Morning came once again to Windsong and her Captain. Callum stood on deck looking about at the dirty streets and tattered buildings of Southend from the aft quarterdeck of Windsong, the light of the dawn was approaching lending shadow to all the dark corners of those tattered and rundown buildings. He was lost in thought over the conversation that he had had with his old friend, Captain William Arvin in his cabin until the early morning hours. Arvin now understood what Callum was thinking about the boy and the mission that Windsong had survived. Arvin had even gone so far as to say that the events of the mission were stuff of legend and should be told to all the people of England, especially in this time of despair that they found themselves in.
The war with Napoleon carried on and on and was going badly, countless lives were being lost on both sides. And then there was the chaos of allies and enemies, it seemed a flip of the coin could tell you who was who. One week it seemed the Spanish were allied to England, the next week not, the Italians were back and forth depending on the day of the week, it seemed, to all that were in knowledge of the events. Greece was a constant upheaving turmoil of rebellion, spurred further by Napoleon. The world, to many, was falling apart before their very eyes, and there were the Americans, constantly scratching and clawing to give their own opinion to matters about the war. They seemed to lean toward Napoleon, but then would never commit to it completely. Callum wondered about America, as it was becoming to be known to all, rather than the Colonies, since the revolution there began, some forty years ago now, and England’s bitter defeat at the very end, a tough stone to swallow as it were with Cornwallis surrendering his army.
The Americans were becoming a power on the seas, rivaling England. Callum actually welcomed it deep down. He had always thought that England was too powerful on the sea and should be defensive in their attitude, rather than what was actually happening in the Atlantic or the Caribbean. Callum had heard a few tales of English Men of War taking American ships, merchants or their own defensive navy ships patrolling their coasts, capturing those crews and turning them over to plantation owners in the Caribbean for labor, some even said slave labor, even though slavery was not to be condoned in England any longer. Callum had heard it referred to as the black market of men. It was mindboggling to him to think of another man chained and in servitude to another for mere profit, a man to be bought and sold like a fruit or vegetable in the open marketplace. The thought of it disgusted him.
His attention was turned from his thoughts as he heard the clatter of hooves echoing against the stone of the rundown buildings. He straightened himself a bit at the wheelhouse where he was and saw a large flat draw cart pulled by two horses coming slowly along the stone road that ran along the water’s edge toward the stone dock. The cart came to a stop as the driver reined the horses to a halt. The driver set the brake to one wheel and tied the reins to it. He climbed down and started along the stone dock coming toward Windsong. Callum came around the short rail and went along the deck to the gangplank.
“Excuse me, sir. Ye be Cap’n Callum?” The driver was an older man Callum could clearly see now as he came closer.
“Penrose, sir.” The older man nodded deeply toward Callum, “I was sent to take yer officer to London, sir.”
“Very well. He has not been brought over from the other ship quite yet. I am afraid you are a number of hours too early.” Callum said.
“E’ be no problem, sir, I can wait for owever long it be. Beats scowlin a barnacled hull, sir.” The older man tipped his hand with a bit of a grin.
“Good man. Thank you, Penrose.” Callum said, returning the grin and flipping a couple of fingers from his head in reply, “I’ll send some coffee over for you.”
“Thank e’, sir.” The older man and then turned and headed slowly back to his draw cart. Callum watched him for a minute, knowing the older man had been a sailor once from his gait, a topman more than likely. Callum shook his head a bit and then realized that he was not alone. He looked over his right shoulder with a bit of a start.
“Carson,” Callum sighed, “why do you insist on sneaking up on me?”
“I beg your pardon, sir, it is not my intention, I assure you.” Carson said and beamed over it and handed out a steaming cup to Callum.
“Why in God’s name are you up at this hour, Carson?” Callum asked as he took it.
“Because you are on deck, sir. It is my duty to make certain that your needs are met, sir, as you well know.”
“I can’t argue with that, Carson.” Callum said shaking his head slightly, “Sound reasoning as always.”
“I have taken the liberty, sir, of taking your uniform and giving it a good brushing for today’s appointments. Your sword and scabbard are polished as well, sir, and your necktie has been pressed as well in preparation for your trip over to London, sir, with Mr. Collingwood and Captain Arvin.”
“As I have said before, Carson, you never cease to amaze me.”
“Thank you, sir, one tries.” Carson said and bowed his head slightly.
“What would I ever do without you?” Callum asked.
“That thought had occurred to me as well, sir.” Carson said lifting an eyebrow making Callum chuckle. He turned and went for the steps to go below. Callum lifted the coffee to his lips, loving the man that had just walked away from him, loving him like a father or a favorite uncle. It made Callum feel warm inside about Carson as he sipped at the hot coffee. Carson returned a minute later, carrying a small tray.
“What is this?” Callum asked.
“Your pardon, sir, you did say to that man, the driver, that you would have coffee sent over to him, did you not?”
“Indeed I did, Carson. Thank you for your attention to it.”
“It’s no problem, sir. I will give him a couple of biscuits as well, sir, a new recipe that I wanted to try out. Hopefully it won’t kill him, sir.”
“Hopefully not.” Callum said as he watched Carson go by him on the gangplank and then down to the stone dock. Callum just shook his head as he watched Carson go along the stone dock.
“Would you care for breakfast, sir?” Carson asked as he stood in the doorway of Callum’s cabin. Callum was dressing for today and the trip to London, even though it was only about an hour away from where they presently were.
“No, I don’t think I will, Carson.” Callum said as he wrapped his tie around and around his neck.
“I beg your pardon, sir, if I may?”
“Speak your mind, Carson, as I know you wish to.”
“Sir, you have barely eaten in the past few days. I think perhaps I should have Dr. Crawford come and have a look at you.” Carson said, Callum stopped tying the tie and looked at him.
“I feel perfectly fine, Carson.”
“Then it must be my cooking, sir, may I suggest a tavern that is but a few streets from here, they serve,…”
“It’s not your cooking, Carson.” Callum said as he sat on one of the chairs.
“Then what is it, sir? I’d like to help if you’d allow me.” Carson said. Callum rested his forearms on his thighs and stared over the pallet where Hans was asleep.
“I wish you could, Carson, believe me. There are several things that are weighing upon me, Abel is only one of them.” Callum said. Carson stepped closer to him, looking down at his Captain. Carson’s heart was about to explode in his chest as it ached for this young man that he loved and adored so very much as well deeply respected as one of the best Captain’s that he had served under in his long career.
“I understand, sir, truly I do. But you running yourself into the ground over all of this will not serve any purpose at all, sir.” Carson said as he knelt beside his Captain, “What would Mr. Perkins think, sir, if you were to take ill and not be able to return home at all as you were in hospital. What of your son that you spoke of? Your aunt?” Carson asked and Callum just gave him a side look in the low lamp light, “Please, sir, allow me to do my duty so you may continue to do yours, sir.”
“I see your point, Carson.” Callum said touching Carson’s arm, “A bit of breakfast if you please then.” Callum said softly with a smile. Carson beamed his usual self as he got to his feet.
“Thank you, sir.”
“And next time, Carson,…?”
“Don’t twist my arm up so tight behind my back if you please.” Callum said and gave him a wink.
“I’ll do my best not to be so rough with you next time, sir.” Carson grinned. Callum sat up in the chair as Carson walked away to the door.
Callum had finished dressing, Carson had collected the plate from the table taking it to the galley and Hans was starting to wake up finally. The boy stretched and saw Callum standing there and got to his feet quickly.
“Morning, my Prince.” Callum said softly holding his coffee cup, he gave the boy a brief smile and sipped from the cup.
“Morning, Keptein.” He said slowly with a slight bow of the head.
“You slept quite a while. Do you feel better?”
“Come,…sit down at the table, I will have Carson bring you something.”
“No,…I will do it, Keptein.” The boy said.
“As you wish.” Callum said. The boy stepped over to the door and opened it and out into the companionway and out of sight. He returned a minute later with a plate, Carson behind him. Callum smiled at both of them.
“May I help you, sir?” Carson asked, “Captain Tomlin is approaching with a long boat, sir.”
“I see.” Callum said, knowing it was almost time now, “Have you seen Captain Arvin as of yet, Carson?”
“Not yet, sir.” Carson said.
“Well, I’ll go up on deck and have a look about for myself.” Callum said, taking the letter that Collingwood had written and putting it in his inside tunic pocket. He walked to the door and out of the cabin, going to the steps to go up on deck. He came through the door and stepped up. Amos tipped his hand toward him and came toward him.
“Morning, sir. Captain Tomlin is approaching, sir.” Amos said.
“Morning, Amos.” Callum said as he looked over the port rail seeing the long boat. The coffin was resting in the center, the boat crew was around it and rowing gently toward the steps of the stone dock, “I should meet them, Amos. Take charge here. I’ll return in a few minutes time.”
“Aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand. Callum went to the gangplank and down it to the stone dock. Amos watched his Captain walk toward the stone steps at the far end of the stone dock off Windsong’s bow where they met the stone wall of the road of the town.
Callum waited as the longboat from Dover pulled to the bottom of the steps, oars had been shipped and one of the boat crew jumped out and secured lines to for the longboat, bringing the boat to the long base of the steps. Tomlin rose and stepped out and looked up at Callum, tipping his hand to him, Callum nodded back in reply to him. The boat crew took up position around the coffin and lifted it, carefully stepping out of the boat as they carried it and then came up the steps. They walked slowly with it over to the flat draw cart and slid it in head first. Callum stepped close it to the side of the draw cart. Penrose, the older man secured the coffin in place with a rope. He looked at Callum after he was done, who was just staring at the coffin and not moving.
“Where would ye be wantin to take ‘im, sir?” The older man asked.
“What?” Callum asked.
“Yer man, sir, where,…?”
“Oh, quite right,…there is an undertaker in London, in Whitehall,…Salving, I believe it is.” Callum said as he stared at the coffin.
“I know of where ye mean, sir.” Penrose said. Callum blinked a few times and then looked at the older man. He reached inside his tunic and pulled out a few notes.
“Give these to them, tell them that I will meet with them later when I arrive in London after I speak with his family.”
“Aye, sir.” The older man spoke as he took the notes and put them in his pocket. Callum reached into his other pocket and pulled out another note and handed it to the older man.
“And this is for your services, Penrose.” Callum said.
“I couldna’ be takin,…”
“Nonsense. You do me and him an honor with your service in this. It’s the least I can do.”
“Thank ‘e, sir. I’ll get him there.” Penrose said, taking the note and then tipping his hand. He turned and climbed up on the draw cart, untied the reins and released the brake. He snapped them and the cart started to move slowly, making a turn in the middle of the street and headed away from the group standing there. Tomlin dismissed the boat crew and told them to row back to Dover and await him to signal them to come back for him. They tipped their hands to him and to Callum and went back down the steps. Tomlin waited beside his Captain, his friend as Callum watched the cart driving away.
“Quintan,…” Tomlin said softly and touched Callum’s sleeve. Callum looked down at the hand on him and then into Tomlin’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, Thomas, what were you saying?”
“Quintan, are you going to be alright?”
“I suppose. I,…I,…just find it a bit difficult with all of this.”
“It’s understandable.” Tomlin said softly, “He’s in good hands now.”
“Yes, I suppose he is.” Callum said and then looked around, “I wonder where William is?”
“Should we go and find him?” Tomlin asked.
“No, we will wait on Windsong for him. I want to check on Darin before I leave.” Callum said. He started to walk toward Windsong and Tomlin stepped with him. They walked in silence and reached the gangplank, Callum went up first. He stepped on the deck, the hands aboard tipped their hands to both he and Tomlin. Callum nodded toward Amos, who stepped closer to Callum.
“Morning, Mr. Tomlin.” Amos said. Tomlin nodded in reply.
“Amos, when Captain Arvin arrives, I will be leaving to see about Mr. Collingwood and his arrangements. I have a meeting this afternoon at the Admiralty. My instructions still stand, no one is to come aboard without escort. Captain Tomlin will be staying aboard to watch over the boy, Mr. Talon will be in charge of Windsong.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Depending upon what happens at the Admiralty with Lord Hood, and what orders he gives to me, all hands are to remain aboard until I return.” Callum said.
“As you say, sir.”
“I’ll make this as quick as I can. I know you wish to visit your home as do most of the hands.”
“As well as do you, sir.” Amos said, “We all understand, sir, and can wait.”
“Thank you, Amos, and thank the hands as well.” Callum said. He looked up as a carriage was coming to the stone dock, drawn by a single horse. Tomlin looked as well. The carriage came closer to the gangplank and stopped, the door opened and Arvin struggled a bit to get out and step down.
“Captain Arvin, sir.” Tomlin said.
“So it seems, and with transportation.” Callum said and shook his head a bit. Callum turned and looked at Tomlin, “Well, I must be off it seems. Thomas, I thank you for watching over this for me.”
“I understand its importance, Quintan, it is no trouble really.” Tomlin said, “Just do me a favor and try not to lose your temper again with Hood. He might have you arrested, and then where would I be?”
“I can handle him.” Callum said with a smile, he put out his hand, Tomlin took it for a long moment and then let it go. Callum gave he and Amos a nod, turned and walked to the gangplank and down to the stone dock. Tomlin and Amos watched as Arvin and Callum climbed into the carriage and set off as the driver turned around and headed away.
The drive to London was quiet for the most part. Arvin and Callum had spoken of a few things about where to go first, and the suggestion had been made by Arvin that they see Collingwood’s family first before doing anything else, Callum agreed it was the thing to do.
The driver was instructed as to where to go. Callum had been told by Talon where Collingwood’s family lived, his home in Forest Gate. The driver knew of it and they soon reached the area. Callum had never been in this part of London before and looked out the window of the door, trees that were scattered about on the cobbled streets, almost like a parkland might be and then the carriage slowed and pulled up to a stop. Callum looked out the door and then opened it. He climbed out and Arvin followed him with a bit of difficulty Callum noted. Callum helped his friend with a hand and then closed the door. Callum turned and looked at the house, a wide set of stone steps led up to it, the house itself was regal looking but also cheerful at the same time. Callum took in a breath and let it out slowly.
“I’ve never had to do this, William.” Callum said softly.
“I understand.” Arvin said, “I have a few times, but I have never enjoyed it, that much is for certain.”
“I don’t really know what to say to them.”
“You will. That doesn’t make it easier, just remember to be firm as you would on the Quarterdeck. It will comfort them to a certain degree, I have always found.” Arvin said quietly.
“I hope you’re right.” Callum said and started up the steps, Arvin going with him. Callum reached the door and let out a breath, he pulled the knob next to the door and heard the bell ring inside. They waited a moment and then a maid answered.
“May I help you, gentlemen?” She asked.
“Yes, we are here to see Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood.” Callum said and the maid became misty eyed and her bottom lip trembled slightly.
“Won’t you come in, please? I’ll call the lady of the house.” The maid said and led them into a parlor. The maid curtsied a bit and left them. Callum looked around the room, it was very elegant in its furnishings and draperies. The rug under their feet was very striking and colorful and the room had a scent to it, very sweet and fragrant like fresh cut flowers. They stood silent as they waited in the center of the room. Callum felt completely inadequate about himself in being here, he felt dirty and had wished that he had prepared himself a bit better.
“Good morning, gentlemen.” The soft voice said, making Callum turn on his heel. The lady that spoke was elegantly dressed in a long dress, the length drug on the rug behind her a bit, the collar was high and surrounded her neck with lace and she wore a large broach just below the neckline, she held a laced handkerchief in her left hand, bent up at the elbow in front of her. She was stunning to Callum, very regal in appearance. Her hair was a light brown and was curled, pinned up and completely in place. She almost took his breath.
“Mrs. Collingwood?” Callum asked with a slight bow of his head.
“My name is Callum,…Quintan Callum. This is my associate, Captain William Arvin.”
“I know of you, Captain Callum. How do you do?” Mrs. Collingwood said as she looked them both over quickly, her eyes were soft and kind.
“Mrs. Collingwood, I,…”
“I’m afraid that my husband has not returned yet, Captain. It is his habit to walk in the late mornings before leaving for Oxford for the rest of the day.” She said as she stepped forward holding out her right hand. Callum stepped once he took her hand that she offered, Callum bent down, bowed formally to it, he stood and let her go, she offered her hand to Arvin who did the same as Callum, “Won’t you gentlemen have a seat, please? I can have Aggie bring in some tea while we wait.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Collingwood, but…”
“I know why you must be here, Captain. I am sure that it is in regards to my son. I would however prefer to wait for my husband to return, if you would be so kind?”
“Of course, dear lady. We would be more than happy to do that.” Callum said, bowing his head slightly. She stepped closer, her eyes were starting to betray her feelings. She composed herself but held out a hand showing them to a comfortable looking settee. Arvin turned and hobbled over to it and waited for her to sit first and then slowly lowered himself, his wooden leg stayed stiff and out in front of him as he settled, the foot of the leg resting on the floor.
“Pardon my asking, Captain Arvin, but are you comfortable?” She asked as she sat on the edge of the settee.
“Yes, Mrs. Collingwood. I apologize deeply for my leg, it is a bit awkward from time to time.” Arvin said.
“I can appreciate that, Captain. Did you come by it from accident, perhaps?”
“It was in the course of duty, Mrs. Collingwood, that I lost my leg and was given this in its place.”
“How dreadful. I’m very sorry to hear of that, Captain.” She said with genuine concern in her soft voice. They heard the front door of the house open and then close.
“There is a carriage out in front of the house, my dear.” The voice called out from the entry hall, and then the man it belonged to stepped into view, “Oh, I see that we have company.” He said. He was an older version of Abel Collingwood, Callum stood stiff, Mrs. Collingwood rose from the settee and went to him, coming to his side, turning and looking back at Callum and Arvin.
“Harrison, may I present Captains Callum and Arvin. They have come to speak to us about Abel, I’m certain.” She said as he held out a hand toward them. Arvin rose up off the settee, both he and Callum bowed their heads slightly, “Gentlemen, may I introduce my husband, Professor Harrison Collingwood.” Callum stepped forward and held out a hand.
“An honor, sir.” Callum said. His hand was taken and was given a firm grip. Collingwood gave Callum a stern but hollow look and then turned to take Arvin’s hand.
“My son,…I take it that he is,…”
“I am deeply sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood.”
“Where is he?”
“Harrison,…” She said softly as she clutched his arm with both hands.
“Did you bury him at sea, Captain?”
“That was not his wish, sir. He asked me to bring him home.” Callum said.
“Where is he then?”
“I have had him taken to Salving’s in Whitehall. He will be taken care of there until you can make whatever arrangements you wish. I have seen to the costs of it as well.”
“I see. I thank you for that, Captain.” Collingwood said, his face was becoming even more hollow with every passing moment, “I knew this would happen to him. I warned him several times of it. He would not listen to me in it.”
“Harrison,…” She said again softly.
“Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood, I wanted to express to you both in person, your son was responsible for saving the lives of several of our crew. He was incredibly brave in what he did.” Callum said.
“Thank you for that, Captain.” She said softly.
“How did he die?” Collingwood asked.
“It was in an engagement with the French during our mission in The Channel. He stepped forward to stop several men from being killed needlessly.” Callum said.
“You were his commanding officer, were you not?” Collingwood asked.
“That is correct, sir.”
“You have been spoken of several times by him, Captain. He made mention of you and your exploits when he was posted at the Admiralty. You, with those exploits, spurred him to request a transfer to go to sea rather than the safety of where he was.”
“I assure you, sir, that was not my intention.” Callum said, “I will say this of your son,…I have served with many officers in my time, but your son carried out his duty with a conviction and a compassion that I have never seen in any other. That is due to you both and what he learned from you. I could safely count him as a friend and I will miss him greatly.” Callum stared at Collingwood, firm in his words, but also with caring. She lowered her head and finally surrendered to her feelings and wept quietly, holding the handkerchief to her eyes with her left hand. Collingwood put his arm about her shoulders and pulled her to him a bit.
“I thank you, Captain, for what you said. Now, if you gentlemen will please leave us.” Collingwood said softly as he looked away from them. Callum bowed his head. He looked over at Arvin for a moment and then walked out of the room. They went to the door, met by the maid, who opened it for them. They went down the steps and to the carriage, Callum opened the door for Arvin and let him get in first.
The carriage pulled away after Callum had given instructions to the driver as to where to go next. Callum sat in silence, Arvin would look over at him from time to time but said nothing at first. Callum knew that Arvin wanted to say something to him, and then he shook his head slightly.
“Say what is on your mind, William.” Callum said as he looked out the window in the door.
“You did that quite well, Quintan.”
“What, break their hearts? Crush them like a thin hull on jagged rocks?” Callum asked as he shook his head again, “There are times, William, when I hate the service, and this would be one of them.”
“Quintan, you did the right thing. You spoke from the heart. They need to come to terms with it in their own way, and as you know that will take time. You did what was asked of you by him, you brought him home for them. They will appreciate it eventually.” Arvin said.
“Does it get any easier?”
“Do you think it should?” Arvin asked.
“No, I suppose not.” Callum said. The carriage came around the corner slowly and slowed even more and then came to a stop. Callum looked out the window and saw the house. An older man was out on the step tending to a plant that was potted resting on the step. Callum opened the door and stepped out, Arvin came to it and worked his way out as well and onto the sidewalk. The older man on the step stood and turned seeing them both. He came down toward them. Callum closed the door and looked at him, seeing the look that he had on his face.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,…please, tell me that you’re not here to see my daughter.”
“Quite possibly, we are, sir.” Callum said with a soft tone to his voice.
“Dear God, not poor Abel.” The man shook his head, “My daughter, Annalee, has been beside herself since he left. You are here to tell her that he is dead, aren’t you?”
“It is with deep regret, yes, sir.” Callum said.
“Well, I suppose it was bound to happen with this accursed war.” The older man said, “Do come in, gentlemen, I will call my daughter for you.” He said quietly and turned going up the steps, Callum and Arvin followed him and were led into the house. It was simple, but refined, not quite as elegant as Collingwood’s home, but comfortable. The older man pointed to a parlor on the left of the hall as he closed the door behind them, “If you will wait in there, I will bring her.” The older man said quietly, “And gentlemen, I thank you for coming, no matter what happens with my daughter. With you here in person, it might be easier for her than just receiving a mere letter on its own from some unknown person.” He walked away from them and went toward the back of the house. Callum led the way into the parlor and stood in the center of the room, Arvin came over and rested against the back of a chair with his hand on it as support. It was not long when she entered the room, looking more than just worried, the older man, her father stayed back in the doorway.
“Are you Captain Callum perhaps?” She asked as she stopped a couple of steps away from Callum.
“I am, yes.” Callum said softly, he narrowed his eyes slightly.
“Abel spoke of you to me, sir. He was looking forward to his posting aboard your ship, Captain.”
“Thank you.” Callum said with a bit of a bow of the head, “This is my associate, Captain William Arvin.”
“He spoke of you as well, sir. You are posted at the Admiralty, are you not?”
“Indeed I am, miss.” Arvin said.
“How do you do, gentlemen, I am Annalee Reynolds.” She said. She was very fetching in her looks, and wore a simple blue dress, her brown hair was up and pinned in place, two loose curls hung simply one in front of each ear. Her neckline was high and was bordered with simple lace about it, but it was her eyes that struck Callum the most, the deep green of them sparkled as she was fighting back tears. She was very young looking and soft with her creamy skin. Callum had to swallow hard before he spoke again.
“I have a letter for you that Abel asked me to deliver for him.” Callum said as he reached into his inside pocket of his tunic. He pulled it out and held it out to her with just fingertips. She looked at it for a moment and then reached up slowly and took it. She held it in one hand and ran her fingers over the writing with the other, his writing. She turned away and opened it, pulling the letter out. She unfolded it and read the one and only page and lowered her head, dropping her hand to her side that held it. She took her free hand and put it to her face, covering her eyes for a long moment. Callum looked at her father still in the doorway and he looked like he was about to burst with sad emotion. Callum looked over at Arvin, their eyes met and Arvin shook his head once and tightened his lips, Callum looked back at her.
“Miss Reynolds,…” Callum said softly. She stiffened and lowered her hand from her face, she turned and sniffled softly as she looked at Callum.
“Forgive me, Captain.” She said with a trembling voice.
“It is completely understandable.” Callum said. She stepped toward him, lifting her hands to her face, holding the letter and buried herself into his chest and wept softly. Callum looked at her father, who stayed still but dropped a tear from his eye finally.
“They were to be married next month.” He said as he looked at Callum.
“I was not aware.” Callum said. He cleared his throat again, and reached up and put a hand to the back of her shoulder and rested it gently on her, “Miss Reynolds, you cannot know how deeply sorry I am in this. Abel meant quite a great deal to me.” She sniffed once and then backed up a step from him, keeping her head down.
“I wanted to say thank you, Captain, for bringing this to me, it means everything.”
“It’s the least I could do for him,…and for you. I will miss him very much.” Callum said softly. She lifted her head, the tears flowed down her cheeks, she stepped forward again and got on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, “We will take out leave now. I’m very sorry.”
“Thank you for coming.” She said as Callum stepped around her, Arvin followed and they went to the door, going out quietly, Callum closing the door behind them. They went down the steps together and reached the sidewalk. Callum stopped at the carriage and opened the door.
“Are you alright, Quintan?” Arvin asked.
“I don’t know, William.” Callum said as he held the door. He turned and looked back at the house they had just left and then at his friend that stood there, “I suppose I will need time as well as they will with this.”
“Yes, to be sure.” Arvin said. He climbed into the carriage and settled on the seat.
“The Admiralty, driver, if you please.” Callum said as he climbed into the carriage and closed the door. The carriage set off.
The ancient building that was the Admiralty with the massive columns in front loomed over Callum as he stood on the wide sidewalk. Memories flooded his mind as he looked up at them. The attack on Lord Hood and His Grace, The Duke of Wellington that Callum had stopped that one day, the many times that he had been here before as well, the meetings with Fitzwarren, and the few times he had been here with Captain Powers as escort, and then there was also his own court-martial. Now, there was an even greater feeling of doom coming over him as he came up the broad steps with Arvin, the meeting with Lord Hood.
The Marine Sentries snapped to attention and opened the doors for them, letting them enter the large hall. The Registrar was standing at the table where one was to sign in. Arvin stepped forward with his hobble and took the quill and bent slightly, signing the book, he dipped the quill in ink and handed it over to Callum, hat under his arm, Callum took the quill and signed the book, placing the quill on the table blotter.
“Good afternoon, Captain Arvin.” The Registrar said, “His Lordship asked that you go right up to Lord Fitzwarren’s chambers with Captain Callum.”
“Thank you, Gabbling.” Arvin said, turning and looking at Callum, “Shall we?”
“After you, William.” Callum said, they went to the wide staircase and started up, Arvin using the handrail taking one step at a time.
“You know, Quintan, I don’t know whether to thank you or not for seeing about this posting for me. I hate these damned stairs.” Arvin said softly. Callum chuckled softly.
“It’s good exercise for you, I suppose, my friend.” Callum said as he looked over the rail, seeing the gathering of junior officers that were gathering, watching the return of Callum here in the building, “It appears that we’re drawing a bit of a crowd.”
“They have come to see you. Everyone has been talking about it for more than a fortnight, your return to service. Fitzwarren was speaking of it one day openly after they received you letter of acceptance of the mission and word spread quickly.” Arvin said.
“What a hot bed of gossip the fleet can be.” Callum said as he rolled his eyes a bit. Arvin chuckled softly now.
“They all volunteered to sign aboard Dover immediately and Fitzwarren had to silence them all and their requests.”
“Yes, it was quite a speech he gave from the gallery rail just there.” Arvin said as he nodded toward the upper rail they were almost at.
“I can only imagine what he said.”
“You’ll have to ask Barrington about it, he actually memorized it word for word. He does a passable impersonation of Fitzwarren as well when he recites it. It’s quite entertaining actually, better than theatre.” Arvin smirked as they reached the top of the stairs. Callum chuckled again.
“I think you are enjoying your posting here, William, far too much.” Callum said.
“You might be right in that, Quintan.” Arvin said as they walked along toward Fitwarren’s chambers. They stopped at the wide doors. The older man, Barrington, Fitzwarren’s steward was standing there in his black tailed jacket. He bowed his head formally to Arvin and Callum.
“Captain Arvin, Captain Callum, a pleasure to see you again, sir.” Barrington said.
“Barrington, you look well.” Callum said.
“Thank you, sir.” Barrington said and straightened, “You gentlemen are expected.” Barrington turned, knocked once and opened the door, “My Lord, Captain Arvin and Captain Callum.”
“Show them in, Barrington.” The booming voice came inside the large room. Barrington held out a hand as he stepped out of the way. Arvin stepped in first.
“My Lord.” Arvin stepped in first and bowed, Callum was beside him and did the same.
“Arvin, Callum, you finally made it, good. Barrington, inform Lord Hood if you will.”
“Yes, My Lord.” Barrington said, bowing and closing the door.
“Come in and sit yourselves, gentlemen.” Fitzwarren boomed, “Callum, did you take care of everything you needed to?”
“Yes, My Lord, thank you.” Callum said as he came over toward a small chair, Arvin going over to settee near it. Arvin settled on it as Callum dropped his hat on the floor and sat down.
“You know, I was very sad to hear and read about Collingwood. I liked that boy very much.” Fitzwarren said.
“As I told his parents this morning, My Lord, I have never served with an officer quite like him, present company accepted, of course, William.” Callum said.
“I take no offense to it, Quintan, I assure you.” Arvin said with a smile.
“Yes, he was one of a kind, wasn’t he? He actually reminded me of you, Callum, several times when he was questioning some of my decisions, especially about the time concerning your court-martial. I gave that duty to him to bring you back, you know. It was difficult for him, but he shouldered it well, I think.” Fitzwarren said, had his hand on his hip, thinking for a moment, then turned and went to the side table against the wall. He turned glasses up and opened a decanter, pouring three glasses. He put the stopper back and picked up the glasses, carrying them over to Callum and Arvin, handing them out. He held up his own, Callum got to his feet, “To Collingwood, a fine officer that will be sorely missed.”
“To Collingwood.” Callum and Arvin said holding up their glasses, they all took a sip of the sherry.
“Now, Callum, about your mission, I read your report and I must say I could scarcely believe it. This madman of yours, you were right all along it seems.” Fitzwarren said as he settled in a large overstuffed chair.
“Indeed, My Lord, except for his actual identity.” Callum said.
“And I must say, both Lord Hood and myself were most impressed with how you handled it.”
“Many thanks, My Lord.”
“It was a pity to read of the loss of Renner however.” Fitzwarren said.
“Yes, My Lord, it was most unfortunate about Captain Renner.” Callum said.
“And to that, I have taken your letter of recommendation and that of Captain Stewart for Carrington. He will receive his posting for Hunter because of those recommendations.” Fitzwarren said and then sipped more sherry.
“I assure you, My Lord, he has more than earned it with all of this.” Callum said with a nod.
“Quite. But let us cut through it, Callum, and come to the point of it. We knew of Renner and his disposition. Carrington had been in command of Hunter for some time because of that.”
“Then why, My Lord, was there not a change made officially?”
“It would be bad policy don’t you think? Having a commander of Renner’s past reputation asked or forced to resign his command. No, it is best that it happened the way it did for all involved.” Fitzwarren said, and Callum angered a bit.
“You knew,…you knew, and possibly hoped this might happen to him.” Callum set his glass down on the table next to the chair. Fitzwarren stared at Callum for a moment seeing the look coming.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have phrased it that way.” Fitzwarren said as Callum rose to his feet.
“I completely understand that I was expendable in this, My Lord, you had nothing to lose if I were lost to this, but to have others put in jeopardy in hopes that you might rid yourselves of a certain problem, that’s,…”
“Quintan,…” Arvin said as he sat forward.
“You know I speak the truth, William.” Callum said as he looked at Arvin for a moment and then back at Fitzwarren, “These games of politics and so forth, My Lord, playing with people’s lives as if they meant nothing to anyone at all, is,…revolting at best.”
“Are you through?” Fitzwarren asked as he sat forward a bit in his big chair.
“I’m not sure, My Lord.” Callum said with disgust in his voice.
“You know, Callum, what I have always admired about you the most is your passion and your compassion for others rather than for yourself. It is unheard of in a commander to be the way that you are, sir, and makes you more than unique, it makes invaluable. Never lose sight of that.” Fitzwarren said and Callum was stunned.
“You baited me into a response.” Callum said softly.
“And you fell right into it.” Fitzwarren said as he stood up.
“The very thing that we should have in this great time of need, Callum.” The deep voice from the other side of the room said. Callum turned and looked over. Lord Hood stood there and then stepped toward the three. Arvin got to his feet, Callum bowed toward Hood.
“My Lord.” Callum said as he straightened. Hood held up a hand.
“Do not try and offer any apologies, Callum. I wanted to see what you really thought and now I know, and I can count on it as well, I’m quite sure.” Hood said as he came close to Callum.
“My Lord, I don’t understand.”
“Callum, in your report you touched on a few issues, key issues actually, that threaten the security and welfare of England. You stopped a part of the menace in merchant shipping, but you only eliminated the enforcer it seems. There is another part of this, a greater part, and that is what I wished to discuss with you.” Hood said and gave Arvin a side glance, “Captain Arvin, would be so good as to bring those documents?”
“Of course, My Lord.” Arvin said, setting his glass down, turning and going over to a small desk. He picked up a small stack of documents and carried them back to the group, holding them out. Callum was watching everything all at once.
“You will recall, Captain, when we visited you yesterday, I asked about documents that might have been on the Dutch merchant.” Hood said as he looked at the stack, pulling the top one off, looking it over for a moment and then handing it Callum, “I will ask of you that this not be discussed with anyone outside of this room, Callum. Only the four of us will know of this. There are others, but they are in the Diplomatic Service, as well as the Lord High Chancellor, Lord Eldon, whom I believe you know.”
“I do, My Lord.” Callum said and was reeling a bit.
“Yes, well, have a look at this and tell me what you think.” Hood said. Callum looked the document over and went a bit wide eyed.
“It’s a trade agreement.” Callum said, “Between the Dutch and the French, but the carrier of control in this,…” Callum lifted his eyes and stared at Hood.
“A Bristol shipping company.” Hood said.
“Phelps.” Callum said above a whisper.
“You know him?” Hood asked.
“He came aboard Windsong, My Lord, after we docked. He introduced himself and asked about the Dutch merchant.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him that I was going to report to you my findings and said nothing else about it. He made mention to me that he would meet with me afterward.” Callum said.
“I want you to keep that meeting, Callum. I want you to play this out and see where it leads.” Hood said.
“My Lord, I should also inform you that I had another visitor.”
“Yes, Paupling, I know.” Hood said, “What is your impression of him, Callum?”
“As Captain Stewart said, he is one for smoke and shadow, My Lord.”
“The intrigue, My Lord, I really don’t care for it per say.” Callum said raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, but you attract, as I have said so many times in the past, my lad.” Fitzwarren said.
“Yes, quite. Your French spy and his ring that you stopped.” Hood said, “Well, for the most part at least. Does the name, Upton, mean anything to you, Callum?”
“Upton, My Lord? It does not sound familiar to me.”
“He is a member of a slightly radical association and a member of Parliament. We need to find out how far this goes. That’s why this fellow Paupling was here and then went to see you. Did Paupling extend anything to you?”
“Indeed he did, My Lord. He offered me a posting with the Diplomatic Service, which I declined fully.”
“Why?” Hood asked.
“I informed him that I would be out of my depth as a simple sailor and that I was returning to my life in the country now that this action was over.” Callum said and braced himself for what was coming next.
“You can start to see now, Callum, that I would ask that that not happen. I need you to continue in your service to His Majesty and to our Nation.”
“My Lord, I,…”
“Callum, I ask this of you as you are best capable of dealing with this.” Hood said.
“My thanks, My Lord, in thinking highly of my abilities, but,…”
“I know, your family and so forth. Believe me, I understand.” Hood said and turned. He went over to a chair and sat down, “Callum, that document that you hold, that trade agreement, is a copy from the original. The original was supposedly onboard the Dutch Merchant and was being carried back to Denmark for ratification.”
“How did you come by this copy, My Lord?”
“Suffice it to say, that Paupling and his agents intercepted it and brought it here to me as some of those involved are in service in the Royal Navy. Paupling feels that, as well as does his department, that they need our help in discovering all that are involved. Can you now understand where this might lead, Callum?”
“It is becoming a bit convoluted, My Lord, it seems.” Callum said and rolled his eyes a bit.
“I can certainly see why you would think that, Callum. This might shake us to our very foundations when all is said and done.” Hood said, “I want you and your squadron to undertake another mission, Callum, one of great importance, involving this. You will be in overall command.”
“Another mission, My Lord?” Callum asked.
“Yes, it involves this shipping company that Phelps is associated with.” Hood said.
“If you know of his involvement, My Lord, that should be sufficient enough to arrest him as a traitor I would think.” Callum said, his head still reeling a bit.
“There is no proof as of yet, Callum, and that is what we need, undeniable proof of him being a traitor.” Hood said.
“What is this mission, My Lord?”
“It involves piracy in the Caribbean. Several captured merchants, both American and Spanish have been taken and are being used to further raiding on merchant shipping lines. You and your squadron will sail to the Caribbean, join forces with our fleet there and stop these pirates, by any means necessary, either with destruction or capture. The prize ships will be turned over to The Crown and returned here to England. You will sail in a fortnight. Your squadron will consist of Dover, Triborne, Hunter, and the captured frigate that you brought in. The main focus of this mission is to find out who is involved and more importantly, who is responsible.” Hood said. Callum backed up a couple of steps and sat back down in the small chair while still holding the document in his hand.
“My Lord, forgive me,…but I need some time to think about this.” Callum said. Arvin came over and took the document from Callum’s hand gently, placing it on the stack and stood near his friend.
“There is not enough time, Callum, I need your answer and soon. There is going to be group of merchant ships bringing trade goods here from the Indies in less than three months, they need to be intercepted and protected so they may reach England intact and in safety. Our supply routes are being slowly cut off by these pirates.”
“Our fleet there, My Lord, are they unable to do anything at all?”
“You imply that they might be incompetent, Callum, and at this point I believe that they are, or in alliance in some way with these pirates. You understand, Callum, that I cannot give you these orders in writing as that if something were to happen, those orders could be traced and we might never find out who is truly involved in all of this. They would possibly disappear into the woodwork as it were.”
“I understand completely, My Lord.” Callum said, he looked at Hood and then at Fitzwarren, and then slowly lifted his eyes to his friend, Arvin. Callum felt overwhelmed all of a sudden, his usual self-confidence was now gone completely. He felt tired and used up. He got to his feet slowly, “I will take my leave, My Lord, I need time to think about this.”
“Of course, Callum.” Hood said as he stood, “Remember, I need to know as soon as possible, your answer in this. There is another ship to be crewed and provisioned now.”
“Yes, of course, My Lord.” Callum said.
“And Callum,…trust no one with this.” Hood said as he raised a finger and cocked an eye.
“It seems to be becoming a constant fact, My Lord.” Callum said. He bowed his head toward Hood, turned, picked up his hat and went for the door. Hood looked at Arvin and nodded for him to follow. Arvin set the documents down and hobbled after Callum.
Callum came down the wide staircase in the center of it, going slowly, thinking, trying to clear his head with all he had been told. He was paying no attention at all to the assemblage of junior officers that were at the bottom, watching him and waiting. He was more than halfway down and came out of his thoughts. He stopped and saw them all, all of them looked like a group of hungry school boys and Callum narrowed his eyes at them a bit.
“Is there something you gentlemen require of me?” Callum asked and they came toward him up the stairs. Callum watched them all as they gathered around and below him, all flooding him with questions at once. Callum was amazed as they all chattered away like little girls, and then he held up his hands, “Enough.” He said firmly and they all fell silent and were wide eyed, “Gentlemen, please, I was here only to give my report to Lord Hood. Now that that is done, I shall be taking my leave. I have a ship to tend to and my crew. If you will permit me to pass now, please.” Callum said and they parted out of his way. He went down the stairs in the silence of them of, all eyes watched him until he reached the bottom.
“Quintan!” Arvin called out as he was coming down the stairs, one step at a time. Callum turned at hearing him and waited. Arvin was looking at all of the junior officers, “If you gentlemen have no duties to perform, perhaps I can find some for you.” Arvin said as he came down the stairs. The junior officers turned and went down the stairs getting out of sight quickly. A few stopped and reached out their hands to Callum, shaking his one at a time and then hurried off until he was alone. Arvin reached the last step.
“You certainly know how to clear a deck, William.” Callum said as he looked about the empty entryway of the Admiralty.
“Once learned, always retained I always say.”
“Yes, quite.” Callum smirked.
“May I walk you to your carriage?”
“Yes, certainly.” Callum said, turning slowly, Arvin hobbled next to him, “I know what you’re going to say, William, and please don’t try and fill my head with notions of loyalty and duty as you did when you visited my home at the start of this.”
“A favor returned, Quintan,…as I seem to recall you doing the same to me when you visited my home as well.”
“Point taken, my friend. But, to add to that, I need time to think this over, I mean seriously, this is overwhelming to say the least, don’t you think?” Callum asked.
“Quintan, last night, sitting in your cabin and the two of us talking until the wee hours, you continued to hit point after point in this whole matter. You already knew of it, and where it was leading, you just didn’t have all of the details and now you do.”
“Yes, but going off to the Indies and what, chasing pirates? To what end, William? You know that once one is removed, another just fills in the void left behind, like sand with the surf covering footprints.”
“I never thought of it that way.” Arvin said as they went through the large wide doors.
“That was the first thing that came into my mind when Hood mentioned it, and you know it’s true. Half way across the world, no wonder the fleet there is complacent and ineffective. They are not under the thumb of authority from the Admiralty. What does he think I’m really going to be able to do? This latest action was dealing with one man only, a rotting ship, and a single crew of murderers. That was a walk in the park compared to what this might be, and you well know it. I can imagine that half my squadron will be destroyed in this.” Callum said.
“Nonsense, not with you leading them, and you know that far too well. It’s who you are and what you do. I can imagine that you sailing into Kingston or Port Royal and taking them all on and winning, and God help them.”
“You are playing to my vanity, William, there’s a novel approach.” Callum said rolling his eyes as they came down the deep steps toward the wide sidewalk and the waiting carriage.
“Is it working?” Arvin gave him a smirk.
“It’s beneath you, William. I would expect that from Fitzwarren, not you.”
“I apologize, Quintan. But seriously, think of La Rochelle and what you accomplished there, the insurmountable odds, and you were victorious.”
“We, William, not just I, we. And in this, I would not have you with me, you would not be here.” Callum said.
“The others that you have with you, Stewart, Thomas, and now Carrington. I would bet on you any given day of the week with that group behind you.” Arvin said, Callum turned and looked at him as they reached the carriage.
“Kind of you to say that, William, but there is another matter.”
“The boy, I know.” Arvin said with a nod, “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to take him home, like I said I would, as I told you last night.”
“By yourself?” Arvin asked.
“I’ll need help possibly. It would be nice if I had the others to assist me, if needed.”
“A security blanket per say, I can certainly understand that, Quintan. How long would you need?
“No more than five days, I would think. Sail in, drop him off and then head for home.” Callum said. Arvin thought about it for a minute.
“Alright, I’ll help you with it. I’ll delay Hood for as long as I can, but no promises. If he finds out and you didn’t tell him about this, it will cost you your head, you know that don’t you?” Arvin asked.
“I do, and I really don’t want to involve you either.”
“Well, in that case, you shouldn’t have introduced me to him yesterday, should you?” Arvin asked with another smirk.
“I suppose your right, William, I apologize.” Callum smiled.
“Think nothing of it. Just get back to Portsmouth as soon as you can.” Arvin said.
“I will. Thank you, William.” Callum said and stretched out his hand.
“It is nothing between friends.” Arvin said, bypassing the hand and stepped into Callum, they hugged one another tight, “Don’t forget, send word to me as soon as possible.”
“I’ll send you special post here at the Admiralty as soon as I return from delivering the boy.”
“Do that.” Arvin said and pulled back. He held the door as Callum turned and climbed in. Arvin closed the door. Arvin looked up at the driver, “Take him to back to Southend and to his ship.” Arvin said and the driver snapped the reins.
Callum thought the entire hour long trip, his mind was reeling with everything that he had been told so far. He knew that Arvin could not have told him any of it and didn’t blame him really for keeping quiet about it, but it might have given him more of a chance to brace for it. He felt as if he were drowning, drowning in a sea of conspiracy with no possible means of escape. All he wanted to do was to go home and see Dustin. Callum shook his head at it all as the carriage rolled along behind the trotting of the horse. When would it all end, Callum thought. He could say no to it, but that would only solve his need to see and be with Dustin and to see Henry and Martha. The calm of the rolling waves of grass of the fields of home filled his thoughts, the vision of Dustin walking in them, coming toward him, his soft warm smile made Callum close his eyes for a minute and daydream further about it all. He opened his eyes as he felt the change under the wheels of the carriage, the bumping of cobblestone on the metal banding of those wheels, the echoing of the horse’s hooves against the tattered buildings, the smell of the air was different now, the scent of salt air. The carriage slowed and made a turn onto the stone dock and Callum knew he was there. He waited until it stopped and then opened the door, climbing out, he closed the door and reached into his pocket, pulling out some coins he had and handing them up to the driver.
“Thank you, my good man.” Callum said giving the driver a nod, he turned and walked up to the end of the gangplank and started up, hat in hand. It struck him as odd, there was no one on deck to be seen at first. He kept going and reached the top of the gangplank and saw Amos lying on the deck, Brewer was nearby, also on the deck. Callum stepped over quickly and knelt beside Amos, a large bump was on the side of his head, Callum looked around and saw no one else, then got to his feet and went for the steps to go below, he crashed through the door and stopped at the galley, Carson was face down on the deck, Callum came in and knelt beside and felt him, he was breathing. He got to his feet and backed out of the galley and went to his cabin, the door was wide open and swinging a bit with the gentle surge of the tide.
The cabin was turned upside down, the table was flipped over and two legs in long pants and boots were under it. Callum tossed his hat and grabbed the table, tipping it up and off the body. He saw Tomlin was lying there underneath it. Callum knelt beside him, turning him over to his side. He was breathing at least and was not bleeding as far as he could tell, but there was a large bump on his forehead.
“Thomas, Thomas!” Callum said as he tapped on Tomlin’s cheek a few times, “What happened here? Where is the boy?” Tomlin groaned, putting a hand to his head and the lump.
“He was screaming.” Tomlin said as he tried to sit up, “Men came in, I don’t know how many.” Tomlin said as Callum helped him sit up, “Quintan,…they took him.”
“I don’t know who they were. They overpowered me,…I guess I was hit pretty hard.”
“How long ago?”
“I don’t know.” Tomlin said as Callum got him to his feet.
“Were they in uniform?”
“No, dark clothing, all wore boots I remember.” Tomlin said as Callum got him on a chair.
“Pull yourself together, Thomas, think. Where are the Marines?”
“They were ordered away by Major Simmonds.”
“A Marine officer came and had orders from Major Simmonds. I read them myself. They disembarked and were gone for about an hour, and then I heard shouting on deck, the boy was in here with me. I went to see about it and that’s when they came in, at least a dozen. The boy was screaming so loud.” Tomlin was rubbing his forehead with one hand.
“I’m not sure. Quintan, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. Pull yourself together and follow me out on deck.” Callum said. Callum went to Talon’s cabin, opened the door, but it was empty, he closed the door and came around the corner to the galley. Carson was trying to get up and was groaning a bit, “Carson,…” Callum said as he came back in and helped him to his knees, “are you alright?”
“I think so, sir. They took him, I think, sir, Hans, they,…”
“Yes, I know, did you see who they were?”
“Not clearly, sir. I do remember that they wore dark clothing, and it is strange to me that they all were clean shaven, sir, well-kept as it were.” Carson said and it surprised Callum.
“Alright, get yourself together and follow me out on deck.” Callum said and left the galley, he went up the steps and went over to Brewer, kneeling beside him, “Brewer, Brewer, come on man, snap out of it.” The big man groaned and opened his eyes, he looked up at the face of his Captain.
“What happened, Brewer?”
“We were boarded, sir. There must have been two dozen or more, sir. They were on us before we knew. Amos fought them as best he could until they took him down. Is he alive, sir?”
“Yes, he’s breathing. Where is Mr. Talon and the others?”
“I think they’re below, sir.” The large man said and started to sit up, his head was throbbing.
“Did you see where they went?” Callum asked.
“Before I went out, I saw them head toward that alleyway at the end of the dock, sir.” Brewer said and pointed, Callum turned and followed the direction, seeing where. He looked back at Brewer and started to help him up. They got to their feet and Brewer leaned against the rail. Callum went over to Amos and knelt down beside him again, turning the big muscled man over.
“Amos, can you hear me?” Callum asked and the eyes opened slowly.
“Sir,…oh, sir, thank God you’re here.” Amos said, “They came on us so quickly.”
“Yes, I know, Amos, it’s alright. Can you get to your feet?”
“I think so, sir.”
“Must have been a hell of a fight, I’m sorry I missed it.” Callum said as he started to get the muscled man to his feet.
“I’m glad you did miss it, sir.”
“Why is that?”
“Two of them said that if they found you to kill you on sight, sir.”
“Did they now?” Callum asked.
“They did, sir. That’s when I jumped into them.”
“Good man, Amos. Where are Mr. Talon and the others?”
“Below, sir. They were seeing to things when we were boarded by them. Some of them went below to find them as well.”
“Did you hear anything else, Amos?”
“Only to find the boy, sir, and to secure him.” Amos said as he was on his feet, “What are you going to do, sir?”
“I’m going after them to find the boy and bring him back.”
“I’ll go with you, sir.” Amos said, Brewer came over and stood next to Amos.
“I’m with you as well, sir.”
“Alright, let me see about Mr. Talon and the others. One of us needs to stay here though.” Callum said.
“Well, it certainly won’t be me.” Tomlin said as he came up to them.
“How’s your head, Thomas?” Callum asked.
“It will quit throbbing in about a year or so, if I’m lucky.” Tomlin said and blinked hard, “Whoever they are, they certainly can hit.”
“I think I know who they were.” Callum said.
“Who were they?”
“Guardsmen.” Callum said as he looked at Tomlin.
“Guardsmen?” Tomlin asked and then it dawned on him, “You mean, THE Guardsmen?”
“Yes, specially trained. Who else would have access to them but the Diplomatic Service?” Callum asked.
“Of course, that man you spoke of that came aboard.” Tomlin said.
“And he came aboard when there was no one about but the Marines with me on deck. And, the Marines were conveniently disembarked more than likely with fictitious orders, with a forged signature to them.” Callum said, “We have to go, and go quickly if we are to save the boy. You men follow as soon as you can, Carson you stay here.”
“Wait, where are we going?” Tomlin asked.
“After them.” Callum said as he quickly headed for the gangplank, Tomlin turned and looked at Amos.
“Amos, signal Dover, have them send assistance right away, I want all the Marines here immediately and standing by.” Tomlin said as he was steeping sideways toward the gangplank.
“Aye, aye, sir.” Amos said, he turned and headed for the locker to run up the flags, “Well, go with them.” Amos said to Brewer, who jumped and ran after the officers, “Mr. Carson, see to those that are below.”
“Right away, Amos.” Carson said.
Callum headed into the alleyway that Brewer had pointed out, Tomlin behind him at a trot, Brewer bringing up the rear. Callum looked about in the alleyway that led to the north end. It was narrow, too narrow for a street, but tight enough to be a trap. Callum knew it. Tomlin came up behind as Callum moved along, hands were on sword pommels.
“What if we come across them, it’s just the three of us, Quintan.”
“Then hopefully it will be an even fight. I would hate to see them give up too easily, Thomas.” Callum said and Tomlin rolled his eyes.
“You never cease to amaze me, you braggart.” Tomlin said. Callum held up a hand to stop them.
“You hear it?” Callum asked.
“I do, horses and wheels.”
“Carriages or wagons, come on.” Callum said, pulling his sword out and running toward the sounds. He stopped at the end of a building where it met a cross street, leaning against the building he was at. He looked around the corner as Tomlin and Brewer caught up with him, coming close to him.
“What do you see?” Tomlin asked quietly.
“About two dozen men, dressed in dark clothes, all wearing Dragoon boots and carrying handiclubs.” Callum said softly, “And I see the ringleader of that little group,…Paupling.” Callum said in a soft voice with a bit of a smirk. Callum pushed back from the corner and handed his sword to Brewer. He slipped out of his tunic, dropping it to the ground, Tomlin shrunk his shoulders a bit as he watched Callum slide the scabbard of the sword out of the belt holder. He took the scabbard and handed it to Brewer and took the sword back from him.
“Are you insane, Quintan? You’re going to take on all of them?” Tomlin asked quietly.
“No, you’re going to help me.” Callum said and Tomlin dropped his jaw a bit, “We have to move before they get loaded and leave, come on.” Callum said and charged around the corner, sword up, all backs were to him as he came through them, Callum whipped the tip of the sword around and caught Paupling at the side of his neck making him flinch a little with being stuck.
“Stand down all of you or I will run him through.” Callum said firmly as he caught them all by surprise, “Release the boy,…now!”
“Brave of you, Captain, but you must realize that I cannot allow that.” Paupling said, “I said I was going to call upon you again, Captain.”
“Yes, Paupling, you did, but since you came aboard my ship uninvited a short time ago and I was not there, I thought I would return the favor. Release the boy, now, or I will have your head, I assure you.”
“I don’t think so, Captain, you are completely outnumbered with no help coming to your aid, we saw to that.” Paupling said, trying to look out of the corner of his eye toward Callum.
“Never underestimate a sailor of the Royal Navy, Mr. Paupling. I have survived even greater odds against me than this. Case in point, my last mission, outnumbered at least fifty to one. I think you will need some more men to assist you to make it an even fight.” Callum said as he pushed the point of the sword a bit deeper, making Paupling tilt his head a bit more to the side and grunt.
“Clever, Captain. But I cannot let you leave with the boy.”
“He does not belong to you.” Callum said.
“Nor to you, sir.” Paupling said with another grunt, “I am only acting on orders, Captain, to protect our Nation.”
“From a boy? Then we must truly be a nation of cowards to need protection from a mere boy.” Callum said.
“You know he is no mere boy, Captain.”
“That remains to be seen. Now, release him.” Callum said in full authority. There was a grunt behind him and then a thud to the cobblestone.
“The next man that even blinks will join him.” Tomlin said loudly from behind all of them, “Do not test me, I warn you.”
“You were saying something about not having any help coming to my aid, Paupling? Release the boy, now.” Callum said, “Half of you will die before you even realize it, if you try anything at all. Now, release him, I will not say it again.” Callum said and the sword point broke skin this time with a slight push. Paupling grunted loudly.
“Your head will be on London Gate, Captain, before the day is out.” Paupling said.
“Then we will be a matched set, Paupling.” Callum said. Paupling looked at the boy in the carriage, tied and gagged and the man inside with him.
“Release him.” Paupling said.
“Hmm, at last, the voice of reason. I knew you were intelligent, Paupling, even though it took you a while.” Callum said holding his ground and his sword in place. The man untied the boy and removed the gag, “Hans, kom hier.”
“Ja, Keptein.” The boy said and came over through the scattered men to Callum.
“Hans, het hoofd voor die alley.” Callum said, the boy looked over past Tomlin seeing Brewer there, he was waving with a hand to the boy to come, Hans looked back at Callum seeing only his back, the outstretched arm holding the sword.
“You speak Dutch, Captain, I am very impressed.”
“You learn a few things traveling abroad, Paupling, you should try it sometime. Now, the rest of you, back away! Paupling, you’re coming with me for the moment.”
“Where are we going?”
“Denmark.” Callum said flatly.
“I’m afraid not, Captain, I have another appointment to keep first, I’m afraid.”
“It will have to wait, I’m sorry to say.” Callum said. The boy turned as the men in dark clothes backed away, Tomlin held up his sword still standing over the top of the man he had just killed, “Thomas, are you ready?” Tomlin looked at the boy and tilted his head for him to go. Brewer was waiting. Hans ran over to him, Brewer reached down and picked him up, holding him with a large arm, Hans resting on Callum’s tunic.
“Quite ready, Quintan.” Tomlin said.
“This way, Mr. Paupling, if you please? Back up step by step until I tell you to stop.”
“You’ll never get away with this, Captain.” Paupling said.
“We’ll see about that, Mr. Paupling. Thomas?” Callum asked.
“Right beside you, Quintan.” Tomlin said softly.
“Your career is over, Callum.” Paupling said.
“You obviously weren’t paying attention during our conversation yesterday morning, Paupling, and yet you claim to know so much about me. My career was over at my court-martial, because I did my duty. Now, I am doing something of the heart, and the right thing as well, I think. I wonder what Lord Eldon would say about that? What do you think, Mr. Paupling?” Callum asked they continued to back to the alley. The men in dark clothing were turning with them as they went, “You men make a move, and I swear I will kill him, and I have no problem with it whatsoever. Surely you must know that about me as well, Mr. Paupling.”
“All of you stay where you are.” Paupling said.
“Again the voice of reason finally comes out. I would applaud you, Mr. Paupling, but my hands are a little busy right at this moment.” Callum said as his eyes shifted about at the group of men, they all moved one step at a time toward Paupling and Callum, “Your men seem to be loyal to you, Mr. Paupling, my compliments.”
“You will never reach your ship, Captain, not with them here.”
“I’m not so sure, Mr. Paupling. Thomas?” Callum asked.
“I’m here with Brewer, Quintan.” Tomlin said.
“Get the boy to safety, Thomas. I’ll be along presently.” Callum said.
“Quintan?” Tomlin said through gritted teeth.
“Go, Thomas, I’ll be right there.” Callum said, he heard the footsteps going away from him, “Now, Mr. Paupling, you were saying something about another appointment? I wonder who that might be with?”
“I’d rather not say, Captain.”
“I thought as much. As someone else said to me regarding you, smoke and shadow. I can see that you live for that, I on the other hand find it revolting as well as the lies that people like you spin.” Callum said.
“With your bravery and your wit, Captain, you should have taken my offer of service. You would truly be a force to reckon with in the Diplomatic Service.” Paupling said, his neck still bent over a bit to the side, “I’m wondering, how long are we going to remain like this, Captain? My neck is starting to bother me in this position.”
“I am sorry to inconvenience you, Mr. Paupling. I think just another couple of minutes if you don’t mind.”
“How was your meeting at the Admiralty?” Paupling asked.
“Illuminating.” Callum said as he watched the other men.
“I think that you should probably ask Lord Hood that question yourself, Mr. Paupling. His Lordship had quite an opinion about you as well I must say.” Callum said.
“I did not think that you were going to speak of me to His Lordship after our conversation yesterday morning.”
“Yes, well, think again. I have a loyalty to His Lordship. He rather takes the priority over you, if you must know.” Callum said.
“I see.” Paupling said and swallowed hard, “Captain, don’t you think we should end this little stalemate we are in?”
“Quite right, Mr. Paupling. I have enjoyed our conversation immensely, I must say. Thank you very much.” Callum said, “I will take my leave now. Good day to you, Mr. Paupling.” Callum removed his sword tip and backed quickly away down the alley, keeping an eye on the group of men that was coming toward him, almost like a wall of black, one step at a time. Callum kept them at a considerable distance, handiclubs were being pulled from their belts as they advanced. Callum calculated that he only had a few yards to go until he reached the stone dock and then across it to Windsong and relative safety. He spun and started sprinting, his sword up and in front of him, running as fast and as hard as he could. He cleared the alley and turned to the left to head for Windsong and then stopped. He spun around and stood his ground. All those men in dark clothes came to a complete halt and froze where they were as they rounded the corner. Paupling came out of the alley and through them, his chest heaving.
Callum stood in the front of the entire Marine force from Dover, all lined up, muskets in hand at the ready. Amos and Brewer had rail guns held in their hands, other crewmen from Dover held sparkers, ready to touch them off at a single word.
“You were saying something about a standoff, Mr. Paupling. Perhaps you would like to reconsider your position?” Callum asked with a firm look, “Drop your handiclubs if you will, gentlemen, you now seem to be outnumbered yourselves. Captain of the Marines?”
“Yes, sir!” He snapped.
“Take these men in charge. Watch them carefully, if they give you any trouble at all,…shoot them.” Callum said in full voice of authority.
“Yes, sir!” The Marine officer said turning ninety degrees with a snap of his boots, “Marines!”
“RAH!” They all roared at once and there was fear in the eyes of the men in dark clothing as they were now advanced on.