This is the eighteenth part of a fiction serial, in 868 words.
The rest of the year passed with a solemn mood presiding in the Dakin household. Although Agatha was not unduly distressed by the death of her once wayward husband, Oscar’s mood had darkened after the loss of his eye. Though he still treated his family well, he became unduly harsh in his business dealings, and his desire to expand them knew no bounds. Wearing one or other of many eye-patches lovingly fashioned by his wife, his now fearsome visage sent chlls through anyone encountering him.
The footmen who had tackled the farmer were handsomely rewarded for their bravery. The man had never got to trial, after blows from the two men had broken his skull in many places. The largest and strongest of the pair, John Simpson, was given a new role as bodyguard to Oscar. His smart uniform was accompanied by a fine pistol, and a short cutlass. That man’s presence during any trade dealings was guaranteed to stop any potentially violent argument.
Oscar was mellowed slightly by the arival of his second child, a son. The boy was named Oliver Percival, in a break with Dakin tradition. Both mother and child were fine and healthy, but Oscar stayed at home for some time after the birth, leaving his ventures in the care of managers. Early the following year, Henry announced his intention to marry the daughter of his regimental colonel, young Esmerelda Pine. The spring wedding in London was a grand affair, and the match saw Henry soon promoted to Captain.
In spite of her protests, Esmerelda was brought to reside at Dakin Hall. She found the place too provincial after the social life of London, and made her displeasure known. Agatha took no time putting her in her place, but the resulting atmosphere cast its own shadow over life for the Dakins. That summer, Abraham finished his education, and entered the army as a junior officer. Using contacts as was their habit, Oscar managed to get him assigned to the prestigious Highland Division, and he left for Scotland to join his regiment.
Not long after that, there was news from james. The British had all but lost the war against the American colonies, and he was sure that he would be coming home soon. The letter was old news of course. The family was all-too aware that the war was dragging on.
By the time he finally arrived home, James was unrecognisable as the young officer that had left all those years earlier. Thin and pale, looking more than his age, and shocked at the news of what had ocurred during his absence. Despite being close in age to Oscar, he looked ten years older. After being granted some leave to recuperate, he went back to his regiment with the rank of Major. The loss of the colonies did not unduly affect the family business though. People still needed leather goods and hats, and the crops had done well too, after a slow start. Getting rid of the cotton interests had proved to be a wise move, and propserity was still the norm for them.
One balmy afternoon, Charity was playing with her younger brother by the new ornamental lake. Prudence was bored, listening to Esmerelda complain about the lack of fashionable clothes and hats in the town’s shops. She was asking whether she might be allowed to send a letter to her London hat-maker when a scream came from the side of them. Chasing a hoop rolled by Oliver, Charity had fallen backwards into the lake, and was nowhere to be seen. Oliver was screaming uncontrollably. Although unable to swim, Prudence did not hesitate to wade into the lake, shouting to Esmerelda to take charge of her son.
As the distraught woman waded deeper, reaching under the water to try to find her daughter, Esmerelda snatched up young Oliver and ran for the house to summon help, shouting as loud as she could once within sight of the main doors. Alerted by her cries, Oscar ran out with two footmen, William Frost the coachman, and his bodyguard Simpson, all sprinting for the lake. He ran straight into the water, followed by his retainers. Simpson reached down into the green water, and waved his hands around in circles, finally coming into contact with something. Helped by Frost, he hauled the lifeless body of Prudence Dakin up onto the bank, her heavy clothes sodden and wrapped around her. Oscar and one of the footmen were swimming further out, constantly bobbing under, trying to find little Charity.
It was almost sunset when they found the child, after over two hours of searching.
Oscar carried his daughter’s body up to the house. His eye patch had come off in the water, and his servants were shaken by the terrible expression on his face. She was taken into the morning room, where Prudence lay completely white, and still wet. Other servants had retrieved her body on a small hand-cart. With his voice calm, Oscar thanked the men involved in the attempted rescue, and promised them rewards.
Then he went up to his son’s room, and sat on the bed next to the sleeping boy.