This the thirty-second part of a fiction serial, in 779 words.
Edward did exceptionally well in his first year studying at the hospital. But at the same time, Aileen noticed some tightness in her clothing, and obvious weight gain. It seemed the young doctor that had attended her didn’t know so much about his profession after all. Even reducing the amount she ate made little difference, so with her usual attitude, she accepted becoming fat late in life, and continued to enjoy her food.
One Sunday afternoon, Edward returned to the house accompanied by one of his colleagues, Nathaniel Hardwicke. Nathaniel also brought along his sister, and Edward announced they would be taking tea. Aileen made the effort to leave her heavy shawls behind for once, and made herself presentable to greet the guests. Verity Hardwick was older than Edward, by perhaps five years or more. An intelligent and strkingly attractive young woman, Aileen could tell immediately that Edward was besotted with her. And she appeared to return his admiration at the same level.
Aileen learned that the pair were orphans, living with an elderly bachelor uncle in Clerkenwell. After the smiles and constant glances, it came as no surprise when Edward suddenly blurted out that they would like to get married, and on his twentieth birthday the following year. Aileen replied that she would be delighted, but that Edward should by rights tell his father, and send him a letter at the earliest opportunity.
The Dakin family didn’t hear about what had happened to Oliver at the time. Nobody at the cattle farm had any idea about possible relatives in England, so when his remains were brought in, he was buried in a nondescript grave at the cemetery in the nearest town, and his affairs left in the hands of various lawyers who slowly stole all of his money and lands by fraudulent means. It was a long time later, when a disgruntled overseer wrote to bankers in London complaining about money owed, that Aileen dicovered the fate of her relative. She decided to say nothing, and placed the letter in the trunk containing the journals.
Verity arrived at the Hampstead house like a fresh breeze on a humid day. She quickly took charge of many mundane affairs, and started to oversee the running of the house, leaving Aileen to rest. The wedding had been a very quiet affair, and Richard had sent his apologies, claiming army business would keep him in Yorkshire. Edward went straight back to his studies at the hospital, leaving his new wife with Nancy and Aileen for company. That autumn, Verity announced she was expecting a baby, and Aileen was greatly cheered by how vibrant the house felt at long last. Into the fifth month of the pregnancy, Aileen showed Verity the trunk and the journals, making her pledge to keep them safe, and to continue them when she could no longer do so. The young woman replied that she would be delighted to do that, and considered it an honour to be asked.
With the family now set to grow and continue, Nancy approached Aileen with some concerns about her future. She had saved carefully from her salary, but when Aileen was gone, she would have nowhere to call home, and did not want to depend on the prospect of Verity and Edward retaining her. Aileen did not hesitate to help. She gave the woman suficient funds to purchase a small cottage in Essex for her eventual retirement, and calmed her fears by telling her she would be kept on to act as the nurse for the expected arrival.
The new baby was delivered at home without incident, and a delighted Edward rushed home from the hospital in time to be present at the birth. Aileen found this most unusual, and put his behaviour down to his medical leanings, and his youth. He named the healthy boy John Percival, and told all present that he would affectionally be known as Jack. Verity made a quick recovery, and it was soon apparent that she was a devoted and loving mother. Seeing no real place for herself any longer, Nancy asked Aileen for permission to return to Essex. And after a farewell dinner party, there were tearful goodbyes when she left in the family coach, with Kennedy tasked to take her to her new cottage.
The first year of John’s life saw a happy family at the Hampstead house. And news from the lawyers informed Aileen that the income from the railway companies was nothing short of astronomical. Even experienced bankers and investors could not recall such a boom in their lifetimes.
That made Aileen very content. The Dakin family future was secure.