This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 838 words.
Richard and Henry managed to arrange for Abraham’s body to be returned to England by ship. It cost a pretty penny, but they did not want him buried in a Belgian field. The funeral at the local church was a quiet and sombre affair, though even dressed in mourning black, Aileen attracted a lot of attention. Desspite her genuine love for her deceased husband, she shed no tears in publlic, and retained the dignity expected of the mistress of Dakin Hall.
Oscar now turned his attention to finding a suitable wife for Spencer. With George now being allowed to follow his late father into military service, and the unmarried Oliver exiled to the colonies, Oscar was keen to ensure the Dakin name lived on through Spencer. On his twenty-first birthday, he was married by arrangement to the daughter of the head of one of the banks in Colchester, Penelope Harding. They had only met formally and briefly on two occasions, before the match was agreed by Oscar and Mortimer Harding.
The serious Spencer hardly looked at his fair-haired bride throughout the ceremony, and for her part, the nineteen year old seemed bored by it all. Physically, they were an odd pair. Penelope was actually much taller than her new husband, and her fine features were nothing like the ruddy, countryman’s face of the man she had no option but to marry. For Oscar and Mortimer, combining the county’s most prosperous business with one of its wealthiest banks was a perfect marriage indeed.
After standing as best man for his brother, an excited George left the next day to begin a career in the army.
Although Penelope’s arrival in the house was anticipated with some trepidation, she was kindness itself when the couple returned from a short honeymoon in Bath. Although she had lived well in her father’s fine town house in Colchester, the grandeur and opulence of Dakin hall was beyond her expectations as a bride, and the wealth of the family would provide her with security, as well as the latest fashions in dresses and hats. Ten days in the company of Spencer had also shown her that he could easily be manipulated, and was unlikely to bother her much above the obvious need to father some children.
Penelope was content, and showed respect to all around her, including Aileen.
Spencer took on much more of the business affairs following his wedding, but he still made time to father two children, in quick succession. Less than one year after the marriage, Arthur was born. He was given the middle name of Mortimer, as a nod to his wealthy grandfather. The following year, Millicent Alice was born, her red hair not unlike that of her grandmother’s. Penelope made little of both confinements, and both children came into the world with no fuss or bother for them or their mother. Aileen was happy to see her daughter in law was a kind and good mother, all of which boded well for her future as the mistress of the house one day.
But more sadness befell the family during that hot summer just after little Millicent was born. James was found dead in his rooms by his manservant. He had hung himself using the strong cords attached to the curtains, his mind presumably no longer able to cope with whatever distress had plagued him for so long. Oscar paid the doctor handomely to issue a death certificate of natural causes, so that James could receive a Christian burial, and nobody would talk of him as a suicide. There was not a single member of the family who did not consider it to be a blessed relief, both for James, and for all of them too.
Oliver Dakin had not made it to Australia. He met some men on board ship who were heading for the Cape Colony, at the tip of southern Africa. They spoke of cheap land, the possiblity of farms as big as English counties, and a temperate climate that would serve their endeavours well. Their eyes flashed greedily when they related tales of rich gold mines, and diamonds too. He threw in with them, and left the ship when it stopped in port to replenish supplies. The territory had been Dutch controlled, but the British had captured it during the wars with France. There was room enough for all in such a vast landscape. Oliver left his new companions soon after, allowing them to wallow in their dreams of gold and jewels.
He had his eyes on a more tangible prize. Cattle.
With land easy to acquire, and native labour cheap and plentiful, he soon established a large cattle farm. The growing colony needed beef, and he resolved to become the major supplier of that commodity. He had the drive to do it, and the necessary mean streak to make his business succeed. Putting his wild youth behind him, he decided that he would show his father just what he was made of.