Voyage Home

22

 Callum and Dustin walked through the grass at the bottom of the knoll. They had watched as Thomas and Christian had walked away from them after their talk toward the stable to gather Hans and Carson to take them over to Harbroughs and show them the house, part of Callum's plan. Callum stopped and gathered his thoughts for a moment. Dustin had stepped away a couple of steps from him and realized that Callum had halted. Dustin turned and looked back at him.

 "What is it, Quintan?" Dustin asked.

 "I was thinking, Dustin." Callum said and then smiled briefly, "You were all correct in what you said about this Upton. I suppose I would have just saddled a horse and simply rode off to London had you all not made such sense."

 "What was it that you said to me, rush in where angels fear to tread?" Dustin asked as he looked skyward a bit and then back at Callum. He had a serious look on his face as he stepped back to Callum, "I was afraid for a moment that you would do just that, Quintan. And if you had gone off to London and simply kill this man, they would have no choice but to see you hanged for it. I am glad that you can listen to reason from time to time. But, I am very much afraid. Our lives seem to be becoming more complicated with all of this."

 "Yes, they are. I am sorry, Dustin." Callum said softly and hung his head a bit.

 "If you are here with me, then there is nothing to really be afraid of, is there? I feel safe when you are beside me." Dustin said and put his hands on Callum's arm, "Do you remember when we were in London, at the Boar's Head?" Dustin asked and Callum nodded, "That day that the attack happened at the Admiralty. We were up in the room, Dorland, Thomas, Christian, and I. We heard the shots through the open window, well Christian did. I was afraid at first because I knew that you were there and I couldn't get to you, but then I eased myself a bit as the others rushed off to go and help. I knew because you were there that it was going to be alright, no matter what."

 "What are you trying to say, Dustin?"

 "I am trying to say, Quintan, no matter what happens, with you here, this will be alright, it will work out because of you." Dustin said and leaned in and kissed Callum softly.

 "You have never doubted me, have you?"

 "Never once. All those times aboard Dover, all the battles that we were in, even when Captain Powers was in command, I never worried because you were right there. When you were wounded that night, when you pushed me out of the way and were buried, that was the only time I truly worried, but I knew you were going to be fine, deep down, I think I just knew. This is no different, Quintan. If we stay on our guard, we will come through this because you are here." Dustin said.

 "I love you, Dustin." Callum said.

 "I love you as well, my brave warrior." Dustin smiled softly. He leaned forward and kissed Callum softly again.

 "What have I done to deserve you?" Callum asked.

 "I should ask you that, and have, when you were gone, over and over." Dustin said.

 "And whom did you ask?"

 "Myself mostly," Dustin said and then smiled wider, "and then I asked the horses as well."

 "And what did they tell you?" Callum asked as he smiled as well.

 "They told me that I must have done something right somewhere along the line to find you." Dustin said.

 "I think it's because you brought my trunk here from Dover after we returned to port when I took command. I didn't want to toss you back out into the street, that's all." Callum said with a straight face. Dustin had a look of shock. Callum chuckled a bit. Dustin pinched Callum in his ribs making him grunt.

 "Why are you so mean sometimes?" Dustin asked as he put his hands on his hips.

 "You know I am only teasing." Callum said and stepped closer to him and spoke softly, "There are times, Dustin, I simply can't get enough of you. And I don't mean just making love with you either. There are times that you simply consume my very soul and every fiber of my body. It's as if,...you were my very breath. I would simply die without you, I know that."

 "No,...you would go on, Quintan, I know you would, and I would want you to. You're strong that way and you always will be." Dustin said and smiled again, "But, it is nice to know that you think of me that way."

 "It's more than that, more than I can explain to you, Dustin." Callum said and slid his hands around Dustin and pulled him in to him, hugging him tight, "You mean so much to me."

 "And you as well, Quintan." Dustin said as he returned the hug, "Now, I have a thought."

 "Does it involve us being without clothing?" Callum asked. Dustin pulled back and smirked.

 "No, it involves clothing. You said that you were limited in your clothes from the voyage. I think we should go into the village and go to the mercantile."

 "We can't leave here." Callum was a bit wide eyed, "Carson and Hans,..."

 "...Are in very good hands and will be protected. We can ride into the village to make it a bit faster, and we can also have a look about and see if your Guardsmen are there of if they have been seen." Dustin said.

 "You know, you can be very clever when you wish to be."

 "I learned it from you." Dustin said and bugged his eyes a bit and kissed Callum on the cheek, "Let's saddle a couple of the horses."

 "Alright." Callum said and followed Dustin toward the stable.

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 Callum stepped up in the stirrup and swung his leg over one of the geldings, a grey, that Dustin had selected for him while he climbed up on his mare, Carbona Rose, as he had named her finally, but called her Rose for short as it matched her color. They swung their horses away from the stable and walked them to the long back gate at the road. Dustin climbed off the mare, opened the gate and swung it wide, letting Callum lead the gelding through, then Dustin followed with the mare, closing the gate behind them and latching it. He climbed up on Rose and they started along the road to head into the village, riding side by side.

 "I also need to see about fresh straw being brought out as well." Dustin said as they walked.

 "Of course." Callum said as he looked over at Dustin, "Do we need to go to the mill to order it?"

 "Yes, and we can also see your friend Daultry there."

 "Yes, it would be good to see him." Callum smiled as he thought of the giant of a man that was his friend, Wayne Daultry, "Have you seen him while I was gone?"

 "When he has brought timbers for the barn. He knows how particular Mr. Bockman is about material and is hand selecting it for the construction of it." Dustin said.

 "I see." Callum said with his continuing smile, "I for one am glad that there are those here in the community that look out for us in such a way."

 "Yes, indeed. I have witnessed a couple of disagreements between Daultry and Bockman. I was quite impressed that Mr. Bockman stood his ground against your overly large friend even though he towers over Mr. Bockman." Dustin said and then chuckled, "The way that Mr. Bockman shook his finger up at Daultry made me think it would be like watching you and Henry arguing, the differences in their sizes being what they are. It was very amusing to witness."

 "I have no doubt as you and I have Mr. Bockman by at least a half a head in height and Wayne simply towers over me the way he does by at least two heads." Callum said and then shook his head.

 "That day that Christian's father came," Dustin said and shook his head a bit at the memory, "when he picked me up out of the grass with one hand so easily and stood me up on my feet as if I were nothing at all,..."

 "Yes," Callum chuckled, "I can imagine. That day of the storm, when the roof of the livery collapsed on Christian and myself, he lifted it off us and held it up like it was only matchwood so we could get out from under it. It was the most impressive thing I have ever seen."

 "But I have noticed that he is as gentle as a lamb in the field." Dustin said, "He has never said a cross word, not even to Bockman."

 "Well, I'm sure he is, but I would never want to cross him, that much is certain." Callum said.

 "Agreed." Dustin said as they rode into the edge of the Square. Callum looked about as they came into the village, looking for signs of the Guardsmen, but saw none. Several people were walking about and recognized Callum and either nodded toward him or waved. Callum returned their acknowlegements politely with either a nod or a simple wave along with giving them a soft smile as they rode by.

 "Shall we see to the mill first then?" Callum asked.

 "Yes, I think so, then we can end with the mercantile." Dustin said as the went around the edge of the Square staying out of the way of the merchants that were selling their produce and other wares. 

 They rode around the Square, going by the mercantile, across the road was the livery that was owned and run by Owen's father. The doors were open but Callum and Dustin did not see anyone about and kept walking their horses. They started to leave the area of the Square and go around the last of the buildings and Callum could see the mill in the distance. He and Dustin could hear the sounds of sawing of wood as they drew closer and slowly approached the building that was in the front. They reined their horses gently and stopped, climbing down and tying reins to the hitching rings that were on posts out front. Callum looked around and saw no one and then followed Dustin into the mill office. A stout young man was at the counter there wearing a thick heavy looking apron. He looked up and went a bit wide eyed seeing Callum. He nodded toward them.

 "Morning, Mr. Perkins." The young man said, who was older than Dustin, but Callum did not know him.

 "Morning, Erich." Dustin said, "Please, Dustin."

 "Yes, of course." The young man said smiling a bit but was staring at Callum, "Excuse me, I'll just get Mr. Daultry for you."

 "If you must, but all I really need is to order some straw to be brought out to the Cross." Dustin said.

 "Of course. I'd be happy to take care of that for you and,...the Captain." Erich said, with a bit of a nervous sounding voice and nodded in Callum's direction.

 "Is Mr. Daultry about?" Callum asked as he firmed up his stance looking at the young man.

 "Yes, sir, he is. I'll be back in a moment with him." Erich said and rushed out a door that was behind him.

 "What was that all about?" Callum asked quietly. Dustin leaned closer to Callum.

 "You, of course. The entire village speaks of you and what you have done. I hear of it all the time when I come." Dustin said softly. He straightened as there were heavy footsteps coming toward them, and Callum smiled as he saw the huge frame bend down and come through the doorway.

 "Quintan!" The booming voice said and came around the counter. Callum stepped to meet him holding out a hand. The giant of a man, Wayne Daultry came closer, bypassing the hand and grabbed Callum up into a hug, lifting Callum off his feet. Callum grunted as he was squeezed tight.

 "Wayne." Callum exhaled and was set down, putting hands on the thick muscled arms. "You look well." Callum said with a smile.

 "As do you, my friend. I had heard a rumor that you had returned home." Daultry said as he looked down at Callum.

 "Yes, day before yesterday actually." Callum smiled, "This is the first opportunity I have had to come into the village."

 "Understandable. Are you home to stay?" Daultry asked.

 "That remains to be seen." Dustin said flatly and Daultry looked at him and then back at Callum for a moment. Daultry focused his attention on Dustin again.

 "Morning, Dustin." Daultry said.

 "Morning." Dustin said and gave Daultry a nod.

 "So, with this visit, is there something that I can do for you?" Daultry asked.

 "I was telling Erich that I needed to order some straw to be brought out." Dustin said.

 "We can do that. Did you want it today?"

 "Yes, if possible, we had a new arrival last night and I want to change the straw out for them." Dustin said.

 "Ah, your mare finally had her foal." Daultry smiled.

 "Yes. He's a fine looking colt. Henry was very happy about it." Dustin said.

 "I can understand that." Daultry said, "Every time I see that boy of yours, Quintan, that's all he talks about is when that foal is coming. He looks more forward to it than Christmas I think." Callum smiled at his giant friend and nodded.

 "Yes, he was very excited this morning to be sure." Callum said. 

 "And with good reason, the colt is his." Dustin said to Daultry.

 "Ah, then he will quit tempting my draft horses to stay in your pasture with the others." Daultry said with a smile, causing Dustin to chuckle, Daultry looked at Callum, "He always has something in his pocket to give my horses when I make deliveries of lumber for your barn."

 "I see." Callum said and was learning even more about his son and his mischeivous ways, "I do apologize if he is causing distress with your horses, I can speak to him,..."

 "You certainly will not." Daultry said as he looked down at Callum with a glint in his eye, "They deserve a little spoiling now and then. I am glad that your son is the one that does it actually. That's why I take the deliveries out myself just so I can watch what the little scamp does. He sneaks in when he thinks I'm not looking. It's our little game."

 "I see. Well, it is certainly good to see you, Wayne. I must take my leave now. I have other business at the mercantile. Dustin, I will meet you there when you are finished here."

 "As you wish, Quintan." Dustin said and looked a bit astonished. Daultry put out a big hand and engulfed Callum's in it.

 "It is good to have you home, Quintan."

 "I will see you soon, Wayne." Callum said taking his hand back, turned and went to the door going out of the building. Daultry looked down at Dustin, "What was that all about? Did I say something wrong?"

 "Yes, but it was not your fault. You couldn't know. It is very strained between Quintan and Henry right now with Quintan being gone." Dustin said.

 "I see. I apologize."

 "As I said, you could not have known, you have nothing to apologize for." Dustin said as he watched Callum ride the gelding away on the road through the open door.

 

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 Callum walked through the door of the mercantile, closing it behind him with bell overhead ringing to signal someone coming in. Callum looked about and saw several ladies in the mercantile, most wore their cloaks and bonnets carrying baskets, a couple of the ladies were speaking with the owner, Mr. Saunders, who saw Callum and was excited to see him. The ladies also noticed him and milled about hoping to speak with Callum possibly.

 Callum went toward the far wall where clothing items were stacked out neatly on the tables that were there. There was also a large cabinet nearby that held folded pants. Callum went to it and started to look through them as some of the ladies finished their shopping or purchased what they wished and left the mercantile, Callum hearing the bell above the door clanging as it opened and closed a few times. He did not look up when they filtered out, merely stayed focused on what he was doing.

 "Good day to you, Captain. I had heard that you had returned safely." Saunders said as he was near to Callum's elbow. Callum turned and looked at the older man.

 "Yes, it seems that news travels rather quickly here in the village." Callum said as he turned and faced the older man.

 "Good news to be sure, Captain. It is a pleasure to see you again." Saunders said and held out his hand. Callum nodded and smiled taking the older hand in his and gave it a brief but firm grip then released it, "Is there something that I might help you find?"

 "Indeed. I seem to have lost most of the clothing that I left home with in my voyage. I need to replace it. A few shirts and some long pants I think, and possibly some more stockings as well." Callum said.

 "Of course. I trust that the voyage went well, Captain, you seem to be in good health."

 "Yes, I am thank you. It was through lending that I lost most of my things it seems." Callum said.

 "Oh, thankfully it was not through misfortune but rather good will." Saunders said.

 "Yes, quite." Callum said and gave the older man a brief smile.

 The merchantman showed Callum several different things that were new in style as well as some that were more traditional and more comfortable feeling in their cloth. Callum opted for the more traditional, being more familiar with it as well as the comfort. Most of the shirts were a bit heavy in their cloth, but Saunders said that with the approach of the change in the season, it might be a bit cold this year. Callum nodded as he agreed and felt it was right to be prepared. He had made several selections when Dustin came in through the door, the bell announcing his arrival.

 "Ah, Mr. Perkins, it is good to see you young sir." Saunders said and held out his hand to Dustin.

 "Mr. Saunders, it is always a pleasure, sir." Dustin said.

 "How is your reading going?"

 "Quite well, thank you, sir. We are enjoying the books you suggested." Dustin smiled.

 "Wonderful." The older man said and clasped his hands together, "Mr. Muir has just returned and has brought more. I just unpacked them from the crate if you wish to have a look."

 "Yes, I would thank you." Dustin said and looked at Callum who raised an eyebrow at him. Dustin followed the older man over to another table and started to look through some of the books that were there. Saunders returned to Callum.

 "I think I will take all of these, Mr. Saunders. They should hold me for quite some time." Callum said as he moved a stack of shirts, pants, and stockings.

 "Very good, Captain. Shall I bundle them for you?"

 "Yes, if you wouldn't mind. I'll take them with me back to the Cross." Callum said, "And of course I'll pay for them now, no charging."

 "Of course, Captain, I know of your feeling to that." The older man as he gathered the items and went to the counter with them. He bundled them in heavy paper and tied them all after he tallied them. Callum went over to Dustin and looked at the books as well. He saw several that he did not recognize by either author or title, assuming that they were new, and then one caught his eye and he picked it up.

 "What is that one?" Dustin asked as he looked.

 "Tales of the Sea, a collection." Callum said and opened it. The book itself was hardbound and was smaller than the others, rather like a pocket edition which was becoming more and more popular. If the book fit in a jacket pocket, it was commonly thought that the reader would take it with them when on a journey or a travel holiday to enjoy it. He reads a few passages from it and then said softly, "I know you read to him, but I wonder if he would allow me to read to him as well." Callum said, Dustin smiled softly and rested a hand on callum's arm that held the book.

 "I know he would, and I would enjoy it as well if you were to read to me as you promised once, do you remember?" Dustin asked.

 "I do. It was when I took the dagger to my leg when I took command. You came to me in my cabin and we read Shakespear."

 "Yes, and you promised that it would continue." Dustin said.

 "I have fallen short in that, haven't I?" Callum asked, "It seems that I have fallen short in a great number of things."

 "You have been preoccupied, I understand it and do not fault you for that. Henry will understand it also when he grows older." Dustin said and smiled giving Callum his big bright brown eyes.

 "I'll ask again, what did I do to deserve you, Dustin?" Callum asked rushing all over with emotion, a need to hug this wonderful young man next to him.

 "You opened the door that night when I brought your trunk, remember?" Dustin asked and his eyes sparkled.

 "The greatest night of my life for certain." Callum smiled back, "The true start of my life."

 "If you keep talking like that, I am going to have to drag you off to some secluded corner and have my way with you." Dustin said as he turned more to Callum.

 "You may cause our dear Mr. Saunders to simply faint away." Callum said and smirked.

 "Let's get back to the Cross." Dustin said. He turned and went to the counter, Callum followed carrying the book along in his hand.

 "What do I owe you, Mr. Saunders?" Callum asked.

 "I am sorry, Captain, but it comes to two pounds eight." Saunders said rather sheepishly. Callum looked at Dustin and frowned a bit.

 "Dustin, why is it that every merchant we visit seems to have a difficult time telling me what the total is? I mean, I picked out the merchandise, did I not?"

 "Yes, you did, Quintan. I don't think Mr. Saunders twisted your arm or talked you into anything did he?"

 "No, he did not. I went through several things and decided on what I wanted and gave him my selections." Callum said as he looked at Dustin, he looked at the older man, "Mr. Saunders, I must say, you should never regret it when I ask what the tally is, sir, I assure you. You should also know by now that I would never argue or barter with you to lower the price, my good man. You have a wonderful establishment here and have always been more than fair and generous with all of my family and I thank you." Callum said  in a gentle voice as he reached into his pocket and went through some notes.

 "Thank you, Captain." The older man said and felt a bit more relieved.

 "Now, all I seem to have are five pound notes, hmmm. Here," Callum said and handed over a note, "I'll be taking this book as well, will this cover it?"

 "Why, yes, more than,..."

 "Then here, take this note as well and put it on account," Callum said as he handed the older man another note, "in case the lady of the house needs anything and does not have money on her. Can you do that?" Callum asked.

 "Of course. I will put it in my ledger for you, Captain." The older man smiled and took the note slowly and reached for a book, opening it and then pulled a quill on the counter and started writing.

 "You know what she is going to say." Dustin said as he leaned into Callum a bit.

 "Yes, I do, oh and by the way, Mr. Saunders, if she does come in, please let myself or Dustin know and we will add to the account even further." Callum said and had a devilish smile.

 "You do tempt the fates, don't you?" Dustin asked.

 "It is rather like an unspoken battle with her, don't you think? Two sides pacing and sizing each other up?" Callum asked as he looked at Dustin.

 "You had better be prepared with a pistol when you tell her." Dustin rolled his eyes.

 "Come now, she's not that bad."

 "Don't say I didn't warn you when she hits you in the head with a fry pan or something else just as heavy." Dustin said.

 

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 "Quintan Callum! We talked about this," Martha said as he stood at the table with his bundle, her hands on her hips, then she lifted a hand and shook a finger at him, "you were the one as I recall when you first returned home that said there was to be no charging accounts for the needs of the house!"

 "True, my dear, I did say that, under the stipulation if there was coin to be had, real money, and that is what I have done, I have given real money to Mr. Saunders for that account, it is not credit per say or barter, no trading of eggs as it were. No, he has real money and you are free to buy against it, if needed. When you do, it will be replentished." Callum said and folded his arms over his chest. She huffed.

 "I need nothing from there." She said.

 "Hmmm, what say if I were to do it with the butcher as well?"

 "You had better not." She held up that finger in his direction.

 "I see. You would rather carry cash in hand then." Callum said, standing his ground.

 "I would. I have grown accustomed to it." She said firmly.

 "Very well then, we will continue in that fashion." Callum said and went toward her, dropping his arms and reached around her taking the tin off the shelf, he opened it and handed her the lid. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his roll of notes from his pocket.

 "Dear lord, where did you get all of that?" She asked as she went wide eyed.

 "I captured another prize vessel during my sailing as I said. It paid quite handsomely I must say, and I was rather pleased by it, and there was something else as well in the tally envelope that Thomas gave me." Callum said.

 "What was it?" Martha asked. Callum reached into his back pocket and pulled out the envelope handing it to her. She looked at it, then him, then took it from his hand. She opened the envelope and pulled the note from it and read it, her eyes going wide, "Does Dustin know?"

 "Not yet. So you see, my dear, why I gave Mr. Saunders money for account as it was really nothing." Callum said as he took the lid for the tin and placed it back and put the tin on the window ledge in its place. He took the note from her hand and placed it back in the envelope, putting it back in his pocket.

 "My word, I had no idea." She said as she watched him walk over to the table to his large bundle.

 "I will tell him this evening. But right now, I am going upstairs to put these new clothes away. I will be down in a few minutes."

 "Alright." Martha said still in a bit of shock. Callum picked up the bundle and carried it to the stairs and went up. He returned a few minutes later, she had made coffee at the stove and was preparing to bake the bread that she has let rise most of the morning. He brought over the heavy paper that was the wrapping for the bundle and put the folded paper in the wood box next to the stove for her to use for starting a fire if need be. He had saved the string for her and she took it from him, putting it away in the pantry under the stairs. She came back and put the dough in the pans and readied them with a bit of salt and placed them in the oven. Callum reached for a cup and poured coffee for himself.

 "May I ask you a question?" Martha asked as she dunked her hands in a pail of water at the sink and then wiped them on her apron.

 "I think you just did." Callum said as he gave her a side glance.

 "I am being serious, Quintan." She said with a frown.

 "Alright, my dear, we're alone, ask what you'd like?" Callum asked as he turned to face her.

 "Your sailings, they have you a very rich man, haven't they? I mean you had the rooms built for Henry and I, the stable repaired and reworked, and now the barn being built. You don't seem to have a care about money." Martha said.

 "You're right, I don't have a care about money. It has never been an issue with me, and now, it never will be for the rest of our lives it seems, thanks largely to His Majesty."

 "No, Quintan, it is thanks to you and your abilities. His Majesty is just paying you what is due, that's all. Please tell me that you're not going to continue to sail after what you just showed me." She said as she came close to him, putting her hands on his arm.

 "I have said that if I am needed, I will go. It is my duty, to my King, my country, that's why,  and nothing else." Callum said.

 "Quintan, you have a family, a son that needs you here. What if something were to happen to you if you went off again?" Martha asked a deep worry in her eyes now took hold.

 "Dustin has full access to everything, I have already seen to that with the Magistrate and the bank, and as well, Dustin knows it. His name is also beside mine on the properties, both the Cross and Harbroughs. If something were to happen to me, there will be no loss of anything here, the house will continue." Callum said softly.

 "There would be loss, Quintan, don't you see that? If you were not to return, we would all be empty with that loss of you. Don't you remember Dustin and how upset he was before you left?"

 "Yes, it has scarred us both deeply. I can still feel it from him when we are together." Callum said softly as he thought about it.

 "You see? Another sign, Quintan. And what of Henry?" Martha asked.

 "He seems to be doing quite well without me."

 "He is not, not really. He cried every night for quite some time after you were gone. You remember that when he heard your voice in the mornings, he was always awake and right there beside you every time? He is your son, Quintan. He would be devastated if you were to go again." Martha said.

 "I suppose you're right." Callum said and turned away from her, "He is warming up a bit to me again, isn't he?"

 "Yes, he is. It will take some more time to be sure, but he will come around if you do not leave him again." Martha said, "You have done your service, Quintan, and by the grace of God, you have returned safe and sound. You really want to tempt that again?"

 "No, I don't think I do." Callum said and went to the table and sat down, "But, I would miss it very much, truth be told."

 "Of course you would. I am glad you're being honest about it with me and yourself. You're young, and there is adventure and excitement I'm sure with it all, every young man's dream as it were. And then there is duty and honor to go along with it as well." Martha said and came over to the table standing next to him, she put an arm around his muscled shoulders and bent a bit and kissed the top of his head as the back door opened and a wild eyed Henry came in, the dog, Fitz, right behind him.

 "The cart is here with the new straw." Henry said with an excited voice and out of breath. Callum smiled at him.

 "We have had new straw brought before, Henry, what has you so excited?" Martha asked.

 "Dustin said I need to move the mare and the colt out of the stall while he cleans it but wanted me to come up and get Papa to help me." Henry said it so fast that he was almost out of breath again. Callum looked up at Martha and she at him and she smiled warmly.

 "Back to the norm, I would say." She said and shook her head a bit. Callum winked at her.

 "Well, if Dustin is going to do that and you need my help, my lad, then who am I to say no." Callum said to Henry and got up from the table. Henry turned and ran down the path toward the stable leaving the back door open, Callum going to the door of the kitchen and stopped, he looked at Martha for a moment, "If you will excuse me, my dear, it seems that my son needs my help." Callum said and smiled briefly. He walked away, closing the door behind him. Martha smiled again and went to the stove.

 

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 Callum was at the doors of the stable. He watched for a moment as Dustin and Erich were pushing the last of the fresh straw out of the draw cart with their pitchforks, making a pile of it at the end on the ground. They looked at one another for a moment and smiled giving a nod each. Callum caught a nervous look from the young man with Dustin in the cart and then averted his looked and focused on Henry in the stall with the mare and the colt, making Callum smile. He stepped closer to the stall.

 "Did you get a lead, Henry?" Callum asked.

 "Yes, sir." Henry said as the colt nuzzled into his back. Callum smiled wider as the colt was almost as tall as Henry but not quite. Henry was being pushed by the curious little one behind him.

 "It looks as if he's trying to make friends, Henry." Callum said and noticed that Henry wasn't as excited any longer, "Something wrong?"

 "He bit me." Henry said as he was pushed by the young nose from behind again.

 "He doesn't know any better yet, that's all. Are you hurt?" Callum asked.

 "No, it just made me mad." Henry said in a monotone voice and frowned a bit.

 "Did he break the skin?" Callum asked as he came closer to the end of the stall. Henry looked at his hand and saw a bit of blood on it, "It looks like he did. I'll take the mare out for you, the colt will follow her. You go up to the house and have Aunt Martha take a look at that. Let her clean it up for you." Callum said as he put a hand on Henry's shoulder. He took the lead from Henry gently and held it.

 "Yes, sir." Henry said, "Stupid horse." Henry said as he went around Callum and went out of the stable. Callum watched Henry go and also saw the cart turning around to head for the long back gate. Callum turned back to the mare.

 "You look a bit better, my lady, after losing your burden." Callum said softly as he pat her neck, "Come, let's get you out into the sun for a bit of a change." He turned and led her out of the stall and as predicted, the colt followed, slowly, but he followed. Callum went to the doors and met Dustin coming in.

 "What's the matter with Henry?" Dustin asked.

 "The colt got a little too curious it seems and he bit him."

 "Is he hurt?" Dustin asked.

 "I saw a bit of blood on his hand, but he seemed to pay it no mind at all. I sent him up to the house to have Martha look at it and clean it up." Callum said, the mare was at his shoulder.

 "I see. I shouldn't be but a few minutes with the stall." Dustin said.

 "I'll take her over to let her graze a bit near the corner of the fence." Callum said.

 "She needs it for sure. By this time next week, we should be able to let her graze in the pasture with the others. And speaking of the others, don't let them crowd in on her with the new one. They will all be curious about him and it could put you in a tight spot with them." Dustin said.

 "I'll be careful." Callum smiled and started to lead her out, the colt following her. He walked along with her and she dropped her head now and then and pulled at the taller grasses and he would pause, the colt walking along and smelling all the new smells, his first trip out of the stable. Callum watched both of them, and then the colt started to stamp about and felt the breeze on him for the first time, and he shook himself, his bristled hair stood and looked so soft, like down of feathers. Callum had the lead and walked toward the corner of the fence near the road and he looked up, sensing something almost, something not right and he saw a figure in the hedgerow across the road duck back into it, a figure in black. Callum narrowed his eyes but played it as if he saw nothing at all, but he knew what it was. He spent the time with the mare as she grazed about, pulling the tender grasses and moved slowly along, the colt nuzzling her a few times and then would scamp away and then come back. Callum saw movement from the house and looked up. He saw Henry walking toward him, his hand was wrapped about in white. Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth, knowing he put up a bit of a struggle with Martha to have the wound bandaged.

 "How bad was it?" Callum asked as Henry drew closer.

 "It's okay." Henry sounded a bit sad. The colt danced about him a bit. Henry watched him for a long minute and then looked at Callum.

 "The breeze is freshening out of the north. He senses it and it makes him excited with the cool of it." Callum said, "Watch out that he doesn't kick you accidentally." Callum smirked and saw Dustin coming out of the stable and headed up toward the house on the knoll, he was carrying a pail. He went to the pump and pumped water into it and carried it down toward Callum and Henry. Dustin walked up next to Callum and set the pail down for the mare. She smelled at it and stuck her nose into it to drink. Dustin stepped closer to Callum.

 "Did you notice there is someone across the road in the brush?" Dustin asked softly.

 "Yes, I saw him a few minutes ago. He ducked back in as I looked up. I always said that you had the best eyes." Callum said as soft to only Dustin. Henry came closer to them.

 "You think it is one of your Guardsmen?" Dustin asked in almost a whisper.

 "Undoubtedly. They will come tonight and I will be ready for them." Callum said in the same tone.

 "We will be ready for them." Dustin said flatly and looked at Henry, "So, the colt bit you I hear?" Dustin asked in his regular voice.

 "Yes." Henry said and sounded disgusted, "I tried to pet him. He bit my hand."

 "It's a wonder he didn't take off a finger. Christian told you that he might after he was born. He doesn't know about people, Henry. It's up to you to teach him, as he is yours." Dustin said.

 "He's mean." Henry said.

 "No, it's because it's all new to him. He's just a baby and needs to be taught what is right and wrong. Remember what Christian said to do when he tries to bite." Dustin said as Henry looked up at him.

 "Flick his ear." Henry said matter of fact.

 "That's right, flick his ear, but don't hit him out of anger. His ears are sensitive and he will learn quickly not to do it again, just like Christian said. And don't do it unless he tries to bite." Dustin smiled, and then winked at Henry.

 "Alright." Henry said and then looked over at the colt that was pracing around in the grass.

 "Next week, we will turn them out into the pasture to let her graze with the others. By then he should be running around as if he was chasing the wind." Dustin smiled, "Can I tell you a secret, Henry?" Dustin asked and Henry spun his head around and looked at him.

 "Yes." Henry said and was at full attention.

 "If you want to lead him about, take a lead and tie it around his neck, but drape it over his back so he gets used to it, then put some sugar in your pocket, just a bit. He'll smell it  and follow you wondering what it is. It will drive him crazy until he finds out what it is."

 "Really?" Henry asked and sounded excited again.

 "Really."

 "I do that with Mr. Daultry's horses. They're so big but they're very gentle." Henry said and his eyes flashed. Dustin smiled wider as did Callum.

 "Yes, we heard." Dustin said. They watched Henry's expression change from being excited to one of being caught doing something wrong, "Mr. Daultry said it was his and yours little game, I think he said."

 "I'm sorry." Henry said and hung his head a bit.

 "You have nothing to be sorry about, Henry. Mr. Daultry rather enjoys it, isn't that right, Quintan?" Dustin asked and elbowed Callum in the ribs a bit making him grunt.

 "Yes, he did say that." Callum said. He smiled briefly at the boy as Henry raised his eyes a bit more and then brightened.

 "They're very nice horses, very big too."

 "Yes, they're draft horses. They are bred for working, pulling heavy loads." Dustin said and drew closer to Callum. He leaned a bit more toward him as they both looked at Henry, "Quintan, I was wondering about tonight." Dustin said in a soft voice above a whisper.

 "We can talk about it in a moment." Callum said softly, "Henry, I was wondering if tonight, would it be possible if I were to read to you?"

 "Read what?"

 "Well I bought a new book at the mercantile earlier." Callum said, "Dustin would like to hear me read from it but it all depends upon you."

 "I guess so."

 "Alright, then after supper we can get settled in the parlor and I would be happy to." Callum said.

 "He has read to me before." Dustin said and Henry looked at him, "When we were on our ship. He read a very famous story to me written by a man named Shakespeare."

 "What is the new book?" Henry asked.

 "Tales of the Sea." Callum said, "I have never read it, so it will be new for all of us."

 "Okay." Henry said and brightened a bit more.

 "Why don't you go and get some grain for the mare, just a little bit, alright?" Dustin asked.

 "Okay." Henry said and walked off toward the stable, the dog, Fitz, met him at the bottom of the knoll. They watched him walk away and then Dustin turned to Callum.

 "What about tonight?" Dustin asked.

 "I want to be ready in case they come. In my trunk, I have several pistols loaded. It may be a very long night." 

 "Is Thomas ready as well?" Dustin asked.

 "Yes." Callum said as he scanned Dustin's soft face, "He is carrying small arms as well after our little trist with the Guardsmen and that Phelps fellow."

 "I see. You are expecting a battle then." Dustin and Callum gave him a smirk.

 "I would not want to call it a battle,...rather a pasting." Callum continued his smirk and Dustin just shook his head, "If they want a fight, then I will give them one, a good one."

 

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 The mare had been grained and was led back to the stable and placed in the stall. The colt had followed along. Water had been placed in the large tub for her and the door secured. Callum, Dustin, and Henry went across the pasture to Harbroughs. Callum had not noticed at first the new fences that surrounded the house. The posts had been placed along the drive and the surrounding graveled area to keep the horses contained in the large pastures that surrounded the house. The wood rails of the fences were still raw and in their natural state. The three of them approached a small gate that led toward the side of the house but directly in line with the barn and the Cross. They approached the back door and it opened for them. A smiling Christian greeted them.

 "We were beginning to wonder about you." Christian said as he opened the door wider for them, beckoning them to enter.

 "Why is that?" Callum asked as he followed Dustin and Henry into the kitchen.

 "I know you want to keep the boy under your eye." Christian said as he closed the door.

 "I was not worried, you and Thomas are quite capable. I know he is good hands with you both." Callum said. Dustin stopped in the kitchen and waited for Christian to step forward.

 "There is someone watching the house from across the road in the brush." Dustin said softly. Henry had run ahead to find Hans leaving Callum, Dustin, and Christian alone in the kitchen.

 "You think it will be tonight then, Quintan?" Christian asked softly.

 "It is entirely possible."

 "We will be ready just in case." Christian said looking at the both of them.

 "I know you will, and we will not be far away. As I said to Dustin, I think it will be a long night." Callum said.

 "You may be right." Christian said, "Mr. Carson said he wanted to prepare supper after seeing this kitchen and all that it holds."

 "I would imagine that he is in his element here. There is everything that he could possibly want or need in this kitchen." Callum said as he looked around the large room.

 "Yes, there is." Christian said, "Why don't we go into the parlor and join the others?"

 "After you." Callum said, holding out a hand. He waited for Dustin and Christian to go first and then followed. They walked out of the kitchen into the wide hall next to the stairs to their left and came into the large open parlor and Callum stood stunned. He had remembered the room being sparse of furniture after they had burned all it that had been left by the previous owner of the house. The room was now warm and inviting to Callum. New furnishings had been placed about the room, a few large overstuffed chairs scattered about a new settee. 

 The fireplace against the wall that backed the private dining room had been cleaned even more and glowed with the marble and woodwork that made up its construction. Callum looked up above the mantle and there hung a portrait of a lady, Christian's mother. She was very beautiful and Callum, even though he had seen once before but not hung, could clearly see where Christian had gotten his own beauty from, it was from her. Callum smiled at the portrait and then looked at Christian.

 "It seems to be the perfect place for her, Christian, my compliments." Callum said.

 "Thank you, Quintan." Christian said as he came beside Callum, looking up at her as well, "It was Thomas' idea to have her placed there. The morning light from the front windows does her justice and she always enjoyed the morning." Christain said softly and Callum looked over at him.

 "I'm sorry for your loss of her, Christian."

 "Thank you, but it is fine really. We grew apart as I became older. She was always very quiet and kept to herself. My only good memories of her was when I was Henry's age." Christian said softly.

 "My memories of my own mother are like that. She sent me off to school very early and I don't remember much about her, only her hair and her smile." Callum said.

 "It is strange to me sometimes when I think about her, certain things come to mind like that as well. The dog for instance, her Spaniel, she treated him quite well as I recall. She always had a soft scent about her, like fresh flowers." Christain said.

 "I can remember the scent of my mothers hair, cornsilk. Dustin has that same scent with his own and it always reminds me of her." Callum said. He stopped talking as he felt someone next to him, he looked to his right and Carson was there.

 "Would you care for coffee, sir?" Carson asked.

 "No, I'm fine for now, thank you." Callum said and smiled, "Are you taking over household duties, Carson?"

 "No, sir. I was just wondering." Carson smiled. Callum chuckled.

 "Life here is a little different, Carson."

 "Indeed, sir." Carson said with his usual beaming and wringing of his hands, "It make take some time to get used to it, but it is very nice here, I must say."

 "I think we all rather enjoy it, don't we Christian?" Callum asked.

 "Indeed." Christian smiled, "I was going to ask, Mr. Carson, do we require anything from the marketplace?"

 "No, Captain, you have quite enough in your pantry stores for tonights supper." Carson said looking around Callum at Christian.

 "Are you good with this arrangement, Carson?" Callum asked as he folded his arms over his chest.

 "Quite, sir. It does seem that we have little choice in it. Captain Tomlin and Captain Holt have made us feel very much at home however."

 "I'm glad, Carson. As far as the other matter, have you,...?"

 "I did speak with him, sir. He understands and agrees with it, as it seems to be the safest way out of the current circumstances." Carson said.

 "Then I will go into the village and make the final arrangements for it. I'm certain Lord Hood will understand after I explain it to him and he meets Hans tomorrow." Callum said as Tomlin and Dustin came closer, "He can be a bit stubborn with his decisions once his mind is made up, but when he hears clear reason he can change his mind. I will make sure of it." 

 

 

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