This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 1125 words.
The new year brought two resolutions from Matthew Dakin. The first, he decided to marry. The second, he wound up all business with The East India Company. Ever a realist, he concluded that he had tried his luck in India, and it hadn’t worked out for him.
His choice of bride was Purity Hobbs. The daughter of a London shoemaker of renown, a man who was one of his best customers too. Thomas Hobbs agreed to travel to the town for the wedding, with his daughter and her widowed aunt. His wife had died giving birth to Purity, and that aunt was the only mother she had known.
Matthew put on a fine spread following the short marriage service, inviting the Minister and the Magistrate, along with some of the town’s more prominent citizens. Hobbs was merry on port wine when his coachman took him home late that night. And when Matthew retired to the bedchamber after bidding farewell to his guests, he soon discovered that Purity was nothing but a name, as the willing girl welcomed the performance of his nuptial duties, and asked him to stay in her room all night.
There was no denying it was a good match, as the couple seemed happy at all times. In the first week of March, Matthew was presented with a fine son. He was named William, after the Parliamentarian general William Waller, with the second name of Matthew, as was family tradition thus far. With business still doing well, new furniture was bought for the house, and painters engaged to decorate every room. Purity was very happy there, and had become firm friends with Matthew’s young sister, Olivia.
That summer, Matthew took Benedict on a trip to London. The city was being rebuilt to a fine standard after the Great Fire, and he had a mind to establish a new business, cutting out the middlemen who ate into his profits. He had been investigating a skinning and tanning business just south of The River Thames. News had reached him that the owner was an incorrigible gambler, and had debts that needed settling. After taking rooms at The George Inn in Southwark, Matthew and his brother paid a visit on the impoverished tanner, and bargained to clear his debts for the controlling interest in the business. A lawyer was engaged to compile the documents, and the two men shook hands as the banker’s draft was handed over.
Behind his smiling countenance, Matthew concealed his sure knowledge that the gambler would soon lose his share, and he would end up owning it all.
Benedict was startled to be told that he would now be living in London, representing the Dakin family in this new venture. His brother counselled him to watch and learn, until he knew the trade of skinning and tanning well enough to manage alone. Respectable lodgings were secured for him, and enough funds left behind for his everyday needs. Matthew had sent for his clothes and belongings, and they would be arriving soon. He left him with strict instructions to never take strong drink, and to avoid the company of harlots at all costs.
Before leaving London, he also made a call on his father-in-law, to ask him to look out for Benedict. Finding Thomas Hobbs most unwell, he gagged at the sight and smell of some suppurating abscesses around the man’s mouth and throat. But a servant assured him that the best doctors were in attendance.
On the way home in the coach, it occurred to Matthew that if Hobbs were to die, his wife would inherit the lucrative business. And as his wife’s property was his by rights as a husband, he would not only now have the source of the raw materials, but also a leather goods making business too. Regardless of the uncomfortable journey, he arrived home in an excellent mood.
London life suited Benedict well. He made some good connections, and soon became well thought of. But his business acumen and head for figures was less popular with their partner in the skinning and tanning trade, James Holdaway. He resented the young man, and was never afraid to show his disdain for the Dakin family. In letters to his brother, those matters were reported by Benedict in detail, but Matthew wrote back and told him to bide his time. Meanwhile, Purity delivered a second son, a healthy boy who was named Thomas Matthew. It didn’t hurt to include his father-in-law’s name, as news from London was that he was fading fast. He was too ill to travel to see his new grandson, and the doctors could do no more.
The leaves were falling when news of Hobbs’ death reached the town. The man was hardly in the ground before Matthew was at the office of his solicitor arranging transfer of his name to Hobbs’ thriving business. Leaving Benedict still in charge of their other interests, a manager was appointed to run Hobbs’ leather works. As well as the fine boots and shoes worn by the best people, they also made horse harnesses, and saddles. Using a contact in the County Yeomanry, a contract was secured for the supply of all the leather goods needed by three regiments of foot, and Matthew instructed his new manager to take on more craftsmen. It seemed that life couldn’t be better, then Purity announced that she was with child again. He had never been happier.
A letter arrived a week later, delivered by a horseman, such was its urgency. Something terrible had happened in London, and Benedict was being held in The Clink Prison. The letter was from the manager he had appointed to run Hobbs, suggesting Matthew come to London post haste, and also arrange a lawyer in criminal affairs.
After bribing a jailer to leave them alone, Matthew and the lawyer listened to the distraught Benedict tell his story. Holdaway had arrived at the tanning pits in a foul mood. He accused the Dakin family of robbing him blind, and called Benedict a Puritan pansy, and the son of a pansy murderer. When a scuffle ensued, Holdaway had got his hands around the younger man’s throat. Benedict had reached out for something to use to get him away, and had unfortunately picked up a razor-sharp skinning knife. When he struck his blow, the knife punctured his assailant’s neck, and he had died in moments.
The judge refused to accept his plea of self defence, after arguments from the prosecutor that the Dakin family stood to gain from the death of their partner. He was tried for Capital Murder.
Matthew was able to bid a brief tearful farewell to his brother, before they took him to be hanged at Tyburn.