Author's note: My Obadiah Hakeswill is derived mostly from the TV version, more so than the books. Pete Postlethwaite did a masterful job bringing Obadiah to life, clearly hinting at the damaged little boy buried underneath the unmitigated bastard. In essence, Pete made Obadiah human.
I was also inspired to write this story by Steshette's excellent Hakeswill YouTube video, which supplied me with the title of this story. Along with more extensive notes about this story, this video can be viewed on my blog, which can be accessed from my author profile.
I sometimes have weird tastes in men, having been attracted to the "bad boys" in TV and film since my earliest years. I love Obadiah to pieces. So sue me.
I've written this story with the idea that love isn't just for the beautiful and popular, but that there's someone for everyone Even Obadiah Hakeswill.
The story will be told mainly from Obadiah's point of view. Richard Sharpe will make a cameo appearance in the story, but will not play a large role.
Sharpe's Peril indicates that Obadiah's son, Barabbas Hakeswill, is half-Indian. For the purposes of my story, however, his mother is not Indian, but an Englishwoman.
October 1799 - India
Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill looked both ways before entering the alley that led to the damaged, abandoned stable where he'd squirreled away some of the loot he'd stolen in recent weeks. Satisfied that he wasn't being observed, he slipped quietly down the deserted alley with his haversack filled with pilfered items.
Since the British had taken Seringapatam a few months before, Hakeswill had been assigned to garrison duty along with a detachment from the 33rd. So far it has been easy duty, much to Obadiah's liking. He'd supervised crews cleaning up the mess made by the battle and in rebuilding fortifications, which had left him plenty of opportunities for plundering. Now that the cleanup detail was nearly complete, he'd squirreled away quite a tidy haul in various locations around the town. He figured that if one location was discovered by others, he still had plenty of loot hidden elsewhere.
There would be more opportunities for plunder with the new assignment coming, that would take his detachment out to patrol the nearby roads to keep them free of bandits. Hakeswill hoped they'd see plenty of bandits, so he could take their ill-gotten gains from them after running them through with his bayonet. Experience over the years had taught him that stealing from thieves was always a profitable venture.
Obadiah Hakeswill was a born survivor, having lived to tell the tale of being hanged at the tender age of twelve. He had fended for himself ever since, after his uncle had come to cut him down, telling him he'd done it for Obadiah's mother. But the uncle had told him to bugger off and never come back. After joining the army soon thereafter, Obadiah had learned that he couldn't depend on anyone but himself. Nobody gave anything away for free and learned early on that he had to steal if he was to get by. His motto was "Do it to them before they do it to you."
Garrison life had also afforded Obadiah the chances to get his carnal itches scratched more frequently. What with Nasty Naig setting up a brothel in Seringapatam to cater to the British forces and the ongoing availability of his men's wives, Hakeswill was well set in that regard. He would have liked to have had at least one woman who didn't cost or was more willing to lay with him, but he'd take it as he could get it.
Just this very afternoon, Private Miller's wife had finally come crawling to him. Hakeswill had set up her lazy, shiftless husband by putting stolen items into his haversack and had promised to overlook it only if his wife came to pay the price. It took three days, but pay the price she did. Obadiah had thoroughly enjoyed riding the big-titted brunette like an animal, so he was in a particularly fine mood as he entered the stable.
The door squealed loudly as he entered, and he heard the sounds of scurrying as he stepped inside. Rats or mice, no doubt; the place was full of them. The vermin didn't bother Obadiah; they served to discourage nosy people from poking around the stable. He liked the stable; it was quiet and peaceful where he could be alone with his thoughts for awhile. Sometimes, he came here even when he didn't have any new loot to stash.
After closing the stable door behind him, he went directly to the last stall in a back corner of the structure where the roof was still sound. Hakeswill knelt in the hay by the corner beam, then dug away the piled hay to reveal a loose board at the back. Working the nail free that held the hollow space in behind shut, he removed the stolen items from his haversack and placed them in a smaller bag before stuffing the bag up inside the hollow space behind the beam.
As he replaced the nail and was about to tighten it back into the hole, he heard the rustling sound again, this time louder. He quickly pulled the bayonet he always kept with him and whirled around.
"Who's there?" he growled hoarsely, as his face twitched. "Show yourself!" He inched forward carefully to peer into a stall on the opposite side of the stable.
He relaxed somewhat, but did not let down his guard, when he saw a nervous English woman with a baby cowering on the ground in the corner of the stall. Plain in the face, she was, but was nicely full-bosomed. Hakeswill judged her age to be about five years younger than his nearly thirty years.
Brandishing the bayonet in front of him, he demanded, "What did you see?"
"N-nothing, I assure you," the young woman insisted in a trembling voice.
"Why are you in here?" he asked. "Did you follow me?" Immediately after the words left his mouth, Obadiah knew that was ridiculous. If she were following him, she'd certainly not bring a baby with her.
"P-please don't hurt me," the woman said. "I didn't follow you. I come here all the time. I wanted a private place to feed and spend time with my baby."
"I don't see you feeding the little 'un, missy," he observed, as he sheathed the bayonet, then leaned against the stall wall. "And why didn't you say nothing when I came in? Seems kind of sneaky-like to me, it does."
"I was frightened," she said simply.
"As well you should be," he replied gruffly. "What are you doing in this run-down stable for, anyway? I can tells by the way you talk that you're not no regular trull. You're a lady."
"I was a lady," she agreed ruefully, as she absent-mindedly opened her bodice to give the baby access. "Up until the time my father put me out." She glanced down at the baby by way of giving a reason for her father's actions.
"Got you a bellyful before getting a wedding ring, eh missy?" Hakeswill said, chuckling, staring avidly at her chest, which was mainly hidden by the suckling child. "You'd not be the first. I'm surprised your father just didn't make the bastard marry you."
The young woman did not comment, but merely turned the baby around so Obadiah could see the child's face.
"Oh, my word, you've got you a heathen baby," he said, as it was obvious that the baby was half-caste. "Lots of the men have children by bibbis, but I can't say I've ever seen the reverse."
As she returned the child to her breast, he noted, "He tried to make you give the baby up, didn't he? 'Cos I can't sees an officer letting his daughter marry the heathen who dared give her a bellyful."
"You're very perceptive, Sergeant," she said wearily. "But I didn't want to marry Joseph's father; I just wanted my baby."
"If you don't mind me askin', how'd you end up having a sepoy's baby?" Hakeswill was puzzled. If she'd been raped, he'd have certainly heard about it, as they'd have publicly hanged the bastard what done it quicker than a flash. He sat down in the hay, ready to hear her story.
Looking sharply at the bald sergeant, who'd removed his shako and laid it in the hay next to him, "I'm not sure if it's any of your business, but it's not as if I have anyone else to talk to." Heaving a gusty sigh, she continued, "My father threw a party. I had too much to drink, and decided to go for a walk to clear my head. I made the mistake of passing by where some sepoy soldiers were garrisoned and met Joseph's father along the path. I was very drunk and he was very handsome and a smooth talker, besides. He seduced me and nine months later I had a baby. He was killed in battle long before I realized I was with child." Shrugging, she went on, "My father did not throw me out until he saw the baby. Even then, he told me I could stay if I'd give the baby up."
Looking intently into Hakeswill's eyes and not looking away when he twitched slightly, she asked, "I ask you, what kind of a mother would not love her child enough to care for it, no matter who the father may be?"
"Right you are, missy," Obadiah agreed fervently, twitching again. He closed his eyes briefly as his mind travelled back to think of his own beloved mother, the only person who had ever loved him and cared for him. Obadiah had never known who his father was, as he'd been the result after his mother had been assaulted by a gang of village ruffians when she was eighteen. "There's nothing more sacred that a mother's love for her child."
He looked again at the young woman, this time lifting his eyes from her bosom to her face, and suddenly, she did not look quite so plain to him any longer.
She met his blue eyes, seeing the intensity in his gaze, and blushed crimson.
After a moment of awkward silence, she said, "If we're to become properly acquainted, shouldn't we introduce ourselves? I'm Anna Perkins and this is my son, Joseph."
"Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill, at your service, lass," he rumbled. "Is your father Captain Horace Perkins?"
"Yes, he is," Anna replied, sighing again.
"Bloody hell," Hakeswill swore. "He's a tough 'un. I can see him throwin' his own flesh and blood out, too."
"You don't have to convince me," she said bitterly. "I know only too well."
"And your mum?" he asked. "Where is she?"
"She died when I was only nine," Anna said. "That's how I ended up coming with my father when he was sent to India,"
"But you ain't living on the streets," Obadiah observed astutely. "You're too clean for that."
"You're right," she admitted, knowing she'd not get anything over on the shrewd sergeant. "Major Stokes and his wife did their Christian duty and took me in in exchange for helping the servants out when needed in the kitchen."
Heaving another sigh, Anna continued "But they never let me forget that I'm a sinner and that they are such fine Christians for taking me in. But they don't give me any more than the bare minimum of food; hardly enough to keep body and soul together. I have to stay out of sight when they have company, as they say I'm too much of a sinner to be fit for respectable company. But they make me attend their tiresome Bible studies and I'm obliged to read Bible passages about sexual sin - they test me to make sure I've read it."
"I've never had much use for them pious, Bible-reading types," Hakeswill said darkly. "I'm not cumbered with morals, as suchlike has never helped a body so far as I can see. I do what I needs to do to survive and I don't worry myself none about what needs to be done to make sure I sees another day. I'm a practical man, I am." Looking sharply at her, "You needs to take some of my attitude if you want to survive and not let people run over you. God helps those who helps themselves, you know. I've been looking after myself since I was twelve."
"Twelve!" Anna exclaimed. "Did you run away?"
"Had to, missy," Hakeswill told her, his face twitching at the thought of the horrible memory. "Didn't want to leave my mum, but the village parson didn't like me and mum, you see. He had me set up for stealing a sheep, which I didn't do, and I was sentenced to hang."
"So you ran away to avoid being hanged," Anna guessed.
"Oh, no, they hanged me all right," Obadiah told her in a matter-of-fact tone. Turning his face up and removing the black cloth that surrounded his neck, he pointed to the prominent scar that surrounded it. "See there, missy. That's where they tried to hang me. Did a piss poor job of it, too, as you can see."
"Oh, my," she said, as she looked at the mark.
"God was looking out for me, even then," he asserted. "While I was dangling there struggling to breathe, heavy rains came and scattered the crowd. My uncle took advantage of that and came to cut me down. After I got my wits back about me, he told me to bugger off and never come back."
"Probably wise advice," she commented.
"That it was," he agreed. "There wasn't much I could do at that age, so I took the King's shilling and joined the army as a drummer boy. Army's been my home ever since and, as you can see, I've made my way up to Sergeant."
"You've done well for yourself, then," Anna remarked.
Before Hakeswill could reply, they heard a loud voice bellowing from a house's courtyard on the other side of the wall on the opposite side of the alley on its far end.
"Anna!" the female voice called. "Where are you, you worthless thing! It's time for Bible study!"
"Is that Mrs Stokes?" Obadiah asked, his face twitching in distaste.
"I'm afraid so," she said. "I come to the stable nearly every day just to get some time to myself and she thinks I'm sneaking off to see a man."
"This time, you are with a man," Hakeswill observed. "I'd best wait here while you go, so the old battleax doesn't see me."
After quickly fastening her bodice back, then putting the baby to her shoulder to give him a quick burping, Anna scrambled to her feet. "I'd better go. If I don't come, she'll come looking for me and I don't want her to find you or my hiding spot."
She hurried to the stable door, then looked back at Hakeswill, who was still sitting in the hay, idly petting a bony alley cat that had wandered in. "Maybe I'll see you here again?" she asked. "It was nice to have someone to talk to for a change."
"Most likely, missy," he said, the corners of his mouth turned up. "I liked chattin' with you as well."