This is the thritieth part of a fiiction serial in 920 words.
It was a cold Spring in London that year, and Aileen was glad of the fire she was sitting in front of as she opened her journal. Adding the date, she paused for thought. 1838 was fifteen years after the fire that had changed all their lives, and she would soon be sixty years old.
After spending a few days accepting the Mayor’s hospitality, Aileen insisted that she and baby Edward moved on. Following a brief discussion with the owner of The White Hart Inn, the most respected hostelry in town, she took all of the seven rooms for an unspecified time. He was also pleased to rent her the private dining room for her personal use during the same period, where she would take her meals with Edward and the nurse, as well as conducting business there during the day. The old nurse had been more than happy to accept the offer of full time employment, at least until Aileen decided on the future.
The funerals had to be staggered over the course of one week. Richard returned for the burials of his wife and children, his face gaunt and hollow. Except for two of the maids, Henry’s servant, and Oscar, Doctor England estimated the identity by the size of each charred corpse. He had been unable to save the man with two broken legs, due to excessive bleeding inside his thighs. Aileen bore the cost of every funeral from family funds, as well as sending a full year’s wages to the families of all the servants who had perished. Though the family lawyer had stated that Richard was now the rightful male heir to the family lands and fortune, he begged Aileen to continue to manage things while he returned to his life in the army. As for George, it would be some time before they received any reply.
Left to make decisions in the absence fo the Dakin men, she surprised everyone with her radical plans.
What was left of the house was demolished. The coachman was kept on, and the stables maintained until relocation was decided. The riverside house plot, and all its surrounding grounds were to be turned into a large sheep farm, run and managed by staff. Aileen employed a Mister Mackenzie, an experienced factor and estate manager. He would control all the family’s farming interests in two counties, and oversee the staff and tenants with help from two clerks. The other businesses would be sold. The leather works and seed and grain businesses were eagerly snapped up at fair prices, leaving Aileen with only the farming ventures to worry about, and managing the income from investments with the help of her bankers and lawyers.
After living at The White Hart for almost a year, she made the decision to move to London with Edward. The capital was booming, and despite her easy life at Dakin Hall, Aileen missed the bustle of a city. Her first sixteen years in Edinburgh had never left her mind or heart. But she was wise enough not to choose to live in the centre of the city, with its filth and crime. She chose a stylish house on the northern outskirts, in an area known as Hampstead Village. Despite the countryside appearance, it was but a short coach ride into the places she would need to frequent.
Both the nurse and the coachman declined to go with her. They were given three month’s pay, and good references. She employed a widower named Kennedy as her new coachman, a quiet and reliable looking man with an excellent work record. With Edward now at his toddling stage, a young woman named Nancy Priest was given the job of his nurse. Arrangements were made for any mail received for Dakin Hall to be sent on to their new home. The new house was big enough to accomodate many more than just her and a child, and there was adequate stabling for the four horses required too.
As they left the town behind, heading west to London, Aileen didn’t look back.
In Hampstead, life was more than bearable. Lacking the vast grounds that had surrounded the former grand house, there was a manageable garden at the rear, large enough to need the services of a gardner who lived out. As well as Nancy and Kennedy, two housemaids were employed, also a cook and a girl to help her. Then Aileen engaged a butler, a painfully thin man named Wilson who would be in charge of the day to day running of the house. Even with six staff in residence, there were still seven other bedrooms, with Kennedy comfortably set up in the large room over the coach-house.
Following meetings with bankers and lawyers in the city, Aileen was impressed to discover that Spencer’s interests in the steam companies had been prescient. They had diversified and evolved into the increasingly popular steam railways, and his investment was now worth twenty times what he had put in. Even without the farm crops and land rents, the Dakin fortune was as huge as ever.
George had finally replied. He sent his condolences, and added his intention to remain in the army in India. With Richard now colonel of his regiment in Yorkshire, and showing no interest in any business affairs, Aileen had sent Edward off to a good school, remaining at the Hampstead house alone until he returned.
As she closed her journal for the day, she rang the bell for one of the maids to come and add coal to the fire.
It seemed to her to be unseasonably cold.