Excerpt from The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins

by Antonia Hodgson

The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson X
The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson
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    Mar 2016, 400 pages

    Mar 2017, 400 pages


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Print Excerpt

'My thanks for that reminder,' Hawkins mutters. The guard at his left bites back a smile.

The bellman calls upon the condemned to repent. The other three prisoners have admitted their guilt — they have an air of calm acceptance that draws approval from the crowds. Young girls throw sprigs of white flowers on to their carts. White for forgiveness. White for rebirth. Oakley is so convinced God will grant him mercy that he is going to his death dressed in his shroud; the long white smock and ruffled cap a sign to all that he is eager to leave this wicked world and ascend to heaven.

Hawkins is wearing a sky-blue velvet coat and breeches, and a white silk waistcoat trimmed with gold thread.

A plump, pretty girl trembles her way towards him as if he were a caged tiger and pushes her last sprig of flowers through the wooden rails of the cart. As he takes them from her their fingers touch. She gives a start, half-thrilled, half-terrified, and hurries back to the safety of the church steps. He sighs under his breath. Perhaps later she will tell her friends how she met the notorious Thomas Hawkins on the road to Tyburn. Will she say that the devil shone out of his bright-blue eyes? That his touch burned her skin? Will she pay a shilling for an inch of the rope that hangs him, and keep it for luck?

I will not hang, he reminds himself. The pardon will come. But he is no longer sure.

Part One

It began with a scream in the dark.

It was early January and I was limping my way home through Covent Garden. No longer the dead of night, not yet morning, but the secret hours before dawn, when rakes tiptoe from tight-shuttered bedrooms, and thieves slink back to the slums of St Giles. A time when good, respectable men are fast asleep, their houses barred and locked.

Long, uncounted hours earlier I had slipped out for a bowl of punch and a game of cards. I won three guineas. Such things must be celebrated. I bought a late supper for a ragged band of new friends, and a good deal more punch. The night continued. I spent the three guineas. Then I spent some more. At some point, I lost a shoe.

The first of the market traders were dragging their carts into the piazza, hunched double against the cold. They swung their lanterns into the shadows, searching for their allotted place. I saluted one or two as I passed, but didn't linger. The weather was dismal yet again, the air damp enough to leave its trace upon my skin. Still — at least it wasn't raining.

In fact, given that I had lost my shoe and my winnings, I was in a remarkably cheerful mood. I pulled out my silver watch and held it up to the moonlight. Almost five o'clock. Kitty would be at least half-awake by now; she preferred to rise early. We enjoyed such different hours it was a wonder we had ever met. I imagined her now, taming her wild copper curls with pins. Perhaps I would untame them again, pull out the pins and let her hair spill down over her shoulders. Or perhaps she would shout at me for staying out all night again. Yes, now I thought of it, that was more likely. Kitty had a fearsome temper. When the meek inherit the earth, she will be left quite out of pocket.

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Excerpted from The Last Confession of Thomas Hawkins by Antonia Hodgson. Copyright © 2016 by Antonia Hodgson. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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