Dilkerton was a member of the great Thallawell legal family. To be fair his life was comparatively conventional, if only because he was somebody who instinctively tried to conform. So he went into the family legal practice, married a nice young lady and they had two delightful daughters. So whilst he worked hard, he made sure that he was home from work early enough to spend time with the family.
Now he wasn’t a great courtroom performer. On the other hand he had a real genius for cutting through to the crux of the case and working out what were the real issues. Indeed the partnership decided that his analytical mind was wasted on courtroom histrionics. Instead he would examine the case when it arrived with the partnership and then, when it was assigned to a partner, he would go through it with them and explain it. Even old Tildus Thallawell, the senior partner, and considered by many to be the finest legal mind in Port Naain, would discuss his cases with young Dilkerton.
This led to Dilkerton being much in demand, and the pressure was on him to work longer hours. He put this off as long as possible, but the girls were older, well into their teens, and his wife pointed out that there were going to be a lot of large expenditures to face soon. Daughters don’t get cheaper to keep as they grow older. So somewhat reluctantly, Dilkerton started working longer hours. To be brutally honest at this point, he did love the work so that side of it was no hardship. Initially he stuck strictly to his days off but his wife pointed out that if he could get money tucked away with his usurer now, once the girls were married and away, then they could relax a bit and spend more time together. This seemed reasonable, indeed it was a goal Dilkerton could work towards. So he threw himself into work. Indeed his wife arranged with the partnership to put up a bed in his office for him and every day somebody came in with a complete set of clean clothes and took away the previous set. Similarly, three times a day a lady arrived with his meals.
He settled down nicely into his new routine, his wife would sent him a pleasant note every so often letting him know how things were going, and he set out to put aside enough money. He was lucky in that the partnership had a number of complex but fascinating cases. On the strength of his part in these, the Council of Sinecurists asked him to produce a codification of Port Naain commercial law.
He produced the first volume, ‘The rights, duties and perquisites of the Legal Person in Port Naain law’ in a couple of months. He was helped in this because he’d been prompted to do the research because of the complexities of one of the cases he was working on anyway. The second volume was, ‘The law of Land and Property, including inheritance and the duties and privileges of Landowners, absolute, qualified or possessory. The third volume was, ‘Maritime law, including maintenance and cure, reasonable care of passengers, maritime liens and mortgages, salvage, and piracy’. Legal experts seem to regard this as his magnum opus. Certainly it was immediately accepted within Port Naain. Indeed it was also adopted within a month of publication in Prae Ducis. Apparently well-thumbed and hand-written copies of the piracy sections have been seen being passed around rough bars in Ulwin and Rothturning.
I’m not sure how long this had been going on when he found, in his morning’s post, a letter from his usurer. It was an apologetic missive, it merely informed him that unless he could send funds immediately they would not be able to honour his monthly standing order to the Goldclaw Baths and Laundry. This came as a shock to him as he hadn’t realised he had such a standing order. He questioned the person who brought his clean clothes. Dilkerton had rather assumed that the chap was somebody from his household, sent each day by Dilkerton’s wife. It turned out that he was from the Goldclaw Baths and Laundry. Later that day he discovered that the woman bringing his meals was Madam Balgot, who had quite a nice business providing decent meals for men too busy to leave their desks. After he had finished his lunch he left the building and walked to his usurer’s offices. There he asked to see the ledger of his account. On the input side he could see the money he was earning, pouring into the account like a river. Unfortunately on the other side of the ledger he could see money pouring out like the retreating tide. He looked more carefully at where the money was going. Goldclaw and Madam Balgot were there, being paid their quite reasonable sums. Rather more surprising was the fact that judging by the sums disbursed, he was apparently the sole support for three of the city’s more prestigious ladies’ dress shops. Then to his genuine shock he discovered that he’d also opened an account in the last three months with a gentleman’s outfitter.
It was a remarkably thoughtful Dilkerton Thallawell who made his way home (to his house, not the office). He did wonder whether he would even be able to get into the house, but there appeared to be a ball in progress so he could stroll in unremarked. He found the situation disconcerting. He didn’t recognise the servants, he didn’t recognise the guests, and even the décor was strange to him. He suddenly had an irrational fear that he’d inadvertently slept for a century and was now surrounded entirely by strangers. As unobtrusively as possible he made his way through the house to where there appeared to be dancing.
Standing near the door he watched the dancers. He could see his wife dancing with a rather handsome gentleman. He turned to the man standing next to him. “Who’s the gentleman dancing with Madam Thallawell?”
“Damned if I remember his name, but I think he’s the favourite to be the widow’s next husband.”
A little dryly Dilkerton said, “I hadn’t realised she was a widow.” He thought briefly and asked, “Did she have any children by her first husband?”
“Yes, two daughters, but they both married in the last twelve months.”
Somewhat shocked by what he’d heard, Dilkerton made his way out. He noticed a copy of the Port Naain Intelligencer on the table in the hall, and for perhaps the first time in his life, when he looked at the date, he checked the year first. Much to his relief the paper and he agreed on the day, month and year.
Next morning he left instructions that any income from his codification of the law should be paid to the Order of Illuminated Seditionists. He took leave of absence from work, took his current month’s salary in cash and walked out of the office and headed for the Roskadil Ferry. Eight hours later he was at the home of a client he’d always got on well with.
Next morning he started work. He watches over his employer’s horrocks, for which he gets a cottage and three meals a day. As he watches over his charges, Dilkerton will carve small animals from wood, just as he used to when his daughters were little.
During the evenings he reads a lot. Every so often he will send me a bag of the animals he’s carved and I’ll sell them for him. Then I’ll go to Alen Gaetz’s second-hand book shop. There I’ll buy as many fifty-dreg tales of derring-do and romance set amongst the bandit chieftains of Partann as the carved wooden animals would pay for. He trusted me to do this properly, as I had a list of the books I’d taken to him previously.
His wife I never really knew so cannot really say what happened to her. She wasn’t …….
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