Callum was walking up the road from the village toward the Cross, seeing it coming into full view as he had been in the village sending his letter off by special messenger to Lord Hood at the Admiralty. He reached the front gate and went through it, some of the horses were out on the front of the knoll slowly grazing about, lifting their heads as he came in, closing the gate behind him. He went up the path to the front door and went into the house.
He heard the soft clatter in the kitchen, the chinking of plates together as he went through the parlor in that direction, no one being here in the room. He came into the kitchen, seeing Martha at the dry sink, finishing the morning dishes. He went over to the stove, pulling a cup from the shelf and poured coffee for himself, she only giving him a side glance. He spied the tin that she kept on the sill and reached over and took it from its place and carried it to the table and sat down, opening the tin after setting his coffee on the table. He leaned a bit and pulled his purse from the pants pocket, opening it up and put notes into the tin and then closed the lid.
He sat in silence as he sipped at his coffee at the table as he had not said a word to anyone in the house before he had gone into the village, they all knowing what he was going to do, to post the letter, and as Dustin said to him when Callum was leaving the bedroom, to go off and do that one thing which would seal his fate. Callum tried to ignore it, what he had said, that fact that Dustin might be right in, his fate being sealed. He could not explain it further nor would he try to make them understand what he felt about all of this. It frustrated him. Callum looked up as the back door opened.
“Good morning, Quintan.” Tomlin said.
“Would you care for some coffee?” Callum asked.
“No, thank you. I have had mine already.” Tomlin said, Callum held out a hand, indicating a chair next to him, Tomlin sat down in it, “I came over to finish our talk from last night.”
“If you’d like.”
“Have you posted the letter?” Tomlin asked.
“Yes, I just returned a few minutes ago, actually. Need I ask how Christian is this morning?”
“He was still sleeping when I left the house. It was a very restless night for him, even with all that drink in him. He was having frightful dreams it seems. He would talk in his sleep and thrash about as almost in a fit.”
“Hmmm, Dustin told me of the letter from General Emery when I returned here last night. Is that the major cause of his distress, you think?”
“Everything seems to be compounding on him suddenly.” Tomlin said quietly, “He is concerned about being shipped out somewhere abroad now.”
“Dustin had also mentioned that as well, to either Greece or Libya.” Callum said, seeing Martha coming toward them from the dry sink. She came up next to Tomlin, putting a hand to his shoulder, Tomlin lowered his head a bit.
“Does he really think so, Thomas?” Martha asked softly.
“Apparently there was talk of it at the Garrison before he was assigned to Dover under Captain Anders.” Tomlin said just as quiet as he had said before, “I just don’t know. I have not seen him like this in our time together and it is becoming very concerning to me.”
“He said he does not have to report until months end, that’s a fortnight from now. Thomas, perhaps you should reconsider in going with me, in case he is sent abroad. I know how things are in Greece right now.”
“As do I, Quintan.” Tomlin said, lifting his head and staring at him with his intense eyes, “I gave you my word, and I will stand by it. Hopefully, he and I can begin to resolve his issues before we leave. So, tell me, what of this other plan of yours?”
////// ////// ////// ////// //////
“I hope that you like this, Grandfather, what I’m preparing for this evenings supper.” Dustin said as he joined the old man and Andrew at the table. The old man looked over at the young man and smiled softly at him.
“My boy, if breakfast was any hint at all, I am certain that it will be simply perfect.” The old man said, “I think that you have missed out on your true calling, Dustin, I had no idea that you could be such an excellent cook.”
“Indeed, I for one was most impressed with breakfast.” Andrew said looking over at Dustin.
“Thank you.” Dustin smiled at both of them, “I have thought about it a great deal. And when I started to cook this morning, I simply had a thought of how I would like it to taste, rather than what we have become accustomed to.”
“Quite.” The old man rolled his eyes, “Lackluster and bland in other words.” Dustin smiled and shook his head.
“Grandfather, you know she means well.”
“Possibly.” The old man said, “It is a wonder to me that I have not starved to death as of yet. However, what you said to me about taking over for her, would you want to do that?”
“I suppose I could. I haven’t ever given it much thought really. As you know, in being here, there are not too many things to occupy my time, I seem to be idle mostly. If I did take over the house from her, I would be much more active for certain.”
“Then perhaps you might give it more thought and consideration. You know very well that our needs here are quite simple. I will not pressure you to do it however.” The old man said.
“Yes, but if I did, she would lose her income from it. I know not of what goes on with them in their household or their situation,…”
“You let me worry about that. You just think it over first and then decide either way before we act on anything else.” The old man said and pat the soft young hand on the table next to his, “I think I am going for a bit of a stroll down to the stable. I need a bit of air before it starts to rain.” The old man said and rose slowly from the table, getting his legs and went to the back door, going out, closing the door behind him leaving Dustin and Andrew at the table alone.
“Is it going to rain?” Andrew asked looking out the windows of the kitchen.
“I’m certain it will. He has always been able to tell as he can read the sky so well. It must be from all his years at sea.” Dustin said as he looked at Andrew, “Are you alright?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”
“I thought that maybe this morning, with Robert,...”
“Dustin,” Andrew thought for a moment, then looked him in his soft brown eyes, giving a slight smile, “you know him far better than I. I trust in what you said about him.”
“And what of last night?”
“Last night,…was the most wonderful night of my life. I thank you for that.” Andrew grinned.
“You’re welcome.” Dustin grinned from ear to ear himself, “I can only hope that it might happen again?”
“It could, if you wished.”
“I do wish it.” Dustin said softly, losing his grin, reaching out his hand across the table, Andrew reaching out as well, their fingers touching one another.
“Perhaps,…now, maybe?” Andrew asked, Dustin jumped up from the table as did Andrew, both running quickly for the stairs.
////// ////// ////// ////// //////
“Robert,” The old man said as he came into the stable, seeing his oldest grandson working on an old stall wall, pushing a board of it back into its original place. Robert looked up seeing the old man there, “what are you doing, my lad?”
“I was just doing a few quick things here, Grandfather, setting a few things right before having to break out any tools. Should you be out in this wind?”
“Oh,…old sailors don’t mind a bit of wind, we welcome it actually.” The old man smiled, “Did you by chance happen to see your father yet?”
“I saw him off in the distance while I was behind the stable looking it over, he was going out to the barn.”
“I see. I wonder how things are over there this morning.” The old man said, the young man looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Would you care for me to go sniff about and let you know?”
“Robert, I wouldn’t ask you to go and spy for me.” The old man flashed his eyes.
“You crafty old thing,” The young man came over to his grandfather, “you know it’s driving you mad, this not knowing. How about if I just go over and see about Father,…out in the barn? You know, just to see and pay my respects?” He winked at the old man and gave him a long look.
“Well, if it’s just to see how he is,…” The old man and was looking around the stable slowly, “simply out of concern.”
“Yes,…out of concern.” Robert grinned out of the corner of his mouth, “I’ll return and let you know,…how he is doing this morning.”
“If you think that best.” The old man was looking up at the ceiling of the stable.
“I’ll be back in a short bit.” The young man said, patting a shoulder of the old man gently and walked out chuckling to himself.
The old man went over to the open area of the stable to the left of the half doors, the old shutters rattled a bit from the stiffening wind outside, the dust from the old straw piled up in various piles blew off a bit as slight gusts of wind came through the cracks of the shutters, giving a musty smell that drifted through the air.The old man stood there, remembering all those years ago, when he and his companions were taking up a brief residence together out here, sleeping in piles of straw such as this after the great storm had forced them all together out here. He smiled in remembering it, the closeness that they had all shared. He missed it so but also thought, he wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, what was done and shared here. He cleared his throat, turning and went toward the half doors. He stopped as he reached them, looking back over at the pile again, in his minds’ eye, he could picture Dustin lying there in the straw, their very first night together, naked in the candlelight, waiting for him to come to him. So young, so much love that was slowly revealing itself to each of them as they came together in that first night so long ago.
The old man went out of the stable and into the wind. He took a few steps and looked skyward, seeing the clouds deepening in their dark grey color. He sniffed at the wind that was on his face and could smell the scent of it, the rain that was approaching. He went up the path toward the house and reached the flagstone. One of the dogs was there, thumping his tail as he approached. He smiled and stopped, hearing the dog give out a soft short whine to him.
“Alright, my lad, you can come in and get out of this.” The old man said and opened the door, letting the dog go first, the wind blowing in a bit before he could close the door behind him. The dog went under the table and settled himself, watching the old man take his cup and went to the stove, pouring a bit more coffee, smelling it, the rich aroma before lifting it to his lips to sip it. He thought he heard something for a moment and stood still, then he heard it again, he turned and saw Andrew’s notebook and pencil on the table. The sound he heard was unmistakable to him and it drew a brief smile to his lips, hearing the long moan overhead, he knew at that moment what it was, sipped his coffee and went to the table and sat down, the dog moving a bit and then settling at his feet. He lifted his eyes toward the ceiling for a moment and then looked down at the dog, and cocked his head a bit.
“Oh to be young once again.” He said to the dog and smiled as he pat the dog on his lifted head.
////// ////// ////// ////// //////
“Grandfather, may I get you something?” Dustin asked as he stood near the table after he came into the kitchen.
“No, I’m fine, thank you.” The old man looked up at the young man, who was clearly happy and seemed to be almost glowing. The old man smiled briefly at him, “Is Andrew joining us shortly?”
“Yes?’ The old man asked without looking at the young man.
“Grandfather,…” The young man closed his eyes for a moment and sighed softly.
“Dustin, join me here for a moment, please.” The old man said and the young man sat at the end near the back door after he came around him, “I want to tell you something.” The young man was looking down slightly as the old man took his hand in his on the table top, “I have never seen you look happier as you do this day. You have nothing to hang your head about. I understand what is going on between you two and I have to say, I have no problem with it, as long as you are happy, the both of you.” The old man’s words made the young man lift his head.
“I did not mean to,…”
“What? Be human?” The old man asked, and lifted his brow, “May I ask, do you care for him?” Dustin looked at him, the question had surprised him a bit.
“I do. But, I am a bit confused by what I feel as well. I’ve never felt like this before.”
“I can understand that.” The old man said and squeezed the soft hand a bit, “In time, you will.” The old man leaned over a bit, “He is quite striking, isn’t he?”
“Indeed he is.” The young man rolled his eyes a bit and the old man smiled wide.
“Looks aren’t everything though, it’s what is in his heart that matters most, remember that.” The old man said quietly.
“I will, thank you.” Dustin said and saw movement and then looked over, Andrew was standing there in the doorway, with slightly wide eyes.
“Ah, Andrew, there you are.” The old man said as he looked as well.
“Am I interrupting, sir?” Andrew asked as he looked a bit nervous.
“No, I was just wondering if you wished to continue or would you like to give it a rest for a bit.”
“No, sir, I’d like to continue if you would.”
“Alright.” The old man said, Andrew sitting down at the table, picking up his pencil, giving Dustin a brief smile, they both blushed toward one another for a brief moment. The old man was shifting his eyes back and forth between them, smiling only to himself.
“Uh, Thomas Tomlin was here at the table, you were discussing Christian Holt with him.” Andrew said as he read his shorthand.
“Yes. We talked for a bit longer about the coming sailing. In thinking about it now, I think we both were secretly looking forward to going back to sea even with the great danger we faced, but didn’t speak of it openly.” The old man paused for a moment, thinking it over a bit, “I finally got up from the table and we went out of the house with Thomas. I went in search of Dustin, to discuss some matters with him before we were to leave,…”
“Do you want some help?” Callum asked as he saw Dustin emptying another water bucket into a tub.
“If you wish.” Dustin said, looking up, seeing Tomlin walking down the knoll toward the stone wall, “Are you through with speaking to Thomas?”
“Yes, we finally had our talk.” Callum said.
“Did he happen to mention how Christian was this morning?”
“Apparently it was a rather bad night for Christian. Thomas said that he must have been dreaming all night, as he tossed and turned and was quite restless.”
“I’m sure he has a great many things on his mind that are weighing heavily on him.”
“I’m sure he does.” Callum said quietly as he picked an empty pail to go up to the pump. Dustin put a hand on Callum’s arm, stopping him.
“He is not the only one. You wish to say something, don’t you?” Dustin asked.
“I have said it many times that I could never hide anything from you. You always seem to know beforehand.” Callum smiled briefly.
“You can be easy to read, as I have said myself as well, those many times.” Dustin took his hand away, dropping the empty pail to the grass. His eyes welled and he threw his arms about Callum’s waist, holding him tight.
“I will miss you terribly, Quintan.” Dustin said softly, dropping a tear from his eye, “Oh, God, I can’t seem to lose this feeling that I have.” Dustin said as he buried his face into Callum’s shoulder. Callum dropped his own pail to the grass and wrapped his arms about Dustin’s shoulders.
“Shh, shh,…now come on, none of this now.” Callum said as he tightened his grip a bit, “I made you a promise, didn’t I? I fully intend to keep my word to you.”
“I know you do.” Dustin said as he sniffled and pulled back, reaching up a hand, wiping his eyes, Callum had his hands on Dustin’s shoulders, looking at the soft beautiful face in front of him.
“There is something that I need you to do for me while I am gone.”
“What is that?” Dustin asked.
“When I was in the village this morning, I went over and looked at the livery and its progress and spoke to Owen as well. I secured his services for the trip to Portsmouth. It would seem that the livery is almost completed now in its reconstruction. What I need you to do is oversee the raising of the barn in the pasture where we talked about. Owen said that he would take care of the fences and the front gates that need repairing at Harbroughs. Can you do that for us?”
“Yes, my love, us. This is as much your home as it is mine, and with the addition of this herd, the barn as you know becomes a bit more urgent with its construction.”
“I can see to it, yes.”
“Excellent.” Callum smiled, “It would be a wonderful thing to come home to, seeing it near completed and in being readied for full use.”
“But what of its plan or design?”
“Well, I think that possibly you and Christian can come up with something that would work out, don’t you?”
“Yes, it might help to take his mind off his other matters until he has to leave, as well as mine.”
“Wonderful. You see, all will be well then.” Callum smiled, “I will leave my purse upstairs. I have put money in Martha’s tin for the house and its needs, she saw me do that this morning. The barn and its costs as well as the fences should be covered with what remains in my purse upstairs. If not, go to the branch in Portsmouth of the Bank of England. Your name is on the account that I established when we were there. All you need do is sign your name on the draft for what you might need and it will be done without question.”
“You never told me you did that.” Dustin said, his eyes narrowed a bit.
“I wanted to surprise you this Christmas with it, but I have had to rethink that now. I need to tell you of something else,…” Callum said, his hands still rested on Dustin’s shoulders, Dustin gave him a questioning look now, “The Magistrate should be returning to the village early this afternoon, I need to see him.”
“Because, my love, I need to see to it that you, as well as Henry, are taken care of, if, and I say if, it goes bad for me. I will have him place your name next to mine on the titles for both the Cross and for Harbroughs.” Callum said as he stared into Dustin’s widening eyes, “You will never have need of worry again for the rest of your life, if it does go bad for me.”
“I don’t want your property, Quintan.” Dustin said.
“I want you to have it. It is all that I can give you, both you and Henry. The money banked will be yours as well. I know you will use it wisely.”
“Quintan,…” Dustin’s eyes welled again.
“Dustin, please. I do this not to make up for anything that was in your past or what is happening right now, I do this because it needs to be done, to ensure your well being, also Henry and Martha. I have told you over and over that you are my world, Dustin. I would destroy that world that I hold so dear if I did not do this.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Well I do,” Callum smiled briefly, “I love you, Dustin.” Callum pulled him to him, wrapping his arms around the slender shoulders again, “Can you do all this for me?”
“Yes, of course.” Dustin whispered into Callum’s shoulder.
“His name is it still on the title of the property?” Dustin asked as he looked at the old man.
“Not any longer. I had it changed a few years after his passing. It was very difficult for me to do that. It made his passing,…very final for me.” The old man said softly, “My will is in that envelope in my trunk, the one that contains my letters that you read. The original copy is with my solicitor at his office in town, in safekeeping. Your father knows all of that as we discussed it many years ago before Robert was even born. I have made a few small changes to it, but it remains mostly as it was. Your father knows of those changes as well.”
“I had no idea.” Dustin said.
“I tell you this, just in case something were to happen to me.” The old man smiled wider and then winked at Dustin, “I learned many, many years ago to always have a secondary plan in place. My secondary plan in this is you, my boy. If you know where everything is located, then there is nothing that would remain in question, and would save time in searching about.” The old man looked down at the dog at his feet, reaching down and patting his head.
“So the barn was constructed for all those horses that you spoke of.” Dustin said changing the subject a bit as it bothered him when the old man always spoke about something happening to him.
“Yes, the ones that remain here are the descendants of those that Dustin and Christian brought back from Cambridge. Your father loved to have them about, as I know he still does.”
“He never said where they came from. You speak fondly of his mare, Dustin’s mare.”
“She was one of a kind, truly.” The old man smiled remembering her, “She was bred with my friend Owen’s stallion. The foal that was produced from that joining was a true champion. I remember watching him run about the pasture when he reached near maturity. The only one that could truly ride him was Christian. He had such away with them all. He taught your father how to love and respect them the way that he always did.”
“I have watched Father ride many, many times. It is a sight to behold. He is remarkable in the way he handles them, becomes one with them as it were. They always respond to him and his touch.” Dustin said quietly.
“Yes. Christian taught him that and everything that your father knows as your father grew.” The old man said.
“I have never seen him mistreat them in any way or even raise his voice to them.” Dustin said.
“And you never will. It’s simply not in him to do that with them.” The old man said, “It always pleased me to know he was very gentle in that respect, and it also gave me great pride as well.” He saw something at the door, the dog moved as well, and the back door opened. Robert stepped in, his large muscular frame filling the doorway, then closed it behind him. He smiled at the group at the table and came over and sat down across from his grandfather. The old man looked at him carefully, seeing the guarded look on his face.
“Father sends his respects, Grandfather.” Robert said as he eyed the old man carefully, “He said he will come to see you shortly.”
“I see.” The old man said and steeled himself as he knew that it had happened then. Robert just looked at him, with that look of being upset now but trying not to show it, “I suppose I shall have to wait for him to tell me then.”
“It might be best.”
“She didn’t just leave then, without saying goodbye?” Dustin asked as he looked at his older brother.
“It would be best, little one, for us to wait for Father.” Robert said softly, as he had shifted his gaze to Dustin. Dustin lowered and shook his head, “Come on now,” Robert said just as soft as before, putting a hand on Dustin’s shoulder, “You know it is probably for the best for all involved.”
“But,…” Dustin lifted his head, his eyes misting a bit.
“It will be fine, trust in that.” Robert said in his soft but firm tone, squeezing the shoulder a bit, then pulled his hand away, “So, what are you three up to then?” Robert looked about at all of them.
“We were discussing the past again.” The old man said.
“Ah, then I seem to be just in time. I have been finding it very interesting, Grandfather, from what I have heard so far.” Robert said. He smiled at the old man and then looked at Andrew, his pencil in his hand, pressed to the notebook at the ready.
“Yes, I suppose it might be that.” The old man said.
“Father spoke of it sometimes to us as we grew up, but I know he did not know all of it.” Robert said. Dustin got up from the table and went and poured Robert coffee and brought it back to the table for him setting it in front of him, “Thank you, little one.” Robert said as Dustin sat down again.
“I was never really one for storytelling. Your father was told by others of our group, Thomas and Christian, I’m sure. In looking back, it might have been different between your father and I if I had told him.” The old man said.
“Have no regrets, Grandfather. Every one of us knows you did the best you could for him, Father included.”
“Did he say that?”
“Yes, he did a few times.” Robert smiled, “I remember once, Father told me about you going to serve in The House. He said that you looked far better in your navy clothes than you did in your suit.” Robert said and smiled.
“Did he now?”
“He did. I think he was impressed by all the buttons of it.” Robert chuckled and the old man smiled.
“Really, I find that rather interesting.” The old man thought it over for a long minute. His thoughts were interrupted as the back door opened, letting the wind in a bit. The old man looked up and saw Henry standing there. Dustin and Robert stood up from the table. “Henry, good morning.”
“Morning, Papa.” Henry said softly, looking at the old man and then looking at Dustin, who was staring intensely at his father. Henry looked at him, giving him a firm look. Dustin stepped out of the way to offer his chair at the table to his father. “Are you having coffee, Papa?” Henry asked as he noticed the cup in front of the old man.
“Yes, and it has done me a world of good, I must say.” The old man smiled, knowing that his son was going to chastise him about going against the doctor’s advice, “I feel very fit from it all.”
“He has even been out for a bit of a walk this morning, Father.” Robert said, heading off the coming comments. Henry looked between his sons and his own father and decided not to press the point any further.
“I see.” Henry said quietly.
“Are you alright this morning?” The old man asked.
“I think I am.” Henry said. He was hesitant in sitting down at the table, “I came over to let you know about what had happened last evening.” Henry cleared his throat a bit.
“Sit down, Henry.” The old man said softly. He did as what the old man said, “She has left, hasn’t she?”
“Yes. She went on the coach as it came down from Dudley. She,…went to stay at her sisters, but I’m not sure how long that will last, knowing her sister as I do.”
“What would be the issue with her sister?”
“Her sister is not very tolerant of the way of Velletta’s manner. She will have to make some change to her disposition if she is to remain there for any time.” Henry said softly.
“I see. Are you alright in all this?”
“What choice do I have? She is how she is, and that will not change between us as far as I can see, and I have to say,…good riddance if she continues in her ways.”
“No, Papa, you know I speak the truth. It has been very bad between us for years, you know that, and I let it be that way.” Henry looked up at Dustin for a moment.
“Father, I would have thought she might have at least said something to us at leaving.”
“She probably thought it was not necessary, I’m sure. She barely spoke to me as it was before she walked out the door with only a single bag. I will more than likely have to send everything else off to her.”
“Do you think she might return, Henry? Perhaps with a bit of time away, she might return and have a better frame of mind.” The old man said.
“I hope not, Papa. As far as I am concerned, the door to her is closed. As I said, good riddance.”
“Henry,…” The old man said. Henry looked up at Dustin again.
“If you wish to see her or to write her, Dustin, that is your choice, I will not stop you with that. You know where she will be in Brighton.” Henry said. Dustin nodded slowly and then went to the stove, pouring coffee for his father and brought it to him. Robert sat back down as Dustin stood next to his grandfather. “I have already spoken to Robert over this, Papa, out at the barn. I wanted you both to know, and it to come from me.”
“Well, I am wondering, should I have Mrs. Ross come and help you at Harbroughs?” The oldman asked.
“Absolutely not.” Henry said, “She has enough to do here.” Dustin looked down at his grandfather, who looked up at Dustin and gave him a faint smile. Dustin put his hand to his grandfather’s shoulder, Henry thought for a moment, seeing the look between them, “Something you want to tell me now?”
////// ////// ////// ////// //////
The trunk was carried out the front door and down the path to the large carriage by Dustin and Owen. Callum had come downstairs into the parlor, Martha stood there in the doorway of the kitchen, eyes dropping tears as she held one hand to her lips as they trembled, the other was on Henry’s shoulder. Callum stood before her, seeing her weeping and it was tearing him up inside to see her like this.
He was in his full uniform and carrying his sword, necktie just so, looking very impressive with everything he wore that was new and had not seen the sea as of yet, the wear that it would go through from the sun and the wind, not to mention the rain and the salt from the spray. He had his wide brimmed hat tucked in his left arm as he leaned forward, kissing her on the forehead as he always did, and she sobbed as he pulled back, trying to keep himself in control as well. He looked down and saw the small face that looked up at him, tears were beginning to run from the corners of the eyes down the tilted cheeks and the boy finally knew what everyone had been talking about. Callum knelt in front of him, going to one knee as they stared at one another.
“I need you to help Aunt Martha out while I am gone and Dustin will need help with the horses as well.” Callum said and then gave him a brief smile, “Can you do that?” The little one smiled.
“You said that you weren’t going to sail anymore.” The little soft voice said and broke a bit.
“I did, but something has changed that, and I have to go back to my ship now.” Callum said softly.
“For how long?” The little brown eyes were wide, pleading in their gaze on Callum, his little voice was still soft and breaking.
“I don’t know.” Callum said, “I want you to go school like we talked about, alright? Make lots of friends.” Callum smiled, his hand on the little shoulder that was empty of Martha’s. Callum pulled him to him and gave him a hug. He pulled back, “Do what she and Dustin tell you, alright?”
“I will, Papa.” The little one said and nodded as Callum cradled the little chin in his fingers for a moment, tears flowing from the soft little brown eyes, and then rose to his feet, looking at her again. He smiled briefly at her and turned, walking to the door, they followed a few steps behind as Callum walked out, down the path to the gate. He could see Dustin standing there, waiting, Owen was up on the driver seat, waiting as well, but not looking.
Callum came to Dustin and stood before him. Dustin was quiet, very quiet, trying to fight back what was flooding through his mind and his body, looking at his love standing therebefore him, memorizing every bit of him as if he was looking at him for the last time in his life.
“I must be off then.” Callum said softly, as he tossed his hat on the bench through the open door of the carriage, “I know you will do what I asked of you.”
“I will.” Dustin whispered as they stared at each other. Dustin was screaming inside wanting to hold him, to keep him here forever and not let him go. He couldn’t hold back any longer and threw his arms around Callum’s neck, pulling him tight to him.
“I made you a promise, and I intend to keep it, remember that.” Callum said softly into Dustin’s ear. Dustin could only nod as he felt Callum’s arms go around his waist. The embrace they shared was brief, Callum pulled back, Dustin stepped aside for him, Callum got into the carriage and sat on the bench as Dustin closed the door. He looked up and saw Owen now looking down and they nodded to one another, Owen snapping the reins and the carriage set off down the road to Harbroughs.
Callum could see out the window of the carriage door, the trunk resting on the gravel of the drive as it met the road, Tomlin standing behind it, in full uniform as well, Holt beside him as they were looking at each other as Owen pulled the carriage up and stopped then climbed down. Callum opened the door and went to step out as Holt came to him, stopping him. He held out his hand, Callum took it.
“Safe journey, Quintan.” Holt said.
“Thank you, Christian, and to you as well.” Callum gave him a brief smile. They could hear Owen and Tomlin securing Tomlin’s trunk at the rear of the carriage. Another minute and Tomlin stepped close to Holt at the door, they looked at one another.
“Christian,…I,…” Tomlin said, but Holt stopped him by putting a single finger to Tomlin’s lips.
“We said everything to one another last night and this morning as well, Thomas. There is nothing more to say. You know how I feel.” Holt said, taking his finger away. They looked at one another for a long moment and then hugged each other tight. Holt pulled back and cleared his throat as Tomlin looked at him briefly and then stepped into the carriage, sitting on the bench next to Callum as Holt closed the door. The reins snapped and the carriage set off again.
Barely a word was spoken between Callum and Tomlin the entire trip to Portsmouth. Owen did not stop to rest the horses at all, just kept them at an even pace that had the carriage rocking slightly as it went along. Callum could finally begin to smell the sea as they drew near to Portsmouth and hear the cry of gulls off in the distance. Owen knew the way very well and did not have to ask at all where they were going. The carriage made its way along until it was stopped by a Marine Sentry at the gate of the docks. He opened the door of the carriage and snapped to attention seeing Callum and Tomlin in uniform. He gave a salute and closed the door after Callum told him where they were going and the carriage proceeded on down the docks to near the end, Owen stopping and climbing down. He opened the door, letting Tomlin out on his side, Callum followed, the carriage blocking the view of the harbor.
Callum looked around, seeing various sailors and others walking about, most tipping their hands toCallum, giving obedience. Callum would acknowledge them with a slight nod in return but was not required to. The trunks were unloaded and the three stood there, Tomlin and Callum looked at Owen, and he, like Dustin was memorizing every detail of them as he looked like he was never going to see them again. Callum and Tomlin did not know at the time that Dustin had told Owen everything that was leading to this moment, Owen knowing full well what it possibly meant. He reached out his hand, Tomlin took it first, giving it a firm grasp, Owen smiled briefly and then stepped in and hugged Tomlin, taking him by surprise, then he hugged Owen back for a moment. Owen pulled away and reached out to Callum, taking his hand tightly. Owen dropped a tear.
“My friend, I thank you.” Callum said softly.
“Quintan, I…the words,...” Owen said as he shook his head, and sniffled once. Callum put a hand on his shoulder.
“I know.” Callum whispered. He slid his hand over Owen’s shoulder and pulled him into him, patting Owen’s back in the hug. They pulled away from one another, Callum cleared his throat and composed himself. Owen gave them a nod and went to the front of the carriage and snapped the reins, turning between buildings and drove away. Callum turned and looked at the stone steps that led down to the water. He saw a familiar face that was smiling wide and coming toward him, Amos, the large muscular man that could helm Dover as well as was a member of the starboard gun crew. Amos tipped his hand as he stepped up, all smiles, and then bowed his head quickly once.
“Sir.” He said with his big smile.
“Amos, I see you have a longboat standing by.” Callum said, trying to sound official, silently pleased to see this man that stood before him.
“Indeed, sir. We were told to wait here, orders, sir.”
“Oh, from whom?”
“Mr. Sommers, sir. He was given orders himself yesterday, sir.”
“I see.” Callum nodded, knowing now that Lord Hood had seen to everything, “Very well, let usget our trunks loaded then we can go aboard Dover.”
“Aye, sir.” Amos said, tipping his hand, turning and going to the steps, calling to a couple of hands to come up and get the trunks. Callum and Tomlin watched as the men came quickly up, tipping their hands, seeing them both standing there, smiling up at them as they picked up the trunks and went back to the steps, carrying the trunks down and placing them into the longboat carefully. They waited as Callum and Tomlin came down and stepped in and settled, the other men in the longboat had been standing as well, but as Callum and Tomlin settled, the men sat and took positions at the oars. Amos and the others climbed in and the longboat was set off, Amos now at the tiller, giving the boat crew instruction.
The longboat was being rowed rather fast it seemed to Callum, the men pulling as hard as they could, all smiles as he looked about at each of them from where he sat. He looked ahead and saw Dover, at anchor, waiting, and looking very new and smart with her fresh paint. Callum could see the men lining the sides aboard her, the officers on the Quarterdeck, standing at attention, not looking in the longboats direction at all.
“She’s quite a sight, isn’t she, sir?” Tomlin asked softly as he leaned over slightly toward Callum. Callum nodded a bit.
“Indeed she is.” Callum said almost as soft, “A fine ship for your first command.” Callum had been looking up her masts as they drew closer, seeing all her new rigging, the Mizzen seemed to be new as well as it had been heavily damaged at La Rochelle.The boat crew lifted their oars after Amos had told them to, he turned the tiller and the longboat was steered alongside Dover’s starboard side, hands went out, grasping her side and lines making the longboat halt. Tomlin and Callum rose, Callum stepped first but stopped and looked at Amos.
“Leave my trunk in the longboat.” Callum said, Amos tipped his hand in reply, but had a look of question on his face, “Bring Mr. Tomlin’s up however.”
“Aye, sir.” Amos said. Callum went up the crawl steps toward the gunwale as the Boson’s pipe piped out, Captain coming aboard. Callum stepped through the gunwale, tipping his broad hat toward the Quarterdeck as was custom and then looked a bit to his right, Carson was standing there in the midst of the rest of the crew, Callum’s steward, his eyes flashing, Carson’s hands moving about a bit, his fingers flexing as if he was about to burst inside with seeing Callum and wanting to hug him. Callum smiled to himself as he went through, as was custom, to go to the Great Cabin directly, Tomlin came up through the gunwale. All the officers on the Quarterdeck were tipping their hats toward Callum, and then to Tomlin. Tomlin, looking up at them and then proceeded up the stairs to join them. He took his place at the railing as Callum had gone through and was now out of sight. Tomlin knew that Sommers was the senior officer aboard and was joined at the rail by him.
“Mr. Sommers, dismiss the men.” Tomlin said, “All officers are to report to the Great Cabin.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Sommers said and tipped his hand, “Hands dismissed!” Sommers called out loud and clear. He turned and looked at Tomlin, giving him a nod as the crew broke up their gathering, the second watch went about their duties as the deck was theirs. “You look well, sir.” Sommers said as the officers were drawing a bit closer as well.
“Thank you, Mr.Sommers. You look very well yourself.” Tomlin nodded, “Ships status?”
“All provisions aboard and stored, sir, all hands accounted for. All names are entered in the ships book.”
“Very good.” Tomlin said, “Gentlemen, shall we proceed to the Great Cabin?”
“Enter.” Came the voice from inside after Tomlin knocked, the door opened and Tomlin saw thatCallum was at the windows of the aft bulkhead wall, looking out across the harbor, his hands clasped behind him.
“Reporting as ordered, sir.” Tomlin said, his hat tucked under his left arm, the other officers doing the same as they stood behind Tomlin. Callum turned round and looked them all over, knowing them all that were assigned to Dover. They all had wide excited eyes at seeing him as all of them had been at the courtmartial when Callum had been drummed out, and now here he stood, seeming as it were where he belonged as if that event had never even happened.
“Report, Mr. Tomlin.” Callum said, his voice of authority. Tomlin stiffened slightly, seeing him like this, in his element, even though they had become so close to one another now, Tomlin knew better than to let his guard down and show any sign of that familiarity to the others, save one, Talon, who had been at Callum’s Cross.
“Mr. Sommers reports that all provisions are aboard and stowed, sir, all hands accounted for.”
“Very good.” Callum said, “We are ready to get underway then?”
“Yes, sir.” Tomlin said lifting his chin a slight bit.
“Mr. Sommers, have you received anything from the Admiralty?” Callum asked.
“Yes, sir.” Sommers said as he stiffened himself, “It was placed in your dispatch box, sir.”
“I see.” Callum said, “Gentlemen, make yourselves comfortable.” Callum said, holding out a hand toward the long table as he went into the berth to the small desk there, opening the covered lid and saw the dispatch box. He opened it and pulled the top envelope, closing the lid again, breaking the wax seal on the envelope he read the orders in it as he came back out into the room. He refolded the order and held it in one hand. Carson opened the door, Callum looked up at the bright cheery face. “Coffee for us, if you please, Carson.” Callum said.
“Very good, sir.” He smiled and gave a nod and closed the door. He returned a couple of minutes later with a tray, coffee and cups for them all. Callum waited for Carson to leave the cabin.
“Our orders from the Admiralty, gentlemen.” Callum said as he held up the envelope and then tossed it on the table, looking at all of them, “I’m sure that most of you know about the situation with this Frenchman attacking merchant shipping, and doubtless that you all know of Mr. Eddington and his fate because of this murdering bastard. Our orders are to capture this Frenchman or to destroy him. I intend to do just that. I will take the sloop that we captured while enroute to La Rochelle, along with two officers and a dozen men. We will have a squad of Marines accompany us as well. Dover, will be commanded by Mr. Tomlin, Mr. Sommers, you will act as his 1st.” Callum said as he looked at Sommers, Callum could see that most of them were slightly wide eyed over it all, as they all knew what had happened to the sloop commanded by Eddington and now they were going to do it again, “Mr. Collingwood, I would ask you if you would do me the honor of being my 1st aboard the sloop?” Callum asked, Collingwood got to his feet, his chest puffed out, and he bowed his head.
“I would be very honored, sir, thank you.”
“Mr. Talon, would you care to accompany me as well?” Callum asked and Talon got to his feet, swallowing hard.
“I would, sir.”
“Excellent.” Callum smiled, “Now, I have no doubt that the crew also knows about this butcher so, when we are done here, Mr. Sommers, assemble all hands on the Main Deck, I will call for volunteers to crew the sloop.”
“After that, Mr. Collingwood, you and Mr. Talon will have a sloop to outfit and have your traps transferred there. I want to be out in the North Sea in under two days’ time. Provision it for six weeks sailing to accommodate all aboard.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said.
“Dover will follow us out, along with two other ships in support in this action. While you are outfitting, Captain Tomlin and myself will be meeting the other Captains to go over plans with them about this action.” Callum looked at Tomlin, smiled briefly at him, “Captain Tomlin, you might wish to read your orders from the Admiralty, sir.” Callum pointed at the letter on the table that Callum had tossed down. Tomlin shifted his eyes toward it and then back at Callum for a moment and then reached out and picked it up slowly. He opened it and read it and then looked up at Callum. “You see who is to join us?”
“Yes, sir. They were to be members of the squadron that you,…”
“Quite.” Callum said, seeing the look on Tomlin’s face, and then looked at all the faces about the table, “Gentlemen, I will take you into my strictest confidence, after what I am about to tell you, understand that Captain Tomlin will be in complete command of this vessel, and not I, until we return from this mission. You will carry out his orders as you would mine. The ships that will support us are HMS Triborne and HMS Hunter. No doubt you are familiar with them. We will be doing a leap frogging between all ships, covering the sloop as we sail from the north down away from the French coastline but staying parallel to it down into The Channel under the cover of darkness to draw him out as which seems to be his method. There will never be any one of the support ships not far away as they will be standing by to come to the aid of the sloop. I am suspect that the sailings of merchants that have been attacked are somehow being reported as they appear to be intercepted while out in the North Sea or in The Channel itself and yet away from shore.”
“What if he doesn’t take the bait, sir?” Sommers asked.
“I’m certain that he will, but, if he does not, we will do it over and over again until he either attacks or reveals his hiding place and then we shall have him.” Callum said, looking at Sommers, who nodded. He looked at the others, “Any other questions?” Callum asked, seeing none, “Mr. Sommers, carry out your orders, assemble the crew.”
“Aye, sir.” Sommers said and stood, as did the others, except Tomlin. They all filed out and left them alone in the cabin.
“What troubles you, Thomas?” Callum asked after they were alone.
“I was thinking of the Hunter. You know the reputation of her Captain.”
“Yes, I do. I am a trifle bothered by the fact that he is going to be a part of this, I cannot deny that. I’m sure that Lord Hood also knows of his reputation.”
“There must have been another ship available to join us. I mean look how many ships are here in port right now.” Tomlin said.
“I would agree with that, Thomas, but we do not know if there is any plan for any of them at this current time.” Callum said, folding up the orders.
“Perhaps, if I could suggest, send a private letter to Captain Arvin at the Admiralty and ask him. Surely he would know who else might be available, or we could ask ourselves in a discreet manner.” Tomlin said.
“That’s a good idea, but there isn’t time. We need to be out in the North Sea before the no moon or this may take quite a bit longer than we both originally thought.”
“I suppose you’reright, but I have my doubts about the success of this if Captain Renner isamongst us.” Tomlin said.
“Well, perhaps we can ease both our minds when we go and meet with him and Captain Stewart.”
“You are ever the eternal optimist, why is that?” Tomlin asked as he shook his head. Callum chuckled softly.
“What would have me be, Thomas, melancholy and take to drink as is the reputation of Captain Renner?” Callum asked. Tomlin only continued to shake his head, “Come on, take your place on the Quarterdeck while I call for my volunteers.” Callum said as he grabbed his hat.
“All hands assembled, sir.” Sommers said as Tomlin came to the rail, looking out across the faces that were gathered below him.
“Thank you, Mr. Sommers.” Tomlin said, and all eyes of the crew shifted as Callum came out ofthe doors that led into the galley. They went wide eyed and parted to let him into their midst. “All hands assembled, sir.” Tomlin said loudly, Callum looking around at all the faces that were very familiar to him, only seeing a few that were new to him.
“Thank you, Captain Tomlin.” Callum emphasized 'Captain', eyes shifted toward Tomlin and then back to Callum again, “Men, we have been ordered to undertake a very perilous mission.” Callum spoke loud and clear for all to hear, “We are going to hunt down this French bastard that has been murdering merchant crews as well as our own. I am taking the sloop that we captured and am going to sail it out to use as bait. I will ask only for volunteers to join me, a dozen men to see this through.” Callum was surprised when almost every hand on deck was raised immediately before he could finish, he didn’t show his surprise but just looked about him at all the faces, “I cannot stress enough the danger in this. Any man that wishes to lower his hand and not do this, nothing will be said.” Callum looked around, more hands went up from the rest of them, even some of the new members of the crew now, “I can’t have you all, so, let’s put it this way then. Any of you that are married men, lower your hands.” Half the hands were lowered slowly, Callum half smiled, “Think this over carefully the rest of you. I know you are all able bodied seamen, good fighters and will do your duty, but you must understand there is a strong chance that we may not survive this.”
“Begging your pardon, sir,” A voice said from the group, Callum turned toward it, seeing Amos stepping out of the group, “but if you’re going, sir, I for one wish to go with you.”
“Aye.” Most of the other men said at the same time.
“If you’re certain of this, Amos, then I will appoint you Boson, select the rest of the men, but do not short Captain Tomlin of any gunnery crews.”
“Aye, sir.” Amos said, tipping his hand, and was suddenly surrounded by most of the hands on deck. Callum stepped back and let it begin to get sorted out. He looked up over his shoulder to the Quarterdeck, seeing Tomlin giving him a half smile and then a slight nod. Callum’s attention was brought back to the hands.
“I have them all, sir.” Amos said, tipping his hand again.
“Very well.” Callum said and turned full attention back to Collingwood on the Quarterdeck, “Lt.Collingwood, you and Mr. Talon will carry out your orders.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said, tipping his hand, “Volunteers to me.” He said as he came down the starboard stairs, the volunteers stepped forward, “Collect your traps and bring them to the sloop. Boat crew! Standby on the longboat.”
“Aye, sir.” Most of them said. Callum watched this young officer and was impressed with him, making a good choice of him and now realizing it. Callum went up the stairs, the officers that remained there tipped their hands toward him. Callum reached his hand to Tomlin, Tomlin took it in his.
“The ship is yours, Captain Tomlin. I know that she is in good hands.”
“Thank you, sir.” Tomlin smiled, “Mr. Sommers,”
“Sir.” Sommers said as he stepped forward once.
“Dismiss the remaining hands.” Tomlin said as he let Callum’s hand go.
“Aye, sir.” Sommers said and went to the rail, “Hands dismissed!”
“Thank you for your support in this, Captain.” Callum said.
“It was my pleasure, sir. And thank you for not leaving me a deserted ship.” Tomlin smiled.
“Yes, quite.” Callum smiled and gave Tomlin a wink, turning and going to the stairs. He went down and went to the starboard gunwale as the side was manned and Greene, the Boson was there, Callum went through the gunwale and tipped his hand back toward the Quarterdeck, all officers tipped their hats as Greene piped, Captain disembarking. Callum, climbing down to the longboat that had brought him to Dover sat down and settled in the seat at the tiller.
“I remember that day.” Henry said softly as he stared at the table, “That day you left.”
“What do you remember? I only heard bits of it when I returned.” The old man said.
“I remember watching Dustin walk away from the gate after the carriage was far out of sight, Aunt Martha and I had stood at the door. I remember crying because you were gone, I thought I had done something so wrong to make you leave. Dustin walked around the knoll and went to the horses. He didn’t really speak to us for a couple of days. He was very sad over it. So was Martha.”
“I know. It must have seemed to you that you were abandoned, again, after we had become so close.” The old man said.
“I became very angry over it, the whole thing. I even tried to run away once, but Dustin stopped me, found me and brought me back here to the Cross.”
“I did not know that. Where were you going?”
“Back to Portsmouth I suppose. I really didn’t have any idea where I was going. I just missed you so terribly, your voice. I always felt safe when I heard you talking, when I was little.” Henry gave the old man a faint smile as he looked at him.
“I’m sorry, Henry.” The old man said, “You can’t begin to know just how sorry I am. I had planned on something else entirely until I was summoned.”
“Papa, it’s alright. I know it led to other things for you, and for us. I know that now. I was just a hurt little boy that didn’t know any different.” Henry pat the old man’s hand, ”No need for apologies now. What happened after that?”
“After what?” The old man asked, being lost with what he meant.
“You left the ship, what happened after that?”
“Oh,” The old man rolled his eyes a bit, “yes, we provisioned the sloop. The crew that volunteered to join me set about in getting her ready to sail. She was tied up at the docks which made it somewhat easier to outfit her. Thomas and I met later that day after I saw our squad of Marines report and was quite surprised by it,…”
“Reporting as ordered, SIR!” Sergeant McGuffin, the large whiskered Marine Sergeant snapped a crisp salute to a wide eyed Callum as they stood on the dock.
“Sergeant,” Callum said, returning a loose salute in return looked the big man up and down, “it is very good to see you.”
“The pleasure is mine, sir.”
“At ease, Sergeant. Is there an officer with you?”
“Unfortunately not, sir. There was not an officer available with this short notice.”
“I see.” Callum said, grinned slightly and leaned forward a bit, “No one to nursemaid then?”
“Hardly that, sir, but I do take your meaning.” The big man’s whiskers were hiding a smile, Callum was certain, but the eyes softened a bit on the man.
“I will make sure Lt. Holt does not hear about that, it will remain between us.” Callum grinned wider and then winked.
“Do you know of the Lieutenant, sir?”
“I do. He had a terrible time of it at first, but is doing much better now. I know that he is to report to the Garrison before month end.”
“I was not aware of that, sir.”
“Yes. So, how many do you have with you, Sergeant?” Callum asked as he looked at the small sea of red behind McGuffin.
“Forty eight, sir.”
“I don’t think we can accommodate that many.” Callum said looking a bit startled, then started thinking, “Sergeant, I think we should rethink this a bit. Including yourself, let’s bring the total down to twenty four. There will be enough stores and room for only that many, but no more.”
“Very good, sir. What would you suggest that we do with the rest of my men, sir?”
“Select your men for the sloop and send the rest out to Dover to report to the company there.”
“Very good, sir.” McGuffin snapped a salute, Callum saluted back, stopping McGuffin from turning away.
“And Sergeant,” Callum said, “I for one am very thankful to have you with me in this.” Callum smiled and nodded once.
“Thank you, sir.” McGuffin turned and went to his men and began to divide them up. Callum went to a longboat and a standing by boat crew. He gave the Coxswain instructions to take the Marines out and then return with Captain Tomlin. McGuffin joined Callum and the Marines began to go aboard the sloop, Callum had Talon show themwhere to set up down in the hold and to oversee to their needs. The other Marines were directed to the waiting longboat, as many as possible were loaded and the longboat pulled away rowing for Dover.
Callum had been watching the Marines going onboard the sloop. He was amazed by them and shocked at the same time, not one of them looked older than sixteen. They were merely a group of boys, Callum thought and looked over at McGuffin and then as the last of these young Marines was on board, Callum stepped to him.
“Sergeant, I am wondering, have you been told about any of the details of this mission?”
“Only that we were to report to you here at the docks, sir.”
“I think we need to have a chat. Let’s go aboard and we can speak in private.”
“Very good, sir.”
Callum looked at Collingwood as he was about to give a list to Amos for the Dock Master. Callum stopped him for a moment.
“When Captain Tomlin arrives, have him join us in my cabin. Also, if you find any difficulty with the Dock Master, let me know immediately.”
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, giving Callum a nod.
Callum had brought McGuffin up to full detail of this mission. McGuffin seemed to remain unchanged with all this information that Callum had given him and it mystified Callum slightly, but also gave him a bit of ease of mind that this large man was so confident.
“So, I ask, and mean no insult by this at all, but, your men seem so very young, Sergeant, have they seen any type of combat as of yet?”
“I can see your point, sir, fresh recruits and all. I would point out that they are Royal Marines, sir, and as such, will carry out their duties.”
“I understand your pride about it, Sergeant, do not misunderstand me, however, this will not be like the last time that we were together, as I’m sure you can start to see from what I’ve told you.”
“I do, sir. I can assure you, sir, that they will handle themselves accordingly.”
“Very good, I will ease myself with your certainty.” Callum said, then heard a knock, “Enter.” The door opened and Tomlin was standing there.
“Ah, Captain Tomlin, how good of you to join us. I’m sure you will remember Sergeant McGuffin?” Callum asked as McGuffin got to his feet, snapping to attention.
“Indeed.” Tomlin said and had a broad smile, remembering the things that Holt had told him in private about this large man, who mentored and looked after Holt so much, “It’s very good to see you, Sergeant. I was in hopes that you would be with us in this.”
“At your service, sir.”
“I have a message for you from Lt. Holt.” Tomlin said, making McGuffin lift a bushy eyebrow, “He said that if I were to see you to let you know that it is still chin up, I believe he said.”
“Thank you, sir, I appreciate that very much.” McGuffin cocked his head a bit and then straightened up. Tomlin smiled and Callum looked confused. Tomlin looked at Callum now.
“Quintan, I have been told that Captain Renner and Captain Stewart are in town at this moment, and they are at the Heritage Arms.” Tomlin raised his eyebrow a bit.
“Hmmm, I wonder what they might be doing there?” Callum gave Tomlin a bit of a look.
“Shall we go and find out?” Tomlin asked.
“Orders, sir?” McGuffin asked.
“See to your men, and report to Mr. Talon. Captain Tomlin and I will return shortly.” Callum said.
“Very good, sir.”
“You seem very pleased, Quintan, to have the Sergeant assigned to you.” Tomlin said.
“Relieved, actually is more like it.” Callum said as they neared the familiar Heritage Arms Inn, “But, I am concerned that these new recruits of his are lacking of any experience. I would hate to see them all getting themselves killed in this because of that lack.” Callum was stopped as a hand went his sleeve, stopping him from opening the door.
“Quintan, this is bad enough already. Put them out of your mind for now. Trust in McGuffin to make sure that they are ready, it’s his responsibility.”
“As you may or may not know, Captain, anything that happens onboard your ship makes it your responsibility. Remember that.” Callum said and then put a hand on Tomlin’s shoulder, as he opened the door. They went into the open area and stopped just outside the tavern portion, Callum saw Farrow at the long counter and their eyes met. Farrow raised a finger to his own lips, stopping Callum from calling out a hello to him, and then nodded his head slightly indicating to a table. Callum leaned forward a bit, looking at the table that was slightly blocked from view by the wall. Two Captains sat there, Callum knew them on sight but had never really talked to them before or had been introduced. Renner and Stewart were engaged in conversation with each other and Renner, the slightly older overweight man, in his mid-forty's Callum would guess, had a glass in front of him, probably whiskey, a bottle sat on the table near the glass. Callum and Tomlin watched as Renner lifted it and drained it quickly. He made a rather loud ‘ah’ sound as it was drained as it obviously burned going down his throat.
“Stewart,…I tell you he is no more than a boy, a snot nosed upstart and will surely get himself killed in this. He’s reckless and has no regard toward others.” Renner said as he slurred his words a bit and poured more from the bottle. Stewart, a younger man, but older than Callum was nursing a tankard of ale. He leaned forward a bit.
“Have you ever met him?”
“No, but with his reputation, I have seen his like before, and they too are all dead now, and have nothing to show their wives or sweethearts, if they had one, save a fading headstone in an silent graveyard.” The older man lifted his glass and drained half of it.
“That may be true, Renner, but half my crew wished to sign aboard Dover once they heard he was returning.”
“Bah, upstart.” Renner said, throwing up a hand, “He was drummed out and they brought him back in. Why? I’ll tell you why,” The older man leaned on the table, “So he could go off and get himself and his crew killed and probably some of us as well.” The man threw up his hand again and let it drop hard on the table.
Callum went to lean back out of the way of possible sight by the two, but Tomlin was angered and was about to jump in the middle of them both, Callum held him back, he looked at Farrow, who was thinking there was going to be a fight, but Callum raised his finger to his lips, and nodded to Tomlin to drop back as well. Tomlin watched Callum toss his hat on a hall stand near the door and slip off his tunic and hung it on a hook, leaving him in his shirt and vest only. Callum gave Tomlin a nod to do the same. He slouched his shoulders a bit and sighed and followed Callum’s lead. Callum clasped his hands together and rubbed them and walked into the tavern area, the two Captains looked over at him, not knowing who he was and then Tomlin came in as well. They looked over at the table as Stewart lifted his tankard.
“I should write a letter of protest to the Admiralty, to Hood himself, letting us get out of this farce. I for one will not render any support to such folly or a fool. Damned upstart.” Renner said with dusgust.
“Excuse me, sir,” Callum said as he stepped closer to the table, “I couldn’t help but overhear part of your conversation. I was wondering if I might ask about who you were speaking of.”
“What is it to you?” The older man asked, lifting his glass.
“Nothing, just in being sailors ourselves in the service to His Majesty, I was wondering so as to possibly being able to avoid this person, if he has any rank of importance to him. I would certainly hate to be in his midst from what I overheard you to say, if he is as bad as you have indicated.”
“You are officers, are you?” Stewart asked, looking the two over a bit.
“We are, sir.” Callum said with a warm smile, “And as such and are about to head off to report for our new duty, if this person of whom you speak of is assigned to where we are,I should think I might join you in writing that letter to the Admiralty. By chance, may we join you, gentlemen?” Callum asked, again with a warm smile. Without waiting for an answer, Callum pulled out a chair at the table, and turned and looked at Farrow, raising his hand, “Landlord, more ales, if you will.” He looked at the two men at the table he was at now as Tomlin went around to the other side and pulled out his own chair and sat down, “Allow us to refill your glasses for you, gentlemen.” Callum said, as Farrow was coming toward him with more ales, “Now, who is this person of interest that you speak of?” Callum asked Renner, as he drained his glass, Callum picked up the bottle and poured for him as soon as it rested on the table surface but still in is grasp.
“His name is Callum.” Renner said as he watched the whiskey being poured his head weaving a bit.
“Really? And he has that low of an opinion from others? Surely he must be a Midshipman or a mere forth Lieutenant.”
“No, they made the upstart a Captain, well, didn’t make I suppose would be a truer statement, he won it through his own Captain being killed in battle. Ungrateful thing of it all, I’m sure. Right place at the right and all.” Renner said as he lifted his glass, rolling his eyes a bit. Stewart was watching and sat back after Farrow had set the ales down and walked away.
“Might I ask your names, gentlemen?” Callum asked still with his inviting warm smile.
“I am Augustus Renner, Captain of the HMS Hunter, and my distinguished companion here is Alistair Stewart, Captain of HMS Triborne.” Renner said, holding out a hand toward Stewart.
“An honor, gentlemen,” Callum said, acting with a bit of surprise on his face, he looked across the way from him, “Thomas, we find ourselves in very distinguished company. I can scarcely believe it, can you?” Callum looked at Stewart, “Are you the same Captain Stewart that I have heard so much of that assisted in the action of Gibraltar?”
“I suppose I am, yes.” Stewart was being a little guarded, and then Callum looked over at Renner, “And you, sir, HMS Hunter, you were in command and assisted Lord Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen, are you not the very same?”
“I am.” Renner said as he lifted his glass again and drained it then setting it down, Callum picked up the bottle again and started to pour more very slowly using his left hand.
“May I ask you now, who are you gentlemen?” Stewart asked as his eyes shifted back and forth between Callum and Tomlin. Callum looked at the glass as he trickled in the whiskey.
“Certainly,” He said in a low voice, “I am Quintan Callum, and my companion is Captain Thomas Tomlin of HMS Dover.”
“What?” Renner sputtered and went wide eyed and went to get up. Callum clasped Renner’s wrist with a death grip with his free hand and held him in place.
“Sit down, you drunken sot.” Callum said with a growl as they locked eyes, “If you were sober, I would haul your overweight carcass out into the street and seek satisfaction over your slanderous insults, not only to me, but to the memory of Captain Powers, who was a true Captain and a gentleman.” Callum kept his hold on Renner and looked at Stewart, “It would appear Captain Stewart you seem to have lost your thirst. My apologies for giving you a bit of a start and making you seem unsettled.”
“I thought it might be you. I have heard, sir, that you can be very clever when promoted to do so, my compliments.” Stewart said bowing his head slightly, “You must forgive Captain Renner here, I think he has had a bit much and he is not himself.”
“Personally, I don’t think he’s had enough.” Callum said as he glared at the older man, “The more one drinks, the looser the tongue becomes and true feelings begin to reveal themselves.”
“Quintan,…” Tomlin said. Callum released the fat wrist he held and sat back a little, glaring at the older man.
“Captain Renner, you do not seem to share in the spirit of this mission to rid us of this menace to merchant shipping?” Callum asked.
“I do not, sir, and I do not care for your conduct. Most distasteful, sir, most.” Renner went to get up from the table.
“Sit down.” Callum said in full voice of authority, stopping the older man from rising any further. The other patrons of the tavern heard it and their heads snapped around at it, some of them cringed a bit, “Captain Stewart, perhaps you could escort Captain Renner back to his ship and let him sleep this off. We can meet tomorrow and discuss the plan to make this mission a success. I’m sure Captain Tomlin can host this meeting aboard Dover, perhaps we all could discuss it over lunch?”
“As you wish, Captain Callum, most gracious of you.” Stewart said bowing his head slightly.
“Perhaps you can also make certain he doesn’t fall overboard and drown? It would be a pity to have a mishap before we are to set sail.” Callum said as he glared at Renner again.
“You and I will more words, Callum.”
“I will not bandy words with a drunkard, sir.” Callum said, “As I said, if you were sober, I would seek satisfaction with you and for your slander.”
“Come, Renner, let us get you back to your ship.” Stewart said, as he got up and went to help his drunken companion, as Renner struggled to get up, the whiskey had taken even more hold of him now.
“Shall I get you a carriage, Captain Stewart?” Tomlin asked as he got up.
“Thoughtful, Captain Tomlin, thank you.” Stewart said and wrestled the large older man up and got him moving toward the door as Tomlin went out. Callum heard the whistle from Tomlin hailing one.
“Nicely done, Quintan. Never did like that fat son-of-a-bitch.” Farrow said as he came to the table at Callum’s elbow, “Are you going to hold him in seeking satisfaction?”
“He would probably die of heart failure just trying to draw a sword, or piss himself if I did follow through with a duel.” Callum said and Farrow chuckled.
“You’re right, it would be murder.” Farrow said as Tomlin walked back in as Farrow picked up the glass, bottle, and the partly drained tankard. “Good to see you, Thomas. How’ve you been?”
“Well, Farrow, and you?”
“As well as can be expected. Are you still with your exquisite young Marine officer?”
“Yes.” Tomlin smiled. Farrow pursed his lips together for a moment and shook his head.
“That’s too bad.” Farrow said as he walked away.
“What did he mean by that?” Tomlin asked.
“Don’t ask.” Callum said, “Did they get off alright?”
“Yes, after we picked up Captain Renner out of the street. He slipped and fell trying to get into the carriage.” Tomlin rolled his eyes a bit. Callum shook his head slightly.
“Truly, Grandfather?” Robert asked, “You baited them like that?”
“Yes, as I have said before, I was so full of myself all of the time then in those days. I never gave it any thought really. What I couldn’t know at that time, was that my life and the lives of my crew would eventually be in Captain Renner’s hands. That night that it happened.” The old man said, lost in the memory of it.
“What night was that?” Robert asked.
“He’ll get to that, Robert, be patient.” Dustin said, pouring more coffee for all at the table. Robert made an exaggerated huff as he looked at Dustin and bugged his eyes a bit.
“So like you to do that,” Dustin said, “like when we were children, like you sneaking a look at Christmas presents.”
“What?” Robert asked seeing his father raising an eyebrow toward his oldest son, “Father, don’t listen to him, he merely teases.”
“I think not.” Dustin said as he poured coffee for his brother, “You did for all those years, Henry and I watched you, and you had us watch for Mother and Father both so you did not get caught.”
“Why you little mouse.” Robert said and grabbed his younger brother dragging him into his lap, tickling him, making Dustin squeal and squirm.
“Take it back now, take it back.” Robert was grinning as he held Dustin. All of them around the table were smiling and chuckling at seeing the two brothers like this. Robert finally stopped and let Dustin up, making him adjust his shirt and try and straighten himself out a bit. He frowned at his older brother and picked up the coffee pot and went back to the stove. He set the pot down and wrinkled his nose and stuck out his chin at his brother, Robert winked back at him.
“Are you getting hungry, Grandfather?” Dustin asked after being composed.
“No, I am not, however I don’t know about everyone else.” The old man said, everyone signified no toward Dustin.
“I suppose we can wait a while then.” Dustin said as he went about with more working on supper for this evening, thinking he had better make more as Robert looked like he might be here as well as his father now.
“We left the Heritage Arms, Thomas and I and went back to the docks and the sloop. I was amazed at what had been done by the crew. The officers that I had chosen had done very well in overseeing everything to make her ready to sail,…”
“Mr. Collingwood, I am most impressed, sir, most impressed.” Callum said with a smile.
“Thank you, sir.” Collingwood said, “Mr. Talon has been quite the motivator for the men, I must say, sir.”
“Indeed? How is he motivating them?”
“He seems to talk to them, relating one thing or another and they seem to jump right to it, sir, it’s quite remarkable to watch.”
“Hmmm, I wonder what he is saying to them? I’ll have to ask him.” Callum said, and looked at Tomlin, “What do you think of her?”
“She certainly seems sturdy enough.” Tomlin said as they started to walk about on the deck.
“I thought so myself. The day that we captured her I noticed her lines as she sat in the water, she was riding a bit low, but it must have been what they were carrying in the hold.”
“What was it?” Tomlin asked.
“Rice and grain from what Eddington told me later, several hundred tons of it. Which reminds me of that special cargo that I still need to check on.”
“Has it arrived yet?” Tomlin asked.
“I don’t think it has as of yet.” Callum said.
“Is there anything that you need before I go back aboard Dover?”
“Something I was thinking of earlier just occurred to me. I am not certain if we have a steward aboard.” Callum gave Tomlin a look of question.
“Are you thinking of Carson perhaps?”
“Perish the thought, Thomas. I would not deprive you of his services, now that you’re Captain.”
“I thought we were friends?” Tomlin asked and Callum laughed out loud. Tomlin did as well. Callum looked about and saw Amos and called to him. Amos came over and tipped his hand toward them.
“Amos, in your selection of the crew, you didn’t perhaps select someone that can cook, did you?” Callum asked. Amos looked stunned.
“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t even think about that, I was thinking of sailing and rigging only, sir.”
“Quite alright, I didn’t think of it either truth be told.” Callum said.
“Well, I can see about Carson being brought over for you then.” Tomlin said with a bit of a cheesy grin.
“I think not.” Callum said, and then looked at Amos, “Thank you, Amos.” Callum turned back to Tomlin, “Who would feed the crew of Dover?”
“Well, I’m sure we could come up with someone.”
“Would you like me to throw you overboard?” Callum asked and Tomlin chuckled.
“Permission to come aboard, sir?” The familiar voice asked, Callum and Tomlin looked toward it.
“Why bless me, Doctor Arthur Crawford.” Callum said and smiled. He watched as his old friend started toward them both.
“Hello Quintan, you look well.” Crawford said, shaking Callum’s hand, “So much for your early retirement from the service. I heard you were taking Dover out. Hello, Thomas.” Crawford smiled and shook Tomlin’s hand.
“Doctor, how are you, sir?”
“I am well, thank you. I was having my things loaded into the longboat and saw you two from the dock.” Crawford said as he looked around the sloop, “Did they demote you, Quintan? This doesn’t exactly look like a ship of the line to me.”
“Same wit as always, eh Arthur?”
“What is this all about? I received a summons from Lord Hood himself to report. I had to drop several patients on another doctor just to come here.”
“We have spoken of this mission before, Arthur.” Callum said.
“Dear God, you mean,…we’re going out after that madman?”
“That would be a correct assumption.”
“Oh dear God. Am I going to Dover or am I to be here on ,…this,…barge?”
“No, Doctor, you will have your cabin aboard Dover.” Tomlin said stepping in, “He is taking the,…barge, while we have a ship of the line.” Tomlin was giving Callum a side glance.
“I am going to throw you overboard.” Callum looked at Tomlin, “Just go back to your ship, Captain, and send me a cook, other than Carson.” Callum said, holding up a finger.Tomlin chuckled and Crawford could see what was going on between the two now.
“You have been given command of Dover, Thomas?”
“Yes, Doctor, a temporary thing to be sure, but I have command nonetheless.” Tomlin wiggled his eyebrows.
“Well congratulations, Thomas, you certainly deserve it. And especially from having to deal with the likes of his company, but you seem to have risen above it.”
“I take great insult from that, Doctor.” Callum said.
“And as you should, jail bird.” Crawford rolled his eyes, “Come, Captain Tomlin, you can give me a tour of your new command. And we can leave the odor of this ‘barge’ behind us.” Crawford said and turned up his nose a bit. He took Tomlin by the arm and led him toward the gangplank. Tomlin was chuckling and Callum crossed his arms and smiled, shaking his head.
“Reporting as ordered, sir.” Carson said as he was bubbling in his usual way, Callum was wide eyed over seeing him.
“Carson, what are you doing here?” Callum asked as he looked up from the charts on the small table inthe cabin.
“Captain Tomlin, sir, he had me rowed over in the longboat. Shem and I were asked to toss for it, sir. I won the toss.”
“I see.” Callum said, “Well, I’m not sure that congratulations are in order, Carson. You know what we might be facing, you were there when I called for volunteers.”
“Yes, sir.” Carson’s usual smile now faded, “I gave it great thought, sir, I assure you, but I can do so much more than just be your steward. I have helped in the surgery with Dr. Crawford as you know, and I can also,…”
“Yes, I know your varied talents, Carson.” Callum said and then sighed, “Very well. At least there is a smaller group to cook for here on the sloop.”
“Oh yes, sir. I have already taken a look at the galley on my way to report to you, sir. It needs a bit of work, but, I can have it in fine shape in not time. Would you care for some coffee, sir?”
“Yes, if there is any to be had.”
“I’ll see to it right away, sir.” Carson smiled. He opened the door of the small cabin and went to leave.
“Oh, and Carson,…”
“Thank you, and welcome aboard.” Callum smiled a bit.
“You’re welcome, sir, and thank you.” Carson beamed and went out.
Callum went back to his charts, plotting a course both north and south, along with the possible intercept points from the courses of the other vessels that were attacked from a listing that had been given to him with the orders from the Admiralty. He saw a pattern starting to emerge from it, and wondered why no one at the Admiralty had thought of this yet. He used his calipers to measure the distances from the suspected points, they were within a mile or two of each as far as spread, some to the north some nearer The Channel in the south, but it remained constant. Callum tapped the caliper points on the chart as Carson came back in with coffee and a cup.
“I beg your pardon, sir.”
“Hmm, what was that?” Callum asked as he looked up from his chart.
“There seems to be a lack of a few things in the galley, sir.”
“Oh, such as?” Callum asked.
“Well, sir, there is not much in the way of cookware and a general lack of anything to serve it on, plates or platters, let alone cups of any kind. I had to struggle a bit to come up with six.”
“Six? Six cups? That’s all that’s there?”
“Yes, sir, I’m sorry ,sir. If there was a crew aboard this sloop, they must have taken turns at eating from near as I can tell.”
“I see. Well that won’t do for our near forty. And I doubt that the Dock Master has anything in the way of that without ordering it.”
“There might be a few pots or so about, sir, to be had.”
“No, I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” Callum reached into his pocket and pulled out a few notes, handing them to Carson, “there is a mercantile nearby as I recall. Go there and purchase what you need, have Lt. Collingwood give you lend of one of the hands if you wish.”
“Can you think of another course of action, Carson? If so, speak up, but we had better move quickly as there is a large group of Marines that need to be fed and they outnumber us two to one.” Callum raised an eyebrow, “I have never heard of a mutiny when tied off at dock, but there is a first time for everything.”
“I’ll see to it right away, sir. But if I may, sir, one of the Marines, sir.”
“Well, sir, one ofthe young lads is my sister’s son. May I ask for his assistance?”
“By all means, see Sgt. McGuffin, if he does not, then see Lt. Collingwood for one of the hands.”
“Yes, sir. And thank you, sir.” Carson said as Callum poured coffee for himself. He sipped it and it was the same old Carson coffee that he enjoyed so much. Callum went back to hischart and making his marks on it.
“Here you are, sir.” Carson said and Callum looked up, seeing Carson carrying a tray.
“What’s this?” Callum asked.
“Your supper, sir.” Carson said.
“What? Supper? What time is it?”
“Eight bells, sir.”
“Have I lost the entire day?”
“It’s a wonder you haven’t lost your eyesight, sir, working here in the near dark like you are.”
“I didn’t even notice.” Callum said and then moved the chart off the table, Carson setting the tray down on it, taking plates off for him and setting them down, “Carson, this smells wonderful.”
“Thank you, sir. It must be the new things from the mercantile, sir. The stove is much smaller and is easier to handle, I must say.”
“Well, if this is any indication, I might have to have the stoves on Dover scraped and a smaller one brought in for you.”
“Thank you, sir.” Carson smiled.
“What of everyone else, Carson?”
“The Marines are taken care of, sir, and the crew is having theirs now. Mr. Collingwood and Mr.Talon are in the other cabin, sir, having theirs.”
“Really, you don’t say?” Callum asked and took a bite of it and was surprised as in the past Carson’s cooking had been sorely lacking, but this was simply wonderful. Callum nodded at it, “It is truly a pity that this is not a ship of the line, Carson, I have never tasted your cooking to be like this before, it is simply wonderful.”
“Oh thank you, sir.” Carson beamed, “Everyone else has been remarking on it as well, but none as well as you, sir.”
“Well, if you keep this up, I can see our little group in making this sloop a permanent home for us.” Callum smiled.
“I’m not sure I could do without the Dover, sir, she is really my home.”
“I know how you feel, Carson, as I share that feeling with you.” Callum smiled. Carson nodded and then went out, closing the door softly. Callum thought about home now, Dustin, Henry, and Martha. They would be through with supper by now, Martha would befinishing up the dishes and Henry would be getting ready for bed or close to, and Dustin, what was he thinking of right now, possibly of Callum, like he was thinking of Dustin. What a thought, Callum smiled at it. He just staring off into space and didn’t realize he was not alone any longer. Callum snapped out of it, Carson was standing there looking at the still full plate.
“Is there something wrong with your supper, sir?”
“Your supper, sir.” Carson said, looking concerned, Callum looked down at his plate and went back at it again. It was cold now. He looked up at Carson.
“Forgive me, I must have been lost in thought and lost all track of the time.”
“I can rewarm it for you, sir.”
“No, it’s not necessary, thank you. I’ll finish it the way it is.”
“I’ll come back then, sir.”
“No, wait, Carson, please, would you have a few minutes to spare from your duties?”
“Certainly, sir.” Carson said. Callum knew another chair was there and went to get up, Carson went to it and sat down.
“Carson, please, join me here at the table.” Callum said and Carson went wide eyed at the invitation, Callum saw it. “For heaven’s sake, man, join me at the table. You can bring me up to date on the galley and the supplies if you wish.” Callum said and Carson moved the chair to the table, “But first you can tell me about your sister’s son. Did you take him with you to the mercantile?”
“Indeed, sir. He’s a very strong lad, and was very helpful.” Carson smiled.
“I couldn’t help but notice earlier when they came aboard, they all look so very young.” Callum said as he leaned over a bit toward Carson.
“He’s barely fifteen, sir, just last month. He told me that most of the others with him are of the same age as well.”
“Boat load of children.” Callum whispered.
“Beg your pardon, sir?”
“Nothing. I was merely thinking out loud that I was correct in assuming that they were very young.”
“Yes, sir. He also said that Sgt. McGuffin was rather like a father to them all, most of them not knowing their fathers, my sister’s son included.”
“Yes, I share in that myself.”
“Yes, my father died the year I was born. Captain Powers was like the father that I never knew.”
“He knew that, sir. He made mention of that to tell more than once. He felt very close to you as well, sir. That’s why his wife wanted you to have his trunk and its contents when she laid him to rest.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It’s true, sir, his sword especially. Captain Powers had told me once that if something were to befall him that I was to make sure that you were to have it.”
“It is a beautiful weapon, and has saved my life many times over in our short history together.” Callum said as he finished his plate, he pushed it back and rested on the table on his elbows as he thought about the tri-bladed sword that stood in the corner that he now stared at. His thoughts went to the fight with Smythe at the fortress, and then his brother in London, and then the fight with Colonel Holt, his near defeat in all three battles, but the sword had proved itself over and over again, even against much heavier blades. Callum smiled slightly as he looked at it. He was drug back to reality by the knock to the door. “Enter.” Callum said, expecting Collingwood or Talon, not who was standing there.
“Dr. Crawford, sir.” Carson said as he stood up.
“Carson, good to see you, my good man.” Crawford smiled giving Crawford a nod, “My dear Captain, I have it on very good authority that you have a wound that needs tending, yet again.”
“Oh, and what wound would that be?” Callum asked, knowing very well what he meant.
“You have several stitches that require removing. I just took those out of Captain Tomlin and he informed me of yours.”
“I must have a chat with our newest Captain of the fleet, he seems to be becoming a little free with his information and his sass.”
“I think you might have been the same way yourself had we not been thrust into the circumstances after you took command.”
“Have a care, Doctor.” Callum gave him a lifted eyebrow.
“And you seem to be setting a very poor table aboard this barge of yours. I don’t see any wine about.” Crawford said, Callum looking around as well.
“The Dock Master might have raided whatever was aboard after she was brought in. Carson, I’m wondering, are there any of those notes left over that I gave you?”
“Yes, sir. I put them in your inside pocket of your tunic, sir.”
“Oh, did you?”
“Yes, sir. You were engrossed in your charts, sir. I spoke to you, but you were very lost in them, it seems, sir.”
“Then I suppose we’ll have to make another trip tomorrow into town. Before lunch, I would say, as I will be in a meeting aboard Dover. And then there’s the grog for the crew, too.”
“Very good, sir.” Carson smiled, “Do you think we will be gone long at sea, sir?”
“I trust not, but you never know.” Callum smiled slightly. Carson went to leave with the empty plate.
“Hold on a minute, Carson.” Crawford said, and then looked at Callum, “Captain Tomlin seemed to think that your stitches of this new wound were quite extensive. Carson, I might need your assistance in this.”
“Arthur,…” Callum started to say as Crawford set his bag on the table.
“Vest and shirt please, Captain.” Crawford said.
“I’ll only be a moment, sir.” Carson said and went out to take the plate away, the galley was but a few steps away. Carson returned as Callum was removing his vest. He draped it over the back of his chair and then pulled out his shirt out of his pants, and lifted it up and off. Crawford frowned at what he saw, the wide scar from below the center of the collarbone to the left shoulder and then the one that ran down the muscle of the upper arm as well. Wide stitches had been used telling Crawford that they were very deep cuts to begin with, the mark of a heavy blade.
“What the hell did you get into this time, Quintan?” Crawford set about with a small pair of scissors, “Carson, bring that lamp over here, will you?” Crawford saw the stitches better as the light came closer now. A knock on the door sounded.
“Enter.” Callum said and the door opened.
“Oh, I beg your pardon.”
“Mr. Collingwood, what is it?” Callum asked through clenched teeth as Crawford was trying to pull on the stitch ends, but it wouldn’t come.
“Carson, set the lamp down and hold him while I grab the ends of the stitch. I’m sorry, Quintan, but with this wide stitching, this is going to hurt quite a bit.”
“Why is it, Arthur, that when you always visit me, there is pain involved somehow?” Callum asked and Crawford smiled, “What is it that you needed, Mr. Collingwood?” Callum asked with a bit of a grunt.
“I was wondering, sir,” Collingwood winced as he saw the skin being pulled way out with the stitch, Callum groaned a bit, “should we set a watch on deck for the night?”
“A sensible precaution, yes, Mr. Collingwood,” Callum groaned loudly with the next big pull, “Mother of God, Arthur. It didn’t hurt near as bad to get sliced up with the blade that caused this.”
“Quit whining, Captain, or I will have to give you something.” Crawford said, Carson holding Callum down in the chair as best he could to keep him still. Another knock on the door, Collingwood opened it and a wide eyed Talon entered the tiny cabin.
“I heard him out on deck, is everything alright?” Talon asked.
“Darin, set up the watch if you please, a rotation one crew member every four hours along with aMarine. See the Sergeant for the detail.” Callum said and then groaned loudly as he was being pulled on again.
“Well, thank God they’re clean at least, Quintan. What on earth happened to you after you went home?” Crawford asked.
“Those must have been from the duel with Colonel Holt, Doctor, am I right, sir?” Talon asked as he looked over and winced as the skin was pulled out again, “I’ll just see to it now, sir, the watch.” Talon tipped his hand and opened the door, Collingwood followed him out, closing the door behind him. They could hear Callum groaning loudly again as if they were still in the cabin with him.
“Dear Lord.” Collingwood said softly, “Keep this to ourselves.”
“What if the crew asks, you know they can probably hear it as well. I heard it up on deck.” Talon said softly as Callum groaned again.
“Alright, let me give you something to quiet you, Captain. We have a bit more to go.” Crawford said but his voice was muffled a bit.
“Only if they ask.” Collingwood whispered to Talon, who nodded in reply. Talon turned on his heel and went to carry out the orders.
Carson had rigged the haversack to place Callum in. Crawford had given him something to ease his discomfort and make him sleep. It took about an hour to remove all of the stitches and clean the wounds. Crawford was impressed by the stitching and wished he knew who the doctor was that had done it. Obviously a very skilled surgeon had been involved with this. Crawford put his tools away and closed his bag. Carson came in and stood beside Crawford.
“He should sleep through the night. Thankfully we’re not out at sea. I’ll check on him tomorrow in the morning. Get some rest, Carson. You know he’ll want his coffee in the morning.”
“Yes, sir. There are just some things that remain constant like the stars.”
“You’re a poet, Carson. Very eloquent.” Crawford said, giving him a side glance, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Good night, sir.”Carson said as he looked only at the sleeping Callum, who was gently swaying from the gentle motions of the sloop. He heard the door close behind him. Carson lost his smile and looked worried, he wondered if this was a sign, a possible sign of things to come.