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the braithwaite letters 19-21

May 20, 2017 01:54PM
Chapter 19

Written at the ‘Angel’ Peterboro’
2nd August

Dear Charles,

What excitement we have had already this morning! The wet summer has made the roads that are prone to be slick with ice, concomitantly slick with mud, and though our own driver negotiated the steep decline of Alconbury hill with aplomb, the young idiot driving behind us was going too fast, and his pair finished the hill in an undignified slide on their haunches, careening into the back of our coach. You may be sure that our coachman used language that I had not even previously heard Braithwaite use, and his tongue was not, as you know, of the most genteel when he was roused and in his cups. Mr. Pennyweather sat in the coach saying “Dear me! Dear me!” at every colourful expletive and poor Emily covered her ears and cringed in the corner. Since it was not directed at me, I am afraid I listened to the flow of invective with unabashed curiosity, and our coachman wrung ten guineas from the young idiot for damage to a company vehicle and loss of time on the road, which he informed us cheerfully was a nice profit for him since he would buy some paint for a few shillings when we are in Leeds and make good the damage himself. It is an interesting insight into the lives of these coachmen that they are able to make extras of this kind.
When we arrived in Peterborough, the stage was getting ready to go, with only two passengers at this point. One was a man of military bearing whose speech was salted with what I believe to be the Indian tongue, who stank of tobacco. The other was a maiden lady of uncertain years who was quite horrified at the idea of sharing a coach with such a rough man.
“Oh, pray, will you not ride on the roof?” she asked in a kind of shouted whisper.
“Demme, madam, if you don’t like my company, you ride on the roof!” said he, rudely.
I did ask the lady where she was bound, for if it was Lincoln she might have ridden with us, but she was for Newark, which is on the other road. This is one of the vicissitudes of taking the stage, of course, that you must ride with whoever happens along, and your only stops are those scheduled by the stage coach itself. Hiring a post-chaise is much more convivial, and one might stop when one wishes, though it is wise to trust the coachman as to good places.
All we hear about here are tales of Dick Turpin, which apparently are also rife in Huntingdon. He is said to have ridden from London to Huntingdon , around sixty miles, in four hours, and if you believe that, I will tell you that our coach is being pulled by a brace of flying pigs. No horse could sustain a speed of fifteen miles an hour for four hours. If the fabled Black Bess had a sister, and he changed horses half way, then I should not marvel so much, but it seems as though Turpin’s tale is going the way of that of Robin Hood and his merry men, surrounded by myth and fantasy.

Later, at the Greyhound Inn, Falkingham.

For such a small village, I was surprised at the size of the inn, which is considerable, and a fine brick building. However, the recently built gatehouse to the house of correction, built on the site of an ancient castle makes all clear, for this is the centre for the Quarter Sessions. Of course it is also a stage away from Lincoln on the main London to Lincoln road. It is a pretty village, built of warm stone, very different to the houses in Suffolk.
After the excitements of the morning, we are very tired, so I bid you adieu, my dear Charles.

With all my regards, Marjorie.

White Hart Inn, Lincoln,
3rd August 1815

Dear Charles,
How splendid to receive your letter of yesterday! I am glad the children are behaving themselves. Perhaps Mama will help Penelope to unravel the difficulties she has got herself into with her patchwork, and if Mama does not know how, Mrs. Pigeon might be kind enough.
I suppose it was inevitable that someone would show Harry how to make a whistle from elderberry stems, and if it had not been Tricker, I am sure some other countryman would have done so. Make him go outside to be shrill and learn to play it! I will see if I can get him a flageolet such as the Irish navvies play, though I have no doubt that a pipe he makes himself will be more attractive to him. Perhaps Maddy can help him put the holes in the right place to play a scale; I think she understands musical theory. If not, I will do so when I return. Diana and I both had good music lessons, though she is more accomplished than I am.
How clever of you to guess which inn we should use! The other main inn is the Saracen’s Head. Our coachman assures us that though it has a new façade, the back of the building is all timber-framed, and Tudor at the latest. The White Hart is some 75 years old, though I believe there has been an inn of that name here for much longer, and it is very pleasant. I can see Lincoln Minster out of my window, and the castle is not far away. We had time to stroll about the ancient centre of Lincoln when we arrived, and stretch our aching legs.
It is another connection with Robin Hood, of course, to think that the Merry Men wore Lincoln Green. It may amuse the children to know that their Mama and Mama-to-be is thinking about Robin Hood. He, at least, was a moral rogue, not like Dick Turpin.
Tomorrow we shall go by cross ways to Crowle,
I pray you, pass my kisses to the children.

Your affectionate Marjorie.

Chequers House, Crowle
4th August

Dear Charles,
It is now apparent that we are in manufacturing country. Crowle is situated on a hill, and they grow hemp here to make sackcloth. There is also a brickworks, and a considerable canal which we had to cross, in addition to crossing so many drains and dykes I feel we might almost have done better to get out the spare bedlinen we brought and hoist sail. I think it would be a very unhealthy place to live. We slapped at gnats until we went up the hill and away from the wetlands.
This is not an inn as such, it is a farmhouse which also sells ale and keeps a few rooms for travellers. It is not ideal, however, it is clean and the rooms are of reasonable size. Our coachman has had to sleep in the stables, and Frid was offered a rather narrow bed to share with the maid of all work, so I was glad we had brought extra bedding, and we have made up a bed of sorts for her on the floor across the bottom of the bed Emily and I are sharing, where she will not have to worry about the cleanliness of a strange girl or falling out of bed. This has been a trying leg, because we have had to negotiate less than ideal roads, and there was also an altercation at the turnpike, which turned into a regular set-to between the gatekeeper and some bucolic. The pleasures of travelling are beginning to pall even for poor Emily. The mattress here is lumpy and has not been properly turned and beaten since I cannot guess when, and if conditions at our next stop, Selby, are as bad, I fear, my dear, that I shall break the Sabbath to push on to Leeds.

Your disheartened Marjorie.

The Petre Arms
5th August 1815

There are two coaching inns in Selby, but the ‘George’ is in the middle of town and this one is on the outskirts, which our coachman thought would be a little quieter, since both are on the Leeds road so nothing to pick between them in which is more likely to fill up than the other. Hence we crossed the fine drawbridge over the River Ouse (please explain to the children this is not the same River Ouse they have crossed in Essex or that in the Fens near Uncle Val’s father’s house; people are very unimaginative in naming sometimes.) and went right through the town. It is a very busy town, of course the canal to Leeds increases traffic to the town.
I have made an effort to find out about the bridge for Harry, and I hope I have this correct. The bridge was built in 1791 and opened two years later and is the lowest crossing of the Ouse without having to go to York or going on a ferry. It is a most remarkable structure and we had to wait whilst it was swung to one side to permit a ship through. Emily, Mr. Pennyweather and I dismounted to watch, the rain having stopped, though the wind was still bitter. The bridge, or rather the central section of it, rotates horizontally so that it lies up against the bank leaving a gap for shipping to go through. It is very ingenious, and the gatekeeper, who works the big wheel that turns the bridge as well as taking tolls from road users, was an amiable fellow who was willing to boast about his ‘charge’. He told me to be certain to tell my little lad (his description) that it is the first bridge to rotate in this way, and not lift, and it does so by using what he calls ‘miniature cannon balls’ which are about the size of a child’s marbles. He suggested that to understand this, Harry should put a lot of marbles inside a tambour hoop to hold them together, and put a tray on top to see how easily it moves. I expect he has had a lot of practise explaining matters to young boys. This took most of the time we were waiting for the ship to go through, and when he put the road back down, he gave me one of these ‘ball bearings’ which he said the engineers call them, for Harry, it is apparently too worn to use, but he is allowed to keep a few worn ones when they replace them to give to interested children. Wasn’t that nice of him? Harry will have bragging rights with his friends over this unusual marble!
Anyway, having crossed the river we went through town and found ourselves at the inn.
Mine host, Mr. M’Gregor is very obliging, and explained that the name of the inn comes from a prominent local family whose roots go back to the 14th century at least. He is justly proud of his town, and suggested that we might like to make our weekly devotions at the Abbey church. He said that the Abbey was founded by William the Conqueror and Henry I was born there. We had had a good glimpse of the Abbey, first as we waited for the bridge and then as we passed it, and it should be very pleasant to worship there. Of course the Abbey itself went the same way of all monastic communities under the ravages of Henry VIII, but the church is lovely, a delicate structure of blond stone. It is a massive structure for a market town. Oh, and that was the other advantage of coming to the ‘Petre Arms’, because market day is Monday, and if we were at the ‘George’ which is right on the market square, we should have to negotiate the stalls and early crowds. I will write tomorrow how we enjoyed the service. It will be very pleasant to have a day’s rest from travelling, but oh, Charles! I miss you so much, and the day’s rest will leave me time to brood on how much I do miss you. I miss the children too, of course, but I have been taken by surprise by how much I long to hear your voice, and how I wish I might feel your arms around me, so strong and comforting. I never knew it was possible to miss any man like this, and to lie in bed, my only leisure time, feeling an almost physical pain that we are so far apart.

Your loving Marjorie.

The Petre Arms
Sunday 6th August 1815

Dearest Charles,

I woke up with my teeth chattering, and Emily and I clung to each other for warmth, the drop in temperature was as if to winter! We had already woken with cold when the night, or what was left of it, was split by lightning and thunder so close as to be almost instantaneous. Emily and I got dressed, shivering, and poked the embers of the fire into life and made it up, and I went in search of coal. Lo and behold, Frid had the same idea and was dressed and bringing some to us. We told her to stay in the room until she warmed up; the inn servants had also arisen and Frid went to get us chocolate as soon as the kitchen closed stove was alight, and I told her that just this once I would pay for a cup for her too. The noise was incredible! Not just the thunder, but the pounding on the roof of the hailstones. It got light much later than usual for this time of year, courtesy of the heavy clouds, but when we could see reliably, we were able to discern that the hail lay several inches thick. I fear we will not be able to get to church this morning, unless there is a rapid thaw, and that I doubt. It is very cold, and we are all huddled over the fire, wrapped in blankets eating buttered toast and drinking chocolate. Frid acquired us a kettle and foodstuffs, so we do not have to leave the fire; apparently the parlour is not warm yet so we have eggs coddling in the kettle for breakfast. Poor Emily, who is very lean, feels the cold most terribly, and we have used some of our extra bedlinen to fasten over the window to add an extra layer to the curtains to keep out the draughts and cold, and another blanket over the door. It means we must sit by candlelight but at least it reduces the bone-numbing cold. We are hoping that as the sun gets higher, we might have a thaw.

The weather has warmed somewhat and we have been able to have natural daylight; and we will retire to the parlour for dinner, as it has been warming all day and Frid says that it is tolerable. We cannot wear all our extra blankets, however, to go to a public room! So we wait until it is more than tolerable. I confess to being disappointed to miss seeing the Abbey church, but it is too cold yet to venture forth. I am told that this is a freak storm, and not merely because of being in the north.

Your loving and cold Marjorie.

Chapter 20

New King’s Arms, Leeds
7th August 1815

My dear Charles,

How delightful to find a letter from you waiting, and how clever of you to remember the inn recommended by Mr. Brady, for I believe I only mentioned it in passing. It is good to hear from you, though of course you must always be several letters behind as I am writing daily. Your commiserations on our miserable night at Crowle is much appreciated, and I shall ask Mr. Brady if he has a better suggestion on the way back. The coachman says he thinks we might as well use the well-travelled route and return via Doncaster, whence we might get to Lincoln in two stages. He has been kind not to say that the route I chose may have been foolish, and I am glad to have been to Selby to see the bridge for the interest of Harry, and to see, albeit only with a glimpse, the Abbey Church. However, you will be pleased to know that the choice of inn is good.
The Old King’s Arms is used now only as an office for the ‘Mercury’ coach, for I asked if there was an old king. I am glad Mr. Brady made this choice, at first it looks as though one inn is as good as another, as they are all to be found along the strangely named ‘Briggate’. However the ‘Rose and Crown’, which sounds pleasant enough, apparently has a cockpit and regular cock fights, and Emily and I both have a horror not only of such horrid things, but also of the sort of clientele who would go to such. One can imagine young men who fancy themselves as men of fashion, in their cups and inflamed by the bloody spectacle being insulting towards women, even women of quality, and I hate to think what insults poor Frid might have to endure. She is a handsome woman. Also the Mail coaches go to the ‘Rose and Crown’ which means coaches coming and going at all hours. The ‘Bull and Mouth’ is huge, and caters to the big baggage waggons, so the traffic would be very heavy. The ‘New King’s Arms’ has a cellar stable, something I have never heard of, but apparently the ‘Bull and Mouth’ does as well, I suppose in a big and busy city it makes sense.
We set off in a drear and miserable state but at least not so cold, and we were well wrapped with hot bricks. I am glad I insisted that we take bricks to heat, despite the hysterical laughter on the parts of Harry, Penelope, Beth and Lottie, who though it unnecessary in August. If you have had lovely and brilliant weather they will doubtless find it hard to believe our slice of temporary winter, but I assure you the hail stones were very real, and we dared not go out lest we slip around on them like on the bridge’s ball-bearings. However, the weather has improved to merely unpleasant.
We tried to see the sights on the way, as indicated by our stalwart coachman, but even Hare Hills Grove was invisible for the curtain of rain, though the road passes it very nearly, and Temple Newsome*, belonging to the Marquis of Hertford, was entirely lost to sight. It is apparently a fine Jacobean mansion. Emily was disappointed not to have seen it, for she collects pictures of great houses published by Mr. Ackermann and others, and told me that the balustrade or battlement of the roof is decorated with carven letters instead of pilasters which read ‘All Glory and Praise be given to God the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost on High; Peace upon Earth, good will towards men; honour and true allegiance to our gracious king, loving affections amongst his subjects, health and plenty within this house’. If that does not leave you gasping for breath it did me, when Emily got out her commonplace book to read where she had inscribed it. We were both agog to see how it had been done, but were doomed to disappointment. Perhaps another time we might come as a family, arranging a curate for a few weeks, and bring Emily, and visit on an open day, if there is such a thing. Most big houses have them. Uncle Adam disappears into his study, which is in the old Priest’s Hole, when they have them at Darsham, and that is not so large as Temple Newsome, though it is in a similar style (Emily also has a print pasted into her commonplace book.).
Anyway, I am to meet Mr. Brady tomorrow, he is to call and take me to the mill, and I will see for myself how these pressed tin geegaws are made.
I wish you might be with me to see them, dear Charles. Kiss the children from me.

Your loving Marjorie.

Deepwell Rectory,
7th August 1815

My dear Marjorie,

How like music it is to say your name! I have received your letter of the 5th inst. and it warms me, and turns my heart to fire. I miss you so much, and I am determined that I will never leave you to endure such a journey again without being by your side. I long to hold you and shower you with kisses. I am counting the days until you come home.
Harry is writing to you himself, but in case he cannot manage to put it into words I wanted to tell you that we tried the experiment with the marbles and he was much impressed. His current ambition is to be an engineer and build iron bridges or ones which swing. He has had fun cutting a canal to cross two loops of the stream on your property, Tricker said that he might, which will take care of itself I have no doubt as for all Harry’s exertions it is about two inches wide. As he said, “There is more to building canals than meets the eye, Papa.” I forbore to mention that grown-up engineers have many men to help them with the digging, since it would rub salt in the wound that the girls and David all refused him on the grounds not of avoiding getting muddy, but of nettles. Harry bore his stings stoically but I think his enthusiasm for canals is going to be limited to putting bridges over them.
I wish I had as exciting an account of life here to tell you as you have had in your letters, but unless you count a few contusions for the children being Robin Hood and his merry men in response to your earlier letters I have little enough to tell you. Harry, of course, was Robin Hood and they decided that rather than argue over who was to be Maid Marion, they would all be Merry Maids instead of Merry Men, and David was permitted to be Much the Miller’s son. If you are willing, perhaps their favourite oak tree might have a platform mounted in it, and good solid pegs driven into the trunk as a ladder, since only Harry is able to climb it even with the aid of a rope. It would make a castle to be besieged among other things, I am sure. The idea of pegs was Maddy’s, but I would not order it done without your approval. She has been using a copy of Joseph Ritson’s interpretations of the ballads of Robin Hood to read to them, and leaving out anything not entirely suitable for little pitchers. Though I imagine that you grew up, as I did, in hearing the ballads sung or recited at May-Day festivities or told to you by your nurse without any of the more questionable aspects making any impression on your innocent ears.
I hope and trust that you will be able to get all done that you wish and that matters will soon be settled.

Your loving betrothed, Charles.

Deepwells Rectory
7th August

Dear Mama Marjorie,

Papa said I might call you that as you are going to be our Mama and I am very happy. Thank you for finding all about the bridge, it was a capital experiment. I have lots of marbles. Most of them are just common clay ones, but I have three stoneware ones, which were Papa’s, some made of real stone, and one made of porslane all the way from Germany. I got it from the pedlar who had those little wooden dolls the girls like. I bet none of the fellows at school will have a metal one, thank you!
We have been reading Robin Hood stories with Maddy and playing at being the Merry Men so as to be thinking of you.

Yours, Harry

Deerest Mama,

Wee miss you. David sends a kiss. Jassinfa is to litl to understand. Wee hav playd Robin Hood. I wud not be Made Marion so I wos a Mery Made. I am glad wee shall hav a Papa. And sisters and a bruvver.

Lots of luv, Penelopy

New King’s Arms
9th August 1815

Dear Charles and all,

Pray forgive me for not writing yesterday, I was quite worn out! However, your lovely letters reached me just now. I am glad that you are enjoying yourselves.
On the way back I will pass a place called ‘Robin Hood’s Well’ and will pass near Wakefield, so you may wish to ask Maddy to read the tale of George-a-Green and his lovely bride Bettrys, who learns to fight with a sword almost as well as Marion herself.
You are probably wondering how I have got on with the factory. It was a fascinating but noisy place, one reason I am so tired; the noise is so great as the steam hammers bang the tin into moulds, all of them going at once, that the very noise exhausts one, for there is no escape from it. I do not know how the workers bear it, and I have asked Mr. Brady to give them all a pay rise. I know Val will agree and I do not much care if that Craven fellow does or not.
Papa Charles will be interested to know that Mr. Pennyweather has been going through the accounts with a fine tooth comb, and it has become apparent that funds intended for the living expenses of David, Beth and Jacyntha have not been sent directly, since Obadiah Craven has been using his position as trustee to make short-term loans and investments with money not destined for him, in order to profit before sending the money on. Though no monies have been stolen outright from the accounts, this is apparently malfeasance, and Mr. Pennyweather was busy talking to magistrates about breaking the trust to have another, more reliable, trustee appointed, and under the circumstances to examine the accounts of Mr. Craven to see if this has happened in the past when entrusted by Braithwaite with any sums of money. Mr. Pennyweather says that any speculation undertaken by a trustee should be at the permission of other trustees and should go to increase the stipend of the beneficiary, and the trustee may be awarded a percentage for so doing, but to do this without permission is fraud and is illegal. It is legal for me to do so with the amount I am awarded for my own living. I was relieved to check that with Mr. Pennyweather.
After seeing over the factory, Mr. Brady and Miss Brady came to dine at the inn with us. Rose Brady does not live far from the hotel. She is a sensible lady of about thirty-five, a few years younger than her brother, and we discussed what I hoped to do with haberdashery.
I was very impressed with Miss Brady, and I asked Mr. Pennyweather to draw up a partnership agreement. She will do most of the work even though I provide the capital and some ideas so it seems only fair that she should profit equally, and to my mind, someone who is sharing in the profits will work harder also. I should like for Mr. Brady to be a junior partner in the factory, but that is David’s decision in conjunction with the trustees when he is old enough to understand.
That was yesterday. Today I have been to the haberdashery warehouse, and I was impressed with what I saw. It is a well-run business, a little cautious, but we can consider expansion in the future. For example, I do not see why bonnet ornaments commonly made of wax or silk should not be made with fine tin, being more durable. If painted, I should think that remarkably realistic flowers and fruit might be made, though I fancy fruit is now completely out of fashion. Miss Brady is enthusiastic, which is always a good start.
Mr. Pennyweather has, during the course of his legal peregrinations, tracked down a number of chandleries which Braithwaite also owned, and it is in the setting up or purchase of these that he is searching for a period of monies going briefly astray in case it was used to hide other fraudulent transactions. There is income from these too, which for some reason appears to be going into a different account, so I suspect there will be large upheavals. Mr. Pennyweather has intimated that he will not be likely to be escorting us home, since the legal business of sorting out Craven and the others in the firm might take some while. It sounds dull to me, but Mr. Pennyweather was almost dancing on the spot with glee. I suppose when you mostly deal with wills, conveyances and a little bit of trustee work, the chance to get your teeth into a serious piece of criminal fraud must be relatively exciting. I am glad that I am not a solicitor to find such things relatively exciting: I have a more interesting life as a mother, I have to say.
And as a mother, I have been able to suggest tin toys to Mr. Brady outside of the ‘flats’ or toy soldiers he already produces. I have suggested a tin-bodied flageolet (Mama has not forgotten your flageolet, Harry, but Mr. Brady will require you to test his first tin one) mounted with a bone or wood mouthpiece, and a tin cup for bilbocatch. Copies of some of the housewares but smaller will be good toys for little girls to learn housekeeping skills. However Mr. Brady says we must not expand too fast or the cost will outweigh the profits.
I do not wish to bother to go and see the Braithwaite mansion. It is something we can visit all together, maybe next year. Mr. Pennyweather says he will go and visit in case anything is needed. I hope he will shortly be the new trustee, but I am considering leaving tomorrow, Thursday, to lay over Sunday at Lincoln since Mr. Brady gave me such an efficient tour, and Miss Brady and I found ourselves in so great an accord, and leave all the legal bother to Mr. Pennyweather, who is paid to be bothered.
I hope to be back within the week, my darlings.
Your loving Mama, Marjorie.

Chapter 21

The Old Angel
10th August 1815

Dear Charles,

The ‘Old Angel’ is named to distinguish it from the ‘New Angel’ which was built in competition about five years ago, and in an act of contumely right across the road. We chose the older inn since the new one attracts all the business and is therefore noisier.
It is still raining at least once during the day. I am hoping we shall not have to swim across the Fens when we get there.
It is a long, uncomfortable journey but at least now we are headed homeward and I can almost hear the wheels talking as they rumble over the well-packed macadam road, “We’re going to Charles! We’re going to Charles!”
I hope you do not think me fanciful, but imagining words in the sound of the interminable rumble is comforting, and I rest my aching head against the squabs and imagine that I am leaning against your dear chest, and your cool hand soothes my aching brow, and I can imagine that your kisses would dispel all discomfort. Poor Emily is looking drained and tired too, and I am feeling guilty for bringing her, but she has exclaimed that it is worth feeling tired to have seen so many sights, and it is only that it has been so very wet and it makes her arthritis ache. I certainly ache and I can give Emily a good 15 years, so she must be very uncomfortable, poor dear! The good thing about having left Mr. Pennyweather to his own devices in Leeds is that we may stretch out, and luxuriate, and take turns to put our feet up while Frid sits on the other seat. Braithwaite always made the servants ride outside, and the weather not being fit for man or beast, but the coachman at least being inured to it, I would not have that poor woman out there. It’s unchristian if you ask me. And, also, without a man inside, we do not have to ask the coachman to stop as often.
My dear, I am too tired to think of anything scintillating to say. I will write again from Lincoln tomorrow evening, God willing, and there being no accident befalling us.

Your loving Marjorie.

White Hart Inn,
11th August 1815

Dear Charles,

Emily and I have decided to forgo the pleasure of visiting Ely, which is no pleasure at all if we are too tired to enjoy it. Perhaps we might make a family trip and bring her another time. We have discussed whether to adhere to the original travel plan in reverse, which is to say stay over at Falkingham and on to Huntingdon, or whether to make a long day of it to push on to Huntingdon in one leg, some 55 miles, but as the going is soft, even on good roads, this would mean eleven or twelve hours on the road, and neither Emily nor I feel that we can survive that.

A stroke of luck! Our coachman says he has managed to hire a good team of horses who are guaranteed to manage seven miles an hour sustained travel, and has sent ahead for a change to be ready for us at Falkingham, so we shall indeed press on. That makes all the difference in the world, and I have vailed him well for such ingenuity. Of course, it means he gets back sooner to be contracted out to some other traveller, but it is only civil to show appreciation. Emily is almost in tears in relief.
Unless anything occurs to delay us, it seems foolish to write again after today since the letters will reach you only shortly before our return, if indeed we do not get home first, even laying over Sunday at Huntingdon. The traffic has not been too bad, and in the whole journey we have only seen the evidence of half a dozen or so accidents, and our coachman is of the opinion that the faster the journey, the less likely it is to have an accident. This it seems is especially true if we may set a pace which will not infuriate drivers of fast sporting curricles and Phaetons. These vehicles, or rather, the young men driving them, so often cause accidents as they overtake, either by careering into oncoming traffic or tipping the coach they are overtaking into a ditch. We have been lucky not to have had lightning since that one terrible day in Selby, for I believe more traffic accidents are caused by coachmen struck by lightning than any other cause after careless driving. Indeed I read in the newspaper of one unfortunate female passenger who had lightning pass right through her, causing her whole hand to burn off where the electric fluid touched her wedding ring. It makes me very nervous of travelling when storms might be expected!
As soon as we return, I am happy for you to read the banns for us, my dear. I will defy convention and come out of mourning into half mourning after three months. It is not as if anyone who knows me has any belief that I mourn Braithwaite at all, and the events preceding his death preclude any possibility that I might be carrying his child.
Charles, I should like to discuss with you the possibility of having children together. Diana was right, that I should change my mind about men, but oh, Charles! I am still frightened. And it is easier to tell you this in a letter than face to face, because I am foolish like that sometimes.
At least with mine own business, we shall not want for the means to raise more than the 6 children we share between us, though I would prefer to use such methods as I am sure Diana knows to prevent a child a year; for as most die in any case, as I have three living children from seven pregnancies, it seems to me that if a woman is not ill when she becomes with child, from having recently birthed, that perhaps her baby will have a better chance to live? God cannot mean us to keep bringing forth dead babies, can he?
Mr. Pennyweather has promised to bring copies of the accounting of the chandlery businesses with him when he comes south again, and I shall have to discuss with him and with Val whether it is better to retain them, and remain with a diversification of interests, or whether to sell them and plough the money into increasing the pressed tin factory. I am inclined, myself, towards retaining some diversification, as an assurance against the tin market suddenly failing, for rise in price of tin or for a drop in the demand. I believe I have understood that correctly, Braithwaite was not specific about his factory but he talked about fluctuating prices, and making good deals to take advantage of materials being at a low price, and it seems to me that if it can be low it can also be high? This is why I need to talk to Val in case I have failed to understand when he was boasting. I think there will always be a market for tin copies of silverware of some kind, but if there is a change in tastes, I now understand better how much work would be involved in making new dies and stamps, for Mr. Brady explained the work it would take to set up my new ideas. And whilst this was being done, it would be useful to have other sources of income. And the goods sold by chandleries are never going to go out of fashion! We will always need lamp oil and candles, flour, timber, rope, paint and the myriad other items chandleries sell, even if the ships’ chandlery in Hull (I think it was Hull) is less used with the ending of the war, as the government will doubtless lay up many ships in the naval equivalent of mothballs. I expect there is a proper term for it, and Val probably knows what it is, but you know what I mean.
I love you, and I miss you, dear Charles, and I will count the hours until we are together again.

Your loving Marjorie.

“You know, Mr. Craven, I’m sick of your presence, malingering in the village,” said Charles, evenly. He had gone to the Blue Boar to visit its guest, who was still in residence, demanding beef and ale regularly and being what the innkeeper described as ‘a hem nuisance.’
“Why do you call me that? My name is Toby Alistair,” said Craven, trying not to bare his teeth in fear.
“No, Mr. Tobias Craven, your pocket book, with its vulgarly elaborate embossed name, fell from your pocket last time I hit you,” said Charles. His tone was still pleasant and even. “I know who you are, and what your plans were, and Adam Brandon wrote to me telling me that you had had the confounded cheek to write to him. Apparently you did not recognise that my betrothal to Marjorie Braithwaite has the backing and approval of her family.”
“But … but they’ll lose the money when she marries; how can they stand for that?” Tobias was puzzled.
Charles laughed.
“Brandons, as well as falling into scandals as easily as most people fall into bed at night, have a Midas touch with all they endeavour. Uncle Adam, as he has asked me to call him, was able to buy the estate for Marjorie’s use without a second thought. Largely with the intention of placing her close to a man he approved as her second husband, a flattering assessment on his part, but one I welcome.”
“I only hope she does not cause any damage to the trust by junketting off to Leeds,” growled Tobias.
“Oh, from your point of view, I believe she already has; as her solicitor has uncovered your parent’s malfeasance in using the monies entrusted to his care for distribution in fraudulent conversion. I believe he may be spending time in gaol, and if you knew anything about it, you might want to consider fleeing for the continent rather than returning home. Whichever destination you choose, however, you will choose it and be on your way first thing in the morning, because if you are still around when Mrs. Braithwaite returns, I will hit you again. In fact, I will hit you every time I see you, and if necessary I will make a habit of visiting so I do see you in order to hit you.”
“A fine attitude for a man of the cloth!”
“An attitude, you nasty creature, of a man who is in love. And by the way, I boxed seriously at college, so I will be able to take you down even if you are expecting a blow.”
Tobias snarled a few rather dirty words and slung himself off to pack. He believed Charles.

The New King’s Arms
12th August 1815

My dear Mr. Braidwood,

Your suspicions regarding the activities of Craven, Pickles and Fawcett are shown to be correct.
At first it appeared merely as though the payment of the stipend due to Mrs. Braithwaite and her offspring was being delayed, which transpired to be as a result of unlawful use of the monies for short term loans. Further investigation has shown that this is purely the actions of Obadiah Craven; the other partners seem to be unaware of any malfeasance. He vows his son is unaware too, and there is no evidence to the contrary, though I am inclined to have my suspicions that the younger Craven knew all about it.
I have been able to amass enough evidence of the delay in the payments to ask a magistrate to help, and to swear me in as a constable and issue me with a warrant to search both the offices and home of Obadiah Craven, with the aid of a large stalwart of the constabulary in case of resistance. This has yielded the personal accounts of Obadiah Craven, showing the extent of his malfeasance, and to involve His Majesty’s Tax Office. A revenue officer more accustomed to hunt smugglers is not the most ideal ally but at least he is handy in a scuffle, and an official representative of the Revenue Office until someone can be sent from London.
Furthermore, these investigations have shown that the income from Mr. Braithwaite’s other holdings has been placed into a separate account, where it is available if called for but has also been used to speculate and to make loans. I believe that the full extent of Braithwaite’s holdings was not made clear to your man, Mr. Snell, when he went to investigate. It was not disclosed that there is a wholesale business which supplied the chandleries. It transpires that this was a tax fraud perpetrated by Braithwaite in collusion with his managers, whereby the cost of goods was inflated in the accounting before sale, showing a lower tax return. I am attempting to sort out the ensuing mess, with the aid of the tax office and the local magistrates. Please be assured that there will be no trouble for yourself or for Mrs. Braithwaite (a nice little woman with a good business eye, but lacking experience in financial chicanery) and the back taxes will be sorted out to the satisfaction of all, except the fraudulent managers who will be required to pay back their own cut as well as doing time.
I can only assume that when Braithwaite formed his plan of tax evasion he chose a solicitor whose fiduciary morals were somewhat flexible, and that therefore the step from stealing from the government to stealing from his client seemed no very great matter to Craven. It remains to be seen whether this delay in payment was something new since Braithwaite’s death, relying on the confusion of an intestate estate, or whether it was of longer standing than that.
Indeed, I am beginning to wonder about that intestate state, and I will be having Bow Street search both the offices and home of Mr. Obadiah Craven, in case he has concealed a will anywhere. I cannot think that any solicitor would be quite so lost to shame as to destroy a will utterly.

Your obed’t s’v’t Gregory Pennyweather.

Marjorie helped Emily to climb into the coach outside the ‘Fountain’ inn, in Huntingdon. The older woman’s mouth was compressed with pain as she climbed up the steps and sank against the squabs. The day’s rest the day before for the Sabbath had helped, and as the church was but a step from the inn they had enjoyed the service, but the new pews in the church were hard and unforgiving and Emily’s hips had caused her much pain overnight. She was still half asleep with the drop of laudanum Marjorie had felt she needed, and looked unwell.
“You lie down and see if you can sleep, Emily: Frid and I will sit up,” said Marjorie. “Only another few hours and we shall be home.”
“Home! Oh, how I long for my own bed,” Emily sighed.
“I was thinking that you might like the rose bedroom at the Manor so you can be waited on,” said Marjorie.
“I did not like to presume …”
“Rose bedroom it shall be,” said Marjorie. “Here, let me wrap this shawl about your feet and put a rug over you.”
Emily snuggled into the rug gratefully. She might not be able to sleep but at least she could rest.
Marjorie leaned back into the squabs and shut her eyes. She felt quite drained. The long leg of the day before had been exhausting. She sighed as the coach set off with its monotonous rumble.
“Do you want a shawl, ma’am?” asked Frid.
“No, thank you. I just want today to be over,” said Marjorie. “Thirty-five miles back to Deepwells, we shall be home in time for afternoon tea.”
“God willing,” murmured Emily.
Marjorie, too, tried to doze. She scarcely knew what she ate for a combined breakfast and luncheon at an inn outside Bury St Edmunds, and as they were on their way again, she settled back telling herself that they would soon be home and she could rest, and lie in the next day if she wanted. Even Charles’ kisses could not revive her at the moment, she feared, or the loving caresses of the children.
Marjorie awoke at the sound of the coachman swearing and cursing, and shouting at someone as the coach swerved to the left. Frid peered out of the window and ducked back in.
“Vehicle coming other way!” she said, pulling at the piled bedding under the seats. Marjorie, divining her purpose, helped, and drew Emily, who sat up startled, onto the floor, surrounded by cushions and rugs. And then there was a splintering crash, scraping noises, and the carriage rocked alarmingly and lurched to one side. Marjorie vaguely noted that the coachman was still alive, unless dead men could swear sulphurously. The horses were screaming, and there were horrible sounds of splintering and a dull crash. The coach rocked a bit more, jumped, and subsided suddenly to the left before it came to a halt at an alarming angle, and the three women were thrown violently to the left of the carriage.

please don't shoot me

the braithwaite letters 19-21

Sarah WaldockMay 20, 2017 01:54PM

We wouldn't dare!

Lily - not logged inMay 20, 2017 03:35PM


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