DOVER

Chapter 45

Callum lay on his back on the new mattress in the middle of the parlor floor, Dustin was snuggled in next to him. Callum reached up and gently pushed a lock of hair off his forehead and smiled at the beauty of this young man he loved so much. Callum could smell the coffee coming from the kitchen and then heard shuffling about as he pushed back the blankets and rolled out of bed. He sat on the edge of the mattress and reached for his pants and slipped them on. He stopped as he heard something moving behind him, he looked over his right shoulder and didn’t see anything, then looked left and there was Henry sitting behind him. Callum turned and looked at the little one, who was wearing one of his new nightshirts that had been purchased yesterday in the village.

“Why are you up so early?” Henry asked, as Callum leaned closer to him.

“Because I smell coffee that Aunt Martha has made. What are you doing up so early?” Callum whispered. Henry just shrugged. “Alright, let me get my clothes on, and we will see about some coffee, shall we?” Callum asked and received a nod in reply, “Now, let’s be quiet and let Dustin sleep a bit longer, okay?” Callum asked in a whisper, Henry nodded again. Callum got his pants on to his upper thighs and then reached for his shirt, putting it over his head, and letting it drop over him, putting his arms through the sleeves. Callum rolled and got to his feet, pulling his pants up, tucking himself into them, with his back to the little one, and then grabbed his stockings and his boots, he rolled his head to have Henry follow him and Callum walked into the kitchen, and sat down on the bench at the end of the table.

“Morning, my boy.” Martha said as she reached for a cup. She saw another motion and looked seeing Henry walking in in his nightshirt. Callum smiled at Henry as he came in and sat behind Callum on the bench, looking around Callum at Martha. She smiled at the little one and pulled another cup off the shelf, pouring more coffee. She walked both cups over and set them on the table. She put a hand on Callum’s shoulder, and he looked up at her as he put his foot into another stocking.

“You didn’t wake him, did you?” Martha asked.

“No, I was getting up and he was sitting there already awake.” Callum said softly. Callum put the other stocking on, and waited on his boots. He picked up his coffee and sipped at it, and then felt more human with just that first sip.

“How was that new bed?” Martha asked, still standing near him.

“It’s fine, but not as filled as the one upstairs.” Callum said, and then gave her a side glance, “You should go give it a try and see if you would like it for your new room.” Callum grinned, picking up his cup and sipping more coffee. She tapped him hard on the shoulder.

“You want an old woman to get down on the floor? I would never get back up.”

“Oh yes you would. There are plenty of us here to help with that.”

“Quintan Callum, I have never heard of such talk. Are you telling me that I am overly sized?”

“I beg your pardon?” Callum asked with wide eyes.

“That there are more than enough of you here to help get me up off the floor?” Martha practically snorted, “Why of all the things…if I had a wood spoon in hand right now,…”

“My dear, you misunderstood what I was trying to say.” Callum said as he stood up. She shook a finger at his nose.

“Do not try and sweet talk your way out this, you…scamp.”

“My word, perhaps you do need a new bed to get up on the good side of.” Callum smiled. She huffed and went back to the stove. Callum chuckled, and walked over to her, giving her a kiss on the forehead, he turned and she reached out and swapped his butt, making him scoot a step, as he chuckled again.

“A fine thing indeed,…” She mumbled at the stove, “work my fingers to the bone, cooking and cleaning all day long around here,…”

“Is she mad at you?” Henry asked as he leaned in close to Callum’s ear. Callum looked over at her and then leaned back toward Henry to whisper in his ear.

“Maybe just a little bit, but she’ll be alright when everybody else gets up. You wait and see.”

“Did she really hit you?”

“Oh, she only gave me a swat, it didn’t hurt, and she was playing more than anything, I think.” Callum whispered.

“I wouldn’t want her to do that to me.” Henry whispered and had big eyes.

“Just do what she says and she won’t.” Callum whispered.

“And just what are you two whispering about?” Martha asked as she turned from the stove, her hand on her hip.

“Oh, nothing at all, we were just talking about what we were going to do today.” Callum said softly., “Isn’t that right, Henry?” Callum asked. Henry leaned back and looked at her and nodded his head with wide eyes, looking a little scared. Martha smirked and then walked over to the table, Henry hid behind Callum, Martha came up behind Henry and slapped Callum on the shoulder. She put her hands on each side of the little face and tilted his head back so he was looking directly up at her. She bent down and kissed the little forehead. She let him go.

“Now don’t you learn from his bad habits, Henry. You’re a very sweet little lad, and this one is a scamp, I don’t want you to turn out like him now.” She smiled and he was nodding at her, listening to every word. She slapped Callum’s shoulder again as she went back to the stove.

“What do I do now?” Henry whispered in Callum’s ear.

“Go back to bed where it’s safe.” Callum said.

“Can I get in bed with Dustin?” Henry asked and Callum nodded. Henry jumped off the bench and ran. Callum hung his head and chuckled. He got up from the table and carried his coffee cup over to the stove, chuckling.

“You certainly put the fear of God into that boy.” Callum said softly. Martha looked over toward the table.

“Where did he go?”

“I told to go back to bed where it was safe.” Callum started to walk away, and she slapped his butt again. He turned and smiled as he lifted his coffee cup to his lips. She shook her finger at him again.

“You’re a devil, Quintan Callum. Don’t you dare make that little angel afraid of me.”

“Now, my dear, would I do that?” Callum said, giving her his best little boy look.

“Given half the chance?” She frowned and turned back to the stove. Callum chuckled again.

“Oh this is going to be a good day.” He said and went back to the table. Callum looked up at the windows. He heard the wind. He got up and went to the windows, listening. Martha turned and looked toward him.

“What is it?” She asked.

“The wind is up,” Callum said, as he went to the door, he opened it and smelled the air, blowing in, then closed the door, he went back to the bench and quickly put his boots on.

“I’m going to go check on the mare, I think we might be in for a storm.” Callum said picking up his cup and drank more coffee then set the cup down. He went to the back door, opened it, and went out, closing it behind him. As he stepped out on the flagstone, the wind hit him. He looked up at the sky and saw very few stars. His pony tail was blowing about over his shoulder as he went down the path to the stable, the mare was whinnying and moving about in her stall. Callum opened the half door as the wind was blowing through the open window holes of the stable. He closed the door behind him as the mare was moving about more, seeing him in the darkness.

“Easy girl.” Callum said as he came closer to her. She snorted as he drew near and put out a hand, she came to him putting her nose in his open palm and he reached up and patted her neck. She snorted again, and Callum came into the stall. He went to the tub and saw she was almost out of water as he felt down in it. “You need some more water, don’t you girl.” Callum said as she was right behind him, nuzzling him on his back. He turned and smiled in the darkness, seeing her outline and her large eyes flashing in what light there was. “Alright, I’ll go get you some more water. You wait here and I’ll be right back.” Callum said, grabbing the pail near the half door, he closed the door behind him and went up the path to the pump, setting the pail down and pumped the handle for water. He filled the pail and picked it up and went back down the path.

“Quintan!” He heard the voice call in the wind. He stopped and turned, seeing someone coming from the house. “Quintan, what’s wrong?” Dustin asked.

“Looks like a storm is coming. I was taking water to the mare, she seems to be a bit upset by the wind. What are you doing up?”

“Henry climbed into bed with me. He woke me. I saw you were gone. Aunt Martha said you came out here. Let me take care of the water.”

“It’s alright, my love,” Callum said as he cradled Dustin’s cheek, “Go and get your shoes on, and grab another pail. We need what six or eight pails for her?”

“Eight is what I put in yesterday afternoon.”

“The tub is almost empty now. Go and get your shoes on first.” Callum said, leaning forward giving Dustin a soft kiss. He turned and headed for the stable as Dustin went back to the house.

    ******************************************************

The wind was becoming fiercer in its strength as the tub was now filled. Dustin gave the mare grain to help calm her, talking to her while he worked with her. She settled down with the sounds of him talking or he and Callum talking to one another. Dustin was busy about the stall, cleaning it for her, he was taking out some of the spent straw and was replacing it, adding much more for bedding, in case she nested in the stall. Callum noticed that she was better with company.

“I think we had better see about the property next to us, and soon.” Callum said as he was stringing old ragged blankets over the windows to block some of the wind for her.

“Why is that?” Dustin asked as he moving the straw about.

“Well, if he sells it to me, then we can build an actual barn and can house other horses to keep her company. She seems to do much better when there is someone with her.”

“You’re right in about the company being with her. She seems to be people friendly for certain.” Dustin said as he pat her neck. “But you think you would want a barn?”

“Well, to say that this stable is really only suited for possibly a cart pony and some mice, yes, I think a barn would be in order.”

“You never cease to amaze me, Quintan.” Dustin said as he came out of the stall, closing the door behind him.

“Oh, and how is that?” Callum asked as he finished the second window opening, standing back and looking at what he had done.

“You would give the shirt off your back to help comfort a horse.” Dustin said as he came up behind Callum, leaning on the pitchfork handle. Callum turned and looked at him in the low light, the wind howling outside.

“She is not just any horse.” Callum said as he cradled Dustin’s cheeks in his hands, “She belongs to the love of my life, and she is very important to him, as he is to me.” Callum leaned in and kissed Dustin softly. Dustin dropped the pitchfork and slid his hands around Callum’s waist, and tipping his head back a little as Callum took more of him. The kiss was long and tender, and Callum slowly pulled back, looking into the eyes of his love in the low light, they almost looked like black sparkling pools as they tried to catch what light there was in the stable. “I so wish we had blankets in here.” Callum said as he kissed him softly and pulled back, “I would take you again as I did last night.”

“Last night was almost perfect. The only thing that was missing was our bed. But, as for blankets, I am willing to rough it, if you are.” Dustin smiled.

“Everyone will be up soon, if they aren’t already. She knows where we are, and they will come looking for us with this wind.”

“Well, as I recall, I interrupted them the other night out here.” Dustin pulled himself closer, grinding himself into Callum.”

“You tempt me so, but with this sudden storm approaching, I am afraid we would get caught with more than our breeches down. Come on, let’s go back to the house. We will come back down and check on her in a bit.” Callum said, taking one of Dustin’s hands and leading him to the door. He opened it and closed it behind Dustin. Dustin shielded his eyes from the wind, his tail was standing out behind him. They had to keep their heads down as the wind was now more than fierce, it was actually becoming a danger. Callum pushed Dustin along on the path, until they reached the flagstone. Callum looked at the hens roost, it seemed to be fine, the door was actually out of the wind, and there wasn’t a single hen in sight. Dustin opened the door, and stepped in, Callum was right behind him, closing it as he came inside. Callum shook his head a bit and Martha was standing at the stove looking worried.

“I can hear it pounding against the house.” She said.

“Yes, it is getting rather intense outside.” Callum said. Dustin picked up his cup off the table, and looked up as Holt came to the doorway, looking alarmed.

“Quintan, your friend Owen, his father is here, Thomas is talking to him in the parlor.” Holt said, pointing his thumb back over his shoulder.

“What? Clyde is here?” Martha asked as she stepped forward, pushing through them to get to the parlor. “Clyde.” Martha said as she came toward him.

“Martha,” The rugged looking man said. Callum came in behind her, getting a look at the man. He could see where Owen got his rugged good looks from. But, he looked very frightened.

“Is Marlene alright?” Martha asked.

“Yes, for now.” He said as he took her hand with both of his. He looked about at all of them, “I’m very sorry to come to you so early, but it’s this wind.”

“Oh dear God, has something happened?” She asked.

“Yes. Owen asked me to come to ask for your help.” He said with deep worry in his eyes, “You’re Quintan, are you not?”

“Yes, is Owen alright?” Callum asked as he gripped Martha’s shoulders from behind her.

“He is, but there has been a terrible accident. The wind has brought down two trees. One has hit the house and opened up the roof, the other came through my livery.” He said as his eyes started to well up, “Two of my mares are,…”

“Thomas, Christian, go finish getting dressed,” Callum said as he stepped around Martha, the both of them bolted for the stairs, Callum putting a hand on this shaken man’s shoulder, looked at Dustin, “get your vest on, and grab mine while you’re at it.” Callum turned and looked at him, “We will do whatever we can for you and your family.” Callum said, and the older man looked like he was on the verge. Callum looked back at Martha, “Would you look after Henry for me?”

“Of course I will, Quintan.”

“Thank you. Maybe you should prepare something to eat for them if the house is in a bad way. She may not be able to cook for them.” Martha nodded, as Callum reached out and took the vest from Dustin’s hand, he slipped it on as he went to the bed where Henry was sitting up. Callum knelt down in front of him. Callum started buttoning it as Tomlin and Holt came back down the stairs. “Henry, we have to leave for a while to go help our friend Owen.”

“The nice man with all of the horses?”

“Yes, that’s him. Aunt Martha is going to look out for you while we’re gone. Do what she tells you to do, alright?” Callum got a nod in reply, “Go upstairs and get some of your new clothes and get dressed. We’ll be back as soon as we can. Help her with what she needs.”

“I will.”

“I know you will.” Callum said with a smile as he pinched his little chin gently, “Be a good lad, now, upstairs with you.” Callum said and stood, they all went out the door, Martha followed and closed it behind them against the fierce wind.

    *****************************************************

Callum and his group followed along as fast as they could, the wind was whipping dirt up off the road into their eyes. They entered the village and crossed the square, and saw the tree was partially sticking out of the roof and the tall front wall of the livery, one of the doors was lying out on the street. Horses could be heard crying out and voices of men yelling and calling out for more help. Callum followed the older man into what was left of the livery, and Callum could see the devastation from the massive ancient oak as it had crashed through the side and roof of the livery. One man was up in the fallen tree trying to chop a massive branch. The rest of the men about were working in utter chaos, most working against one another, and then Callum saw Owen in the midst. Callum went quickly to him and put a hand on him. Owen spun around and saw who it was, and then arms went around Callum’s neck.

“Thank God you’re here!” Owen said in Callum’s ear. Owen reached out a hand and took Dustin’s as he stood behind Callum. Owen let Callum go, and Callum slid around him to see what was really happening. Callum saw the two bodies under heavy limbs and trunk. Callum knelt down and touched one of the legs above the hoof. He lowered his head a moment and then rose back to his feet. He turned, as Holt stepped forward.

“The stallion?!” Holt asked as he put a hand on Owen’s shoulder almost yelling over the howling wind. Owen lifted an arm and pointed to the other side of the tree. Holt bolted forward and looked to where the stall should be, but couldn’t see him. Holt started to crash through what was the tree top, busting branches as he went, snags were scratching at his face and hands.

“Quintan, what are we going to do?!” Dustin asked as the wind was roaring through the remains of the livery. Callum turned and looked at Dustin, who was standing next to Owen.

“We’re going to get this rabble organized! Thomas, you and Dustin go to the house, see what the damage is there!” Tomlin and Dustin took off toward the house, “Owen, I take it you know all of these men?!” Callum asked, Owen nodded. Callum looked back at the tree and a plan was coming to him. He looked up and saw heavy timbers. “Let’s get these men all together and get them working as a team! We’re going to need ropes and block and tackle, do you have any?!”

“I have ropes, but I don’t have any block!”

“Alright, we’ll see to that in a bit! Right now, we need to get any of your stock out and to safety! How many horses were in here?!”

“Five! Two of the mares are dead there!” Owen pointed.

“Alright, we can get the others out and take them to our stable!” Callum yelled over the roaring wind, as he put a hand on Owen’s shoulder, “You go and get those men there, and I’ll get these over here!” Callum yelled and walked away. He walked over and got the men’s attention and waved them to join him. They all started coming toward him, and Callum led them into a group. “We need to all work together!” Callum yelled, “We have to get the horses out and to safety first, then we can worry about the tree after that! To move the tree, we will need ropes and block and tackle! We can cut up the tree and then lift it out of the way! I can show you how to do that, but first, we need to get the horses out!” Callum led them over to the far side of the tree where Holt had disappeared. Callum stepped forward into the top of the tree, “Christian! Christian!” Callum was almost screaming when Tomlin and Dustin came running back in.

“Quintan!” Holt yelled back.

“Christain?!”

“Quintan, I have the stallion, he’s trapped by a large limb, I can’t move him!” Holt screamed but Callum could barely hear him over the roaring of the wind. Callum cursed under his breath and charged into the branches. He got close enough to see, the stallion was trapped between the outside stone wall of the livery and the massive limb. Callum held up his hand to where Holt could see it, Holt raised his as well. Callum turned and crashed back out through the branches.

“Owen! Take three men, go out and around to right here where that stall is move over a bit, we will have to break through the wall from the outside, the limb is pinning the stallion down, he can’t move! You’ll need whatever kind of hammers or something to break through it!” Owen nodded as Callum patted his shoulder, Owen pointed at three good strong men and waved them to follow, Callum turned, and looked at Dustin, pulling him close to him, “Can you get through the branches over here to see about the other two horses?” Callum said in his ear, Dustin nodded, and set off, Callum waved to Tomlin, having him come forward, “What’s the situation with the house?” Callum asked in Tomlin’s ear, Callum backed up and Tomlin leaned in.

“About one third of the house is destroyed. The tree is blocking one of the doors, and the kitchen is not useable.” Tomlin said into Callum’s ear. Callum nodded and looked about and saw Owen’s father standing there, looking lost and utterly defeated, Callum took Tomlin and walked over to him, putting hands on him. Callum leaned to his ear

“Mr. Muir, I want you to get your family out of the house, my friend here will help you get them to my house for safety until this storm passes.” The older looked at him and shook his head, Callum leaned in again, “Mr. Muir, please, for their safety, please, think of them for a moment. Once they are there, come back here and help us, alright?” Callum looked at him and patted his shoulder. The older man finally nodded his head, Callum smiled at him briefly, then turned to Tomlin, leaning to his ear, “Thomas, see to the safety of the family with Mr. Muir, take them to our house, then return here.” Tomlin nodded and led the older man toward the house. Callum turned and went to where Dustin went into the branches. He looked about and then saw Dustin’s hand waving. Callum waved back.

“Quintan! They’re both alright! We can get them out if I can get the wall opened up!” Dustin was yelling, but Callum could barely hear him. He crashed through the branches and finally reached Dustin and the mares. He smiled at him and put his hands on his shoulders, stopping Callum, Dustin got close to his ear, “This is certainly one time I’m glad that you charged to my rescue.” Dustin said and pulled back, Callum smiled at him and kissed his cheek. Callum looked at the wall, thankfully it was only wood, no stone. Callum went under the neck of one of the mares and got to the wall. With everything he had, he started to kick at it with his boot, stamping against it. After a few tries the board started to give and push out. Callum kept going on the next one, loosening it and then moved to the next one as well. Callum threw himself against the loose boards and they gave more. He did it again and again and they finally busted free. Callum pushed on them until he was out through the wall. He stepped through and pulled the boards free and tossed them aside creating an opening large enough to get them through. He and Dustin took a mare each and led them out of the livery. Dustin took Callum’s horse with a free hand and stood still, holding them as Callum went back inside, finding some leads and came back out. He tied the leads to the halters and leaned close to Dustin’s ear.

“Take them to our stable and put them up. They’ll be safe there. They’ll need water after all of this, and possibly some grain as well. Can you handle them both?” Callum pulled back and Dustin nodded and smiled. Callum stepped out of the way and Dustin led them away. Callum looked further down the wall over the top of the great tree trunk and saw that Owen and his group were making good progress on the stone wall, busting it apart and tossing the rocks out of the way. Callum went back inside and gathered the other men, he set them about with what was here, which wasn’t much, one axe and a hatchet. Callum shook his head at the effort that was being done, the axe was dull and the going was slow. He told the men that he would be back. Callum ran across to the mercantile, seeing a light in the back, he pounded on the door. He didn’t see anyone moving, he pounded on the door again. The older man that owned the mercantile came toward the door carrying a lamp wearing his night shirt and a long robe over it. He unlocked the door and saw Callum standing there.

“I’m sorry to bother you so early, but there has been a terrible accident over at the livery! I am in need of axes, hatchets, block and tackle!” Callum was shouting against the roaring wind. The older man waved him inside as he couldn’t hear Callum very well.

“An accident you say?” He asked as he closed the door.

“Yes, two large trees have come down, one through the livery, one through the Muir house.” Callum said, “I need axes, hatchets, block and tackle.”

“Tools are back near that corner over there, Mr. Callum, but I’m sorry, I have no block and tackle here.” The older man said, as Callum was headed for the tools he needed.

“Where can I get them?” Callum asked over his shoulder.

“Possibly at the mill, but there won’t be anyone there for a while, I’m sure.” The older man said. Callum grabbed up five new axes and then a couple of hatchets, he carried them back to the older man.

“I’m very sorry, but I do not have my purse with me, may I ask that you trust me to come back and pay you for these?”

“Certainly, my boy, certainly, don’t worry about that now, I know you’re good on your word. Was anyone hurt?” The older man asked as he led Callum to the door, putting his hand on the knob.

“Two of Mr. Muir’s mares were killed by the tree.” Callum said.

“Such a shame. I’ll get dressed and get some of the other men and bring them along to help. I’ll join you as soon as I can.”

“Thank you, sir, and I will be back to take care of this.” Callum said as he nodded toward the tools.

“I know you will.” He said and opened the door into the howling wind.

Callum stepped out and hurried back to the livery. He entered and started yelling for the men. They saw what he had and went to him, taking axes and hatchets. Callum kept an axe for himself and pointed toward the far side of the tree where Holt and the stallion were. They started working as a group cutting branches as a couple of others joined in and started pulling the branches away.

The work proceeded and the tree was becoming slowly less in size. Callum got up on top and started chopping away at a large limb, making large chunks fly away, He could see Holt from where he was, and yelled back at the group to bring rope to where he was. Tomlin appeared and jumped up, getting next to Callum and started to tie off the rope, it was long enough that Callum stopped chopping for a minute and stood, pointing something out to Tomlin overhead. Tomlin looked up and saw what Callum meant and nodded. Tomlin set himself to where he was steady and coiled the rope, tossing it up and over the main roof ridge beam, near a post that supported what roof there was, Tomlin pointed to the rope and showed the men standing there what needed to be done with pulling on it. Callum went back to his swinging of the axe, and before long the large limb was pulled and swung away. Callum walked down the trunk and pointed at the branch that was trapping the stallion. Holt saw it and knew what he wanted to do, and nodded. Holt unbuttoned his vest and slipped it off as the stallion was struggling to try and get away as Callum was striking the large limb. Holt took his vest and put it over the head of the stallion to cover his eyes. He kept talking to him and stroking his neck and stayed close with him as Callum kept swinging and swinging.

Tomlin got the rope back from one of the men and tied the end around the limb, he looked back at the men and gave them two clenched fists, showing them to standby. Callum kept swinging and swinging, send chips and chunks of oak all over the place, the limb started to move and was going against the stallion, Holt was struggling to keep him calm, and then saw it, a way to help.

He ducked under and came between the horse and the limb with barely enough room to breathe and pushed against the limb to ease the pressure on the horse. Holt strained to push as Callum kept chopping and chopping and Tomlin looked back at the group showing them to start to pull.

The limb started to move and the horse felt himself being freed of the pressure, but it made him even antsier and he was stamping his hoof now. Callum was almost there, a few more swings and he would be through, he was heaving with his efforts with the axe, but he stayed with it, and then it broke free as the men pulled, the horse knew it and reared, losing the vest Holt had put over his head, Holt had only a moment and he leaped as the horse leaped as well, he grabbed the halter, as the stallion bolted, dragging Holt with him through broken branches and debris. Holt held on for dear life, and as the stallion was swinging around Holt got his feet under him and did a spring bounce step and slung up on the stallions back, grabbing two handfuls of mane, Holt held on as they charged out of the livery and headed out toward the square. Holt was doing everything he could to stop the stallion, and slowly, he was able to calm him and get him under control coming to a stop near the center of the square. The stallion was snorting at the wind, as Holt swung off him and took him by the halter and led him back to the livery. He went inside and the men were clapping for him. Holt smiled back at them and reached for a lead and tied it under the halter.

He led the horse back out and around to the corner and walked him down the wall going around the massive crater in the ground where the great tree had stood once to where Owen and the others were still working furiously on the stone wall. Holt reached out and touched Owen, making him turn, and seeing Holt and the stallion standing there, Owen threw his arms around Holt’s neck, hugging him tight. Holt handed Owen the lead and stepped forward stopping the other men from working any further. They all looked up and saw Owen with the stallion. Together, Owen and Holt looked over the stallion seeing scratches and slight cuts, but he seemed to be alright other than that.

Owen handed the lead back to Holt and pat him on the shoulder, smiling wide. Holt turned the stallion as he and Owen came back around the front to meet Callum and Tomlin. Owen hugged Callum and then Tomlin, then looked back at Holt, smiling as he saw them together, calm and serene in the howling wind. Callum leaned forward to Holt’s ear.

“Dustin has the mares at our stable, maybe you could take him there where he will be safe.” Callum backed up and Holt nodded. Callum turned and leaned to Owen’s ear and told him the same thing, Owen nodded and told Callum thank you. Callum pointed to Tomlin and winked at him to go with Holt if he wanted. Tomlin smiled and walked quickly to catch up, as Holt walked away with the stallion.

    ******************************************************

“I see you got him out, I was so worried.” Dustin said as Holt came through the half door leading the stallion. Holt led him up to the tub of water and let him have a long well deserved drink.

“Yes, thank God.” Holt said as he pat the stallion, “He has only a few scratches, but he will be just fine after a few days’ rest.” Holt smiled at the stallion, patting him gently on the neck, “How are the mares?”

“I think they’re alright, but I don’t know. Could you look them over, Christian?”

“Certainly.”

“Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I could use a cup of coffee.” Tomlin said, “This wind has my ears ringing.”

“Mine as well.” Holt said as he looked over one of the mares. He was done with the first one and moved on to the next, giving her a close look. Holt picked at something on her back, and looked at it, it was blood. “She seems to have a good scratch here, Dustin. I don’t think it’s too serious, but it’s pretty long.”

“That must have been when she went through the wall that Quintan kicked out. There were some broken boards.”

“Yes, he was rather like a wild man, wasn’t he?” Tomlin asked, rolling his eyes a little.

“What do you mean?” Dustin asked as he looked at Tomlin.

“He went over to the mercantile and had that old man open up for him, grabbed a bunch of axes and hatchets, and came back. He climbed up on that giant tree and started chopping it apart. We slung a rope up and over the big beam and used like a Tommie block and started to pull those giant limbs out of the way as he chopped them loose. One of the more amazing things I’ve ever seen him do.” Tomlin said as he was standing next to one of the mares, putting an arm over her back, “And speaking of amazing, you were very much so, Mr. Christian Holt, with that move that you performed to get up on him.” Tomlin said as he shook his head.

“What move?” Dustin asked.

“I was up on the tree with Quintan, seeing to the rope on the limb, he chopped the limb loose and the men pulled it out of the way, when they did, the stallion reared and bolted, Christian here grabbed the halter and started to get dragged off, but he did this little hop step, and bounced up onto the back of the stallion and rode him out of the building, like nothing had happened at all. It was quite incredible actually.” Tomlin said and gave Holt a wide smile.

“I did what had to be done, if I hadn’t he’d still be running and probably be halfway to London by now.” Holt said and shrugged.

“I miss everything.” Dustin said, shaking his head.

“The best is yet to come, I’ll wager.” Tomlin said as he was heading to the door, “I’m going to see about some coffee.” Tomlin said as he stepped out into the howling wind.

“What did he mean by that?” Holt asked.

“Probably something about Quintan, I’m sure.” Dustin said as he went back to get a pail to get more water.

“Dustin,” Holt said, as he walked toward him, “may I ask you something?” Dustin stopped and looked back at Holt, “Well, actually several things.”

“You can ask anything you like, Christian.” Dustin said as Holt stepped up to him.

“Does it bother you when people speak of Quintan?”

“As I have said, the topic of conversation usually ends up about him at some point. I am trying to get used to that.” Dustin smiled, “Does it bother me?” Dustin shook his head in answer to his own question, “Not really. I have always seen him as larger than life since the first time I saw him. He always manages to be that way, as I’m sure you have noticed that as well.”

“Yes, he does seem to be that, doesn’t he?” Holt smiled.

“What else were you going to ask me?”

“About what we were all speaking of yesterday, becoming neighbors, if that neighbor sells to Quintan.”

“Christian,” Dustin said as he set the pail down on the ground and stood again, “I would be more than more than happy if you and Thomas were our neighbors. I have come to think of you as a very close and dear friend, and as Quintan has said, family.” Dustin put his hands on Holt’s upper arms, feeling the tight muscle under the shirt. “It would sadden me greatly if you and Thomas were not here with us or at least near us. Quintan would fight to keep you here, as I would as well. If you are still thinking of your father, I can honestly say, he will have quite a fight on his hands to try and take you away or to cause you any further harm.” Dustin smiled. Holt stepped into him and wrapped his arms around Dustin, hugging him tight. Dustin smiled and hugged him back.

“I think of you as a very dear friend as well, Dustin. Quintan is a very lucky man to have you at his side.” Holt said in Dustin’s ear. They pulled back from each other.

“Thomas is actually the lucky one.” Dustin smiled and picked up the pail again, “I’ll be off to get more water now.” Dustin smiled.

“If there is another pail, I’ll help you.” Holt said. Dustin pointed over near the last stall, and then walked through the half door, closing it behind him. Holt went to get the pail.

Dustin was pumping the handle and the water was filling the pail as Holt came up on the flagstone. Dustin looked up at the sky as he stopped pumping, while Holt was switching pails. Dustin saw the black clouds rolling in quickly and heard the rumble of thunder off in the distance with the howling wind.

“I think the sky is about to open up!” Dustin yelled. Holt looked up and saw what he was talking about.

“One of us had better stay with the horses when it starts! After what they’ve been through already, they might panic!” Holt said loudly and Dustin nodded as he pumped more water into the next pail. It was filled and they walked down the path to the stable.

    ******************************************************

Callum was looking up at the sky through the ripped open roof of the livery, Owen was looking up as well. They heard the rumble over the howling wind and then looked at one another. Owen shook his head and saw his father standing at the far wall of the livery toward the house. Owen touched Callum’s shoulder and walked toward his father. Callum followed as some of the men were still chopping at the great tree inside the livery. Callum could see that Owen’s father seemed to be in a state of shock over all of this. Owen came close to his father, standing in front of him.

“Father, the horses were taken to Quintan’s and put in the stable there! It is going to start to rain! Where are mother and the girls?!”

“They are at my house!” Callum said, as he saw the look on the older man, knowing he would not be able to answer, “Owen, perhaps we should go into the house and get things moved about so the rain will not damage anything further!” Owen looked at Callum and nodded, and looked at his father again.

“Father?!” Owen reached out and put his hands on his shoulders and shook him slightly, “Father?!” The man was a blank now, Owen looked at Callum.

“He is lost for the moment, take him in and get him out of all this! I will send some of these men to help you!” Callum said as he pointed back to some of the men. Owen nodded and turned his father and guided him toward the house at the rear. Callum watched them for a moment and turned about and went toward the group of men. Callum called them to him with waving his arm, they all moved toward him, “I need a few of you to go into the house and help Owen move their things about so the rain will not damage them further!” Callum watched them for a moment, they didn’t move, as if they were waiting themselves to be told further. Callum pointed at three of them and they set off handing their axes or hatchets off to the others that remained with Callum. He pointed back at the tree and they all set off back to working on it. Callum grabbed an axe and climbed up in the great tree and started chopping along with them.

Tomlin was in the kitchen with Martha and Owen’s mother, Marlene. Tomlin was sipping the last of his coffee and looked up at the kitchen window as the rain was starting to be driven against it by the howling wind. Both women looked over at the window as they heard it as well. Tomlin set his cup down on the table as he stood. Owen’s sister, Callista, was sitting at the table as well, making eyes at Tomlin from time to time but not saying a word. Tomlin turned and walked to the stairs and went up and got his tunic, putting it on and then came back down, as he was pulling out his tail and tossing it back behind him, as he came back into the kitchen.

“I’m going back to the livery and see what else I can do.” Tomlin said, as he looked at the two women at the stove, “Would you please tell Christian and Dustin that when they come in?” Tomlin asked, and Martha nodded her reply. Tomlin smiled softly at her, “Thank you.” He bowed his head slightly and walked out. Martha turned back to the stove.

“Is he an officer as well?” Marlene asked Martha softly.

“Yes, he serves aboard the same ship with Quintan.” Martha said.

“Quite a striking young man.” Marlene said softly, and gave her daughter a side glance, who saw it and blushed. All eyes turned as they heard the back door open, Holt and Dustin came in with the howling wind blowing around them, Holt closing the door. They were both wet from the rain that was now coming down at a heavy rate.

“Aunt Martha, do we have any old blankets that I could use to seal up a couple more of the open windows of the stable?” Dustin asked as he stamped his feet on the floor to shed some of the rain. All eyes were now on the two young men. Martha pulled away from the stove and went toward the doorway to the parlor.

“There are a couple of old ones in the bottom of the pantry. I’ll get them for you.”

“Where is Thomas?” Holt asked.

“He just went back to the livery, he asked me to tell you both. He left just before you came in.” Martha said. At that moment she realized that they did not know everyone. “This is Marlene Muir, Owen’s mother, and her daughter, Callista.” Dustin bowed his head slightly to each of them as did Holt. Dustin stepped forward toward her, holding out his hand. “Marlene, this is my other nephew, Dustin, that I told you of.”

“I am very sorry as to what has happened to you and your family, ma’am.” Dustin said as he took her hand gently in his.

“Thank you to you both for your assistance.” She said, as Dustin slightly bowed his head again.

“It is our pleasure, ma’am.”

“And this is Christian, Marlene.” Martha said as she came to him and clasped his upper arms, looking toward her friend at the stove.

“How do you, ma’am?” Christian said, bowing his head slightly again. Martha let him go and walked toward the parlor.

“Where’s Henry?” Dustin asked.

“He’s in here with Muriel.”

“Muriel?” Dustin asked as he took his hand back.

“My other daughter. Your boy looks just like you, the resemblance is remarkable.” Marlene said to Dustin, “But you seem rather young to have such a son.”

“Thank you, but he is not my son.”

“Oh, you’re younger brother perhaps?” She asked, as Dustin was looking at her, smiling softly.

“No, he is of no relation to me, he was actually brought here by Quintan. The boy was living on the streets in Portsmouth. We found him, and have brought him to live here with us to give him a home.”

“Do you all serve in the Navy?”

“Yes, we do.” Dustin smiled.

“Sailors are said to have the warmest hearts of all.” She said.

“I have heard that as well.” Dustin smiled wider and bowed his head again, “If you will excuse me, I must see to the horses again.”

“Of course.” She said. Dustin turned and looked at the girl at the table, who was staring at Holt, her eyes were locked on him, and Dustin walked out, smiling to himself, leaving Holt to deal with it on his own.

Dustin saw Henry sitting on the little bed on the floor of the parlor with the little girl. Dustin walked up to them and knelt down, giving Henry a smile. Henry looked up and smiled back. He scooted over and got up and stood in front of Dustin, who put a hand on the little shoulder.

“Henry, have you made a new friend?” Dustin asked, getting a nod back in reply.

“This is Muriel, she and I were talking about her house. She’s scared.” Henry said and then leaned close to Dustin’s ear, “I am too.” Henry leaned back. Dustin smiled softly.

“It is going to be alright. There is no reason to be scared. It’s just a storm, it will be over soon, you’ll see.” Dustin said as Martha came in with the blankets in her arms. “Now, you keep being brave and watch over Muriel here.”

“I will.” Henry said and looked down at his new friend, then back at Dustin. Dustin stood and stepped to Martha, taking the blankets from her.

“Thank you. Are you sure we won’t need them?”

“They’re just old rags. I don’t honestly know why we kept them, but if you can put them to good use, so much the better.” She pat his arm. Dustin leaned in and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Don’t worry about them, they seem to be good for one another right now.”

“Yes, they do.” Dustin said as he looked back at them. Henry was sitting back down and was talking to the girl. “I’ll be out in the stable for a while.” Dustin said softly.

“You had better get your coat with this rain. I don’t want you to be catching your death.” Martha said.

“Maybe I will.” Dustin said and set the blankets down, “I’ll be right back.” Dustin went up the stairs and went into the bedroom. He went to the trunk and opened it. He had to rummage around in the bottom and he found his jacket, he pulled it out along with another shirt and closed the lid and went out of the room, closing the door behind him. He picked up the blankets and went into the kitchen, seeing Holt was still standing there, but he moved toward Dustin as he came in. Holt took the blankets from Dustin and went to the door. Dustin was putting on his jacket, and then rolled up the extra shirt, tucking it inside the jacket. He and Holt went out the door, closing it quickly behind them.

    ******************************************************

Callum was swinging his axe and was nearly through another large limb when Tomlin came into the livery, seeing all of the men working on the great tree. The rain was coming in through the missing roof and everyone was getting soaked. Tomlin went to join Callum, as he saw the rope, he grabbed one end and took it with him as he climbed up beside Callum. Callum stopped swinging as Tomlin was next to him as he tied off on the limb. Tomlin stood and looked at Callum, who nodded at him and Tomlin climbed back down, taking the rope in one hand and waving his other arm to have some of the men join him on the rope.

Callum saw them getting on the line, and began swinging the axe again, more chips flying as the water was pouring off Callum, his shirt now completely soaked, everyone could see the muscle in his arms as he swung the axe. The limb was almost free and Tomlin looked back at the men behind him.

“Pull!” Tomlin yelled and they all pulled, the limb finally coming free and being drug toward them. The men let the line go slack and they all grabbed the limb and started to pull as more men came into the livery from the square seeing the destruction that had occurred. Bockman was one of them. He looked up as the rain was pouring in, making his face wet. He saw Callum up on the great tree and went toward him. Callum was getting into position to start another limb, when he felt a hand on him from behind. Callum lowered the axe and saw Bockman.

“Sir! You certainly seem to be in the thick of it!” Bockman yelled over the wind.

“That I am Mr. Bockman!” Callum yelled back. “We need to get this all cleared out! The house has been damaged by another tree as well! You mind having a look at it?!”

“I’ll go do that!” Bockman yelled, giving a nod, “Where is Muir?!”

“They’re in the house! Go easy, he is not well with all of this! Come back and tell me what you think!”

“I will, sir!” Bockman nodded and turned away. He climbed down. Callum watched him for a moment and then saw Tomlin, “Thomas!” Callum yelled cupping his mouth with one hand, “Bring the line!” Tomlin waved in reply. Callum turned and started swing on another massive limb.

    ******************************************************

Bockman went into the house and surveyed the damage of the house, shaking his head as he was ducking in and out of branches and debris. He went through some of the rooms and as the house was starting to fill with water from the rain, he could hear men talking loudly, and the sounds of things being moved about. Bockman made his way into another room, he saw men working to get things out of the rain and into rooms that were undamaged. Owen saw him and came to him.

“The Captain asked me to take a look at the damage of the house.”

“What is he thinking?” Owen asked.

“I’m not sure, but he asked to let him know about it when I was done.” Bockman said. Owen just looked at him and frowned. These two men had known each other all of their lives and could be called friends, but Owen was growing concerned about why Callum wanted to know about the damage. “Where is your father?” Bockman asked.

“In this room behind me.” Owen said, as he pointed back over his shoulder, “He is not himself. If you speak to him, he will probably not answer.” Owen said, “We are almost done in here. What do you think about the tree? We have to remove it.”

“I think it best it stays where it is until the rain stops.” Bockman said, “It will help keep some of the water out.”

“You might be right there. I didn’t think of it that way.” Owen said, “I must help finish with moving everything.”

“I’ll go and tell the Captain what I’ve found. Don’t worry, Owen, all will be well, and soon.” Bockman said as he put a hand on him and gave him a nod. Owen nodded as well. Bockman turned and went toward the livery.

    ******************************************************

Dustin and Holt worked the blankets into place over the window openings of the stable, getting the tattered blankets into place to keep the driving rain out. They worked as fast as they could, and had to light a couple of candles as it grew dark inside the stable now. The horses had finally settled down and Dustin’s mare seemed to be enjoying the new company that was there.

“I would not wish to be at sea in a storm such as this.” Holt said.

“I’ve seen worse.”

“Doesn’t it make you feel ill?” Holt asked as they were finishing the last blanket.

“You get used to it, the sway of the deck, the rain and all. It is almost becomes second nature.”

“I’m not sure about that. I would probably be ill for days.” Holt said.

“It’s actually easier when you’re up on deck than being below. You can really feel it, the sway and all even more when you can’t see it. I remember we were in a gale a little over a year ago near the Straits, the swells were really tall and Captain Powers would not trim back the canvas. The deck kept being washed over as we went along. I stayed at the helm for three watches just to keep from going below.” Dustin said as he finished his side and backed up from the blanket. “There, I think that should hold, don’t you?” Dustin asked as the blanket billowed inward from the howling wind. Holt backed up as well.

“Yes, I think it should.” Holt said as he watched the blanket. He stayed still as there was a deep rumbling over their heads. Holt looked back at the horses and they all lifted their heads. “I think it might start thundering more.”

“The sun must be up full now above the clouds. That’s what brings the thunder.” Dustin said.

“We shouldn’t leave them alone, just in case it gets bad. They might bolt for the door, especially the stallion. I would hate to have to try and catch him again.” Holt smiled.

“I was going to ask, did you notice that girl, Owen’s sister eyeing you?” Dustin said with a slight grin.

“I did.” Holt said as he bent down to pick up a piece of the wire they had used to tie off with, “Why do you mention it?”

“No reason.” Dustin answered and walked to check the water in the tubs, “If the horses all stay here for any length of time, should we get another tub or two for water?”

“Yes, and probably more feed hay as well.” Holt said as he followed behind Dustin, “Do you think about girls sometimes, Dustin?” Holt asked. Dustin stopped at one of the tubs. He stared down in it.

“Something happened to me in the village one day, when Quintan was gone to London. There was a girl in the square, she was selling fruits and vegetables. I saw her and I couldn’t take my eyes off her, nor could I speak. Her mother came over and tried to talk to me, she actually teased me a bit about being tongue tied. It was…unsettling.”

“Would you ever, or could you…?” Holt started to say something, but Dustin turned and looked at him.

“I know what you’re trying to ask, Christian. I have thought about it at times, but then I see Quintan, and I realize that he is everything to me. I don’t think I could ever be with… a girl. Could you?”

“Quintan actually asked me the same thing once. You remember that night when you asked me to your room, as I had so many questions and Thomas was sleeping?” Holt asked.

“I remember.” Dustin said.

“I think about it sometimes as well, girls I mean, especially when I look at Henry. I would want children myself one day, I think. I look at you or Quintan when you are with Henry and it makes me feel that I would want that, to have a child, or children. But I know that it’s not possible being with Thomas. He seems to be rather slightly afraid of children. Have you noticed that?” Dustin nodded his reply. “I don’t know why that is. That little one gives me such a warm feeling sometimes.”

“Yes, he does seem to know how to work a heart, doesn’t he?” Dustin asked and smiled softly. Holt nodded. “Perhaps one day, Thomas will feel it as you do, and will want children.”

“What are we to do, take one of a street somewhere?” Holt asked, “Henry is special, Dustin, a one of a kind, you know that. It’s what drew him to you in the first place, I’m sure.”

“It was actually Thomas that was the lure to begin with.” Dustin smiled at remembering that morning, “Quintan actually made a game of it for the both of them.” Dustin chuckled remembering more. “It is something that you and Thomas must work out between you. Quintan and I never even talked about it. He just latched onto Henry that first day, and provided for him. The little devil stole my heart as well that first day, and then he stayed with us. But I remember clearly that first evening, it was actually Thomas that suggested that we bed Henry with him for the night, as he had napped in Thomas’s bed earlier in the day. You might have an easier time of it than you know, Christian. Perhaps we should figure out a way to soften Thomas up a bit with Henry.”

“That’s an idea.” Holt said, hearing another deep loud rumble overhead. “I wonder if one of us should go back to the village and check on what is happening.”

“I can stay with the horses if you want to go.” Dustin said.

“I’d like that. Suddenly I have a great need to lay eyes on Thomas.”

“I feel the same about Quintan.”

“Why is that? Why do we feel that?” Holt asked. Dustin smiled and came to him.

“It’s because we love them both so much.”

“I suppose it is that, isn’t it?”

“Don’t be afraid to love him, Christian, to show it to him. He has been alone in most of his life as well. He needs to feel loved, as do we all, but he has never experienced it as neither have you.”

“I’ll go now. This need I have to see him is becoming intense.” Holt said, and Dustin slipped off his jacket, handing it to him.

“Here, I know you do not have one, you will need it more than I in this rain.” Dustin smiled.

“Thank you.” Holt said, taking the jacket and putting it on. He gave Dustin another hug, “I do so enjoy our talks, Dustin.”

“As do I, Christian. You always seem to give me a different way to see things. I thank you for that.” Dustin said as he pulled back, “That jacket becomes you. I like it. You fill it out better than I do.”

“We seem to be the same size.”

“Hardly that, Christian.” Dustin said as he lifted an eyebrow, “I saw you yesterday with Quintan with your shirt off, you were very impressive looking out of your clothes washing up after dueling. I even told Quintan that.”

“He asked me about it yesterday. Would you like to look like this? Because, I have seen you as well, and I find you quite striking as you are.”

“Thank you, that’s very flattering. Yes, I would love to have a body like yours.” Dustin smiled.

“Well, then I can help you with that.”

“I would like that very much.” Dustin smiled, “Something else neighbors can do with one another perhaps.” Dustin chuckled, and Holt smiled wide as he turned and went for the half door. Dustin watched him leave and close it behind him as he went out into the howling wind and the driving rain. Dustin turned back to the horses.

    ******************************************************

Callum was swinging and swinging at the large limb, the rope secured to it, Tomlin back at the line with the men again. They watched as chunks were flying away with every strike of the axe. Callum went at it without thought as if he would never tire, Tomlin thought to himself. He was driven, by what Tomlin was not certain, but he knew he had seen him like this before and could only shake his head at what he was seeing him do now. Tomlin looked over and saw Bockman coming toward them, Bockman was watching Callum up on the great tree swinging away at it as if it were some kind of enemy, like he did yesterday as he was watching him dueling with Holt.

Bockman came near Tomlin and stopped, Callum stood straight and looked back at the group of men and saw Bockman, Callum raised an arm and waved his hand to have them pull tension on the line, Callum started swinging again cutting the last of the limb free and Tomlin and his group started to pull even more, Bockman joined them on the line and the limb cracked and gave way, and was drug out. Callum looked down and saw one of the dead mares under him and the massive trunk he was standing on. He shifted to the other side and started to set about to clear the next great limb as Bockman climbed up and came near him.

“Captain!” Bockman yelled, Callum lowered his axe and came to meet him, “I took a look, sir!” Bockman yelled and Callum leaned closer to him as they were being rained on, Bockman leaned close, “It is pretty bad as far as I can see. To get it back to what it was will be considerable. I told Owen that the tree should remain in place until after the rain to help keep the water out.”

“Whatever it takes, Mr. Bockman.” Callum said as he traded places at Bockman’s ear.

“Sir, I know they do not have the money it takes. They can barely meet ends with grain and hay.” Callum backed up and looked at Bockman, lifting an eyebrow as the water was running down his face.

“This is of far more importance, Mr. Bockman.” Callum said as he leaned into Bockman’s ear, “I wish to have you and your workers take care of this. I will cover the expenses, whatever they are, once the Muir family is safe and back into their home, then we can do whatever else is required, my own home can wait, Mr. Bockman.” Callum said and leaned back, Bockman was wide eyed. Callum held up a finger and raised an eyebrow. Bockman nodded several times his understanding. Callum looked over as several other men came into the livery. They stood just inside the doorway. A large man was pointing around at everything to the group that was with him and was leaning into ears, obviously telling them what to do. Bockman saw who was here now, and looked at Callum. Callum leaned forward.

“Who is that?”

“Wayne Daultry, he’s the lumber millwright.” Bockman said into Callum’s ear. Callum nodded his understanding. Bockman turned and climbed down, Callum followed, after he set his axe, sinking it into the great tree. They walked over toward the big man. As Callum drew near, he could clearly see that this man was nearly twice his size over, as like the giant, Goliath. Callum came up as the giant man leaned down to give Bockman his ear. Bockman spoke into it, and then he straightened. The giant man smiled out of the corner of his mouth and put out a hand toward Callum, Callum looked at it and then put his into it, being dwarfed in size, the hand closed and completely enveloped Callum’s, making him swallow hard. The giant man leaned down. Callum turned his head slightly. The voice was very deep, matching his size as he spoke.

“Captain Callum, it is an honor to meet you. Bockman has told me much of you. I am the one that is supplying the timbers for your addition.” Callum nodded slightly, “I didn’t expect to find you here in all of this disaster.” Callum pulled back and traded him places.

“The Muir’s are close friends of mine. When they are in need, I shall always be there.” Callum said. The giant man stood, still gripping Callum’s hand, he squeezed it a little tighter and Callum could feel the strength in it. He leaned forward again.

“To have a friend such as you should be quite a comfort to them. I hope that we can also become friends like that.” He traded places with Callum.

“I certainly would rather you be a friend than an enemy.” Callum said, smiling, backing up, looking the giant man up and down. The man let Callum’s hand go and put it on his wet shoulder almost covering it completely, laughing out loud. Even over the howling wind you could hear him. Callum laughed as well. Tomlin stepped close behind Callum not sure what was going on, but was wide eyed seeing the sheer size of the man, Tomlin was looking upward at him. The giant leaned down again.

“Where is Clyde or Owen?” He asked, Callum traded places with him.

“They are in the house, as it was damaged by another tree. They are moving things about to get them out of the rain.” Callum said. The giant man stood straight and looked toward the far end of the livery, his eyes narrowed, and he walked quickly toward the house. Callum stayed where he was as he was feeling almost exhausted from all his exertions.

“I wonder if there are any more about like him.” Tomlin said as he leaned to Callum’s ear.

“I wonder that myself. I would certainly have loved to have a few like that onboard Dover.” Callum said as he traded places. Tomlin leaned in again.

“The size of him, he could easily replace a dozen of the crew.” Tomlin said. Callum chuckled as they both watched the giant man walk out of the livery. Holt walked in the doors and came to them. “Christian, what are you doing here?!” Tomlin asked.

“I came back to help, if I could! The horses are alright now!”

“Good! Is Dustin with them?!” Callum asked. Holt nodded in reply. “Alright, grab an axe if you want! We’re cutting the limbs free and they are dragging them out!” Callum said. Holt took off Dustin’s jacket and took it over and laid it on a rail on the other side of the livery and then went to join Callum as he was handed an axe by one of the men. They climbed up and set about cutting away, working on different large limbs on the one side of the great tree. Tomlin climbed up and tied off the limb Holt was chopping on. He climbed back down and took the line with his group, bringing tension. Holt chopped his free and the limb was pulled and drug away. Tomlin brought the rope back and tied Callum’s limb off. It was massive as well. Callum was sending chunks of oak sailing into the air as he worked harder and harder at it, back into his rhythm, treating the limb like an enemy. Tomlin got out of the way and grabbed the line with the group and set tension. Callum was working as more tension was brought. Holt was behind Callum further up toward what had been the top of the tree, chopping at smaller limbs to get them out of the way. Holt was soaked by the rain as well as the sweat pouring out of his body now as he continued, now matching swing for swing with Callum.

The giant man and Owen had come out of the house and back into the livery, the rain was pouring down through the large opening of where the roof had been, high up. Owen looked up seeing that more than a third of the roof was gone from the damage and was amazed at how much of the tree had been removed already. He saw the tension on of the rope and the group of men that held the other end, and he saw Callum swinging his axe as well as Holt sending chunks flying in the air. Callum was near done with this massive limb and the weight of not only it, but now the water from the rain was too much and when it broke free, the beam overhead couldn’t take the strain any longer and gave way, bringing another section of the roof with it. Holt saw it, and looked up, he spun and dove, colliding with Callum, taking him with him down off the great tree, the two hitting the ground as the roof section crashed where they had been standing. Every man jumped forward as Tomlin screamed, dropping the rope in his hand and started to crash through the broken and twisted roofing and beams.

“Quintan!” Holt called as he crawled closer to Callum. There was no answer, Holt felt him, he was not moving as he crawled through debris and branches and wet leaves as the water was dripping on them, “Quintan!” Holt yelled as he drew closer to Callum’s head, he was face down in the mud of the floor. Holt put a hand on his shoulder and shook him gently and he saw Callum starting to move. Callum lifted his head to get his face out of the mud, his eyes opened and Holt could see the glint in them. “Are you hurt?!” Holt asked as he crawled closer.

“No, I’m not hurt! Are you alright, Christian?!”

“Yes!” Holt answered, and put an arm around Callum’s shoulder and tried to catch his own breath, resting his forehead against Callum’s for a moment. “If something were to happen to you, Dustin would surely kill me!” Holt said, Callum chuckled and then coughed out some mud from in his mouth spitting it away.

“He would get over it eventually!” Callum said and reached over with a hand and pat Holt on the shoulder. He rolled to his side a little in the mud. Callum saw motion behind Holt and went wide eyed as the entire roof section lifted, lifted by the giant man. He moved his hands and grabbed more of the beam work from underneath and lifted it even more, extending his massive arms and locking them in place. He nodded his head for them to move, neither Callum nor Holt wanted to argue, they both scrambled in the mud and clamored out from under the debris. Once they were clear, the giant man let the roof section go and let it fall back into place. He turned and saw a muddy Callum and Holt standing there with wide eyes.

Callum reached out a muddy hand and the giant man stepped forward and took it in his again. Holt was more than wide eyed seeing the sheer size of him as he had to tilt his head back to see his grinning face. Callum took his hand back and nudged Holt with an elbow. Holt gulped hard and put out his hand. The grin on the giants face got wider as he took it in.

Tomlin was at Holt’s side and looked him over up and down, seeing if he was hurt at all. The giant released Holt’s hand, and Tomlin grabbed the muddy shoulders and turned him, looking him up and down. Holt smiled at Tomlin through the mud streaks on his face, and Tomlin wanted to hug him so bad, but didn’t. He looked over at Callum as Owen came up to him, putting arms around Callum’s shoulders and pulled him in. The other men gathered round Callum and Holt and were patting their backs. Owen pulled back, now covered with mud himself from Callum, smiling wide. Owen leaned close to his ear.

“Thank God you’re alright! If something had happened to you,…” Callum lifted a hand to stop him, he traded places with Owen, going to his ear.

“Christian said the very same thing, Dustin would have killed you.” Callum said and pulled back with a smirk. Owen was smiling and then threw his head back and laughed, holding onto Callum’s shoulders. Callum felt something new on him and looked over seeing the giant hand on his shoulder and looked up. He turned a little to square off to him, seeing he also had a giant hand on Holt’s shoulder, the giant man leaned down between them.

“I just wanted to say that was one of the most incredibly brave things I have ever seen in my life. You have a good a friend in this man, Captain Callum.” The giant man stood back straight, grinning again, and Callum looked over at Holt and smiled broadly at him. Callum leaned toward Holt and got close to his ear.

“He’s right, Christian, it was incredibly brave of you to knock me off that tree like that, and very timely I might add. You saved my life, and I thank you.” Callum smiled. Holt smiled and traded places in the howling wind.

“I couldn’t very well have my fencing master killed before I have my second lesson.” Holt pulled back and smiled. Callum laughed and put his arm around Holt’s shoulders, pulling him tight to him, touching heads, as they looked at a bewildered Tomlin. Callum reached out with his other arm and clasped Tomlin’s shoulder and pulled him into a three way hug, Callum patted both their backs. Callum held them tight for a long minute and then let them go, turning to Owen, pulling him close as well.

“Owen, I am simply exhausted. All of this chopping of this giant tree has done me in.” Callum said in Owen’s ear, “I am taking my lads here home for a bit of a rest. I expect you, and your father in my home for supper this evening. The horses are safe, as is your family. We should perhaps wait until the storm has passed to finish everything else.” Callum said and pulled back. Owen smiled softly at him and simply nodded his head. Callum smiled and turned to look at his giant rescuer, reaching out his hand toward him. Callum leaned in his direction, the giant man leaned down, “My friend, I thank you for freeing us. Your strength came in quite handy, and I am in your debt.” The giant man pulled back and looked at him, then leaned forward again.

“There can no debt between friends, my good man. Go and rest yourself and get cleaned up, my men and I will finish what you have started.” The giant man said as he pat Callum’s shoulder. Callum looked into the grinning face and gave him a gentle smile and a nod. Callum, Tomlin, and Holt turned and waved at the large group of men and walked out of the livery, Holt grabbed Dustin’s jacket on their way out.

    *****************************************************

The thunder boomed loudly as they walked up the path to the house, the rain still coming down heavily. Callum had looked up at the sky a few times as they had walked along seeing that the storm, even with its howling wind was going to be with them for a while, the wind, carrying the clouds yes, but not taking them away, as Callum now knew this storm was very large indeed.

They had reached the front door of the house and Callum opened it and came in, followed by Tomlin and Holt, Callum closed the door to stop the wind and the rain from coming in. Henry and the little girl, Muriel, looked up at them and Henry was all smiles seeing Callum had come back. He got up and came toward the three and stopped.

“You are all wet and muddy.”

“Yes, we are.” Callum said, “Henry, go and get Aunt Martha for me, alright?” Callum asked, getting a nod from him and he ran toward the kitchen. A moment later, Martha came into view and crossed the parlor as Callum and his wet companions were getting out of boots and shoes.

“Quintan,” Martha said as she looked at the three of them, “you are all simply a mess.

“I am certain that we are, and am also certain that a hot bath would be in order, if that were possible.”

“I agree.” Holt said.

“And I as well.” Tomlin said.

“If only it were possible.” Martha said as she looked at them all again.

“How are things here?” Callum asked as he took off his vest and dropped it on the floor.

“They are well. Marlene is strong, but Callista hasn’t said a single word as of yet, usually she just chatters away, Muriel has been with Henry all this time and they are getting along quite well.”

“Good, where is Dustin?”

“He is at the stable, tending to the horses.” Martha said and put a hand on his soaked sleeve, “Quintan, it is a fine thing that you have done, all of you for helping them.”

“Well, it was what needed to be done, my dear. Anyone would have done that, and they have, in the village, quite a few of the men are there at the livery now to finish up. I am simply exhausted from all of it and needed some place dry, and a wonderful cup of your coffee.” Callum said and flashed his eyes at her.

“Come in and sit yourselves near the stove and get warmed. I have just made another pot and it should be ready now. I can introduce you as well.” Martha turned and walked into the kitchen, guiding Henry out of the way of everyone, and went into the kitchen. Callum and his wet companions came in behind her. “Marlene, this is my nephew, Quintan.” Martha said and the other lady turned and saw him standing there. She curtsied slightly and stepped a step as Callum came toward her, wiping his hand on his pants before taking her hand in his, he turned hers and bent down and kissed the back of her hand making her blush.

“Dear lady, I am very sorry that you and your family have had this tragedy. I am so glad that you have come through this safely.”

“Thank you so much for helping us.”

“It is the least I could do. I assure you, all will be well in a few days’ time, once this storm has passed. Our house is at your disposal.”

“You are too kind.” She said as tears welled in her eyes.

“Not at all, dear lady. I know that my lady here is a good and close friend to you, and your son has become a close friend to me, as I said, it is the least that we could do.” Callum said and kissed the back of her hand again, then gave her a soft smile, letting her hand go. Martha stepped up and put an arm about her friend’s shoulders. Callum turned and looked at his wet companions, “Thomas, Christian, why don’t you put that bench over here near the stove and warm yourselves, try and dry out some. I’m going down to the stable to see about Dustin.”

“I beg your pardon, but may I ask about my husband, and my Owen?” Marlene asked, Callum turned and looked at her.

“They are safe, albeit as wet as we are,” Callum gave her a brief smile, “they moved things about in the house to keep them out of the rain, until the storm passes. They should be joining us here shortly for supper. I made sure Owen knew that before we came here.”

“Thank you.”

“I will tell you,” Callum said as he took both of her hands in his and stepped close, “your husband seems out of sorts with all that has happened in this. I’m sure he will be himself in just a matter of time. It must simply be the shock of it all.”

“I hope you’re right in that.”

“I’m sure.” Callum said and squeezed her hands gently. He let her go and turned toward the back door, stopping near the table as he saw the pretty young girl. He stopped as she was standing there, silent, her eyes on him. “Hello, and who might you be, my pretty girl?”

“I am Callista, sir.” She said softly and curtsied behind the table. Callum bowed his head and reached out his hand to her. She took it.

“I am Quintan, a friend of your brothers. I take it you know my other friends here, Thomas and Christian?” Callum asked as he nodded toward the pair. She nodded as well. “Good, if you will excuse me?” Callum said as he took his hand back and went to the door. He opened it and stepped out in the pouring rain as it seemed to be coming harder now. He hurried down to the stable and went through the half door, closing it behind him. Callum saw all of the horses about in the stalls, and heard another rumble in the sky overhead. He saw the top of Dustin’s head next to his mare and Callum went over to him, as he was dripping water and mud off his face. Dustin looked up and saw him and smiled as he came to him. They wrapped their arms about one another and kissed long and deep.

  ********************************************************

“He certainly is a very gallant young man, Martha, and quite handsome as well.” Marlene said as they rolled out and kneaded dough side by side.

“He is the spitting image of his father, that one.” Martha said shaking her head slightly, “But he has the manner and heart of his mother. You remember how she was, always doing for everyone else.”

“Yes, the day that Callista was born, she was at my side, helping to bring her into the world. She was a good friend as well, like you, Martha.” Marlene smiled at her. “There are times that I miss her though. You remember how her eyes would sparkle that blue color she had?”

“Yes, Quintan has her eyes as well, the very same color, and they sparkle as hers did.”

“I saw that, and it reminded me of her, yes.”

Tomlin and Holt listened to the two women as they were behind them on the bench drying out from the warmth of the stove, as they sipped coffee. They looked at one another now and then as the women chatted, smiling at each other now and again. Martha turned and looked back at them.

“Christian, I have water warmed here on the stove, if you would care to wash some of that mud off you.” Martha said.

“We used the other tub for water for the horses, I’m afraid.” Holt said as he looked up at her.

“I have another scalding pot that we can use, under the end of the counter here.” She said as she bent down and opened the door her hands covered in flour. Holt stood and stepped close to her after setting his cup on the bench. He pulled out the large pot she pointed it at. “Put it up on that table there under the other window. I will get the water for you.”

“That’s alright, I can do that.” Tomlin said as he stood. He grabbed a couple of cloths and picked up the pot of water and walked it over to the table, standing next to Holt. He poured some into the large pot and took the pot in his hands back to the stove, setting it down. Martha reached under the dry sink and pulled out the cloth and the soap cake and handed it to Holt with a soft smile. “I’ll go upstairs and get you another shirt, Christian.” Tomlin said and walked out of the kitchen.

“Are you sure I should do this here?” Holt asked Martha, as Holt looked at the others in the kitchen.

“Where else would you do it, dear boy, out in the rain?” Martha smiled, “I’m certain that these ladies have seen a man wash before as they have men of their own in their own house.”

“Yes, you’re right, of course.” Holt said trying to lose his modesty. Martha smiled and turned back to her dough. Holt pulled off his shirt over his head and set it down, his back to the girl at the table, who went wide eyed seeing his tight muscled back, his long pony tail hanging behind him, as he began to wash in the warmed water. Tomlin came back into the kitchen with the fresh shirt and took in a silent deep breath seeing him standing there like that as he started to wash. Tomlin smiled softly as he came closer to him, setting the shirt down. Holt looked up and winked at him, Tomlin beamed with a broad smile in return. Tomlin looked back at the bench and returned to it. He saw the wood box was near empty.

“Should I fetch more wood?” Tomlin asked. Martha turned and looked.

“Yes, but it is probably soaking wet by now.”

“I can stack it about and set it to dry. I wish we had some coal here.” Tomlin said softly.

“Coal?”

“Yes, we use it aboard ship for the stoves in the galley. It is better and hotter, even if it is wet.”

“I see.” Martha said. “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?”

“Not at all, dear lady, whatever I can do to help.” Tomlin smiled at her. She smiled in return.

    ******************************************************

Callum pulled back slowly from Dustin, looking into his soft brown eyes, cradling his cheek in the palm of his hand. He leaned forward and kissed Dustin softly and pulled back again.

“You are quite a mess. Why do you have mud all over you?”

“We had a bit of an accident at the livery. I was knocked off the tree as part of the roof gave way. I landed in the mud.” Callum said as he looked down at himself, seeing his white pants and shirt were mud streaked and stained. “I suppose I do look a sight, don’t I?”

“The roof?” Dustin asked with wide eyes, “Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine, I assure you, however I seem to owe my life to Christian. He was the one that knocked me off the tree actually and sent us both into the mud as the roof came down on us.”

“Oh my God.” Dustin said quietly.

“We both came out of it unharmed. I only feel bad for Owen and his family. This is quite a disaster for them.”

“Yes, it is.” Dustin said, seeing the look on Callum’s face, knowing that he had something on his mind now, “Go ahead and say it.”

“Say what?”

“Whatever is on your mind, I know you well enough that I can see it on your face.” Dustin said.

“As I have said before, I don’t think I could ever hide anything from you.” Callum smiled, as he took Dustin’s chin in his hand, looking into those soft brown eyes, “One of the things that makes me love you so. I spoke to Bockman as he showed up as well to lend a hand with everything. I asked him to take over and see to the repairs of the house for them. We will put our own addition on hold until they are taken care of first.”

“Do they have the money necessary for that?” Dustin asked.

“No, I doubt it. But, I do as you know.”

“Quintan,” Dustin said as he backed up a step, “you are stepping out too far. You know how Owen is, I’m certain his father will be that way as well.”

“They are in need, a need that is far greater than ours, wouldn’t you agree?” Callum asked as he pulled Dustin closer to him.

“Well, yes, but,…”

“And if we are able to help our friend in that, don’t you think we should?”

“But, you know that you will be turned down by him.”

“At this point, I really don’t think they have much choice in the matter but to say yes. You saw the house and its condition. They can’t live in it like that. The kitchen was utterly destroyed as you know.”

“Yes, it is a terrible thing that has happened to them, I agree.”

“And so you understand why I wish to help them.”

“I do, but I know you will try, but they will refuse.”

“I think not. I will put it to them in such a way to make them understand and to accept our help.”

“Our help?”

“Yes, us, my love, it will always be us, together. This is why I am speaking of it to you first. I have not mentioned it to anyone else as of yet, not even Martha. Without your blessing on it, I will not proceed, so what say you?”

“Of course we will help them.” Dustin smiled and kissed Callum softly, then smiled, “Your heart is as large as the world, Quintan Callum. You never think of yourself, only of others around you. I love you so for that. You never ask for anything in return.”

“Ah, but I do, my love. With what I do, I ask only for friendship in return.”

“All give that to you freely anyway. It is just the way you are.” Dustin said as another rumble came overhead and the horses moved about in the stalls. Callum leaned forward and kissed him again. Dustin pulled back and looked at him. “We need to get this mud off you, my beautiful man before it becomes a part of you.”

“I think we may be a bit too late for that.” Callum smiled. “As warm as you are to me on the outside, I feel I need a cup of coffee to warm me on the inside.” Dustin shook his head slightly.

“Martha is right, you are a scamp.” Dustin smiled and wiggled his eyebrows. Callum chuckled, as they went to the half door together, arms around each other’s waists.

    ******************************************************

They came through the back door together, Callum guiding Dustin through the door first and then coming through right behind him, closing it to keep the wind and the rain out as much as possible. All eyes turned toward the wet pair.

“It is a full force gale out there, I would say.” Dustin said as he shook his hands of the water on him.

“You two are certainly a sight.” Martha said, shaking her head at them, “Dripping water all over the floor like that.” Callum and Dustin just looked at her with little boy looks as she was using her scolding tone with them.

“If there was another way to come in, we would have, my dear, I assure you.” Callum said in defense. She shook her head again and reached for the water on the stove.

“Here, wash the mud and grime off you, Quintan, you certainly have enough of it on you. I don’t think I will ever get those stains out of your pants and make them white again.” She said as he met her at the scalding pot on the small table. “Now, get that shirt off and give it to me.” She said as she poured.

“Would you like more water brought in?” Tomlin asked.

“Let’s wait until the rain lets up a bit.” She said, as she turned, “There is no sense in getting wet again, as you are just about dry now, Thomas.” She gave him a soft smile as she set the empty pot on the floor next to the stove. They heard a knock at the front door. “Thomas, would you see who it is, please?” She asked, he nodded and got up and went, “Dustin, go and change your clothes, you smell like those beasts out in the stable, I’m sure.” She waved a few fingers at him, as Callum watched her and grinned as he was soaping up his hands.

“You give orders as well as I do aboard ship, my dear.” Callum said as he continued to grin.

“You just wash, you scamp, tracking mud and water into my kitchen like this, I have half a mind to throw you back outside and let the rain do it for you.”

“That may not be such a bad idea actually, as it is coming down like it is being pumped.” Callum grinned as he looked out the window.

“My heavens.” Martha said. All eyes looked as Owen and his father came into the kitchen, soaked clear to the bone. “Another mess on my floor.” She said, then waved a hand toward them, “Get over here by the stove and get warm and start to dry yourselves out.” She said. Holt got up off the bench and stood out of the way as Owen led his father over and sat him on the bench. Marlene turned from the stove and looked at her son and smiled, then bent forward in front of her husband, taking his chin in her hand.

“Christian,” Callum said, making Holt look at him, “You know where the pantry is?” Holt nodded, “There is a bottle of brandy in that wooden box we brought in from the cart yesterday. Would you go and get it for me?” Holt nodded and looked at the two men at the bench and walked out, the girl at the table watched Holt walk by and out. Dustin walked back into the kitchen in new clothes, carrying a fresh shirt for Callum. Callum was drying himself with a cloth as Dustin came to him, watching Owen and his mother tend to his father. Holt came back in with the bottle, Callum pointed to the table and he set it there, as Callum was putting his shirt on, letting it stay out of his wet and muddied pants. Callum went over and picked up a knife and put it to the cork, cutting the wax around the neck of the bottle.

“Would you hand me a glass from behind you, my dear?” Callum asked the girl. He pulled the cork as she handed him a glass and he poured some brandy from the bottle. He set the bottle down and went to the bench.

“It took a while to get him here.” Owen said softly, looking at his father. Callum got close to them and knelt beside the older man. He held the glass up under his nose, letting the fumes of the brandy get his attention. The eyes came alive a little and he looked about as if still in a daze.

“Mr. Muir, drink this.” Callum said, as he put the glass in the older man’s hand, “It will clear your head. Drink it.” Callum said with bit more authority in his voice. The older man lifted the glass and took a sip of it. “Come on now, drink it.” The older man did as he was told and drank the little bit of the brandy emptying the glass. Callum reached up and took the glass from him. “Good, that will give you your wits now.” Callum said as he put a hand on the older man’s knee. Owen touched Callum’s shoulder with one hand, and Callum looked up a bit and gave him a side glance then back to his father. The older man sighed lightly and looked at Callum.

“Thank you. I begin to feel a little better now.” He said and Callum nodded toward him, giving him a slight smile. He looked up into the face of his wife as she was still close to him, “We are ruined in all of this.”

“Clyde, we are all safe, and that is what matters the most.”

“Did you not hear me?” He asked, “We are ruined. The house, the livery, we cannot even make any repairs to it.” His voice was shaky and his eyes were welling. Callum stood and got out of their way. Martha was gently pulled away as well, by Callum, as he took her arm gently to give them room. Dustin stepped close to them both as he watched the three near the stove, this man, who was obviously strong, was near to falling to pieces.

“Mr. Muir,” Callum said, as he put an arm around Martha’s shoulders, pulling her to him, she put a hand up to his chest, “if I may,” The three looked at Callum, “I spoke to Bockman earlier and asked him for his opinion of the house and its condition. He has told me that it would be a bit of an undertaking, which I agree, but I know that you currently have limited means as your season for your business hasn’t fully arrived yet. And with the tragedy of this morning, I know it couldn’t have occurred at a worse time for you and your wife. I wish you to know, that we have discussed it and I am offering to have your home restored for you.” They all looked at him with wide eyes.

“Quintan, I will not hear of it.” Owen said sounding a bit angry, “You have done more than enough already. I was told that it was you that has mostly chopped apart the tree by yourself, you organized everyone so quickly, and have brought our family to safety and…”

“Owen, you are one my closest friends, as such, you know that we will do everything in our power to help you and your family through this. I offer to restore what you have lost, and have the means in which to do it. I want nothing in return. You are in true need, and there is nothing to be gained in refusing but only delay. It is not an issue with us, I assure you. You are valuable members of our community and dear friends as well. I would be a very poor friend if I did nothing.” The three stood and sat in silence for a minute. Owen went to say something, but Callum held up a hand to stop him.

“Furthermore, you know as well as I that the house is uninhabitable at this moment. I offer for you and your family to stay with us, here, until such a time that you can return home and start your lives anew.” Callum watched as Marlene was weeping openly now, her hands going to her face, her husband stood up next to her, putting an arm around her shoulders, letting her bury her face in his chest. Callum felt Martha clutch at his shirt. Callum reached up and covered her hand with his, “We will be crowded for a time here, but I think it is necessary to have you safe with a solid roof over your heads. We can move out into the stable, the five of us, Dustin and I, Thomas, Christian, and you Owen. The girls can take the new bed in the parlor, Mr. And Mrs. Muir, you can take the bedroom upstairs.”

“You seem to have put a considerable amount of thought to this, Quintan.” Owen said, looking at Callum with narrow eyes.

“Can you see another alternative, Owen?” Callum asked. Owen changed his expression, looking defeated now. Callum let Martha go and stepped forward to him. “My friend, there is no shame in letting us help you. Your family is my only concern in all of this. I offer, and you must accept,…please.” Callum said softly. Owen’s eyes welled as he looked at his friend. He nodded slowly, “Good, that’s settled.” Callum said softly, putting a hand on Owen’s shoulder. Callum looked at Owen’s parents and smiled softly at them, “Mr. and Mrs. Muir, I give you my word that we will try and make you as comfortable as we can. Worry not, all will be well.” Callum said. She lifted her eyes from the shoulder and looked at Callum.

“You are so like your mother. She would have done the same as well.”

“Thank you.” Callum said softly. “Now, if you will excuse me, I think a change of pants might be in order.” Callum smiled at them.

“I wish to say, sir, on behalf of my family, thank you.” The older man said, stopping Callum from walking away. He held out his hand. Callum took it.

“Mr. Muir, you are more than welcome, sir.” Callum smiled and gripped the strong hand firmly, “Please, my name is Quintan.” Callum said and took his hand back, giving them a nod and a smile. Callum turned and walked out of the room and headed toward the parlor and the stairs. Martha was dropping tears as well as she watched him walk out. She lifted her apron to her eyes.

 

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