This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 1025 words.
Purity was proved right about Arabella’s child bearing ability, when a healthy grandson was produced within the year. He was named Justin Matthew Jeremy, so as to include both grandfathers. At the end of that same year, Josiah caused a famous scandal, by impregnating the well-known actress, Helena Morley. Some years older than him, she insisted he do the right thing by her, and a hurried wedding was arranged in London. Matthew reluctantly paid for everything, including lodgings for the newleyweds close to Josiah’s regiment.
Now almost seventy years old, Matthew Dakin would let nothing like age slow down his thirst for business. When Turgoose died suddenly, he secured the remaining two thirds of the boat-building business by arranging a pay off to the older daughter and her husband, as well as settling some outstanding bills. Unwilling to spend too much time at the boat yard, he promoted the foreman to the role of general manager, and continued life much as normal, albeit slightly wealthier.
But the condition of Purity concerned him. She had become forgetful, unable to remember the names of long-standing servants, and even mixing up those of her own sons. During the harsh winter that followed, she insisted that William had returned, and she had seen him around the house. The new young doctor suggested summoning a specialist, and came to the house a week later in the company of a famous surgeon from Cambridge. That man suggested that Purity might have a malignancy in her head, affecting her brain. He prescibed a sedative linctus of his own concoction, and bed rest in a dark room. As he received his payment, he advised Matthew to prepare for it to get worse. He also recommended that when that happened, he should double the dosage of the poppy syrup.
In Maldon, Arabella was concerned. Despite happy conjugal relations with her husband, there was no sign of a second child, and young Justin was past his first birthday. Her brother in law had not long ago been happy to receive a son from Helena. The boy had been named Percival Josiah, and had been christened at the church by Thomas. Now Arabella wondered if there was a problem that meant she might no longer conceive. She resolved to discuss the matter with Thomas, when he returned from evening service. Her husband was a devoutly religious man, and she knew he would pray alone once the congregation had left. By the time she had settled little Justin, he should be home.
The two men entered the church as Thomas walked down the aisle toward the door. He smiled as he saw them enter, then his smile faded as he realsed they had cloths tied around their faces. Running straight at him, one pushed him over violently, and the other rushed to the altar to seize the cross, candlesticks, and chalice. By the time they were running back past him to make their escape, Thomas had recovered sufficiently to instictively grab the ankle of one of them. Without hesitation, the ruffian struck the minister about his head with one of the heavy candlesticks, leaving him unconscious as they ran off.
When her husband was much later than expected, Arabella told her maid to go to the church and ask him to come home for his supper. Shortly after, the girl returned in an hysterical state, screaming that the good minister was dead. Refusing to believe the ignorant girl, Arabella wrapped Justin in a shawl and walked to the nearby house of the sexton, where she asked the man to accompany her to find her husband. Thomas was still unconscious, but at least he was breathing. Men were sent for to help get him into the house, and the sexton went to fetch a doctor. As the wounds were cleaned, Thomas roused briefly, mumbling something about two robbers and candlesticks. The doctor looked glum. He feared the skull was broken in more than one place, so he wrapped Thomas’ head tightly in bandages, and told Arabella to keep him comfortable.
Her husband died less than ten hours later, and Arabella cried for two whole days.
After the sombre funeral, Matthew Dakin did not hesitate to offer a home to his daughter-in-law and grandson. He sent carters to collect her belongings, and his new coach and four to bring her and the child back to the town, where she would live in the grand house with him and Purity. It proved to be a very good decision, with Arabella happy to take over as the lady of the house, making up for Purity’s failing mind and poor health. Matthew left for a trip to look over his businesses in London, and to call on his new banker there, to discuss investments.
On his return, he found the servants disressed. One of the maids had a bad cut on her face, and the housekeeper was caring for Justin. Arabella was upstairs outside Purity’s bedroom, calling to her through the door, apparently afraid to enter. Upon seeing Matthew, she relaxed. “Mistress Purity is in a bad way. She hit one of the maids with a hand mirror, and the glass cut the poor girl severely. Perhaps now you are home, you can calm her?” He gave a heavy sigh. “Have the maid taken to see a doctor, and tell her there will be a whole five shillings for her trouble. Leave my wife to me now”.
It made his eyes wet with tears to see his beloved wife so confused and distresed. Her white hair dishevelled, and the staring eyes no longer likethose of the woman he loved so. There was definite recognition in them though, and she put the mirror down on the bed cover. He sat next to her, stroking her head, and she pointed at the bottle containing her sedative. Reaching out to pick it up, he made a decision. Instead of using the spoon to dose her, he pulled the small cork, and handed her the bottle. She moved away, drinking it all down greedily.
Once she was sleeping soundly, he left her room.
Those tears were now running freely down his face.