Callum and Bockman were at the stone wall discussing where to cut it through so the horses could graze the next pasture once all of the fences of the adjoining property had been walked and checked for any possible repairs that might need to be done. Bockman was pointing out the best place for the pass through, suggesting that it be wide enough for carts or wagons and the gravel created from taking the wall down be used between the newly created opening. Callum nodded in his agreement as the opening would be near the stable. Callum looked across the next pasture and saw flames behind the house in the distance. He knew Tomlin and Owen were burning the paintings and sighed a silent sigh of relief, for the sake of those young boys that were the subjects of those paintings.
“Is everything alright over there, Captain?” Bockman asked looking toward the other house seeing the flames and looked slightly alarmed over it.
“Yes. Thomas and Owen are just burning rubbish that was in the house, I’m sure.” Callum said and gave him a reassuring smile as the flames were rather tall now.
“Quintan should be very happy about this.” Tomlin said.
“I feel slightly relieved myself.” Owen said softly as he watched one painting of a young boy burst into flame, “They should have never been subjected to this.”
“Who? Those boys?”
“Those boys live here in the village you know. Barthelow lured them here with the promise that they would work and earn money. He probably took each one of them as he took me.” Owen said quietly.
“Owen, do you really think he did?”
“I’m certain of it, Thomas, that’s the type of man that he is. They are all probably still living in shame over it and with what he may have been done to them.”
“And you? I told you there was no shame in what he painted of you.” Tomlin said as he looked at Owen.
“I know.” Owen said as he stared at the flames, “What you said made sense to me, but it was how he did it that brings the shame. I can’t imagine what those boys must have felt.”
“How old are they now? The paintings were deep in the stacks, so it would seem that he did them some time ago, as he was obviously putting new ones in the front as he went along.”
“Some of them are near our age. They are probably closer to Dustin’s age. I know most of them.” Owen said softly, seeing all of them burning now in the fire.
“There are a few other things I would like to see burned as well, some of his items that are up in that bedroom of his. I’ll go and get them.” Tomlin said, leaving Owen to watch the fire.
Talon mounted the horse and set out along the street away from the docks, heading toward the west end and out of the city. He knew he had to reach Callum and tell him of what had happened, knowing that he and Eddington were friends, it was only right. Talon also knew that Eddington had a wife, but that the Admiralty would be informing her. He thought of Morris and the rest of the officers and crew, along with the Marines, all of them lost. How many families were now destroyed with this tragedy, this poor decision that was made to send out this sloop with an inexperienced officer in command into something like this, to face some kind of a monster that could do this to sixty one men, without a second thought or even a care. What Talon had seen would be burned into his memory for the rest of his life. This deed needed to be avenged, and Talon knew there was only one man capable of doing it. He needed to see him, reach out to him, maybe he could do something about this nightmare. Talon was now more determined than ever to see him and he rode on.
Dustin finished with the horses, watering and feeding them. Holt had gone back to the house to deal with Hollander, the solicitor. Dustin looked over his shoulder now and then to make sure there was no one there. The events of yesterday with the stableman and the housekeeper, and even the tall dark doctor from the Orient, Khalif, who was beyond terrifying anyway, and had a powerful force of life of his own, getting up and walking away after taking two pistol shots at close range in the chest. Dustin was shaking slightly in remembering all of it, and then there was the Marine squad from just a bit ago. If Holt had not shown up when he did and drove them away, God only knows what might have happened. Dustin shook his head trying to clear his mind of it. He started to grab tack from the barn and then went to take it to the cart in the drive.
“Christian, it will take a few days to get all of this inventoried.” Hollander said as they were only on their second room, “Why don’t we go to your room, you tell me what you want from there, and I can remove it from being inventoried.”
“Alright, that might be better.” Holt said, seeming to be slightly shaken himself. Hollander had seen from the back of the house the events of what happened at the barn, knowing the Earl’s reputation all too well, he was impressed that the younger Holt had held off the squad of Marines almost singlehanded. He saw his young cousin in a new light now, brave, steady. He followed Holt to his bedroom.
“I shall want the bed of course, the night stands, and the wardrobe to be sure. I will pack up my clothing and take it with me in the cart as there is room I’m certain.”
“And what of those things of your mothers?” Hollander asked.
“There is a portrait of her in her bedroom on the wall, as well as a lock of her hair that was saved after she became ill and passed. That would be all that I would want.”
“Nothing else?” Hollander asked, “Letters perhaps that you might have written her?”
“No, there were no letters. But I should probably take her Bible, don’t you think?” Holt asked as he looked at Hollander with sad eyes.
“Yes, I think you should. It should have your lineage in it, from her side of the family.”
“Yes, I’ll take that as well, I suppose. I’ll load those in the cart to take with me. Everything else can be auctioned.” Holt said.
“Alright. We can deal with everything else by post. I’ll continue to do the inventory, I think your friend might need help with the horses. I seem to think he wishes to be on his way to Birmingham.”
“Yes, as do I.” Holt said and smiled softly, “Thank you, Severus.” Holt said and walked toward the back door.
Callum walked around the outside of the addition looking it over from a slight distance. The slate roof was going up and was almost done. The exterior walls were being plaster coated and shined in the morning light from being wet. Callum smiled as he knew it was almost completed now, on the outside at least. He went around to the front door, the dog was lying on the front step and looked up and thumped his tail as Callum came up.
“Well, sir, are you just going to lie there, or are you going to open the door for me?” Callum asked and raised an eyebrow. The dog groaned and got up and moved out of the way, “That’s what I thought.” Callum said as he reached down and pat the dog on the head and opened the door.
Men were working in the parlor next to the stairs, pulling the old pantry apart. Callum saw they almost had it completely dismantled now except for the back wall of it. He went through to the kitchen as he saw Henry was playing with the new toys that had been purchased for him in the corner of the parlor out of the way of everyone working. Callum saw Martha was standing at the counter with the dry sink, watching some of the men as they were working on her new pantry under the stairs. It seemed to be going very well in its progress. Callum walked up next to her and put an arm around her shoulders, as they both watched the backsides of the workmen as a few were on all fours. Callum chuckled.
“What amuses you?” Martha asked softly.
“I was just thinking about that view we are looking at right at this moment.” Callum said softly in her ear, “You must be quite content with all of this.” She reached up and slapped his chest with the flat of her hand.
“Quintan Callum, you scamp, you think that I am standing here just admiring torn breeches that are in need of a good washing and mending as well?”
“Well, if you weren’t admiring them, how would you know that they need washing and mending I wonder?” Callum chuckled again and went to walk away, she swatted his butt as he got clear of her, making him chuckle louder, “I’m going to go over to the other house and see about Owen and Thomas.” Callum said as he reached the back door. He turned and smiled at her and then winked. She shook her head slightly as he walked away.
Holt walked into the barn and saw Dustin was grabbing more tack from the far end to go to the cart. He walked toward Dustin and saw a pail in the middle of the floor and picked it up as he walked along. He looked up as Dustin was wide eyed, looking at him. Holt smiled as he came closer.
“Are you alright?”
“I am just a little on the nervous side, I suppose. Everything is coming out of the shadows at me right at this moment.” Dustin said as he eased a bit seeing only Holt.
“I can certainly understand that. I had to get out of the house, it was a rather chilling feeling being in there, that was running up and down my spine. So what are you doing?” Holt asked, trying to cheer himself up.
“Getting the tack like we talked about, then I’ll load some of the saddles. Did you want all of them?”
“Not all. Some of the older ones can remain. It might cost more to have them repaired rather than to have new. I came out to check on you, do you want me to help you, or should I go and pack my clothes and things.”
“I’m fine out here, as long as I’m carrying this pistol. When do you want to leave?” Dustin asked with a hopeful look of the correct answer.
“Probably in a couple of hours, maybe less, but well before noon I would say.”
“Good. We can stop on the way to Birmingham for supper if we don’t make it home by dark.”
“We will, fear not.” Holt smiled, “We can hurry a bit if we don’t load the cart down too much. I am looking forward to getting out of here as much as you are, believe me. I’ll go pack quickly and then come back and give you a hand, alright?” Holt asked, and Dustin nodded, giving a brief smile. Holt pat Dustin on the shoulder and walked to the side door at the end of the barn. Dustin turned and pulled the last of the tack.
Callum walked up toward the rear of the house, seeing Tomlin and Owen standing at the now low burning fire. Tomlin saw him coming and gave Callum a nod as Owen was standing there seemingly lost in thought. Callum noticed it, but let it alone, knowing Owen would talk about it if he chose to.
“We burned all of the paintings that you wanted destroyed, Quintan.” Tomlin said.
“That’s a relief, thank you for doing that.” Callum said as he looked at the low flames.
“I was wondering about some of the other items within the house, some of the furnishings. Were you wishing to keep them as well?” Tomlin asked.
“What were you thinking of Thomas?”
“That man’s clothes that he left, obviously need to be burned, and some of the furnishings that seem rather old and tattered that are in the parlor.” Tomlin said.
“The settee.” Owen said softly without looking up from the fire. Callum and Tomlin looked at each other for a moment and then at Owen.
“The one from upstairs?” Tomlin asked.
“Yes.” Owen said softly, then turned and looked at Callum with a pained look, “I’m sorry, Quintan. I know this is your property now but,…”
“Owen, it’s alright. If that piece of furniture is a cause of bitter distress to you, my friend, then certainly it can be destroyed, if it will make you feel better.” Callum said softly stepping close to Owen.
“He painted the others there as well, you know.”
“Yes, as well as those of he and my father being together.” Callum said, he smiled briefly at Owen then looked at Tomlin, “Why don’t we go up and get it and bring it down here, Thomas?” Callum asked. Tomlin looked at Owen for a moment and then nodded to Callum. They walked toward the back of the house together as Owen was staring back at the low flames.
Holt walked out of the front door of the house carrying a bundle made from a sheet off his bed. He walked to the end of the cart as he struggled with it and stopped. He set it down in the gravel, seeing what Dustin had done with all of the tack, laying it all carefully up near the end below the seat. Holt smiled and shook his head a bit as Dustin had taken great care to do this. Holt looked beyond the cart and saw Dustin coming with two saddles, both stacked one on another in Dustin’s hands coming from the side of the house.
“I see you took great care of this tack, Dustin.” Holt smiled at him, “Thank you. I don’t think it has ever been so gently handled.”
“I wasn’t sure if it was right or not, Christian. I seem to have a lot more to learn.” Dustin smiled as he came to the cart.
“And we’ll teach you, don’t worry.” Holt smiled, “We can stack the saddles in the cart. I have a few things from the house that I would like to take as well.”
“Do you need help with them?”
“No, that’s alright, it’s just a portrait and the rest of my clothes.” Holt said.
“No furniture?” Dustin asked.
“I will have what I want freighted over to Birmingham before the house is auctioned.” Holt gave Dustin a nod.
“As you wish.” Dustin said looking at him. Holt still had sad eyes, “Are you alright, Christian?”
“Yes.” Holt said and then his eyes brightened with a sudden thought, “Wait just a moment. There is something else that I want, something that I just remembered. Make sure you leave enough room.” Holt said, before he hurried away back to the house. Dustin looked after him with a puzzled look and then set the saddles down before going for more in the barn.
Holt went into his mother’s bedroom and stopped just inside the door. He saw it near the window, the item that he knew that his sparked his idea as well as a thought of possible mischief and he smiled wide. He walked across the room slowly as he approached it and stopped as he came near it. He bent down slightly as memories of being in it flooded his mind, running his fingers along its smooth edge, looking at the detail of it, and one memory in particular stood out. He rose and stepped back a step, looking at it as the memory became even stronger and he pictured it happening in front of him.
He was standing in it, in the water, as a little boy, his mother was kneeling on the floor next to it and him, as she drug the water up over his small body and let it drop over him, from his shoulder, the water trickling down him to stop at the surface of the water that he stood in. She was bathing him, and while she did it, she hummed something, a melody that he only heard come from her. She was gentle with him when she washed him, her touch soft and caring. He saw himself smiling at her and her pretty face. Holt turned from the memory and looked at her portrait on the wall to his right, seeing her pretty face and her eyes that were his.
“What is that?” The voice broke his thought and the memory and he looked toward it, and smiled. Dustin was standing there behind him.
“This is a true bathtub. It was my mother’s.”
“A bathtub?” Dustin asked and looked confused, “Like a wash tub?”
“Yes, only you use it for you, nothing else.” Holt said as he stepped over to it, and then stepped in it. He looked at Dustin as he slowly sat down in it to show him and rolled his head and looked at Dustin then wiggled his eyebrows. “Imagine it filled with hot water up to your chin. You could soak in it for hours.” Holt said as Dustin came near him.
“With careful maneuvering, you could fit two in there.” Dustin smiled, “You wish to take this with us?”
“Yes, why not?” Holt asked as he folded his legs in it, still smiling up at Dustin.
“I can only imagine what Quintan and Thomas are going to say when they see it.”
“I know what Thomas will want to do.” Holt said and had a look of mischief on his face.
“I don’t think you’ll get much washing done.” Dustin smirked. Holt chuckled as he got up out of it stepping out of it.
“Give me a hand with it, we’ll take it out to the cart.” Holt said going to the back end. Dustin bent down and picked it up at the other end, he swung it and started walking backward toward the doorway.
Callum and Tomlin carried the settee out of the house and walked it over to the burning pile. There were some more paintings that Callum wanted destroyed that they had stacked on it. He wanted to burn the portrait of his father but Tomlin had talked him out of it. They came to the edge of the fire and pitched the settee onto the low burning flames. Callum turned and started back for the house, Tomlin watched Owen for a moment and then followed him. They were inside the kitchen when Tomlin stopped Callum.
“Quintan, you think he’ll be alright?”
“I’m sure of it, Thomas, as soon as everything is destroyed that is bringing the demons in his mind. Once it is done, I’m certain Owen will be back to his old smiling self.”
“I hope so. He seems so troubled with this.”
“As I once was, as well.” Callum said softly, “I have my own demons that I had to conquer as like Owen. I found a way, finally.”
“I didn’t know.” Tomlin looked at him with a questioning look.
“At school. There were several that were there that treated me as this man was with the boys of the village. It was difficult to get over, but I finally did.”
“Yes, truly.” Callum said and turned away to continue to the stairs, “I think we should take that table and burn it as well as the paints have all but ruined it and anything else that might have been associated with his deeds. I for one would think that those young lads will thank us for destroying everything if they only knew.” Callum said as he went up the stairs. Tomlin followed him up in silence.
“I will take those last paintings and put them in another room out of the way so they are not damaged.” Tomlin said.
“I couldn’t help but notice that the one was also saved.” Callum said as they entered the room.
“Owen and I talked about it. I gave him my word that it would remain out of sight of others that might come here to the house.” Tomlin said as he bent and picked up the small remaining stack of paintings. Callum was folding the easel and gathering paints and placing them in a large cloth on the table to be bundled.
“It is rather a captivating painting, isn’t it?” Callum asked.
“Yes, it is. It always makes me pause when I see it.” Tomlin said softly.
“I can see why. The subject in it is very alluring.” Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth. Tomlin went to the next room and placed the paintings on the floor under the window. Callum gathered more items of paint and cloths, brushes, and other small tools. He bundled them up, tying the cloth in a knot.
“I beg your pardon, ma’am, but could we ask you to have a look at something that we have found?” One of the young workmen asked Martha as he stood in the kitchen doorway.
“Yes, of course.” She said and followed him into the parlor, going round the corner to where the old pantry was. She saw what he was pointing at as the other men were standing there and she had no idea where they came from, nor even knew that they were there.
“They were behind the wall, ma’am, of the pantry, sitting right there in this space. It’s almost as if it is a little room for just them.” He said as Martha stepped forward seeing the two trunks, one smaller than the other just sitting there, both covered with cobwebs and dust.
“Would you be so kind to bring them out here into the parlor for me? I wish Quintan were here to see this.” Martha said as they pulled out the trunks and carried them over to where she pointed, the larger one was very heavy and they set them down in the room for her. She could see the writing on each of the lids, the larger trunk was carved…Q. Callum, the other looked to be painted in smaller letters,…James Callum. She left them alone, as the men went back to what they were doing.
“Henry?” Martha called out to him, making him look up from his toys, “Perhaps we should go and get Quintan and have him come home to look at these.” Martha said and Henry got up and came over, staring at the trunks, he looked up at Martha.
“Want me to go and get him?”
“No, I think I will go with you. I would like to see the other house as well, I think. We can walk together.” She said and reached out her hand to him. He took it and they went toward the kitchen and the back door.
They walked down the knoll to the stone wall and Martha looked at it and frowned. Henry scampered up on it and stood on it, looking across the pasture. She shook her head and tried to figure out how she was going to get over it, even though it was only waist high. She looked over her shoulder knowing the men were up there at the house, but she didn’t want them to see her trying to get over it and give them reason to laugh. She looked up at Henry as he looked down at her.
“Don’t you tell anyone about this.” She said and he nodded his head at her in reply. He got out of her way as she struggled to get up and over in her long dress. She huffed as she struggled and then rolled over the top of the wall, falling to the other side in a seemingly undignified way, landing in the tall grass on the other side. She got up and brushed herself off and huffed again as Henry jumped down next to her. She looked back up toward the house and didn’t see anyone there and turned and started walking across the pasture. Henry was running ahead of her, skipping and hopping through the tall green grass heading toward the other house and the fire.
Callum and Tomlin threw the paint supplies onto the fire, the settee was burned through almost completely now, the smell of old fabric and horse hair filled the air around them and when Callum threw the paints on the fire, the flames leapt even higher once they caught. The table and its old worn finish erupted into flame as well and the three of them had to back up from the heat.
Callum came close to Owen and put a hand on his shoulder.
“That should help, shouldn’t it?”
“It cures a great many things.” Owen said softly and leaned against Callum for a moment, putting an arm around Callum’s waist, “Thank you, Quintan.”
“Think nothing of it, my friend. Ghosts of the past soon eliminated.” Callum squeezed his hand into the cloth of Owen’s shirt and then let him go, turning back to Tomlin, “Now, let’s go and get that old furniture you don’t want, Thomas.”
“I’ll give you a hand as well.” Owen said and the three walked toward the house, going in through the back door.
They went into the parlor and Callum saw what Tomlin was talking about now, the old furniture, some torn and covered with sheets or cloth. Callum had never noticed it before when he was here with Barthelow, and then with Dustin being so focused on the purchase, but now that Tomlin had brought it to his attention, Callum could see that Tomlin was right, it was time to remove it. They started to pick various things and take them out of the house, pitching them onto the flames and then going back for more. Callum and Tomlin were back in the parlor when they heard the sound of little steps coming toward them across the wooden floor. Callum stopped and turned as Henry came running into the room.
“Henry, what are you doing here?” Callum asked.
“Aunt Martha is here too.” The little one said as he came close to Callum with a smile at seeing him.
“She is? Where is she?” Callum asked and Henry pointed back toward the back of the house. Callum set down his end of the old settee and walked out of the room into the hall that went toward the kitchen. He heard voices talking and knew it was she and Owen as Callum came into the kitchen seeing them looking about at everything. “What do you think, my dear?”
“I have never seen so many pots and pans in one place in all of my days.” She said as she looked at Callum and then back around at everything that was hanging around the large room. She went to a group of shelves laden with dishes, cups, cutlery, flatware, marveling at all of it. She picked up a simple looking cup, holding it in her hand.
“I’m sorry, my dear lady, for not having the tea ready as of yet.” Tomlin said as he came in behind Callum and Henry. Martha looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Well, I didn’t give you fair warning of my coming, my good sir. Next time, I will be sure and send a messenger prior to my calling upon you.” Martha said in a dry tone. Tomlin smiled and bowed formally. “I know that they said there was a very amount of things here, but this is beyond description.” She said as she looked at Callum.
“If I may, allow me to show you something else that will captivate your mind.” Tomlin said as he stepped toward her and held out an arm. She set the cup down and took it, laying a hand on it and followed him to a door. He opened it, which was behind the parlor, and let the door swing open, the room was a formal dining room. A long table was at its center, surrounded by eight chairs. There was a free standing cabinet laden with china on its shelves and on the opposite wall were built in cabinets, like a buffet. The end exterior wall had a large window at its center flanked by heavy drapes that matched the others throughout the house. She was wide eyed and was open mouthed over it.
“Can you imagine serving supper in here?” Tomlin asked.
“My word.” She said softly, “I had no idea about any of this. It was said that he did not go into the village much even to get food from the open market or the butcher. But with all of this, this is a cooks dream come true.” She said softly, all of them were behind her smiling.
“What would you do with such a place as this, my dear?” Callum asked softly.
“Hire a housekeeper just to keep up with it.” She said quickly and then turned and looked back at all of them. She raised her hand and shook a finger at Callum, “Do not think that I would be the one. I am quite happy doing what I’m doing right now, taking care of the lot of you scamps. That is a full time position on its own, I’ll say. I would not have time for a second household to be sure.”
“Perish the thought, my dear.” Callum said as he stepped close to her, “But as Thomas said the other day, there are things here in the kitchen that he would never know how to use or what to do with. Now, why don’t you have a look around and select what you would like for the house for our use and I will take them over to the Cross.”
“Alright, if that is what you want.”
“Solely for you, my dear, with the compliments of the new tenant of the house.” Callum smiled at her.
“Oh, I almost forgot why I actually came over here.” Martha said as she stepped to Callum, “The workmen, they removed the back wall of the pantry. It is like there is a small room behind it. They found two trunks inside of it.” She said as she took one of Callum’s arms, “Quintan, they are marked on their lids, one was your father’s, the other was your grandfather’s.”
“What is in them?” Callum asked.
“I did not open them. I asked the lads to put them in the parlor out of the way of their work. It was as if they were sealed up inside of that little room. Obviously your mother knew of it and had the pantry built at some point, but why, if only to seal up the trunks from view.”
“Hmmm, another treasure hunt it sounds to me.” Callum said, “Interesting. And you don’t recall my mother ever saying anything about them?”
“Not a word.” Martha said.
“Well, it would seem that we have something to do this evening then.” Callum said with a smile, “A bit more family history to be revealed possibly, and more questions to be answered as it were.”
Dustin was finished with the loading of the saddles into the cart and Holt had his mother’s portrait secured and protected. He and Dustin had the horses led out and tethered one to the other and one of the horses, a gelding, was saddled and readied to go. Holt went into the house and gave his cousin the keys to the house and said his goodbyes to him. He had written down where he was going to be at in Birmingham and made sure that he knew he would be in touch with him over the auction and the arrangements of having the furniture that he wanted and its freighting to Birmingham. Hollander told Holt that he could make the arrangements for it, and it was agreed upon. Holt went out into the drive and saw Dustin was waiting for him, the cart turned around and the horses tethered to it in two columns, a total of eight horses in all, the one being saddled included. Holt mounted the gelding, and they set off, going out of the drive, and heading to the north road to cut across to Birmingham.
Dustin was relieved to finally being on their way. Holt was riding up and down the lines of horses, making sure they all were doing fine as they went along. He was a bit concerned about one of the mares at first and came to her to see that she was alright. Dustin had watched him with her a few minutes as he drove the cart down the road, looking over his shoulder, and then settled in the seat as Holt came up alongside him with the gelding.
“Is she going to be alright, Christian?” Dustin asked as he looked over. Holt smiled at Dustin, remembering the conversation that Dustin and Owen had had some time back when they had first seen Owen’s stallion and they were talking about siring a foal between the stallion and Dustin’s mare.
“Yes, she will do fine, I think. This bit of a trek may actually help her along.”
“Oh? How is that?” Dustin asked, not knowing what was going on with her.
“She should be foaling in the next month or so.” Holt said, as if it were nothing at all.
“What do you mean, foaling?” Dustin was puzzled.
“She is going to have a foal, you know, a baby.”
“What?” Dustin asked, going wide eyed and looked back at her. He swallowed hard and then looked back at Holt, “Are you serious?”
“Very.” Holt chuckled.
“Dustin,…” Holt smiled wide as he walked the gelding beside the cart, “all is well, believe me. She will be fine.” Holt smiled.
“Should we slow down for her? Should we,…”
“Dustin, don’t panic, it will be fine. Horses have been having foals like this for God only knows how long. She is a month or two away for it coming. She seems to be in very good health.”
“Is that why she was in that pen?”
“Yes, the other she was with is her own mother. You keep them with each other like that to help the new mother along.”
“I see.” Dustin said as he sat forward in the seat looking out over the road, still wide eyed and looking nervous. Holt smiled at him.
“You’re very adorable when you get flustered like that, you know?” Holt chuckled again and Dustin glared at him.
“It is not a laughing matter, Christian.” Dustin huffed, not looking at him, “I was just concerned, that’s all.”
“I can understand that.” Holt said, stopping the gelding, letting the procession go by. He nudged the gelding after everyone was in front.
“These dishes look new, aside from all the dust, I don’t think they have ever been used.” Martha said to herself as she looked over a plate, seeing the plate was simply white porcelain, no pattern on it. She picked up a cloth to wipe it, but it too was dusty. She wrinkled her nose, setting the cloth down, wiggling her fingers to remove the dust, and then set the plate back, wiping her hands together and then used her apron to wipe them off more. She turned and looked about at all of the pots and pans hanging and touched each of them, seeing some that she might use, especially some of the larger ones. She walked the kitchen feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all.
Callum, Owen, and Tomlin were carrying things out to the burn pile, pitching them onto the open flames. Henry was watching them, wanting to help but was told to stay out of the way. They made several trips and the decision to leave a few things was made. They noticed that the house was very dusty. When items were moved, the floor under them was relatively clean, as if nothing had been done in quite a long time. Callum looked at Owen and came close to him. Owen seemed to be in better spirits now as the flames were leaping higher into the air, and the ghosts of his past seemed to be vanishing.
“I would like to ask you a few questions that you might have the answers to, Owen, if that would be alright?” Callum asked and Owen nodded, “First, I do not wish to make you relive any bad memories.”
“It’s alright, Quintan.”
“Well then, when you were here with him, did he ever cook anything or clean anything?”
“No, he did not cook when I was here, and the only cleaning I saw him do was up in that room,…afterwards.”
“I see. Where did he take his meals then?”
“He would eat in the village. There are a few taverns there as you know.”
“Yes, but money would be short between his sailings I would think.”
“He did sail quite a bit from what he said to me during a couple of my early visits. I know he would be gone for months at a time, and then there came a time for the last few years that he never went again. I assume that he retired from the sea.” Owen said.
“That would explain some of it. Sailing aboard a merchant can bring quite a bit of profit, depending upon what the cargo might be, I suppose. So if he did not cook for himself, I wonder where all of the pots and pans and dishes came from and why are they here.”
“I have no idea.” Owen said, “But I remember my father and I bringing crates here when I was very young. He and my father unloaded them right out here actually. I was too young to lift any of them or to be of any help. Perhaps they were in the crates.”
“Perhaps, but why have them.” Callum said scratching his chin in thought.
“Quintan,…” Martha called as she came toward them from the house. Callum, Owen, and Tomlin looked toward her as she came to them, she seemed to be a bit upset, “Thomas, you and Christian cannot certainly live in such a condition as what is in this house, I won’t hear of it. Quintan, we need to get this house ready for them. It will take me at least a week to get all of the dust out of here, and then there are the floors to scrub, and the windows to wash, and,…”
“Alright, my dear, you have made your point,…” Callum said with a smile as she was pointing back toward the house, “what would you suggest?”
“We start going from room to room and shaking all of the dust and dirt out here, starting from top to bottom.”
“Alright, and what of our house?” Callum asked still with a smile, “I thought you said you already had a full time of it with just keeping up with us?”
“Do not twist my words,” Martha said, shaking a finger again, “you scamp. But this house looks like the stable with all the dirt and dust in it.”
“I have an idea.” Owen said, making Martha look at him, “I will bring the girls over and have them lend a hand to get the house ready for Thomas and Christian. You know those girls would do anything to get out from under my mother’s watchful eye.” Owen said with a smile.
“That would be wonderful. We can all make a go of it then and cut the time it would take to get the house ready.” Martha said.
“I will pay them for their trouble, Owen. I would ask for no favor.” Tomlin said, and looked at Martha, he started to say something to her, but she raised a finger and cut him off.
“That will be fine for them, Thomas, but don’t you think of even laying a penny in my direction. I have quite enough of that with Quintan and Dustin both.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Tomlin said, looking like he was freshly whipped.
“I will go and gather all of the cloths and some linen that I can find. They will need cleaning first before we can use them. Quintan, I was also thinking we need lines to be set up to hang things out to dry.”
“I will have to see about something for poles and then to get them placed in the ground,” Callum said, scratching his chin again, as he turned and looked about, seeing the broad gravel area all around the house, “but where would we place them, I wonder.” Callum looked back at them all, “We’ll have to think about that for now.” He stopped at Martha and raised an eyebrow, “Is there anything else, my dear?”
“Yes, there is not a scrap of wood to be found in this kitchen or out here.”
“He did light a fire in the fireplace when I was here that first day.” Callum said, remembering. “I wonder why there is nothing to about to burn in the stove.”
“The paints,” Owen said, “he couldn’t risk it to light a fire in the stove. The fumes alone might have had the house explode.”
“Yes, but he lit a fire that morning I was here.”
“Odd, perhaps he was just trying to be polite with your visit, and also the heat escapes quickly up the chimney with an open fire.” Owen said.
“Well, I’m sure there was another thought on his mind as well.” Callum said as he looked at Owen, who raised his eyes a bit, knowing what Callum meant. Callum nodded slowly back at him.
“I will go into the village and see about a load of wood to be brought out.” Tomlin said.
“Good idea, Thomas. We will also need some tools I would think, a broad axe, a hatchet possibly.” Callum said.
“Yes, I can see about that as well, possibly some things to eat as well from the market place.” Tomlin said, “But before I do that, perhaps I should go back upstairs and take care of the,…uh…” Callum and Owen went wide eyed over what he was leading to.
“Yes, I think we need to take care of that first.” Callum said realizing what he meant.
“Take care of what?” Martha asked.
“Oh, some things that are lying about upstairs, Thomas was remarking earlier that they needed to be picked up before we lost track of them or the time.” Callum said, doing a quick recover. He smiled briefly at Martha, the three of them set off toward the house, “Henry, why don’t you stay with Aunt Martha for a minute, we’ll be back shortly.” Callum said and Henry nodded up at him.
Dustin was seeing a village coming into view in the distance. He looked back over his shoulder to Holt, who was leaning down in the saddle a little next to the pregnant mare. Dustin wondered if she was having a problem or not and thought about stopping, but Holt sat up in the saddle and looked forward seeing Dustin looking back at him. Holt stepped the gelding up a bit and went up toward the cart.
“Is she alright?” Dustin asked.
“She seems to be. I was just looking at her as I can see the foal moving around in her now and then.” Holt smiled, and Dustin went wide eyed again.
“You can see the foal inside of her?”
“Sometimes.” Holt smiled, “He obviously is a bit confused about all of this walking that she’s doing. He is more used to her standing about like she was doing in the pen.”
“Really, you can see the foal?” Dustin asked as he looked back over his shoulder at her. Holt smiled wide.
“If we stop somewhere along the way, I can show you.”
“That would be a sight to see, I would think.” Dustin said in complete amazement over the whole thing.
“It can be. I’m rather used to it. There was a time before I joined the Marines that there were four mares that were all expecting foals all near the same time. That kept me a little busy, there was a different stableman then that my father had. He was not one of my father’s Marines.”
“What happened to him?”
“I’m not certain. It was a long time ago. I don’t recall much about him, only that my father did not care much for him.” Holt was looking toward the village they were nearing and then looked up at the sun and its position in the sky.
“What village is that? I remember coming through here when we came but it was dark.”
“That’s Kettering, I believe.” Holt said, “We should be about almost half way to home now. Remember there is that stream that was on the other side of the village, that bridge we crossed, we should stop there and water the horses.”
“Alright.” Dustin said. Holt halted the gelding, letting everyone go by again, and then nudged the gelding after they passed.
“Where should we put them?” Tomlin asked as the three of them stared at the few remaining paintings.
“It had better be somewhere that they wouldn’t think of looking. I would hate to have the girls or Martha come across them.” Callum said.
“Agreed,” Owen said, “especially with Callista, she has enough ideas about just being with a man. I would hate to see what this might spark in her wild imagination.” Callum turned and stepped out onto the landing at the railing. He looked up and saw an opening in the ceiling, a squared hatch.
“I wonder what that is?” Callum asked as he pointed up. Tomlin and Owen came out and looked up.
“It must lead into the attic. We have a similar one at the house. How would we get to it?” Owen asked.
“We would need something like a ladder or a pole to push on it to make it open.” Callum said.
“There is nothing here like that.” Tomlin said.
“But I know where there is.” Callum smiled. Owen and Tomlin just looked at him, “It’s at the Cross right now.”
“They are using a ladder to put up the slate roof on the addition.” Callum said.
“You’re right.” Tomlin said, “You think we might be able to use it here?”
“I don’t see why not.” Callum said, as he looked back and forth at both of them, “We would only need it for a few minutes. Then after everything is cleaned and cleared here in the house we can figure out something else to get back up there to get them back down.”
“Do you always have to be this clever when you are in the Navy?” Owen asked.
“And sometimes rather devious as well.” Tomlin said and chuckled. Callum wiggled his eyebrows at Owen. Owen just shook his head at them both.
“Alright, let’s be off then. Thomas, you go into the village and get your wood ordered and get the tools. Owen and I will bring the ladder back after we escort Martha and Henry home.” Callum said and the three of them set off, Tomlin closing the door to the bedroom. They went downstairs and found Martha and Henry both in the kitchen. Martha was pumping the handle on the pump at the sink. Water was flowing and she was shaking her head. Callum walked up next to her. She smiled up at him and stopped pumping.
“A wonder, simply a wonder, water at the sink, who would have thought.” Martha said softly.
“Obviously the French did. As I said, I think it was a Frenchman that built the house originally.” Callum said, “Now do you see what I was talking about the other day about bringing the pump into the house?”
“I do. It would make life so much simpler that way.” She said, looking into the sink, seeing the water drain away.
“I know, and for several reasons. I will figure it out, have no fear and it will be done.”
“Knowing you, I have no doubt.” Martha said and pat his arm, “That reminds me, I need to change your linens on your chest and arm. We should probably head back over to the house.”
“Yes, we should. I need to see the workmen and borrow something from them for a few minutes and bring it back here.”
“Oh, a ladder, there is a hatchway upstairs into the attic that needs to be closed. I would hate to see any mice coming down out of there. It is of no real consequence. Once we take care of that, I will let you change my linens.” Callum smiled.
“Alright, and I can see about starting supper then.”
“Excellent.” Callum said, “Shall we go?”
“What about the fire?”
“There is no breeze. It will burn itself down and then go out on its own.” Callum said, looking out the window in front of him. “It should be fine.”
“If you say so.” She said and looked at him. She walked toward the door, Henry was following her, Callum was behind with Owen and Tomlin coming as well, Tomlin closing the door behind him. “I saw a cat earlier, there shouldn’t be too many mice around I would think.” Martha said.
“Yes, I have seen them about as well, but I would not want to take chances with that open hatch.” Callum said as they started toward home, all of them walking along together. They started into the tall grass, Henry was leaping and skipping through it as they walked along behind. “He certainly enjoys it, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he seems to, and he is becoming more and more talkative as the days go by.” Martha said.
“That’s makes me feel so much better. He was quite the conversationalist on our way here that day from Portsmouth, then he became quiet.”
“New places and new faces but seen every day now, they become more familiar to him. Have you thought about those books that you got for him?” Martha said.
“I have, but I want to wait to start with him as I need to teach another at the same time.” Callum said.
“Yes. I started to teach him how to read when we were aboard Dover, when I first took command. We seemed to have lost sight of it though. But with Henry now, it will be easier to teach them both at the same time. They can be of help to one another I should think.” Callum said, Martha nodded as they reached the halfway point to the stone wall, “How did you manage going over the wall, or did you go around on the road?” Callum asked her as he looked at the barrier.
“Well, it was rather undignified to say the least I will tell you. I didn’t give it much thought when I started to come this way, I should have walked around.” Martha said.
“I see.” Callum said as they walked along, he putting his hands behind his back, “I think I would give a shilling to see how you accomplished such a feat.” Callum said as he looked over at Tomlin and Owen, sticking his tongue in his cheek to puff it out and rolled his eyes. He jumped a bit as she smacked his arm.
“You are such a scamp, Quintan Callum, teasing an old woman like you do. Shameless, that’s what you are.” Martha huffed as she walked along through the tall grass. Callum chuckled, Owen and Tomlin smiled at each other, Owen shaking his head slightly. They walked in silence the rest of the way to the stone wall. Henry was up on top of it, waiting for them to get there, walking it as he balanced himself, showing off a bit for them. Martha came closer to the wall, and Callum looked at Tomlin and Owen, nodding to have them hold back a bit to watch what she was going to do.
The wall was shorter on this side because of the knoll and the wash on the other. They waited and watched her as she tried a couple of times to push herself up onto it, but couldn’t and she did not want to do what she did last time as in rolling over the top of it again as some of the workmen were walking about near the house, looking toward them. She huffed and gave up, turning around to look at the three of them, putting her hands on her hips.
“Well, are you just going to stand there or are you going to do something to help me?” She asked, Callum laughed out loud for a moment and then stepped forward. She put up a hand to stop him, “You had better not even think about it with that wound of yours. You’ll rip out your stitching.”
“Quite right, my dear.” Callum said and looked back at Owen and Tomlin, “Gentlemen, may I press into service to assist our dear lady?” Callum asked with a slight bow. Tomlin and Owen stepped forward, turning her around, and scooped her up, her slip and feet now showing and put her up on the stone wall, she gave out a slight scream as they lifted her. “Thomas, you be careful as well with your side.” Callum said as he chuckled seeing her shoes for the first time. She was set on the top of the stone wall. Henry jumped down on the other side, Tomlin and Owen went over and reached out their hands to help her down. They let her down into the tall grass on this side of the barrier. Callum came over it and came up behind her, walking along going up the slight knoll. The workmen were up near the house watching them come as Bockman stepped forward.
“Captain, should we get on that opening right away, sir?”
“We are going to be going back and forth for a couple of days to get the other house put straight, I am not certain,…”
“I will be walking around in the future until it is done.” Martha said as she walked by all of them, “Men.” She said with a huff going toward the house. All of them were looking after her, and then looked back at Callum, who shrugged his shoulders and held up his hands.
Dustin pulled the cart to a halt just off the road on the other side of the little bridge. He tied the reins to the seat rail and climbed down. He was rubbing his butt from the hardness of the bench seat. Holt stopped the gelding and climbed down off him, taking the reins and wrapping them over the end of the cart. Some of the horses were snorting as they smelled the water near them.
“Why don’t you fill a pail, Dustin, and water the mare,” Holt said as he pointed toward the mare that was pulling the cart, “I’ll take one string and water them while you do that.” Dustin nodded and reached over the side of the cart and grabbed a pail. He went to the stream and filled the pail, taking it to the mare, letting her have a long drink of the cool water.
Holt untied a string of the horses, the one that had the pregnant mare and led them to the edge of the stream. He watched and waited as they all drank. Dustin finished with the mare and took the pail back to the back of the cart, setting the pail in it. He looked over at Holt and just watched him, how he was with the horses, gentle and caring, and they seemed to understand him as well and the way he was, seeing this made Dustin smile warmly. Holt looked over and saw Dustin smiling at him, he returned the smile. The horses seemed that they were done watering themselves, and Holt gently led them back and tied the lead off onto the cart with a secure knot. He untied the second line and led this group of four off to the stream giving them their turn. Dustin came down and stood near him with the saddled gelding, giving him a drink.
“At this pace, we should reach Birmingham near after dark I think.” Holt said softly. Dustin looked over Holt’s shoulder at the horses. “Is everything alright, Dustin?”
“What do you mean?”
“You seem distracted.”
“I suppose I am. I feel a deep need to reach Quintan.” Dustin said.
“I can understand that. Again, I wish to thank you for accompanying me in this little trip.”
“You’re welcome, Christian. It certainly was an adventure, wasn’t it?” Dustin asked with a smile.
“Yes it was.” Holt returned the smile and leaned forward and kissed Dustin on the cheek. Dustin blushed slightly.
“Owen,” Callum said as he came back down the ladder after placing the paintings up in the attic and then closed the ceiling hatch, “have you noticed something?”
“What is that?”
“I was just thinking that in this house, there is nothing of ornamentation or frills of any kind.”
“I don’t follow you.” Owen said as Callum came off the ladder. They pulled it from the bottom and let it slip away from the hatch lip. They worked together to get it down the stairs, and they went through the front door as it was directly ahead.
“There is nothing on the walls. He was a painter and yet he never showed his work, and never really having anyone here, you would think he would place his work about to admire it from time to time. He wrote something about it in a letter he left me, but I find it curious. And it’s so dark in here with the drapes pulled as if it were a deep dark hold of a ship.” Callum said as he went back to the door and closed it, then came to the ladder and picked up the other end.
“I see what you mean. He was an odd fellow to be sure. He would speak of random things when I would visit. There was never much real conversation while he painted or when he…”
“I understand.” Callum said, “We will speak no more of it.” Callum smiled as he looked over his shoulder at Owen and then started walking for home, Owen walking behind him, carrying the other end of the ladder.
They climbed over the stone wall and took the ladder back to the workman it was borrowed from, Callum thanking him for its use. He and Owen looked over the outside of the addition and marveled at it as it was now complete on the outside, the plaster coats were beginning to dry and was becoming a dull off white in color, the slate tile roof was complete and looked very sturdy, even better than the original of the house Callum noted to himself. The slate had different colors to it which added to the appeal to his eye. He was more than pleased with the whole thing. He and Owen went in through the front door together.
Henry was back near the corner of the parlor at his new toys again, engrossed in them. Callum smiled seeing him playing and being happy with them. He stopped in front of the trunks that Martha spoke of. He saw that they were marked on their lids. He frowned slightly at them both and then went on to the kitchen to see what was going on there. Martha had a pot on the stove that was just beginning to steam slightly. Callum looked at her and she wiped her hands on her apron.
“Good, you’re back. I have some water on and want to clean your stitching. Come and sit here on the stool.” She said and pat it. Callum sighed and pulled his shirt out of his long pants and then up and over his head. The men that were finishing up on the new pantry looked over their shoulders as Callum went and sat on the stool. Martha untied the knot of the linen that was about his chest and shoulder, slowly unwrapping it. When she got down to the stitches, the linen stuck to them and Callum groaned a bit as she gently pulled them away. She went to the stove and dipped in a clean cloth in the warmed water and wrung it and came back to him. She wiped slowly and carefully at the dried blood as she frowned.
“It seems to look better than my other ones. Dr. Stivers does a very good job.” Callum said as he strained to look down at them.
“Yes, but I think you have strained them a bit with all of that you did today.” Martha said as she continued to dab at them with the cloth. She went back to the stove and rewet it and wrung it, coming back to him. “Now you hold still, I want to get this piece of linen out that is stuck in them.” She said as she pulled at a string of linen that was stuck. Callum looked at Owen and rolled his eyes a bit. Owen smiled and had folded his arms over his chest as he stood there watching. She pulled it out and then straightened. “I think we’ll let this air out for a while. Let me have your arm now.”
Callum let her continue on with it all, cleaning and drying his stitching. The workmen were looking over from time to time, as they all knew of what had caused it all. Talk was going around in the village of Callum and the duel he had been in and stories were now being told by the old men that were retired sailors of battles fought at sea. They had opened up to all that would listen as Callum had now sparked new interest in what they had to say. The workmen would turn their attention back after seeing all of the scars on Callum’s chest and stomach and now these new wounds on him. Callum had seen their looks from time to time and when Martha was finally done rewrapping him with fresh linen, Callum slipped his shirt back on and got off the stool. He picked it up and put it back where she kept it near the corner under the two sets of windows in the corner.
“I think I’ll go down and check on the horses.” Owen said and went toward the back door. Callum nodded at him and picked up a cleaning cloth that Martha used. He went into the parlor and went to the trunks and knelt in front of them as they had been placed end to end with each other. Henry got up and came over to him and stood beside him.
Callum took the cloth and wiped the lid of the larger trunk off and then ran his hand over the letters that were carved, tracing them with a fingertip, feeling how smooth it was. Henry put a hand on Callum’s shoulder as he watched what he was doing to the letters. Callum looked at him and gave him a partial smile.
“Do you know what these letters are?” Callum asked. Henry shook his head a little, “They spell out a name.”
“My grandfather’s name. This was his trunk.”
“What’s in it?” Henry asked as he reached and touched the letters as well.
“I don’t know.” Callum said, “We’ll open them up tonight after supper and the men are done. What do you think?” Henry nodded a little, taking his fingers away.
Callum moved over to the chest that was his fathers and wiped it off as well. He stared at the letters that spelled the name out fully but they were painted on rather than carved. Callum put his arm around Henry’s waist from behind and pat his little stomach with his fingers.
“What does that say?”
“Those letters spell out my father’s name…James…Callum.” Callum said as he pointed a finger and ran it along the letters. “You remember those books that we bought?” Callum looked at Henry, who nodded, “They will teach you how to read. I’ll help you learn. We can get you ready to go to school.” Henry smiled as he looked at him.
“With the others?”
“Yes, like we talked about. You can make new friends and have someone else to play with, like Muriel.”
“Yes. You’ll like it. I liked school when I went, the learning part.” Callum said softly as he pat Henry’s stomach again. Martha stood in the doorway and just watched them together and smiled warmly at the sight.
Dustin was driving the cart, lost in thought about home, seeing Quintan and everyone. He was smiling to himself at what was filling his mind. Holt was riding beside the cart and was quiet, as he looked over at Dustin from time to time. He saw the slight smile creep over Dustin’s lips and couldn’t help but smile himself.
“What consumes you so?” Holt finally asked. Dustin looked over at him.
“I was thinking of home.”
“Yes, actually.” Dustin smiled wider.
“I could tell.” Holt flashed his eyes. He looked up at the sky, gauging the time with the sun, “I think it must be getting near late in the afternoon.” Holt said. Dustin looked up as well.
“Nearly. We have about another four hours of light left.” Dustin said.
“Do you want to ride instead of driving?” Holt asked.
“No, I’m fine with driving for now.” Dustin said as he smiled at Holt, “Are you wanting to trade?”
“My rear end is a bit sore in this saddle.” Holt said as he stood in the stirrups for a moment, “I might get down and walk a bit.”
“Do you want to stop?”
“No, I know you want to keep going. I’ll be alright.” Holt smiled and let the gelding stop. He climbed off and started to walk him on the road.
Tomlin walked back to the new house, carrying the broad axe over his shoulder. He had a bundle tied at the head of the axe for various items that he had purchased at the mercantile plus some items he had picked at the open market in the square. Saunders told him he would see to the wood being brought out to the house right away, as Tomlin had explained that he was taking up residence in it right away now that the house was vacant.
Tomlin walked through the open double gates of the drive at the road, noting their condition, that they needed repair. He would talk to Quintan about it later. He continued up the wide gravel drive and saw the house in the distance and the way it looked. He stopped. It was centered in the gravel, looking even on both sides with the drive leading up to it. The windows of the house being so large made the house look smaller than it actually was, and he thought about it for a moment and then realized why the heavy drapes were there, to block the cold from the large windows, and with no trees anywhere on the property, it seemed to him that the house was alone as a sentinel or like a castle keep. Tomlin smiled briefly in the thought that he would have to do something to make it more cheery.
He looked to his right, seeing the Cross across the pasture, the stone wall, the workmen walking about looking about the size of ants from this distance, the two mares walking about grazing and the stallion, his dark color different than the mares was being led about, Tomlin knowing it must be Owen. Tomlin continued walking toward the house and went around to the back to see about the fire.
The flames were gone now and there was only a few smoldering charred remains of some of the furniture that they had pitched into the flames. He saw bits and pieces of metal at the edge of the burn area, they looked like nails or tacks that wouldn’t burn. He knew that they would have to be picked up and removed if horses would be walking about so they did not pick them up in their hooves. He turned and went to the back door of the house.
Callum was standing next to the stairs, his arm up and resting against the end of the wall, one boot standing on the bottom stair, Henry behind him as they watched the workmen hammering at the old exterior wall now cutting in the doorway for Martha’s new room. Callum watched as they went at it, and then would take turns to spell one another from time to time. The rubble was being placed into pails to be taken out of the house. Callum guided Henry out of the way to let one of the workmen pass as the pails were filled and then carried out to be emptied.
“What are you doing with the rubble?” Callum asked when the workman returned with the empty pails.
“We’re pouring it along the base of the walls outside, sir, to help with the water to drain it away when it rains.” The young man answered.
“Oh, a good idea, I wouldn’t have thought of that.” Callum smiled. The young man nodded and went and started to refill them as more of the old exterior wall was opened more and more. Callum and Henry continued to watch as they could now see the wall was broken through and the new room was being seen on the inside.
“Excuse me, sir.” Bockman said from behind Callum. Callum looked over his shoulder at him.
“Yes, Mr. Bockman.” Callum smiled, “I was just watching at what was going on.”
“I see, sir. They should be done soon with her doorway, then they can do the other shortly. I was wondering if you would have a look at the new pantry. The lady of the house was asking for your opinion as well, sir.”
“Certainly.” Callum said as he continued to smile. He turned and guided Henry in front of him as they came around the stairs into the kitchen. Martha was there at the new pantry, working the new door to it. Callum went to the center of the kitchen and watched her for a moment. “What do you think, my dear?” Callum asked and she looked back at him.
“I will have to get used to it, I suppose.” She said. Callum looked at her, the door was as tall as she was and narrow. The door itself seemed to be rather refined in its construction, unlike the other doors of the house, which were simple in their construction being planked and cross armed.
“Like all new things, I suppose.” Callum smiled, “Is there enough room in there for what you would wish to store?”
“More than enough room, it is far larger than the old pantry, and being deeper for certain.” She said as she looked back inside it. She reached out and put her hands on the new shelves in it, and looked to the left inside the door, seeing more shelves at the end where it was taller because of the rise of the stairs. She stepped inside the dark space. “But I think I will have to carry a lamp in here to see as it is so dark.”
“I have an idea about that if you wish. It will require a bit more time, however.” Bockman said. Callum looked at him as Bockman turned and looked at him, “I should have suggested it from the beginning, I suppose.”
“You wish to cut into the end wall for a single pane of glass?”
“Exactly, sir, that was my thought.” Bockman said.
“A port hatch or hole. We have them aboard ship as well.” Callum said, “Natural light would be better rather than a candle or lamp possibly being forgotten and starting a fire.”
“Exactly, sir.” Bockman said, “And it would not have to be that large either.”
“I agree.” Callum smiled, “It just means more work for you, Mr. Bockman.” Callum smiled and then chuckled.
“Yes, and there is one more thing, sir.”
“What is that?”
“We were listening to a bit of a conversation with your young masters about shutters on the stable. We found the hinges and there is enough material in remnants from the addition. I have a couple of my workers set to them right now, if that is alright with you, sir.” Bockman said and gave Callum a slight grin. Callum laughed out loud as Martha stepped out of the pantry.
“Mr. Bockman, I believe Dustin will be forever in your debt if they are in place by the time he returns from Cambridge. I had set him to task with that and he seemed completely lost in it.”
“It should be done shortly, sir, in all of its construction, as you know, sir, we had not finished with the stable completely.”
“As I know with my arrival back home and putting you to the addition,” Callum said putting a hand on Bockman’s shoulder, “but you have saved the day for certain, and it will be quite a load off his mind as well.” Bockman smiled and they both looked at Martha, “Is it alright with you, my dear?”
“You were right, Quintan, in your thought that I would be happy with its completion, and I am very happy indeed.”
“There you have it, Mr. Bockman, the highest praise.” Callum chuckled.
“If the lady of the house is happy, then our job is done.” Bockman said with a sigh of relief. Callum chuckled again as Martha put her hands on her hips and scowled at Callum. “I’ll just see about the doorways into the new rooms, excuse me, sir.” Bockman said and walked out toward the parlor as Callum went toward Martha, still smiling wide at her.
“Now what are you going to do with all of your new space?” He asked her, clasping her upper arms gently.
“First things first, I will clean up this entire kitchen and then organize those things in the parlor to go back into the pantry.” She said and huffed a little, grabbing a rough looking husk broom. She turned and went after the mess on the pantry floor, sweeping things out into the kitchen.
“My dear, I believe that is the first time I have seen you use a broom.” Callum said and then wished he hadn’t as she turned around and looked at him with a glare, “What I meant was, it seems to be in such a poor condition and if that is what you are using to clean with, there are others that are better at the mercantile. I will go and gather a couple for you and for the other house as well.” Callum said and she calmed.
“I have been using this for so long it never occurred to me to acquire a new one.”
“Once again, I think it is high time for something new.” Callum said, leaning forward and kissing her forehead, “You work far too hard. I will return shortly.” Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth as he went to get Henry. “Henry, would you care to go into the village?”
Tomlin was shaking out the sheet of the dust as he half hung out the window of the upstairs bedroom that he liked so much, the one that was never used by the man that had lived here. He had his head turned and his face wrinkled up with his eyes closed as the dust was flying from his shaking of the sheet. He opened his eyes and blinked hard and looked out. The sheet seemed to be dust free now and he pulled it back in. He heard a loud knock on the front door downstairs. He wadded up the sheet and tossed it on the bed and went to the stairs and down to the front door. He opened it as he saw someone standing there through the glass of the door.
“Good afternoon, sir.” The young man said who was Tomlin’s age and rather striking in appearance, but his clothes were a different matter, rather dirty and tattered.
“Good afternoon.” Tomlin said and then saw the tall draw cart with two horses in the drive, now knowing he had the wood that he ordered.
“Mr. Daultry asked that I bring your ordered wood out for you right away, sir.”
“How kind.” Tomlin said giving him a nod, then put out his hand, “Thomas Tomlin.”
“Erich Randall.” He said taking Tomlin’s hand, but looking a bit nervous and looking in beyond Tomlin.
“Is something wrong?” Tomlin asked and looked over his shoulder, seeing nothing, then looked back at the nervous young man.
“Well, begging your pardon, sir, but, no one has ever been out here to deliver wood, sir.”
“Oh, I see.” Tomlin said as he took back his hand, “You were probably thinking of the man that used to live here.”
“Yes, sir.” He said, still nervous.
“He is gone, moved on. My friend has purchased the house and the property from him. He will not be returning.”
“Your friend, sir?”
“Yes, Quintan Callum from over there,” Tomlin said as he stepped out, pointing across the pasture, “at Callum’s Cross.”
“Oh, the Captain.” The young man said and eased.
“Yes.” Tomlin said seeing the change in the young man’s expression. Tomlin smiled at him, “I suppose many in the village have a great number of questions about the house as I understand the man that was here did not socialize with many in the village.”
“No, sir, he certainly did not.” The young man looked nervous again.
“Well would you like to have a look about to ease your mind and curiosity?” Tomlin asked. The young man went wide eyed at the question.
“Oh no, sir, that’s alright to be sure, I would not wish to intrude.”
“No, not at all,” Tomlin said and smiled, “I think it’s rather good to get to know people about the area. I’m actually from Norwich, it’s a little different there to say the least. No one talks to anyone. I feel it’s a bit different here in Birmingham.” Tomlin continued to smile.
“It is indeed, sir.”
“Please, no more ‘sir’, I’ve had quite enough of that with the service. Thomas will do just fine.” Tomlin grinned a bit now.
“As you wish.” The young man said, and stepped in as Tomlin guided him, closing the door behind him. Tomlin guided him through the house, talking about the various rooms and telling him that they would start the major cleaning very quickly to move in shortly and the young man seemed to feel better seeing what was here rather than the speculation and rumor that been going around for years about the village. Tomlin guided him out back through the kitchen.
“I think maybe we should have the wood put here against this wall.” Tomlin said as he pointed.
“Very good, I’ll bring the cart around and I’ll unload it.”
“I’d be more than happy to give you a hand with that as well.” Tomlin said.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary.”
“I’m sure you have other things that you need to do today as well.” Tomlin said, “And I assure you, it is no trouble at all to help you.”
“Alright, if you wish. I’ll be back in a moment.” The young man smiled and nodded.
Callum and Henry purchased a few brooms and some cloths for cleaning and started to walk out of the square toward the direction of home. A few people in the square nodded toward Callum and he recognized some of them from that day of the storm at the livery, nodding back toward them with broad smiles. One of the old retired sailors walked up to Callum and Henry, walking with a cane, his back was slightly hunched.
“Good day to you, Captain.” The old man said in an old graveled voice, Callum stopped as did Henry.
“Good day to you, sir,” Callum said shifting the load in his hands and reaching out his right. The old man tipped his hand toward him and then took it giving it a firm grip, “and how are you this fine afternoon?”
“I am as well as can be expected for a man my age, sir.”
“I would say you could still walk a top rope and be a steady hand with a top sail.”
“Very kind of you to say that, Captain. It has been a number of years since I was a topman, sir.” The old man tipped his hand again. Callum smiled wide.
“Once a topman, always a topman.” Callum nodded to him and reached into his pocket and pulled out some coins, putting them in the hand, “Here, go and give your back something to soothe that ache you seem to have.”
“Thank you kindly, sir.” The old man tipped his hand again and smiled wide as Callum nodded to him with a smile, “Good day to you, young master.” The old man nodded toward Henry, who smiled back. Callum and Henry walked toward home again, several people nodded and waved at them after they had seen what Callum had done. The walk back on the road was nice for Callum and Henry talking about things with the other house, the horses, and Henry missing Dustin, wondering when he would come home. They came over the slight rise and could see the Cross fully and Callum saw a horse tied to the stone wall out on the road next to the front gate.
“It looks as if we have company, Henry.” Callum said.
“Who is it?”
“I have no idea.” Callum said as they continued to walk along, “We’ll have to wait and see.”
They came through the gate, Callum was looking the horse over, noting the saddle looked newer, but it was the small blanket that was under the saddle that Callum recognized. He had seen it before and he frowned knowing that it was either an officer or Marine. He closed the gate after Henry went through as Henry ran ahead up the path to the front door. Callum came up as Henry was already inside the house and came through, closing the door behind him.
The workmen were busy with their tasks in the new hall that led to the addition and Callum saw their progress as there were a few of them there, chiseling and pounding away at the rock and mortar of the new door openings to make them square. Callum handed one of them a new broom, and he smiled and nodded, Callum nodded back and then turned seeing Martha standing in the doorway of the kitchen, looking worried and rubbing her hands together.
“My dear, you look as if you have seen a ghost,” Callum said, “it looks to me that we have a guest.” Callum stepped close to her, shifting the brooms in his hands a bit, holding one out toward her, “Give this one a try, I think you might find it a bit better than that old one you have been dealing with for so long.”
“Quintan,…” Martha said, still with that worried look on her face.
“It’s alright, my dear, fear not.” Callum said and leaned forward and kissed her forehead. He smiled at her and then stepped into the kitchen as she stepped back slightly. Callum smiled seeing who was standing there.
“Oh, sir.” The soft voice said.
“Mr. Talon,” Callum said as he leaned the brooms against the shelves next to him and then stepped forward, “how very good to see you.” Callum saw the hand coming toward him and the wet of the young lad’s eyes. Callum bypassed the hand and grabbed him, pulling him into a hug, patting his back. The young man sobbed openly now into Callum’s shoulder, “Now, what’s this?” Callum asked as he pulled back, holding him by the upper arms.
“I’m sorry, sir,” He sobbed and then wiped his eyes with the back of a hand, “I’m so glad I’ve found you, sir.”
“Something has you upset besides just seeing me.” Callum said, as he watched the young man nod slightly, “Tell me, what is it that has you in such a state?”
“I bring bad news, sir.” Talon said in a soft tone, “They’re dead, sir, all of them.”
“Who?” Callum asked with narrowed eyes, “Who is dead?”
“Mr. Eddington, sir, along with Lt. Morris, and the Marines.”
“Eddington? Eddington is dead?” Callum asked as he gripped the arms tighter, “How?”
“They went out in a sloop to find that Frenchman, sir.” Talon looked at Callum, tears running down his cheek, “They were all,…”
“Fitzwarren sent them?” Callum asked, Talon nodded, “Did they have escort?” Callum asked, again getting a nod in reply, “Were they,…?”
“It was horrible, sir,…I saw what happened to them all,…I,…” Talon sobbed heavily and then hung his head. Callum pulled him back to him, holding him tight.
“It’s alright, Darin.” Callum said softly, “I know what he did.” Callum said and looked over his shoulder at Martha, “My dear, get me some brandy, please.” Callum said, it was not a question. He pulled back from Talon and guided him to the stool in the corner, having him sit down on it. Martha came with a bit of brandy and handed it to Callum. He handed the glass to Talon. “Drink this, Darin.” Callum said in his voice of authority. Talon drank it and then wiped his lips. Callum took the glass and handed it back to Martha, Callum nodded at her and she turned away to refill it.
“I have never seen anything like that before.” Talon whispered, as Callum was holding one of his arms and hovered near his face, “They were all,…just,…” Talon was trying his best to find the words as Martha handed the glass back to Callum. He looked at the blank stare that the young man had, and held the glass under his nose. The fumes of the brandy caught Talon’s nose and made him blink.
“Darin, where are they? Where is Eddington?” Callum asked as the back door opened, Tomlin and Owen came in. Tomlin looked over and his eyes went wide. Talon looked up and saw Tomlin standing there.
“Mr. Tomlin, sir.” Talon said softly, Callum looked over and then looked back at Talon.
“Darin, what are you doing here?” Tomlin asked as he stepped up behind Callum.
“Tell me, Darin, where is Eddington?” Callum asked.
“In London, sir, at the docks. The sloop was towed in by the Corsair.”
“Quintan, what has happened?” Tomlin asked softly as Callum stood.
“That idiot Fitzwarren, he used my plan.” Callum said softly as he looked at Tomlin, “But obviously he didn’t carry it out correctly.”
“I had to come and tell you, sir.” Talon said as he looked up at Callum, “Mr. Eddington,…he told me once that you and he were friends,…I felt it was only the right thing to do, sir.”
“Thank you, Darin. Yes, we were friends. I appreciate you coming to me.” Callum said and handed the glass to him, “Here, drink this.” Callum watched as he drank the brandy down, “Have you slept or eaten?” Callum asked. Talon looked up at him with sad wet eyes and shook his head slowly. “Alright, I want you to get a bit of sleep, and then we will have a talk. The brandy will take you in a few minutes. Come,” Callum said, and got him to his feet, “we will get you upstairs out of all this construction.” Callum said as he started to guide the young man, he looked at Tomlin, “There’s a horse from the Admiralty out at the front gate,…”
“I’ll take care of it.” Tomlin said as he followed Callum and Talon toward the kitchen door, and then went around them to the front door as Callum took Talon up the stairs to his room.
Callum opened the door of the room and led Talon over to the bed as he was now feeling the potent brandy. Callum set him on the edge of the bed and knelt down and took his shoes off him, then stood, he helped him get his tunic off and tossed it to the end of the bed. Callum reached out and untied his necktie, unwrapping it and tossed it on the tunic, he guided Talon down on the bed, swinging his legs up.
“Now, you rest for a while, I know it was a long journey. When you regain yourself, we’ll get you something to eat and then we can have another talk.” Callum said softly. Talon nodded and his eyelids were blinking slowly and becoming heavy. Callum pat his hands that were folded on his chest. He turned and walked out of the room and went back downstairs coming into the kitchen. Martha, Owen, and Henry were there.
“Quintan, what has happened?” Martha asked.
“A true horror, my dear. Several good men are dead now because of another poor decision made by a man who has no business making decisions.”
“Why is he really here?” Martha asked softly as she stepped closer.
“One of those dead was a close friend. You remember him, the officer that brought me home that first time.” Callum said as he looked at her. She lifted her hand to her mouth and gasped. “You do remember him I see.” Callum said and she nodded, “This is a bad thing, very bad. My young man up there is probably hoping I will do something about it.”
“Are you?” Martha asked with wide eyes.
“I am no longer an officer in the service of His Majesty.” Callum said and cradled her cheek with a hand.
A few hours had passed and evening was settling in now. Callum had gone down to the stable with Owen and was smiling at seeing the shutters were now installed on the stable window openings. Callum ran his hand over one of them seeing the construction of them and shook his head thinking that Dustin would be very pleased but might be frustrated with himself over the fact that it had been done.
Tomlin had taken care of the gelding that Talon had ridden from the Admiralty. The gelding stood in a stall on his own, Dustin’s mare and Owen’s mare shared one, and the stallion was by himself in the last one in the corner. Owen had said that they needed to keep the gelding and the stallion apart as they might want to fight or bite each other trying to assert authority over the mares, the stallion obviously thinking he was the alpha. Callum, Owen, and Tomlin were walking out of the stable toward the house as Martha was out the back door calling to them that supper was ready. They walked up the path together and then Owen stopped on the path. Callum saw him and stopped as well.
“Something wrong?” Callum asked softly. Owen held up a hand and then looked at Callum in the growing moonlight.
“I think I hear something.” Owen said. They all stood still for a moment, listening. Then Owen looked at Callum, “Yes that sounds like my cart.”
“What?” Callum asked.
“I would know the sound of that cart anywhere.” Owen said and looked toward the road and the large gate. Callum stepped down a couple of steps behind Owen and looked where he was looking, and then saw movement down near the long gate in the darkness.
“They’re back.” Callum said, smiling as he saw the gate swinging in. Callum started down the path to the bottom of the wash of the knoll and then started to trot toward the gate.
Dustin climbed back up on the cart and reined the mare forward, the cart was pulled with the two strings of the horses following them. Holt walked the gelding to the gate as the procession went through and closed it behind them, latching the post ring, he turned and stopped as Tomlin was standing there waiting. Tomlin took him in his arms and they kissed deeply, Holt dropping the reins as he wrapped his arms around Tomlin’s back.
Dustin stopped the cart and jumped down and leaped forward grabbing Callum as they came together into a tight hug, Callum pulling back as Dustin reached up and grabbed his face, pulling him into a deep and passionate kiss, their heads rolling back and forth, tongues fighting with each other and hands everywhere. Dustin was moaning into Callum’s mouth as they worked each other over and over.
“I think I shall take care of the horses.” Owen said with a broad smile as he took the mare and led her further toward the stable.
Tomlin pulled back from Holt and looked him in the eye, running his hands up and down his back, just staring at his pretty face in the soft moonlight. Tomlin was smiling warmly as he breathed through his nose. Holt looked at him and then narrowed his eyes.
“I have missed you so, Thomas.”
“Not nearly as much as I have missed you. We were going to start after you both in the morning.”
“Were you worried?” Holt asked.
“Yes from the moment you walked out the door.”
“I told you I would return, and in one piece.” Holt said as he kissed Tomlin softly and pulled back, “And now that I am back, I won’t leave you again.”
“You’d best not.” Tomlin smiled and kissed him long and hard, pulling him tight.
“Are you well?” Callum asked as he and Dustin had their foreheads to one another.
“As well as can be expected.” Dustin said softly as he held Callum’s face in his hands.
“What do you mean?”
“There is much to tell.” Dustin said, as he looked into Callum’s sparkling eyes as they caught the moonlight. “I am so very glad to be home, with you.”
“Not as glad as I am.” Callum said as he rested his hands on Dustin’s narrow hips. “Someone else has missed you as well. He has been slightly sad over it and speaks of you continually.”
“Where is he?” Dustin asked as he kissed Callum’s nose tip.
“Up at the house with Martha.” Callum said, “Come, let’s be off, she has supper as well.” Callum put an arm around Dustin’s waist and guided him toward the house. They went up the path and Callum opened the back door for Dustin, letting him in first. He came in behind and closed the door.
“Well, it’s about time you all came in here, I was going to,…” Martha said as she turned from the stove, seeing Dustin standing there, holding Henry in his arms as Henry was hugging and kissing Dustin’s face. Dustin was smiling wide. Callum had his hands on Dustin’s shoulders as he stood behind him. Martha came across the kitchen, her eyes were soft and slightly wet. Dustin reached out an arm and she stepped into it, Dustin giving her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank heavens you’re home and safe.” Martha said as she lifted an apron corner to her eye.
“Yes, it was quite an adventure to say the least.” Dustin said as she leaned her head into his shoulder.
“Did you bring me something?” Henry asked Dustin.
“As a matter of fact, I did. It’s outside,” Dustin said as he went forehead to forehead with Henry, “and Owen should be taking care of it right now.” Dustin smiled and then set him on the floor. Henry went to the back door and went out in a hurry. Dustin straightened up and Martha saw the marks.
“What is this?” Martha asked looking at the deep scratches on his face and then saw the bruising on his neck, “Were you in a brawl or something?” Martha asked as she touched his neck and then turned his chin. Callum stepped around and looked for himself.
“What happened?” Callum asked.
“We ran into a bit of trouble.” Dustin said flatly, looking at Callum.
“I’ll get you some liniment for those bruises.” Martha said, “You can put in on before you go to bed.”
“Mr. Perkins.” The voice said from the doorway and Dustin looked over going wide eyed.
“Mr. Talon. I didn’t know you were here, sir.”
“Yes, Darin came late this afternoon with news for me.” Callum said as he turned and looked at Talon, “I had not the chance yet to tell you in all of the excitement of your return.” Talon stepped forward and Dustin stepped around Callum and they came together, taking each other’s hands. “I see that this will be a rather long evening of catching up.” Henry came through the back door with wide excited eyes.
“Papa, did you see all of the horses?” Henry squealed. Callum looked down at him and smiled.
“Yes, I did actually.” Callum said at him, then looked over at Dustin, “Where did they all come from?”
“Well, you brought me one from London, so I have brought you eight from Cambridge.” Dustin smiled and cocked his head.
“Eight?” Callum and Martha asked at the same time.
“Well, there will be nine in another month or so, according to Christian. One of the mares is going to have a baby.” Dustin said and then looked down at Henry.
“Oh dear God.” Martha said.
“What do you think of that, my lad?” Dustin asked.
“A baby horse?” Henry asked with even wider eyes now.
“Yes, I think he’ll be about your size when he’s born.” Dustin said. Henry was amazed by it all. He turned and ran back out the door again. Dustin chuckled, “I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go out in the dark.”
“I think you’re right.” Callum said. He looked at the door as Tomlin and Holt came inside. Callum smiled and realized he hadn’t seen Holt yet and went to him, giving him a tight hug, patting his back, “Good to have you home, Christian.”
“I’m very thankful to be here, Quintan.” Holt said and pulled back. He looked over and saw Martha standing there and went to her, taking her hand, bowing down and kissing the back of it, and looked up from it, “My lady, I have certainly missed seeing your radiance.” Holt said with a smile, she blushed a bright red in her cheeks, as he stood, and he stepped closer to her. She held out her arms and he hugged her and she wept into his chest as he held her tight.
“Yes, it will be a very long evening for certain.” Callum said softly, as he put his arm around Dustin’s shoulders.