VOYAGE HOME

The wind was good, he could tell from hearing the snap of the canvas above him, the masts creaking making the rigging go taut, the deck moved under his feet, each part of it moving ever so slightly as the bow rose and fell in the swells. The wind had thrown his long tail over his right shoulder as it blew against his back. He clasped his hands behind him as he looked out over the Main Deck from the fore rail of the Quarterdeck, seeing the men moving about, securing lines, sanding the deck with their pumice blocks and then rinsing them. He looked aloft, men were about in the rigging, securing stays and ties of the canvas. He lowered his eyes and looked forward again.

The clear blue of the sky met the water at the horizon and blended together as if one, like they were sailing inside a bubble, a glass prison as it were, going on and on never reaching the end, always sailing but never going any further. He smiled at that thought, what if it was true? He smiled wider as he kept watching the bow its rise and fall, and he saw something else now, off the starboard bow. He focused more and saw porpoises jumping and swimming with the ship, keeping pace with them as if it were a race to them. He saw some of the men point out at them, and they talked amongst one another while doing their work, happy to be seeing the sign of good fortune that the porpoise meant to all sailors.

“A nice stiff wind, sir.” The voice beside him said and he nodded in reply and leaned his head toward the voice slightly.

“Yes, it is. I only hope it holds until we reach the Azores.”

“Agreed, sir.” The young voice paused for a moment and then spoke again, “Would you care for me to take the deck, sir?”

“No, thank you, I will remain as I am rather enjoying myself in all of this.” He smiled and looked over for a moment at the familiar young face beside him. He received a nod in reply. He looked forward again and saw the bow rise and fall gently as they seemed to be moving very quickly through the swells.

“At this speed, we should reach the Azores by tomorrow morning, sir.”

“I think you may be right, if not before then.” He said, “I must say that she seems to be responding very well.”

“It is because she knows that you have the deck, sir. She responds better to you than anyone else.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, however, like most females, she has a mind of her own, and her mood can change with a single cloud overhead.” He chuckled.

“Very true, sir.” He chuckled as well, “Would you care for more sail, sir?”

“I think we are proceeding well enough, unless you’re in a bit of a hurry?”

“Not at all, sir, I know of your fondness for the Azores, I only hoped to have you enjoy it longer with a more rapid arrival.”

“Thank you for the thought, but we will be there soon enough I think.”

“As you say, sir.”

“Grandfather?” The young man stepped closer to him, “Grandfather?” The young man touched him on the shoulder, bringing him out of his thoughts, his daydream, he turned and looked at the young man and smiled briefly.

“Dustin, you gave me a bit of a start, my lad.”

“I did not mean to, I apologize.” The soft brown eyes of the young man shined brightly in the low light. “Are you alright? May I help you?”

“No, I was merely daydreaming.” He looked into the soft warm face that smiled at him, seeing how much he looked like his Dustin, it brought a tear to his eye.

“Are you alright, Grandfather?” The young man asked, and he saw a soft smile and a nod from him, “You have a visitor. He is in the parlor.”

“Really, who is it now?” He asked as he turned slowly, using his heavy cane.

“He says his name is Jamison. He said that you knew his father.”

“Jamison,…” He thought for a long moment, “I don’t recall anyone by that name. But, my memory isn’t as good as it used to be, now is it?” He smiled wide, putting a hand on the young man’s shoulder and pat it, “Well let’s go up and see what this is all about, shall we?”

“Yes, Grandfather. Would you like me to help you?”

“I’m not quite an invalid yet, you scamp.” He winked. He took his hand and slapped his butt once, “Off with you, I’ll be there when I get there.”

“Yes, sir.” He said with that warm smile and walked away to the half doors of the old stable. The old eyes followed him as he went out of sight and he used his cane to lean on as he looked over at the far side of the stable, where once there was a love shared right there in the straw. He cleared his throat and turned and walked to the half doors of the empty stable and went out, walking slowly up the path toward the house. He reached the flagstone as one of the dogs met him at the back door, wagging his tail. He opened the door and walked in, closing it behind him.

“Shall I make some tea for you, sir?” The lady at the sink asked, making him stop. He looked at her for a moment with only one eye and raised his eyebrow.

“Coffee would be better, my miss.” He said.

“You know what the doctor said about you and your coffee, sir.” She said with a slight frown.

“Just like a woman, always telling a man what he can do or can’t. You’re almost as bad as that blasted doctor.” He frowned and started to walk toward the parlor, “If tea is all there is, then I suppose tea it shall have to be.” He said as he went through the doorway and into the parlor. He stopped and saw the young man standing there with Dustin. A very strikingly handsome young fellow, in a modern looking suit with a tie, he was twirling a hat by its brim in his fingers, looking a bit nervous.

“Grandfather, this is Mr. Jamison, the gentleman I spoke to you of.”

“Mr. Jamison, how do you do?” He bowed his slightly as he rested both hands on the end of the heavy cane. “I am told that I knew your father.”

“Yes,…sir,…I…” The young man stuttered and stepped forward, “It was a number of years ago, when you served in The House, sir.”

“You’re right in that, it was a number of years ago, quite a number to be sure. Who was your father?”

“It wasn’t really my father, sir, more than my uncle, my great uncle, actually.” He said and looked back and forth between the two men of the house, looking still a bit nervous, “Before he died, sir, he asked that I seek you out, and…” the young voice trailed off.

“And,…?”

“Well, sir, I do not wish to come to you under a falsehood, sir.”

“I see. You are interested in hearing of some account of mine, I take it.” He said and turned to go back toward the kitchen.

“I do beg your pardon, sir, but,…”

“I beg your pardon, sir. My grandfather does not merely lend to story or legend for profit or fancy, sir. I must ask you to leave this house.” Dustin said in a voice of authority. The old man stopped in the doorway and turned back.

“What did you say?”

“Grandfather?” Dustin asked, as he looked toward the old man, “I asked him to leave this house.”

“No, I…I heard what you said, but,…it was the tone, the sound of your…conviction. I have heard that tone before,…in your namesakes voice.” The old man stepped forward and reached out a hand, touching the shoulder as he stepped closer. The old eyes were misty, “I have missed him so these many years. I look at you and I hear you,…and your words, they are him all over again.”

“Grandfather, why don’t you come and sit down, over here in your chair.” Dustin said softly, taking the old hands in his and helped him to the chair. He slowly sat down and sighed as he settled. Dustin turned and went to usher the young man out of their house.

“Dustin, a moment if you please.” He said, and Dustin stopped and looked back at him, “Mr. Jamison, perhaps I was bit hasty. Won’t you join me for a moment? I’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“Certainly, sir, thank you.” The young man said and came closer.

“Please, sit, make yourself comfortable.” He watched the young man sit on the settee and put his hat down, “Now, who are you really? And tell me precisely why you have come to my home.”

“As I said, sir, my name is Jamison. You and my great uncle did serve together in The House, his name was Rawlins.”

“Clarence Rawlins.” He rolled his eyes as well as his head. “And he said to seek me out? Shall I get a pistol and arm myself? Or will you try and avenge him with a sword?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t understand.”

“Did he say why you should seek me out?”

“He said to me before he died that he had only known one true man in his life, a man that could be counted on in any situation, and could help remove you from any peril, a man of honor, that man is Quintan Callum. Was he right, sir?” He watched the face of the old man and his expressions.

“Well, my lad, you have answered who you are, and now you need to tell me why you have come to my house.”

“I am a writer, I will not deny it. I have come to your home, sir, in hopes of getting your account.”

“Another man once said those very same words to me, but if I recall correctly, he used ‘adventures’. I did not have adventures, sir, I performed my duty for my King and my country. Many have also come here over the years in hopes of getting my account of historical facts and have been turned away, once I discovered what they truly wished, to embellish those accounts, to sell more copies of their works. I will not tolerate it, sir, not one bit.” He said and looked directly across the room as if seeing someone there. He gathered his thoughts and then sat forward a little, “My son,” He raised a crooked finger and pointed at Dustin, “his father has listened to all of those stories as he grew up. I did not tell him of them though, it was his namesake that was the storyteller of our little group, Dustin Perkins.” He nodded as he thought of him again, “He always told me we should chronicle all of it and give it to posterity. My family is the most important thing in the world to me, young man, and I will not have them hang their heads when they go into the marketplace because of a loose tongue of an old man and the shame it might cause them.”

“Grandfather, there can never be shame in anything that you have done in your life. You have always been so strong, I have looked up to you all of my life because of that. I did not know him, but Father is always talking about Dustin to us. The life that you two had, your friends, your career, there can never be any shame in it at all, unless it is twisted about in such a way to make it so.” Dustin said as he knelt in front of the old man.

“What are you trying to tell me, Dustin, that I should have this young man write it, my life, my story as it were?”

“Only if you wish to, Grandfather, it is your life after all, which makes it your decision only. But, I have heard Father say it over and over that he should write some of it down as well, the parts that he can remember at least.” Dustin said. The old man smiled and put a hand on the young shoulder in front of him and pat it gently. “We all love you, Grandfather, very much and only want what is best for you.”

“You make an old man very proud, my boy, to hear you say such things of total compassion. Perhaps I should speak of this to your father first. You know how he feels about some of my decisions.” The old man sat back in the chair, and looked over at the other young man, “Tell me why I should tell you this tale of mine, what makes you the better writer than the others?”

“Because, sir, I listen.” He said in a serious tone. The old man chuckled and the young man gave him a puzzled look.

“I wish that half my colleagues in The House had listened to only a part of what I had said, the nation might be in a better place now.” He chuckled again, “Your great uncle included.”

“Were you good friends, sir? He always spoke very highly of you.”

“Truth is we were not friends at all. We were more than bitter rivals, we were more like mortal enemies as a matter of fact.”

“He did not speak of you as such, sir, I assure you.”

“Nor I him. I actually had a deep respect for him. I was at his memorial when he passed.”

“I did not see you there, sir.” The young man said as he looked the old man over carefully.

“Out of respect, I stayed far back from all that were there. I actually nearly caught my death of cold standing out in the rain that morning.”

“It did rain bitterly that day as I recall.”

“Indeed it did.” The old man watched him for a moment as the young man seemed lost in thought over the memory, “As I said to my grandson here, I shall speak to his father about this, out of respect for my family. If you wish, you may call upon me tomorrow and I will give you my answer.”

“I would appreciate that very much, sir.” He stood and picked up his hat, “I thank you for seeing me. It was a very great honor to meet you at last.” He turned and walked toward the front door, Dustin was escorting him, they shook hands and the young man nodded at Dustin and walked out. Dustin watched him for a moment and closed the door. He looked back at the old man in the chair and came toward him.

“I am wondering if you would be so good as to ask your father to come and see me.” The old man said.

“I will go and find him, Grandfather, but you know he will take his time as he is with Mother.”

“Yes, your mother.” The old man sighed. The young man knelt in front of him again, “Perhaps I should go and see him then.”

“You know what the walk does to you, as it is a bit of a distance, it will overtire you.”

“You think I am not fit any longer?” The old man asked, with a half-smile.

“I would not say that, Grandfather, you know that.” He returned the smile with a little boy look and dimples.

“So like your father. He used to work me with those dimples as well, and could charm ladies without a second thought. He was such a devil, as you are, my boy.”

“I will go and see him now, and either bring him or his answer.”

“Good.” The old man winked. He watched the young man get up and walk toward the kitchen. He heard the back door close.

“Your tea, sir.” The woman said as she carried in a small tray. He watched her set it down on the side table next to him. She poured a cup and held it out to him and he took it from her.

“Thank you, my miss.” He smiled at her, “What is for supper?”

“I have a lovely stew on the stove for you, sir, and the young master.”

“Excellent. Is there any bread?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Could you warm it for supper as well?”

“Warm it?”

“Yes, warm it, if you please.” He smiled again at her. She looked at him curiously.

“If you wish, sir.” She curtsied slightly and walked away toward the kitchen. He sipped his tea and wrinkled his nose at it and set the cup down.

“What I wouldn’t do for a cup of coffee.” He said softly as he rolled his eyes.

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“Grandfather?” The young voice called to him, a hand touched him and shook him gently, “Grandfather?”

“Yes?” The old eyes opened and looked toward the soft voice.

“I spoke with Father, he is coming to see you.”

“Ah, good. I hope your mother did not object too much?” The older man rolled his eyes as he sat up.

“You know her.”

“Yes, I know her.” He said as he moved a bit in the chair to get comfortable. They heard the back door open and then close.

“I shall leave you to talk.” Dustin said softly.

“No, Dustin, stay here with me if you would.” The old man said patting the young hand on the arm of the chair.

“I understand you wished to see me.”

“Yes, Henry, if it’s not too much trouble. Thank you for coming.” The old man said. The man came closer and looked as though he wished to be somewhere else, “Henry, is there something that is troubling you?”

“Why do you ask that?”

“It seems that you look rather put out in being here.” The old man cocked his head slightly.

“No, well, I was rather busy when he came to fetch me.”

“Have I done something recently to offend you, Henry?” The old man asked.

“Just tell me what it is that you require of me. I can’t keep running over here every time you need something. That’s what he is here for.”

“Henry, I have not seen you for almost a month and we live on the same property. I see that wandering cat more than I see you. I seem to have troubled you needlessly, and I apologize. I shall not trouble you again.” The old man said as he rose out of his chair slowly and stood. Dustin stood as well and glared at his father, who was showing complete disrespect, “I think your wife might require your assistance far more than I. Have a pleasant evening.” The old man said and started to walk toward his room, leaving the father and son to glare at each other for a moment and Henry turned and walked toward the kitchen. Dustin looked at his grandfather walking away slowly toward his room and then took off after his father. He went out the back door and ran down the knoll to catch him.

“Father, that was completely rude of you to treat him that way.” Dustin said as he got in front of his father, stopping him.

“What do you know of it, boy?”

“I know that he loves you very much, Father. Please go and talk to him. He asked you to come to him to talk to you, to ask your opinion of something, out of respect for you and our family. I was there when he said it, and he meant it, every word of it.”

“You know nothing of it. He will not tell you about it.”

“Then why don’t you? Don’t let his remaining time go to waste. You are still so angry over something that happened so many years ago.”

“So like him, you are. I see it in you.” Henry said.

“Who, Grandfather?”

“No, Dustin,…Dustin Perkins.” Henry said softly. “There has been many years that your Grandfather has been away from me when I was young, his duty, his honor. It took him from me, the only thing I truly ever wanted, and he walked away from it and me. He does not have the right to ask anything of me.”

“And you do? How dare you? Who do you think you are?”

“Have a care, boy.” Henry gave Dustin a narrow eyed glare.

“A care? Something that you obviously don’t have, Father. That man loves you, he took you in, saved you from a life of starvation and possibly even death. You’ve said so yourself many times. You have let Mother twist your heart against him, she hates him so, I have seen and heard it, but out of respect for you, he won’t say anything to you about it. But it pains him deeply, I’ve seen it ever since I was little.”

“What would have me do?” The older man asked with a glare.

“Make it right with him before he passes. He has had so much pain in his life for so long. Don’t live your life with another regret after he is gone, Father.”

“They teach you that at University?”

“No Father, you did, living with her every day. That man in that house should mean more to you.” Dustin said then he went around his father and walked back toward the house. Henry took in a deep breath and let it out slowly watching his son.

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“Dustin, I am wondering, where are your brothers?” The old man said as he sat on the edge of the bed looking at the young man leaning against the doorjamb.

“They are working in town, Grandfather.”

“I have not seen them for quite a while, and you do not say much about them to me. Are they as upset with me as is your father?”

“No, Grandfather, they are not, I assure you. They are merely busy with their own lives.”

“Dustin, may I ask you to sit with me and just talk with me?” The old man asked. The young man looked at him and came over and sat next to him, “You spend so much time with me and I truly enjoy your company, but I cannot help but feel that I am keeping you from living your life the way you might want to, as your brothers are. You went to school and yet you do not seek out a career. I wonder if I am to blame for that.”

“Grandfather, I,…”

“Thomas Tomlin.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Thomas Tomlin,…a very dear friend of mine. No doubt you have heard me or your father speak of him?” The old man asked and the young man nodded, “What do you really know of him?”

“I know he came to live here, at Harbroughs on the Road, he had a very close friend, Christian Holt, they lived here many years until their passing.”

“Is that all you know?” The old man asked and received a nod in answer, “Thomas Tomlin was my 1st Lieutenant aboard Dover, and was always at my side, was always there when needed. He was also a good friend. I asked Thomas that very question one day that I just asked you, if I was holding him back. He had stayed here with me out of loyalty to me and what we had been through together for all those years. I knew the answer, but he would never tell me, being an honorable man and very loyal. So, I’ll ask you again, Dustin, am I holding you back?”

“Father said that you left him because of your duty and your honor when he was young. He is still angry over it. I know you probably did what you did because you had to, because of the kind of man you are. Are you holding me back? No, Grandfather, I am here because of you and because I want to be here with you.”

“Thank you, Dustin, for being honest with me. As I have said, you make an old man very happy and proud.” He pat the young man’s knee.

“I think Mrs. Ross may have supper ready for you.” Dustin said softly as he put an arm around the old man’s shoulders and leaned his head against his. He let go and stood.

“I only wished she could cook.” The old man whispered. Dustin chuckled and leaned forward.

“That’s why I go into town sometimes to eat.” Dustin whispered back and wiggled his eyebrows. They both chuckled as the old man got to his feet.

“I have decided to talk to that young man that was here earlier today. What do you think of that?” He said as he walked out of the bedroom slowly. Dustin turned in the hallway and looked at him and winked.

“I thought you would.” Dustin smiled.

“You are a rascal, aren’t you?”

“You wouldn’t have me any other way, I think.” Dustin smiled wider. The old man chuckled as he walked into the kitchen and put a hand on the back of a chair.

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Dustin opened the front door. The young man outside stepped in, and Dustin closed the door behind him.

“Ah, Mr. Jamison, good to see you again,” the old man said, and waved a hand, “come and make yourself comfortable, please.”

“It is good to see you again, sir.”

“You mean alive at least.” The old man said with a smile and then cleared his throat, “So, tell me of your writings. Have you written much?”

“Well, sir, I have written several essays at University and have actually had some articles published.”

“Articles? What kind of articles?”

“They were of mechanics, sir, rather of a technical nature having to do with machinery. I wrote one of the trains that have been going in all over the country, sir. Actually, about the two lines that are here in Birmingham.”

“So I take it that you write of fact rather than fiction.”

“Yes, sir. I find it far easier to write of fact than trying to keep track of places or people in a fictional type of content.”

“I approve, Mr. Jamison. Fact is far more interesting and easier to deal with than fiction. I always pressed my officers aboard ship for only fact, as it could mean life or death in battle.”

“I understand, sir, and I agree completely.”

“Then how would we proceed?” The old man asked.

“I beg your pardon, sir?”

“Am I to speak slowly so you can write every word I say? Or are you just going to summarize?”

“I take it, sir,…that you are going to let me write about you?” The young man asked with a surprised look.

“That would be a good guess, Mr. Jamison.” The old man cocked his head a little.

“Well, sir, I can write as fast as you can speak.”

“I may be old, Mr. Jamison, but I can speak very quickly.”

“I believe he is speaking of shorthand, Grandfather.” Dustin said.

“Shorthand?”

“Yes, sir, a type of shortening of word without it losing meaning or context.”

“I see.” The old man said and raised an eyebrow, “Then I take it, it will not be published in Latin?” Dustin and Jamison both laughed at the joke. The old man smiled at both of them.

“You see, sir, that’s exactly what I mean, that very bit of humor you just gave would not be lost in the shorthand.”

“Well, when would you like to get started?”

“At your convenience, sir. I wish to assure you that I will not hinder you in any way with your daily routine.”

“Well, that would be a first in this house.” Dustin said chuckling. Jamison looked up at him, “My Grandfather has had many disruptions here in this house over the years.”

“Really?” Jamison asked looking at Dustin and then at the old man, who nodded.

“Yes, there a duel fought out on the knoll right behind me actually on the other side of this very wall between myself and Colonel Archibald Holt. He nearly had me and had it not been from the intervention of his own son, I would not be talking to you at this moment.”

“I never heard that, Grandfather.” Dustin said with wide eyes.

“Your father actually saw most of it happen. That was the day he called me ‘Papa’ for the first time as I lay there in the grass bleeding to death.” The old man said and Dustin was still wide eyed, “You have never seen the scars that I carry upon me. I have always done my very best to hide them from everyone.” The old man said and he looked at both of them as they had wrinkled brows in almost disbelief. The old man got up out of his chair and pulled his shirt out of his pants and they both went wide eyed again as the shirt was pulled up. A crooked finger was pointed at the exposed chest. “These were received at La Rochelle from splintered decking as I was buried by debris from the battle there,” He pulled the shirt up further and showed the deep wide scar from mid-collarbone to his left shoulder, “and this is one that I received from the duel with Colonel Holt,” he turned around, “Dustin lift the back of my shirt, please.” Dustin stepped up and lifted the shirt, “You see the one over my right shoulder? That was from a musket ball, a French sharpshooter actually.”

“Grandfather, I had no idea.” Dustin said softly.

“There are others. I could show you as well, but I think Mrs. Ross might faint if she caught us.” The old man said as he turned around again, dropping his shirt.

“Sir, if I may, I would need to gather my writing materials before we go on. I would truly hate to have you to repeat yourself.”

“Where are your materials, Mr. Jamison?” The old man asked.

“At my lodgings, sir, in town.” He said, “I could go and get them if you could wait for me.”

“Let me ask you, how much time do you wish to devote to this undertaking of yours?”

“As long as it takes, I suppose, sir.”

“Do you have an estimate of that time? I mean, do you wish to only write of my service in the Navy?”

“I would write about all of it, sir, not just of your service in the Navy.”

“I see.” The old man said as he sat back down, “Then I will make you a counter proposal, Mr. Jamison. Why don’t you close out your lodgings in town and come and stay here with us? I’m sure Dustin would not mind, would you, my lad?”

“I don’t think that would be a problem at all, Grandfather, if you are alright with it.” Dustin said, never having had a guest stay in the house while he had lived here.

“Would that be agreeable to you, Mr. Jamison? Unless you are a man of some means, as I think you are not as you are wearing that same suit from yesterday.”

“You are very astute, sir.”

“You mean for an old man? It has saved myself and my crew many times in being able to read certain signs as it were. I’ll have Mrs. Ross prepare the guest room for you, it’s upstairs across from Dustin’s room. What say you, Mr. Jamison?”

“I would be a fool to turn down such a gracious offer, sir.”

“And I do not count you as one, at least not yet.” The old man smiled and winked at the young man, “I rise very early, before the dawn as has always been my custom, and with my age, I am usually early to bed and do not get up in the night, unless I am hurting from old wounds. I sleep rather soundly any more, another byproduct of my age. We can begin as soon as you are settled, if you wish. I have a feeling that you may be with us for a long while.”

“It would be to my complete pleasure, sir, I assure you.”

“Most kind. Dustin will tell you that I am not one prone to anger or melancholy, won’t you, my lad.”

“He is not. There have been several times since my return from University that I have had to control my fits of laughter actually.” Dustin smiled at the old man, who winked in reply.

“There you have it, Mr. Jamison. Now be off with you and I will see Mrs. Ross.” The old man said and got up out of his chair.

“Andrew, please.” He held out his hand. The old man took it and gripped it firmly.

“Quintan.” The old man said.

“I am sorry, sir, but I could never call you that. If you would allow me, may I call you,…Captain?” The old man narrowed his eyes and chuckled.

“If it makes you more comfortable, by all means, just as long as you do not call me by one of the dog’s names.” The old man smiled and held up a finger from his other hand.

“No, sir.” He smiled in return and took back his hand and turned to Dustin, reaching out.

“It’s a pleasure, Andrew, welcome to Callum’s Cross.” Dustin smiled.

“Thank you, Dustin.” He nodded. They pulled hands back from one another and Dustin guided him to the door, “I will return shortly then.”

“We’ll be waiting.” Dustin smiled and put a hand to the back of the shoulder as Jamison walked away. Dustin closed the door and turned back seeing the old man walking toward the kitchen.

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“Where shall we begin?”

“From the beginning, of course, sir.” Jamison smiled, pencil in hand pointed at the notebook in his lap.

“I suppose you’re right. Very well, I was born the 17th of February, in the year of Our Lord 1783, here in this house. What room exactly, I am not certain, but I do know it was upstairs. My parents were James and Catherine Callum. My father was killed, drown in a sailing at the end of April of that year, my mother raised me, alone. She sent me off to school in Brighton. There I was taught the art of sailing at Sheflands. I was enrolled in an apprenticeship and was trained as a Midshipman, given privilege under my first master, Captain Powers. He was sent a letter by my mother for the arrangement, guaranteeing my entrance.

“I went to sea for the first time at the age of nine, and found that I loved it very much, the smell of the open sea can be a most captivating thing. It was difficult for me in that first voyage, but I learned to adapt to it, and to Captain Powers and his ways. At that time, our ship, HMS Dover was assigned to Admiral Graff and his squadron. I had met the Admiral once at dinner in the Great Cabin aboard Dover. It was a rather frightening experience for a young boy and I remember it clearly as if it was only yesterday. Admiral Graff had drunk a bit much that evening at dinner and had an accident getting into his gig to go back to his own ship, HMS Revnor. The drunken state he was in, he slipped on the deck at the gunwale and fell overboard, landing on the gunnels of his gig, snapping his leg in half. After they pulled him into the gig and rowed for the Revnor, they got him into the surgery and amputated his leg at the hip. He bled to death that night. Most unfortunate.

“We were given over to another squadron after that for some time and sent to the Mediterranean along with the rest of our new squadron. We…”

“Captain, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a question.” Jamison said.

“I apologize for being rather long winded. I must be rambling.” The old man said.

“No, no, not at all, I was going to ask of your father actually.”

“What of him?”

“You said he drown the year you were born at the end of April. Did he serve in the Navy?”

“No, he was a merchant seaman. The ship was the Montrose. Have you heard the tale of the Montrose?”

“No, sir, I have not.”

“The Montrose was a large merchant ship. I have been told she was the largest afloat at that time, four masts in her decks and rigging. It must have been quite a sight to see I’m sure, a ship that large. The crew was near six hundred, with both officers and men, they were bound for the Cape of Good Hope to pick up a cargo of precious gems, probably from the diamond mines there in the south of Africa. There was a heavy gale that took the ship off the coast of Portugal. Another ship came to her aid, the Pantigor, who was nearby. The Captain of the Montrose was apparently a rather poor sailor and collided with the Pantigor, I was told that only about forty of the Montrose crew survived, the rest, my father included went down with the ship along with her Captain.”

“Good heavens.” Jamison said softly.

“The true story of the Montrose was never revealed and I must ask you to not include that in your writings.”

“But, sir, you know of it, surely for a matter of historical fact, it’s important.”

“I would agree, however, I cannot prove any of it and have only the word of a couple of the sailors that were aboard.”

“I see. I will not put the account in, sir.”

“Thank you.” The old man said with a brief smile, “All of this talk has made me rather dry, and quite weary. I think I might lay down for a bit, if you will allow me. I had a somewhat restless night.” The old man said and rose to his feet. He walked slowly across the room heading for his own room. Dustin and Jamison watched him walk away.

“I never knew that of his father.” Dustin said softly as he watched where the old man had gone.

“He doesn’t often speak of the past, does he?”

“No, he does not. I am learning things about him that I doubt my father even knows. This is quite interesting to hear of him, about him. Most that are in town near his age speak of him as if he is larger than life. I have always seen him that way myself.” Dustin said softly.

“He is quite a man for being his age. I am very impressed by him, his clarity of thought, and his speech. Most would never even reach his age, and those that might are no better than talking to a stone in the road. I find him very intriguing and captivating.” Jamison said softly.

“I do as well.” Dustin said softly and looked at the young man sitting across from him, “Would you care for coffee? I think I could persuade Mrs. Ross to make some. He is not allowed to have it. The doctor says it is bad for him at his age so we do not have it but rarely here. I have to sneak off into town to have some.”

“Will he not smell the aroma of it?”

“He might, you’re right. It would unfair to him. I suppose I will have to settle for tea as he does as well.” Dustin said with a sigh.

“How long will he rest for?”

“Sometimes he will sleep for a couple of hours, other times, longer. He said he had a restless night, he usually doesn’t have them. It has been a rather long day for him.” Dustin said.

“Would you care to go into town and have coffee somewhere?”

“Are you inviting me, Andrew?” Dustin asked with a soft smile.

“If you would like, yes, I would like coffee myself, actually, and am rather not fond of tea.” Jamison smiled.

“Me either. Yes, let’s go into town. I’ll tell Mrs. Ross and check on him before we go.”

“Alright.” Jamison smiled putting his things aside.

       //////                  //////                //////                  //////

“Grandfather, you’re awake.” Dustin said as he came through the front door, Jamison following him inside, closing the door behind him. The old man was sitting in the large chair.

“And where have you two been? You both look very guilty of indulging in some rather sinful activity.” The old man said raising an eyebrow, both hands resting on the head of his cane.

“What makes you say that?” Dustin asked with a look of surprise.

“Because, I did the very same thing when I was your age.” The old man smiled warmly and sat forward, “Tell me, was the coffee as good as it smells on you?”

“Grandfather!” Dustin said with wide eyes, “You are a devil, you know that?”

“Not as much as you are, my lad, sneaking off to have coffee without me.” The old man winked. He sat back and took the cane and set it beside him, resting it on the cushion of the chair, “I had a thought, Andrew. You seemed to be rather taken by the account of the Montrose.”

“I was, sir, indeed.” Jamison said as he sat on the settee, picking up his notebook and pencil.

“Have you ever heard of the Avion?” The old man asked.

“The Avion,…” The young man said as he was thinking, the name sparked something in his memory, “that was a French Man of War, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, and a very dangerous one.” The old man said as he looked at him, Dustin came and sat near the old man on an ottoman beside the chair, “It was commanded by deposed Admiral of Louis, who was seeking to find favor with Napoleon. He had gone mad apparently. He set out in the Channel and the North Sea wreaking havoc with merchant shipping.”

“Was he the one, Grandfather?” Dustin asked as he put a hand on the arm of the chair, “The one that Father spoke of, that took you away from him?”

“Yes,” The old man said softly, staring off into space remembering what had happened all those years ago, “Both Thomas and I.” The old man said quietly, “Several good men had died because of him and his madness.”

“What happened, sir?” Jamison asked as he leaned forward a bit.

“There was a meeting, right here in this very room, late one afternoon. We had only been back together as a group for a very short time when there came a knock on the door. Dustin answered it, actually. I was in the kitchen unpacking a trunk of dishes that belonged to my grandparents. Dustin came in the kitchen and looked white as a sheet. I came out into this room,…”

“Grandfather,…?” Dustin asked softly.

“My Lord, you honor me with your visit to my home.” Callum said as he bowed his head.

“Callum, it is good to see you, my lad.” Lord Hood said, then held out his hand, “You will recall Lord Fitzwarren, I’m sure, and our aide, Captain Arvin.”

“My Lord,” Callum bowed his head slightly toward Fitzwarren, and saw his old friend there, William Arvin. Callum smiled at Arvin, who smiled in return, bowing his head slightly to Callum, “William, it is good to see you up and about.” Callum stepped forward and took Arvin’s hand, then held out his other hand, “Gentlemen, please make yourselves comfortable. I must apologize as we are in a state of reconstruction here.” Callum said looking about the chaos of the room. He looked over his shoulder seeing Martha and Dustin in the doorway of the kitchen along with Henry. Callum held out his hand, and had Martha step forward.

“Gentlemen, may I present the lady of the house, my aunt, Martha Bonnington.” Callum said, the three men bowed their heads slightly, “My dear, may I present The First Sea Lord, Lord Samuel Hood, Vice Admiral Lord Edmund Fitzwarren, and an old friend, Captain William Arvin.” Callum said as he had a hand on her shoulder. She curtsied to them and they bowed again to her, “Gentlemen, I believe you know Dustin Perkins, my once helmsman of the Dover and my close friend, and this is my son, Henry Darrow.” Callum said as the boy was standing in front of him, Callum had his hands on the little shoulders, “Gentlemen, please.” Callum said and held out a hand toward the settee. They moved toward it, except for Arvin, who stood near the door.

“I’ll come right to it, Callum.” Hood said as he dropped his hat on the settee, next to him, “I have no doubt that you have heard of the disaster of the sloop that was to entrap the Avion.”

“I have heard, My Lord.” Callum said and shifted his gaze toward Fitzwarren with a slight glare, “It was quite a shock to hear of it, I must say.” Callum looked back at Hood.

“Yes, a tragedy in every sense of the word.” Hood said, “Callum, the plan that you outlined was sound as far as military tactic, but it was implemented incorrectly. We know that now. The support ships were spread out too far to render assistance. We have come here to ask that you return to service in order to help rid us of this madman and his acts upon not only merchant shipping but now our own as he continues to bring destruction through his mad actions.”

“My Lord, I don’t understand,” Callum said as he stepped around Henry, “I was court martialed and drummed out, by your very order.”

“Quite right,” Hood said, “I may have been rather hasty in that, and I apologize. There were several things that probably should have been handled differently in all aspects regarding that.”

“Callum, I feel that I must apologize to you directly for my part in that as well, and for your suffering from the circumstance.” Fitzwarren said.

“Quite right.” Hood said, looking at Callum, “I wish you to know that I have reviewed all accounts from all of the officers involved in the incidents of La Rochelle. That is why we are here. In reviewing all of the accounts, the Admiralty is of the opinion that you have shown remarkable capabilities, not only in seamanship but in extreme acts of valor. We need you to lead in this to stop this Frenchman from continuing what he is doing.”

“You’re saying that I am the only one that can do this, My Lord?” Callum asked as the others fell silent, “I would have to disagree with that. I can think of several Captains that are quite capable as well as I, if I were still in the service.”

“If I may,” Arvin said, “beg pardon, My Lord,” Arvin bowed his head slightly toward Hood then looked at Callum, “Quintan, you know as well as I that none can act as you do, your quick thinking, your resolve, your intense bravery, there is none in the fleet that can do what you have done.”

“I thank you for the compliment, William, truly high praise indeed coming from you,” Callum smiled and bowed his head slightly, “but I have other plans and concerns right at this time.”

“Callum, if I may,” Hood said, making Callum look at him, “if you were to accept our request, His Majesty would be most appreciative, he has spoken very highly of you. We are prepared to offer you full reinstatement of all rank and privilege. You may write your own ticket in all of this, my lad.”

“My Lord, you tempt me.” Callum said, and heard Dustin gasp softly behind him, and knew that Martha was looking up at him, he could feel it, her eyes on him and he didn’t have to look, “But I am trying to mend from wounds that were suffered recently.”

“Yes, from The Earl of Cambridge, we know.” Hood said, “Suffice it to say, we have had an eye on you since you have left the service.” Callum went wide eyed. Hood saw it, “As a bright star and being very talented, Callum, you could not simply expect to just walk away from the service, could you?”

“You will pardon my speaking bluntly, My Lord, but after hearing your written order read aloud, I could not help but think anything but the opposite.”

“Your plan for sailing into the North Sea during no moon, is sound still, I feel that we must implement it to trap this Frenchman. I beg you reconsider and take our offer and that of His Majesty. He also wished me to convey a personal message as well to you.” Hood said as he rose to his feet, Callum cocked his head slightly, “His Majesty said that he still awaits that talk with you, telling of your tales to him.” Callum went wide eyed, “We will take our leave now. Send word of your answer by messenger through special post directly to me at the Admiralty. I need your answer within a fortnight.” Hood nodded toward Callum, “Madam, I apologize for our intrusion into your home.” Hood bowed toward Martha and walked to the door, Arvin opening it for him. Fitzwarren stood and looked at Callum, then held out his hand.

“Know this,” Fitzwarren said as Callum looked at the hand and then into Fitzwarren’s eyes, “no one will miss Eddington more than I.” Callum took his hand and gripped it firmly, “I wish no ill feelings between us, Callum.”

“Nor I, My Lord.” Callum took his hand back and bowed his head slightly. Fitzwarren nodded in reply and then toward Martha and Dustin before walking out the door, stopping and looking at Arvin, “You may have a minute.”

“Thank you, My Lord.” Arvin said and nodded then looked at Callum, Arvin closed the door a bit as Callum stepped to him, “Quintan, I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to see you.” Arvin said, Callum held out his arms, wrapping them around him in a tight hug.

“Nor can I, my friend,” Callum said as he pat him on the back and pulled away, “how long have you been at the Admiralty?”

“Since day before yesterday actually,” Arvin rolled his eyes and smiled.

“Well, they certainly have thrown you into the thick of things, haven’t they?” Callum said as Dustin stepped forward and came closer, Arvin looked over and saw him, giving him a smile.

“Dustin, good to see you, my lad.” Arvin said reaching out and hugging a smiling Dustin tight.

“Same here, sir. You’re looking very well.” Dustin said as he pulled back.

“Yes, it’s this new leg of mine, actually.” Arvin said and knocked on it with his knuckles, making it sound like knocking on a door.

“What is it?” Callum asked.

“It’s a hollow leg that my wife had made for me. They say it even floats.” Arvin smiled and the three all laughed together. They stopped and looked up as they heard a crash of metal in the kitchen. Martha turned around and looked in the doorway.

“I’m sorry, my dear,” Tomlin said as he came up close to her, “Some of the pots from the other house, I thought you might like them,…” Tomlin looked and saw Arvin standing there and went wide eyed and his mouth fell open, “Mr. Arvin,” Tomlin said above a whisper and came around Martha and across the room, “Mr. Arvin,” Tomlin said as he held out a hand toward him, Arvin put out his hand as well, taking it, “Sir, I had no idea at all that you were here.”

“Hello, Thomas, you look very well.”

“Thank you, sir, so do you.” Tomlin said, “Have you come for a visit?”

“A short one, all too short.” Arvin said to him, and then looked at Callum, “Quintan, it has become very bad with all of this. They won’t come right out and say it, but they need you, desperately. I beg you to consider their offer. You are the only one they speak of that can deal with this.” Arvin said as he clasped Callum’s upper arms, “Please, think it over. I must be going now.”

“Thank you, William. It’s good to see you.” Callum said. Arvin smiled and nodded his head, opening the door and stepping out and starting down the path with a hobbled walk, but he seemed to be doing quite well on the path. Callum stood in the doorway, Dustin beside him and Tomlin behind them. They watched as Arvin climbed into the large covered carriage and the door was closed. The footman climbed up and the carriage set off down the road, heading south.

“Lord Hood, Captain?” Jamison asked and waited for a reply. He looked over at Dustin for a moment and Dustin leaned closer.

“Grandfather?” Dustin asked softly and touched his sleeve.

“Yes?” The old man looked over at him, “Oh, I’m sorry, I was lost in thought. What were you saying?”

“Lord Hood, Captain. He came here to the house to ask you to return to service. What happened after that?” Jamison asked.

“Yes, Lord Hood.” The old man smiled softly and then looked at Dustin, “In my room, in the trunk in the far corner, there is an envelope in the top tray of it, would you be so kind as to get it for me?”

“Certainly, I’ll be only a moment.” Dustin said and rose and walked away. The old man looked over at Jamison.

“There was quite a discussion here in this room after they left, to be sure. I had set things into motion already to live life to its fullest. I had no want or need for further money as I already had a sizable fortune by that time from my time at sea. I was going to see to it that all that were here on my property were taken care of and would never have want or need of anything ever again, until that fateful day happened. What I didn’t realize was that what they all really wanted was to have me in their company with them. I was too shortsighted to realize that at the time. I was young and brash, so full of myself.” The old man said as Dustin walked back in carrying the old looking large envelope, “Yes, that’s the one, thank you, my boy.” He opened it and carefully took the contents out of it. He opened one of the letters that was inside of it. He held it out a bit and smirked as he read it.

“What is it, Grandfather?” Dustin asked, the old man handed it to him.

“You read it,…out loud.”

“My Dearest Callum,” Dustin read, “I have recently been informed as that you have been asked to rejoin in the service of His Majesty. I can think of no one that is better suited to help end this conflict that we find ourselves in. However, do not think that this relieves you of that which you owe me, a debt of favor. I fully intend to collect upon that which is between us. I trust in the fact that I can count upon you to do what is right. Know that you are in my thoughts as you continue in your duty to our King and our Nation. Signed, Arthur Wellesley.” Dustin stopped reading and looked at the old man with wide eyes, “Grandfather, it’s from the Duke of Wellington.”

“Yes. There was a time, my boy, that I could call him friend. He saw me through a few difficult times.”

“The Duke of Wellington, I can hardly believe it.” Dustin said.

“Believe it.” The old man said, “He has been here in this room, and has had supper in the kitchen as well. Your father was there also.”

“Truly?” Dustin asked, the old man nodded in reply.

“Now read this one.” The old man handed another letter to him. Dustin opened it and went even wider eyed. The parchment had the Royal Crest and the Seal of Buckingham at the top of it, he looked up and saw the faint smile on the old man’s face. “When I’m gone, all that is in here belongs to you as well as my trunk and its contents. Now read it out loud.”

“Callum, I wished to thank you for your service to us in a great time of need. I need not go on as I know that you feel as I do about our great Nation, the sense of duty and honor that you possess runs strong in you as I clearly noticed it when we met that one day. You inspire others about you and that is the mark of a true leader, never lose sight of that and we will always be victorious. George III.” Dustin said and looked at his Grandfather as he lowered the letter.

“Your father never understood fully why I left. What His Majesty was trying to say to me in that simple letter spurred me to go on for a number of years. I know that it took me from him, and it cost me dearly, the loss of years with the love of my life as well as the love of my son.” The old man said softly as his eyes welled, “But I could not ignore that, those words in that letter.”

“Grandfather,…” Dustin said, putting his hand on the old man’s, “couldn’t you explain it to him now? If he were to read this, don’t you think he would understand?”

“Too much time has passed, Dustin.” The old man said softly and lowered his head dropping a tear from his eye.

“I do understand, Papa.” The voice said. Dustin looked up and saw his father standing there beside the chair. The old man lifted his head, seeing the man starting to kneel beside the chair, putting a hand on the old shoulder, “Papa, can you forgive me? Forgive a little boy that saw you drive away and leave him all those years ago, that was so angry and hurt from being left again?”

“Oh, Henry, there is nothing for you to forgive, my son.” The old man said softly. They hugged one another tight.

“I understand now. I didn’t when I was young, as you never explained it to me. Dustin tried, but he didn’t understand it either, why you left us for so long.”

“I know,” The old man said, “if there was another way I could have done it, I would have. You always knew what you meant to me though, didn’t you?” Henry pulled back slowly and looked into the old sad eyes that were wet.

“I did, Papa, believe me, I did. But you meant more to me. You gave me something more than just a home, you gave me a family. And then you left, for all that time. I couldn’t understand what I had done to make you leave me.”

“I never said I was sorry to you, Henry, for leaving you, but I am saying it now.” The old man dropped another tear from his eye as he looked at his son, “I wish I could make it up to you somehow.” He said softly.

“No.” Henry said, with wet eyes as well, “There is nothing to make up for. You did what you had to do, I understand that now. Dustin did his best for me and for Martha. Now, you must do what you need to do for you, as you have always done for far too much for the many others in your life.” He pat the back of the old man’s hand gently. Henry looked over at the young man sitting close by on the settee and then stood. “Henry Darrow…Callum.” He said as he put out his hand. Dustin went wide eyed as he looked up at his father, the old man looked up as well. The younger man rose off the settee and put out his hand as well.

“Andrew Jamison.” He said softly, “A pleasure to meet you, sir.”

“I take it, Mr. Jamison, that you’re writing of the accounts of my father’s life?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” Henry said and looked down at his father, “I have always wanted to do that myself, but could never bring myself to do it. I think it’s high time. Dustin would have been very pleased.” Henry smiled briefly at the old man and then looked at Jamison, “I am wondering, could you give me a few minutes alone with my father?”

“Certainly.” Jamison gulped and was wide eyed. Dustin stood up next to his father.

“Andrew, let me show you up to your room, and we can give them some privacy.” Dustin said as he touched Jamison’s sleeve. They stepped together toward the stairs, Dustin stopping at the bottom and looked over at them for a moment and then he smiled at his father’s back as Henry knelt on the floor in front of the old man, taking his hands in his. Dustin went up the stairs after Jamison.

“Papa, I want you to know that Dustin had quite a talking to me outside on the knoll. He made me come to realize that I have been holding things to close inside, my anger and regret. I shall never be angry again with you. I have come to realize also I have made mistakes in my life, none of which were your fault. I made choices that I shouldn’t have, I know that now, mostly out of anger toward you.”

“Henry,…”

“No, Papa, it’s alright. I have been a fool for too many years, and fell into just letting it fester in me like a sore. Dustin told me that you wanted to talk to me, to ask me, because of the love and respect that you have for me and our family. I have disregarded that love and respect over time, something that you taught me when I was very young never to lose sight of, but I did. I cannot apologize enough for that.”

“Henry, please…” The old man said as he squeezed the hands he held.

“Papa,…I find it difficult, but I must.” Henry paused for a moment, as he lowered his head a bit, “I have let Velletta twist and turn my heart against you over all of these years. Nothing was ever good enough for her.” Henry said as he lifted his head and looked in the old man’s eyes, “The only good thing she has given me are my sons, and I fear that I have lost them as well. Dustin loves you deeply, far more than he does me, and that is understandable. Henry and Robert are pursuing their lives in town to stay away as best they can, it makes it convenient for them to have an excuse as such, and I understand that as well.”

“What has happened with your wife, Henry?” The old man asked with a look of deep worry.

“I fear,…no,…I hope, that she will be leaving,…soon.” Henry gave a brief smile, “There was quite a battle in the house after I left here, probably quite like one of yours at sea truth be told.”

“But she’s your wife.”

“Yes, and she carries a black heart within her, infecting all that are around her with it. I have let it drive a deep wedge into the very core of this family and should never have let it get this far.”

“Henry,” The old man said as he squeezed the hands again, “go to your sons, tell them, make them understand. Do not let this history repeat itself, our history. Make it right with them, you must.”

“I will, Papa, but I need to make it right with you and I first.”

“Henry,…” The old man said as he shook his head slightly, “we are right with each other. I have always loved you, from that first day that I brought you home with me from Portsmouth. That will never change between us, never. Do you remember that day?”

“Some of it. I remember you on the horse and you finding me on the street, I think.”

“Yes. Do you remember what you told me?”

“No.”

“We were talking about eating. I asked you when it was the last time that you had eaten. You said it had been days, and I was horrified by that because I knew of how many days it actually was since you had eaten with me last. I had to save you from that. You became one of the single most important things to me at that very moment, and you still are, my son, always know that.” The old man smiled.

“A father’s love,…” Henry smiled and squeezed the hands back in his.

“…knows no bounds. You remember.” The old man smiled wider.

“I do, Papa.”

“Good.” The old man was still smiling, “Go to your sons. Tell them. I know that they are waiting for you, just to hear anything from you like that.”

“I will, Papa.” Henry said as he let go of the hands and leaned forward, kissing the old man on the cheek and giving him another hug. The old man hugged him back tight.

“I love you, Henry.”

“I love you, Papa.” Henry said softly. Dustin was standing on the bottom step of the stairs, watching them, his eyes welling and tears began to drop down his cheeks. Jamison was standing behind him on the stairs, looking over the top of his shoulder at the two older men at the chair and then leaned back. He put a hand on Dustin’s shoulder and made him turn round and look back up at him. Jamison smiled and nodded toward them. Dustin smiled and then walked over toward them.

     //////                  ///////                   //////

“I’m terribly sorry, Andrew, I seem to have forgotten where we were.” The old man said as he looked at the young man.

“Uh, yes,…” The young man said as he was rereading his shorthand, “Lord Hood had asked you to return to service, sir. Captain Arvin was pressing the point as well, saying how desperate the situation actually was.” The young man looked up from his book.

“Quite right.” The old man said, “I think I was saying that quite a discussion was held here after that as well. I remember it clearly. It was one of the only times that I had a major argument with Dustin.”

“You can’t be seriously considering this, Quintan, they’re using you, can’t you see that?” Dustin said.

“And what makes you think that they are?” Callum asked as he crossed the parlor. Dustin turning with him, Tomlin following in the turn as well.

“They drum you out of the service, and now they come crawling back to have you rid them of this madman? They are not sincere in what they want, they know you’re expendable, like Eddington was.” Dustin said, holding out his hands. Callum stopped and spun on him, holding up a finger.

“Have a care! Eddington was a friend of mine, and he was not, I repeat, not expendable! That butchering son-of-a-bitch took him and I will have justice for him, is that understood?” Callum said loudly with a growl. Martha was wide eyed and horrified seeing Callum like this. She put her hands on Henry’s shoulders, pulling him to her.

“Justice, or vengeance?” Dustin growled back, leaning into Callum’s face. Tomlin put a hand on Dustin’s shoulder, pulling him back. He stepped around and faced Callum.

“Quintan, he may be right. Please, think before you act.”

“No, Thomas, he can’t. He wants to go out and die,…needlessly.” Dustin said still with a growl as he looked over Tomlin’s shoulder at Callum.

“Dustin.” Martha gasped. Dustin turned and looked at her for a moment.

“Ask him why he would even be considering it, Aunt Martha. Go ahead, ask him.” Dustin said loudly, holding out a hand toward Callum.

“She does not need to.” Callum said as he straightened, crossing his arms over his chest glaring at Dustin, “I’ll tell you. It was my plan from the beginning. You were there when it was first conceived, and you well know it.”

“You are right in that. I was there, but that was before everything else happened.” Dustin turned and glared back at him, “You would rush off, again, as you always do, to stare death itself in the face, confident that you will be victorious every time.” Dustin said as he crossed his arms.

“It’s not your decision.”

“No, of course it’s not, I’m not the Captain. Apparently you are,…again!” Dustin turned around looking at the wall of the parlor, his back to Callum.

“Gentlemen, we need to calm ourselves, please. Arguing will gain us nothing.” Tomlin said.

“At last, someone has said something that is sensible.” Martha said. She watched as Tomlin stepped closer to Callum.

“Quintan, if you do this, if you accept their offer and go,…then I will go with you as well.” Tomlin said quietly. Dustin spun around and dropped his arms, his eyes wide with horror. Martha put a hand to her mouth and gasped.

“What?!” Dustin yelled, making Henry jump, “Thomas, you can’t be serious.” Dustin said as he came up beside him.

“I am very serious, Dustin.” Tomlin said as he stared into Callum’s unblinking eyes, “You are my Captain, sir, I am your 1st. I offer my services to you if you so choose.”

“I know someone else who will have something to say about this, and maybe he can put some reason into both of your thick skulls.” Dustin said and stormed out of the room, slamming the back door as he went. Martha had turned and watched Dustin fly past her.

“You do me a great honor with your pledge of service, Thomas, but there is too much here to risk you as well. Dustin was right in that. I would not ask that of you.”

“You need not ask. I can think of at least two dozen officers that would jump at the chance to come to your side, but you gave it to me, that day in the Wardroom aboard Dover. Who else knows her like I do, besides you and Captain Arvin. Would any of the junior officers be able to support in this mission, I think not? It is clearly left up to me. You heard what Darin said last night right here in this very room. The Corsair and the Tarkington were in support, but they failed, and that is what got Mr. Eddington killed, along with all the others. I know you too well, I know that you have another plan to counter that failure. All you need do is nod your acceptance of me.” Tomlin said softly. Martha was openly weeping, seeing what was happening in front of her.

“What of Christian?” Callum asked.

“He’s a Marine officer, it does not concern him, this is clearly a matter of the Royal Navy, the Marines merely support. What of Dustin?”

“I don’t want him involved in this.” Callum said flatly.

“He already is.”

“Not aboard ship. We are officers, we have a duty, he is an able-bodied seaman, I can refuse his signing, and see to it that he cannot sign aboard any other ship involved.”

“He would be safe aboard the Dover, and you know that.”

“I’m not so sure of that.” Callum said, “One thing I know for certain, I need to think this over more. I’m going to take a bit of a walk.” Callum went to the front door and opened it, “I’ll be back shortly.” He said as he went through, closing it behind him, Tomlin stared at the front door after him and closed his eyes as he heard the back door of the house open.

Callum walked up the road, his hands in his front pockets, his head down as he walked, lost in thought over all of this. He was upset, very upset over the whole thing. He had handled it poorly with Dustin, yelling at him like that, he knew it and had never done that to him before, even though Dustin was right, he had gone too far with it, angering Callum like that. And now something else was creeping into his mind, the thought that he might lose Dustin completely over this. They had had disagreements before, but they were minor, but this, this was completely different, and for the first time in Callum’s life, he was afraid, very afraid of what was going to happen when he went home.

He went up the front path and walked to the door and took in a breath and then let it out and opened the door. He went in and closed the door behind him. He looked about the room and all were there, waiting for him. It was worse to him than the court-martial that he had faced at the Admiralty. He pulled himself up and together as all faces were looking at him. Everyone stood as Callum walked in the room. Dustin seemed calm and that worried him more than anything else that he saw. Dustin had been leaning against the wall next to the kitchen door, he pulled away from the wall and came across the room toward him and stopped, going almost nose to nose with him.

“Did you think it over?”

“I did some thinking of it, yes.”

“And?”

“And, I haven’t made up my mind yet.” Callum said softly. Dustin shook his head, “But I think we need to discuss it further.”

“Folly, it is sheer folly, and you know it.” Dustin said flatly.

“Perhaps. Can you see another way out?”

“Yes,” Dustin said with wide eyes, “Say no.”

“Why?”

“Why do it at all? Does all this mean so little to you? What of us? What would happen to us if you went off and got yourself killed in this madness? What of Henry? How many have died already, and you want to add to the body count?”

“I think you are taking this out of proportion.” Callum said softly.

“Am I? You really think that?” Dustin folded his arms over his chest, “We discussed this, together, about leaving the service, starting a life here, and it’s already started, and you want to just go off and,…save the day. For what?” Dustin shook his head slightly as he stared at Callum, “I am very sorry about Mr. Eddington and the others, truly I am, but you going off to play right into their hands to rid them of this problem of theirs,…Quintan, it’s not right. Step back and look at it again. You know I’m right in this.” Dustin’s voice was almost pleading. Holt came close to them both and stood.

“Quintan, I am not a naval officer and I don’t know much in naval tactics, but Dustin is right. They are using you. Cannon fodder. They deem you expendable, that is why they come to you.” Holt said softly, “I have witnessed your bravery and valor firsthand, you know that, but this is different.”

“How so, Christian?” Callum asked.

“This,…madman does not have to follow the rules of war, and it is apparent that he isn’t as he is striking against small cargo vessels and simply murdering. Think for a moment if you will, there were fifty Marines aboard this last sloop, according to Mr. Talon, fifty Marines all dead, plus the officers and crew. How many times has this happened?”

“It brings the total to eight vessels that I know of for certain.”

“And they can’t find him, the Royal Navy.” Holt said as he stepped closer, “Quintan, there is something else to all of this, think about it, there has to be. As I said, I am not a naval officer, but to go out and try and trap him, to lure him in, in a small vessel that is not well armed at all to begin with is true suicide in my opinion.”

“There is much to lose if this continues.” Callum said as he looked about at everyone, “Merchant shipping will soon cease completely if he continues to do this. I need not remind you all that we live upon an island. Eventually our supplies will begin to dwindle, our economy will be compromised, there will eventually be famine behind this and other disasters that will follow, and there is also a war on. I tell you, Napoleon is behind this somehow, I know it as sure as I’m standing here before you. If something is not done, and soon, we all face disaster and defeat.” Callum watched all of them as he spoke, they were listening closely to him the entire time, “If I accept this, if I do go and do this, it is for a greater goal than just for the memory of my friend, I would do this for the nation, in order to preserve it and our way of life.”

“You are speaking like a politician again, Quintan.” Martha said as she shook her head and went toward the kitchen.

“I suppose I am, my dear. But, what I say is true, and I think we all know it, and that’s the disturbing part.”

“Alright, so when do we leave?” Dustin asked. Callum looked at him and shook his head.

“You’re not going.”

“What?” Dustin asked, anger creeping into his voice.

“I cannot guarantee your safety. You’re not going.”

“I am an able-bodied seaman, if I wish to sign on, I will.”

“This is not like the last mission, you said so yourself. Besides, I haven’t decided yet to accept.” Callum said.

“The hell you haven’t.” Dustin growled, “I’ve told you before, don’t lie to me.” Dustin said through clenched teeth as he stuck a finger into Callum’s chest, “I’m through with this, and you.”

“Where are you going?” Callum asked as Dustin turned away and started for the stairs.

“I’m going to pack.” Dustin said as he hit the stairs. All of them watched him go up and then looked at Callum with wide eyes.

“Quintan, go after him.” Martha said.

“No. He needs to calm himself.” Callum said quietly as he looked at the stairs. She came across the room to him and smacked his arm, getting his attention.

“You go up there right now and you stop him. He’s the best thing in your life beside that little one, now you get up there and you talk to him.” She said with a growl in her tone and her eyes burned as he looked at her. “And the rest you, into the kitchen, I have supper ready.” She turned on her heel and went toward the doorway. Callum watched as they all moved toward the kitchen, leaving him alone, walking with their heads down. Callum exhaled and went for the stairs.

“Dustin,…” Callum said softly as he watched Dustin taking his clothes from the trunk and putting them into his duffel, “please,…won’t you talk to me?”

“What is there to say? You have made up your mind, it’s obvious. I will not wait here to hear of word of your death.”

“Where would you go?”

“I don’t know yet. Does it really matter?” Dustin asked as he stuffed more clothes into the duffel without looking at Callum. Callum stepped closer to him, wanting to touch him, to stop him.

“It does. You must understand, I have not lied to you.”

“I don’t believe you.” Dustin said as he stopped and looked at the wall. Callum put his hand gently on Dustin’s shoulder, “Do not touch me, sir. I find it repulsive right now.” He said as he closed his eyes, “You have hurt me,…deeply.”

“I am sorry for that, it was not my intent, I assure you.”

“Well, you have.”

“I know what you would have me do, Dustin, to ignore this summons.” Callum said above a whisper.

“I thought we had a plan, together. I thought you were happy, with me being here with you.”

“I am. Happier than I have ever been in my life.” Callum said as he lowered his hand and his head. Dustin turned slightly and looked at him.

“It would seem that you are not, sir, evident in your speech from downstairs.”

“Dustin, I beg you,…do not leave me.” Callum said softly as he lifted his misting eyes.

“You,…begging me?” Dustin turned more toward him, “That is a first for certain.”

“You are my world, you know that.”

“How can you say that? You have told me that many times, it is true, but what you said downstairs tells me something else. You would throw it all away by going, and, you don’t want me with you in this?”

“It would be bad enough if I were lost, true, but to lose you because of this menace, and I were to survive, it would surely destroy me.”

“Quintan, I love you, I love you more than you know. No one has ever meant as much to me as you. But, I cannot bear to watch you go off and do this. I have seen you deal with so much in our time together aboard ship and here, but this is,…you will not survive it. It is different than anything that you have ever faced, I know that and so do you.”

“You doubt my abilities?”

“No, Quintan, I do not. You have proved your abilities over and over again, but can’t you see that this is different? You know how many have died already from this, and you are going to add to it. As I said, I will not wait here to hear word of your death.”

“You would simply leave then, and not look back.”

“I suppose I would. I know you must think it cowardly of me, I’m certain.” Dustin stared at him.

“No, I do not. You only wish to spare your heart. I can understand that.”

“Can you?” Dustin asked softly. Callum nodded.

“I won’t stop you if your mind is truly made up. You are not a prisoner here, you are free to come and go as you please as this is your home. But if you leave, I will be forever empty in my heart and soul.” Callum said as he slowly turned to walk toward the door. He lowered his head slightly and stepped forward, but stopped as Dustin touched him lightly. Callum dropped a tear from his eye as he faced the door, “I will saddle your mare for you, if you’d like.”

“Quintan,…” Dustin said softly, and took his hand away, tilting his head back and looked at the ceiling, fighting the tears. Callum opened the door and looked back at Dustin, seeing him like he was, and Callum’s heart was tearing itself to shreds. He closed the door. Dustin lowered his head and they stared at each other, the tears falling from Dustin’s eyes now. Callum shook his head slightly.

“Dustin, I didn’t lie to you. You have to believe me.”

“Take me with you.” Dustin whispered. Callum stepped closer to him, stopping a step away from him.

“No. If I go, I go alone.” Callum lowered his eyes for a moment, then looked back at Dustin, “I love you, Dustin. Please stay, do not leave me. We can talk it over more, there is time before I answer them. Please, will you stay?” Callum asked. Dustin stepped into him, hugging him tighter than he ever had before.

“Grandfather?” Dustin asked softly as he sat on the ottoman next to the chair. He studied the tired old face that was staring blankly across the room, “Grandfather, are you alright?” The old eyes shifted and looked at him, and a slight smile emerged seeing his face.

“Yes, just a painful remembrance.”

“I’m sorry.” The young man said softly.

“You have nothing to be sorry over, it was all me. I should not have done what I did to him. It scarred us both deeply, what I did, worse than any physical wound ever could be.”

“You loved him, didn’t you?” Dustin asked quietly, and the old eyes focused on him intensely, “Did he,…know that?” The old man slowly nodded. Dustin’s bottom lipped trembled slightly seeing the old man in this silent pain, “What happened after that?” Dustin asked as he put a hand on the old man’s. The old man looked down at his own knees.

“There was much discussion in the next few days. My companions,…they were upset over it and with me, especially your father.”

“My father?”

“I think that still to this day, that he remembers what happened but won’t speak of it. Dustin meant so much to him, they were kindred spirits as it were, coming from the same experiences. When you were born, it was clear to both your father and I as we looked at you that you were like him in appearance, as is your father. I always suspected that they were related in some way, as if being brothers, but we never found out.”

“You think that they were?”

“It would not surprise me, both coming from Portsmouth. Different mother’s, but possibly having the same father. It seemed very likely, or a possibility to me at least.”

“I wish I’d known him.”

“He would have loved you very much, as I do.” The old man smiled softly, “Well, it has been a bit of a long day for so far, hasn’t it?”

“Are you tired, sir?” Jamison asked.

“Andrew,” The old man looked over at him realizing that he was there as he had almost forgotten, “I must apologize, I did not mean to reveal certain things that might,…shock you.”

“Sir, it is not shocking. Love comes in many forms.” He said as he leaned forward and smiled warmly. The old man just looked at him for a long moment.

“Yes, it can, can’t it?” The old man asked, and then looked at Dustin again, “I am sorry, my boy, I do not wish to bring you shame or to have you see me any differently.”

“You have not brought shame, Grandfather, but I do begin to see you a bit differently, as a man who knew love, true love. I am just saddened that you have been alone all these years.”

“He was one of a kind, and I could not find comfort with any other nor even try after he was gone.”

“That is sad to me, Grandfather. You had so much to offer to another after he was gone.”

“My memory of him would not allow it. I would not betray it or him.” The old man said and looked across the room again.

        //////                   //////                     //////

Dustin sat in silence on the ottoman, his head down slightly, lost in deep thought over hearing everything that had been said by the old man. He did not hear the footsteps coming down the stairs and across the room toward him. He lifted his head slowly as he felt the touch to his shoulder and looked up, seeing the soft smile of Jamison next to him.

“Are you alright?” Jamison asked softly as he knelt next to Dustin.

“I suppose I am.” Dustin whispered.

“You’re bothered by what you have learned, aren’t you?” Jamison asked and Dustin nodded as he looked at this young man next to him, “What is it that bothers you the most?”

“I’m not certain. I don’t know if it’s because I have learned that he was in love with another man, or…”

“As I said to him, love comes in many forms. I see him a bit differently now myself, but that doesn’t change the kind of man that he is.”

“What do you mean?” Dustin asked as he turned a bit on the ottoman.

“I mean that he is who he is and was. He, being in love with another man, that’s his choice. I don’t think any less of him for that choice, do you?”

“No, I don’t actually. It just gives me something more to think about.” Dustin said softly as he looked at the young man still, “You’re not going to write about it are you?”

“No, I am not. As I said, his choice is his. There are those that would twist it and would blacken his memory and his name over it. I for one will not lend to that or bring that.”

“Why?” Dustin asked as he turned more and faced him, “You think it might hurt or alter the sale of such of your writings?”

“It has nothing to do with that at all.” Jamison said with narrowed eyes, “I am not that shallow, I assure you.”

“Then what is it?” Dustin asked and the young man he looked at lowered his head a bit, breaking their gaze of each other.

“It is nothing, really.”

“It must be something. It seems to bother you a bit as well.” Dustin said softly as he touched the sleeve of Jamison’s shirt, “You can tell me, Andrew.”

“He has given me a reason to look at myself.” Jamison said as he lifted his eyes and met Dustin’s. It dawned on Dustin and a soft smile crept over his lips.

“You feel the same as he does, don’t you? You prefer,…”

“I’m sorry, I should have not said,…” Jamison said as he went to get up, but Dustin stopped him with his wider smile now.

“I find it to be a bit of a relief actually.” Dustin said softly. Jamison gave him a puzzled look in return, “I thought that I was the only one that felt that way.” Dustin lowered his head a moment and then slowly raised it, Jamison smiled and leaned forward and kissed Dustin softly and then pulled back and let out a slow breath as he scanned Jamison’s face. “That was very nice, thank you.”

“I have wanted to do that from the first moment I saw you.” Jamison said softly.

“I thought I was the only one.” Dustin said and smiled again. Jamison leaned forward and kissed Dustin again just as soft as he did before. Dustin smiled again warmly at this handsome young man in front of him. “We need to be careful. Mrs. Ross is still here and I’m sure she will not understand at all if she were to see us.”

“When will she leave?”

“In about an hour or so.” Dustin said softly.

“Perhaps we can talk further, this evening after he goes to bed and she is gone.”

“I would like that.” Jamison gave Dustin a bright smile, his eyes sparkled in the soft light of the parlor.

       //////                   //////                     //////

“We were talking together down at the stable, seeing to all of the horses that were now here with us. It was quite a chore to be sure with carrying water to fill all of the tubs. Dustin had slowly calmed himself over all of this business about the summons back to service in the course of a few days,” The old man said as he sat in his chair, “and I had made up my mind, but had not told him yet. I think he knew already and we avoided saying it openly to one another. Thomas and Christian had stayed rather quiet for those few days and we barely saw them except for the care of the horses. They busied themselves with Harbroughs and getting settled over there.”

“Were they,…?” Dustin asked as he sat close to the chair on the ottoman. The old man looked at him.

“They were very devoted to one another.” The old man said and then smiled softly, patting Dustin hand, “In fact, they rest side by side with one another in the cemetery, something that Christian had asked of me when Thomas passed.”

“I didn’t know that.” Dustin whispered.

“Thomas came from Norwich, but did not wish to be returned there for burial, as he had come to love Birmingham and its people. Christian respected that and kept that promise after he was gone from us.”

“He came from Norwich, sir, Thomas Tomlin?”

“Yes, he came aboard Dover as a Midshipman, I was the 3rd Lieutenant at that time. Thomas was very bright and so full of rule and regulation that he couldn’t see past it. The crew teased him relentlessly over it without insult of course, and I was shameful in my treatment to him in those first years we were together. I was one for pranks and leg pulling with the junior officers, and all of us became very close because of it, like a family, the family of Dover as I called it. Captain Powers did not see it that way, he was very stern but not cruel in his manner and quite a tactician. His ability saw us through difficult times, especially at Gibraltar after the Battle of the Nile.”

“Were you at the Nile, sir?”

“No, I was not, unfortunately. I was on a mission for Captain Powers and the Admiralty, a fact finding mission along with a Marine Lieutenant, Carl Anders. He and I became very close friends during and after that mission. He was killed at the Battle of La Rochelle when we destroyed the fortress there.”

“I see.” Jamison said, “Sir, I was wondering,…”

“Yes, I’m sorry, Andrew, I seem to be wandering with everything don’t I. There is so much to tell. You were wondering?”

“Yes, sir, you were speaking of you and Mr. Perkins at the stable.”

“Yes, quite right. We, well that is to say, I had made my mind to return to service but didn’t tell him yet when we were interrupted with our chores,…”

“Quintan!....Quintan!” Martha was huffing loudly as she came running down the path to the stable, holding up her dress and apron a little with one hand, her other hand clutched something that she held up in the air as she was trying to run. Callum had been at the far side of the stable, cleaning out the stall for the brood mare. Callum set the pitchfork down and came to the half doors as she huffed and puffed from her running. He reached out and clasped her upper arms as he came to her.

“My dear, what is wrong?” Callum asked as he looked her over. He had never seen her so flushed and it startled him, “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” She said as she was trying to catch her breath, she held out the envelope that she had in her hand, Callum looked down at it, “This came for you, a special messenger in uniform. He is waiting inside.”

Callum let her go and took it, Dustin had come close as he had been filling tubs for the horses. Callum opened the envelope, breaking the wax seal, he pulled the letter out and read it, and his face went blank for a long moment.

“What is it?” Martha asked softly as she was standing in front of him. Dustin was just staring at Callum. Callum came out of his look and looked at Martha and narrowed his eyes.

“You say the messenger is still here?” Callum asked and she nodded. He put the letter in her hand as he walked around her and headed up the path toward the house, Martha looking down at the letter, reading it. Dustin was watching Callum head toward the house, then he turned and looked at Martha and the letter, looking at it, but not being able to read it. Dustin could see the seal at the top of the letter. He wasn’t sure who it was from.

“It’s from The Duke of Wellington.” Martha said in a quiet voice, seeing the signature and the title at the bottom.

“What does it say?” Dustin asked as his eyes shifted between her and the letter, “Could you read it to me?”

“My Dearest Callum, I have recently been informed as that you have been asked to rejoin in the service of His Majesty. I can think of no one that is better suited to help end this conflict that we find ourselves in. However, do not think that this relieves you of that which you owe me, a debt of favor. I fully intend to collect upon that which is between us. I trust in the fact that I can count upon you to do what is right. Know that you are in my thoughts as you continue in your duty to our King and our Nation. Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington.” Martha stopped reading and looked up at Dustin, who was beside her, but looking at the house. Martha lowered her hands, “My boy, I thought,…I didn’t know he really knew The Duke.”

“He does, as well as The King.” Dustin said in almost a whisper as he watched Callum coming back down the path.

“I thought he was just speaking of them, I didn’t think he had met them.” Martha said as she turned when Callum came up to Dustin.

“I told the messenger there was to be no reply.” Callum said as he looked at Dustin.

“What are you going to do?” Dustin asked as he stared at Callum. Callum smiled and leaned forward kissing Dustin on the cheek, then walking away, going into the stable to grab the pitchfork.

“I am going to finish my chores.” Callum said as he was walking backward, grabbing the pitchfork and then went to the last stall. He started to remove the straw again as he was doing before the letter arrived. Martha and Dustin just stared at him, and finally she folded the letter and put it back in the envelope.

“I will put this into safe keeping for him.” Martha whispered, turning and heading back up the path to the house, Dustin just stared at Callum, standing there in the doorway of the stable. Callum looked up a bit, seeing him there, but kept going with the pitchfork. Dustin walked over to him, putting a hand on the pitchfork, stopping him, and they stared into each other’s eyes for a long moment.

“I know you have decided. When are you leaving?” Dustin asked. Callum sighed, Dustin took his hand from the pitchfork, Callum dropped it to the dirt floor and grabbed Dustin, pulling him into a tight hug. Dustin slowly put his arms around Callum’s waist, burying his face on Callum’s shoulder. They stood there together for the longest time, just holding each other in silence, Callum leaning his head against Dustin’s.

“Oh, I’m very sorry for the intrusion.” Tomlin said in the doorway of the stable, Holt was standing behind him, with his head lowered. Callum looked up and saw them standing there, but Dustin kept his face buried in Callum’s shoulder, not moving.

“It’s quite alright, Thomas.” Callum said and smiled briefly, still holding Dustin tight.

“We were coming over to help out and saw the rider on the road heading south.”

“A special messenger from His Grace.” Callum said softly as he looked at the pair in the doorway. Dustin lifted his head and pulled back. He stared into Callum’s eyes intensely, as if to bore into them.

“Promise me,…promise me that you will return to me.” Dustin said quietly in his soft voice. Callum returned the stare.

“You know I can’t.”

“Promise me,…please.” Dustin said and dropped a tear.

“Alright,…if it will comfort you, I promise to return to you.” Callum said softly, and Dustin smiled briefly.

“A lie, I know.” Dustin said softly and then shook his head slowly, “But, it is one that I asked you for.” Dustin looked into the deep blue eyes again and closed his own. He felt the soft kiss to his lips, a touch that had not happened since that night that he and Holt had returned from Cambridge, that night of total love making and complete passion between he and Callum. Dustin dropped another tear from his closed eyes and he felt the tight feeling of being held again.

“Grandfather?” The old man shifted his eyes toward the soft voice that was next to him. The old tired face gave a slight smile at the young face near him. The old man raised a hand slowly and cradled the soft skin of the cheek for a moment and then lowered his hand, resting it on the arm of the chair.

“Forgive me, I was lost in thought again.” The old man shifted a bit in the chair, and stiffened himself and cleared his throat. He looked over to his right and looked at the other young man who sat on the settee, holding his pencil to the notebook, waiting patiently. “Andrew, are you alright with all of this so far?”

“Yes, sir.” The young man gave a brief smile.

“Good. I have never said a word of any of this to anyone, not even to my son.”

“I consider it a very deep honor, sir, that you feel comfortable enough with me to speak of it.” The younger man said as he scooted to the edge of the settee, leaning forward a bit toward the old man.

“I had thought, why not, I know my time is limited, there is no reason for me to keep it all inside any longer. I only ask that when it is time to print it, that you would be discreet for the sake of my family.”

“You have my word, sir. Dustin and I have talked about it briefly. I would never do anything that would cause issue for your family or him.” Jamison said as he looked over at Dustin briefly and then back at the old man.

“My deepest thanks to you for that.” The old man smiled and then looked at Dustin for a moment and then back to his right and the young man. “Well, as it is early evening, I should be thinking of bed very soon, but I had another thought. I am feeling very good this evening, not as tired as I have been in the recent past. This telling of events to you seems to have given me a new lease of what is left of my life. And for that, I have to thank you, Andrew.” The old man smiled, and saw the nod from the young man.

“Grandfather, perhaps you should think of resting, going to bed. We can continue tomorrow.”

“No,” The old man said as he looked at Dustin, “I am going to ask you for something, I know what your answer will be already, but I have thought why not risk it.” The old man flashed his eyes and had a look of mischief about his face, “Mrs. Ross is gone and went home. Why don’t you go into the kitchen and make some coffee for us.” Dustin went wide eyed, “I don’t give a damn what that fool doctor said. I know you know how to make it, and make it good. We can clear away from it before she returns in the morning. She’ll never know.” The old man winked. Dustin smiled and shook his head as he looked at the old man.

“You are a devil, Grandfather.”

“It’s my house, isn’t it?” He leaned slightly toward Dustin, “I doubt very seriously that it will kill me, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I do indeed.” Dustin pat the back of the old hand, “I’ll go and do it right away.” Dustin said as he rose off the ottoman. He bent down and kissed the cheek of the old man and went to the kitchen. The old man smiled briefly at the tender touch and then looked back at the young man on the settee.

“Now, where did we leave off?” The old man asked as he smiled softly.


 

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