Callum walked into the kitchen, following Martha. Dustin was trailing behind Callum. As he entered the kitchen, Callum saw workmen both inside and out of the house, using hammers, chisels, all sorts of tools. It was utter chaos to Callum, and now he understood why Martha seemed to be so upset. He stepped up behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. He leaned close to her ear.
"It is no wonder, why, your nerves must be near a frazzle, dear lady." She turned, looking up at him. Her eyes were pooling, and then she put a hand to her mouth, as she held a corner of her apron. "I am used to such things, as we just left my ship, also in such a state. But, here in the confines of these four walls, I can see your frustration."
She buried her face in his tunic, sobbing a few times. Callum reached round her shoulders, clutching her, patting her softly on her back a few times. He looked over the top of her, watching the workmen continue about their toils. They were like ants on the march, one stepping up, doing this or that, and then moving on, another taking his place to do a little more, and then moving on. And so it went. Callum watching, and then he caught glimpse of Bockman, the man he had made the arraignments with. Callum kissed the top of Martha's head and stepped around her, going for the back door. He had to wait a moment for a couple of workmen to get out of the way, then made his way outside, walking up to Bockman.
"Good to see you, Captain."
"Likewise, Mr. Bockman." Callum said as he stepped up to him. "Dear God, man. What is all this?" Callum pointing back toward the house.
Bockman looked shocked. "The repairs, sir, as we discussed. Is something wrong, sir?"
"Well,...yes." Callum said. "How many do you have engaged here?"
"Fifteen, including myself, sir. You did say to get as many as needed to complete the repairs quickly, sir."
"Is there something wrong, sir?"
"Frankly, yes. My dear aunt is in quite a state with all of this activity. She is overwhelmed, I think, as am I."
"Well, sir, I can understand that. But, you did say to bring on as many hands, sir."
"I recall, thank you, Mr. Bockman. However, I feel we should take into account how this is effecting the lady of the house, would you not agree?"
"I see your point, sir. Of course, sir, you're right. It was very careless of me, sir. Shall I dismiss them?"
Callum thought about it, thought about what Martha had said, about most of them not being able to find work, not being able to feed their families, Callum was becoming sick to his stomach at the thought.
Callum pulled himself together, looking at Bockman. "I'm not trying to tell you how to run your affairs, Mr. Bockman, but, if I may, let's not dismiss any of them. On the contrary, let's retask them. Leave two or three on the house, have one or two rework the privy, put a few on the stable, and set the rest to rebuilding the fences and the gates."
"But, sir, we discussed the old stable, and I thought we had decided to focus on the house."
"Very true, Mr. Bockman. However, seeing the state of the lady of the house, and knowing the situation for work here in the area, perhaps we should rethink our strategy, would you not agree?"
Bockman smiled, and bowed his head a little. "Whatever you wish, sir."
Callum leaned close to Bockman. "Let me get her nerves settled, and then we can resume, at a different pace, in order to maintain her steadiness. Agreed?"
"Agreed, sir." Bockman smiled and held out his hand. Callum took it and gave a firm squeeze, then let go and turned back toward the house. Bockman started calling out to all of the workman, gathering them together out on the flagstone. They all huddled around him, and listened, and every now and then one would or another would look back at the house. Callum watched them for a minute, smiling to himself as he stood at the back door. Bockman broke up the huddle, and started pointing out to different areas, sending men to those areas to begin work. Callum walked into the kitchen, closing the back door behind him. The silence in the kitchen was deafening. Martha stood at the dry sink, Dustin next to her, his arm about her shoulder.
"My dear, I must apologize." Callum said as stepped closer to her. "I had no idea it was going to be this way. I have spoke to Mr. Bockman and have made some changes. It will be far less chaotic from now on. Can you ever forgive me?"
"You did not dismiss them, did you, Quintan?"
"Absolutely not." Callum said, as he took her hands in his own. "I remembered clearly of what you had said of there being no work here. I could not in good conscience dismiss any of them. They have been set to do other things, there will only be a few working on the house, not an entire regiment." Callum smiled. "We shall put you back into a better frame of mind."
"Thank you, my boy."
"Only for you, my dear." Callum leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "So, did Master Perkins relay to you our journey into Portsmouth?"
"Only that is was a good trip, and that you saw your ship was in good order."
"Ah, then he did not tell you of the shopping that ensued whilst we were there?"
Martha looked surprised, looking at Callum and then at Dustin, then back to Callum. "No, he did not."
"Then come, dear lady, and let us show you." Callum said, pulling at her hand, leading her into the front parlor. Once there, he let go of her hand and walked over and picked up the packages. "Which one is yours, Dustin? I have forgotten."
"I believe it is the one there by the door still." Dustin said, coming around Martha.
Callum walked the packages over to a serving table, that stood in the center of the room. He set them on the edge, and then moved a candle holder, and a vase, sliding them out of the way, pushing the packages more onto the surface of the table. He turned and looked at Martha and smiled. He nodded his head for her to join him at the table, as Dustin guided her as well.
"What is all this now?" She asked as she neared the table.
"We saw a couple of things that spoke of you whilst we were in Portsmouth." Callum said and stepped back a step, giving way to her. "Open them, and be the judge yourself."
Their eyes met, his glistened, hers were pooling again. "Go one now, open them." He spoke softly.
She began to remove the strings that bound the paper, carefully, slowly. Callum waited, and watched. Dustin was rocking up and down on the balls of his feet, looking very excited. Callum chuckled to himself. Martha slowly unwrapped the package to reveal its content. The dress was folded neatly, it shimmered in the light from the windows. Callum heard a slight gasp from her, as she lifted it gently out of the wrappings. Her face was aglow from the sight of the new dress. She looked over at Callum, he saw the tears running from her eyes.
"It's not my birthday." She said, trying to clear her throat. "And it's certainly not Christmas."
"No, it's just because. Dustin picked it out actually. I think it suits you." Callum leaned forward a little, looking at her, then straightened up. "When was the last time you had a new dress?"
"It's been too long to remember." She sobbed quietly. "Quintan, I can't accept..."
"Yes, my dear, you can accept it." Callum said, as he put an arm about her shoulders, leaning his head down on top of hers. "You deserve this, and so much more. Speaking of that, you need to open this one as well." Callum grinned, slinging the paper away from the dress, revealing the next package.
Martha set the dress down, folding it carefully, running her hands over the soft, smooth new fabric. Slowly she turned her attention to the next package, doing it as the first, sliding the string out of the way, and then slowly opening the paper. Again, she gave a slight gasp, seeing the new apron. She slowly lifted it, eyeing it closely, then gathered it, and brought it to her face, sobbing into it.
"There now, my dear, fret not...please. It was not our intention to upset you, truly." Callum said, looking at Dustin, who had a look of horror on his face, as though they had plunged a knife right into her heart. "Is it that you don't like them?" Callum asked, softly.
Martha turned and buried her face into Callum's tunic. "No one has ever done something like this for me before. I've never had a store bought dress."
"Well, then it's high time that you did, I'd say. Would you agree, Dustin?"
"Indeed, I do, high time."
"There you have it, my dear. As I said, you deserve it. Now, you'll have something new to wear for services on Sunday. The reverend should be most pleased, and the other ladies will be envious to be sure."
"Quintan..." Martha said, lifting her head, staring into his eyes, "I thank you so very much." Callum hugged her gently. She turned and looked at Dustin, who was about to bust, she hugged him tight, and he returned the hug. "I thank you as well, my dear. You have a good eye."
"You're very welcome." Dustin whispered at her ear, patting her back gently.
"There is another package here for you, my dear." Callum said, as he placed another on the table. Martha turned and let go of Dustin, looking at Callum and then at the other unopened package. She wiped her eyes with her old apron, and began to move the strings of the package, and then began to open it. She clearly gasped out loud this time, reaching in and picking up the other dress.
"Dustin couldn't decide between the two, so we chose both. Now, you will be the best looking lady in the market square."
She turned, looking up at him, her cheeks filled with color. "Such a charmer, you are." Martha smiled, and then looked at Dustin. She cupped his cheek with her hand. "And you, my dear boy, have very good taste." Dustin melted with her touch. She moved her hand and placed it over his shoulder, pulling him to her. She patted his back as she hugged him. Dustin rested his head on her shoulder. "I thank you both, with all my heart."
"As I said, you deserve it, my dear." Callum said, putting a hand on her shoulder, then kissing her forehead, again. "Now, I have a favor to ask."
"Certainly, anything." Martha answered.
"I'm afraid that I was boasting of your cooking whilst we were away."
"Oh? And who were you boasting to?"
"Our driver, Owen. I was wondering if I may press you to have him join us for supper?"
Her eyes went wide. "Owen Steadman? The young lad that drove you?"
"I believe that's who he is, yes." Callum looked from Martha to Dustin, than back at her. "I'm not certain of his surname."
"His mother is a close friend of mine. She also was a friend of your mothers, Quintan."
"I see. Small knit community, I suppose, everyone knowing one another. Rather like being on a ship."
"I would not care to insult her, by cooking to make Owen envious or to boast."
Callum raised his eyebrows at her. "There was no insult or malice intended, I assure you. We were merely having conversation and I boasted about your cooking, as I have never enjoyed anything as much."
"So, I take it that he would not be welcomed at our table?"
"Oh, Quintan...I would never turn him away, anymore than I would turn you or Dustin away. Of course he is welcome. Is there to be fancy faire or is it to be simple?"
Callum stepped up to her, placing both hands on her shoulders. "I will leave it in your capable hands, but I would say, that simple is best, wouldn't you? That way, there does not appear to be any malice."
"Sound tactical advice." Dustin said, stepping up next to Martha. "Might I be of assistance to you, Aunt Martha?"
"That would be most kind, my boy, most kind."
"That's settled." Callum said, looking at the two of them. "I am going up to remove my tunic then, and assume the roll of the country squire." Callum raised one eyebrow, and struck a pose, hand on his hip.
The pair laughed at Callum, and his jest. They went into the kitchen to begin preparations for the coming supper and the guest. Callum turned and walked up the narrow and steep stairs. He turned and opened the door, then closed it behind him. He slipped out of his tunic, tossing it to the bed, crossing the room to his chest. He opened it, and pulled out one of his shirts, then closed the lid. He pulled the loaned shirt off over his head, and lay it on the chest. He started to put it on, but heard something behind him, he spun on his heels. Against the wall where the window was, at the head of the bed, stood a young lad, his eyes wide. Callum looked him up and down, as though he was an intruder.
"Who the devil are you?" Callum asked.
"Alright. Mr. Kelsey, what are you doing in my room?"
"Tightening up the glazing in the window, sir." The lad gulped, as he stood there.
"I'm sorry, sir. Mr. Bockman said to check for drafts, sir. The windows are..."
"Quite alright, Mr. Kelsey..."
"Just Kelsey, sir."
"Kelsey's my Christian name, sir. My surname is Hargrove, sir."
"My apologies, Mr. Hargrove. You gave me a little bit of a start." Callum smiled, seeing the young lad in a different light now.
He stepped across the room, holding out his hand. "No, sir, I apologize. I thought you knew what we were doing, sir."
Callum took his hand firmly, then let it go. "No harm done, Mr. Hargrove. Carry on." Callum turned and pulled the shirt over his head, as Kelsey watched him, looking Callum up and down only seeing his back view. Kelsey walked toward the window slowly, as he continued to watch Callum dress, tucking his shirt into his long pants. He buttoned up the flap, reached up behind him, pulling out his ponytail and fluffed it a little, then Callum turned and walked toward the door. Kelsey had turned his attention back to the window now. Callum smiled briefly at the young lad and left the room.
Callum walked down the stairs and into the kitchen, seeing Dustin and Martha at the table. There was a large board out covered with flour. Martha was showing Dustin how to roll out dough. Callum smiled to himself as he watched the pair working.
"What culinary delight is it that you are creating?" Callum asked, making them both look up.
"It will be a shepherds pie." Martha answered. "Quintan, would be a dear and fetch some more wood for the stove?"
"Certainly." Callum replied. "Unless you need a ships captain to assist in rolling dough or peeling carrots?"
"Absolutely not. A ship's captain? Peeling carrots? I should think not." Martha said, as Callum started to walk by behind them.
"Oh, I see the way of it. I'm only good enough to fetch wood." Callum replied. Martha swatted him as he walked by, making Callum chuckle. "And now I'm pelted in flour."
Martha and Dustin looked, seeing the white hand print on the dark blue fabric at Callum's tight butt. They chuckled at him, then turned back and continued rolling dough. Callum walked out the back door and walked across the flagstone to the stack of firewood. He picked up a few pieces and placed them in his folded arm. He turned and looked over his shoulder at the chuckling going on behind him.
"What's this about then?" Callum asked.
"Your mark, sir." One of the workman said, pointing low toward Callum's pants. "Was there trouble in the kitchen, sir?" They chuckled again. Callum looked over his shoulder, seeing part of the mark and then looking back at them, smiling.
"You might say that. Never remark about a woman's cooking, unless you are some distance away first." Callum chuckled. They all laughed. Callum turned with his bundle of wood and walked back across the flagstone toward the back door. He opened the door and went inside the kitchen. He looked over Dustin's and Martha's shoulders as he walked slowly by, seeing their progress. He set the wood next to the stove on the floor, then stood.
"Would you stoke the firebox, Quintan?" Martha asked without looking back.
"Certainly." Callum answered, looking at the stove, really not knowing what to do to it. He looked around the top and then over the front, looking for a door, or a handle, anything to show him what might be an opening. He was at a loss, looking back at the pair, then back at the stove. He reached up and scratched his chin, biting his lower lip. Dustin stepped up, reaching to the front right hand side, flipping a small handle, then opening a small door, exposing the firebox. Callum shifted his gaze to Dustin and then back to the opening. "Ah, I see."
"Quite simple, actually." Dustin whispered.
"I was looking for something more complicated." Callum whispered back into Dustin's ear. Dustin grinned and then went back to the table to rejoin Martha.
"One or two pieces, I would say." She said, still not looking.
Callum picked up a couple of pieces and shoved them inside on top of the embers in the chamber. It was very hot and he burned his hand, singeing his light hair as he did it, hissing in a tight breath. He could have sworn that he heard a slight chuckle coming from the table across the room. He narrowed his eyes, and then closed the door, securing the small latch. He stood and turned, shaking his hand a little to try and relieve the heat, looking at the backs of Martha and Dustin. He could tell they were giving each other side glances. He walked up behind them.
"One must be careful not to burn oneself." Martha said softly. Dustin chuckled at Martha, then cleared his throat.
"A small warning before hand might have averted that, I would say." Callum replied softly. Martha turned round, and looked at his hand. "And perhaps showing one how to do it?"
"Are you seriously injured?" Martha asked. The look on her face was unmistakable as mischievous.
"Only my pride." Callum replied.
"It is well that a squire should know all that there is to know of his abode." Martha said, patting Callum on the shoulder. She turned back to her task at the table with Dustin. "Now that the stove is properly stoked, we will wait a few minutes to put this in the oven. Quintan,..." Martha said turning to look at him, "there are a few bottles of wine in the pantry. Would you be so good as to get one or two of them out?"
"Certainly." Callum raised one eyebrow, then walked out of the kitchen to the pantry door. He opened the door, seeing the were a few shelves that contained various pots, pans, and some wicker baskets, which held potatoes, onions, and some other greens, which he did not know what they were. Most of them seemed to be dried out and of no use. He saw a few old jars that were dark in color, covered in cloth and tied. On the upper shelf were a few bottles that he supposed were wine. He pulled a couple down and closed the door. He came back into the kitchen. Martha glanced up and then nodded to him. Callum set them on the table in front of her.
"Open this one to allow it to breathe, if you please." Martha was finishing the touches on the pie, trimming the crust with an old knife, as Dustin watched her work. She picked up a fork and began to press the edges, crimping it as she went all the way round the large pie. Callum had no idea how to open the bottle. She watched him for a minute with side glances in his struggle. Callum looked at Dustin, who only shrugged his shoulders back at Callum.
"Honestly." Martha said softly, setting the fork down, now that she was done crimping. She picked up a small knife and placed at the top of the bottles neck, tracing a line through the wax seal. She peeled back the wax and plunged the knife into the cork at on angle, then gave the bottle a slight turn as she lifted with the knife, removing the cork. "I would have thought that you would know how to do this, Quintan."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, my dear. But as I don't really drink, I have never had reason to learn." Callum was watching her as she removed the cork.
"Oh, I had no idea. I thought all sailors drank of something."
"Indeed. Most do." Callum said, as he straightened. "However, most of what I have drank has been poured for me."
"Well then, now you know."
"Yes." Callum said, softly. "Interesting technique. I will have to practice that." Callum smiled at her. "Is that for supper? Or do you partake yourself?"
"I have been known to." She replied. "But, it is for supper. It is a heavy Burgundy, and needs to breathe as it has been up there for quite some time."
"Now, I will place this in the oven and we are well underway. You gentlemen need to let me tidy things in here and I will prepare the table." Martha looked up from the table, carrying the pie, holding it out in her hands. "Quintan, why don't you two go out and see how everything is progressing with the workmen?"
"A capital suggestion, my dear. Are you sure you are not in need of assistance?"
"A ship's captain? Doing dishes? Whoever heard of such a thing."
"Squire, remember?" Callum said with a half smile.
"Beg pardon, your Lordship." Martha said wryly. "Now scoot, you scamp." Martha was pushing him away with her apron after setting the pie on the oven top. They turned and walked to the back door, looking back at her, as she was opening the oven door and placing the pie inside. Callum smiled in her direction, then he opened the door and walked out, Dustin behind him.
Bockman was walking back from the pasture fence and saw Callum and Dustin emerge from the house. They walked toward each other and met out on the back lawn area. Bockman was smiling at Callum and nodded to them.
"Well, Mr. Bockman. It seems that things are beginning to shape up." Callum said, as he looked around. He had noticed several things that had already changed in the surrounding areas. He turned and looked toward the old stable, seeing work going on there as well. Several of the hens were out walking about on the lawn, pecking at the ground as they went.
"Indeed, Captain. You will note that the fences are being leveled out on their tops. We will mortar the rock back on the morrow, once they are fitted."
"Yes, of course." Callum listened but was not looking to where Bockman was pointing. His attention was still on the old stable. Bockman stopped his explanations and looked back at Callum, seeing his attention was diverted. He looked at Dustin, who only shrugged, and then back at Callum.
"Is there something wrong, Captain?"
"I was wondering, Mr. Bockman."
"Should there not be a separate structure for the hens? A place of their own?"
"Do you have thoughts for something else of the stable, sir?"
"Yes. I think I do." Callum said, softly. He turned and looked at Bockman. "What about it?"
"Whatever you would like, sir." Bockman replied.
"I think a structure, next to the stable. A structure that would be easy to enter, and give shelter from the elements while one was gathering eggs. Nothing too fancy, but just sturdy. Then the stable could be used for what it was intended."
"Are you thinking of horses, Quintan?" Dustin asked.
Callum turned and smiled at Dustin, then poked him in the ribs, and winked. "Every squire needs horses, wouldn't you say?"
Dustin looked like he was going to bust again. His eyes went wide. "Truly? We're going to have horses?"
"And I know just the person that can teach you how to take care of them properly."
"Owen." Dustin whispered.
"Owen." Callum replied. "We shall ask him this evening." Callum winked again, then turned back to Bockman. "So, Mr. Bockman. How much more will this new addition set me back?"
"Maybe sixty, sir." Bockman answered, looking at where the new structure would be.
"Fair enough. Make sure it has a sound path to it. I want no issue for the lady of the house when she gathers eggs."
"Indeed, sir. It will be truly sound, I assure you."
"So far, you have been a man of word, and I appreciate that very much." Callum said, in his voice of authority.
"Thank you, sir."
Callum put a hand on Dustin's shoulder, looking into his eyes. "Come, my lad, will you accompany me on a tour of the estate?"
Dustin smiled wide. "I would be happy to."
"We are off then, Mr. Bockman. A pleasure." Callum said, holding out his hand. Bockman took it in his own, grasping it firmly.
"Make sure you inspect the front gate, sir. I think you will find it to your liking."
"Very well, we shall go there first." Callum held out his arm. "Dustin?" Dustin took Callum's arm with his own, and they turned and walked toward the flagstone. They walked up onto it and saw the wall of the back of the house had been patched in various spots, sealing the holes that had been there before. You could hear the wind through these holes, but Callum doubted now that that was possible. Callum smiled at what he saw, as they continued around the corner of the house. They could see into the kitchen windows, Martha inside, preparing the table, setting linens on it, spreading them out. They continued on their way, going around the corner toward the front of the house. Callum looked toward the road, and there he saw the front gate. His mouth opened slightly at what he saw. He heard a small gasp from Dustin beside him.
"My word." Callum said in a hushed voice. They began down the path toward where two workmen were still setting the gate in its new frame. As Callum and Dustin approached, the workmen stopped and looked at them.
What now stood was an arched entrance in wood, set into the stone walls that flanked each side. The wall itself had been cut back wider to make the entrance larger. Callum reached the arch and slowly ran his hand up and down on the wood.
"Is it to your liking, sir?" One of the workmen asked.
"Very much so." Callum turned and smiled at them both. "Reminds me of grand arches of a cathedral."
"Thank you, sir." Replied the other workman. "It was Mr. Bockman's idea, sir. He felt that it needs to be grand."
"Indeed it does." Callum whispered. "Makes one feel welcomed in."
"Quintan, it's beautiful." Dustin said as he stepped closer. "It is like some of the rail work on the Dover."
Callum spun and looked at Dustin, hearing his words. "Exactly! But, it's missing something. Do you know what I mean?" Callum asked more to himself than to Dustin. He grabbed Dustin by the upper arms. "It speaks to something, but it is silenced. And I know what it needs for that voice." Callum let Dustin go and turned back to the workmen. "Is there a smith in the village?" They nodded their response. "Excellent. Now, gentlemen, I require something else of you. I need a post with an arm, about so high, or two posts, with a ridge top joining to each." Callum said, as he stepped over to the wall, next to the arch. He used his hands to show them what he was talking about. He turned and looked back at them, they in turn were just staring at him, giving him a questioning look. "Gentlemen, the arch invites you in, through the gate, but, there needs to be a ships bell to ring to announce you." Callum looked right at Dustin as he said it.
"Of course." Dustin said. "The voice." Dustin beamed wide. "This is a ships captains home. It needs a bell. Quintan, that's brilliant."
"Do you gentlemen understand?" They both nodded. "Excellent. Dustin, let's get to the village to see the smith. I want to see how fast we can get that bell made."
"Beg pardon, sir."
"Yes? What is it?"
"Ye won't be finding the smith, sir, least not today, at this time."
"Oh? And why is that?" Callum asked the workman.
"Well, sir. He'll be at the tavern in the square, and well, sir, he won't be able to answer any question of ye, if ye know what I' meanin?"
"Oh, I see." Callum said in a deflated voice. "Well, I suppose we'll have to see him tomorrow then." Callum looked over at Dustin. "Well, perhaps we should let these gentlemen get their work done. Let us continue on our way, shall we?" Dustin nodded in reply to Callum. "A fine job, gentlemen. Your work is outstanding."
"Thank you, sir." They both replied to Callum. They watched Callum and Dustin walk away and then continued to hang the new gate.
"Truly a wonderful idea." Dustin said softly as they walked along the front stone wall.
"What is that?" Callum asked, almost absentmindedly.
"The ships bell. It would fit perfectly."
Callum smiled to himself. "Alas, an idea that will have to wait."
"Not for long, I imagine, knowing you."
Callum stopped. He looked at Dustin who kept walking. "And what, pray tell, does that mean?" Dustin stopped and turned back, looking at Callum with soft eyes, that boyish look that Callum loved so. He took a step toward Callum and stopped.
"It means that you always get what you want. In the end."
Callum tilted his head slightly. "You think so?"
"Of course. That is what makes you a good captain. Your firm decisiveness, your resolve."
"I see." Callum said and stepped closer to Dustin. "For one so young, you seem to know much."
"I have learned to observe." Dustin said softly. "It helped me to survive to reach this point."
"And what point is that?"
"To be here, with you. To be happy in a life with you."
Callum smiled as he drew near. "Are you happy, Dustin?"
"I love you, Quintan. Yes, I am happy."
"I love you, too." Callum had stepped right up to Dustin. "This moment would be perfect if there was a kiss."
"Not here." Dustin said, looking up into Callum's eyes. "There are too many eyes upon us." Dustin smiled a devilish smile. "It would not bode well for the new squire of Birmingham."
"You, sir, are a devil in disguise."
"I know. You taught me." Dustin whispered and then turned away, continuing along the stone wall, leaving Callum standing there, watching him.
Callum caught up to Dustin as they reached the corner of the wall, where it turned and proceeded up and across the neighboring pasture. They had stopped and were standing side by side looking out across the wide field. There were a few sparse trees in the distance, a cow grazing near one. The breeze was coming up a little. Callum looked over, seeing Dustin's hair fall over his eyes. Dustin reached up and tucked the long bang back behind his ear. Callum felt the need to touch his young love, a deep longing to be closer to him. He slowly lifted his arm and put it about Dustin's shoulders, then pulled him to his side.
"It is beautiful here, isn't it?" Dustin asked, still looking out across the pasture.
"Quite." Callum answered softly. "Not like the sea, but similar." Callum lifted his other arm and pointed out across the pasture. "See how the wind reaches the grass? Making it flow as it passes? Like waves. It would be a three knot wind."
Dustin hummed in response. "Aye. South, southeast." Dustin tilted his head and rested it against Callum for a moment, then straightened up. "Methinks you will always be thinking of the sea."
"It calms me. Calls to me." Callum replied softly.
"Are you happy, Quintan?" Dustin asked, pulling away, then turning and setting himself down against the stone wall.
"Of course, lad." Callum answered, looking down at Dustin. "Why do you ask?"
"You seem torn. Torn between here and the sea."
"I think you see too much." Callum smiled briefly. "You forget, the sea has been my home for most of my life. All of this is still new to me...this...land. It will take some time to grow accustomed to it." Callum also turned and rested against the stone wall next to Dustin. "I am certain that it will happen. As we were in Portsmouth, after seeing the Dover, my thoughts returned to this place over and over."
"Is that all?" Dustin asked softly.
Callum chuckled softly. "My thoughts were of you, as well." Callum looked over at Dustin. "Is that what you wanted to hear?"
"Only if you meant it."
"I do. You know that I do." Callum leaned and shoulder bumped Dustin, making Dustin smile. "Now, shall we continue on our tour?"
"Certainly." Dustin answered as he stood. Callum joined him and they began walking along the stone wall across the back of the property, toward the old stable. They could see workmen working on the stone wall, placing rock, fitting it, taking them out, placing another, then putting them back in, looking at it, then starting with another. Callum and Dustin walked by them one at a time, slowly, watching their progress, as they neared the old stable. Callum saw Bockman at the stable. The pair walked on drawing near the stable and then stopped so as not to be in the way of the work that was ongoing. Callum noted that several parts of the stable were now dismantled. Bockman saw them and walked over toward them.
"Excellent progress, Mr. Bockman." Callum said.
"Thank you, sir."
"I was meaning to ask, how long do you think you shall be on all of your repairs?"
"Another week, at least."
"I see." Callum smiled at him, and then looked at Dustin. "Barely enough time to enjoy it, before we return to the Dover, eh?"
"But think of when we return. All will be right." Dustin answered, while watching what was going on with the stable.
"We shall be stopping for the day, sir. And then we shall carry on tomorrow." Bockman said.
"Very well, Mr. Bockman. Excellent progress."
"Thank you, sir." Bockman said, as he turned and began to gather everyone up that was working on the stable. He walked back toward Callum. "I will make arraignments to have materials brought tomorrow, sir."
"Excellent. Do you require payment now then?"
"Come, come, man...speak up." Callum said, narrowing his eyes. "Nothing is free. Tell me what it is that you need, and it shall be done."
"Well, sir, I should think about fifty would do it, for the stable, and the new structure."
"Very well, fifty it is." Callum said, reaching out and placing a hand on Bockman's shoulder. "Let us go into the house and I shall retrieve my purse for you." Callum and Bockman walked up the path toward the flagstone at the back of the house. Callum stopped and looked back at Dustin, who was just staring at the old stable. "You coming, lad?"
"I shall join you shortly." Dustin said, turning to answer Callum, and then turned back looking at the old stable. Callum's eyes shifted from looking at Dustin, toward the old stable, then back at Dustin again. Callum exhaled, then turned and he and Bockman continued into the house.
"Won't you have a seat, Mr. Bockman?" Callum asked. "I shall only be a moment."
Martha had turned from the stove, looking at the pair as they walked in. Callum gave her a soft smile, then winked in her direction. Bockman looked at the fine table, as he sat down. Martha remained quiet as she heard Callum go up the stairs.
Callum reached the door and opened it. He started to cross the room toward the bed, where his tunic lay, but he was not alone. There at the window stood the young man, tools still in hand.
"Mr. Hargrove." Callum said. "Window giving you problems?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I just wanted it right for you." Kelsey replied quietly.
"I see." Callum replied, looking the youth up and down quickly. Callum could not really tell if anything had been actually done to the window. He diverted his attention to his tunic and picked it up. He reached inside the inner pocket and pulled out his leather pouch, then lay the tunic back down on the bed. He looked back up and smiled at Kelsey, who sheepishly smiled back. "The other workmen are leaving for the day."
"Oh. I did not know that." Kelsey replied, with wide eyes.
"Well,...now you do." Callum started to turn toward the door. "Perhaps you could finish the window tomorrow?"
"I..." Kelsey began to say, stopping himself seeing the look on Callum's face.
"I suppose I can, sir."
"Very good. I have to return to Mr. Bockman." Callum said, holding up his purse a little. "If you will excuse me?"
Kelsey seemed to snap out of it, diverting his gaze toward the floor. "Certainly, sir."
Callum looked him up and down again, then turned and walked to the door, opening it wider, and then walking out, leaving the door open. He went down the stairs and reentered the kitchen. Bockman was still at the table, and Martha was tending to something at the dry sink. Callum opened the purse and thumbed through some notes and then pulled them out, handing them toward Bockman. Callum lay the purse on the table, still holding the notes in his other hand. Bockman was just looking at them, then lifted his eyes toward Callum.
"Well?" Callum asked, holding them out a little closer to Bockman, hearing Martha turn round, then looking in her direction briefly, then back toward Bockman. "Fifty is what you had said, is it not?"
"Yes." Bockman said softly.
"Well, take it man." Callum looked confused, going back and forth between Bockman and Martha. "I assure you that it is good note." Callum said, still holding them out. Then he exhaled, heavily. "What is wrong with people in this part of the country? Have you people never seen money before?"
Bockman rose to his feet. Martha stepped forward coming up next to Callum. She reached out and placed a hand on his outstretched forearm, then looked up at him.
"It is not a common thing here, Quintan." Martha said softly, then looked at Bockman, and then back up at Callum. "Most of what we need is done through barter."
Callum eased a little, realizing what was going on now. "I see." Callum said quietly. He set the notes on the table, and then picked up his pouch, tucking it into the small of his back in his long pants. "My apologies, Mr. Bockman. In future, I shall be more considerate. I seem to have a little more to learn about my home and it's surroundings."
Callum put his arm about Martha's shoulders, giving her a slight squeeze. She reached up and patted Callum on the chest with one hand, looking at him. "If you require anything else, please do not hesitate to say something."
"I shall, sir." Bockman replied as he slowly picked up the notes off the table. He folded them carefully, reverently, and slipped them into his pocket. He removed his hand and held it out to Callum. Callum half smiled, and took Bockman's hand, giving it a firm grip in reply. "We shall resume tomorrow." Bockman said, looking at Martha, who nodded in reply. "Good evening, then."
"Good evening." Callum answered and watched him walk out the back door. Callum turned and looked down at Martha, and smiled wide. She patted his chest again with her hand and went to turn back toward the dry sink but stopped. Callum looked in the direction she was looking, seeing Kelsey standing in the doorway. Callum heard the back door open, but didn't look, then heard it close.
"Did I miss something?" Dustin asked, stepping closer. He saw Kelsey standing in the doorway to the small passage into the front of the house. Kelsey saw Dustin and the look was unmistakable to Callum, one of jealousy. Narrow eyes, lips tightening.
"Yes." Callum said, without turning around. He continued to watch Kelsey. "Mr. Bockman just left."
"Yes, I saw him." Dustin replied and stepped closer to Martha. "Is there anything that I can do to help you, Aunt Martha?" Dustin asked, oblivious to what was going on about him. She turned and looked at Dustin and smiled.
"Everything is well, dear boy." Martha said softly, then cupped his cheeks with her hands. "It will be ready soon."
"Are you returning tomorrow then, Mr. Hargrove?" Callum asked, still watching him. Kelsey seemed to snap back to reality, averting his gaze from Dustin back to Callum. Kelsey's eyes softened looking at him.
"Of course, sir."
"Then, pleasant evening to you." Callum said. "Come, I will show you out." Callum moved toward him. Kelsey half turned to Callum walk by, and then followed him to the front door. Callum opened it, and held it open. Kelsey went to step through, lifting his head as he had been looking down. He stopped seeing someone standing out on the front step.
"Owen." Kelsey said softly. Callum looked and saw Owen outside the door.
"Kelsey." Owen said, his eyes wide.
"What are you doing here?" Kelsey said as he stepped through the door, stopping in front of Owen.
"Accepting an invitation to supper." Owen said, looking past Kelsey directly at Callum. Kelsey stepped sideways out of the way, as Owen stepped toward the door, extending his hand toward Callum. Callum stepped into the doorway and took it firmly.
"Quite right." Callum said. "Do come in." Callum pulled Owen through the door. He turned and looked back at Kelsey. "I'll see you in the morning, Mr. Hargrove."
"Good night, sir." Kelsey said, as Callum shut the door.
Callum turned an looked at Owen. "Good of you to come." Callum said, putting a hand on Owens shoulder.
"I would not miss this." Owen said, then leaned forward toward Callum and whispered. "My mother was boiling a rabbit for some kind of soup."
Callum chuckled. "For God's sake, don't tell Martha." Callum whispered in return. "She related to me that they were good friends."
"I see. They are indeed good friends, as was your mother, as I recall."
"Yes, Martha spoke of that as well. I don't recall however. It occurs to me that we must have known one another when we were younger."
"Perhaps. I, too, don't recall."
"Well, as I was sent off to school when I was very young. My memories of my mother are very clouded."
"That's unfortunate. I remember her very well. She frequented our home when she came into the square."
"Well, then. Do come in. Dustin and Martha are in the kitchen." Callum said, then looked back at the front door for a moment, then back at Owen. "How well do you know Mr. Hargrove?"
Owen looked at Callum, raising an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
"I got the impression that you two know each other..."
"Did he say something?" Owen cut Callum off.
"Not exactly." Callum replied. "But, it's not difficult to understand from what I observed."
"Well..." Owen said, tipping his head down a little. "Perhaps I should go..."
"Certainly not." Callum said, keeping his voice down, putting both of his hands on Owens upper arms, grasping him firmly. "You know of Dustin and I, you said it yourself in Portsmouth. If you and Kelsey..."
"We were..." Owen said, cutting Callum off again, then looked up. "we are, no more."
"I see." Callum said, than cleared his throat. He let his hands drop away from Owen. "My apologies." Callum said in a whisper.
"There is no apology necessary. It was something that could never be, something I could not give."
"Well...do come in, let us join the others." Callum said with a half smile. He turned and walked toward the kitchen, Owen followed. Once in the kitchen, Callum stepped out of the way to let Owen in. "Our guest of honor has arrived." Martha and Dustin turned around from the dry sink and looked. Martha smiled, wiping her hands on her apron. Dustin stepped forward, extending his hand. Owen smiled and took it firmly, then patted Dustin on the shoulder with his other. Owen stepped forward to Martha and took her hand, tilting it and bringing it up a little and bowed and kissed the back of it, and then looked up and smiled at her. She blushed.
"I thank you for having me at your table."
"You are most welcome, young sir." Martha replied and looked at Callum, as her hand was freed.