Callum turned as he was knelt down on the flagstone, with little Henry standing next to him. He looked into the little face with a soft smile, seeing the bright brown eyes looking back at him, so big and shiny, Callum reached up and put his hands on the little shoulders.
“Now, we’re going to get you cleaned up, and then dried off. Aunt Martha is going to trim up this mess of hair that you have and then we’ll go off to the village and get you some new clothes to wear. Alright?” Callum asked as he squeezed the little one a bit. He was given a small nod in reply. Callum reached down and took Dustin’s shirt off the little body and then picked him up and set him in the tub as Dustin walked up with the soap cake and the cloth to wash with. Callum had the little body sit down in the water and took the cloth and the soap from Dustin. Callum set about washing him gently, getting all of the grit and grime off him from all the time of being neglected. Callum was careful of his little bruises and welts on him, not wanting to hurt him. The bath went well and Callum took water and wet the little head of hair and then began to soap it up, washing it carefully.
Martha came out with a stool that was kept in the kitchen and set it on the flagstone. She looked over and saw the bath that was going on and smiled seeing the little one sitting still as Callum scrubbed the hair down. She stepped up near Dustin and looked at him.
“You want to go first with your hair?” She asked Dustin. He looked at her and nodded.
“Yes, should we wait until he can watch and see it doesn’t hurt?”
“Yes. I don’t see anything to dry him with.” She said, and then leaned toward Dustin a little, “I have a large cloth under the dry sink. Would you go and fetch that?” She asked, Dustin nodded and went back for the house. “He seems to be enjoying that very much, Quintan.”
“Yes, it does seem that way.” Callum said as he stared at the little face, “You like this, Henry?” Callum asked, the little eyes just looked up at him with silence. “You’ll feel better when I’m done.” Callum smiled, “You know, I do this to myself now and then. It makes you feel better when you’re clean.”
“If you say so, sir.” The little voice said as he looked down at the brown soapy water.
“I do.” Callum smiled, “Perhaps when it’s my time, you can help wash my back and my hair.”
“Maybe.” The little voice said without looking up. Callum chuckled. He started to rinse the hair out, and checked to make sure the hair was clean. He had Henry stand up, washing him below and then Callum heard a soft gasp from behind him. Callum looked over his shoulder as Martha saw all of the bruises and the welts on the little body. She was wide eyed seeing them. Callum gave her a soft nod of understanding. She turned and went back to the stool as Dustin came back with the large cloth. Callum picked up the little body after he rinsed him off and set him on a piece of flagstone. He took the cloth from Dustin and began to dry the little one off. Callum was gentle with him, and then had him get into his breeches. Callum looked at Martha.
“Leave him without a shirt, I can cover him with the cloth when I do his hair. Dustin, are you ready?” She asked, Dustin went over and sat down on the stool. Martha undid the ribbon in his hair and then went after him with a brush, brushing his soft brown hair out. Henry watched as she did it, and then how she used the scissors on the hair, letting the hair drop away to the ground. It wasn’t long and Dustin was done and she retied the ribbon with a pony tail. Tomlin came out on the flagstone as well now and leaned against the wall of the house watching.
“Alright, Henry, it’s your turn.” Callum said. He picked the little one up and set him on the stool. She covered his shoulders with the cloth and started to brush his hair out, taking her time with the knots that she found. He sat in silence and would look up now and then as she went along in his hair. She changed from using the brush to a comb, combing out the long locks and started in with the scissors. She was letting the long hair drop to the flagstone when Bockman and his two workers came round the corner of the house. Callum turned as he had heard them, and he smiled as did Bockman seeing Callum. He reached out a hand.
“Captain, you have returned home!”
“Yes, Mr. Bockman. Good to see you again.” Callum said as their hands clasped firmly, “I’m glad that you’re here, I needed to talk to you this morning.”
Bockman looked at the little one on the stool that was getting his hair cut, and Dustin brushing hair off himself, and saw Tomlin standing there as well leaning against the wall. Bockman nodded to them all, and looked back at Callum.
“Is there something wrong, sir?”
“On the contrary, everything is perfect. You and your workers have done a simply wonderful job with everything. No, what I wanted to talk to you about is our new little one here, actually.” Callum said as he nodded toward Henry, “He has come to live here with us, and I know that you have already started on my new request for the addition, but I find that request was given to you before we had him in our charge. As he is now a permanent member to our family, I feel that he should have a room of his very own to grow into, so to speak.”
“I see.” Bockman said, looking a little shocked, “May I ask, sir, are there going to be any other changes in the near future?” Callum laughed out loud and then looked at Bockman.
“A sensible question to be sure, my good man, and I certainly don’t blame you for asking it as I keep mounting things up on you, don’t I?” Callum chuckled, as Bockman hadn’t lost the look yet, “Do you think you’re game for it?”
“I suppose, sir, I mean, what’s another room? We could actually put it next to the one we started yesterday.”
“That’s the spirit!” Callum said as he put a hand on Bockman’s shoulder, patting him, “I am told you say it was about three hundred for the one room?” Bockman nodded in reply, “Well, I’ll triple it for the addition of the second, provided that it agrees with you and your workers and you can get it started. What say you?” Callum asked.
“Nine? Sir,…I…” Bockman said with wide eyes.
“Come, come man, speak up.” Callum teased him slightly, “I know it seems that I am having you make a career of this house, however,…”
“No, sir, it’s not that,…it’s…” Bockman said as he looked back at his workers, who were wide eyed, knowing the amount of money that they were about to make.
“You have another engagement?”
“No, sir, oh nothing like that of the kind, it’s just,…well, it’s just the amount, sir, it’s just too much.”
“Nonsense, you do an excellent job, and I said everything is perfect in what you have accomplished, I couldn’t ask for more. As far as the price, I suggested it, and I feel it’s fair to offer it to you, if you would agree.”
“Of course we agree, sir. I would not even think of turning something like this down.”
“Excellent.” Callum said, and then he looked back at Henry on the stool, “You hear that, my lad, you get your very own room as I said you would.” Callum smiled. Henry looked at him as another long lock of hair dropped by his eyes. Callum chuckled again, then looked back at Bockman. “Now that that’s settled, what can we do?”
“Yes, I’d like to help out, if that’s possible?”
“Well, I,…” Bockman said, “We’ll have to see about doing that with you, sir.”
“Excellent, since I’m going to be here from now on, perhaps learning about a new trade might benefit me.”
“I beg your pardon, sir?”
“Yes, I am not in the service of His Majesty’s Navy any longer.” Callum smiled, “I am taking up the life of a man of the country now.” Bockman’s mouth fell open. “I assure you, I am quite fine with it all.”
“As you say, sir.” Bockman said, giving him a nod, “Well I suppose we should get a start on it. I have timbers and the floor being brought this morning. I should go and see the millwright however to order more now.”
“Will you require more money for that?” Callum asked.
“I should think not right away, sir.” Bockman said as he looked down at the flagstone for a moment, Callum knowing of his pride in asking.
“Well, you let me know when you do, it is of no consequence.” Callum nodded. Bockman nodded in reply, and they walked off to start their work. Callum turned and looked at his group, seeing Martha combing out Henry’s hair more. She had made it look like the style she had done for Dustin. Callum smiled seeing him sitting there looking like that. “My goodness, you look like a completely different boy now.” Callum smiled. He stepped over and looked at Martha. “Are you putting his hair into a tail as well?”
“I would, but I have no ribbon to tie it up with.” She said as she was working the long tail in her fingers.
“Here,” Callum said as he stepped forward, reaching up and untying his own, he shook his head out a little, sending his hair all about his shoulders, and held out his long ribbon to her, “snip a little off of this and use it on him.” Callum said. She took it and cut some off the long ribbon and handed the rest back to him. She trussed up his tail again and tied it off. “Now, you are certainly set.” Callum said as he leaned down getting close to Henry’s little face, “Indeed you are, my boy. Now all we need are new clothes for you and you will be complete.” Callum smiled and Henry had not changed his expression once yet, “Why the long face?”
“I don’t know what I look like, sir.”
“Well, we can fix that, can’t we?” Callum asked Martha. She smiled and turned, picking up the small looking glass that Callum had gotten for her when he was home last. She handed it to him and he held it up in front of the little face. Henry looked at himself, never seeing his own face before other than reflection from a window front, and now the way that he looked, he smiled and showed little dimples and then looked at Callum. “Now, you seem to like it.”
“Yes, thank you.” The little voice said.
“Don’t thank me, you should thank Aunt Martha.” Callum said, lifting an eyebrow. He turned his little head around and looked at her.
“Thank you.” He said and smiled up at her. Her heart melted, and she smiled warmly down at him.
“You’re welcome, my lad.” She leaned down and kissed him gently on the forehead. He blushed when she did that. She straightened, and looked at Callum and Dustin shaking her head, “Another charmer, what’s an old woman to do with all these handsome young men about her?” She turned and looked at Tomlin, “Are you next Thomas?”
“Unless you would like to be, Quintan?” Tomlin asked as he stood away from the wall.
“No, you can go ahead, Thomas, I will follow after you.” Callum smiled, reaching for the cloth about Henry’s shoulders. He pulled it off, handing it to her, and then lifted the little one off the stool and set him down on the flagstone, “Let’s finish getting you dressed, Henry.” Callum led him back over near the tub and picked up the little shirt, helping put it on him. He worked his little hands through the sleeves and then started to try and tuck it into his breeches, Callum smiled at watching him, seeing how independent he could be if given the chance. Callum stood up in front of him as he took his little stockings and sat on the flagstone, pulling them on his little feet. “Your shoes are a little tight, aren’t they?” Callum asked. The little face looked up at him, nodding.
“I can do it, if I curl up my toes.” He said, almost breaking Callum’s heart hearing him. Callum shook his head.
“We’ll get you new shoes as well in the village.” Callum said and then looked over at Dustin.
“I’m sure he can barely walk in those.” Callum whispered as they both watched Henry work the buckled shoes that looked like they were falling apart anyway. “I’m going to go up and collect my purse. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll go with you, I need to have a word with you anyway, in private.” Dustin said. Callum looked at him, as Dustin had never said anything like that to him before, it caught by surprise, Dustin looked back at Henry, “Henry, we’ll be right back. You wait out here, alright?”
“Can I go and see the horse?”
“Certainly, you can.” Dustin said, as he looked up seeing Holt leading the horse about in the grass letting her graze. He smiled back down at Henry, then walked away with Callum.
“What did you wish to speak of?” Callum asked as they entered the bedroom. Dustin grabbed Callum by the arm, pulling him, making him spin around. Dustin reached up and grabbed his face with both hands and kissed him, intensely. Callum loved it when Dustin was forceful with him, and he was melting into the kiss, Dustin getting closer to him, and slowly wrapped his arms around Callum’s shoulders, working his long hair out of the way. Callum slid his own hands around Dustin’s thin waist and then around his back, pulling him in even tighter as their tongues fought with one another. Callum was breathing through his nose and Dustin moaned in his mouth. Callum could feel Dustin start to pull back and he opened his eyes.
“I have so wanted to do that all morning long.” Dustin said as he went eye to eye with Callum.
“Well, you certainly caught me by surprise, and it was quite wonderful.”
“There is something that we started last night and I so want to finish it.” Dustin said as his eyes went back and forth looking Callum’s, “Take me right now, Quintan. I have to have you.” Dustin said and kissed Callum again, deeply. Callum moaned at the feeling, but pulled back.
“Tonight, I promise,” Callum said as he caught his breath, “perhaps we should take our turn out in the stable tonight and let Thomas and Christian take the bed once again.”
“Oooh, now there’s an idea.” Dustin smiled, “No hens to keep awake, only the mare. I’m sure she didn’t mind their company last night.” Dustin wiggled his eyebrows as he ground his crotch against Callum’s, making him smile.
“I’m certain you’re right in that.” Callum said and kissed Dustin softly, “We should talk to them about it first, and see if they are good with it.”
“Well, I’m sure that if the Squire were to make it an order,…”
“This Squire is done with giving orders, unless it’s to order you to open your legs.” Callum smiled a devilish smile and then kissed Dustin softly, “An order that I would happily give.”
“Is that the way of it now?” Dustin grinned back, “You know you never have to order me to do that. Take me now, Quintan, we have a few minutes, everyone is outside.”
“No, I don’t want just a few stolen minutes. I want to enjoy you for hours, taking you over and over, making you beg for me to stop.”
“I love the sound of that, like our first night together.” Dustin said and kissed him softly again, “But, tonight, I don’t think I’m going to beg for you to stop. We are almost whole again, out of our bandages and stitches. I have you all to myself, and I will ravage you over and over myself.”
“That sounds like true heaven to me. It has been a while since we have done that as well.”
“As you said, as you’re going to be here from now on, I think we might trade off with each other, one night you, the next night me.”
“Another outstanding idea.” Callum smiled that devilish smile again, “This life in the country is going to get better and better with every single day, until we are too old and frail to touch one another.”
“That will never happen, my love,” Dustin said softly, “I will always find a way to have you take me. I so love it when you do,” Dustin said softly as he wiggled his narrow hips, “and crave it even more.”
“Hmmm, I think you have become somewhat of a fiend.” Callum narrowed his eyes, “But, I think I like that as well.”
“We’re home, and I am going to enjoy you for the rest of my life.”
“Music to my ears.” Callum said and kissed Dustin softly. “I so love you, Dustin.”
“Not nearly as much as I love you.” Dustin smiled wide. They kissed softly and Dustin let go as did Callum. He walked over and opened the trunk and pulled out his purse, putting it in his pants pocket. Dustin went to the bed and started to make it. Callum set the lid down on the trunk and went and helped make up the bed.
“Perhaps we should put a bed out in the stable for those times when we wish to be truly alone out of the house?” Callum asked.
“No, I like the straw and the way it feels when you lay me in it.” Dustin wiggled his eyebrows as they finished the bed.
“You certainly can be a bit of a devil, can’t you?”
“You bring the devil out in me.” Dustin smiled and came round the bed, reaching out his hand. Callum took it in his and they walked to the door together.
Martha was done with Tomlin’s hair, and was brushing off his shoulders. She was tying up his tail when Callum and Dustin walked out of the house and joined them on the flagstone. Martha looked at Callum and reached out and touched his long hair.
“It wasn’t that long ago when I cut this for you.” She said, feeling the hair in her fingers, “You have your mothers’ hair.”
“You think so?” Callum asked as he looked at her.
“Yes, it was this color and softness all her life.”
“I remember a little bit about her hair.” He smiled as Tomlin got off the stool and Callum went to sit down on it. “She always kept it up.”
“That’s right, she curled it above her head and pinned it behind her. I have her hair saved actually, up in my room.” Martha said.
“Really, I didn’t know that.” Callum said as she put the cloth around his shoulders. She set about it with a brush first, going slow as she remembered several things about her sister, about Callum, and her own children, as well. Callum sat still as she about cutting away at the ends of his long hair.
“You wish to keep the length?” She asked as Tomlin and Dustin walked off to go join Holt and Henry.
“Yes, I think so. Don’t you?”
“Yes, it’s very pretty when it’s long like this, and it curls on the ends on its own.” She smiled, “I was wondering, how long your lads are going to be staying with us?”
“Tired of them already?” Callum asked.
“No, not in the least, especially that one, Christian. He reminds me so much of your cousin, pretty in the way that he was when he was alive.”
“Something else I didn’t know,” Callum said as he turned his head to try and look over his shoulder at her, she put her fingers on his head and turned him back, “so that’s why you look at him the way you do.” She tapped him on the shoulder with the brush head. Callum chuckled. “He is rather pretty, isn’t he?”
“Yes, he is.” She said, “And very sweet in his manner. He has had a hard time of it, I was told.”
“They told you of that?”
“Yes, when they arrived that evening before you did. I think they told me everything, except about Thomas. Does he have family?”
“Yes, in Norfolk, his mother.” Callum said, “I have heard Thomas speak of her, but there is something between them I think. He was not looking forward to going home when we put into port. He seemed to drag his feet about it, and now, I am rather glad of it actually.”
“He was been of great assistance to myself and Dustin, in what we went through. And I actually owe my life to him several times over before and after sailing back for home. He saved me and the ship. I count him as one of my closest friends, and as I said, as family.”
“I like him very much as well. You choose your friends very well, Quintan.” She said as she finished with his hair and tied his tail behind him. “There,” she said as she took the cloth off him, “a fine looking Squire you make.” She smiled at him. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, “Now, go and send him up to me, if he wishes to have his done as well.” She smiled as she shook off the hair on the cloth onto the flagstone. Callum walked toward the group down near the stone fence. He reached them and put and arm about Dustin’s shoulders, looking at Holt.
“Would you care to have your locks trimmed as well?” Callum asked, “She’s waiting for you, if you want.”
“I don’t wish to be of any trouble for her.”
“It is no trouble, I assure you, she rather enjoys all of the attentions that she is putting toward all of us, believe me.” Callum smiled, “The sooner you get this done, the sooner we can go off to the village.”
“Well, if you think I should.”
“I have noticed it falling over your eyes, Christian, perhaps she could shorten it a bit for you.” Tomlin said as he reached up and touched it. Holt looked at him with a curious look. “I mean, it’s fine, and I love it the way that it is.”
“Alright, Thomas,” Holt smiled and put hand a hand to his chin, cupping it, “I’ll go.” Holt said and handed the lead over to Dustin. He walked away from the group, Tomlin watched him as he walked up the knoll toward the house. Callum knelt in front of Henry, and the little one was all smiles.
“You seem to be very happy, Henry.” Callum said as he clutched a little bit of the little shirt. Callum got a big smile in reply and then Henry threw his arms around Callum’s neck. “I guess you are.” Callum said as he put his arms around the little one. The little head pulled back and gave Callum a kiss on the cheek. “What was that for?”
“For helping me. For giving me a home.” The little voice said and then hugged him again. Callum smiled wide and pat the little back in his arms as the hug tightened.
“You’re very welcome, Henry, very welcome indeed.” Callum said.
They all walked into the village, Callum carried the little one up on his shoulders as the little feet were having problems in the too small sized shoes. Callum was more than happy to carry him, and was actually enjoying the exercise of it as they walked into the village. They walked into the square and around the open merchants to the mercantile on the far side. The group drew several looks from those of the village. Callum recognized a few of them and nodded to some of the older men, some of them retired sailors, as they reached the front of the large store. Callum took Henry off his shoulders and set him down, holding his hand, and Henry was a little nervous about going inside at first. Callum looked down at him and leaned down close to his ear.
“You need not worry, Henry, there is no one that is going to hurt you here. We are going inside to get you things, the shopkeeper will actually be happy to see you. Now, come.” Callum smiled and the little one stayed close to him, not letting go of his hand.
“Good morning, gentlemen.” An older man said, coming up to them. He wore an apron in front of him as he bowed his head slightly toward them. “May I be of service?”
“Yes, my good man. My name is Callum.”
“Of Callum’s Cross?” The older man asked with wide eyes. Callum nodded in answer.
“Yes, that’s right. I need to see about outfitting my young lad here, new shoes, breeches, shirts, everything. He has come to live with us and I think it is beyond time that he had something new to wear.”
“I agree, sir, yes I definitely agree.” The older man said as he looked Henry up and down, “If you will come this way, I have several things to choose from for him.” He led Callum and Henry over to a group of tables. Callum picked up a shirt and turned with it, holding it in front of Henry, seeing the size.
“Yes, this will do for a start,” Callum said and Henry was looking at what was in his hand, “and shoes?”
“Over here, sir.” The man stepped over to a shelved cabinet, he looked at Henry’s feet and picked a pair off a shelf. He handed one to Henry.
“Try it on for size, Henry.” Callum said. Henry took the new shoe and sat on the floor with it. Callum took the shirt and put it over his shoulder, and then knelt down to help the boy. He got the old one off then helped put the new one on. “Now, stand up.” Callum looked at him, and Henry was clenching his teeth a little. “Too tight?” Callum got a nod in answer, “In the toes,” A big nod in reply, “Let me have it.” Callum said and handed the shoe back to the man, who found a larger pair, handing one to Callum, He helped get it on the foot, “Now, they’re new, they may be a little stiff.” Henry looked down at it. “Feel alright?” A quick amount of nods were given and a smile. “Good.” Callum said, turning to look at the man, taking the other shoe from him, Callum put it on the other foot. “Now, you walk around in those for a while and we’ll make sure about them.” Callum smiled at him, “Go find Dustin while I get you some other things.” Callum said and Henry walked about in search for Dustin.
“You’re son, sir?”
“As close as there will be.” Callum said, turning to look at the man, “His mother died a couple of years ago, and left him on the streets to fend for himself. I seemed to have adopted him.”
“A very wonderful thing, sir.”
“Thank you. A little lost soul in need of help. So, I shall be needing quite a few things for him beyond the clothes. Something to put the clothes into, to keep them, a bed, and just about anything that you could think of or suggest. Do you have children yourself?”
“I actually have grandchildren, sir, quite a few I might add.” The shopkeeper rolled his eyes.
“Ah, well, I certainly have met the right person to guide me then.”
“I will do my best, sir.”
After quite a bit of time, selections were made and tallied for the little one and his needs. Callum was actually purchasing two beds, one for Henry, one for the spare room, or for Martha if she so wished a new one. Callum purchased a small chest of drawers as well for Henry’s bounty of new clothes. Everything was tallied and bundled. Callum took a few of the things with them, but asked if the rest could be held and they would make arrangements with Owen to have it loaded in a cart to be brought over. The older man agreed and was paid for everything. His eyes were wide seeing the amount of money and thanked Callum over and over for not wanting to set up a line of credit.
They went over to see Owen at his father’s freight company, the large livery up from the mercantile. Owen was more than happy to see Callum, giving him a big hug and then was introduced to Henry. Owen remarked about how the boy looked like a miniature Dustin and Callum chuckled over it. Callum asked about the use of the cart for hauling all the things from the mercantile for Henry and Owen said it was more than fine, he would see to it right away.
Dustin was gushing over the new mare that Callum had given him. Owen said he would love to see her, and Holt was looking over the new stallion that was in the stall. He was calmed a little by Holt standing with him, and Owen was surprised by it. Dustin and Owen were talking together about possibly one day coupling them to produce a foal. Owen put his arm around Dustin’s shoulder and rested his head against his, joking that they would make such wonderful grandparents to a new foal. Dustin laughed over it, hanging onto Owen as well, and they were all having a wonderful time about it. The group did not see that there were eyes that were watching them, eyes that were becoming enraged with jealousy.
Owen told Callum where he could purchase grain, hay, and straw for the mare, and he and Henry set off to see about it and the mill at the other end of town, leaving the group. Tomlin and Holt said they were going to go back to the mercantile to get a few things for Holt, shaking Owen’s hand as they left shortly after Callum, leaving Dustin with Owen and the stallion. Owen and Dustin continued to talk of horses with one another. Owen brought Dustin into the stall and started to teach him about different things regarding horses, what they really needed, didn’t need and so on. Dustin took in every word that Owen was saying about it, and lost track of time. Owen went to get the cart ready and Dustin went to go out to set off to the mercantile when he was grabbed and then slammed against the rock wall of the livery.
Dustin had the wind knocked out of him as the sneering face got close to him, shoving him again into the wall. Dustin lifted his head and focused, and then recognition started to set into him.
“I thought I told you to stay away from Owen.” The voice said in a quiet growl.
“What?” Dustin coughed out.
“I made it clear at the house the last time you were here, to stay away from him.” Hargrove said as Dustin reached up and grabbed the arms that held him. Dustin started to pull at him, but he was slammed again and then slapped hard, making his eyes spin. Dustin clenched his teeth together. “Now, I’m going to show you what I mean, pretty boy, when you don’t listen.” Hargrove went to drag Dustin away, but was himself grabbed from behind by the hair and pulled backward, he was turned and then let go, then shoved hard against the wall himself, making a heavy thud. An arm went to his throat, and Dustin looked over seeing Callum there, pinning Hargrove against the wall, making him choke.
“Quintan.” Dustin said and then put hands on Callum’s arm, to try and pull him off.
“I heard about you harassing him once.” Callum growled, “You will not do it again, or I will certainly snap your neck. Do I make myself clear?” Callum growled. Hargrove could barely nod in reply as his mouth was open and his eyes were bugged.
“Quintan, let him go.” Dustin said as he pulled on Callum’s arm, “You’re frightening Henry.” Callum pulled his arm off the throat.
“Now, get out of here.” Callum growled, watching him run off, Hargrove clutching his throat with his own hand. Callum turned and looked at Dustin, “Are you alright?”
“I could have handled that.” Dustin said with an angry tone.
“You’re welcome.” Callum said as Dustin went to Henry, who was standing there, with tears running down his cheeks. Dustin knelt in front of him and hugged him tight.
“It’s alright, little one, it’s alright.” Dustin whispered softly, as the doors to the livery opened and the cart was led out by Owen. He looked over and saw them standing there.
“Is everything alright?” Owen asked as he stopped the cart. Dustin looked over at him and nodded. Owen had a look that showed he didn’t quite believe it.
“I told you once that I would not tolerate it, Dustin.” Callum said standing behind him. Dustin pulled back from Henry and stood getting into Callum’s face.
“And I told you I could have dealt with it.” Dustin said quietly, “You can’t keep charging to my rescue every time, you never give me a chance to stand up for myself.”
“Alright, then next time I won’t.” Callum said, “You can get trampled into the street, if it would make you happy, is that what you want?”
“You are twisting it.” Dustin said, “I am simply asking for the chance to prove to you that I can stand up for myself. I did it for years before you came along, you know.”
“Is that what you were telling me last night? Did you not say that you took beatings from others when you were a boy?” Callum asked as he stepped one step closer, “Is that standing up for yourself?”
“There are other ways to stand up for yourself that do not require a fist, Quintan.” Dustin said through clenched teeth. He turned and looked at Henry, “Come on, Henry, let me take you home.” Dustin led him away and went toward the square.
“What was that all about?” Owen asked as he stepped up next to Callum.
“That Hargrove fellow.” Callum said, watching Dustin walk away with Henry by the hand.
“Kelsey?” Owen asked, “What about him?”
“He just tried to pummel, Dustin. Apparently he tried it once before when I was away in Portsmouth.”
“What? He really did that?” Owen asked.
“Yes, I just broke it up actually. Dustin is angry because I keep stepping in to defend him.”
“That son of a bitch.” Owen said softly.
“Who, Dustin?” Callum turned to look at Owen.
“No, Kelsey.” Owen said. He looked around to see if anyone was around. He looked back at Callum, “Kelsey and I were,…” Owen stopped and rolled his eyes. He looked at Callum, who was lost for a moment and then it hit him. Callum just looked at Owen.
“Oh.” Callum said, then nodded his head with long motions, “OHHH!” Owen held up his hands, then turned and went to the cart, leading the horse.
“Come on.” Owen said, as he walked by Callum. Callum was thinking for a moment and then started to walk to follow Owen. Callum caught to him, “Look, there aren’t many choices to be had around here, unless you count old man Barthelow. Kelsey and I were…together for a time.”
“Then what is his problem exactly. Why is he so set against Dustin?”
“Kelsey has a strong jealous streak in him about me. He sees as us as still possibly being together, I don’t know why, and anyone that I talk to can become a potential target for his bouts of rage. Dustin walked me down to your gate one evening after I was visiting at the house, you were away. He was just being polite, you know how he is, Kelsey saw it and followed me back to the village, we had words over it, it did not go well. Kelsey seems to think that I have eyes for Dustin.” Owen said quietly and then stopped in front of the mercantile with the cart, “Quintan, we are friends, you know that I would not jeopardize that friendship with something like that, especially knowing how you feel towards Dustin, don’t you?”
“Of course, I know that.” Callum said, putting a hand on Owen’s shoulder.
“Good.” Owen said with a smile, “Now let’s get your things loaded and get you to the house. I feel that you and Dustin need to have a good talk.” He turned and they walked up to the doors of the mercantile with Callum.
The four of them came toward the front gate of the house and Owen stopped the cart, loaded with all of the items that Callum had purchased from the mercantile. They started to unload everything and carried it up to the house, Dustin came out and went to help them, with Henry and Martha behind the door, watching as things were brought into the house. The new mattresses were put over near a corner of the parlor and Henry snuck over to them and plopped on them, feeling how soft they were, as the last of the items were brought in and placed in the parlor.
Callum went to a small crate and picked it up, carrying it to the little pantry, setting it on the floor. He came back out and got a look from Dustin, a glare of anger still running through him. Callum tried to ignore it until he could get him alone. Owen went and hugged Martha.
“You just get prettier with each passing day.” He said as he winked at her. She blushed and hit his arm with a hand.
“Such a charmer you are. You’re as much a scamp as he is.” Martha nodded toward Callum, who smiled back at her. “Lying to an old woman like that, getting my hopes up, and then what, you’ll walk out the door.” She said as she walked into the kitchen. Owen chuckled as he came up next to Callum.
“Well, I must be off.” Owen said, “Quintan, it is good that you are home again.”
“This time to stay, my friend.” Callum said, with a small grin. He handed Owen a couple of notes, but Owen held up his hands.
“No, now Quintan, your money is not necessary, or wanted.”
“Owen, I owe you for bringing Dustin to Portsmouth the last time as well, as well as the use of your cart today. Now, here, I will not stand on just our friendship. Your father has a business to run. You can’t keep doing things for us for free.”
“I wouldn’t argue with him.” Martha called out from the kitchen.
“Nor would I.” Tomlin said.
“I definitely wouldn’t.” Holt said, folding his arms over his tight chest.
“He has a point, Owen.” Dustin finally chimed in as he stood next to Callum, lifting his eyebrows.
“Alright, I can’t argue with all of you, but no more, Quintan Callum.” Owen said as he snatched the notes from Callum’s fingers, “I’ll see you in another day or so, we can look over your mare, Dustin. I’ll tell my mother you said hello, Martha!” Owen said loudly toward the kitchen.
“You be sure and do that, Owen Muir.” Everyone heard her from the kitchen.
“Thank you again, my friend.” Callum said as he took Owen’s hand in his.
“You’re more than welcome. Have a pleasant evening.” Owen smiled, taking his hand back and walking through the open door, down the path to the waiting cart. Callum and Dustin watched him for a moment and then closed the door. Callum turned and looked at the mess in the parlor.
“Well perhaps we should get a bit more organized in here.” Callum said. He started to move a few things about and the others were just watching him, waiting for instructions.
“Excuse me,…Squire?” Tomlin asked out loud, drawing broad smiles from Dustin and Holt, Callum looked up with a surprised look. “You have three able bodied men waiting to assist you, perhaps you should tell us what you would like done?”
“Well, that’s the problem, I’m not certain what needs to be done.” Callum said, cocking his head a bit.
“Then, perhaps you would allow me?” Dustin asked as he stepped forward, pushing Callum out of the way a bit, not waiting for an answer from Callum, “Christian, Thomas, I think we should put the settee over by the window there,” Dustin pointed, “ Quintan, why don’t you and Henry take his new clothes and put them up in the bedroom for the time being, then we can get this chest of drawers up there, and placed for now, while we get the mattresses here in the middle of the parlor so we can get some sleep tonight.”
“But, I thought we were,…” Callum started to say, but Dustin held up a finger to silence him, Callum cocked his head a little again.
“Now is not the time to speak,” Dustin said, “now is the time to move. Henry, help Quintan with your new clothes, alright?” Dustin asked him and got a nod in reply, and he got up off the mattresses stacked in the corner of the parlor. Callum started to grab bundles of Henry’s new things.
“Of all the things,…I never,…being ordered about in my own house like a cabin boy or something.” Callum mumbled as he went up the stairs with bundles in his arms, Henry carrying some as well following him up. Dustin, Tomlin, and Holt smiling at each other, hearing the soft mumbling as he left the room.
They set about getting the parlor organized, Dustin dragging the chest of drawers over to the stairs to get it ready to go up. Callum came back down, seeing it there, and looked at Dustin, who had his back to Callum. Callum picked up the chest by himself, grunted and carried it up out of the room. Dustin chuckled softly as he knew what Callum was doing, hearing him grunt upstairs as the door must still be open. Tomlin shook his head and Holt grimaced when he heard the thud. Dustin went to the stairs.
“Everything alright up there?” Dustin called up. He saw Henry step out of the room, and nod. Dustin could hear Callum grunting and then curse. Dustin chuckled again. He turned and went back to his friends and helped them move the mattresses about.
“Dustin, we could sleep down here, you know.” Tomlin said looking at Dustin, Holt nodding as well.
“No, I think we should be down here, with Henry, we don’t want him getting used to sleeping in our bed, and I don’t think you want him in with you either.”
“Uh, no, I suppose you’re right about that.” Tomlin said with wide eyes.
“It wouldn’t be so bad, Thomas, he’s just a little one. It would be like sleeping with the Spaniel at home.” Holt said.
“You have a dog, Christian?” Dustin asked.
“Had, he died last year. His heart was broken after my mother died, he was her dog, and he was never the same after her passing.”
“I’m sorry.” Tomlin said, “I didn’t know that.”
“He slept with me for a while, but it wasn’t the same for him without her.” Holt said, and paused, thinking about it for a minute. Dustin went to the trunk near the window and opened it, taking out blankets. He closed the lid and went to the mattresses and made them up fairly quickly. Tomlin was helping Dustin a little but saw Holt had a strange look on his face.
“Christian, is something wrong?” Tomlin asked.
“No, I was just thinking of the dog.” Holt said and smiled faintly at Tomlin, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t let it bother me like that.”
“Understandable.” Tomlin said. Dustin stood up as heard a knock on the kitchen door. He turned and went into the kitchen as Martha was talking to a man standing there that Dustin had never seen before. She turned and looked at Dustin as he walked closer.
“He says he’s from the mill, he has grain and hay.” Martha said.
“Morning, sir.” The young man said nodding his head toward Dustin, wringing his hat in his hands, “As I was telling the lady, I have a load of grain and hay, with a few other things as well. Would you like them in that stable there?”
“Yes, let me get my friends, we can help you. You have a cart?” Dustin asked.
“It’s out on the road at the big gate there.” The young man pointed, with his hat clutched tight in his hand.
“Good, you can pull it in through the gate. We’ll meet you at the stable.” Dustin said and smiled. He turned and went to the parlor, looking at Tomlin and Holt, “There’s someone here with grain and hay for the mare. Christian, can you show me what to do with it?”
“Certainly, Dustin.” Holt smiled and they all walked out through to the kitchen door and went out. They walked down the path to the stable, Bockman and his men were working on the new addition and looked up seeing the cart coming as well as they were walking to the stable. Holt went into the stable and led the mare out and tied her at the corner, to let them have room inside.
The young man brought the cart up near the door of the stable and stopped the horse. He unloaded some other things that Callum had bought at the mill, rakes, pitchforks, and a large tub for water, as well as a storage box for the grain to keep the mice out of it. They started working with the young man to get the grain sacks off the cart and then the feed hay, and got it placed in a corner of the stable and then the old straw pushed and raked out of the way for the new. It was finally all in place and Dustin was very pleased. Tomlin was smiling as Dustin handed the young man some coins as a thank you. He backed the cart and went back to the gate going back out and onto the road.
Holt noticed that Tomlin was smiling wide, but didn’t know what it was about. Dustin had walked down to the gate and closed it, securing it with the post ring. He walked back and Tomlin was still smiling.
“You seem happy about something, Thomas, what is it?” Holt asked finally as Dustin walked by them toward the mare.
“It’s this, all of this.” Tomlin said, holding his hands out, Holt was confused by what he meant, “Here, let me show you.” Tomlin said, leading Holt around the back of the stable as Dustin took the mare inside, remembering what Owen had told him about what horses needed. Tomlin stopped as they reached the stone fence line of the property behind the stable.
“This, Christian.” Tomlin said, “I know now what to do with my life.” Holt was still confused, “Don’t you see, we have been helping Quintan and Dustin, here, in the country, him splitting wood, Dustin moving furniture, getting our hair trimmed this morning, breakfast early, just as the sun came up, now this, hard work, doing things for the horse in the stable. Don’t you see, life in the country, it brings a joy to use your hands, your mind, your back, your legs, all of it, Christian, and it’s pure, simple, pleasing. You see what I mean?”
“I do, Thomas, I truly do, and you want to do this? This, what they have?”
“Yes, I do,” Tomlin hesitated for a long moment and took Holt’s hands in his, “it’s like I was trying to say last night, I would do all of this, if you would do it with me.”
“You know what it is that you’re asking?” Holt asked squeezing Tomlin’s hands in his, “Us, together? You speak of it as only being,…”
“For the rest of our lives, Christian,” Tomlin smiled wide and positively glowed, “you and I together till our dying days. Christian, would you spend the rest of your life with me if I asked?”
“Are you asking, Thomas, for it sounds to me, that you have already made up your mind about us.” Holt said, trying to keep a straight face.
“I am asking, Christian, would you? Please, say yes.” Tomlin almost whispered.
“It is a lot to think of, Thomas. I see what is here, what they have, and yes, I find myself being somewhat envious of them, especially the way they are together, Quintan simply worships the ground Dustin walks on. Where would we go, Thomas, for this life that excites you so?” Holt asked, Tomlin turned him and pointed.
“See? There, across this bit of land, that small house out there, we could have something like that, together.”
“It is funny you should say that, Thomas.” Callum said standing behind them a few paces away, Tomlin and Holt spun around to look at him, “That pasture and that house beyond belongs to my neighbor. I was actually going to go over and introduce myself and see if he might possibly wish to sell this pasture to me, if the house were to come with it, then I can see no real reason why you two could not become our neighbors.” Callum smiled.
“Quintan, are you serious?”
“Very.” Callum said as he crossed his arms over his chest, “Dustin and I actually spoke of this very thing while we were in Portsmouth one night after the special paymaster came and saw us, you remember that, Thomas?” Tomlin nodded, and Callum smiled softly, “I’m not certain how much land it is, but I think it is more than enough to support a few more horses, possibly some cattle as well, and maybe a small flock of sheep. We could be very self-sufficient at that point, I would think, but not knowing how to take care of land like that, I might need some help. It seems to me that you possess that type of knowledge, Christian, or am I mistaken?”
“You are correct in that thought, Quintan.” Holt said and smiled briefly.
“But, I also see that something troubles you about making this decision.” Callum said.
“I am concerned over my father, and his possible arrival here.”
“I can understand that.” Callum said, as he dropped his arms and stepped forward, “Let me assure you of something further, Christian, I have not spoken of it until this point to you or even to Dustin. That day that The Duke took me to Buckingham, we had that pardon signed by The King, we also went to Parliament. I met the Lord High Chancellor, Lord Eldon,” Holt’s eyes widened, “I see that you know him or of him,” Callum said, Holt nodded in reply, “as the pardon had to be certified by His Lordship and the House of Lords. Lord Eldon has certain opinions of your father, and his are aligned with The Duke, I might add.” Callum studied Holt’s face for a long moment, seeing his reaction to what he was saying, “Christian, I don’t wish to press you, but I get the feeling that you are keeping something hidden about your father. Would you tell me?” Callum asked and Holt lowered his head, looking at the tall grass that they stood in. Holt finally lifted his head. He looked right at Callum and took a step toward him, away from Tomlin.
“Quintan, you have been so kind to me, helping me in so many ways, and I truly value your friendship, yours and Dustin’s, and now with your little one here, and that great lady up there in the house, her kind and caring soul, I will say that I have never known anything like you what you have shown me, never have known anything remotely close to as much love and tenderness like this in all of my life.”
“Christian, tell me, what is it?” Callum asked softly.
“Quintan, I must leave before he comes, and I know he will come,” Holt said, as Tomlin stepped up, looking at Holt with a complete look of shock on his face, “I will return to Portsmouth, to the Garrison, as I will be safe there, as will you all be, simply for the fact that I am not in your company.”
“Why, Christian, why do you believe you must leave us?” Callum asked Holt softly. Holt’s eyes shifted, seeing Dustin and Henry there behind Callum, coming toward them. “You think we are in danger of some kind, from him?” Callum asked.
“More than likely, yes. Something that Lord Eldon would not ever disclose to you, or even to The Duke. I know now that my father did murder my mother, of that I am certain,” Holt looked at Dustin as he stopped next to Callum, “it was actually you, Dustin, that gave me the last clue, that put it all together for me, when we were speaking of the dog earlier in the parlor. You see, Quintan, my father has a temperament, a very bad one.”
“Lord Eldon did mention that, as well as did The Duke.”
“It is that bad temperament that is what I fear more than anything. My father has killed many a man in what is given under the name of dueling, defending his honor, or defending the honor of a supposed friend, not that he has any. My father kills for the sake and the simple pleasure of killing. It’s what makes him a great soldier. He lives for battle, but even more in taking lives. He is very skilled with a sword, I have seen it, I actually witnessed a duel between him and a former rival of his. I watched my father kill him in a matter of seconds. Yes, Quintan, your lives are in danger if I am in your company. I am certain that this time he will succeed in killing me, if he finds me with all of you.” Holt said as he turned to face Tomlin, “Thomas, I love you more than I can say, but I will not jeopardize your life to stay with you. As long as I am in regiment, he cannot touch me, I am safe, you are safe, do you understand that?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tomlin asked as he took Holt’s hands in his.
“I tried last night, here in the stable, but I knew I couldn’t make you understand it. Quintan understands, as there are others that have told him, as you have heard.”
“We have to stop him.” Tomlin said, “We can file charges for your mothers’ death.”
“There’s no proof, Thomas.” Holt said softly.
“None that we know of as of yet.” Tomlin said, “Christian, I won’t lose you, do you understand that? I won’t let you go, now that I have with you with me, it would kill me to watch you leave.”
“Then he will kill you if I stay.”
“No, he will not.” Callum said as he stepped forward, putting a hand on Holt’s shoulder, “Christian, as I said before, you are not only our friend, you are family. We do not turn away from difficulty when family needs us the most.” Callum said, “We will stand together in this. You cannot continue to live your life in fear of this man, even if he is your father. Think about it, you know that he murdered your mother for standing against him I’m sure, Lord Eldon knows it, The Duke, my God, even The King had an opinion about your father that matched the others. Christian, I beg you, do not run, stay, make the stand, we will be right beside you in this to the very end, I swear it.” Callum said, and Dustin came closer, standing beside Callum, looking at Holt, the tears were now dropping out of Holt’s eyes, Tomlin turned him gently and scanned his eyes.
“Christian, Quintan is right, you must not run from this. I know it must be hard to accept, but you need to stand. Like Quintan said, we will be with you till the end, I will not lose you, Christian, I swear to you.” Tomlin said, with pleading eyes.
“If he comes, Christian, do you think it will be a fight?” Callum asked.
“Of that I have no doubt.”
“And he only duels with a sword?”
“As far as I know, yes.” Holt said softly.
“Good, then I would have a fighting chance then.” Callum said and smiled softly.
“What? Are you seriously thinking of fighting a duel with him?” Dustin asked as he stepped in front of Callum.
“Why not? Christian couldn’t, it would have him at a disadvantage right away dueling against his own father. It doesn’t matter how he feels about him, it is still his own father. I can defend better with a sword and you know that as well.” Callum said to Dustin, who shook his head and was wide eyed.
“Quintan, that’s insane.” Dustin said as his eyes flashed.
“Not at all. It will come to a simple challenge, this is my property, and if he comes here, and tries to take Christian away from it, I have the right to defend my property and those that dwell upon it or in it. He will have no way out but to accept my challenge. The law would be on my side. Lord Eldon tried to tell me that when we spoke, he made suggestion only.”
“Quintan, I appreciate your thoughts, but I will not have you fight my battles for me. If it comes, I will face it, you’re right, I can’t live in fear any longer.” Holt said, and looked at Tomlin, “And that goes for you as well, my love, you will not fight my battles either.” Holt looked at Tomlin with tears and then turned and looked at Callum again, “But, I have a thought, and I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Name it.” Callum said.
“In London, I watched as you dueled with that man in the street. He was obviously a fine swordsman, but you bested him. I have never seen a blade move as fast as you moved it. Teach me, Quintan, that is the favor that I ask of you, teach me what you know with a blade. Would you do that?” Holt asked, all eyes of the group looked at Callum and he backed up a step, staying silent for a long moment. His face was like a statue as he thought long and hard.
“If that is what you wish, Christian, I will teach you, but it will be difficult.”
“Yes, I can see that it might be. If I am to remain here in your company, it has to be this way.” Holt said, sounding very firm.
“Alright, to make certain you remain here with all of us.” Callum said, and backed another step, coming next to Henry, Callum didn’t know he was there until he felt the little hand touch his. He looked down and then bent a little and picked him up, and put him on his hip, holding him. “We seem to have the better part of the day left, would you like to start now?”
“If you are willing?” Holt asked.
“I am.” Callum said and looked at Henry. He tickled him a little making Henry laugh and squirm for a minute. Callum looked at Dustin and reached out with his free hand. Dustin looked at it for a moment and then smiled and took it. Callum pulled Dustin to him and Henry, putting his arm around Dustin’s shoulders. “I will go and collect the weapons that I have, and we can practice out here on the grassy knoll. But first, I need to have a word with Dustin. We will join you in a few minutes.”
“As you say. Thank you, Quintan.” Holt said and bowed his head slightly. Callum turned his little party and started walking.
“I know what you’re going to say.” Dustin said.
“Oh?” Callum asked, “And what is that?”
“You’re going to tell me something about your honor and needing to do for Christian and,…” Dustin said, sounding upset. Callum stopped as he still carried Henry.
“Far be it from me to disagree with you, but that is not what I was going to say.” Callum said as Dustin stopped and looked at him, “What I wanted to say to you was, I’m sorry, for earlier, in the village with that Hargrove fellow. You were right, I am always charging in to rescue you. It’s only because of what I feel for you, and want to protect you from all things that might cause you harm. I had a chat with Owen after you walked away. He explained a few things to me, about that fellow. Did you know that they were actually together at one time?”
“What? Are you serious?”
“Very. Perhaps you should ask him sometime. And he told me something else as well.”
“What?” Dustin asked.
“That he values our friendship with him more than he lets on, and he will not do anything to compromise that.”
“That’s nice to know.” Dustin smiled.
“It is, and I value his honesty and sincerity above all else.”
“Traits of honor, I knew you would.” Dustin rolled his eyes.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Callum asked, with narrowed eyes.
“Nothing, it’s in your blood to hold that so very high and dear. It’s who you are, and why I love you some much.” Dustin said as he stepped closer, seeing Henry yawning as he lay his head against Callum’s shoulder. “I think our little man needs a bit of a rest. Let’s take him in the house and lay him down on his new bed.” Dustin said, as he put his hand on Henry’s little back and rubbed it gently.
“Do you have any idea how sweet you are?”
“Yes.” Dustin said and smiled wide. He turned and walked away, Callum followed him, shaking his head.
“Christian, why couldn’t you trust in me enough to tell me all of this?”
“It is not a matter of trust, Thomas, it’s a matter of involvement. I kept certain things from you to protect you.”
“And you leaving, what were you planning, to slip out of bed in the middle of the night?”
“Nothing like that, I assure you, Thomas. When I’m in bed with you, there is nothing that really seems to bother me. As I said, I feel safe and protected when I’m lying next to you. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along.” Holt said, taking Tomlin’s hand, but he turned away and looked out across the pasture toward the far house in the distance.
“All I want is for us to be together, and to be happy.” Tomlin said softly.
“As do I, Thomas, you must believe me.” Holt said. Tomlin turned and looked back at him with narrowed eyes.
“Really, how can you say that?” Tomlin said, feeling more hurt than angry, “You tell Quintan everything about what you’re thinking and feeling about your father, but you can’t tell me.”
“That’s the difference, Thomas, Quintan already knew, from being in London. All of those that he saw that confirmed everything to him. I tried to tell you that several times, but I didn’t have all of the pieces until this morning. To put it quite simply, my father is an evil man, Thomas. I would protect you from that, at all costs. And if part of that cost is my leaving you, to protect you, to keep you safe, then I would have done it, as you mean that much to me. Can you believe me in that?”
“Yes, as you said, and it would be the simplest way all around, to run away. But, Christian, you wouldn’t be happy. You would still be living in fear.”
“You’re right, I would, but you would be safe.” Holt said.
“What makes you think that I am in so much danger?”
“Because I know him, I know what he is capable of.” Holt said and another tear drop from his eye, “You remember me saying that I witnessed a duel involving him?” Tomlin nodded, “That wasn’t all of it, the man he killed had two sons, my father killed them as well, when they sought revenge for their dead father.”
“What?” Tomlin asked with an expression of almost horror.
“I heard him once, boasting about it. It wasn’t until sometime later that I put it all together as the names had faded from my memory. I was very young when it happened.”
“Christian, I don’t know what to say.”
“Tell me that you love me.” Holt said.
“I do love you, you know that.”
“I need to hear it. I have never had much love in my life, growing up, not even from my mother.” Holt said. Tomlin put his arms around Holt’s neck and pulled him in, giving him a tight hug.
“I will tell you that I love you every day, every night, for the rest of our lives.” Tomlin whispered into his ear. Holt put his face into Tomlin’s shoulder and wept silently.
Callum put the little one down on the mattress in the parlor. Callum smiled at him as he stroked the soft little cheek once. The little eyes slowly shut and he let out a soft sigh. Callum got back up to his feet and stood next to Dustin as they watched him start to sleep. Callum went to the stairs and went up, leaving Dustin standing there.
Martha came into the parlor and looked down at the little one asleep on the bed, and smiled. She put a hand on Dustin’s shoulder. He looked over at her smiled softly at her as Callum came down the stairs, two swords in his hands. Martha saw them and him and went wide eyed. Dustin turned and followed Callum into the kitchen, Martha was walking behind and went to the door, as Dustin was picking up the bench from the table and came to the door, Martha stepped aside and let him through.
“What is all of this about?” She asked as Callum was standing on the flagstone. Callum looked at her with a serious look.
“Putting a stop to trouble before it can start.” Callum said as Tomlin and Holt came up on the flagstone. Callum looked at them and held out a sword to Holt. “Ready, Christian?”
“If you are.” Holt answered and gave a nod. He pulled the sword from the scabbard, as did Callum. He handed his scabbard to Dustin after he set the bench down on the corner of the flagstone. Callum walked out onto the grass of the knoll, and waited. Holt followed him out as he handed his scabbard to Tomlin. They stood together out in the grass as Tomlin was pulled toward the bench by Dustin. Martha had her hands clasped together as she followed them, still wide eyed.
“What are they going to do?” Martha asked with a bit of a quivering voice.
“Quintan is going to teach Christian how to handle a sword better.” Dustin said as he set the scabbard down on the flagstone, “This should be interesting to watch.”
“Not for me.” She said, “If they stab each other, I’ll have the water and bandages ready.” She walked back toward the kitchen door of the house. Dustin chuckled and sat down on the bench next to Tomlin.
Callum started to stretch, one leg out, rocking on it, then shifted the other out, keeping his sword tip down. Holt was doing the same.
“What do you want to start with?” Holt asked as he stretched.
“Let’s try and start with form first. I want to see what you know.” Callum said, working his arms about, as he stood. Holt did the same and then came close to Callum. Callum assumed a defensive stance, and held his tip up. Holt did the same. “Now, show me a lunge and parry.”
Holt went through the moves, as Callum watched him. Callum lowered his sword and stepped up to Holt. He reached out with his left hand and put it to Holt’s arm, lifting it a bit, showing him to keep it higher.
“Now try it again.” Callum said. Holt did the moves and Callum stepped closer again. “Your feet are too far apart. Here, like this.” Callum said and got into the stance, and then went through the motions for Holt. “You see? Your balance is off when your feet are too far apart. Let’s do it together now.” Callum got back into position, Holt did the same. They made the moves together as if one. “Excellent.” Callum said and stood, he stepped away a wide pace, “Now block and sweep.” Callum said, showing what he wanted.
“Do that again for me.” Holt said. Callum got into position and did the moves again, lifting the sword horizontally and then back swung in a horizontal motion. Callum nodded toward him. Holt got into position and did as Callum had done.
“Good.” Callum said and then got into position, “Now all of them together.” Holt got into position, “Lunge, parry, block and sweep. Ready?” Callum lifting his tip again. Holt followed his motion, “Now.” They performed the motions together as one again. Callum stood and looked at him, “Very good. Let’s try against one another. Nothing forceful, you advance first, then I will.”
Holt turned and they squared off against one another, separated by a few paces. Swords were lifted and then blades touched. Callum tapped Holt’s blade a couple of times making the steel clang as they touched. Callum grinned as did Holt. Holt began with a lunge, Callum parried, then lunged himself, Holt blocking, then back swung, Callum leaning back, then lunged again, Callum blocking as Holt advanced with his feet. Callum backed up across the grass.
“Good, keep coming.” Callum said, as the blades were singing in their clanging, the two going across the grass, back and forth, Callum advanced on Holt now, pressing him back across the grass, Holt defending, blocking, then trying to back swing, Callum blocking, then lunging again, Holt blocking. “Perfect form.” Callum said.
Dustin looked right and saw Bockman and his two men were standing out on the grass watching what was going on, looks of awe on their faces, as they watched the two working their blades against one another.
“Now, don’t let up.” Callum said, and Holt lunged and moved his feet sliding down Callum’s blade, going pommel to pommel, pushing against each other.
“This is where that man had you.” Holt’s eyes flashed.
“Only because I let him.” Callum said with a grin and then pushed with everything he had, Holt backed up a few steps and Callum came at him. Holt’s eyes widened as Callum began to lunge on him. Holt trying to block as best he could. Callum saw it, his stance faltering, Callum backed up a step, “Hold.” Holt stopped and Callum lowered his sword. “I saw it, Christian, you faltered as I pressed when I pushed you off.” Callum said, cocking his head slightly, “Let’s try that again.” Callum said and waved his free hand, bringing Holt closer. Callum held up his sword and they went pommel to pommel again, “Now, push.” Callum said, Holt digging in his heels and pushing. Callum held against him, “When I push you back, be ready.” Callum said, and Holt nodded with a slight grin. Callum pushed him again with everything, and Holt stepped back and was ready, blocking the lunge, and then back swung, Callum leaning back and blocked, “Better, now, advance.” Holt pressed his attack and started to move faster with his blade, Callum was ready for him, matching his moves, just blocking , not pressing for an attack. Holt saw what he was doing and Callum was driving him to move faster and faster with his blade, as they slid through the tall grass, Holt was moving his blade even quicker, Callum was focused on what was happening, and was watching Holt’s feet and form as well, taking note of everything.
“He looks good, doesn’t he?” Dustin asked.
“They both do. I can’t believe how fast they’re moving, I can’t do that.” Tomlin said as he leaned toward Dustin.
“I’m sure you could if you practiced with him, especially now that he knows what to do.”
“You think he will be as good as Quintan?”
“I’m sure of it, just look at him, the way he is moving.”
“I suppose.” Tomlin said.
Martha was watching them from the kitchen window, seeing their dance back and forth across the grass. She heard something behind her and turned to see what was there. She saw the sleepy eyed little one standing in the doorway to the parlor, rubbing his little eye. She smiled at him and then held out her hand. He walked over to her, taking her hand.
“What is making that sound?” Henry asked. She bent down a little and picked him up, setting him on the dry sink counter, and she nodded toward the window. He watched for a moment, not knowing what was happening. He looked at her with worry on his face.
“He is teaching him how to fight with a sword.” Martha said softly.
“It looks scary.” Henry said as his eyes flashed.
“Yes, it does. Do you want to see better?” She asked as she was hovering behind him, she picked him up from behind and took him off the counter, “Alright, go out and stay close to Dustin and Thomas. Do not get in the way out there.” She shook a finger and he ran to the door, going out on the flagstone, watching Callum and Holt as they kept moving back and forth across the grass, steel clanging, flashing in the rays of the sun, glinting.
Callum was turning Holt on the knoll as they moved, now starting to press him on the attack, Holt was doing his best to stay with Callum and not drop his guard. Callum was beginning to tire now, sweat running down from his forehead, but he saw that Holt was tiring as well, as they continued.
Holt felt the confidence now in his arm and his technique, and he let a slight grin creep over his lips as he and Callum continued to watch each other’s’ eyes for any sign of tiring or weakness. Callum was not about to let up, he resolved to himself, he would wait for Holt to call out to stop or to simply walk away, Holt was thinking the same thing as Callum and was looking for any sign himself, not wanting to surrender.
“My God, he’s beautiful.” Tomlin whispered to himself. Dustin heard him as he held Henry on his lap, and looked over at Tomlin.
“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” Dustin smiled and continued to watch the two going at it. Dustin had seen Bockman and his two workers watching the pair dueling, and just couldn’t make themselves go back to their work. Dustin looked over and saw them still standing there, then looked back at the pair. Callum matched Holt’s grin as sweat was pouring off him.
“Ready to give up?” Callum asked.
“Only if you do first.” Holt said and blocked and then slid down to the pommel again, pushing against Callum, Callum held his ground and his footing, pushing back against him.
“That will be the day.” Callum sneered and pushed hard against Holt, sending him back a few steps, Callum raised his sword and came toward him, Holt was ready this time, blocking, then trying to lunge again, Callum parried, and the swings were on matching move for move, Callum was being to breathe hard and Holt was slipping now and then in the grass. Callum saw it, and tried something else, a quick turn against Holt, making Holt pivot, and Holt lost his balanced and slipped in the grass, going to one knee. Callum pulled his sword back quickly to not hurt him, and touched him with his free hand in the chest with a jab.
“Done.” Callum said, and backed up a step. Holt lowered his sword and was heaving with his chest.
“You bested me.” Holt wheezed and tried to stand again, Callum leaned forward and took his hand and pulled him up.
“You made it very difficult.” Callum said, putting a hand on Holt’s shoulder, as he lowered his sword to the ground. “Not bad for a first try.” Callum was puffing, and then flashed his eyes.
“Thank you, but I could clearly see that you were holding back from me.”
“Only because I didn’t want one of us hurt.” Callum smiled as he started to control his breathing. Tomlin, Dustin, and Henry walked up to them.
“That was beyond wonderful, the two of you were simply magnificent.” Tomlin said, and Callum felt a touch to his free hand. He looked down and saw Henry standing there, smiling wide. Callum looked up seeing Bockman and his workers coming toward them.
“Are you alright, Quintan?” Dustin asked.
“Yes, but I think I could use some water.” Callum smiled briefly, “Our young Marine here almost trampled me into the grass.”
“I came close once, but as I said, you are clearly the better swordsman.” Holt said as he wiped his brow with his sleeve. They all walked over to the pump, Callum picked up his scabbard off the flagstone, and sheathed his sword. He leaned it against the wall of the house and went to the pump, starting to pump out water, holding his hand under it, cupping it, then drinking what he held. Holt handed his sword to Tomlin and did the same but with both hands.
“I’m sorry, but we thought you two were actually fighting, sir.” Bockman said, looking at Callum and Holt.
“Understandable, Mr. Bockman. Christian nearly gave me a true run for my life more than once.” Callum smiled and cupped both hands as Dustin was now pumping the water for them.
“Very impressive, sir.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bockman.” Callum nodded and then drank more water. He stood and wiped his mouth and then his brow with his shirt sleeve. Callum looked over and saw Henry at the corner. “Now, don’t touch it, Henry. It can hurt you if you’re not careful.” Callum said, seeing the little one turn and walk back toward the group, Callum looked at Holt, holding out his hand. Holt smiled and took it, “I’m certainly glad you’re not allied with the French, Christian, I would have hated to come up against you in a fight.”
“Well, I am certainly glad we’re on the same side, Quintan. I would have surrendered in the first minute truly fighting against you, especially with you holding back like you were.”
“Well, tomorrow, we’ll have another go and try something else.” Callum said, Holt gave him a look of question, “Blindfolded.” Callum grinned and Holt went wide eyed.
“Surely you jest.”
“Not at all, you would be surprised what you can do when you can’t see. Our schoolmaster showed us when I was a boy, no more than ten, we walked around for a week with blindfolds on, bumping into things, until we figured it out.”
“What is the purpose in that?”
“Ever fought anyone in complete darkness before?” Callum asked, Holt shook his head, “What would you do if it were completely dark outside and you were forced to fight? Call out for them to standby while you lit a lantern? No, you must learn to be able to fight in all conditions. Today, right now, we have a nice breeze, the sun is shining, but, what if it were winter, snow on the deck of your ship, slipping and sliding around as you were being attacked and boarded, turn tail and head for the nearest tavern? No, you would overcome such difficulty by being prepared. Right, Thomas?” Callum asked and smiled wide.
“Yes, you are correct, Quintan. Captain Powers always strove to have us prepared for anything, didn’t he?”
“Indeed he did, and it saved our skins more than once, didn’t it?” Callum asked, Tomlin nodded, “Tomorrow, blindfolds.” Callum said. “Now, as it is getting late, and I am little winded, I think we can wash and have a change of shirt. I purchased a crate full of wine at the mercantile this morning, and I think we might try it out, what do you think?”
“I could use a change of shirt for certain.” Holt said and smiled. Callum nodded and led his group into the house, carrying their swords, leaving Bockman and his two out to go back to what they were doing on the addition.
Callum and Holt were outside with clean shirts, laying on the wood stack against the house, the tub was filled with hot water. Dustin was carrying water down to the stable for the mare, filling her tub, Henry was standing there with Callum and Holt, while Tomlin was in the kitchen with Martha preparing supper. Callum handed Holt a cloth and they both wet them and then began to use them on their chests. Callum was looking at Holt, how thing and very muscular he was. Holt was eyeing all of the scars on Callum’s chest and stomach. Henry was watching them both as they washed.
“See, Henry, I told you that I had to do this as well, didn’t I?” Callum asked as he smiled. He received a nod in reply. “Tell me, Christian, how did you get so very muscular?” Callum asked, Holt blushed slightly as he looked down at himself for a moment.
“You seem to be fairly muscular yourself, Quintan.”
“Well I certainly don’t look like you. And you are so thin as well.”
“It was actually my father that made me look like this. When I was younger, he used to say that officers could get fat just sitting around on their horses.” Holt said as he used the soap on his chest and stomach, “He rigged a cart to have me pull about at home. It was empty at first, and the more I muscular I became, and began to easily pull it, the more he had it loaded with stones to make it heavier until I couldn’t possibly pull it any longer. That went on for a few years actually.”
“Well, that’s an idea.” Callum said, “I have been thinking of a way to try and gain more muscle, perhaps I should find a cart to pull around.”
“He used to laugh at me when I would struggle to do it, telling me I couldn’t eat until I reached a certain designated point.” Holt said as he rinsed himself off, as Callum used the soap now. Callum was stunned to hear him say that.
“That’s almost cruel.” Callum said.
“That is an example of my father.” Holt said, and then looked over at Henry and smiled, “If I were to ever have children, they would never have to undergo anything like that.” Holt looked back at Callum, who gave him a brief smile.
“Well, our lad Henry here, was telling us once of how strong he is, weren’t you?” Callum asked, receiving another nod. Callum finished with the soap and rinsed himself. “Do you think you can turn over this tub and empty it?” Another nod, and little hands reached down and tried to tip it over, but couldn’t. He tried again but couldn’t do it. “Is it too big?” Another nod, “Here, let me help you.” Callum said and gripped the tub with him, “Ready, three, two, one, lift.” The tub lifted and spilled out all over the flagstone, “There, you see, sometimes we all need a little help.”
Martha was looking out the kitchen window, and was shaking her head, as Tomlin was peeling potatoes. Tomlin was looking out the window from time to time as well at Callum and Holt, he would look and see Martha looking now and then as well. Tomlin smiled and his chest tightened seeing Holt out there without a shirt on, his tight muscular back facing the window.
“My, he certainly is breathtaking isn’t he?” Martha said, giving Tomlin a side glance.
“Who? Quintan?” Tomlin asked as he looked out the window. Martha nudged him with an elbow.
“No, not Quintan, your Christian there. He truly reminds me of my own son.” She said softly, “He, too, was pretty like him, but not as muscular. He certainly does catch the eye.”
“Yes, he does, doesn’t he?” Tomlin smiled and went back to his potatoes. Martha reached up and tapped on the window, Callum looked over as he slipped his shirt over his head. Dustin was coming up the knoll from the stable with an empty pail. Martha signaled to Callum with a finger, Callum stepped closer to the window.
“Would you bring in some wood for the stove, Quintan?” She asked loudly. Callum smiled and nodded his head. He gathered the cloths and the soap cake, and handed them to Henry.
“Take these into the kitchen, will you?” Callum asked, “Aunt Martha will show you where to put them.” Callum smiled at him, and the little one turned and walked to the door as Dustin came up to the pump. He set the pail down as Callum picked up the broad axe. Holt was tucking in his shirt, as Dustin was pumping water. “Christian, would you be so kind as to put a bit of water in the tub to rinse it out?” Callum asked. Holt gave him a nod and reached down for it as Dustin was pumping water into the pail.
“I think that’s your fourth trip for water, isn’t it, Dustin?” Holt asked.
“Yes, she certainly drinks it down in a hurry. You don’t think there is anything wrong with her, do you, Christian?”
“No, not at all. Horses can drink quite a bit. You would be surprised at how much actually.” Holt said as Callum split a round behind him. Holt looked over and saw Callum picking one side up and putting it on the block, Holt turned back to Dustin, “Once you figure out how much she drinks at one time, make sure there is twice that for her to have access to.” Dustin nodded, “Once I rinse this out, I’ll grab another pail and help you with it.”
“Thank you, Christian.” Dustin smiled.
Callum continued to split more and more wood. Henry came out and picked up pieces that were pointed out and carried them into the kitchen, putting them in the wood box by the stove. After a few trips the box was filled, but Callum kept going, splitting more and more. Henry was stacking it against the wall of the house, when Callum would tell him which ones were ready. After about ten rounds were split, Callum put the broad axe up, next to the pile. He went over and sat on the block and Henry came up next to him.
“You’re a good lad, Henry, thank you for helping me and Aunt Martha.” Callum smiled and put his hand on a little shoulder. Henry smiled back at him, “Tomorrow, we will try out some of your new clothes and get you out of these things, how about that?” Callum asked and received a nod in reply, “You like it here, Henry?” Another nod. Callum thought for a moment about his questions and how he was only getting nods, “What do you like about it?”
“I have things to eat when I’m hungry.” He looked out across the knoll, “It is pretty here with the grass, and it smells good, not like in the alley or my box.”
“Hmmm, what else?” Callum asked as he folded his arms over his chest.
“Dustin.” Henry said softly.
“What about him?”
“He is very nice. He always talks to me, and he listens to me.”
“Really, what do you tell him?” Callum asked softly.
“That I like him, and he is my friend.”
“Henry, I like you too. Do you think we are friends?” Callum asked, another nod in reply, “Are you glad you came with me?” A big nod now, “Good,” Callum leaned forward going nose to nose with him, “because I’m glad you came. And I’m very glad you like it here.” Callum said and snuck a finger and stuck it in Henry’s little belly, making him laugh and back up a couple of steps, Callum chuckled, “Now, is there anything you would like to see that you haven’t seen yet?” Another nod, with a wide smile, “What?” Callum asked as he sat back up.
“Where the horse is.”
“Alright, Dustin and Christian are down there, run along.” Callum said, watching him run down the path toward the stable. Callum smiled and then shook his head, getting up off the block, Callum started to walk toward the door, when he saw Bockman coming toward him. Callum gave him a brief smile.
“Sir, I was wondering if you have a moment.”
“Certainly, is something wrong?”
“No, nothing is wrong, sir. I wanted your opinion on something is all.” Bockman turned and Callum followed him around the corner and saw the floor of half of the addition. Callum was amazed that is was down already.
“My word.” Callum said, “When was this brought?”
“Earlier, when you gentlemen were in the village. You think it large enough for her?” Bockman asked, holding out a hand. Callum stepped up on it and walked about, looking about, then seeing where they had dug out for the room next to hers. Callum pointed at the open ground, Bockman nodded, “Yes, that is for the other room, for your young lad. It will be the same size as hers.”
“Words escape me.” Callum said as he was wide eyed, “This is beyond expectation, Mr. Bockman, you continually impress me, sir.”
“Thank you, Captain, as I told your young master, it is simply for the lady of the house that we do this.”
“Well, by all means, continue with what you are doing, please. When do you think you will have it completed?”
“At this rate, it should be all up and in place within a fortnight, along with the roof.”
“Truly, you think that soon?” Callum shook his head and smiled, “I must show her this, if that is alright with you?”
“Certainly, sir.” Bockman said. Callum stepped off the deck and walked quickly to the kitchen door, going in, and taking Martha by the hand, giving her a broad smile and then leading her out and around.
“What on earth has gotten into you, Quintan Callum?” She asked as he led her along by the hand, Tomlin was following them, with a smile.
“Now, my dear, what do you think of this?” Callum asked as he put her in front of him, holding out a hand, “Your new room.” She gave it a puzzled look, Callum pushed her gently to the edge of the deck and had her step up on it. “Does the size feel alright?” He asked, she still had a puzzled look, “That is the size of the floor of the room.” Callum said. She realized finally what he meant.
“It is far too grand.” She said.
“The whole point in this is for you to be comfortable. I can see windows on this wall, and that back wall as well.” Callum said as he was pointing it out, he looked at Bockman, “Where would the door be?” Callum asked and Bockman stepped up on the deck going to the wall of the house, He put his hands near the corner of the deck and traced out the image of a doorway. Callum nodded as Bockman turned round.
“Once we get the other floor down and the walls up, we can go inside and cut out the openings in the wall.” Bockman said, Callum nodded his understanding to it.
“Then we must remove everything from the pantry as I have been told.” Callum said, and Bockman nodded, “And you will tell us before that is to happen?” Bockman nodded again.
“Yes, and there is the pantry to be built under the stairs in the kitchen.”
“Oh, I see, and that was part of the price that you gave to Dustin?” Callum asked, Bockman nodded, “Mr. Bockman, you work far too cheaply for what you do.” Callum smiled, and Bockman blushed slightly. Callum looked at her, smiling. He realized that she could not visualize it and what they were showing her. Callum stepped up on the deck, He led her over to the edge that looked out over the slope of the knoll toward the gate, “Imagine a window here,” Callum held up his hands spreading them out, showing her the size as he stood beside her, “You can look out over the pasture, he walked over to the back wall that looked out over the large gate and the road that continued north to Dudley. Callum showed her the view using his hands again, and then smiled at her. She took his closest arm in hers, leaning her head against his shoulder and he patted her hand.
Dustin, Holt, and Henry walked up the knoll to join the group standing about the new platform. Dustin smiled at seeing what Bockman and his workers had done, keeping his word. Dustin reached down and picked Henry up and put him on his hip, then stepped up on the platform. Callum saw them coming and smiled at Dustin and the little one he held, as Dustin walked him over to the edge and looked down at the fresh earth.
“See all of that, Henry?” Dustin pointed, “That is where your new room is going to be. It will have a floor just like this one, and windows, and a roof and it will be warm in the winter when it rains and snows.” Dustin said as he leaned his head against his, “You can play in it, and sleep in your new bed that Quintan got for you.”
“Really? This will be just for me?”
“Yes, Henry, just for you.” Dustin smiled. Callum and Martha walked up to join them, “What do you have to say about that?” Dustin asked.
“Thank you.” He said with a smile as he looked at Callum. Callum winked back at him as he put an arm about Martha’s shoulders.