This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 885 words.
When Fionn was discovered to have made off with the horse and clock the constable was informed, though it was feared he would be well out of the county by now. By selling them in London, together with the expensive saddle, he could easily afford passage to Ireland and be left with a hefty sum to boot. Molly was questioned, and the lodgings searched. But they knew better than to blame the poor illiterate woman. Instead, they gave her a job attending to the many fires in Dakin Hall, and allowed her to share a room in the house with her replacement as scullery girl.
Agatha remarked that Molly seemed to be exceptionally happy once again.
When a letter finally arrived from Justin, Percival almost took to drink once again. News was that the colonies were in turmoil, with the British Army unable to keep order, or to win any significant battle against the growing colonial army. This was compounded by more news that the French were set to enter the war on the side of the colonists. That did not bode well for the cotton plantation, or the arrival of more raw materials for the cloth weaving factories. On top of that, Justin was ill, at least at the time of writing. The fevers had returned, and he had taken to his sick-bed.
Fortunately, Agatha managed to shake her husband from his gloom by suggesting he go to London and consult with his lawyer and bankers. The new coachman, William Frost, was instructed to take Percival the next morning, and to see to his transport needs whilst in the capital. The leather and hat businesses were managing well with reliable staff, and Oscar would stay behind to control the company affairs from the house.
There was still no news of James. His regiment would have arrived in the American Colonies by now, but they had to face the fact that any letter would take weeks to arrive, if not longer. By then the news it contained could be irrelevant. Henry had also joined his regiment, serving with the heavy cavalry. The family had paid for his mount and uniforms, as well as a fine sword and a brace of pistols. The strong young man cut a fine figure as a junior officer, and obviously loved the military life.
Following what was fast becoming a family tradition, Abraham returned from schoool on holiday, expressing a desire to also seek a career as a soldier, once his education was complete. Agatha agreed, but only if Oscar decided to marry, and hopefully carry on the name by fathering children. She said that they could not allow all the male members of the family to serve in the military, or the business would never flourish.
His choice of bride was rather surprising. Despite being the richest and most eligible bachelor in the county, Oscar chose to court the oldest daughter of John Marley, a seed merchant in the town. Marley offered a dowry as tradition dictated, but Oscar refused, claiming to be in love with the girl. Percival returned from London in time to raise objections, but Agatha supported her son. Prudence Marley might have been overly stout, with the complexion of a farm girl, but she was of solid county stock, and would make a loyal and obedient wife.
At her son’s request, the wedding was a quiet affair, with no huge function. Agatha welcomed her new daughter-in-law to Dakin Hall, and showed her the routines and duties required of her as a senior member of the household. Oscar had always been very serious and studious, as well as dull and scrupulous in business affairs. But the arrival of Prudence showed his lighter side, and the house felt happier than it had in a long time. Despite her humble background in trade, Prudence took to her wifely role with relish, making herself very popular with the servants and estate staff for her respectful attitude and fair dealings with them. She even declined the services of a personal maid, dressing herself each day, and tending to her own needs.
Following his discussions in London, Percival updated his wife and son. As the family fortune was divided equally between him and Justin, there would be a great problem should they need to realise assets, or sell off anything that was not profitable. All legal agreements required the signatures of both men, and Justin’s presence in the Carolinas was far from satisfactory. Oscar proposed they write to Justin, and ask for his signed power of attorney, enabling them to rightfully manage all affairs in his absence. That was agreed, and the letter carefully drafted.
Knowing it would take many months for any news to return, Percival continued overseeing the improvements to the house and grounds. When it was near completion, all the local gentry were invited to a grand ball, which Percival would use to show off the luxury of The Hall, and let everyone know just how established and wealthy the Dakin family were. That would guarantee the loyalty of his business contacts, and customers too.
On the night of the ball, a curly haired, green-eyed man boarded a French ship at Cherbourg, bound for the Caribbean.
Fionn had decided to try his luck in the Americas.