sniffed the air, “Smell it, Henry? Does it smell good?” The little head nodded and he smiled. Callum winked at him, letting go of the little fingers and he stepped over to Dustin, “And you, love of my life, are you better now?”
“Yes, now that I know you’re home and safe. I have missed you terribly.”
“Not as much as I have missed you, my love. I thought about you constantly, it was only thing that kept my focus.” Callum said and leaned forward tilting Dustin’s chin up a little and kissed him softly. Callum pulled back slowly and then looked at Tomlin and Holt, “And you, my lads, my good friends, I thank you for bringing him home safely.”
“He made it easy, Quintan, and made us welcome, and as did she.” Tomlin said as he took Holt’s hand in his, interlocking their fingers. Callum looked at Dustin again and then hugged him tight. Callum pulled back, giving Dustin a warm smile.
“I knew they both would, as I consider you both family as well.” Callum turned and looked at her as she was staring down at the new addition to the house, “Is there any of that good wine left in the pantry?” Callum asked and she lifted her gaze toward him.
“Yes, there is.” She said.
“Good.” Callum said as he clasped his hands together and rubbed them, “I feel a celebration is in order for this evening.”
“I’ll get some water on to have him wash. Tomorrow we will see about a bath for you, young sir.” She said lifting an eyebrow as she looked down at him. His little eyes went wide in hearing her. He turned and looked at Callum who nodded his head toward him.
“We all do it, Henry. And I am sure you haven’t had one in quite a while, have you?” Callum asked and the little head shook slowly, “That’s what I thought. Alright, it looks like it will be a little crowded around the table. I’ll go and get that bench out of the parlor so we can all gather around the table.” Callum said and went out of the kitchen.
“Have you noticed something different about him?” Tomlin whispered in Dustin’s ear. Dustin turned his head and nodded in reply. “Then I’m not the only one, good.”
Callum came back in and started to move the chairs about at the end of the table and set the bench there. He turned and walked back out of the room. He came back a minute later carrying two of the bottles of old wine from the pantry and set them on the table. He rubbed his hands together and was all smiles as he looked at everyone.
“Uh, why don’t we go and take care of the horse, Dustin?” Holt asked. “We can get her rubbed down and watered.”
“Yes, we should do that.” Dustin said as Holt opened the back door. Tomlin was left alone at the door, looking at Callum with an odd look. Callum noticed it and then turned to the little one. Callum walked over and picked him up and set him on the edge of the dry sink. Martha took a kettle off and poured warm water into a basin and Callum took a cloth and a bar of soap and set about cleaning the little face and hands of all of the grime. After several repeat washings, soft bright skin emerged, Callum dried his little face and hands. He smiled at the shiny little face.
“Still hungry?” Callum asked.
“For apple pie.” Henry said, and Callum looked at Martha with a broad smile.
“How did you know I baked an apple pie today?”
“It was only a hope.” Callum said to her, “We were actually talking about it on our way here. He has never had apple pie before, have you Henry?” The little head shook slowly side to side, making her smile. She stepped close to him, putting a hand on his little leg.
“Then you can have the first piece, after you have your supper.” She smiled at him and then pinched his little chin. He smiled at her and her heart melted, as he gave her little dimples.
“Well, I think all we’re missing now is a dog.” Callum said, as the back door opened, Dustin and Holt coming back into the kitchen.
“We’re getting a dog?” Dustin asked. Callum turned and looked at him.
“No.” Callum said and then smiled wide, “I was merely saying that a dog is the only thing we’re missing here.”
“Oh, I see.” Dustin looked deflated in his misunderstanding. Callum chuckled.
“Would someone care to help me set the table?” Martha asked and there were several pairs of hands that jumped at the request. She had to calm them all down a little and marveled at all of the help now at her disposal. The table was set and the pot was carried over and set down. They all gathered around the table. It was a tight squeeze but they managed nicely. The supper was simple but wonderful, beef stew with baked rolls. They all watched as their new little addition ate more than all of them, and soon the pot was emptied. Martha stood and went and pulled out the pie, she brought it over to the table and set it down. Henry’s little eyes bugged seeing it in front of him. Martha cut into it and served him the first slice as she had said. He smelled it and smiled wide.
“Now that’s apple pie.” Callum said as he was handed a piece. They all devoured the large pie, leaving nothing but a few crumbs. Callum finished his wine and sat back on the bench, the little one sitting next to him, leaning against Callum as his eyelids were starting to slowly close, Callum had draped an arm around his little charge and looked down at him now and again as they all talked of what had happened in London this morning. Callum finally told them all that his commission had been taken from him, and he was free of the service. Tomlin hung his head and was silent.
“You know, Thomas, when all of it was going on around me, and the order from Lord Hood was read, all I could think about was what you had said in our room about reconsidering my decision, what my not being there might mean to everyone. I couldn’t get past your words, and then it dawned on me, the service will go on, whether I’m there or not. I told the others that were there to continue in their duties and they would always be in my heart. What actually surprised me was Middleboro, Summers, and Talon were there. They seemed a little upset over it, especially young Talon.”
“You trained them, Quintan, you trained us all, and well I might add.” Tomlin said, “I can see why they would be upset over this. I know I am. Talon has always looked up to you, and I know of what Summers and Middleboro think of you as well. But you have given me something else to think about now.”
“Oh, what is that, Thomas?”
“Do I really need to return to the service myself?” Tomlin said, and Callum went wide eyed, “You’re a changed man, Quintan. I was actually remarking to Dustin earlier about it when you left the room. I’ve never seen you like this before.”
“I feel different, Thomas, I feel that I can do anything that I want now, and not have to worry about it at all. You see what I mean? It’s difficult to explain, but for so long I have had to be rigid, aloof, as an officer, having to be able to make a decision at a moment’s notice, and make the right one. I don’t have to do that now, not anymore. I can actually live now, enjoy my life the way I want to,” Callum said and looked at Dustin, “the way it needs to be lived, with the one I love.” Callum smiled, and Dustin let a tear drop from his eye. “I realized on my way here, that to be happy,” Callum looked down at the sleeping form next to him, “and to love are the most important things that we can do and can have in this life.” He looked back up at them, “I have been through far too much for one man, and to have survived that, only by the grace of God, I would not wish it on anyone else. I’m fortunate to have what I have, family, friends, someone that I love more than life itself, and now, this new little charge that I have next to me. And for the first time in my life, I feel,…truly happy.”
“You amaze me, Quintan.” Tomlin said, “You have everything that any man could ever want. It seems to just find you, like a whirlpool, you draw it to you. I envy you so.” Holt took Tomlin’s hand in his under the table, intertwining their fingers again. Tomlin looked at Holt with a side glance and smiled softly.
“Well, that was my philosophy for the evening.” Callum smiled at everyone. He stopped at Dustin and smiled wider, “So tell me of your gift. What do you think of her?”
“She is more than beautiful, Quintan, thank you so very much.”
“You’re welcome, my love. You will have to give her a name. The man that I purchased her from didn’t call her anything at all. I will tell you that she runs like the wind, and has a gentle heart. She seems to be very affectionate when she is talked to. We actually had quite the conversation from London to Portsmouth, albeit one sided of course. I told her all about you, and she knows everything, so you cannot keep secrets from her.” Callum smiled and winked. Dustin blushed. Martha got up from the table and started picking up dishes. Callum looked up at her. “Would you care for some help with that, my dear?”
“No, my boy, you seem to have your hands full already. What are you going to do with him?”
“You mean tonight?” Callum asked.
“I meant beyond tonight.” She looked at him, lifting an eyebrow.
“Well as I said earlier, we will get him some new clothes at the mercantile, and then we will put him into school. He will grow up to be a fine young man, I’m certain.”
“With you as his new father, I have no doubt.” She said and touched the top of the little head, “We’ll get him cleaned up and I’ll set after him with a pair of scissors and trim this mop of hair that he has. I bet it hasn’t seen a comb in years.” She said as she fingered it, twirling a long curl, “The poor little lad.” She said as she looked at Callum, “You have done a good thing, my boy, your mother would have been so proud of you.” She smiled and Callum smiled as well. Callum looked down again and smiled at the little one.
Dustin got up from the table and came around to where Callum and Henry were on the bench. There was a little bit of room and Dustin sat down facing the opposite way from the pair with the little one in between them.
“She’s right, you have done a good thing, a very good thing. I wish that someone had found me and given me a good home.”
“I did.” Callum said, “I’m just sorry it took me so long.” Dustin leaned over as did Callum, kissing over the top of the little one between them. They pulled back and put their foreheads together, as their eyes looked downward. “He’s a good little lad. We’ll teach him everything.”
“Everything?” Dustin asked.
“Well, within reason.” Callum chuckled. He pulled back his forehead, “How is your shoulder?”
“It aches a little, but I ignore it for the most part.” Dustin said and shrugged his shoulder.
“I see. Arthur suggested that the bandage be changed soon. And that you should start to work your arm before it becomes too stiff.”
“We can do that tomorrow then.”
“Certainly.” Callum said, “I saw a blanket folded on the settee, who has been sleeping there?”
“I have,” Dustin said, “I gave Thomas and Christian our room.”
“And now that you have come home,…” Tomlin started to say, as Callum turned and looked at him.
“It will remain the same. As I said earlier, you are both family, and even with my returning home, nothing should change. We will be quite comfortable down here, I assure you.” Callum smiled, touching Tomlin’s arm. Callum looked at Dustin again, “I trust that you talked with Bockman?”
“I did, he and his workers started it this morning right away. They will have timbers and the floor in in the next day or so. The way he talked, he will have it done in very short order.”
“Excellent.” Callum smiled, “But I had another thought as well. As the house is beginning to fill up rather rapidly, I wonder if we could add another room above the new one he has started.”
“For just this very purpose. Our new addition here will require a room of his own, and I would like to have a room for guests that might come and stay with us.”
“It is what I feared all along.” Martha said from the dry sink. All eyes turned and looked at her.
“And what is that, my dear?” Callum asked.
“A palace. You wish to have a palace.” She said without turning round.
“Not exactly a palace.” Callum said, “Just a home to provide comfort for all that come here. Would you not agree?”
“You don’t find it comfortable here?” She asked as she turned and looked at him.
“Oh I do, my dear, but I feel that the house is rather small and needs to be expanded, as we are expanding. Besides, as I said once, a Squire needs a home that should look and feel a little more regal.” Callum said as he lifted his chin and put his nose in the air. Everyone laughed. Callum wiggled his eyebrows toward her, and she shook her head.
“You men, always spending your money.”
“And why not? I have acquired more than a King’s ransom in the pursuit of my duty. Why not take that money and put it to good use. We could make our home more than comfortable, have the things in it that will make life enjoyable, and provide for all that are here.” Callum said as he tightened his arm around the little one next to him. “I think that we have earned a bit of comfort, wouldn’t you agree?”
“I suppose.” She said and then turned back to the sink. “Just as long as you don’t try to tear it all down around me.”
“Absolutely not, my dear, this was my mother’s home, not mine. And now, that it is mine, I simply want to make it better for everyone. I have more than enough money to do that, and I am starting to enjoy myself in that fact.”
“I see.” She said, “Well, I suppose I shouldn’t say anything more about it.”
“Quite the opposite, my dear, I value your opinion and insights very much, as you are the lady of the house, it is important to me that you speak your mind.”
“Well then, I should tell you that I rather don’t care for change. I have grown accustomed to things the way that they are.”
“Yes, I know, and that’s what makes your opinions so valuable. You have a completely different perspective to it all.” Callum said and smiled wide and warm. She relented and smiled back at him, then turned back to the sink. His argument made sense to her, even though she didn’t like change, it was his house now and he was well within his rights. “Well, I think I am going to take our little man here and put him to bed. He had a rather hard day today with the long trip. I am wondering if I could ask you for a bit of a favor.” Callum looked at Dustin.
“Could I use one of your old shirts to put on him for the night?”
“Yes, it would be like a bed gown on him, wouldn’t it?”
“It would.” Callum smiled. He shifted on the bench a little and then slowly scooped up the little one in his arms, holding him close to him. Dustin got up and walked out of the kitchen. Callum looked at Tomlin and Holt as they started to get up as well, “Sit, and be comfortable. Once I get him taken care of, we’ll come back and join you. Have some more wine.” Callum smiled at them, he turned with his little bundle and walked into the parlor. He laid the little one out on the settee and began to get him undressed. Callum noticed that his little toes were curled up in his tight little buckled shoes, being too small for him, his breeches were tattered and his stockings were torn in more than a few places as well. The little shirt he had on was frayed around the cuffs and very dirty. As the little clothes were pulled off, Callum saw marks on him, welts from obviously being beaten. He had no under clothes at all, and Callum took everything and piled it up. Dustin returned and stood beside Callum seeing what he was doing, and Dustin saw the welts as he held his shirt.
“You see the marks on him?” Callum asked softly. Dustin nodded, remembering that he had them as well as a boy living in the streets. “I wonder how he came by them.”
“Shopkeepers or other older boys in the streets, taking things from him. It happened to me as well.”
“Really, I had no idea.” Callum said softly as he looked up at Dustin.
“All too often actually. Shopkeepers would cane me sometimes for just standing in front of their doors. Older boys would give me beatings to take things from me that I would collect. It seems that he has had a rough time of it and recently as a couple of them look fresh.”
“Not any longer.” Callum said as he took the shirt from Dustin’s hand. He put it over the little head and then worked the arms into the sleeves and then pulled the shirt down over him. Callum moved him and covered him with the blanket. Callum stood up next to Dustin and put an arm about him. Dustin laid his head against Callum’s, as they looked down at the little one.
“Quintan, as I said, you have done a good thing for him, but are you sure about this?”
“Yes, my love.” Callum said softly, “He was a lost soul, he told me on the way here that I was helping him. I had said that that was the way of people here in the country. He can carry quite a conversation when he gets going.”
“I’m sure of that. I never had many to talk to myself. I loved to talk to people when I had the opportunity.”
“Then I can only imagine the many conversations that you two will have as time goes by.” Callum smiled and squeezed Dustin’s shoulder a bit. Dustin chuckled softly.
“I’m sure we will.” Dustin said as Callum led him back to the kitchen. Callum saw that Tomlin and Holt were gone from the table.
“And where did our lads go off to?” Callum asked.
“They said they were going to take a bit of a walk.” Martha said as she set down another plate that had just been cleaned. Callum nodded his head and sat down on the bench, patting the seat next to him to have Dustin join him there. Callum poured a bit more wine.
“I have been doing some thinking, Christian.” Tomlin said as they walked slowly down the path toward the stable, hand in hand. They could hear the mare inside moving about a little in the straw.
“I have noticed that you seem rather quiet since we arrived. What is troubling you?”
“As I said earlier, I am thinking about not returning to the service. I see what Quintan has here, and I find myself wanting the very same thing. Is that wrong?”
“Why would that be wrong, Thomas?” Holt asked as he stopped, Tomlin stopped as well, turning and taking Holt’s other hand in his.
“I don’t know, it makes me feel that I might possibly be betraying something.”
“Haven’t you always wanted to be at sea?” Holt asked, as he stepped closer to him.
“I only went to sea because of my father. The merchant company paid for it, my schooling, it was the only path open for me.”
“If you were to leave the service, what would you like to do?” Holt asked as he cocked his head slightly.
“Honestly?” Tomlin asked. Holt nodded his reply. “I would like to do anything that had you beside me like this.” Tomlin said as he leaned forward and softly kissed Holt. Their touch was more than tender, just barely touching one another. Tomlin slowly pulled back. “I love you, Christian, more than that actually, you are constantly in my head, even though we have been together almost every moment, I can’t seem to get enough of you.” Tomlin said softly. Holt smiled.
“I thought it was only me that felt that way.” Holt kissed him softly, and then pulled back, “You have become a part of me, and I am beginning to think that I couldn’t bear to be away from you for a single moment. I’ve never felt like this before.”
“I feel the same way. And I feel something else as well.”
“What is that?”
“That I have to have you.” Tomlin said as he leaned forward again, kissing Holt, letting his hands go and then wrapping them around Holt’s shoulders, drawing him in tighter to him, the kiss becoming deep and passionate. Holt ran his own hands around Tomlin’s waist and then up his back, clutching his shirt, then flattening out his hands and sliding them around Tomlin’s back. They moaned softly in each other’s mouths, and slowly pulled away from each other going nose to nose, letting out a breath each. “I feel you growing up against me.” Tomlin whispered as he rubbed himself against Holt.
“I feel you as well, and I love it, and want it.” Holt whispered as they looked into each other’s eyes in the moonlight. “Where can we go?”
“Why not in there?” Tomlin nodded his head sideways toward the stable. “I don’t think the horse will mind the company.” Holt smiled and kissed Tomlin again softly, and then wiggled his eyebrows. They let go of each other and went to the stable. “It’s very dark in here.” Tomlin said softly.
“Dustin showed me where some candles were. I think they’re over here on this window sill.” Holt said as he moved away. He felt around and then found them and a striker. He lit a candle and turned around after he blew the stick out, and smiled wide as Tomlin was quickly stripping his clothes, dropping them in a pile where he stood. “My, you seem to be in a bit of a hurry.” Holt said seeing his body.
“I have wanted to do this all day with you.” Tomlin said as he stepped forward into the straw. He reached out and touched Holt’s shirt, running the backs of his fingers over the hidden nipples of Holt’s tight chest. They both watched the movement of Tomlin’s fingers going up and down on the soft cloth of the shirt. Holt slowly lifted his eyes and smiled at his lover.
“What else do you think our little man might require tomorrow from the mercantile?” Callum asked Martha as she had joined them back at the table.
“Besides all new clothing? Possibly his own little bed and a place to put his things in. Are you going to put him in your room for the time being?”
“I would think so, until a new room can be built for him.” Callum smiled and then chuckled.
“What do you find so funny?” Dustin asked.
“I was just picturing the look on Bockman’s face when I tell him that there is another addition going on to the house. I would wager that he will simply frown and shake his head and think that we have all gone mad.” Callum chuckled again.
“You know, I was thinking of Mr. Bockman as well and what he said to me this afternoon about the money that I gave him.” Dustin said softly, “It was almost as if he didn’t want it and was hesitant in taking it.”
“It’s only his pride. Some men are that way I have noticed over the years. You remember Dorfman?” Callum asked, Dustin nodded his reply, “In all the years that he has sailed with me, he has never once taken his wages. The paymaster would get frustrated about it because of the accounting and then finally he asked to speak to him one day about it. I had just become the 1st Lieutenant then. I went to him asked him why he didn’t collect his wages, he said he didn’t need it, that he sailed and served only because he loved it.”
“What happened to the money? How did he live between sailings?”
“I asked him that as well. He didn’t want to say anything at first, but then he told me that he had a lady that he lived with and she took care of all of his needs and wanted nothing in return.”
“What did you do?” Dustin asked.
“I went back to the paymaster and made arrangements to have his wages put into an account at the Bank of England. The paymaster followed the instructions and deposited everything that was held as well. He can retire if he wishes and never have want of anything. My point is that some men have a pride about money and can have a difficult time with it.”
“I never knew that about him. He is a good man.” Dustin said softly.
“Yes, he is. I could always count on him whenever needed. He never took a drop of drink either.” Callum smiled, suddenly missing some members of the crew. He grew quiet for a long moment as he turned his wine in his hand, the glass resting on the table. Martha and Dustin looked at each other for a moment, and then back at Callum seeing the blank look on his face.
“What troubles you, Quintan?” Dustin asked as he touched Callum’s arm.
“What?” Callum being pulled out of his thoughts, and looked at the two of them, he smiled out of the corner of his mouth, “Forgive me, I was thinking of the crew. I suppose it will take some time to let it go finally.”
“I don’t think that’s possible for you.” Dustin said as he squeezed his fingers on the muscle of the arm. “They mean too much to you, all of them.” Dustin leaned forward and kissed Callum on the cheek. “I think I’ll go and see what Thomas and Christian are up to, and check on the mare.” Dustin smiled. He got up off the bench and came round behind Martha, bending down and kissing her cheek. “Supper was simply wonderful, thank you.”
“You’re welcome my boy.” She said as she pat his hand that was on her shoulder. She watched Dustin open and close the back door, then turned to Callum. “I am so glad that you are finally home, Quintan.”
“As am I, my dear. It was only a few days ago that I found myself missing you and longing for home.”
“Yes. Dustin and I were at the inn in London and he asked me to take him home. It was at that moment that my chest tightened with a longing to be here. It has never been like that before. Oh, I was saddened when I had to leave you those two times for the sake of duty, but I never felt it as strong until just a few days ago. Today, I couldn’t make that horse go fast enough to bring me home.” Callum said and then reached out and took her hand, “I hope you’re not overwhelmed with all of this that has come into the house.”
“You mean your lads and the new addition to the family?” Martha smiled at him. Callum nodded, “No, I’m not overwhelmed at all. Those young men of yours are simply wonderful, and that little one is about as dear as dear can get. He does remind me of Dustin so, don’t you think?”
“Yes, he does.” Callum smiled wide, “I think that’s another reason he has captivated me so. I can right a wrong that was done to Dustin so many years ago, and help Henry in the process.”
“As I said, your mother would be so proud of you, Quintan, as proud as I am of you.” She said and pat his hand. “Well, this old woman has had a full day today. I am going to go off to bed. Will you be alright tonight?”
“Yes, I know there are blankets in the trunk in the parlor. We will be very comfortable, I assure you.” Callum winked, “Sailors are used to a certain amount of hardship.” He smiled and she pat him again. “Tomorrow will be different, of that you can be certain.”
“As long as you are home, that’s all that matters to me.” She said as she stood. She kissed him on the cheek as she went by him, “Good night, my boy.”
“Good night, my dear.” Callum said, as he stared at his wine glass. His thoughts went through all of the events of the past few days as he turned the glass again on the table. He was lost to his thoughts as the back door opened and then closed. He looked up and saw Dustin standing there with wide eyes.
“Something wrong?” Callum asked as Dustin came over and sat next to him.
“I found Thomas and Christian.”
“I have a feeling they will be staying outside for quite a while.”
“Why do you say that?” Callum asked as he looked at Dustin, who was a little drained of color, “Is there a problem with the mare?”
“No, I seem to have come upon them as they were…”
“Oh.” Callum said and chuckled, “Well, it’s nothing that you and I haven’t done you know.”
“I know, but, it’s a little different with Thomas. I’m just having a difficult time with getting used to seeing him in a different sort of way.”
“You have seen him another way?”
“I interrupted them at the inn, as they were together, once.” Dustin said, his eyes a little on the wide side.
“Yes, Thomas let me in once as well when you were ‘resting’. He doesn’t seem to have any modesty, does he?” Callum smiled.
“I think he does it more to tease Christian actually.”
“I think you’re right. You think they are going to stay out there all night?”
“I overheard them speaking of it as they were…”
“I think I get it.” Callum nodded his understanding. “Well, shall we be good hosts and take them some blankets so they can continue to enjoy themselves and a little bit more of country life?”
“I can, uh, take care of that, if you’d like.”
“Only as long as you come back and don’t join them.” Callum smirked. Dustin went wide eyed again.
“I’m only making a jest, you know that.” Callum said.
“Well,…Christian is rather fetching out of his clothes, you know.” Dustin said as he got up off the bench, Callum dropped his mouth open and followed him as he turned his head around. Dustin chuckled to himself as he walked to the trunk in the parlor. He lifted the lid and reached in, pulling out a heavy blanket. He tucked it between his legs and closed the lid softly, then reached down and took the blanket up under his arm. He turned and saw Callum standing in the doorway of the kitchen with his arms folded over his chest. Dustin did his best to keep a straight face seeing the look on Callum’s face. Dustin cleared his throat softly and walked toward Callum.
“Rather fetching?” Callum asked as Dustin drew near.
“Yes, I know you think that as well, you have eyes, don’t you?”
“Well, yes, but,…”
“It’s alright, I understand, he’s young and very, very good looking. Thomas is very lucky to have him,…over and over and over.” Dustin cracked a smile as Callum’s mouth fell open again, “I’ll only be a couple of minutes,” Dustin said as he slid by Callum, he stopped near the back door and turned to look back at Callum, “unless you would care to accompany me.”
“Well, I…I…” Callum stuttered as he was caught off guard. He slammed his mouth shut, and cocked his head a little sideways.
“That’s what I thought.” Dustin said, he gave Callum a smirk, “Coward.” Dustin turned the smirk to a grin and then opened the door. He closed it softly behind him. Callum’s mouth dropped open again.
“Thomas?...Christian?...” Dustin called out as he came near the window with the candle burning on the ledge. Dustin could hear the sounds from inside the stable, the two engaged in the throes of their deep love making. Dustin waited outside the window wanting to look in, but also not wanting to interrupt them.
“Dustin?” Tomlin called out softly.
“Yes, it’s me. I brought you a blanket, but I don’t want to come in.” Dustin said. He carefully held it out away from him and passed it through the window. Dustin almost jumped as Tomlin stood up in the window. Dustin went wide eyed seeing his bare chest only down to his waist and straw stuck in his hair. Dustin started to look away. “I’m sorry I interrupted. We just thought that you might be more comfortable with this.”
“Tell Quintan that was very thoughtful.” Tomlin said, and then looked down as he took the blanket from Dustin’s hand, “Make sure you two use the bed tonight, I think we’re going to stay out here.” Tomlin said and then almost gasped. Dustin went wide eyed again, even though he couldn’t see what was going on below the window, he had a very good idea. Dustin only nodded and then set off back to the house as he heard soft moans through the stable window. Dustin stopped a few feet away and listened for a long moment and smiled to himself at hearing them.
Dustin went in through the back door, closing it softly behind him. He went to the lantern on the wall and blew it out and then the candle on the table. He left the kitchen and went into the parlor and saw the little body asleep on the settee. He leaned down and tucked him in a little more, then put a hand on the little chest for a moment and walked toward the stairs, blowing the candle out on the little table as he walked by. Dustin went up the stairs quietly and went to the door of their room, opening it. He stepped in, closing the door behind him, seeing Callum standing naked next to the bed. Callum had his back toward Dustin.
Dustin walked slowly toward him, seeing the muscles in his back and his tight narrow cheeks of his butt and marveled at it and him, the love of his life, as Callum was folding his clothes, turning and laying them on the foot of the bed. Dustin caught his smile as Callum saw Dustin out of the corner of his eye.
“Let me see where your stitches were.” Dustin whispered as he put his hand on Callum’s shoulder. Callum turned into the candlelight to show Dustin his chest and stomach. The stitch points were still a bit puffy, but they were turning to off colored scars now on the skin. Callum looked down as Dustin was slowly running his hand over them. He looked up into Callum’s eyes and smiled at him. “I think they look just fine. Gives you a bit of a rugged look, I really like it.” Dustin whispered.
“I’m certainly glad you do, I actually hate it.”
“Why, because it reminds you of that night?”
“No, because it has so changed my appearance. It’s just my own vanity, I suppose, but I really hate it, and what it’s done to me.”
“You saved my life that night. If you hadn’t have pushed me out of the way, all that debris might have easily killed me. I’m not as sound as you are. You are far stronger than I.” Dustin said as he leaned against Callum, putting his hand behind Callum’s neck under his pony tail, pulling him into a long tender kiss. Callum reached his hands up and put them on Dustin’s shoulders. They pulled back. “I will never, ever forget what you did that night for me. I love you more than anything in the world.”
“And I love you as well, you know that.” Callum kissed him softly again. “Are they alright outside?”
“Yes, and Thomas wanted me to tell you thank you for being so thoughtful toward them.”
“Did you happen to see anything?” Callum asked lifting an eyebrow.
“Yes, I did.” Dustin said and turned away. He walked to the end of the bed and carefully took off the sling. He pulled his shirt out of his pantlet and then pulled it up and over his head and then off. His chest and shoulder still wrapped in bandages. Callum watched him for a moment with his mouth open, and then pulled himself together.
“Well, what did you see?” Callum asked softly.
“Now, Quintan, you wouldn’t want anyone to reveal what we do, would you?” Dustin asked as he kicked off his buckled shoes. Callum gave Dustin a puzzled look.
“Well, I was just wondering.” Callum said as he pulled back the covers on the bed and then sat down on the edge. Dustin undid the flap of his pantlet and let it drop open, exposing himself. Callum saw him and licked his lips lightly seeing the soft young skin and the form of Dustin’s body that he loved so much. Dustin dropped his pantlet to the floor and stepped out of them. He sat on the end of the bed and rolled his stockings down and took them off his feet one at a time. He dropped the stockings on the floor next to his shoes and walked to Callum’s side of the bed, as Callum lay down, with the covers off him. He put one hand behind his head with his arm bent. Dustin saw his beauty as he lay there and loved him even more in looking at him as he lay like that.
“Would you let me make love to you?” Callum asked as he held out his free hand toward Dustin. Dustin smiled as he took Callum’s hand.
“You’d better. I have been waiting for so long.”
“It’s only been a few days, you know.” Callum smiled as he pulled Dustin closer.
“If it’s not every hour of every day, then it’s far too long, my Squire.” Dustin wiggled his eyebrows a little as he climbed up on the bed and straddled over Callum’s hips and lowered himself onto him. “I could ride you like this all the time, rather than a horse.” Dustin said as he rocked his hips a little. Callum let out a soft moan through his nose as he felt himself starting to rise.
“Thomas,…” Holt panted as Tomlin rolled off him onto the straw, “it gets better and better every time.” Holt said softly as he looked over at his lover. He could see Tomlin’s chest rising and falling as he slowly regained his breathing now.
“I love doing this so much.” Tomlin said as he put his hands to his face and rubbed it. “You feel so good to me when I’m in you.”
“Better than when I just hold you?”
“No, but it’s just different. I can’t describe how it makes me feel. I love it when you just hold me as well, but when we actually make love, it sends me off somewhere else.” Tomlin licked his lips lightly, and then rolled his head to look at Holt. Tomlin smiled softly at him. “Do you know what I mean, Christian?”
“I think I do.” Holt smiled and rolled to half cover Tomlin body and put his leg in between Tomlin’s. “I will tell you that you melt my heart when you just hold me though.”
“Truly?” Tomlin asked as he reached up to brush a loose lock of hair off his pretty face. He used his fingers to tuck it behind his soft ear. Holt kept smiling as Tomlin just touched him softly and tenderly. “I don’t think I could live without you, Christian. You fill me constantly with thoughts of you, and to not be able to look at you every day would surely be the end of me. I just can’t get enough of you, why is that?”
“Possibly it’s because you love me as much as I love you. I feel the same way about you. It is confusing sometimes to me when I try and figure it all out, and I have finally quit trying. You take over all reasoning that I have within me, and I love it, being looked after the way you do for me. I turn around and you’re there every time. I feel warm and protected, safe, like when you took me from my home that day, carried me out to drive away with me. I’ll never forget that.”
“I had thought of just leaving that day, after she had me leave you. I thought about it on the ride back to the town and the inn, but I couldn’t get you off my mind. I had to tell you how I felt, what you meant to me. I’m very glad that I found my gumption to go back for you.”
“As am I.” Holt said as he traced a finger around Tomlin’s nipple, “But, I fear what might be coming soon, when my father returns.”
“Do you think he will track you here?”
“I don’t know, I pray not. But there is the housekeeper. She knows it was you that took me away. She will tell him.”
“Christian, why would he do this? Why would he want to see you hurt? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“I remember when my mother started to become ill. His words to her, they were callous, cold, before he left for his regiment and before I left as well.” Holt whispered as he lay back in the straw, “He said that he did not care for the weak or the sick and that there was no place for such in his world at all. I remember him saying that to me also once when I was very young.”
“I’m so sorry, Christian, I know he’s your father, but,…”
“I know, Thomas, I really don’t know what to think about it all myself.”
Dustin worked himself up a little on his knees as he straddled over Callum, holding the long hard length at his wanting hole, he slowly let it penetrate him, closing his eyes as he let out a slow breath as he sat back down on it, feeling it as it spread him open. Dustin let his hand go as more of the hard length slid into him. He opened his eyes to only slits and licked his lips loving the feeling of being opened and filled.
Callum put his hands on the top of Dustin’s soft warm thighs as he let a soft smile come across his lips watching his love take him in. Callum held his breath as he let Dustin do it to himself, watching the smooth firm body in the soft candlelight, and Callum could feel all of Dustin sitting on him now, pressing them into the down mattress fully as they came together. Dustin leaned forward a little and put his hands on Callum’s chest, covering his nipples as he let out a soft moan.
“This is what I have so missed.” Dustin whispered. Callum looked up into Dustin’s face that hovered above him, as Callum slid his hands up the soft skin of Dustin’s sides, coming up under his arms, feeling the soft hair of his pits. Callum gripped him gently with his hands.
“I have missed this as well, both us like this in our bed together.” Callum whispered and let out his breath through his nose with a soft groan. “You are so warm inside.” Callum whispered and moved his hips a little, making Dustin close his eyes and tilt his head back a little, enjoying the feeling in him. Callum stopped his motion, and rolled his head a little to the right. “Did you hear that?”
“I only hear my heart pounding in my ears.” Dustin whispered.
“No, listen.” Callum whispered, as he slid his hands back down the soft skin. Dustin opened his eyes. Muffled sounds could be heard now.
“I do hear it. What is it?” Dustin asked in a whisper.
“I don’t know.” Callum said as he used his hands to lift Dustin a little. Dustin sighed softly as he used his legs to slide off of Callum. He shifted over on the bed as Callum sat up and swung his legs off the bed and put his feet to the floor. He leaned and grabbed his pants and put his feet into the legs and pulled them up as he stood. He looked down and buttoned the flap. “I’ll go see what it is, stay here.” Callum said softly as Dustin lay there, propped up on one elbow. Callum went to the door and opened it quietly and waited, hearing it again, he went through the door, leaving it ajar as he went down the stairs. The sounds became a little louder as he came down to the bottom of the stairs.
Callum looked around in the dark parlor, and then he heard it again, muffled sobs, he focused in the dark and saw movement over on the settee. Callum knew now what it was. He came off the bottom step and walked over to the settee, seeing the little outline in the dark.
“Henry?” Callum asked as he reached the settee, “What’s the matter?” Callum asked as he sat down near the little body.
“It was so dark when I woke up, it scared me.”
“Oh.” Callum said softly as he touched a little shoulder, “Are you alright?”
“I had a bad dream.”
“You did? What was the dream?”
“Those boys were hitting me again.”
“It’s alright, they won’t do it again, I promise.” Callum said, “Come over here.” Callum whispered and the little one climbed out from under the blanket, and got into Callum’s lap, putting his little arms around his neck. Callum smiled as he was hugged tight, he put an arm under the little butt and got up off the settee, as little legs wrapped around his chest. Callum walked to the stairs and carried him up, coming into their room, he closed the door behind him softly, looking at Dustin, who was covered in the bed. Dustin smiled and shook his head slightly at the sight of the two of them. Callum walked over to the bed, bending down, putting the little bundle on the mattress, next to Dustin.
“What happened?” Dustin asked softly.
“He had a bad dream about the other boys.” Callum said. Dustin looked down at the little one as Henry rolled and put his arm over Dustin’s neck, snuggling in to him. Dustin smiled and lay down on the bed next to the little one. “I can see how this going to go now.” Callum said softly and then gave a smile, “I suppose I’ll have to learn to share you.” Callum half turned and sat on the edge of the bed looking at the two of them. The little one had just gone back to sleep. Dustin reached out his hand and Callum took it. He squeezed the hand gently for a moment and then let it go. Dustin wrapped his arm around the little one and settled onto the pillow next to him. Callum shook his head slightly and then got up and went to the foot of the bed. He unbuttoned the flap of his pants and lowered them, stepping out of them, then put them on the foot of the bed. He came back up and climbed in next to the little body and pulled the covers over them and rolled his head, blowing out the candle. Callum settled onto the pillow and let out a soft sigh, closing his eyes.
The morning light came through the open window of the stable. Tomlin opened his eyes as he heard the mare moving about in the straw in the stall she was in. He looked over to his right seeing the face of his lover lying next to him, his soft pretty face in the straw, his soft brown hair had flecks of straw in it. Tomlin smiled seeing him. He lifted the heavy blanket and quietly got up out of the straw, stepping to his clothes as quietly as he could. He picked up his pantlet and went to step into it, as Holt rolled on his back in the straw, his eyes opening slowly. He drew in a deep breath through his nose and then let it out through his mouth.
“What are you doing?” Holt asked.
“Actually, I was just admiring you as you were sleeping in the straw.”
“Why are you holding your breeches? Were you going to get dressed?”
“Yes, I was.” Tomlin said, as he looked down at them in his hand and then back toward Holt.
“I don’t think so.” Holt said as he pulled back the heavy blanket. Tomlin looked down seeing what Holt was uncovering, and went a little wide eyed. “I want you to come back here and help me with this.” Holt grinned as he looked down at his hard member that was now out in the open.
“I would be more than happy to.” Tomlin said as he dropped the pantlet, and stepped forward once, going down to his knees. He leaned forward and took Holt in one hand, standing his hard member up and then lowered his mouth over it and licked at the broad head once. Holt drew in a breath through his clenched teeth and moaned. Tomlin ran his tongue tip over the slit, drawing up the clear fluid and pulled back his tongue, tasting the fluid. “I love tasting you.”
“You can always bring it out of me when you do that to me.” Holt hissed through clenched teeth as Tomlin drew more out of the slit. Holt put his hands to Tomlin’s hair and moaned softly as Tomlin swallowed him, working his tongue around the head as he slid down the length taking it all in. He hummed on it as he shook his head slightly, making Holt sink his fingers into the soft blonde hair and moan as he arched his back in the straw. Holt bucked his hips a couple of times gently as he pulled down, letting out an even deeper moan. Tomlin pulled back and took a breath as he looked up at his lovers’ body. He pulled off and moved, coming up between Holt’s legs, kissing him deeply as he brought his body down on him, Holt wrapped his arms around his back coming up from under the arms, pulling him even tighter to him.
Callum opened his eyes and looked to his left, seeing Dustin and the little one wrapped together as they both slept soundly. Callum smiled briefly and slipped out of bed, reaching for his pants. He stepped into them and picked up his shirt, putting it over his head and then his arms through the sleeves, letting the shirt drop down his chest and abs. He tucked it in, picking up his stockings and boots and went to the door. He opened it quietly and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him. He went down the stairs and smelled the coffee. He walked into the kitchen and sat on the bench, putting his boots down, and started to put on his stockings. Martha was at the dry sink, putting eggs in a large bowl. She half turned and saw him sitting there and smiled in his direction. She pulled off a cup from the shelf and poured coffee from the pot and walked it over and sat it on the table. He looked at the cup and then at her, and smiled.
“Thank you, my dear.” Callum said as he finished putting on his stockings.
“You’re welcome, my boy. How did you fare last night?”
“We had a little trouble after we went off to bed.” Callum said as he slipped on a boot and stamped his foot once.
“So I heard.”
“What did you hear?”
“I heard the little lad, he seemed to be upset, and then he quieted down.” She said as she went back to her eggs.
“Yes, he said he had a bad dream.” Callum said as he slipped on the other boot and then stamped it as well.
“Did he say what it was about?” She asked as she finished with the eggs, turning and setting the basket on the table.
“He said it was about the other boys beating him.”
“You think there’s any truth in that?” She asked as Callum picked up his coffee and sipped at it.
“There must be after I saw all the bruises on him last night. Some seemed to be very fresh on him. I took him up and put him in bed with us.”
“Quintan,” She said as she looked at him shaking her head, “you will have nothing but trouble from that.”
“What do you mean?” He asked as he sipped more coffee.
“He will get it in his mind that every time there is something wrong, he will go and get into your bed. Once you let it happen, it’s hard to stop it. I know, I had terrible troubles with mine when they were little like him. I have no doubt he has had a rough time of it, but he must learn to be on his own at night. If he keeps doing that, you will have no peace at all.”
“I suppose you’re right. I am rather new at this. The young ones we have aboard ship, we call them ‘powder monkeys’, they bring the powder for the guns when we are in battle. They are looked after by the crew, and I have heard some of them talk about the young ones having a bad time at night as well. I’m not certain how they dealt with it though.” Callum said as he sipped more coffee. “One thing is for certain, I have missed your coffee.” Callum smiled and she smiled as well as she put a hand on his shoulder for a moment.
“Thank you. Well, I must go and gather the eggs. The hens keep laying more and more as they seem to be quite fond of their new roost.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. Since it was completed and they were moved in there, I have done nothing but eat eggs or give them away just to keep up with it all.” She said with a hand on her hip. Callum chuckled a bit and then stood, drinking the last of his coffee down. He set the cup on the table.
“What are you about?”
“I see that the wood box next to the stove is about empty. I shall gather some more for you.”
“It will have to be split, as the pile is near gone now.” She said as she picked up the basket.
“Well, life of a Squire, I suppose.” Callum smiled, tipping his nose up a little. She slapped his arm gently and shook her head as she went to the back door and opened it. He followed her out.
“I noticed that the pile out here against the house is also getting low. Who brings it?” Callum asked as he shut the door behind them.
“Yes. I see the owner of the mercantile about it. I tell him what I need and he has it brought up. I either stack it myself or have one of the young lads do it when they deliver it.”
“Well, as there are plenty of us about now, I will see about it from him when I go into the village this morning.” Callum said as he looked at the pile. She smiled at him and then walked toward the hens roost with her basket. Callum pulled out the broad axe from the pile, seeing the splitting block there on the flagstone. He picked up a round against the house and put it on the block and then picked up the axe and swung downward with it, splitting the round in half. He reached over and turned one half of the round and took the axe and did it again.
“Thomas, what is that noise?” Holt asked as he looked toward the open window above them. Tomlin got up off Holt and looked out the window as he lifted his head slowly. Holt got out from underneath him and came up beside him, looking up toward the house. They both saw Martha going into the pen with the hens and they could see Callum swinging the axe, splitting wood.
“They are up and doing chores.” Holt said. He turned on his knees and crawled over and started to get his clothes.
“What are you doing?” Tomlin asked as he looked over at Holt, seeing his naked butt staring at him. Tomlin smiled and put a hand to it, rubbing it. Holt turned his head and looked back at him, wrinkling up his face. “Come back here and let’s do what we were doing.”
“No, if they’re up and about and doing chores, we should help at least, don’t you think?” Holt asked as he sat in the straw and put his legs through his pantlet. Tomlin rolled his eyes and crawled over and grabbed his.
“I suppose you’re right, but, at first opportunity we’re going to do this, right where we left off.”
“Alright.” Holt said as he looked over at Tomlin as they sat in the straw together. Tomlin looked over at him and smiled. Holt leaned over and kissed him softly. “I love you very much.”
“And I love you, Christian.” Tomlin said, kissing him back softly. “So, if Quintan is splitting wood, and she is gathering eggs, what are we to do?”
“Tend to the mare. I need to take her out and water her again, and clean the straw. If Quintan goes into the village for the boy, I will have him get new straw and perhaps some grain for her.”
“Alright, we could go as well, if you’d like. I wanted to see the mercantile as well, perhaps he will have a pair of boots that I might purchase.” Tomlin said as he pulled his shirt over his head and let it drop. He stuck his arms through the sleeves and reached for his stockings, shaking them and putting them on. Holt was nearly dressed, and put his shoes on. He stood and looked out the window for a moment, seeing Martha come back out of the pen with her basket. She walked toward the house. Holt turned and went toward the mare in the end stall, as Tomlin got to his feet, tucking in his shirt.
He reached down and picked up the heavy blanket and shook it free of straw, folding it as he went. He walked it over to the doorway and set it on a wood crate. He looked over at Holt as he was with the mare, stroking her nose gently, taking her by the lead and turning her to walk her out of the stall. He smiled at Tomlin as he led the mare by him and out the door. He walked up the little trail and she whinnied as he walked around the small knoll of the house, coming around to the other side of the pump at the edge of the flagstone. Callum looked over his shoulder and set the axe down as he saw Holt and then saw Tomlin coming up the path with the blanket in his arms. Holt led the mare up to the edge of the flagstone and saw the large tub there.
“Is that alright to use for water for her?” Holt asked Callum.
“I think she uses that one for washing. I believe there is another around the corner of the house.” Callum said as he stepped forward and looked around the corner. He saw one under the kitchen window. He walked over and picked it up, bringing it back to the pump. He set it down on the flagstone. The mare snorted as Holt began to pump water for her. She put her nose down into it, letting the water splash up at her.
“She seems a little thirsty this morning.” Holt said, watching her.
“She does at that.” Callum said, standing next to Holt. He could see all the straw in Holt’s soft hair, but resisted to reach out and pull out the straw. Callum smiled softly. “Why don’t you go in and get some coffee, I can keep an eye on her for a minute.”
“Thank you, Quintan, that’s thoughtful of you.”
“Well, I know how I am without my coffee first thing in the morning,” Callum smiled. He reached over and took the lead from Holt’s hand. Holt nodded at him and walked toward the back door.
Dustin got up out of bed, as the little one woke up. Dustin could hear the soft little yawn behind him as he pulled on his pantlet. He turned and picked up his shirt, pulling it over his head, letting it drop down him, then saw the smiling little face that was sitting up in the middle of the bed. Dustin smiled back.
“Morning, sir.” The little voice said. Dustin was tucking in his shirt and buttoned up the flap of his pantlet as he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed.
“We need to have a chat, alright?” Dustin asked, and put a hand on a little leg, the little head was nodding, “Okay, first things first. My name is Dustin. I want you to call me that, alright?” The little head nodded again. “You had a bad dream last night, didn’t you?” The little head nodded again, “What was it about?”
“The older boy that lives in another alley, he used to hit me and take my things.”
“Okay, you know that’s not going to happen anymore, right? You’re safe here with us. No one is going to ever hit you again. Those things that used to happen to you will never happen again, alright?” The little head nodded again. “Now, do you want to get up?” Another nod and a smile. Dustin smiled back at him, and took his little hand in his. Henry scooted out of the bed and put his bare feet on the floor.
“Why do you have that under your shirt?”
“What, my bandage?” Dustin asked, and got another nod, “I got a little hurt while we were in London. It’s okay, and it will come off today for a little while, when we wash up.” Dustin smiled, “Let’s go downstairs and see everybody. I bet Aunt Martha is cooking breakfast right now.” Dustin smiled and shook the little hand a bit as they walked to the door. They came down the stairs and went into the kitchen. Tomlin and Holt were standing there, sipping their coffee. They smiled at Dustin as they came into the room. “See, I told you, she’s cooking breakfast. Smell it?” Again, another little nod, “Okay, get up to the table.” Dustin said as he let go of the little hand. He looked at Tomlin and Holt. “Morning, Thomas, morning, Christian,” Dustin said and walked over to her at the stove, kissing her on the cheek, “morning, my dear.”
“Morning, my boy.” She smiled back at him.
“He was splitting wood for the stove.” She turned and looked out the window, “There he is, he has the horse.” She said and Dustin looked up, seeing them out there. Dustin went to the window and looked out, smiling. Martha took a plate out and put some eggs and sausages on it and took it to the table setting it in front of the little one. She set out a fork and a knife for him and touched his little shoulder.
“Can you eat your breakfast with that knife and fork?” She asked him. He looked up at her and smiled and nodded his little head. She patted his little shoulder and looked at Tomlin and Holt, “Would you lads care for breakfast?”
“I need to go and finish looking after the mare first.” Holt smiled at her. “I’ll be a few minutes, but thank you for the coffee, my lady.” Holt bowed his head slightly and set his cup down on the table. She smiled back at him as he went to the door and went out. Dustin watched as Holt took the mare and Callum picked up the wood he had split and came to the door. Tomlin reached for the knob and turned it, opening it for him.
“Thank you, Thomas.” Callum said and came through the door, coming across the kitchen. Dustin smiled at him, and Callum winked, smiling back at him. He put the wood in the wood box next to the stove. “Will that be enough for a bit, or would you like more?”
“That should be enough for now. I want to do some baking later this morning, I’ll need more then.”
“Fine, I’ll have it done for you.” Callum said, kissing her cheek. She smiled up at him, then looked back down at the stove. “Is there anything that you require in the village?” Callum asked her.
“I think some more coffee and possibly some apples to press for juice for the little lad there.” She said and Callum looked over, seeing the little one chasing a sausage around on the plate. Callum smiled and went over to the table. He sat down on the bench next to Henry and watched him for a moment and then reached up and helped him cut the sausage.
“There, did you see how I did that?” Callum asked. He was watching and nodded. Callum handed him the fork back and touched his little back, then got up and walked over to Dustin. “Morning. Did you sleep well?” Callum asked him.
“It was extremely warm in the bed next to that little heater.”
“Yes, I felt it as well.” Callum smiled and then looked at Tomlin, “And how was your night, Thomas? Did you enjoy the stable?”
“Very much.” Tomlin said, blushing slightly as he drank the last of his coffee, “Thank you for the blanket, by the way.” Tomlin smiled, Callum nodded slightly and looked at Dustin out of the corner of his eye.
“You have, uh,…a bit of straw…” Callum said and pointed his finger up to his own hair. Tomlin went wide eyed and set his cup down on the table.
“I’ll go and just brush it out.” Tomlin said and reached for the door again. He opened it and went outside. Callum chuckled, and Dustin smacked him in the butt, and frowned at him.
“What?” Callum asked softly.
“Don’t tease them.” Dustin said and then smiled. Callum gave him a puzzled look in return. “Bad, you’re so very bad.” Dustin said and walked toward the stove. “Would you care for water for the stove?”
“I was just thinking about that, yes. But don’t you get it with that arm of yours.” Martha gave him that look, Dustin rolled his eyes and reached for a cup. He poured coffee for himself as she turned and looked at Callum, “Would you get some water for me to heat, Quintan?”
“Oh course, my dear.” Callum said and looked at Dustin as he walked to the table and sat down next to Henry. Callum grabbed the large pot and walked toward the back door with it. He went out as Dustin was watching Henry finish the last of his breakfast. Tomlin opened the door and came back into the kitchen.
“Would you like more coffee, Thomas?” Dustin asked him.
“I can get it, Dustin, thank you.” Tomlin said as he picked up his cup off the table. He went to the stove, picking up the pot and poured coffee.
“I have breakfast for you.” Martha said, holding a plate in her hand.
“Why, thank you, ma’am.”
“Thomas.” He smiled back at her.
“Yes, I know. I think we can get past all of this politeness that we’re all doing.” She said.
“I know what you mean,” Tomlin said as he leaned close to her, “I feel like we’re all walking around on eggshells.” She smiled up at him and put a hand on his upper arm.
“I feel exactly the same way.”
“Well, if this was a ship, I would say that you’re in command and should be giving the orders.” Tomlin said and looked over at Dustin.
“With this crew, that we have here, I think you might be right.” She said, patting his arm, “Now, go and sit down.” She smiled and Tomlin nodded. He went over to the table, going around the backside and sat down. Dustin saw that Henry was done and picked up his plate and silverware, taking them to the sink. Martha watched him set them in the sink and then looked at Dustin. “I think we should start to teach him to do that for himself.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” Dustin said softly to her.
“He needs to learn.” She said as she looked over at the table as the little one sat there on his knees.
“Perhaps you’re right.” Dustin smiled seeing him sitting there, watching Tomlin start to eat. Tomlin was looking at him out of the corner of his eye now and again. Dustin chuckled a bit as he went to the table and Callum came back in through the door. He closed it with his foot and carried the water over and set it up on the stove.
“You know, I was thinking,” Callum said, “there must be a way to get the water into the house, like we do aboard the ship, to get the water out.”
“You mean like the bilge pumps, Quintan?” Tomlin asked as he looked up.
“Exactly,” Callum said, “only in reverse, to pump the water in. I was trying to think about when I was a boy,..I don’t remember my mother going outside to pump water when the snows came. I know it gets bitterly cold out there, and the pump certainly must freeze.”
“Oh, it does, when it’s cold enough. We pump enough water out and put it in a cask so there is always some here in the house.” Martha said. “The pump froze over winter before last actually. There was no water for a few days.”
“If there was a way to get the water here to the sink, with a pump placed here…” Callum said quietly as he pointed to the right side of the sink, thinking more about it.
“How would you get the water out of the sink though?” Martha asked.
“I’m not sure,…yet. But it would make life a little simpler for you, wouldn’t it?” Callum asked her.
“Yes, it certainly would, to have water here inside the house.” Martha nodded toward him.
“I’ll figure it out, and we can see about it.” Callum said, looking at the sink.
“Is it that you’re already tired of carrying water?” Martha asked with a bit of a smirk.
“Well, there are some things a Squire just shouldn’t have to do.” Callum said as he struck his pose. Everyone laughed, except Henry, who didn’t understand, but he smiled anyway.
“Oh, Quintan, you are truly a scamp.” Martha said as she slapped his upper arm gently, then turned back to the stove. Callum broke his pose as Holt walked back in the door, seeing everyone had smiles on their faces. Holt knew that he had missed something.
“The Squire there was making a jest.” Dustin said as he nodded in Callum’s direction at the sink.
“Is everything ready, Eddington?” Fitzwarren asked. He looked at the young officer as he put a hand on his hip, pushing his tunic back.
“Yes, My Lord.” Eddington bowed his head slightly, “The sloop is ready for sailing.”
“You understand your orders?”
“Clearly, My Lord.” Eddington said, “The Marines should be ready to board by this time tomorrow. Lieutenant Morris is waiting aboard the sloop as we speak making final preparations with the crew, My Lord.”
“Very good, Eddington. There is another matter I wish to discuss with you.” Fitzwarren turned and sat down in a chair at the head of the long table. “Have a seat, Eddington.” Eddington nodded and pulled out a chair. “I know that you have wished to go to sea and when you were granted that transfer, it was under an experienced officer that could handle a frigate. With the recent developments of the past few days, I seem to be a little short of a commander.” Fitzwarren said as he rested his arms on his elbows on the arms of the chair. He put his fingertips to each other. “Do you understand what I am saying?”
“I,…am not quite sure, My Lord.” Eddington said with a questioning look.
“I am giving you the Dover once your mission is completed. The officers assigned will remain as such. Once you return from your current mission, you will proceed to Portsmouth and see to the refit, have her outfitted and manned. I will send orders to those officers that they are to report upon your return.”
“I appreciate this, My Lord, but I am wondering, wouldn’t a much more experienced officer, such as Mr. Tomlin, be more capable to command?”
“I assume that Tomlin is still with Callum, or at least nearby to him.” Fitzwarren said and paused for a moment. He looked directly at Eddington with an almost glare, “Tomlin can assume the duties as your first. I don’t trust in the fact that he was so close to Callum, to possibly follow Callum’s lead, and his manner. Do you not think you as being capable of assuming command?”
“I am overwhelmed in your confidence in me, My Lord. I will do my best to not let you down in that confidence.”
“Very well, Eddington, proceed with current your mission, send reports back as you can. The Corsair and the Tarkington will be sailing in two days’ time to support you. Do not falter. The plan that Callum gave is sound, that’s why I’m using it, even though the time table is not right yet, as you know. I think that this madman will not be able to resist the temptation.” Fitzwarren said. Eddington stood, bowing toward Fitzwarren. “Good luck, Eddington.”
“Thank you, My Lord.” Eddington said. He turned and walked to the door and left, leaving Fitzwarren sitting at the table.
Eddington went down the stairs, several officers were at the bottom waiting for him. He knew most of them, and looked them all over carefully as he came down and stopped a couple of steps above the floor.
“What did he say, Mr. Eddington?” Collingwood asked as he put a hand on the railing.
“Gentlemen, I am taking the sloop and setting out after this…monster in the Channel. Once I return from this mission, I have been given command of the Dover.” Eddington said and all eyes went wide. Eddington saw Summers and Talon near the rear of the group. Talon looked down toward the floor, not knowing what to do now. He looked over at Summers giving him a side glance only. Summers pulled himself together as Eddington came through the group to stand in front of them both.
“Mr. Summers, Mr. Talon, I know how you must feel, however, orders are orders, and as Callum himself said, we are to carry out our duty.”
“Yes, sir.” They both said together, their heads still down a little.
“I know what he means to both of you, I can take over for him, but I could never replace him, nor would I even try.” Eddington said softly to them both. “You will be receiving orders when to report after I return from this current mission.”
“What of Mr. Tomlin, sir?” Summers asked.
“Mr. Tomlin will act as my first. Orders will be sent to him as well.” Eddington said.
“Understood, sir.” Summers said, nodding.
“I must be off. I have several things to do before we sail in the morning.” Eddington said, and then looked around at the group, “Go about your duties everyone.” He received nods from everyone and the group broke up. Summers and Talon walked to the front doors together, they walked out of the Admiralty together and stood on the street edge. Summers reached out and put his hand on Talon’s arm, stopping him.
“Darin, you know how the service works, come on man, pull yourself out of it.” Summers said. Talon looked up at him with a bit of a glare.
“That’s his ship, and they give it to him? Can they seriously think that he can sail Dover? You know that he has barely been to sea. You should know, you were with him when the Captain had him bring back the captured sloop.”
“Yes, you’re right, Darin, he did have a bit of trouble and I did have to help him quite a bit, but he will do fine as a commander. Besides, the Captain is gone, what else can we do?”
“He has been barely gone and they’re sweeping it under the rug as if he never existed at all.”
“You know why, Darin, don’t do this to yourself. We must follow our orders.”
“Oh, I’ll follow my orders alright, Cary, but I don’t have to like it.” Talon said and walked away from him, walking down the street with his head down.
“I have your breakfast just about ready.” Martha said as she plated some more eggs and some sausage. She handed it over to Callum, he took it and walked over to the table and set it down.
“Here you are, Christian.” Callum smiled.
“Thank you, Quintan. What about you?”
“I don’t think I’m very hungry this morning actually. I have a few things on my mind to figure out.” Callum said and turned back to the stove. He walked up as Martha plated more, Callum taking it and walked it over to Dustin, setting it before him on the table, “There you are, my love.” Callum said with a smile.
“You’re not eating?” Dustin asked.
“No, I have a few other things to take care of first.” Callum said and reached down and picked up the little one, and held him up in front of him, “Like this little one. He needs a bath.” Callum smiled and then chuckled seeing the look on the little face, one of shock. “You will survive it, Henry, believe me.” Callum said as he pulled him to him, resting him on his hip. Everyone was looking at the two of them as Martha walked up to the table with a plate. She sat down at the table and started to eat herself. “Let’s check the water first, see if it’s warm enough for you.”
“You should give a few minutes more on the stove, Quintan, then you can add some more from the pump to fill the tub.” Martha said.
“Right you are, my dear.” Callum said as he stuck a finger in to feel the temperature in the pot, it was barely warm. “Alright, Henry, let’s go and get your clothes out of the parlor.” They walked out of the room, Callum still carrying him on his hip.
“He certainly is taken with him.” Martha said softly. Dustin smiled as he picked at his plate.
“Yes, he seems to be. I never saw him like this with the little ones we had aboard ship.”
“Indeed.” Tomlin said softly, “He never even gave them a second glance.”
“He spoke of it to me last evening.” Martha said, “I had no idea that there were children aboard ship.”
“Yes, ‘powder monkeys’.” Tomlin said, “They are also known as ‘son of a gun’, as some of the crew might actually be their fathers out of wedlock as it were.”
“Surely you jest.” Martha said, as she looked at Tomlin.
“No, actually I’m not. I don’t care for the practice of it, when we are in port, letting those…women come aboard like that.” Tomlin realized that what he was saying to her, a lady, and stopped talking about it, wishing he had never said anything about it at all, seeing the look on her face as one of almost shock. “I apologize for speaking of it.” Tomlin said and lowered his head slightly as Callum and Henry came back in the room. He set Henry on the bench next to Dustin, and carried the clothes over to the back door.
“Are you going to wash those as well?” Martha asked.
“Well, I had given it a thought, but they should probably be just burned instead.” Callum said as he looked down at them.
“He won’t have anything to wear into the village if you wash them. They will need to dry.” Dustin said.
“Quite true,” Callum said, “I think I’ll just take them out and get them ready to put back on him for now.” Callum opened the door as Henry got close to Dustin’s ear, whispering something to him. Dustin nodded and got up from the bench, nodding his head toward the direction of the door, leading Henry out of the kitchen. Holt and Tomlin just looked after them as the door closed.
“The little one probably needs to use the privy.” Martha said, they both just nodded their understanding. She finished her breakfast and stood up from the table, starting to pick up plates. Holt stood as well, but she looked at him. Tomlin stood as well.
“May I be of service, Martha?” Tomlin asked. She smiled out of the corner of her mouth. “I used to have to help when I was at home myself. I would like to do something, if you don’t mind.” Tomlin smiled softly.
“Well, if you insist.”
“Thank you.” Tomlin said and gathered plates with her. They went to the dry sink together and set about with the dishes.
“Well, I suppose I’ll go and deal with the mare again. I’ll let her graze a bit.” Holt said as he went out the door as Callum carried in more wood. Holt let him by and then went out.
“There seems to be quite a bit of activity going on.” Callum said as he put the wood in the wood box.
“Indeed there is.” Martha said, “Thomas wishes to help with dishes, and you are splitting and carrying wood, your other lad is seeing to the horse, and I seem to be free to do other things.” Callum chuckled as he listened to her.
“It seems as if we were preparing for a battle.” Callum said as he wiped his hands over the wood box and leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
“I think you might have one on your hands when you give that little one a bath.” She said as she watched out the window as Dustin was leading the little one back toward the house.
“Oh, I’ll think he’ll be alright.” Callum said, “I’ll keep him under control.”
“I think I would give a shilling to see that.” She smiled, giving him a side glance. Callum chuckled as he went back to the door and opened it as Dustin and Henry came up to it.
“I’ll get the tub ready.” Callum said, looking at them both. He turned and looked back at Martha. “Didn’t you say something about his hair last evening?”
“Yes, I did.” She said, turning and reaching up on a shelf, pulling off a pair of scissors. The little eyes went wide. Dustin looked down and put a hand around the little shoulders. Dustin leaned down a little toward him.
“She wants to cut your hair. It won’t hurt at all, I promise.” Dustin said seeing the fear in his little eyes, Dustin looked at Martha, “You know, if I may ask, I could use a bit of a trim myself.” Dustin flashed his eyes toward her.
“I would be more than happy to cut yours as well, my boy. Perhaps we should do yours first so the little lad can see it won’t hurt him.” She smiled softly.
“Yes, that might be best.” Dustin said and then looked at Henry, “See, I’m not afraid.” Dustin smiled at him. The little eyes could not stop looking at the scissors. “I’ll be right there with you.” Dustin said and the little eyes looked at him.
“I should give all of you a trimming while I’m at it.” She said as she reached over and touched Tomlin’s pony tail as he was washing dishes. “I might get enough hair to stuff into a pad of a chair.” She chuckled herself as Tomlin looked over his shoulder smiling.
“Christian has a few locks that keep falling into his eyes when he bends forward.” Tomlin said.
“Then we can form a line and I can take care of you one at a time. I’ll just go and gather that brush and comb.” She said and walked off. Callum came to the door and walked to the stove, checking the water, it was hot. He picked it up using a couple of small cloths and walked to the door with it. Dustin stood and looked at him.
“Would you get that cake of soap and another cloth for me?” Callum asked. Dustin nodded and walked over to the dry sink, smiling at Tomlin.
“This should be interesting.” Tomlin said in a whisper.
“I think you’re right.” Dustin whispered back. He took the cake of soap and a cloth used for washing and headed for the back door. He went out and saw Callum rolling up his sleeves as Henry was standing next to him. Dustin stopped seeing the two of them together as he thought to himself that they seemed so natural together like this, Callum kneeling down, pouring water into the tub, Henry beside him with a little hand on Callum’s shoulder, standing there as he still wore Dustin’s shirt as a night gown. Dustin couldn’t help but smile wide and be warmed seeing the love of his life like this.