This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 925 words.
On his return, Matthew Dakin’s mood was dark indeed. Even his pregnant wife could not shake him from his depressed state. He was now convinced that his family must have been cursed. First his mother murdered, then his father executed. His brother Christian hanged for murder in India, and now Benedict suffering the same fate in London. In his deep, dark thoughts, he wondered how one family be so afflicted by fate.
Work took his mind from the gloom on occasion. A manager had been appointed to run the tannery, and with Hobbs enjoying a booming trade, he could at least concern himself less with business affairs. After Holdaway had been killed, Matthew settled his debts in return for the full control of the company, and made arrangements to visit London four times a year to check on accounts, and outstanding matters.
By the time of Purity’s confinement, he was more settled in his moods, and contemplating the building of a larger house on land he had acquired on the outskirts of the town. When her time came, Purity was in great distress. The town midwife was summoned, and she then sent for Doctor Milton. Matthew was distressed by her screams, and when Milton emerged with his hands and cuffs blooded, he feared the worst. But as the good doctor walked toward him, he heard a baby crying, and gasped with relief. The news was all good. The baby was a boy, and had arrived feet first, causing difficulties with the delivery. But mother and baby were alive, though weak, and they would both recover well.
The baby was named Josiah Matthew, and all agreed he had a remarkable resemblance to his father. Matthew went to see Purity in her confinement room. He had been so scared of losing her, he suggested that they should have no more children. But Purity told him not to concern himself. She felt strong, and would soon be ready. Nonetheless, a wet nurse was sent for, and she was lodged in the attic.
That new arrival lifted his mood completely. He summoned architects and builders to begin the design and construction of a larger house and managed estate, situated on the fine riverside land he owned. It was a time of happiness and prosperity for the Dakin family. Nursery maids and tutors were employed, and they began to return to church for services. As the family grew, Matthew paid for their pew to be enlarged, and agreed a substantial stipend for a new minister to replace the one who was now old and sickly.
With the new house rising from the foundations, he allowed himself the luxury of hoping that he might have escaped the terrible curse that had claimed so many members of his family.
For a number of years, the family lived a settled life. No more children came as Matthew and Purity grew older, but they settled happily into the fine new house, with a large staff of servants and estate workers ensuring a contented, easy life. But Matthew still had plans to keep the business growing, and read a great deal about Canada. There was much opportunity there, whether trading with the natives, or dealing with the French trappers. Furs were being used on fashionable clothes, and beaver pelts and bear skins were increasingly in demand for fine hats resistant to the climate in England. But he felt he was getting too old to embark on a long voyage and the foundation of a trading business so far away.
His oldest son William was now of age to become involved in the Dakin business. Well schooled in financial matters, and a level head on his shoulders. He had also been tutored in French at his father’s insistence. Matthew advised him to immerse himself in studies of Canada, and the demand for furs and pelts. He told him that he would be leaving the following year to establish a trading post in the Dakin name. William was excited at the news, keen to get away from the constant control and supervision of his father, and hoping to make a name for himself in the New World.
As for Thomas, he had expressed an interest in religion from an early age. It was decided that he should go to Cambridge, to study Theology. Matthew promised to arrange that as soon as he could. But another black cloud descended on the family, when Olivia became very ill. She had never expressed any desire to marry, and Matthew respected her wishes to remain in the household as a spinster. It was Purity who told him that his sister had a large growth on her breast. The best doctors were brought from London, but could do nothing. Olivia faded before their eyes, and her death overwhelmed the entire family with sadness.
But after a suitable period of mourning, Matthew got back to business. He equipped William with all he would need for the venture in Canada, and engaged two strong men to travel with him to be his servants over there. At the end of Spring, William said his farewells, and left for the long trip to Plymouth.
He would be taking ship on The Matilda within the month.
It was over five months later when the letter arrived from the agents in London. The Matilda had never arrived in Canada. It was feared lost in a storm, with all aboard.
Matthew retired into his room with a bottle of fine Cognac, and locked the door.