DOVER Chapter 17

Callum stood up from the table. He smiled at both of them, then picked up his coffee. He took a long sip of it and then set it down. He turned and walked out of the kitchen. He went up to the bedroom and retrieved his leather purse, and walked back down the stairs, into the kitchen. He sat at the table, opening the purse. He pulled notes from it, handing Dustin two fivers.

"That is for Owen. What I owe him, todays journey and for when he brings you to Portsmouth."

Callum went back to peeling notes out of the stack. He placed them on the table near Martha's hand, and smiled at her. "Have you still money for supplies for the house?"

"Of course." Martha said, curtly. "I have not been to the village." Callum tilted his head at her response, looking puzzled.

"What of the lamb? Did you not go into the village for that?"

"That was the young masters doing. Speak to him of that."

Callum looked at Dustin, as he Dustin was sipping his coffee. "Is that true?"

"It is." Dustin said, setting his cup down. "I had money and wished to do it."

"Hmm. Well, it was an excellent choice."

"Thank you." Dustin said. He smiled at Martha. "I thought so as well."

Callum went back to his counting of notes. He stopped when having the stack reach three hundred. He looked at Martha and smiled.

"This should cover what Mr. Bockman and I discussed." Callum pushed the stack toward her. "As for what I said earlier, I shall write a notice to the Admiralty, in case the mission goes bad, they shall pay out the pence and due to whom I name. It would come as a draft, and all you would need do is take it to The Bank of England, and they shall pay it out in full." Callum could see her eyes welling again. "Now, now, my dear, don't fret. I am doing this as a precaution, for you."

"I know, Quintan, but I..."

"I insist. And now, we won't speak of it anymore. Alright?" He patted the back of her hand, and she only nodded her agreement. He got up from the table, taking his cup, walking to the stove. He refilled his cup and walked back to the table. "I had asked Owen to come tomorrow to settle with him for today, but as Eddington is with him, he probably already knows what is going on. Dustin, you should probably come day after tomorrow to Portsmouth."

"I will." Dustin said, rising from the table, coming round, walking with his cup toward Callum. He lifted the pot and refilled his cup as well. "Do you wish only your trunk?"

"That should do." Callum said softly, then sipped his coffee. "My dear, I think we should all think of turning in. My tunic should be alright the way it is. Do not trouble yourself with it."

"If you wish, Quintan." Martha said, turning in her chair.

"I do." Callum said, taking another sip from the cup, then setting it on the wash board of the dry sink. "I shall look just fine for the voyage the way it is." He walked over toward her. She got up and turned to him. He put his arms about her shoulders and she wrapped hers around his waist. She held him for the longest minute, and then he kissed the top of her head. "I will say good night then. And I promise to return home to you as soon as possible."

"I know you will." She whispered, patting the small of his back. He let her go and then walked toward the stairs, without looking back. Martha looked at Dustin, and stepped closer to him. "He knows he is not returning, doesn't he?"

Dustin lowered his cup from his lips, looking at her. He smiled softly. "He has that in his mind, yes."

Her eyes welled up. "When a man has a mind to die, he usually finds a way to do it."

"I will make sure that does not happen." Dustin said, looking very serious.

"I am certain you will, my boy." Martha said, patting Dustin on the shoulder. "Just be certain you look after yourself as well. I would hate to lose either of you." Martha smiled briefly, then turned back to the table, collecting plates and flatware. "Now, I think you should retire with him. It will be your last night together."

Dustin widened his eyes and then set his coffee cup down on the dry sink. He walked over to her as she turned, he kissed her on the cheek, and then walked out of the kitchen. A tear dropped from her eye as she went to the dry sink.

Dustin walked into the bedroom, closing the door behind him. The room was bathed in soft candle light from the single candle on the stand. Dustin stood near the door, watching Callum as he set out a few more things from the trunk. He closed the lid, and then lay them on the trunk lid. He pulled off his shirt over his head and lay it out on the trunk. He looked over his shoulder seeing Dustin standing there and opened his flap on his pantlet.

"Are you coming to bed?" Callum asked softly.

"Yes." Dustin replied softly.

"Are you sleeping in your clothes?"

"No." Dustin replied in an even softer voice.

Callum turned and looked at him. He cocked his head slightly. "What is the trouble?"

"I was reminded just now that this will be our last night together."

"Ah, I see." Callum said, as he stepped out of his pantlet. He placed them on the trunk lid with his shirt and then sat on the end of the bed. He peeled off his stockings and lay them on the pantlet. He stood, giving Dustin a shadowed view of himself in the dim candle light. Callum reached out a hand toward him. "Come to me."

Dustin stepped forward, looking Callum in the eye. He took Callum by the hand and stepped into him, turning and resting his cheek against Callum's bare chest. Callum wrapped his free arm around Dustin's shoulders.

"I know you're frightened and uncertain." Callum said, as he kissed Dustin's hair.

"It's not that."

"Then what is it?"

"I feel...alone."

"I am right here."

"I know." Dustin whispered. "She was right."

"What's that? Right about what?"

Dustin lifted his face, looking into Callum's eyes. "Nothing." Dustin replied. He lifted his hand and touched Callum's cheek. "I have never loved anything as much as I love you, Quintan. This is going to be more difficult than I thought."

"What will?"

"Being on board, and not being able to do this with you."

"Shall I make a change and have Carson helm the ship, and make you my steward?" Callum smiled.

"The crew would mutiny after the first day with my cooking." Dustin returned the smile. Callum bent down and kissed Dustin softly, then let him go.

He walked over to the edge of the bed and reached out pulling back the bed clothes. Dustin watched as Callum fluffed the pillows and angled them against the headboard. Callum climbed in, Dustin watching the entire time. The beauty of Callum's lean hard body, the way he moved, so smooth, so graceful as he climbed into bed. Dustin watched as Callum settled himself in, waiting, looking back at Dustin. Callum reached out his hand again toward Dustin.

"I long for you." Callum said.

"And I you."

"Then, why do you hesitate?"

"I am not certain." Dustin said, as he began to undress. He dropped his clothes at the end of the bed, in a heap. He stood straight once he was naked, making the candle light look as if he was glowing. Callum was running his eyes up and down Dustin's body. Dustin slowly moved around the bed and came up near Callum. He took Callum's outstretched hand in his and gently squeezed his fingers. Dustin pulled back his hand and then climbed into bed. He nestled next to Callum, letting Callum put his arms about Dustin. Callum rested his chin on the top of Dustin's head.

"I suppose that you do not wish to make love?" Callum whispered.

Dustin tilted his head slightly, looking into Callum's eyes. "Would it be alright if you just held me all night instead?"

"Whatever you want, my love." Callum replied, smiling. Dustin returned the smile briefly and then lowered his head, resting it against Callum's chest. Callum wet two fingers and reached over and snuffed out the candle. Dustin closed his eyes, and Callum lay in the dark, not being able to sleep. His mind was racing with thoughts about what was to come.

It was still dark, as Callum slipped out of bed. Dustin rolled over to his other side, sighing in his sleep. Callum smiled to himself, and then started to dress. He quietly walked out of the room and went down the stairs. He walked into the kitchen, lighting the lamp which was on the table. He looked over and saw his tunic was draped on the back of a chair at the table. He smiled openly seeing that not only that it was brushed out, but that the new epaulettes were now on the shoulders. He snorted out of his nose, and then shook his head slightly. He tied up the necktie that was draped around his neck, and then put his hair into a pony tail, securing it with his black ribbon. He fluffed his tail and then looked back at the tunic. He reached down and touched it, running his fingers over the shoulders. He walked over to the back door and opened it quietly, and then walked out to the privy.

When he walked back in a few minutes later, Martha was standing at the stove, she was stoking the firebox and added a few more pieces of wood. Callum had never seen her in her night clothes and a soft cotton robe. He came near her, and she turned.

"You are dressed already." She said softly.

"I need to be ready when the carriage arrives."

"It looks like you haven't slept."

"I did not." Callum smiled at her. "Too many things on my mind."

"I would think so." She said. "I will get your breakfast."

"Do not trouble yourself, my dear. I am not hungry in the least." Callum said softly. He walked over to the chair and picked up his tunic. He slipped it on and then fluffed his tail out of the collar. He pulled at the lapels and then looked at her. "Thank you for this and the placement of the new additions. I shall be the talk of the port when I arrive."

"You look very handsome." She said looking at him.

He walked over to her and put his hands on her shoulders and leaned forward, giving her a kiss on her forehead. He backed up a step, still smiling at her.

"I should go upstairs and tell him goodbye."

"Yes, you should. He will be upset if you do not." She said softly. He turned and walked out of the kitchen.

He opened the door of the bedroom and closed it behind him. He quietly crossed the room and came to the edge of the bed, sitting on it, seeing the sleeping form under the covers in the dark. Callum struck a match and lit the candle on the stand. As it came to life, he could see Dustin laying there, not moving. He watched him for a few minutes, seeing the covers rise and fall as he breathed in and out. Callum smiled inwardly to himself watching him. He didn't want to disturb his sleep, but then he heard the muffled sound of hooves and harness outside on the road. It was so quiet at this time of the morning, you could probably hear a pin drop. Callum knew he didn't have any more time. He bent down and kissed Dustin on the cheek. Dustin stirred slightly and then inhaled through his nose. His eyes began to flutter open.

"Quintan." Dustin said through sleep. "You are dressed already."

"Yes, my love. The carriage just arrived." Callum said, as they heard a soft knock at the front door. "That will be Eddington. I must be off."

"I should have been up with you..."

"Do not trouble yourself." Callum said, as he rose from the bed. He bent down once he was on his feet. "I shall see you soon enough."

Dustin rose up on his knees, letting the covers fall off him. Callum could see Dustin's nakedness in the candle light, and his heart raced. Dustin reached out his arms. Callum let him put them about his neck as he bent back down. They kissed softly, and then more and more passionately. Dustin was moaning softly in Callum's mouth. Another knock could be heard. Callum pulled back, looking Dustin in the eyes.

"Be safe." Dustin said softly. "I shall see you very soon."

"I look forward to that." Callum smiled and then walked to the door. As the door opened and then closed, Dustin got out of the bed and put his pantlets on, buttoning them quickly, he dashed for the door and came downstairs. He saw Callum at the door with Eddington and Martha. Martha stood near the door as Callum went to walk out, he gave her a tight hug and then a kiss on the cheek. He let her go and then looked over his shoulder at Dustin and winked in the faint light of the lamp. Callum walked out the door and down the path following Eddington. Dustin and Martha stood at the door watching them climb in and then drive away. Martha closed the door and looked at Dustin.

"I will start your breakfast if you wish or are you back to bed?"

"No, I shall dress and start the day with you." Dustin said, looking at her. She reached up cradled his cheek with one hand. Dustin tightened his jaw slightly, resolving himself, then turned back toward the stairs.

"Forgive me for saying, Captain, but you look like you have not slept." Eddington said, sitting next to Callum in the darkened carriage.

"Tis true." Callum said, over the sounds of wheels clattering on the road. "What do you know of the mission?"

Eddington was silent for a long moment, making Callum look over at him. Callum narrowed his eyes toward him.

"I know what you are up against, and it's...danger." Eddington simply said.

"I see." Callum sat back in the seat, folding his arms over his chest and stretching out his legs. He flexed his thigh muscle around his wound as it was binding against him.

"I envy you, Captain." Eddington said in a low tone.

"How so?" Callum was surprised to hear this.

"A life at sea." Eddington said, looking out the window of the door. "Being the Attaché, I am land locked and relegated to only this position."

"Have you ever been to sea, Mr. Eddington?"

"Yes, when I was a Midshipman. I had the privilege of serving aboard the Victory, under Lord Nelson." Eddington brightened. Callum sat up, half turning. "I served at the Nile."

"You must have been very young."

Eddington brightened, looking at Callum. "I was, very young." Eddington smiled.

"What happened?"

"After we returned home, Mr. Pillar, the 1st Lieutenant, came to me and said that I should request a transfer. He remarked that His Lordship had noted some of my actions, and that my 'talents' were not 'reaching their fullest potential'." Eddington smiled wide at Callum, "So shortly thereafter, I was posted to the Admiralty as a clerk. It took some time, but I was able to work my way up, with some notice."

"It seems that you enjoy your posting."

Eddington chuckled, looking with disappointment on his face. "I am nothing more than a glorified...errand boy."

"Come now, surely you don't really think that."

"I do." Eddington said, looking at Callum. "I feel that I am being wasted on land."

Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth. "Well, I would be happy to have on board the Dover."

"Really?" Eddington brightened again.

"Certainly. A man of your obvious intelligence and skill, you would be most welcome."

Eddington held out his hand hearing Callum. Callum took it warmly in his and squeezed it firmly.

"I thank you, very much."

"It is simply the truth." Callum said.

"Paul." Eddington said. Callum smiled wider.

"Quintan." Callum said softly, then slowly pulled his hand back. Callum was noticing the light that was growing through the window of the door, as the sun rose.

"Mr. Middleboro." Arvin said as he walked up.

"Sir?" The young man snapped around.

"It is time to get the Dover out into the open and away from the dock."

"Aye, sir."

"Call all hands, retract the mooring lines, and let us check her for leaks in deeper water."

"Very good, sir." Middleboro tipped his obedience and turned walking to the railing of the Quarterdeck. "All hands on deck!" Middleboro yelled in as deep a voice as he could. The ships bell could be heard clanging, calling all hands, as Greene, the Boson's mate was working the rope of the bell as fast as he could. Middleboro smiled to himself as the sound of the rush of the crew filled the air, each man going to stations.

The officers began to appear on deck, the Midshipmen were milling about in between the hands as they began to man the ropes. Mr. Sommers and Mr. Tomlin, both 2nd Lieutenants joined Mr. Arvin on the Quarterdeck, standing before the wheel surveying all of the activity. Middleboro turned and looked back at Arvin.

"All hands on deck, sir." Middleboro said.

"Carry out your orders, Mr. Middleboro." Arvin said, clasping his hands behind his back. "Take her out, if you please."

"Aye, aye, sir." Middleboro said, knowing that Mr. Arvin was bestowing a great honor on him, as the next to lowest ranking officer, letting him take her out. "Cast off the mooring lines! Mr. Talon! Flatten out the jib to port! Set the headsails!" Middleboro watched as his orders were being followed smoothly. He turned and looked at the man at the wheel, an older man, Dorfman. Middleboro nodded to him. "Lay her out to port, Mr. Dorfman."

"Aye, sir." The older man replied as he cranked the wheel over.

Arvin walked over to the starboard rail, looking down at the dock, as he heard the canvas unfurl overhead, and then he felt the slightest movement as the breeze filled the sheets. Slowly, the Dover began to move. There was a slight creaking sound throughout the deck as the masts felt the pull of the breeze in the canvas, the wooden deck working against itself as she was beginning to come to life.

"Take her out to the mouth of the bay, Mr. Middleboro. Then we shall drop anchor."

"Aye, sir."

"I wonder when the Captain will arrive?" Tomlin asked Sommers as they were near shoulder to shoulder."

"I hope it is soon." Sommers replied.

"And why is that?" Arvin asked as he had slipped up in behind the pair. Tomlin and Sommers were both startled.

Sommers snapped straight. "The sooner to be underway, sir."

"I see." Arvin said, looking forward across the Main Deck. "I, too, am anxious to be underway."

"Three more points to port, Mr. Dorfman." Middleboro said.

"How are we doing, Mr. Middleboro?" Arvin asked.

"She is starting to come around now, sir."

"Very well. Mr. Tomlin."

"Sir?"

"Once we clear the dock, and are away, launch the Captain's gig. You will await his arrival, and then bring him out."

"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, knowing that was another special honor bestowed. "Thank you, sir." Tomlin snapped straight, tipping his hand.

Middleboro was walking to the starboard railing, looking over the side, checking their progress, and then back to where he was, at the rail of the Quarterdeck. He looked up, seeing that the headsails were billowed, and then forward seeing the jib was still straining to help pull her around.

"Almost clear, sir." Middleboro said over his shoulder.

"Thank you, Mr. Middleboro. Mr. Tomlin, if you please."

"Aye, aye, sir." Tomlin said, and set off to the stairs, to head for the Main Deck. "Standby to lower away the Captain's gig!" Tomlin yelled. The eight members of the crew who were assigned to the gig, left their ropes and jumped to it, uncovering the canvas that sealed the gig. They set the ropes and tommies to begin to lift it from its grating. "Heave now!" Tomlin yelled. They began to pull, lifting the gig above rail level. They stopped, tied off the lift ropes. "Swing out now!" They grabbed the arc blocks, untying the ropes that held them, and then slowly swung the gig over the rail. They retied the blocks and went back to the lines for the tommies and waited. "Lower away!" Tomlin yelled and then looked over the rail, watching as they guided the gig down. In just a few minutes time, it touched water. The crewmen tied off and then set themselves over the rail down to the gig, getting it ready, breaking out oars. Tomlin turned and looked back to Arvin.

"Gig standing by, sir."

"Very good, Mr. Tomlin. Carry out your orders. Look sharp." Arvin said, his hands still clasped behind his back.

"Aye, sir." Tomlin said, tipping his hand. He set himself over the rail and then climbed down to step into the gig. "Cast off." He said, as he set himself in the stern of the gig, manning the tiller. He watched as they untied the lines holding the gig, and then those that were on the side next to the ship, pushed the gig away, letting her drift away for a minute as the Dover slid by them. Once they were clear, "Set oars." Tomlin pushed on the tiller, as the crew began to use the oars to pull away, steering the gig toward the dock.

"Mr. Talon!" Middleboro yelled. "Strike the jib!" Talon nodded and then had two crewmen begin to retract the jib. "Ease your helm, Mr. Dorfman." Middleboro said, over his shoulder. He didn't have to see what Dorfman was doing, he could hear the wheel turning to even out the course of the Dover. "Should we signal the Clarkson, Mr. Arvin?" Middleboro was referring to the fifth class ship that was at anchor, now off the larboard quarter.

"Very good, Mr. Middleboro."

"Mr. Greene!" Middleboro called out. "Signal the Clarkson that we are passing across her bows!" Greene tipped his hand, and ran to the flag box next to the port stairs of the Quarterdeck. He threw open the lid and selected three different flags, and then a pennant. He tucked them under his arm and dropped the lid. He dashed to the Main Mast, and grabbed the end of the halyard. He quickly tied off the pennant and then the flags, one after the other and with the help of another crewman, they ran up the signal.

Sommers walked to the port rail and looked toward the anchored ship. He turned back after a minute, looking at Middleboro. "They signal their acknowledgment, Mr. Middleboro."

"Thank you, Mr. Sommers." Middleboro said. "Mr. Greene, lower the signal, if you please."

"Aye, sir." Greene replied, tipping again, and they lowered the signal.

"Position, Mr. Middleboro?" Arvin asked, knowing full well where they were.

"Almost there, sir." Middleboro replied, not looking back, watching over the bow intently. "Another few minutes, sir." Middleboro looked back up at the headsails, knowing it was almost time.

Arvin stepped up close behind him. "Remember, be easy with her." Arvin whispered, making Middleboro relax a little, and exhale.

"Aye, sir." Middleboro replied softly. He looked out across the deck, the crew was watching the young officer, waiting for his order. Middleboro was waiting for the moment, he knew that once deep water was reached, the deck would feel different under their feet. Almost there, almost...he wanted it to be right, not wanting to disappoint Arvin in the least. Almost there. Middleboro firmed his stance, spreading his feet apart just a little more, and then he felt it, the deck smoothed out, not feeling so tight under him.

"Strike the Headsail!" Middleboro yelled out. The crew responded to it, pulling up the canvas. "Get aloft and secure the canvas!" Several crewman went up the rigging, moving as fast as the canvas was being pulled up. Middleboro watched as the men were beginning to tie up the sails. He could feel her begin to slow under his feet. "Standby to cast loose!" Several of the men on the deck jumped for the ropes of the Capstain, controlling the hold of the anchor. One man lay over the rail and untied the secure line that kept the anchor against the hull of the Dover. Once he was clear, Middleboro looked overhead to check the men on the furline. They were about done tying off. "Cast loose!" Middleboro yelled. The anchor was dropped, the massive line was running out, and then stopped. "Secure away!" The men jumped to the Capstain, putting in the lead arms, and then began to crank the line back in until it was almost taut. Middleboro watched as they secured it.

"Mr. Sommers." Arvin said.

"Sir?"

"Have the men survey for leaks, if you please."

"Very well, sir." Sommers replied, tipping his hand. "Larboard watch, below decks, check for leaks!" Sommers started to walk toward the port side stairs, as the crewmen started down the Companionway stairs.

"Mr. Middleboro." Arvin said.

"Sir?"

"Secure the deck."

"Aye, sir."

"And, Mr. Middleboro." Arvin said, making the young office turn and look at him. "Nicely done." Arvin said, with a half smile.

Middleboro breathed a sigh of relief and puffed his chest a little. He tipped his hand. "Thank you, sir." He smiled wide at Arvin. Middleboro turned back to the railing, putting his hands on it. "Secure the deck!" Middleboro yelled out, watching the crew move about, securing loose lines and rigging.

Callum had drifted off being rocked to sleep by the carriage. As he became more awake, he looked out the window of the door on his side. There were rolling fields, but the scent in the air was different. It smelled almost of the sea. Callum sat up, then looked over at Eddington, who was sitting there, staring out his window.

"How far are we do you think?" Callum asked.

"Hour at the most, I would think." Eddington said, acting alive now that he had company to talk to. "You slept most of the way. Do you feel better?"

"I do, Paul, thank you." Callum said, Eddington almost blushed from Callum using his first name.

"You must be hungry?"

"I am that. It's the salt air, I smell. It always brings on my appetite." Callum said, as he sat up in his seat. Callum watched Eddington get out of his seat and open the slat below the driver's seat.

"Cameron, stop at the Coat of Arms, will you?"

"Very good, sir." Callum heard the driver reply. Eddington closed the slat and sat back down next to Callum.

"You will enjoy the Coat of Arms." Eddington smiled. "I stop there whenever I am in Portsmouth."

"I have never heard of it, and as many times as I have been to Portsmouth, I should have thought I would."

"It is not on the beaten path." Eddington said. "It is more for the locals, but they tolerate the stray sailor."

Callum slid in the seat a little, as the carriage made a sharp turn. He heard the sound of a snap whip faintly, and then the carriage surged forward. In a few minutes, the carriage slowed and then stopped. The door was opened by the driver, and Eddington moved to step out, Callum behind him. Eddington stepped toward a door on the building, as Callum looked up at the sign. Eddington went through, and Callum followed him.

Inside was dark, as most taverns were, and wood paneled, but it was the smell that took Callum, the smell of rich cooking, it was almost heavenly and heavy in the air. Eddington closed the door, and turned back toward the room. He looked about in the dark room, and spotted an empty table, actually there were a few that were empty, but Eddington seemed to be looking for this particular one.

"Follow me." Eddington said in a whispered voice to Callum. Callum did as Eddington requested and they walked over to the table and sat down opposite each other. Callum was surprised by a very large man at his shoulder, appearing out of nowhere, as he moved very silent.

"Mr. Eddington, sir. A pleasure to see you again, sir." The big man said in a very deep voice, then looked down at Callum. "And in distinguished company."

"Mr. Fredrick Strathmore, may I present Captain Quintan Callum. Captain, Mr. Strathmore is the proprietor of this fine establishment."

"Captain Callum." The big man said, extending his large hand.

"Mr. Strathmore." Callum said, losing his hand inside of the big mans. Callum almost gulped at the size of it.

"Any friend of Mr. Eddington's is most welcome. What can I bring you gentlemen?"

Eddington looked at Callum. "If you wouldn't mind, I can order for both of us." Callum only nodded in reply, making Eddington smile, he looked up at the big man. "Coffee and your famous special breakfasts."

"Coming right up." Strathmore replied and moved away, silently.

Callum leaned forward on the table. "For someone so large, he certainly is quiet."

Eddington leaned close as well toward Callum. "Would you believe he was a Dragoon once?"

"You jest." Callum said with wide eyes. "Do they make horses large enough to carry him?"

Eddington grinned. "Apparently it was short lived. He presented... too much of a target."

"I can believe that." Callum said sitting back in his chair. He started to look about, seeing some of the other patrons at the other tables. They all appeared to be civilian, but rather finely dressed, more so than what Callum would have thought for just locals.

"What are looking for, Quintan?" Eddington asked quietly.

"I was wondering about the other patrons. They seem to be...out of place."

Eddington nodded. "Most are from business establishments. Strathmore runs a very...fine house."

"Ah, expensive, in other words."

Eddington smiled. "You will not find bar room brawlers here."

"I have been known to enjoy a brawl from time to time."

"So I have heard." Eddington smiled. Callum went to say something in response, but was interrupted by the large man appearing out of nowhere again at Callum's elbow.

"Your coffee, gentlemen." Strathmore said, setting a tray on the table. He removed the large steaming mugs and set each one in front of them, along with a small bowl and small pitcher. Callum assumed it was sugar and cream, possibly milk. Strathmore leaned down a little toward Callum. "Pardon me for saying, sir, but I prefer not to have brawling in my house."

"Of course not." Callum said, looking up at the big man. "That was not my intention, I assure you." Strathmore nodded slightly. "I was merely commenting on your other patrons. A fine looking group, I must say."

"Most are fellow businessmen, some are travellers, who prefer some place that is quiet."

"Indeed." Callum smiled up at him. "It is one of the finest houses I have been in. And what impressed me the most is that intoxicating aroma that abounds."

"That would be from the kitchen, sir. My wife has begun preparing for supper tonight."

Callum picked up his mug and smelled of the contents. It was rich and strong smelling. "Well, it smells absolutely divine, whatever she is preparing."

"She is French, and was once a cook for a nobleman, before the revolution."

"Really?" Callum asked, with wide eyes.

"I rescued her at the outbreak, when I was at Gibralter."

"Mr. Eddington was telling me that you served in the Dragoons."

"That is correct, sir. Until I was wounded."

Eddington leaned forward again, looking at Strathmore, and then to Callum. "They say he was shot five times. And his horse shot out from under him."

"Truly?" Callum asked, looking up. Strathmore only nodded.

"It was during the advance." Strathmore said in an even tone. "I was at the lead, we were ordered to charge, when the first volley came. My horse dropped out from under me. I had taken a few hits, and then got to my feet, when I was struck down by two more. They left me for dead. The advance drove the French back, but, not before most of the Dragoons were wiped out."

"My word." Callum said, adding a little sugar to his powerful tasting coffee.

"An infantry surgeon found me, as I was trying to get back to the line to rejoin what was left of the Dragoons. I'm told that several had to carry me away."

"Of that I do not doubt." Callum said, setting his coffee down. "I mean no disrespect, but I have never met anyone that has your size." Strathmore smiled softly. For being so large, Callum could see that he was a gentle man by nature.

"Tis true, I am 'large', but of my family, I am near the smallest of six."

Callum's eye went wide. "Six? Your mother bore six of you?"

"I assure you, sir, we were not this size when she did so." Strathmore chuckled. Callum laughed as well, for putting his foot in his mouth. It was now obvious, this large gentle man also had a sense of humor. "My father was the largest of all of us."

"Impressive." Callum said.

"He was." Strathmore smiled again. "Your breakfast will be out shortly. If you are also wondering, there is a privy toward the back, down that hallway, and out the door."

"I was wondering." Callum said, as he stood. He looked up at Strathmore, who had him by at least two head heights. Callum looked down at Eddington. "If you will excuse a minute?" Eddington nodded, and the Callum walked off toward the hall.

"Mr. Arvin, sir?" Arvin turned round and looked, he saw a young man, tipping his obedience.

"Yes? What is it?"

"Mr. Sommers compliments, sir. He said he'd like you to come down to the Cable Tier, sir."

"Very well." Arvin said. "Mr. Middleboro, you have the deck."

"Aye, sir." Middleboro said from behind Arvin. He started toward the port stairs, the young man following him. Arvin reached the Compaionway stairs and walked down, turning at the bottom and went forward ducking the beams of the Gun Deck as he went. He reached the next stairwell and went down, stepping onto the storage deck, turning and going into doorway of the Cable Tier. Sommers was just inside the door, watching as the ships carpenter was sticking oakum into the cracks that were just above the deck.

"Mr. Sommers?" Arvin asked, watching the carpenter.

Sommers turned and looked at Arvin, tipping his hand. "Mr. Arvin. This seems to be the worst of it, sir. Camber says he should be able to shore it up, sir. I thought you might wish to see for yourself." Sommers stepped back a step.

"Camber?" Arvin asked, making the carpenter look over his shoulder.

"Should have it soon, sir."

"How much water is in the bilge?"

"About three feet, sir." Camber answered. Arvin looked at Sommers.

"Have the bilge pumped, Mr. Sommers. Camber, should we send a party over the side?"

"Might be wise, sir, if I can't stop it from this side."

"Assemble your detail, Mr. Camber."

"Aye, aye, sir." Camber said, as he started to pound the oakum in with a broad mallet.

"I need six men to pump the bilge!" Sommers yelled as he stepped out of the Cable Tier. Arvin stood there watching Camber and two others, who had stepped in to help him. The leak was still seeping. Camber grabbed a flat broad tool and put it to the oakum, using the mallet to drive it in further. The water was oozing out of it, but seemed to slow. More oakum was applied and set in place. Arvin went to turn.

"I'll be on deck, Camber. Keep me posted." Arvin walked back to the stairwell.

"I will, sir." Camber said, not looking over his shoulder. "Come on now, my lady," Camber whispered, "you have to stop this now. Come on...", he whispered again, pounding the oakum, "come on..."

Strathmore brought out a large tray with several plates on it, setting it on the table as Callum sat back down. He took a deep inhale of what was being set before them. Martha's cooking was excellent, but this was another level that Callum had never experienced before in food. He was actually salivating from just the smell. He looked across the table to Eddington as Strathmore was setting plates in front of them with so much food, Callum thought he could feed half the crew with what was here. Callum saw the look on Eddington's face, noting it was almost a look of ecstasy.

"My word," Callum said, still amazed, "there is only the two of us."

"My wife excels at this, sir, and believes in filling everyone up."

"Well, my compliments to her." Callum said, and looked up at the large man. "You might have to roll me out of here like a barrel." Strathmore only smiled. Callum set a linen napkin in his lap and picked up a fork, as Strathmore backed away from the table.

"Enjoy, gentlemen." Strathmore said in his deep voice and was gone.

"You seem to be well known here, Paul. You eat here often?"

Eddington swallowed what was in his mouth and looked up. "Every chance I get."

"And you are not overly large from all of this?" Callum asked, as he cut a piece of his sausage and put it in his mouth. His eyes went wide with the flavor.

"She makes it here." Eddington said, with a half smile. "Try the butter eggs." Callum cut some of the egg before him and slipped it into his mouth. He almost moaned from the taste. "The bread she makes is even better." Eddington winked.

"Do you think she is for hire?"

"Let me have you take another look at him, and then ask that question." Eddington smiled.

"I suppose you're right." Callum said, chuckling, picking up his coffee.

"Dustin?" Martha called out.

"Yes, ma'am?" He answered from the next room and then stepped into the kitchen.

"Would you be a good lad and get some more wood for me?"

Dustin smiled. "Certainly." Dustin went towards the back door, putting his hand on the knob. "I'll fetch more and split as much as I can for you, so you have it ready whilst we're gone."

"How thoughtful." Martha smiled. "Do you want those things washed as well?" Martha nodded to what he was wearing.

"I don't think so." Dustin said in a shy voice.

"You do have more to wear, do you not?"

"I do, but they are new. I was going to wear them aboard ship."

Her eyes narrowed and she frowned. "New clothes aboard an old ship. As if anyone cares what a sailor looks like aboard ship." Dustin smiled at her and blushed.

"Well, Quintan hasn't seen them on me yet."

"Is that so?" Martha put her hands on her hips. "Well, I am certain you will catch his eye then."

Dustin blushed again. "I'll go fetch that wood for you." She chuckled as he opened the door and walked out. "For the life of me, that boy has it bad, yes indeed."

Dustin went to the pile and gathered a large arm load of wood, he turned and walked back to the backdoor and walked in, crossing to the wood box, he placed it in and saw an empty tub. He knew she was going to be washing, so he picked it up and walked out to the hand pump. He set it down and began to pump the water into the tub. It was about half full, so he stopped. He bent down and picked it up and walked it into the house, as she was finishing stoking the firebox. He set the tub on the stove for her, then smiled at her again. He walked out the back door and went to the wood pile. He began to split and stack wood, unaware that someone was coming up behind him. He set the broad head down and picked up the pieces to stack them, but caught sight of the person behind him out of the corner of his eye. Dustin breathed a sigh of relief as it was Owen.

"You gave me quite a start." Dustin said, wiping his forehead with his sleeve.

"I did not intend to." Owen smiled. "You were working so hard, I did not wish to interrupt you."

"I'm glad that you did. Quintan said you were coming by." Owen walked up close to Dustin and then sat on the chopping block, putting his hands on his knees.

"I take he left for Portsmouth then?"

"Yes, before the dawn." Dustin looked saddened.

"I know that it must pain your heart."

"It does. But, if take me to Portsmouth, I will rejoin him soon enough."

Owen smiled. "I would be happy to. When?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Fine. Shall we say, mid-morning?"

"That would be excellent. I have his trunk to go. Martha is washing some of his things."

"Very good. Well, I won't keep you from your chores then."

"Oh, wait...I have something for you, from Quintan, I almost forgot. Won't you come in?"

"Certainly." Owen said, waiting for Dustin to bustle past him to the backdoor. Owen followed him in, seeing Martha at the stove, stirring the large tub. "Morning." Owen said out loud, shutting the door behind him. Martha smiled, seeing him.

"Good morning, young sir. And how are you this fine day?"

"I am well, thank you, and how are you?"

"Saddened to have an almost empty house once again." Martha frowned.

"I'm certain it will not be for long." Owen said, with a smile.

"Such a comfort, you are."

"One tries." Owen said, as Dustin came back into the kitchen. He handed the notes to Owen. "What's this?"

"Quintan said to give these to you. It's for taking him to London and back, and for the trip to Portsmouth."

"This is far too much." Owen frowned.

"You would not think of arguing the point, would you? Quintan would be so disappointed if he found out that you refused what he had left for you."

"Methinks you have spent far too much time with our dear Captain." Owen said, holding the notes out. "You have his manner about you."

"I would be in agreement with that." Martha said, with a chuckle.

Callum sat back in his chair, finishing the last of his coffee, leaving some of the meal still on the plate. He felt so full and bloated from all of the food. He looked across the table and saw that Eddington had cleaned his plate entirely. Callum smiled to himself. Eddington was reaching a hand into his tunic.

"What are you doing?" Callum asked.

"Why, paying for the meal." Eddington had a surprised look on his face.

"I think not. This will be my treat."

"I can hardly ask you..."

"You don't have to, Paul. It is my pleasure for introducing me to such a fine establishment." Callum said as Strathmore appeared beside Callum. "Ah, Mr. Strathmore, truly, a meal fit for royalty, sir. I cannot hardly believe I ate what I ate." Callum smiled looking up at the large man.

"I thank you, sir." Strathmore smiled, nodding to Callum. "I will be sure to express that to my wife as well."

"Please, be sure that you do. She must be a wonderful woman."

"She would have to be, sir, to put up with me." Strathmore grinned, obvious an inside jest between them. Callum stood next to the towering man, holding out his hand. Strathmore stood straight, taking Callum's hand inside of his. Eddington stood as well.

"I am certain that you will see me again, my good man."

"It would be a pleasure, Captain." Strathmore nodded. Callum pulled out his leather purse and opened it. He pulled out a couple of notes and handed them to Strathmore, who took them, then looked back at Callum in surprise.

"Buy something nice for your lady." Callum smiled. "After this, she deserves it."

"Thank you again, sir." Strathmore nodded. He looked at Eddington, and smiled. "Always a pleasure to see you, Mr. Eddington."

"And you as well." Eddington bowed his head slightly. He followed Callum out of the door, out to the carriage. Eddington opened the door for Callum, letting him climb in and settle on the bench seat. Eddington closed the door behind him as he sat next to Callum.

"My word, I am stuffed beyond belief."

"I suppose I should have warned you." Eddington said as he knocked on the roof of the carriage. The carriage jerked forward and started down the lane.

"Mr. Arvin, sir." Arvin turned and saw the young crewman from earlier.

"Yes?" Arvin asked.

"Mr. Camden reports sir, that the leak has stopped, sir."

"Thank heavens." Arvin said in a soft voice. "Give Mr. Camden my compliments for a job well done." The young crewman tipped his hand and turned to walk away quickly.

"Mr. Middleboro, you have the deck again. I shall be below with Mr. Sommers."

"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, tipping his hand as Arvin walked away.

Arvin walked along the Companionway of the Storage Deck to the lower hold area. He could hear the bilge pumps being cranked. He walked to the set of steps and looked down, seeing the men laboring to pump the handles round and round.

"Just below a foot and still dropping, sir." Sommers said as he stood, seeing Arvin.

"Well done, Mr. Sommers. Well done, men. An extra ration of grog tonight for each, Mr. Sommers." Arvin said looking down at the sweaty men, as they stood in the murky water of the bilge. They all smiled back at Arvin, some of them nodding. Arvin turned to walk away.

"Excuse me, sir." Sommers said, making Arvin turn back.

"Yes?"

"Any sign of the Captain yet, sir?"

"Not as of yet. But, if I know the Captain, he should be aboard shortly."

"Thank you, sir." Sommers said, tipping his hand toward Arvin.

"Carry on, Mr. Sommers."

"Aye, aye, sir."

The carriage pulled up to the gates of the dockyard. The sentry opened the door, seeing Callum and Eddington, he snapped to attention.

"Beg pardon, sir." The sentry said.

"We are here to deliver Captain Callum to the Dover."

"Beg pardon, sir." The sentry said. "The Dover left the dock this morning, sir." Callum and Eddington looked at each other, then Eddington looked back at the sentry.

"Are you certain?"

"Quite certain, sir."

"I'm certain that my 1st is only out checking for leakage." Callum said. "Thank you, sentry.

"With pleasure, sir." The sentry snapped to attention again. He closed the door, as Eddington slid open the door below the drivers feet.

"Cameron, take us down to where the Dover was docked." Eddington said and then sat back as the carriage lurched forward again. They were silent, only hearing the gulls calling off in the distance and the clatter of hooves and wheels. Callum looked out the window, not seeing his ship anywhere. The driver slowed as they approached the end of the long dock. Callum saw someone he recognized and smiled openly.

"Yes, there is one my Lieutenants, with my gig." Callum said, as the carriage came to a stop. The driver opened the door and stepped back, allowing Eddington and Callum to climb out. Callum looked over the horses, seeing Tomlin standing there at attention with a smile. Callum turned and put out a hand toward Eddington. Eddington took it, smiling at Callum. "I want to thank you for bringing me, Paul."

"I was under orders, remember?"

Callum smiled. "Of course." He nodded toward Eddington. "Thank you anyway."

"The pleasure was all mine, Quintan." Eddington said, in a low voice, then let Callum's hand go and watched him turn and walk away toward his men and his gig.

 

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