This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 918 words.
Despite the involvement of Percival in what would later become known as The Seven Years War, the Dakin family enjoyed a business boom in his absence. War meant increased orders for leather goods, boots, and hats. Military contracts were sought after, bribed for, and secured. Justin took on more staff, and expanded the workshops at Hobbs in London. Arabella could not recall a time of such great prosperity, and she counselled her son to invest all that extra money carefully. Hope was happy to conceive again, and the news of her expectation brought her closer together with Agatha.
The long-awaited news from Percival was tinged with the sadness that he had lost an arm. But Agatha was so relieved that he had not died in combat, she stated she would be contented to have a one-armed husband, as long as he was alive. He reported that he was unable to travel home just yet, as the campaign continued apace, and ships could not be spared to carry home the wounded. The letter had taken months to arrive, and had been written not long after his surgery. Further cheer arrived with the birth of Justin and Hope’s second son, who was named Henry Justin.
Over in Canada, Percival’s recovery was slow, but successful. The surgeon had dosed him heavily with laudunum, before he had been held down by the assistants for the brief but excruciatingly painful removal of his arm above the elbow. Youth and fitness were on his side, and he survived the shock of the operation. But it seemed there could be little more he could do as a soldier, and leader of men. Talking with the Colonel, he sadly wondered if he would have to resign his commission. But the senior officer assured him that as long as he could sit on his horse, he could wave a sword with his good right arm, and inspire his men during battle.
As the army moved around engaging in more battles and skirmishes with the French, he remained in camp charged with overseeing the correct distribution of supplies and ammunition. After some years of this duty, with no sign of returning to England, he was summoned to join his regiment once again, as they headed for Quebec under command of General Wolfe. Percival was dismayed to learn this would mean once more taking ship, but slightly relieved to hear it would be along a river, not out at sea.
With the army closing on the French defences in and around Quebec City, the regiment was informed that it would be necessary to scale the Heights of Abraham, to surprise the enemy. Happy to be on dry land, even with no horse, Percival made the very difficult ascent up the cliff paths with the help of a strong sergeant-major. The next day, they took position on The Plains of Abraham to the left of the assembled army, and it was not long before they were engaged with French-Canadian militia volunteers in large numbers. Spurred on by their sword-waving captain, his company gave an excellent account of themselves, pouring volley after volley of musket fire into the attacking troops.
Sad news followed the battle. General Wolfe had been killed in action. And it was discovered that Montcalm lay mortally wounded in the French camp. But for Percival, it was a great success. He was mentioned in the regimental dispatches for his courage under fire, and told that he would be allowed home on the next ships returning to England before pack-ice stopped their progress along the river to the sea. Still wary of that long voyage to come, he was exceptionally pleased to be able to return to see his wife and son.
By the time they welcomed him back to the riverside house, his son Oscar was seven years old. He did not know his father at all, and he was shy around the one-armed stranger who he was told was his father. Agatha wept at the sight of her thin husband, trying not to look at the pinned sleeve on his uniform coat. Young James was less coy, happy to sit on the knee of the man he called uncle, and listen to stories of war in the far-off lands. Arabella was pleased to have the family all together again, and to hear the news that Percival was to be given a promotion to Major, and a safe job at the regimental headquarters in London.
At the end of the summer, it was announced that King George had died. He was to be succeeded by his grandson, who would be known as George III.
Approaching her sixty-fifth year, Arabella decided to leave the running of the household to one of the younger women, and the older Agatha asked for the role. She would henceforth be known as Mistress, and the servants would all report directly to her. With her husband mostly absent on military duties, she took to her role with gusto. Her first decision was to dismiss Harker. The coachman had said too much, to too many, and was frequently the worse for drink. Justin offered to speak to the man, but Agatha stood firm, and he was sent on his way without a reference.
She then personally undertook the hiring of his replacment, settling on a young Irishman, Fionn O’Hara. He had previously been employed by an aristocrat as a stable-lad, then promoted to assistant coachman.
His references from the Duke of Devonshire were impeccable