This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 840 words.
Three peaceful years had passed, with the Dakin family still properous under the careful guidance of Arabella. Justin returned from university, and took over the running of the companies, supervised by his mother. He became familiar with the various managers, bankers, and lawyers needed to continue the smooth running of the family interests. It was not long before a new arrival caught his eye. Hope Armitage was the daughter of Reverend Armitage, the recently appointed minister of the town church. They had arrived from Yorkshire that winter, and the rosy-cheeked young woman seemed to appreciate the attentions of the eligible Justin. He paid court on her respectfully, chaperoned by her maiden aunt, and it was soon agreed that the pair would marry when he was twenty-one.
In London, Percival had secured a commission in one of the regiments of foot guards, and was taking to his new role with relish. As well as cermonial duties around the city, he excelled on manoeuvres, and earned a name for himself as a student of military history and tactics too. He avoided the social circles in the capital, and showed no interest in the many balls and gatherings frequented by his fellow officers. After a trip back to the riverside house to visit his family, Justin asked him to deliver some important papers to the home of a London lawyer on his return. At the house, he was introduced to that lawyer’s sister, and was instantly smitten. Agatha Royston was a few years older, but that didn’t seem to bother Percival.
When a double wedding was suggested, Arabella was overjoyed. Reverend Armitage would marry both couples at the same service, and a grand party would be held at the house afterwards. And with the family lawyer now actually becoming part of the family, legal matters could be considered secure for the foreseeable future. After a joyous day, Arabella could not have been happier. She would now have two young women living with her and Justin in the house, and any future children they bore would add to the feeling of the house being alive again. After just three days, Percival had to leave his new bride to return to military duties in London, with Hope and Agatha introduced to the daily running of the house, and management of servants and staff.
As Justin grew in confidence with running the business, Arabella was pleased to resume a social life in the county, accompanied by the wives of the two men she regarded as both being her sons. Within the year, Agatha announced she was carrying a child, and the jealous Hope was praying for the same, with her prayers soon answered
After an examination by the town midwife, it was declared that Agatha was expecting twins. It seemed Percival had indeed done his conjugal duty before returning to military ones. A specialist doctor with a good reputation was summoned from Chelmsford, and his conclusion was the same. Percival was pleased at the news, but concerned for his wife’s safe confinement and delivery. Reverend Armitage came to the house to lead prayers for the unborn children, but Agatha was unconcerned. She announced that she would bear both children happily, with no fear of anything bad happening. As Agatha got close to her time, Hope also made her announcement.
Arabella was delighted.
With two midwives and the Chelmsford doctor in attendance, the twins were delivered during an unusually stormy night. A tiny girl appeared first, and Agatha named her Marjorie, after her late mother. A few minutes later, she delivered a much larger baby, a son she named Oscar Percival. Arabella sent a rider with the news to London, so that Percival would know of the birth the same day. Reverend Armitage was also informed, and arrived at the house by first light to bless the children. The household was excited by the news, and Arabella gave every member of staff two shillings to mark the event. When the rider returned with Percival’s message of delight, they also read that he was not able to get away to see his twins for at least a week.
The wet nurse who had been hired to feed the babies came to see Arabella on the second day. “‘Tis baby Marjorie, mistress. She cannot seem to feed, and she’s not thriving nor resting”. The town doctor examined the baby, and could find no immediate reason for her lack of interest in milk. He tried her with water, but she failed to keep that down too. “I fear a twisting of the stomach, dear lady. Her low weight and small stature seems to suggest a lack of nourishment in the womb too. All you can do is to keep trying”.
Try they did, but baby Marjorie did not last out the week.
Instead of coming home to celebrate the joy of the twin birth, Percival returned for the funeral of his daughter.