This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 805 words.
One morning at breakfast, Prudence announced she was with child, to the delight of the family. However, her thunder was stolen later that day, when a letter arrived for Percival. It was from the manager of the Carolina plantation, sent not long after the one from Justin. He regretted to inform them that Master Dakin had died of the ague, and had been buried in the grounds of the plantation house. He also asked for instruction about what he should do now that his employer was dead.
Although much saddened by Justin’s death, Oscar and Percival discussed the implications. The letter had been sent prior to the recent escalation of hostilities, so for all they knew their plantation may well have been abandoned, or captured by the Colonial Army by now. With the war hotting up there was no question of either man taking ship to America, so it was decided to send a letter to the manager telling him to do his best to keep things running. Given the delay before he received that, the future of their business in the colonies was uncertain, to say the least.
Prudence expressed satisfaction that the plantation might be no more. She hated the use of the African slaves as workers there, and was outspoken in her dislike of all slavery, which she claimed went against the will of God. Oscar shared her sympathies to some degree, but also knew that the investment had been huge, and any losses would be substantial. Secretly, he was relieved. The company was rich enough to take the loss, and the future of the cotton trade in America appeared to be doomed anyway. He would work on the basis that they would be unable to continue there, and concentrate on his profitable ventures in England.
There was no news of James until after the birth of a daughter to Prudence. She was named Charity Elizabeth Dakin, and was a bonny girl with fair hair. Prudence declined the attentions of both wet nurse or nanny, determined to be a mother in every respect. The letter from James was of course out of date, but he stated that he was fit and well, and stationed as part of the garrison at Boston. It was decided that the death of his father would be kept from him, rather than upset him when he was called upon to fight in a war. But during that summer, Boston was abandoned, and the colonists declared independence from Britain, with the French now openly supporting them with troops.
Such bad news for the country was nonetheless very good news for business.
The rest of that year was consumed with getting on with life as usual, and hearing nothing but bad news from America. The newspapers were reporting numerous defeats, and the expected victory against disorganised colonials had been anything but. At Christmas, Henry arrived home on leave, bringing the welcome news that his cavalry regiment would not be sent to America. Young Abraham was obsessed with his older brother, wanting to hear nothing but tales of the exciting life in the military. As he grew older, it was obvious to all but the blind that the youngest son bore no resemblance to his brothers. Although that fact did not go without remark among the gossips in the town, it was never even hinted at by anyone at Dakin Hall.
Early in the new year, Oscar agreed to buy the seed business from his father-in-law. This would enable Prudence’s parents to have a peaceful and early retirement to a cottage on the estuary. With both younger daughters now betrothed too, John Marley felt his years of hard work had earned him some peace. Now that the Dakin’s owned one of the largest seed merchants in the south, Oscar and Percival agreed to expand their business into buying up arable land. With Justin’s death, they no longer needed two signatures, and Percival sold off the cotton and weaving interests at a profit. Even taking into account the sum lost in the Carolinas, they were still an exceedingly wealthy family.
After a surprisingly easy voyage, Fionn had not tarried long in the West Indies before taking another French ship north. A fast sloop, able to avoid or outrun the British naval blockade, which in itself was being harrassed by French warships. Arriving in territory held by the Colonial Army, and his funds all but exhausted, he volunteered to serve with General Washington’s Continental forces against the British. Although the pay was low, and often scarce, he was able to get meals and clothing, as well as being supplied with a musket and ammunition. Having lied about being a soldier previously, he had to watch and learn from his new comrades in arms.
Rumour had it that they were marching to the siege of Boston.