Callum stood in the darkness of the room thinking about the day as he looked out of the window. The bed was near to him as he was next to the candle stand. He was looking out through the lace curtains over the top of the stable, out across the pasture toward Harbroughs. All the lights were out in the house across the way and the half moon was shining what light it could muster onto the tall grass that surrounded the house. His eyes were narrowed as he watched and waited for any sign of movement.
"Quintan." Dustin said softly in the darkness. Callum turned his head slightly and looked to where the voice was, "You know they will signal if they need help. Why don't you come to bed?" Dustin asked barely above a whisper, Callum only grunted his reply of not moving from his place, "It must be after midnight, don't you think? They are probably not coming."
"I would not be so certain." Callum said quietly, "I know these men and what they are capable of. I've seen it firsthand." Callum said and almost had a growl in his throat with his reply, "I have said before that they would die first rather than to surrender their charge."
"Yes, you did say that, and I do remember, but do you think they will come at this time of night?" Dustin asked.
"If I were to lower my guard and to join you, and if they did come, what of Thomas and Christian?" Callum asked above a whisper and heard Dustin sigh in the darkness.
"I wish I could say." Dustin whispered and paused for a long moment, "Have it your way then." Dustin fell silent and Callum continued to watch out of the window.
--------------- ----------------- ----------------- -----------------
Callum sat silently at the table in the kitchen, the morning light streaming in through the windows. He was lost in his thoughts. The two that were at the stove looked at each other for a moment and then at Callum as he used his fingers only to turn the coffee cup that rested on the table before him. Carson stepped away from the stove and came over next to him.
"Sir, may I get you something else?" Carson asked softly. Callum turned his head and looked up at him.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" Callum asked.
"Have you slept, sir?"
"Uh, no, I haven't." Callum said and went to get up but Carson put a hand on his shoulder stopping him.
"You should rest, sir." Carson said gently, "Lord Hood will be arriving later as you know. You should have a clear mind for his meeting."
"Carson, I can't let my guard down..." Callum started to say as Carson shook his head a few times.
"Hans is in good hands, sir. There are many of us here to watch over him. Captain Tomlin will be here shortly, as well as Captain Holt. Why don't you go up and rest?" Carson asked. Callum smiled briefly at him.
"I suppose you're right, as always, Carson." Callum said and got up from the table. He smiled at Martha once at the stove and turned to leave the kitchen as Henry came through the door and stopped, "Morning, Henry."
"Morning, sir." The little one said. He stepped out of the way for Callum as he walked out of the kitchen. Callum walked up the stairs and opened the door of the room, closing it behind him.
The room had an empty feel to it as he stood alone in it. Dustin had gotten up early with the dawn to go out and take care of the horses, leaving Callum to his watching. After Dustin had left him, Callum went downstairs as he could smell the wonderful smell of Martha's coffee brewing away in the large pot on the stove. He smiled to himself for a brief moment as the thought occurred to him that the two best makers of coffee in his world were now here in the same house together, he wondered if they had collaborated or if she had beaten Carson in doing it.
Callum went to the bed and settled on it, lifting his feet, taking off his boots and setting them on the floor next to the bed. He lay back on the pillows, drawing one up a bit more under his head, crossed his legs at his feet and folded his fingers together as he rested his hands on his chest. Again he smiled briefly at something he could smell. He slowly took in a deep breath through his nose, yes, there it was, Dustin, the scent of him coming from the pillow under his head. It warmed Callum's heart and mind and made him relax because of it. He closed his eyes.
His eyes opened at the touch to his arm. He focused and there beside the bed was Dustin, smiling and bent over him slightly. Callum smiled in return at the handsome young face that shone in the filtered light from the window above the bed.
"I was just dreaming of you." Callum said softly.
"Again? I am honored." Dustin smiled and bent lower and kissed Callum tenderly, then raised up a bit, "I was sent to collect you, it's nearly mid-day."
"What? Is it really?" Callum asked with wider eyes. He started to sit up, Dustin standing straight now to give him room, "Where is everyone?"
"There are all downstairs." Dustin said as Callum swung his feet and legs off the bed. He reached down and picked up a boot and slid his foot into it, then did the other, "Lord Hood has not arrived as of yet."
"I would imagine it will be later in the afternoon, coming from London. Is Thomas here?" Callum asked.
"He and Christian both." Dustin said.
"I need to speak with Thomas. Something has occurred to me."
"What?" Dustin asked as Callum stood and stamped one foot on the floor.
"Do you remember when Thomas returned home and knew of Hans and who he really is?"
"Thomas said that Lord Hood himself informed him." Callum said, Dustin narrowed his eyes in question, "If Lord Hood had that information, and had it all along, then the Admiralty and those of Parliament knew that he was out there in the North Sea aboard that merchant ship. They also knew of what our plan was as it had been discussed thoroughly prior to the mission. Hans had been in France with his uncle, the treaty with Napoleon and everything. Everything that I did was part some other plan, a set up if you will. They knew."
"What does this have to do with Thomas?" Dustin asked still confused.
"Lord Hood might have confirmed that inadvertently with Thomas. I must ask him before His Lordship arrives." Callum said as he went to step around Dustin for the door, but Dustin put a hand on his arm to stop him, his head down slightly.
"I asked you a question once." Dustin said quietly, Callum stopping and looking at him, "You may not recall it as you were injured." Dustin said, Callum gave him a questioning look, "It was after your fight with Christian's father. I asked if this was now truly over." Dustin said as he lifted his head and looked at Callum in the eye, "It will never be truly over, will it?" Dustin asked. Callum half turned to face Dustin fully, putting his hands on Dustin's hips.
"I wish it were, my love. But, in answer to your question, will it ever be truly over, I would say no." Callum said softly, "And if Thomas confirms my suspicions, then we are all in the gravest of danger."
"How so?" Dustin asked.
"If it true, my suspicions, then I have been nothing but a pawn, and then we, all of us have become expendable, you, me, Martha, Henry. I pray I am wrong."
"You're never wrong." Dustin whispered as he stared into Callum's eyes, and Callum could the fear growing in Dustin's soft brown eyes. He slid his hands around Dustin's waist and stepped into him, hugging him gently.
"I will not let anything happen to you." Callum whispered in Dustin's ear.
"I'm not afraid for me. I'm afraid for Martha and Henry." Dustin said as he put hands around Callum's back and clutched his shirt.
"I know, as am I. I won't let anything happen to them either." Callum said, squeezing Dustin a bit more then pulled back, "Come, let me speak with Thomas."
"He did volunteer the information after we were alone on the dock, yes." Thomas said as he and Callum walked alone outside on the grassy knoll. Thomas had his hands clasped behind his back, his head down a bit as he and Callum stepped together slowly.
"Is that all that he said, Thomas?" Callum asked, his hands clasped behind his own back as well.
"As I recall, yes. I do remember being a bit taken aback by everything that he told me." Thomas said as he shook his head a bit, "I was also thinking how you always seemed to manage to get into something like this on your own. Why is that?"
"I really don't know, Thomas." Callum said as he looked about as they walked slowly, "Fitzwarren said once that I seem to draw it to me. He may have been right."
"Tell me what you're thinking."
"That I, we, have been used in a much larger game." Callum said, "Yes, we were sent out to stop Battenou, but more importantly we were sent out to find Hans without knowledge of it, whether we had rescued him or not is another matter. If we had spotted the merchant, we would have reported it, and they would have known. You will recall when I told you that Battenou had the ship searched, he knew the treaty was there as he was informed. And now that treaty is at the bottom of the North Sea, the boy becomes the key to all of this. I would imagine that His Lordship will demand that the boy return with him to London." Callum said and shook his head, "That can't happen."
"Why not?" Thomas asked as he stopped walking.
"Simply because he poses no threat." Callum said as he stopped as well and looked at Thomas, "It matters not who he really is. He has said many times that all he wishes is to have a normal life. After all that he has been through, he deserves it, don't you think?"
"Yes, of course. But, Quintan, if he can end this conflict that we are in, surely he,..."
"At what cost, Thomas?" Callum asked, "Whose banner would he carry, ours? No, the conflict would continue on to have him take that control to unify the nations of the Continent. Men would still die to carry that out. No, this is nothing but a means to gain control, and I have a growing suspicion that it all comes from this man Upton. He is the driving force behind all of this as I have said."
"Alright, it makes sense. What are you going to do?" Thomas asked.
"I'm not sure, it all depends upon what His Lordship has to say when he arrives." Callum said. He looked over and out on the road, Thomas followed his gaze. In the distance, coming along the main road up from the south, a cloud of dust filtered up and was carried away by the slight breeze.
"I would say that we are going to find out very soon. That must be His Lordship." Thomas said.
Carson opened the front door and stood out of the way, bowing slightly. Callum stood in the middle of the parlor, waiting, he was flanked by Thomas and Christian, neither wore their tunics. Dustin was in the doorway of the kitchen, Martha behind him, Henry next to her, being pulled close to her with a hand to his little shoulder. The group watched as two Marine Sentries came up the path to the front door, turned and rested their muskets as they took position to each side of the door. Lord Hood followed them, regal in appearance, his broad hat in place as he stepped to the doorway. A hand went up and took off the hat, taking it and tucking it in his arm.
"Callum." Hood said as he was alone, no other officer there but the Sentries.
"I bid you welcome, My Lord." Callum said as he bowed slightly, "Please do come in."
"You look well, Callum." Hood said as he came through the door, Carson taking Hood's broad hat, giving Carson a side glance.
"Thank you, My Lord." Callum smiled as he stepped forward a step, Carson closed the door behind Hood, "May I offer you any refreshment, My Lord?"
"Yes, if you please, coffee." Hood said as he came across the room. Martha turned and went off to fill the request, Dustin looking at her and then back at Hood, "I was wondering, Callum, if we might speak alone regarding the current situation?"
"My Lord, if I may?" Callum asked as Hood went to the settee and sat alone upon it, "All that are assembled here are fully aware of the situation, and as they all have my complete trust, I beg that we may speak openly."
"I see." Hood said, looking about the room and all that were here as they all still flanked Callum, "Very well. First, I want to say to you that I was pleased with the success of your mission. You have done a great service for England as a whole. Merchant shipping is now free to carry on without hindrance thanks to you and your squadron."
"My thanks, My Lord." Callum said and bowed slightly.
"Secondly, and more importantly your actions after returning to port however have raised some concerns. You attempted to sail again, without order and with a certain person that has, shall we say, great value to The Crown." Hood said, narrowing his eyes a bit at Callum.
"Yes, My Lord, very true."
"Why would you undertake it?" Hood asked.
"I felt it was necessary, My Lord. Also, I was keeping a promise."
"You know who he is, Callum, do you not?" Hood asked.
"I do, My Lord." Callum said, cocking his head slightly to one side.
"Then you also know what he can mean to us, all of us?"
"Yes, My Lord." Callum said.
"I beg of you, My Lord," Callum said as he stepped a step closer toward Hood on the settee, "I have come to know him, and what he feels. He is merely a boy that has been thrust into this, My Lord, a boy who does not fully understand why, nor does he care about what is happening around him with this political theatre."
"That is not the point, Callum."
"I believe it is, My Lord, it is the very core of the matter." Callum said as he sat on the settee near Hood, sitting sideways a bit to look at the older man fully, "When I found him, My Lord, adrift onboard that Dutch merchant, the crew, his uncle, had all been brutally murdered, dismembered, he alone survived by the actions of his uncle in hiding him. He is an orphan, My Lord, his own mother rejecting him and sending him away, that’s why he was on that ship. This boy has no formal training in the ways of his supposed station, nor does he even want it, My Lord. And here we are, going to try and force him to do something that he really has no idea about. We would use him in a political maneuver that would end in what, continued destruction, the deaths of how many more?" Callum asked, shaking his head a bit, "No, My Lord, I beg you, we need to find another way in this. This boy is an innocent, even if he is noble in birth. He is no soldier nor diplomat of any type, My Lord."
"Your words seem to indicate that he is a diplomat, Callum. You foster him, and he has swayed you." Hood said, raising an eyebrow.
"No, My Lord, I beg to differ. I see him in a different light that's all, as a parent that sees a young boy, who is very frightened and is very much alone in this world." Callum said and it gave Hood pause, making him sit back a bit on the settee. Martha entered the parlor, carrying a tray with coffee. She approached Hood and stopped before him, giving him a slight courtesy as she offered what was on the tray that she held. Hood looked at her and took a cup.
"Thank you, Madame." Hood said, cup in hand. Martha curtsied again, then backed up a few steps, "Callum, I will tell you that I have spoken with Lord Eldon, the Lord High Chancellor over this matter. It has been decided that we need to take this boy and try to unite the nations of the Continent to end this with Napoleon."
"I understand that, My Lord, but can you not see my point in this?"
"Yes, I can your point, Callum, but I'm afraid that I have to ignore it." Hood said as he looked directly at Callum, "There will be a detail of Regulars that will be coming, sent by His Grace, The Duke. They should be arriving by this time tomorrow. They will escort the boy to London where he will be turned over to The Lord High Chancellor and the Regents."
"Under the direction of Upton, My Lord?" Callum asked, giving Hood a narrow eyed look.
"What do you know of him really?"
"Everything to this point, My Lord, shows that he is not to be trusted and has his own agenda. You said so yourself. He seeks to be the complete power, My Lord, more than likely will want to replace Napoleon, taking England along with him. Is that what we are going to let happen, My Lord, trading one tyrant for another after sacrificing this boy?"
"Be careful, Callum, that is bordering on treason." Hood said.
"I don't think so, My Lord. We are all free born Englishmen, Upton would take that away, you know this to be true." Callum said flatly.
"My hands are tied, Callum." Hood said.
"I understand your position, My Lord, and I can sympathize with you. My hands are not tied however." Callum said and Hood went a bit wide eyed, "The Guardsmen are here, My Lord, they have been seen watching us."
"They have not acted?"
"Not as of yet, but my companions and I are ready to meet them fully if they do." Callum said flatly, almost with a growl.
"Yes, I was told of your taking the boy back from them. An impressive feat." Hood said.
"Then you know what I will do, My Lord, in order to protect this young boy. What your suggesting, My Lord, is wrong, you know this to be true." Callum said.
"That is beside the point, Callum, my hands are tied as I have said. It is done." Hood said, "But there is another matter that I need to discuss with you."
"The issue in the Caribbean, My Lord?" Callum asked, Hood nodded his head.
"Yes. I ask of you to undertake this, Callum. This renegade pirate is growing in strength and needs to be dealt with. You, with your abilities can deal with it and him. You have demonstrated that over and over again." Hood said.
"I thank you, My Lord, for your confidence in me, but I am not,..."
"Callum, I beg that you not delay in responding to this request that I make. Time is of the essence." Hood said.
"It will come with a price, My Lord." Callum said flatly. Thomas almost gasped, Christian stepped forward and put a hand on Thomas' arm. Hood exhaled through his nose as he looked at Callum.
"I thought as much." Hood said, "Before you belabor the point, let me guess,...you want the price to be that of the boy."
"Exactly, My Lord, you know me too well." Callum said.
"You are a man of deep feeling, Callum, and of great compassion. Fitzwarren has said that it will see you undone." Hood said as he held out the coffee cup. Martha stepped forward, letting Hood set it on the tray, “Thank you, Madame.” Hood said to her receiving a nod in reply. Hood looked back at Callum, “Your price is too high, Callum. The boy is required to be brought to Lord Eldon.”
“Then, My Lord, along with protest, I cannot undertake this mission to the Caribbean.” Callum said, his face was like stone. Hood realized that there was no changing his mind.
“Do not test me, sir.” Hood said flatly.
“I am not trying to, My Lord, I beg for you to understand. Perhaps if you were to meet this boy, speak with him, then you would understand further.” Callum said.
“Perhaps you are not hearing what I am telling you, Callum. My hands are tied in this matter. My meeting the boy will not change anything. He is now a Regent of the Crown. He will be taken by the Regulars when they arrive, and they will take him by force, if necessary.”
“Then I might as well turn him over to the Guardsmen right now and be done with it, My Lord.” Callum said, becoming angry. Hood saw the look in Callum’s eye and narrowed his look at him.
“I would not advise that.” Hood said.
“Are they not acting for Lord Eldon, My Lord? They are here under direction from Parliament are they not?” Callum asked as he folded his arms over his chest.
“Again you test me, Callum. You are very close to arrest.” Hood said.
“I have been arrested before, My Lord.” Callum said flatly.
“Quintan.” Thomas said softly. Callum did not look in his direction but continued to stare at Hood.
“My Lord, if I may?” Christian asked as he stepped around Thomas. Hood looked at him.
“Who are you, sir?” Hood asked.
“I apologize for my manners, My Lord,” Callum said as he looked at Christian and then back at Hood, “may I present Captain Christian Holt, Royal Marines, Attaché to General Emery.”
“Holt,…” Hood said as he looked Christian up and down for a moment, “Holt? Was your father,…?”
“Colonel Archibald Holt, My Lord.” Christian said.
“I knew your father, young man. A fine officer, fearless in battle. I am sorry for your loss.” Hood said.
“Many thanks, My Lord. But if I may, my father was the Ninth Earl of Cambridge. Since his passing,” Christian looked at Callum for a moment and then back at Hood, “I am now the Tenth Earl of Cambridge.” Christian said and Hood looked at him a bit differently, “I tell you this, My Lord, as a matter of point in speaking to the boys’ behalf and to Quintan’s position in this. I have opted to ignore becoming the Earl of Cambridge as I feel the same way as the boy, I want nothing to do with it, nothing whatsoever.”
“That is your choice, Captain, not his.” Hood said.
“But why, My Lord?” Christian asked, “He is not a citizen of our country and yet we are going to tell him what he must do, when, and how. And to that point, My Lord, what banner will he be carrying when he is to unite the nations of the Continent? Will it be ours, My Lord?”
“That is not open for discussion, Captain.” Hood said flatly.
“A good point, Christian.” Thomas said as he stood beside Christian looking at Hood, “If this boy is to be taken and used for our purposes solely, My Lord, then we are no better than Napoleon himself, or the King of Spain.”
“Have a care, Lieutenant.” Hood said.
“I am as loyal an officer, My Lord, as any other and have followed orders blindly in the past, but this is wrong, and leaves a very bitter taste in my mouth and sickens my stomach as well. Quintan is right in this. I beg you, My Lord, please see the point in this no matter if your hands are tied.” Thomas said. Hood frowned and looked at Callum.
“It seems that I am outnumbered and outflanked, Callum. You are quite the tactician, my compliments, sir. What would have me do?” Hood asked.
“I would ask that you meet this boy to further understand our point, My Lord. He is no threat to us or our way of life. As I said, he is but an orphan and is lost. I rescued him from his doomed ship and am responsible for him. I gave him my solemn promise that I would protect him and see him home. The latter has changed, he cannot go home for it would mean certain death for him, that much is certain.” Callum said.
“Then what is to be done with him?” Hood asked.
“We will find a place for him, a place of safety. Far from politics, and give him the chance that he deserves to grow up and lead a normal and peaceful life.” Callum said, “All I ask of you, My Lord, is to give me time to see it done.”
“Time? Such as the time that you asked of Captain Arvin to assist you in sailing away?” Hood asked and Callum went a bit wide eyed, “Yes, I knew about that. Do not blame Captain Arvin, Callum, he did not betray you in the least. In fact, he remains quite loyal to you. I had a very difficult time in coming here without him as a matter of fact. He was most insistent that he join me, but I prevailed in refusing him.” Hood said as he looked around the room at all of the faces about him and then focused back on Callum, “So, tell me how much time do you require?”
“A matter of a couple of days, My Lord.” Callum said as he brightened a little.
“Will he remain in England?” Hood asked.
“No, My Lord.” Callum said.
“Surely not to the Continent?”
“No, My Lord.” Callum said. Hood looked puzzled for a moment, “It would be best if you did not know, My Lord, so you could not be implicated in anything that may come of it. I will bear the full responsibility of it all.”
“Very generous of you, Callum, and thoughtful as well. I need no protection however.” Hood said.
“I beg to differ, My Lord. This Upton fellow,…I don’t think he’s above it, My Lord.” Callum said in almost a whisper.
“You may be right in that.” Hood said. He stood up from the settee, Callum followed him up, “I will take my leave of you now. I will give you the time that you require and will stop the Regulars from coming as well. I am meeting with His Grace tomorrow at Buckingham before we are to see the King.”
“If you please, My Lord, give His Grace my deepest regards.” Callum said. Hood nodded.
“Yes, of course. He has spoken of his relationship with you, Callum. His opinion of you is quite well known by a great number, including Upton.” Hood said.
“Then we seem to be on even ground, My Lord, this Upton and myself.”
“I cannot stress enough how dangerous he is, Callum.” Hood said. Callum flashed a look over at Carson and gave him a slight nod. Carson moved off and into the small hallway for a moment. Hood shook Callum’s hand and nodded at the others in the parlor as Carson emerged back into the parlor, a young boy in front of him with sandy blonde hair and bright eyes. Hood stopped and looked at him carefully.
“My Lord, may I present Master Hans Pederson.” Callum said. Hood looked at Callum and then the boy again.
“It cannot be him.” Hood said with an almost startled look on his face.
“I assure you, My Lord, it is him.” Callum said and Hood looked at Callum full on.
“I was told he was much older, almost a young man. What you present before me is as you say, a mere boy.” Hood said.
“Another deception it seems on Upton’s part, My Lord. I assure you this is the very boy that was rescued from the Dutch merchant. He is the one that told us what his name is after much coaxing and calming I might add. The shock of what he went through, My Lord.” Callum said and looked at the boy, “Hans, would you come and meet our guest?”
“Ja, Keptein.” The boy said and looked a bit nervous seeing the big older man in full dress uniform, his sash and medals on his breast. He stepped forward the few steps and Callum put a hand on the young shoulder.
“Hans Pederson, may I present Lord Samuel Hood. He is my commanding officer, Hans. He is not here to harm you in any way, it is alright.” Callum said softly. The boy slowly put out his hand. Hood looked down at him and took his hand gently in his giving it a firm but gentle grip.
“Your Highness, I am honored.” Hood said with a slight bow.
“Thank…you.” Hans said with a brief nod. He looked up at Callum for a moment and then back at Hood. Hood let the smaller hand go and looked at Callum.
“It would seem that I was very mistaken, Callum, in a number of things.” Hood said. There was an audible sigh from those in the room, “This boy cannot be used as they are saying that he must. What else do you require of me, Callum?”
“Merely the time required, My Lord.” Callum said.
“Fair enough. You shall have it, as I have said.”
“My deepest thanks, My Lord.” Callum said with a slight bow toward Hood. Hood turned toward the door. Carson appeared seemingly out of thin air, hat in hand, opening the door for Hood. Hood took his hat and turned to look back at Callum.
“I want you to think about this mission as well, Callum. You will have command of the squadron as I said at our last meeting. Think it over, but also time is running out. Take who you will with you. I need your decision soon.”
“As you say, My Lord.” Callum said with another slight bow. Hood looked toward Martha.
“I thank you for your hospitality, dear lady. Good day to you all.” Hood said. He turned and started down the path toward the gate and the waiting carriage. The Sentries followed single file, following Hood through the gate, the footman holding the door of the carriage, Hood climbing in and going out of sight inside the carriage. The Sentries placing their muskets on the top of the carriage and climbed up on the back rack and held station as the carriage took off down the road with the crack of a snap whip. Callum and his party stood around the door of the house and watched and then slowly broke up, Callum remained and watched the carriage go out of sight past Harbroughs on the road. He turned and went inside the house, closing the door behind him.
“Shall I pack your trunk?” Dustin asked, stopping Callum in mid-step.
“Oh my, here we go.” Thomas said softly, rolling his eyes as he turned away from what was coming. He pushed against Christian to have him move toward the kitchen and the back door. Christian wanted to stay but thought better of it and walked into the kitchen. Martha was going for the stove.
“What do you mean?” Callum asked.
“His summons.” Dustin said flatly, “He was very clear about it, don’t you think? When are you leaving?”
“I thought we had discussed this in the stable?” Callum asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“Not entirely.” Dustin said as he heard the backdoor close.
“If you’ll excuse me, sir.” Carson said, ushering Hans out of the room. The only other person there besides Dustin and Callum was Henry, who was standing in the doorway of the kitchen watching the two men squaring off in the parlor.
“Are you trying to be rid of me?” Callum asked.
“Not in the least. It’s just that I know you, Quintan, I know what you are thinking. All you can see right now is that deck under your feet and the wind at your back as you sail away.” Dustin said.
“You know what it means to me. You shared that life yourself. You,…” Callum started to say but Dustin cut him off with a calm and cool voice.
“You are such an idiot at times, Quintan Callum.” Dustin said and Callum was shocked by what he said, “The only reason that I shared that life was because of you. And now here you are thinking of going off again and so soon. So, I will ask again, shall I pack your trunk for you?” Dustin asked and then waited for an answer. Callum was too shocked to give it. Finally, Dustin shook his head at him, “I see that you are undecided as to when, so I will tend to my other chores for now. You let me know when you decide. I can help you with it, or do it for you, it is your choice.” Dustin let the words sink in for a moment, turned and walked toward the back door, “Come, Henry, we have horses to tend to.”
Callum was at the kitchen windows, staring out of them across the gentle grass covered knoll toward the pasture. He could not see Dustin or Henry but knew they were up at the new barn as the horses were wandering around it as it was being built. Callum was lost in his thoughts over what had been said when Lord Hood was here but a short time ago. Dustin’s words had cut into Callum worse than any blade that he had ever felt till now. He knew he was bleeding inside of himself, inside of his heart. What was he to do, he asked himself. His love of the sea spurred him, called to him so. But there was also Dustin and the love he had for him. Henry was a concern as well, but after his return there was a rift between them, even though it was starting to close, it was still there.
“You should really go over and see what they are doing rather than standing there at the window. At this rate you might bore a hole in the glass with your staring.” Martha said as she was working some dough at the counter. Callum pulled himself up and cleared his head. He did not look at her.
“He doesn’t want me there. Neither of them do.” Callum said softly as he continued to stare out the windows.
“They really do, you know.” Martha said as she side glanced a look at Callum, “They, like you, are just too proud to say it.” Martha said and kneaded the dough a bit more, “You men and your mindful pride,” She muttered softly, “It’s a wonder anything ever gets done the way you all are with each other.”
“I think I will take a walk.” Callum said.
“Would you ask Thomas and Christian if they are joining us for supper?” Martha asked. Callum stopped and looked at her.
“I wasn’t going to go over there.”
“Where were you walking to then?” Martha asked as she looked at him.
“I don’t know, maybe up the road a bit.” Callum said.
“I see.” She said softly.
“I suppose I could walk over there for you and find out.”
“Do not do so if it will cause you distress, Quintan. I know you and Dustin are at odds right now, all of us know that.” Martha said as she turned away from her dough to look at him. Their eyes met as she stepped up to him, “Quintan, listen to me and take it to heart. You have created something here at the Cross, something that is wonderful. You have created a home, not only for myself but for Dustin and Henry both. They love you very much, even though it doesn’t seem so right now. They are both hurt and scared about losing you in some sailing of yours. I don’t know what this is all about in this mission, nor do I care to know.” Martha said as she came up to him even closer, “You know you don’t have to go, but I can see that you want to. It’s still in you, this wanderlust of the sea that you have. As Dustin said the other night, you’re a sailor and always will be, it’s in your blood.”
“I suppose it is.” Callum whispered as he looked down at her, “My heart is breaking.”
“I know, my boy, I know. I wish there was something I could do to ease you. It’s not like sewing up a wound or a torn shirt.” Martha said and put her hands on his chest and then pat it once. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead and then straightened.
“You are a saint for understanding, my dear. I love you very much.” Callum whispered.
“I wouldn’t count me as a saint, it just comes with years, my boy. You will learn over time.” Martha said and smiled, “And I love you as well. Now, go on you scamp, let me get to my baking.”
“Alright.” Callum whispered, “Just so you know, I will take your words to heart and will always carry them with me. I thank you.”
Callum walked across the pasture toward the new barn. As he walked slowly along he could see the horses milling about. The sounds of construction were coming from the barn as the frame of the roof was going up. He could see men working and then he saw Dustin in the midst of them pointing at some point of the framing. He could not hear what was being said, but he could see the men looking at what he was pointing at. Callum shook his head a bit as he stopped to watch. It was clear that Dustin was making a change to what was going on with the barn. And then Callum saw Bockman. He and Dustin began to talk to one another as Callum started walking toward them again.
“I see your point in that, Mr. Perkins, however I do not agree, sir. If we were to bring it up even higher as you say it might weaken the roof against the wind not to mention the weight of the snow when it comes.” Bockman said.
“I do not agree, Mr. Bockman. You see, it is like the rigging of a ship that I am speaking of. If you were to cross brace it at three points in every rafter of the roof, it will hold I’m sure.” Dustin said. Callum stopped just outside the long wall of the barn at a wide doorway. He could see the Dustin, Bockman, and the workmen were standing on some type of scaffolding inside the barn.
“As I said, Mr. Perkins, I can see your point, sir, but with the material that is already here, sir,…” Bockman was pleading and Dustin folded his arms and shook his head.
“That should not stop you, Mr. Bockman. We discussed this already, and you agreed that the roof should have been at the height I am speaking of. If you are short of material, Mr. Bockman, simply have Mr. Daultry bring out more to do what was agreed upon, that is all I am saying.” Dustin said and was very firm in his tone without being nasty.
“As you say, Mr. Perkins.” Bockman conceded to what Dustin was saying.
“Thank you, Mr. Bockman. I know that Quintan will be pleased.” Dustin said giving Bockman a nod. He disappeared from Callum’s sight as he was apparently climbing down the scaffold. Callum waited in silence and then saw Dustin come out of the wide doorway, he stopped short as he saw Callum.
“Very impressive.” Callum said.
“Just following your example.” Dustin said.
“I did not know you were such an expert in building now.”
“I’m not. I just know what was designed and agreed upon.” Dustin said flatly.
“I see. I must say you handled that very well.”
“Thank you. We have had words before while this barn has been constructed. It is nothing new to deal with it.” Dustin said. He looked at Callum seeing something different in his manner at the moment, “Have you decided yet?”
“No, I have not. I wanted to discuss it further with you if that’s alright. It does not have to be at this moment if you are busy.” Callum said.
“I handled him alright, so I think I can handle you just as easily.” Dustin said and crossed his arms. Callum narrowed his eyes a bit at him.
“I think I will wait until you curb your attitude a bit. I do not think it will be a good conversation in your present state of mind.” Callum said, turning and started to walk toward Harbroughs. Dustin dropped his arms and stepped after him.
“Quintan,…wait.” Dustin said as he stepped quickly to catch him. He went around him and stood in front of him, stopping Callum, “I am sorry. I don’t know what has come over me lately.”
“I do and deep down, I think you do as well.” Callum said. He gave Dustin a brief smile, “As I said, I think I will wait a while to discuss it further with you. In the meantime, I have been asked by the lady of the house to see if there will be others joining us for supper. If you will excuse me.” Callum said and went around Dustin leaving him there in the tall grass alone. Dustin hung his head a bit letting Callum walk off from him.
Callum knocked on the back door of the house known as Harbroughs. He smiled as the door opened, Thomas was standing there holding the door.
“Quintan. Do come in.” Thomas said.
“Thank you. I don’t wish to disturb you but I was sent to ask if you and Christian were joining us for supper this evening.” Callum said as he stepped into the kitchen, which was a blur of activity. Carson was moving about as he seemed to be cooking. Hans was there and was helping him as well. Christian was doing his best to help out as well as Carson was directing the entire group in this organized chaos. Callum was just staring at them all and they were not looking at him, but focused on their tasks before them. Thomas came close to him.
“Actually, I was about to go over to the Cross.” Thomas said in Callum’s ear.
“Yes. Carson had this wonderful idea and has set about to get it done. We were going to have you all here for supper this evening. We have this immense dining room here that needs to be used you know. It is going to waste and Christian and I have been wanting to do something like this. Carson just provided the reason, that’s all.” Thomas said.
“I see.” Callum said and leaned back a bit into Thomas, “You do remember his cooking, do you not?” Callum asked in a whisper.
“I do.” Thomas whispered in reply, “However he has assured me that he will do his utmost to put out the best meal he has ever made. Apparently there was a bit of a discussion between he and Martha about cooking abilities and I think he feels that he has something to prove.”
“Is that so?” Callum whispered, “Well, this should be very interesting to say the least. Shall I inform the lady of the house then?”
“I think I would like to have that pleasure, if you don’t mind.” Thomas said.
“No, I don’t mind at all. In fact, it might be better coming from you rather than from me. She would not refuse you, but she might argue with me over it.” Callum said and smirked.
“I can certainly see that. Shall we go then?” Thomas asked.
“I think we’d best before we get roped into helping them.” Callum said and raised his eyebrows. He turned and went for the door, Thomas right behind him. They went out of the house and started toward the Cross going across the gravel toward the fence that now surrounded the drive, “I was going to say, I am impressed with this fence that surrounds the house.” Callum said as they walked side by side.
“Yes, Christian’s idea, well his and Owen’s actually. Christian did not want the horses walking right up to the back door and felt it was necessary.” Thomas said as they went through the small gate, latching it behind them.
“I agree.” Callum said, “I have had one or two of them at the back door at the Cross once or twice to meet me as I went out. Now with the new barn going up, they seem to waiting around it rather than at the Cross itself.”
“I was going to ask you, is everything alright?” Thomas asked as he saw Dustin at the barn as they walked together. Callum did not look at him, but was looking down at the grass instead as they kept walking.
“What do you mean?” Callum asked.
“I mean you and Dustin? I can tell he is upset about this possible mission. Are you seriously thinking of going?” Thomas asked.
“Why not? I have been asked as you know, you were there. I am no farmer, Thomas, you know that as well. I am out of my element in this. I need a deck and a good wind, the snap of canvas overhead.” Callum said softly.
“I understand, Quintan. I feel the same way as you, but there is someone else to think of in this.” Thomas said as they neared the stone fence and the opening in it.
“Dustin? He’ll understand before I…” Callum said and felt a hand on his arm stopping him. He looked at Thomas.
“It is not Dustin that I speak of. It is Henry.” Thomas said with a serious look on his face.
“Thomas, you have never really cared for children before.” Callum said.
“He has grown on me, Quintan. Just as much as he has grown on you, if not more. That boy will be lost without you. You are all he speaks of.” Thomas said.
“What do you mean?” Callum asked.
“He is over at Harbroughs right now in the kitchen with the others.” Thomas said.
“I didn’t see him there.”
“No, when you knocked on the door and he heard you, he ducked out of sight, I saw him. He was standing next to the cupboard behind the door.”
“Why would he,…?”
“He was speaking of you to all of us. He was telling us of the day you brought him home with you with the mare. He was going on and on about it until he heard you knock and your voice.” Thomas said. Callum was looking back at Harbroughs now, hearing Thomas speak but was looking for Henry, “You know what he means to you, Quintan, but you are far more important to him than you know.”
“Will you excuse me, Thomas?” Callum asked and did not wait for a reply from but walked off back the way they had just come together. Thomas stood there and watched Callum walk away and as he went, his pace picked up until he was trotting and then was almost running toward Harbroughs. Thomas smiled at his friend, his Captain, and shook his head a bit, “Show him, Quintan, tell him.” Thomas said to himself. He turned and walked toward the Cross across the grass and up the knoll on the path toward the back of the house.
Dustin watched Callum go by the barn as he trotted along. Dustin smiled to himself knowing that Thomas had said something to Callum, knowing where Callum was going as he reached the gate, knowing what he was going after. Dustin pumped more water into the trough for the horses.
Callum opened the back door of Harbroughs and saw Henry on the other side of the table that was there. Christian, Carson, and Hans watched as Callum came quickly forward toward the small boy. Henry was wide eyed and stood frozen in place as Callum came up to him. Callum put his hands under Henry’s arms and picked him up, they were at the same level now as Callum held him out there. Henry was motionless as he was held and then Callum pulled him in and wrapped his arms around the little body, holding him tight to him and rocked him a bit.
“I love you, Henry.” Callum whispered. Little hands clenched and held onto Callum as the others watched father and son in a gentle moment.
“I love you, Papa.” Henry said softly but they all heard it. Christian wiped a tear from his eye as he looked at Hans, the tears were streaming down his face as he stared at Callum and Henry in their moment, wanting what his friend Henry had so bad, a father’s love.