Callum and his crew had surrounded the unconscious boy that was laid out on the deck of Windsong. They all watched as Carson had brought some cloths along with a bucket of water out on deck and was cleaning him of all the dirt and dried blood off the boy, his hands and his bare feet were completely coated in it. Some of the younger hands looked away as the small bucket that Carson was dipping the cloth in was now black from the blood, the cloths he used were now stained a dark pink. The boy was slowly coming around now, his eyes were fluttering a bit, and Callum motioned everyone to move back a couple of steps to give him room.
Wide and wild eyes took over and the boy started screaming again seeing all that were surrounding him. Callum tried to quiet him by holding up a finger to his own lips but the boy continued to scream. Callum did the only other thing he could and that was reach out and grab the boy and pull him to him, holding him tight as the boy again was continuing his shrill screaming into Callum’s ear. It went on for a minute as everyone backed up further and was looking at their Captain and what he was doing with the boy, this one act of total compassion to try and ease him. It worked. Finally the boy calmed but was still looking terrified as Callum pulled back from him, but held onto the thin upper arms.
“What’s your name?” Callum asked him, but there was no understanding shown in the young face. Callum got in the boys line of vision, “We won’t hurt you. What’s your name?” There was no reply. Callum asked him in French and he looked even more worried. Carson had a thought and asked him in German, and the boy looked at him. Carson beamed his calming smile at him and then asked in Danish, the boy replied and then all of a sudden, his demeanor changed, he became calm and began to speak to Carson only in Danish, telling him of what had happened, the attack that came over three weeks ago, how he had survived it by being hidden by the Captain in a bench seat and but hearing it all, the chopping sounds, the blood splatting against wooden bulkheads, the screams, and whoever was doing it only spoke French. Carson was horrified by the descriptions that the boy was giving him. He told Carson that he was trying to get the crew or pieces each of them at least back together so they were with the correct person and their bodies. He said that he tried to steer the ship but couldn’t handle her by himself and really didn’t know what to do or how to do it. The Captain was the boy’s uncle and they were sailing home after delivering their cargo to Brest and were attacked on the second night. Carson had him stop speaking by holding up a hand to silence him, and looked over at Callum and explained what he had been told. Callum shook his head slightly and hung his head. Carson looked back at the boy and explained who Callum was, the boy nodded toward Callum, seeing him differently now, knowing who he was.
“What would you like me to do with him, sir?” Carson asked. Callum looked up at the boy and gave him a faint smile.
“Alright, he’s probably hungry, take him and give him something to eat. I want him to understand that we are not going to hurt him in any way.”
“Where should I berth him, sir?”
“Make a pallet for him in my cabin, I won’t be using it much, he’ll feel safer there, I’m sure. And besides, we are a bit overcrowded as it is below.” Callum said.
Carson turned and asked the boy if he was hungry and he nodded and explained that all of the food stores aboard had been tainted with blood from the dead crew and there was really nothing to eat for the past week or more, except the rats that he could catch. Carson shuddered at what he said, Callum saw it and asked about what was said, Carson was reluctant but relayed it to him, Callum only shook his head. “Take him below, Carson. Feed him until he is beyond stuffed and wants no more. Tell him that all will be well and that we will find a way to get him home.”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said and saw the look on Callum’s face as it changed all of a sudden, a look that he had seen before, that night at La Rochelle, and he knew what it meant. Carson turned to the boy and smiled and explained everything to the boy, it seemed to excite him about eating something decent finally and having a safe place to sleep.
“I have some other things of mine in my trunk, Carson, that might do for him as far as clothing goes, would you see to it as well?”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said as he helped the boy get to his feet. All hands watched as Carson led him away and they turned their gaze back to Callum now and what to do next. Collingwood was the first, as it should be to speak up.
“Sir, what should we do about this merchant?” Collingwood asked, Callum just stared at the steps and the door that Carson and the boy just went down and through, he thought for a long minute, “Sir?” Collingwood asked. Callum broke his stare and looked at Collingwood and the rest of the crew.
“The Sergeant and I witnessed firsthand the unspeakable atrocities that were done to these poor souls. I did not even see a single weapon in their possession or anywhere about, and I doubt that they even had a chance to try and defend themselves. I say this,…let this,…this vessel that we have encountered be a lesson to us all to remain constantly on guard for this,…monster that we seek. This bastard needs to be stopped at all costs.” Callum said as he looked at all of them with that look of determination and drive that he had. Most of them thought that if there had been an enemy in their midst right at this moment, he would have dispatched them without thought or mercy in seeing the look on his face at this moment.
“What of the ship, sir?” Collingwood asked as he stiffened in front of his Captain.
“The ship,…yes,” Callum said, “Sergeant McGuffin.”
“Let us find a couple of powder kegs and some fuse, if we have any. We will place them in the forward hold at her keel. I’ll light them off and send her to the bottom.”
“Very good, sir.” McGuffin said and saluted, Callum paid it no mind at all and walked toward the steps and the door for going below leaving all hands and the officers there on deck. Collingwood turned and looked at McGuffin.
“Sergeant, what did you see over there?” Collingwood asked before the large man could turn away.
“I have been in the Marines all my life, sir. I have seen things that would turn a man’s hair white and then make him turn into stone. What I have seen over there does not compare to any of that,…sir. No one should see what is over there, sir, no one.” McGuffin glared at Collingwood, and he shrunk back from it. All of the hands were wide eyed over all of it, the boy, Callum, McGuffin, the merchant ship. McGuffin turned and walked to the hold to get the powder and the fuse as ordered.
Callum reemerged from below, carrying something in his hand. He walked up to Collingwood and Talon, which both looked more than worried. McGuffin came up with a keg of powder on his shoulder, another Marine carried one as well. They joined Callum and his officers.
“Thank you, Sergeant.” Callum said, “Would you place them at the rail for me, please?” Callum looked at Collingwood, “I will cast off our lines from topside and then set the charges below and light the fuse, steer a course away while I do that. I want the ship about one hundred yards off to suffer no possible damage.”
“We have the small boat available, sir.”
“I will take no further chances in anything happening before we can engage this monster that we hunt, Mr. Collingwood, do I make myself clear?”
“Perfectly clear, sir.”
“Excellent, then carry out my orders.” Callum said and went to turn toward the rail, but ran into the large frame of McGuffin, blocking him.
“Begging your pardon, sir, but you will need assistance getting the powder up and onto the other ship, sir.”
“I can manage, Sergeant, thank you.” Callum said in a flat tone and went to go around him.
“Article twenty eight, section four, paragraph two clearly states that no flag officer shall enter into hazardous duty without escort,…sir.” McGuffin said as he stood rigid, Callum stopped and backed up a step and looked up at the big man.
“There is no such article.”
“I can produce a copy of the Articles of War from below, if the Captain insists, sir.” McGuffin said, his graveled voice carried out across the deck to all ears as he stood stiff, Callum looked around and saw his officers and the hands all looking very worried, he looked back at McGuffin.
“Alright, Sergeant,…you can join the party, if you insist.”
“Thank you, sir.” McGuffin said and looked at Collingwood, who rolled his eyes with relief and sighed openly. He watched as Callum picked up a keg of powder and hefted it up on his shoulder, he used a rope and climbed up the side of the Dutch merchant and got to the rail, struggling a bit and went up and over with the keg setting it on the deck. McGuffin followed him up with the other keg and the long fuse, Callum helped him up and over as well, taking the keg from him. All eyes watched the pair as they went to the lines and waited for the sway between vessels to decrease and cast the lines off holding them together. Hands were reeling back in the lines aboard Windsong. The vessels began to drift away from one another.
Callum tied the cloth he had brought up from below around his face, covering his nose and mouth. He grabbed a keg of powder and went toward the forward hold to go down, McGuffin following him. Callum had him wait up on deck as he went below and placed the first keg near the access to the keel of the ship, above the bilge. Callum went back up for the next keg and the fuse. He reached the deck and loaded it on his shoulder, going back down.
“Find me a sparker, Sergeant.” Callum said. McGuffin gave him a nod and went in search of one. It wasn’t long and he returned to the edge of the hold with it in hand.
“Sir, I found one.” McGuffin called down as he stared at all of the body parts below him that were in a pile. Callum came back up the ladder with watery eyes from the rot and stench below.
“Have they pulled away yet?” Callum asked, McGuffin rose to his feet and looked over the rail.
“They have, sir, about thirty or forty yards now.”
“That’s good enough for now. I’ll light the fuse and we can go over the side.” Callum said and McGuffin handed him the sparker. Callum went below and went to the fuse that trailed away from the kegs he lifted the cloth and blew on the end of the soft glow point and the sparker came to life more. Callum lowered it to the end of the fuse and touched it off, the fuse flashing and the sparking was moving toward the kegs, Callum dropped the sparker and went toward the ladder, going around the stacks of reeking body parts and reached the ladder, he looked over one last time and saw the bright sparking off in the distance. He went up the ladder and onto the deck, he put a hand on McGuffin’s arm to push him along to the rail, they made their way quickly.
“Time to go, Sergeant.” Callum said as he looked over at Windsong as her stern was only in view, the hands on deck were at the aft rail and looking back at them, Callum looked at McGuffin, “I never asked, can you swim, Sergeant?”
“Only when I have to, sir.” McGuffin said and there it was for the very first time, a broad smile within the big whiskers. Callum took off the cloth from his face and dropped it on the deck.
“I would say that you will have to now, Sergeant.” Callum said and climbed up on the rail, McGuffin climbed up as well, “Ready?”
“After you, sir.” McGuffin said and they dove, Callum first by only a fraction of a second, McGuffin following him. Callum hit the water and it was like needles going into him from the icy cold, he broke the surface and looked about as he began to tread water, McGuffin broke the surface as well near him and let out a deep groan from the cold of the water.
“You alright?” Callum asked.
“A bit cold, sir, that’s all.”
“Yes.” Callum said, “Thank God it’s not winter.” He looked over as there was a booming sound and then a long loud groan coming from the Dutch ship near them both. He knew the powder kegs had gone off. Smoke was beginning to rise up from the hold now. Callum looked at McGuffin. “Make a swim for it, before she starts to go down, Sergeant.” Callum turned a bit in his treading and started to kick and swim for Windsong, McGuffin followed close by. As he swam, the hands at the stern had thrown over two ropes, Collingwood and Talon stood by watching Callum and McGuffin swimming to catch them. Marines gathered behind to lend a hand as well.
Ropes were grabbed, Callum wrapping one around his right hand and wrist, looking back and reaching out to McGuffin, he finding the other line as he swam over it. McGuffin grabbed it and held on as they were both being pulled through the water by the hands and the Marines. They were hauled up the stern and over the rail and onto the aft deck.
“Thank God you’re both alright, sir.” Collingwood said as he looked at Callum. Carson came through the group with blankets, handing them out, McGuffin taking one, Callum taking the other, Carson helping him wrap himself.
“Strike sail, Mr. Collingwood, and heave her over. We’ll hold position here.” Callum said.
“Aye, sir.” He said and turned, “Strike sail! Helm, hard to starboard!”
“You alright, Sergeant?” Callum asked as he looked at the large man.
“A bit cold, sir, but I am well, thank you.” McGuffin nodded. He looked up as Carson came to them both carrying hot coffee. He handed them to each of the wet and cold men.
“It is a pity, sir, that we have no brandy aboard.” Carson said.
“This will do fine, Carson, thank you.” Callum said. He looked aft at the merchant that was beginning to show signs of her bow dipping lower into the sea.
Windsong was turning hard to starboard and with sails being hauled up, she came almost to a stop, her momentum was slowed and she was slow to respond in her turn from the loss of the wind. The crew was looking off the starboard aft quarter at the merchant, watching her start to dip further by the bow. Windsong stopped all motion now and all hands gathered along the starboard rail and watched as she started to dip even further and began to list to her own starboard. Callum watched this poor vessel and those souls that were lost aboard, the hands were moving slowly near him.
“We commend those lost aboard to the deep, their final resting place along with their good ship that carried them. We did not know those souls that were lost but our hearts go with them. We can only pray that God grants their soul’s mercy and peace eternal until the sea gives up her dead. Amen.” Callum said.
“Amen.” Came from the crew and the Marines as well that stood around him. They watched as the merchant dipped her bow under the water and she listed to her starboard side completely now, her mast were lying in the water and she gasped and then groaned deeply and slowly slid out of sight leaving only a few items floating on the water’s surface. Callum cleared his throat.
“Set sail, steer us south on our course, set only headsails. You have the deck, I’ll be below in my cabin.” Callum said.
“Aye, sir.” Collingwood said, watching Callum walk away to go below. “Set the Headsails! Helm, steer us south southeast.”
“Aye, sir.” Dorfman said and spun the wheel making Windsong swing to port as she took the wind.
Callum walked by the galley and went to his cabin door, handing Carson the blanket he was given. He opened the door and pushed it open. He stopped short as the boy was sitting at the table inside the cabin eating. The boy jumped and then looked terrified, but Callum held up a hand to ease him. Carson was right behind Callum and spoke to the boy in Danish telling him it was alright.
“Can I help you with anything, sir?” Carson asked.
“No, I can manage, thank you.” Callum said as he watched the boy sit back down at the table, “Carson, what is the boy’s name?”
“Hans, sir, Hans Pederson.” Carson answered, the boy looked up when he heard his name. Carson smiled at the boy and gave him a wink and a nod and the boy eased a bit more. Callum gave him a brief smile and went over to his trunk and opened it, pulling out some dry clothes. He closed the lid and sat on one of the chairs and pulled off his boots, dropping them to the deck. Callum got up and undid the flap on his long pants and pushed them down, the shirt tails covering him for the most part and he sat back down in the chair, pushing off the wet pants and leaving them in a heap, Carson went to get them, but the boy jumped up and came around the table so fast it was almost blinding. Callum got a stocking off and it was snatched out of his hand by the boy and then the boy knelt and put out his hands to take the next one.
“Carson, what’s he doing?” Callum asked.
“I’m not sure, sir.”
“Well,…ask him.” Callum said as he stared at the boy, Carson asked in Danish and the boy looked up at him and answered rather longwindedly Callum thought.
“It appears, sir, he wants to show his appreciation to you for being rescued. He was the cabin boy on his uncle’s ship and as such wishes do it for you as well, sir.”
“I see. You can tell him that I appreciate the offer, but it is not necessary, we are a ship of His Majesty’s Navy and don’t have need for the services of a cabin boy.”
“Not to belay the point, sir, but I would hardly think we are a ship of the line. And not having uniformed officers on deck, we seem to be playing the part of a merchant.”
“I see your point, and yes it was part of the plan, that is true, but I don’t want to be tripping over him, Carson.”
“Would you like me to berth him somewhere else, sir?” Carson asked. Callum sighed and looked at the bright face that was staring up at him.
“No,…leave him here. We’ll figure something out. I need some sleep.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Carson said. Callum pulled off the other stocking and it was snatched away out of his hand. He took his new pants and slipped them on and pulled them up as he stood, he tucked himself inside them and then pulled off the wet shirt, and it was snatched as well. Callum shook his head a bit. He took the new shirt and slipped it on and let it drop down him.
“Carson, wake me in a couple of hours would you?”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Carson said and spoke to the boy as Callum climbed into the haversack. The boy set the wet clothes down and went to the haversack and took the blanket and covered Callum as Callum frowned a bit.
“Carson, this is what I meant.”
“I understand, sir.” Carson said and stepped close to the boy and spoke softly to him in Danish, the boy nodded and picked up the wet clothes and the boots and went to the door, Carson taking the plate and cup from the table, closing the door behind him.
Callum woke to a touch, it was soft on his shoulder, a light shaking. He opened his eyes and in the dim light, he saw the young face standing over him.
“Tid til at vagne op, sir.” The boy said softly.
“What?” Callum asked.
“Tid til at vagne op.” The boy said again with a smile. He motioned with his hand to come.
“Time to get up?” Callum asked. The boy backed up a step, letting Callum swing his legs out.
“Ja, ja,..kom, Kaptajn.” The boy was all smiles now. Callum got up and rubbed his face with his hands, “Jeg vil hente dig vand.” The boy said and went out the door quickly. He came back a minute later with a small bucket and a cloth.
“What’s this?” Callum asked as he looked at the bucket on the table and then the boy.
“Du kan vaske.”
“Wash?” Callum asked.
“Vask.” The boy said and then set about showing what he meant to face his face. Callum smiled and nodded and dipped his hands in the water and lifted them, washing his face. The boy was all smiles now and nodding. He stood back and just watched Callum, and Callum could see him out of the corner of his eye. He picked up the cloth and dried his face as Carson came in and set coffee on the table.
“He certainly is attentive, isn’t he?” Callum asked.
“He is that, sir. He has been waiting patiently, pacing the companionway outside while you slept, sir.”
“I see. Does he want something, Carson?”
“I think just company, sir, after being alone for so long on that ship.”
“It must have been very hard for him. I can’t imagine.” Callum said quietly, “How old is he, Carson?”
“He said he’s twelve, sir.”
“I hope he’s not scarred by all that happened to him. Did he say where he was from?”
“Arhus, sir, I believe he said.” Carson answered.
“Ja, Arhus.” The boy said as he stepped close hearing the name, smiling wide. Callum and Carson looked at him. The boy wore one of Callum’s shirts, which was large and baggy on him, but he had managed it with tucking in and rolling up sleeves a bit.
“Tell him, we will try and get him home as soon as we can or if we come across another ship heading in that direction, we’ll see if they can take him.” Callum said, Carson told the boy and he looked sad for a moment. The boy looked directly at Callum but spoke to Carson. Carson spoke back to him, and the boy hung his head a bit.
“What is it, Carson?”
“He’s said, sir, that he wishes for us to take him home. He doesn’t want to go on a different ship, sir.”
“That may not be possible. Did you explain to him what we are really doing?” Callum asked as he sat in a chair at the table.
“Not entirely, sir.”
“Well, let’s be honest with him then. I don’t know if he’ll want to be on board if he knows we are hunting this Frenchman that murdered his crew and his uncle.” Callum said and Carson turned to the boy and told him what their mission actually was and why they were sailing. The boy’s face changed as Carson spoke and he looked directly at Callum again. There was a long silence between the three of them and then the boy spoke, slowly and softly as he looked at Carson. Carson said something to him finally and then looked at Callum.
“He said that if you are going to find the one that did this to his uncle that he would like to remain with us, sir, and see it through.” Carson said.
“I admire his resolve, Carson, but it may be go bad for us, you know. Does he know that?”
“He does, sir.”
“Alright.” Callum said as he looked at the boy, “Tell him then that for now, we will do what we have set out to do with our mission, and he can be a member of the crew. We’ll find something for him to do.”
“As you say, sir. What would you wish him to do, sir?”
“I know we are small in company but perhaps you could use some help in the galley?”
“That would be most welcomed, sir.” Carson said.
“Good, then it’s settled.” Callum gave Carson a brief smile as he turned and spoke to the boy again, and the young face brightened once again as Callum drank down the last of his coffee. The boy nodded and then looked at Callum.
“Ja,…thank…you.” He said with a heavy accent.
“You’re welcome.” Callum said to him and got to his feet, “I’ll be on deck. Show him what he needs to do, he’ll be your responsibility, Carson.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Carson said and stepped out of the way, coming up beside the boy. Callum nodded and went to the door and walked out of the cabin in bare feet. He went by the galley and out the door and up the steps looking about as he came up on deck. He looked aft and saw Collingwood coming toward him.
“How are we doing, Mr. Collingwood?” Callum asked.
“Proceeding south southeast along our course, sir. Mr. Talon reports that the bilge pump is operating just fine.”
“Would you like more sail, sir?”
“No, I want our progress to be gradual from point to point between the support ships.” Callum said as he looked about seeing the hands and Marines on deck, the crew were giving the young Marines lessons in sailing, and Callum welcomed it. The more that they knew how to handle Windsong the better if need be, “Let’s look at the chart.” Callum said to Collingwood and they went to the wheelhouse and stood at the aft side and looked down at it. Callum ran his finger along the drawn course and stopped, “We should be about here and Captain Stewart should be about here,” Callum said as he drug his finger toward the English coast, “we should reach this position by dark if the wind holds.” Callum said as he looked aloft.
“When will Captain Tomlin sail south, sir?”
“He should set sail by dark and sail beyond Captain Renner to this position.” Callum said and pointed at a spot marked on the chart, he moved his finger over to another mark, “This is where I want to be tonight, another supposed attack site on a merchant. We will sail under headsails only to keep our speed constant, remember,…we are not in a hurry.”
“I’ll take the deck tonight again.” Callum said.
“Begging your pardon, sir, but you should get some more rest.”
“I’ll rest after this son-of-a-bitch is caught, Abel.” Callum said softly.
“As you say, sir.”
“I only hope that my boots are dry by tonight.” Callum said and smiled. Collingwood returned the smile, “Have you seen the Sergeant?”
“Not since he went below, sir.”
“I think I’ll go and check on him. Our little swim earlier may have taken a toll on him. You still have the deck, Abel.” Callum said as he put a hand on the young shoulder for a moment.
“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood answered and he watched as Callum walked away from him, giving a slight smile watching his Captain walking with his long pants, shirt, and bare feet going to the hold. The crew tipped their hands to him as he made his way. Callum stopped and spoke to Amos briefly, pointing at something forward for a moment and then went on his way. Callum reached the hold and spoke to a Marine on deck at the hold before going down.
“Are you feeling alright, Sergeant?” Callum asked, seeing the large man sitting on a crate. He went to stand, but Callum held up a hand to stop him.
“I am, sir, thank you.”
“Have you had any sleep, Sergeant?” Callum asked as he knelt on his haunches near the large man.
“I have, sir.”
“You look more than a little tired, Sergeant.”
“Beg your pardon for saying it, sir, but you look tired as well.”
“I won’t deny that. I will be on deck tonight, before then I will get some more sleep, I assure you.”
“Is there something I can do for you, sir?”
“No, I wanted to see about you after our little swim.” Callum said, giving the large man a brief smile, “Swimming in the cold water like we did can be a bit draining.”
“I won’t deny that, sir.” McGuffin said and flashed his eyes a bit, “How is the young lad, sir?”
“He is settled finally it seems. I have him assisting Carson in the galley for now.”
“I see. What do you plan on doing with him, sir?”
“I had thought to turn him over to any ship we might come across that was sailing north, but the boy wishes to remain with us now that he knows what our mission is.”
“Do you think that wise, sir?”
“I have few options it would seem. I don’t really want him aboard, but,…perhaps when this is over and if we are successful, we can take him home. He certainly has had more than his fair share in this.”
“Agreed, sir.” McGuffin said and looked down at the deck for a moment, “Do you think he knows anything that might be helpful?”
“I have given that some thought as well. I haven’t asked him yet as I was trying to give him a bit of time to settle down first. If they delivered cargo to Brest, and then sailed north to return home and the attack was about three weeks ago as he said and attacked at the second night’s sailing, I wonder,…” Callum said and went silent in thought. McGuffin watched him for a moment, and then Callum looked at him, “get some rest, Sergeant.” Callum said and rose to his feet, turned and walked away quickly. He went up the ladder and up on deck and walked quickly to the wheelhouse and looked at the chart again, Collingwood came over to him and looked at Callum running his fingers along the chart.
“Something wrong, sir?”
“I was checking something, Abel.” Callum said, “I’ll be below for a minute.” Callum said and went quickly to the steps and the door below, finding Carson and the boy in the galley.
“Can I get you something, sir?” Carson asked as he and the boy looked up.
“Carson, ask him some questions for me.”
“Ask him if he was able to pull up any of the sails by himself after they were attacked.” Callum said and Carson asked the boy and then there was a reply.
“He said that he was able to pull up the sails on the Mizzen and the Main, sir.”
“They didn’t look too secured and the ship was only under Headsail when we found her. Ask him if he’s certain that they were attacked on the second night sailing from Brest.” Callum said and Carson asked.
“Ja.” The boy said and looked at Callum.
“Does he recall where he was or if he saw the ship that attacked them before they were boarded?” Callum asked, Carson asked the boy and the boy nodded and spoke to Carson and then looked at Callum.
“He said that he saw the ship coming up from behind them as he was on deck that night with his uncle, it was large and came up fast on them, sir.”
“Is there anything else that he can remember about his own ship? Did he turn the wheel, make any course changes or sight any land at any time after the attack?” Callum asked, Carson asked the boy and the boy looked down a bit, he spoke softly for a couple of minutes as Carson put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. He fell silent and Carson looked at Callum.
“He stayed hidden, sir, in the bench seat that his uncle put him in, he doesn’t know for how long. He said that he was frightened that they still might be aboard. Once he sure that they were gone he came out and saw everything in the cabin, his uncle and a couple of others of the crew. He said he went up on deck and found the rest of the crew and he became very sick over it, sir. He said he tried to steer the ship a few times by himself, but never sighted any land, the wheel kept turning on its own back and forth, sir.”
“Three weeks.” Callum said quietly, “Ask him, Carson,…how is he certain that it was three weeks ago?” Callum was looking at the boy as Carson asked and then Carson looked up at Callum with sad eyes after the boy answered.
“He said that he counted the nights, not the days, as he stayed on deck, the only place he felt safe after placing…all of the pieces,…” Carson cleared his throat, “of the crew together, sir.”
“Thank him for me, Carson.” Callum said quietly and walked away, going back on deck.
He went to the chart and started to calculate time and current with what he had been told. Collingwood joined him again as Callum was tracing his finger and then stopped and started to tap his fingertip. Collingwood watched him for a moment and then looked at the chart.
“What is it, sir?” Collingwood asked.
“I think I know where this bastard is porting, Abel.”
“That’s the Somme River, isn’t it, sir?”
“Yes,…yes it is, and it has a deep channel to it at its mouth. Deep enough for a Man of War.” Callum said softly.
“I thought the French coast was searched, sir.” Collingwood said.
“Yes, but how well? If he sailed up the river a bit, it should be deep enough for him to port out of sight. It would make sense.” Callum said, “From what the boy said, the second night sailing, they were attacked, that would put them about here, just outside The Channel,” Callum said as he moved his finger on the chart, “attacks have been made here, here, and here.” Callum said showing the marks on the chart, “Now with wind and current in the North Sea flowing this way, and the boy trying to steer the ship on his own and with what he did with their sails,…that should be about right.” Callum said, tapping his fingertip again on the chart, “Damn, he’s got to be there. The boy said the ship came up from behind them.”
“The river is fortified, isn’t it, sir?”
“Possibly,…but with Napoleon on the move and toward the east from the last report we have,…there may not be much fortification there now.”
“Should we notify the squadron, sir?” Collingwood asked.
“No,…it’s just a suspicion of mine for right now. We will continue with the plan for the time being.” Callum said.
“As you say, sir.”
“Grandfather, you look tired.” Dustin said interrupting the old man. The old eyes shifted a bit and then a smile came across his lips.
“It does seem rather late, doesn’t it?” The old man asked. Dustin smiled and nodded his head, “Perhaps I should go off to bed.” The old man got up slowly out of his chair, “I’ll say good night.”
“Good night, Grandfather.”
“Good night, sir.” Andrew said, closing his notebook and setting it on the settee. They both watched the old man walk away from them and head to his room. They heard the door close and then looked at each other.
“You look tired as well, Andrew.” Dustin said softly.
“I am.” Andrew said and was frowning a bit.
“Something troubling you?”
“I was merely thinking.”
“I need to start to write this out, it is becoming very lengthy with what he has given me so far. I will need to go into town and get some supplies to do that.”
“We can go in the morning, if you wish, after breakfast.” Dustin said as he got up off the ottoman and came over to the settee and sat next to Andrew, “There are a few things that I want to get from the Square as well.”
“Perhaps we should call it a night then?” Andrew asked. Dustin nodded a bit and leaned closer, Andrew turned his head and they kissed briefly but tenderly, “Is there something else that you would like as well?”
“Yes, but I think I can wait, if you like. It seems that you might need to sleep.”
“Well, you have been keeping me from doing that the past couple of nights.” Andrew smiled.
“Tonight, I think will be different.” Dustin said and got up from the settee, “I’ll meet you upstairs after I turn down the lights.”
“Alright.” Andrew said, looking a bit disappointed now. He rose up off the settee as Dustin walked away toward the kitchen. He went upstairs and opened the bedroom door and went to the small table next to the bed and struck a match and lit the candle. It began to glow giving the room a soft light. He blew out the match and set it in the tray and looked at the bed that they shared now and it brought a smile to his face thinking about what they had done there together. He sat on the edge and waited. Dustin came in a minute later and closed the door behind him seeing Andrew sitting there and came to him and stopped.
“Is there something wrong, Andrew?”
“I wanted to ask,…are you alright with what we’re doing together?”
“We spoke of this already. I told you that I was. Are you having second thoughts?”
“No,…I just wanted to know again, I suppose.” Andrew said as he looked up at Dustin. Dustin sat next to him on the bed.
“As I said, I have never had this with anyone before. It’s all very new to me, but yes, I enjoy what we do together very much.”
“I’m glad.” Andrew said softly.
“But I think we should sleep tonight, don’t you?” Dustin asked.
“You may be right. I cannot believe how tired I really am.” Andrew smiled. They both rose up off the bed and started to get undressed, placing their clothes at the foot of the bed, Dustin going around to the other side of the bed and climbed in and settled on the pillow. Andrew watched him for a moment and then pulled back the covers and climbed in himself, coming to rest next to Dustin. Andrew looked at him in the glowing light of the candle and then leaned closer and kissed Dustin softly and then pulled back.
“Blow out the light, let’s get some sleep.” Dustin said.
“Are you certain?”
“Yes, I am. For you. I think there will be many, many more nights ahead, don’t you?”
“I’d like to think that there will be.”
“Blow out the light.” Dustin smiled. Andrew turned and blew out the candle and turned back, “Come here.” Dustin said softly and held out an arm, wrapping it around a lowering Andrew and they settled together in the bed, “There will be many more nights together.” Dustin whispered and closed his eyes.
Dustin got up out of bed in the darkness before the dawn. He dressed quietly and went to the door, looking back at the bed at the sleeping Andrew and smiled softly at him. He opened the door and went out, closing it behind him. Once down the stairs he looked over and saw the old man sitting in the parlor in his chair in the dark. He walked up close to him.
“Good morning, my boy.” The old man said quietly.
“Good morning. Why are you here in the dark?”
“I could not find the striker to light the lamp.”
“I probably left it in the kitchen. I apologize.” Dustin said, “Let me go and fetch it for you.”
“No, don’t bother. I’m fine here in the dark. I’ll come and join you in the kitchen.”
“Alright, as you wish.” Dustin said and went to the kitchen, coming up next to the stove. He put a hand on it and it was still warm. He opened the firebox door and saw the embers inside and bent down and blew on them a bit and they glowed more. He went over to the wood box and pulled out a few small pieces of kindling and put them inside on the embers as the old man settled in a chair at the table. Dustin looked over at the table and saw his grandfather sitting there as the flames sparked off in the firebox. He looked back at it as the glow increased and he closed the door. He stood and went back the wood box and pulled two pieces of split wood and came back, opening the firebox door again and placed them inside, closing the door to let them take off.
“I’ll have coffee in a few minutes, Grandfather.” Dustin said as he pumped water into the pot at the sink.
“No hurry, my boy.” The old man said, “Did you have a good night?”
“Yes.” Dustin said as he put the pot on the stove and reached for the grinder. He opened the tray underneath the large handle of the grinder and saw there was enough already ground and added it to the pot. He closed the tray and put the mill up on the shelf above the stove and wiped his hands on his pants and came to the table and sat down.
“It was very quiet last night.” The old man said, “I don’t wish to pry, Dustin, but is everything alright with you?”
“It is, Grandfather, I assure you. We were both very tired and went to sleep quite quickly.” Dustin smiled.
“Good.” The old man said and nodded his head a bit as he looked at his grandson.
“I’ll go and gather some eggs now. The coffee should be ready by the time I get back.” Dustin said as he got up from the table. He went around his grandfather and picked up the basket and went out the back door, leaving the old man alone at the table.
Dustin came through the back door, seeing Andrew sitting there with the old man talking together as he entered the door with his basket of fresh eggs. He smiled and went over to the counter next to the sink after closing the door.
“I think it might rain again today.” Dustin said.
“You may be right, my boy, I can feel it in my bones.” The old man said as he looked over his shoulder a bit. “Are you going into the Square this morning?”
“Yes, sir, we are.”
“Andrew was mentioning it before you came in. Perhaps you should think about going before it begins to rain.”
“But what of breakfast?”
“I’m not particularly hungry this morning, my boy, and it has nothing to do with your cooking, I just feel unsettled a bit this morning.” The old man said. Dustin came back over to the table and stood next to the old man with a look of concern on his face.
“Would you like me to send for the doctor, Grandfather?”
“No, that fool can’t do anything for me. He might as well be treating the horses for what he knows.”
“Now, Grandfather, you know he is highly educated and he is a very good doctor.” Dustin said with a slight frown.
“Yes, I suppose he is.” The old man said and looked over at Andrew, “And he’s not too hard on the eyes either.” The old man said softly and winked at Andrew, who chuckled at it and Dustin went open mouthed over what he heard.
“I can’t believe you just said that.” Dustin said in shock. The old man turned his head and looked up.
“I’ve seen you look at him as well the times that he’s been here.”
“Grandfather!” Dustin said with even more shock on his face. The old man chuckled now as Dustin went beet red as he looked at Andrew and Andrew laughed out loud over it all. Dustin batted his eyes a few times and looked back down at the old man, “You sly old thing, I don’t believe you’re saying this, dragging information out like this.” Dustin said and slapped the old shoulder gently.
“Well, I’m too old to try and hold you down and tickle you like I used to do to get information out of you.” The old man said and smiled, “You remember?”
“I do.” Dustin broke out into smiles.
“You used to squeal like your father did when I would tickle him when he was little.” The old man chuckled at the memories that flooded him. Dustin just shook his head as he looked at the old man and recovered a bit.
“Are you certain about breakfast, Grandfather?” Dustin asked and the old man came back out of his memories.
“Yes, quite certain.” The old man smiled. “What else do we need from the Square?”
“I have a bit of a list in my head, but I’m not certain that we can carry it all.”
“Well then, have it brought out if you wish. They will do that, you know.”
“Yes, I know they will.” Dustin said as he looked down at the old man, “Perhaps you’re right. I’ll have them do that. We shouldn’t be gone all that long.”
“Excellent. Then we can have a luncheon possibly after you return from the Square. In the meantime, I think I will rest for a bit as it was a rather long night and I was awake for most of it.”
“Is there something bothering you, Captain?” Andrew asked. The old man looked at him.
“No, my boy, I go through this from time to time. It’s nothing serious, I assure you.” The old man said and smiled, “Now, you two go off and leave me. I’ll be fine right here.”
“Are you sure, Grandfather?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” The old man said as he rose up from his chair at the table, “Andrew, you said you had work to do with what was dictated already, didn’t you?” The old man asked and Andrew nodded his reply, “Excellent. When you’re finished we can begin again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go and lay down for a bit.” The old man said and walked slowly toward the doorway to the parlor and to his room, leaving Dustin and Andrew alone in the kitchen.
Andrew was sitting on the settee organizing the supplies that he had purchased while Dustin was busy in the kitchen preparing them all some luncheon. The old man had gotten back up and was in the kitchen with Dustin, sitting at the table sipping coffee. A knock came at the door and Andrew rose up from the settee and went to it. A young lad was standing there, and gave Andrew a nod as he opened the door.
“Morning sir, I’m from the market and have an order for you, sir.” The bright face said.
“Yes, do come in with it.” Andrew said as he looked at the young lad as he bent down and picked up a box and straightened. Andrew stepped out of the way for him and the boy entered seeing Dustin standing in the doorway of the kitchen.
“Right this way, if you would.” Dustin said with a smile. The boy carried the box toward him, Andrew looked out and saw two more boxes the same size. He went out and picked up one himself and carried it into the kitchen, leaving the last one on the step.
“Where would like it, sir?”
“Right here on this end of the table I would think.” Dustin said and got out of the way for him. The lad set the box down as the old man was looking at him and recognized him, or so he thought. The young lad caught the look and was given a smile.
“And how is your grandmother, Kenneth?” The old man asked.
“She is well, sir, thank you.” The young man said as he took off his hat and wringed it in both hands and gave a nod.
“Excellent. You make sure and give her my best.”
“I will, sir.” The young lad nodded and went to the door.
“Dustin, fetch my purse quickly, will you?” The old man asked. Dustin walked out of the room as Andrew was setting the box on the bench at the other end of the table.
“Is something wrong, sir?” Andrew asked as Dustin walked back into the kitchen and handed the purse quickly to his grandfather. It was opened and a few notes were thumbed over and then one was pulled and the purse was closed. The young lad entered the kitchen again and stood there for a moment as Andrew got out of the way.
“You can set it here, Kenneth.” The old man said as he got up from the table and got out of the way. He put his purse in his pants pocket and took the note and slid it in the jacket pocket of the young lad, who felt the hand go in and gave the old man a side glance. The box was set down and the young lad put his hand in the pocket and felt the note. He pulled it out and looked at the tenner and then looked at the old man.
“What’s this for, sir?”
“For excellent services rendered, my boy,” The old man said and put a hand on the youth’s shoulder and spoke softly, “and not to be shared with Mr. Lonbeck at the market, he makes enough money as it is. That is for you alone.”
“I really couldn’t, sir.”
“Nonsense. I know of your situation and that of your grandmother. It is not charity but, it is as I said, for excellent services rendered.” The old man said in a firm voice and the boy nodded.
“Thank you, sir.”
“You’re quite welcome, my boy, and do as I said and give your grandmother my best.” The old man pat the young shoulder.
“I will, sir, and thank you.” The boy said and walked away toward the front door leaving the three together in the kitchen. The old man picked up his coffee as he surveyed the boxes as they heard the front door close.
“It looks as if you bought the market out again, Dustin.” The old man said.
“Who is his grandmother, Grandfather?”
“The sister of a very dear friend. She is the only one that remains of the original Muir family. She is Muriel.”
“I had no idea. How did you recognize him?” Dustin asked.
“I used to get around the town you know. I wasn’t always housebound, my boy. I know most in town as I represented them while I served in The House.”
“Well, yes, Grandfather, I know that, but, how did you know it was him?”
“There is a striking family resemblance in all of them. The boy looks like his father, Muriel’s son, Arlin, who looked very similar to his uncle, my dear friend Owen Muir.”
“I see. I’m confused, what of their situation?” Dustin asked.
“Arlin and his wife were killed in a freighting accident after the boy was born, I think he was about two or so. Muriel has been raising him as her own since then. Her husband passed quite a few years back. She was actually a childhood friend of your fathers. Anyway, Muriel has lived with limited means for quite a number of years but was always too proud, like her brother, to accept any help from me.” The old man said and then gave it some more thought, “So, if I can help the boy out in any way, then it helps his grandmother as well.”
“You are crafty as Robert has said.” Dustin smiled. The old man seemed to ignore what he said.
“Do you wish any help in unloading all of this?” The old man asked.
“No, I can do it, thank you. How do you feel by the way? Are you still unsettled?”
“No, I’m fine, I assure you.” The old man said and smiled.
“Good. I’ll take care of this, you go and sit down in your chair in the parlor.” Dustin said and looked at Andrew, “That goes for you as well.” Dustin said. Andrew half-smiled in reply and went out the doorway, the old man followed carrying his coffee cup.
“I had thought that I would take dictation from you during the day, sir, and then write it out at night after you had gone to bed.” Andrew said as he looked at the old man.
“I see. Are there enough hours in the day, I wonder?” The old man smiled, and Andrew smiled back in reply.
“I see your point, sir. I’ll do what I can.”
“I know you will, my boy.” The old man was still smiling, “The day of the sinking of the merchant was somber with the crew and the Marines. I had the thought that they were all thinking that it was going to be our fate as well. The only one that was unaffected by the sinking was the boy. He seemed to have a new lease on life now as he was working alongside Carson. I couldn’t get him to stop doting on me though.”
“Perhaps, it was like you said, sir, he was just grateful at being rescued after what he went through.”
“Perhaps, I never really found out though.” The old man said, “We proceeded along our course south, moving slowly. I had the feeling that we were being watched, but we saw no sign of any other ship or land for that matter. The day was slipping away and evening was approaching…”
Callum was bent over the chart at the wheelhouse, tracing and retracing lines with his finger over and over again, shaking his head from time to time and then frowned. Collingwood was standing near him and would give him side glances now and then as he watched his Captain work over the chart. All was quiet aboard Windsong. The watch was kept both fore and aft as well as aloft. Carson came up on deck and spoke quietly with Collingwood for a minute, Talon had joined them as they spoke while Callum continued to pour over the chart. Collingwood finally approached and then cleared his throat.
“Beg your pardon, sir.” Collingwood said and Callum only grunted his reply, “Shouldn’t you get some rest, sir?”
“What?” Callum looked up from the chart into the young face.
“You haven’t slept much, sir. You should get some rest if you’re going to take the deck tonight, sir.”
“As I said, Mr. Collingwood, I’ll rest after this Frenchman is caught.”
“As you say, sir.” Collingwood said and bowed his head a bit as Callum turned back to the chart. Collingwood looked over at Carson and Talon and gave them a look, both walked away, leaving Collingwood alone with their Captain and the chart.
The watch was finally changed, hands went below as they were relieved by the few hands of that would be on deck all night. Those that had been below had not rested much with the merchant ship and her sinking. Callum gave up his position at the chart and took the wheel from Dorfman. He settled into steering Windsong as Carson came up on deck with Callum’s supper, the boy followed with Callum’s stockings and boots that were now dry.
Hammond, Patkin, and Capshaw set about their duties on deck for the night, Capshaw would again take the forward watch, Hammond would take the aft, Patkin, an older man, very skilled and respected by the crew would take amidships and tend to sails and rigging for the night. He stepped closer to the wheel.
“I’ll take her, sir, so you may have your supper.” Patkin said as he put a hand on the wheel and then stepped in without waiting for a reply from his Captain.
“Thank you.” Callum said and turned to see Carson spreading out the supper on the top of the wheelhouse for Callum. The boy stepped close to Callum and then knelt down as he looked up, “Carson, what is he doing?” Callum asked.
“I believe he wishes to help you with your boots, sir.”
“That won’t be necessary, Carson, thank him if you will, but I can manage.” Callum said and Carson spoke to the boy and the boy replied back. Callum looked at Carson.
“I don’t believe he’ll take no for an answer, sir. He is rather insisting, sir, on helping you.”
“I suppose he wishes to spoon feed me as well.” Callum said and reached down and grabbed the boy gently by the upper arms and pulled him to his feet. Callum slowly shook his head at him to tell him no, and the boy had a sad look on his face, “Make him understand, Carson, I do not wish to be waited on like this.”
“I have tried, sir. It’s all that he knows. His uncle apparently taught him to do this and he believes that all ship’s Captains want this type of treatment, sir.”
“Well then we will have to unteach him. Explain it again, Carson. I don’t want him underfoot.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Carson said as Callum took the stockings from the boy’s hands and put them in the tops of his boots. Callum picked up the plate and began to eat his supper as Carson explained what Callum did not want. The boy looked very sad and his eyes welled a bit. Callum ate quickly as Carson finished explaining it to the boy who was standing in front of Callum. Callum set the plate down and Carson fell silent. The boy stepped into Callum and put his arms around Callum’s chest and hugged him tight, his head turned against Callum’s chest.
“What’s this?” Callum asked.
“Jeg er ked af at have gjort dig utilfreds med mig.” The boy said softly. Callum looked over at Carson.
“He’s apologizing, sir. He thinks you’re displeased with him.” Carson said softly. Callum only shook his head and then wrapped his arms around the boy and hugged him briefly, patting his back. He let the boy go and the boy pulled back and walked away to go below. Callum picked up the plate and handed it to Carson.
“Try and explain it to him, Carson, would you?”
“I will, sir.” Carson said as he carried the plate back with him, going below. Callum picked up a stocking and slipped it on and then did the other one and then stepped into his boots, pulling them up.
“I’ll take the wheel, Patkin. Tend to your duties.” Callum said as he stepped in, the older man let go and tipped his hand to his Captain.
“Aye, sir.” Patkin said as he walked away.
Evening was beginning to settle around them now, the darkness was approaching. The lamps were lit that were on the aft rail and on the Mainmast. Their eyes were adjusting to the limited light. The wind had fallen off a bit and was becoming light, the sails were becoming slack and swung. Callum watched as Patkin moved about amidships adjusting lines on the belaying pins to tighten the canvas more going from port to starboard. He was moving forward and was beginning to tighten the canvas on the Foremast.
“Sail, sir.” Hammond called from over his shoulder. Callum held the wheel but turned and looked. He narrowed his eyes toward the direction that Hammond was looking. Callum looked forward.
“Patkin, go aloft!” Callum yelled. Patkin looked up from what he was doing and went quickly to the rigging on the port side at the Main and started climbing quickly. Callum watched him for a minute and lost sight of him as he climbed onto the upper platform and then saw him again as he stood and looked about and then pointed aft.
“Sail, sir!” Patkin called down and Callum looked aft again barely seeing it against the horizon.
“Hammond, take the wheel.” Callum said and the older man came quickly to his Captain. Callum let the wheel go and grabbed a glass and went to the aft rail and extended the glass and lifted it to his eye.
Sails could be seen on the horizon but just barely. Callum watched as the ship in the distance was fading in the growing darkness. It seemed to be making a turn to port, ever so slightly, but it was making a turn and then he lost it from sight in the dark in the swells in the distance. He kept scanning the horizon with the glass, making slight movements from right back to his left. Callum lowered the glass but kept looking. He turned and looked up.
“I’ve lost her in the dark, sir!” The older man called down.
“Damn.” Callum muttered and then looked back over the aft rail and put the glass back to his eye scanning the horizon. Callum finally lowered the glass from his eye and collapsed it. He turned and went back to the wheel. He stepped up next to Hammond. “How well did you see her?”
“Well enough to make out only her sails, sir. I did not see any flag, sir.”
“Neither did I before I lost sight of her.” Callum said, “Damn.” He looked up, “Patkin! Keep a watch!”
“Aye, sir!” Patkin called back down. Callum set the glass down on the chart on the top of the wheelhouse. He turned and went back to the aft rail once again and put his hands on it, scanning the darkness for any sign but saw none, only the darkness. He looked down at the water, seeing the wake they were making as Windsong was moving slowly through the water. Callum estimated they were making about three knots, if that. He looked up again into the darkness and saw nothing. He turned and went back to the wheel and Hammond.
“I’m going below for a moment, Hammond.”
“Aye, sir.” The older man replied and watched as his Captain walked away from him and went to the steps and then was out of sight.
Callum went by the galley on his way to his cabin, Carson and the boy saw him go by. Carson stopped what he was doing and stepped out as Callum went to the cabin, pulled his now dry vest off the peg and returned with it.
“May I get you something, sir?”
“No, I have what I need, Carson.” Callum said as he went by him on the companionway and went to the door and up the steps to the deck. Carson turned and went back into the galley with the boy.
Callum came back up on deck and slipped his vest on, leaving it unbuttoned for the time being. He took the wheel back from Hammond, asking him to go forward and tighten the lines on the Foremast, as Patkin was now aloft. Callum watched as Hammond was moving about in the lamplight from the Mainmast. He knew that with the lamps lit on deck they looked like a beacon in the night to anything in the distance, a soft glow on the horizon if they were being scanned by a glass.
The hours slowly passed for them without any sign or sound of anything. The men had rotated about in their positions to relieve themselves. Hammond had taken the wheel again for Callum to allow that as well, Callum went back to the aft rail and scanned the horizon again with the glass. Nothing. He knew that he had seen a ship, as did Hammond and Patkin, there was no denying that, but who was it?
The dawn was now finally approaching. Callum had begun to pace the deck. This waiting was beginning to wear on him. The second night was nearly over now and he felt that he dare not show any sign to any of his officers and crew of his wear. The dawn came as Callum was thinking with his pacing and looked up and saw young Talon standing there.
“Morning, sir.” Talon said as Callum came close to him.
“Morning, Darin.” Callum said.
“Would you care for me to take the deck, sir?”
“You look tired, sir. It would be my pleasure to take over for you.”
“I see.” Callum said, “Have you had your breakfast yet?”
“Yes, sir. Mr. Collingwood is getting ready to come on deck as well, sir.”
“Very well.” Callum said, “You may take the deck, Mr. Talon. Maintain this course.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Talon said and tipped his hand. Callum walked toward the steps to go below. Talon went to the wheel and stood by there with Hammond until the watch changed. Callum walked by the galley and went to his cabin and opened the door. He looked over and saw the boy curled up on his pallet, wrapped in an old blanket, sleeping peacefully. Callum peeled his vest off and hung it on a peg above the sleeping boy. He stepped over to the table as he sat down in a chair and saw Collingwood standing in the open doorway. Callum motioned with two fingers to have him come in.
“Morning, sir.” Collingwood said and Callum lifted a finger to his lips and then pointed over at the boy near the corner on the floor. Collingwood looked over at the direction of the finger. Collingwood smiled slightly and stepped closer to the table.
“Morning, Abel.” Callum said softly and then indicated with his finger to have him sit at the table with him. Collingwood pulled out a chair and sat near his Captain’s elbow. “There was a sighting last night of a sail as the darkness came. We lost her though.” Callum said and Collingwood went wide eyed.
“Do you think it was,…?”
“I don’t know.” Callum said, “We did not see any flag before we lost sight of her. It could be, and it might make sense that this Frenchman scouts out his victims before he attacks. I just don’t know.”
“What would like me to do, sir?” Collingwood asked.
“After the watch is changed, continue on our course to till mid-day. At that time, haul up sail. I want a position check made and then we will make any course correction if need be. If we are in correct position, we will get underway late this afternoon and proceed to our next point.” Callum said, “That will give our support ships time to get to their positions.”
“Anything that is sighted, summon me immediately.”
“Very good, sir.” Collingwood said and rose up from the table. He looked down at his tired Captain and then walked out of the cabin, passing Carson, who was coming in the doorway.
“Would you care for coffee or any breakfast, sir?” Carson asked quietly. Callum shook his head in reply, Carson smiled slightly and went to reach down to wake the boy.
“Let him sleep, Carson. I think he needs it.” Callum said softly. Carson stopped and looked over at his Captain and stood straight. “And you can leave the door open as well.”
“As you wish, sir.” Carson said as Callum pulled off his boots and set them on the floor next to the chair he was in. He stood and went over to the haversack and sat on it and then swung his legs up in it and closed his eyes.
“Grandfather, are you hungry?” Dustin asked making the old man turn and look over at him in the doorway to the kitchen.
“I suppose I could eat something.” The old man said.
“Good. I have a luncheon ready and on the table for you both.” Dustin smiled and watched as Andrew put down the notebook and pencil on the settee and stood. The old man looked up at Andrew and then started to get up out of his chair slowly.
“Why don’t you go ahead of me, Andrew, it takes me a minute to get moving as you know.” The old man said.
“I’ll wait for you, sir.” Andrew said and looked at him.
“Most kind.” The old man said as he walked toward a waiting Dustin, who was smiling at them both. He backed up and stepped out of the way of the old man who stopped in the doorway at seeing what was on the table. “Now, what is this?”
“I thought that we would try something a bit different today.” Dustin said as he looked over at the table as well.
“Hmmm, alright. I suppose I am still up for an adventure every now and then.” The old man said as he came closer to the table. He looked over the sliced fruit, cheese, and sliced meat. There was also a bowl of bread that seemed to be cut up into large chunks. “And what spurred this idea of yours, my boy.”
“While I was at University, we would have these gatherings now and then and several things were prepared like this. They called it buffet.”
“Sounds French.” The old man said.
“I suppose it is, Grandfather. You can pick and choose what you would like to have from the boards that are on the table. I also have a soup that is heated to go along with it.”
“Really? On a rainy day such as this, that sounds like a wonderful idea, my boy. That might help take the dampness out of my bones.” The old man smiled. He moved to his usual chair and sat down. Dustin went to the stove and took the pot he had the soup in and carried it to the table and set it down at the end. He uncovered it and the aroma filled the kitchen. The old man smiled again. “It smells wonderful, my boy.”
“Thank you, Grandfather, something that just came into my head actually. It was very easy to make, I must say.” Dustin said as he took a ladle dipped it and picked up a bowl and filled it. He served his grandfather first and then Andrew, “You can use the bread to dunk it as well. I have seen it done in some fine eating houses.”
“Are you saying that we are going to be following the practices of those fines houses?” The old man asked.
“I would say, why not? We can follow the practice now and then without having to pay for it, then so much the better.” Dustin said and handed the filled bowl to Andrew, who took it and set in front of him.
“Well, should we dress for the occasion?” The old man asked.
“Absolutely not, I never did when I had occasion to visit those places.”
“There are several in London as I recall. I frequented a few of them when I served at the Admiralty and in The House. However, I was either in uniform or a suit then.”
“Well, being a poor University student I never saw the need to impress anyone with fancy dress myself.” Dustin said and shrugged as he filled a bowl for himself.
“You were never a poor University student, my boy. Your mother and father saw that you had anything that you needed.”
“They did, Grandfather, but, I never asked them for anything as I wanted to provide for myself.”
“Ah, your mindful pride. It seems to run in the family, doesn’t it?” The old man asked and tried the soup, “My boy, you have surpassed yourself with this, I must say. It is most excellent.”
“Yes it is.” Andrew said.
“Thank you.” Dustin said and then tried it himself and was surprised by it, “Perhaps I should open up an eating house myself.” Dustin smiled as he looked at the old man and then laughed seeing the look on his grandfather’s face, one of shock, “You know I am only teasing, Grandfather.”
“Oh, you gave me a bit of a start for a moment there.” The old man said as he sat back in his chair. Dustin and Andrew laughed for a moment as they watched the old man calm himself, “I can barely boil water and I had thought for a moment that I was going to have to hire Mrs. Ross back again.” They all laughed together now.
Callum woke to a touch to his shoulder, making him jump a little. He opened his eyes and saw Talon standing there in the dim light of the cabin.
“I’m sorry, sir.”
“What is it, Darin?”
“There’s a ship approaching, sir. She’s coming up from the south toward us.”
“A ship? What do you make of her?” Callum asked as he swung out of the haversack quickly and put his feet on the deck.
“We’re not sure yet, sir. Mr. Collingwood’s respects, but he said that you were to be woken if anything was sighted, sir.”
“Quite right.” Callum said as he reached for his boots and slipped them on quickly and then headed for the door, Talon following behind him. Callum came up on deck and went forward, Collingwood was already there with a glass in his hand looking over the bow, “What do you see, Mr. Collingwood?”
“A merchant, sir. I think she’s American.” Collingwood said as handed the glass to his Captain.
“Coming up from the south? That’s rather odd.” Callum said as he put the glass to his eye and looked, “She’s American alright. Did you take a position for us?”
“I did, sir.” Collingwood said.
“And?” Callum asked as he continued to watch the approaching ship.
“3 E, 57 N, sir, exactly where we’re supposed to be according to the chart.” Collingwood said.
“Did you confirm it?”
“Yes, sir. Mr. Talon confirmed it as well, sir.”
“Nicely done, Mr. Collingwood. Have you seen the Sergeant?”
“Right here, sir.” McGuffin said with his graveled voice. Callum lowered the glass and turned around.
“Sergeant, I apologize, I wasn’t paying attention.” Callum said, as he looked the big man up and down. It was difficult to get used to seeing him out of uniform, “Have your men stay below if you would, Sergeant. I don’t think this American poses much of a threat to us. But I would like to keep our number small that’s in sight.”
“As you wish, sir.” McGuffin gave him a salute and then turned on his heel calling to his Marines that were on deck to get below and out of sight. Callum turned and lifted the glass again.
“Run out our colors if you please.”
“Aye, sir.” Talon turned and called to Hawkins to run out the flag at the stern staff.
“You have the deck, Abel.” Callum said as he collapsed the glass and handed it to Collingwood, “I’ll be below for a few minutes. Keep an eye on her.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said as Callum walked away. Amos walked up next to Collingwood.
“Let us play the part of a merchant, Amos. Nothing to be too orderly in what we do. She might just pass us by, but then again, she might not.” Collingwood said.
“Aye, sir.” Amos said and tipped his hand.
“Amos, no more saluting…and no more ‘sir’. Make sure everyone understands.”
“Aye, sir.” Amos said and then rolled his eyes at the mistake. Collingwood smiled at it and shook his head. He looked forward and saw the approaching ship coming to windward toward them now. Collingwood turned and headed toward the steps and stopped short and looked back. The approaching ship was shortening sail to slow her approach, now on the lee side of Winsong. Collingwood turned back and went below. He was met by Carson.
“Inform the Captain, the approaching ship is shortening sail to come alongside.”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said and turned as Collingwood went back up on deck and went around by the wheel where Dorfman was. All of them waited and watched as the large frigate approached. They could see the crew aboard her moving about tending to their sails. Collingwood saw the officers on the Quarterdeck looking in their direction as Callum came back up and looked as well.
“Ahoy!” Came a voice from the approaching ship, “Are you in trouble?!” Callum went to the port rail and grabbed a line with one hand and put the other on the rail.
“No!” Callum shouted back as the ship slowed and was about twenty or so yards away now. “Who are you?!”
“Captain Helms! This is the Rebecca! Out of New York!”
“A pleasure, Captain! I am Captain Callum!”
“Where are you bound for, Captain?!”
“Gibraltar! Where are you heading, Captain?!” Callum shouted.
“Stockholm!” The large man on the Quarterdeck shouted back and Callum turned quickly and saw Talon there.
“Darin, fetch Carson and the boy, hurry.”
“Yes, sir.” Talon turned and hurried away to the steps below.
“Captain, one moment if you would, please!” Callum called back and waved once. The other Captain waved back as Carson and the boy came over to him. “Carson, this ship is heading to Stockholm. I might be able to ask their Captain to divert to take the boy home. Explain it to him that he might be home by day after tomorrow if he wants to go, now would be the time.”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said and turned to the boy, pointing at the ship, explaining it to him that it was alright, they were friends and they could take him home if he wished to go, now would be the time. The boy looked frightened and looked at Callum and then at Carson and then back to Callum again and started talking quickly.
“Is something wrong, Captain?!” Captain Helms shouted and Callum raised a hand to him.
“He says he doesn’t want to go, sir. He wants to stay with us, sir.”
“I can’t guarantee his safety, Carson. He must go with them.” Callum said.
“He understands the danger, sir, and is begging to stay aboard with us, sir.” Carson said and then spoke to the boy again.
“Ja, ja,…jeg forstar. Sa lad mig blive.” The boy was almost in tears now.
“Damn.” Callum said and then looked over at the frigate, “I’m sorry, Captain! I thought we might have someone for you to take to Stockholm! But he wishes to remain with us!” Callum shouted.
“Are you sure, Captain?!” Helms shouted. Callum looked at the boy, the tears streaming now down his young cheeks.
“I don’t know why you don’t go.” Callum whispered at him, then turned back to the frigate, “Quite sure, Captain! But thank you anyway!”
“Is there anything that you need, Captain?!” Helms asked.
“We are quite well here, Captain, and thank you again!” Callum shouted back. Helms waved back once and then ordered sail to be set. Callum and all hands watched as sails dropped and were set and the Rebecca began to move on by them as the wind took her, “Safe journey, Captain!” Callum shouted.
“You as well, Captain!” Helms said as he passed by, now underway with a good wind and full billowed sails. Callum waved again and Helms waved back once more. Callum watched the ship for another couple of minutes and then looked at the boy who was still standing there staring at Callum, tears still streaming.
“I’m not sure why you’re here with us, perhaps it’s a sign, I don’t know. I wish you had gone with them though. You’ve been through too much already in your young life.” Callum whispered as he looked at the boy and then put a hand on the thin shoulder. Callum gave him a half-smile. The boy stepped in and put his arms around Callum’s waist again as he had done at the wheelhouse before and hugged him.
“Thank…you.” The boy said softly in his heavy accent as Callum looked at Carson. Callum did not hug the boy back but kept his hands in the air a bit. The rest of the crew just watched. Callum reached down and gently pushed the boy back by his boney shoulders. Carson reached out a hand and guided the boy away to go back down below. Callum cleared his throat after they were gone.
“Sir.” Collingwood said as he stepped up close.
“Inform the Sergeant that all is well and clear now for his men. You have the deck, I’ll be below in my cabin. And have our colors hauled in if you will.”
“Aye, aye, sir.” Collingwood said and watched Callum walk across the deck toward the steps and then disappeared from sight. Callum went to his cabin, leaving the door open and pulled off his boots and climbed back into the haversack and swung up his legs and got comfortable. He sighed and closed his eyes. His thoughts went back to the ship that was seen last night. It wasn’t the Rebecca, it couldn’t possibly be. He should have asked more questions of its Captain though to make certain. Americans were neutral in this conflict, but Callum did not want to let his guard down in trusting anyone that he could not control or didn’t know. He eased his mind and sleep took him at last.
It was late afternoon and Callum rose from his haversack, stretched and yawned. He sat in the chair at the table and picked up a boot and slipped it on. He reached for the other and slipped it on as Carson came in and set coffee on the table without a word. Callum gave him a look and Carson turned and walked out in silence. Callum looked at the cup for a moment and then picked it up. He took a sip of it and sat back for a moment in the chair. Carson entered the dark cabin and set down a tray and reached up and turned up the lamp that was over the table. Callum smelled what he had brought in and then looked at it as the light came up in the cabin. Carson set supper in front of him and picked up the tray.
“What’s on your mind, Carson?” Callum asked.
“It is nothing, sir.”
“I know you better than that, Carson. What is it?” Callum asked softly as he sat still.
“Well, sir, I don’t mean to pry, but are you alright, sir?”
“I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
“Your door has been open, sir. You were dreaming, sir, talking in your sleep as it were.”
“I see. What was I saying?”
“It was hard to make out sometimes, sir, but, I had the distinct impression that you are troubled over the boy, sir.” Carson said as he wrung his hands together.
“I suppose you’re right, Carson. He does trouble me a bit. I don’t understand why he wishes to remain with us. If he knows the danger that we face, why would he? We may end up sharing the same fate as his uncle and that crew, and he wishes to be a part of that? He had a clear chance to go home and he didn’t take it.”
“Sir,…begging your pardon for saying it, but, you must understand that he has never had anyone treat him the way you do, sir. You have been kind to him, something that he has never known before. He has said to me that his life in Arhus had been very difficult and going to sea with his uncle was an escape for him. I think, sir, that if we do share the same fate as that merchant crew, he would rather face it with us and die with people that are kind to him, rather than live with those that were neglectful or inconsiderate. I’m sure you can see his point, sir.”
“My God, Carson, I had no idea.”
“No, sir, I didn’t think you did.”
“How long have you known?” Callum asked.
“Not very long, sir.”
“But he still wants us to take him home if we survive this, even though his home life is bad.”
“I suppose it is better than no home at all, sir.” Carson said and Callum sat back again. Callum looked down at the plate before him.
“Has he eaten yet, Carson?”
“Have him join me.”
“Have him join me.” Callum said again, “If he needs to be shown that people around him can be trusted and can be kind, then let it continue here. In the time that we have, let’s make it the best we can for him.”
“Aye, sir.” Carson said and turned away for the door. A couple of minutes later, Carson and the boy entered the open cabin. Carson set a plate at the table and told the boy to have a seat. He seemed nervous and slowly sat down. Callum smiled at him and picked up his own fork and started to eat his supper. He used a finger of his free hand and pointed to have the boy do the same. They ate in silence at first and then Callum had a thought and looked over at the boy.
“This may be a rather one sided conversation, as I don’t know that you will understand anything I’m saying to you.” Callum said as he looked at the boy as they continued to eat, “Carson tells me that your home life is rather difficult and that you went to sea to get away from it. I can understand that. My life was not really difficult before I went to sea, but I know a few of my classmates that share the same difficulty as you. It does not make sense to me why you would wish to return home if it was bad for you there. Perhaps you could explain it to me at some point, if we survive this.
“I wish to return home myself, but, I have very different circumstances than you. I have left someone behind that I love and miss very much, and I also have a son that I love and miss as well. They are the most important people to me in my life. I don’t think that I really told them just how important they really are to me. I was rather careless in that, now that I think about it, an oversight on my part.
“I made one of them a promise to return safely home to them. It is that single promise that drives me to make certain that we are successful in this and the capture of this Frenchman or at least stopping him from doing what he does to anyone else.
“My son, Henry, is too young to understand why I have come back to the service. He is a very sweet boy, very kind hearted. It was quite hard for me to leave him actually. We have not been together for very long. He has had a difficult time in his young life, being alone without anyone, and I’m sure that if he were here right now, he would probably make a good and fast friend of you. I wish you could understand what I’m saying to you, and I suppose that because you don’t understand me that I find it very easy to talk to you, and safe.” Callum smiled at the boy and the boy, who had been listening to Callum smiled back as he ate, cleaning his plate. Carson came back into the cabin.
“Everything alright, sir?”
“Yes, we were just having a nice talk actually.” Callum said and looked at the boy again, “Thank you, Hans, for having supper with me and listening.” The boy smiled at hearing his name and looked at Carson, who translated what Callum said. The boy nodded.
“You’re welcome.” Callum said and then chuckled. He pushed his plate back. “I believe I’ll have some more coffee before I take the deck, Carson.”
“I’ll just fetch it for you, sir.” Carson smiled and picked up the plates.