Since the Hunt, rumors about Angus had been flung every which way and Mrs. Drayton consulted with Duncan on the facts.
"Aye, I encouraged the boy to take Mary for a wife and everyone expected him to propose on the night of the Hunt ball. When it did not happen, Mary's feelings were injured."
"So that is why the Jordan's are miffed What is Angus doing about it?"
"He is digging out rice paddies."
"Poor Angus, what would he do with so young a wife?"
"Who else is there for him?"
Mrs. Drayton knew the answer and looking him squarely in the eyes said: "You knoweth as well as I. You best take me to Ashley Loche, Duncan."
"I make the necessary preparations for sailing," she said leaving him in the parlor.
"The January wind is very cold," he warned.
Finally, in the late afternoon, Mrs. Drayton having her own agenda arrived at Ashley Loche for an extended visit.
"After those awful rumors, I meant to write you a consoling letter, but instead decided that you need me, Angus."
Angus smiled and allowed her into the parlor. "Actually I am pleased for your companionship, Mrs. Drayton, as I hath been rather depressed of late. Perhaps ye can put a new face on my doldrums."
After she seated herself on the couch, he sat beside her. "I hath missed you," he said sincerely, "I suppose that ye were privy to a wee bit of gossip about Mary Jordan and hath ye own opinions."
She nodded. "But I am here to tell you that Mary Jordan is fast recovered and is already engaged to another boy."
Angus clapped his hands. "Well, I am happy for her!"
"Yes, I thought that you would be."
Angus raised his brows. "Then ye did not come to console me?"
"To help you find your way, Angus. We hath been friends a long while. My husband trusted you with his deepest secrets, as do I. . And I must say that you hath never fooled me! You may have wished to, but I have always known that your heart belongs to Catherine Winship,"
Angus blushed and his eyes fell downward. "Yes, it makes good sense that ye hath always known," he whispered.
"You need her in this house. She can arrange, plan and delegate the duties of the house servants, teach them to sew and administer medicine. She would make a good wife for you, Angus, if you look past her hapless pride and self-proclaimed aristocratic nose.."
"She said that I was not good enough for her."
"Yes, but Catherine wants to be the mistress of Ashley Loche if for no other reason than to control the social affairs of the community. She loves grandeur and wealth and above all of that, attention."
"You hath spoken with pa?"
"Yes, your father is a practical man."
"What about John Beavers?"
"She prefers you."
"She told you thus?"
"No, but when I was ill and she nursed me all of those long months, I saw through her shell. She is attracted to you in a strange sort of way and that which stands between you is an impossible fabrication inside her head that you are not of her class. She will not allow that barrior to fall, however you can persuade her with something even more shallow, the fact that you have Ashley Loche."
"Initially, I set out to do just that, to impress her, especially because at the time that I proposed marriage to her I was desitute and without any prospects."
"But now you do not wish to have her on those conditions?"
Angus sighed deeply. He had been tried by the events of recent days and was emotionally drained. "She does not love me," he said simply.
"Oh, I see, you must also have love. Tis a hard, lonely row that you plow for yourself."
Angus removed his gloves and revealed his hands. "This is what I am, calloused flesh, a plow boy from Moore County. Catherine would call me common should she see these hands."
"Now, now, hush," she said gently taking his hands and rubbing them with her soft fingertips.
"God Bless these hands for rescuing so many souls during the war and for stringing the bow and protecting our homes. There is one thing of which I am certain and it is this. Catherine is a pretender. She pretends to be the aristocrat. Her thoughts are ever in the past. She craves attention. I assure you that if you wear gloves and satin clothes inside this great house, that she will pretend with you. It is time for you to quit digging out rice paddies and assume the role of a proper gentleman planter. This plantation is simply too large for you to be a common worker. Tis a new age, Angus, the one of which the Colonel so often spoke. We are no longer a Nation divided by class, but are Americans. That is the way of it."
"I agree," he admitted.
"Then invite Catherine here for the winter as a companion to me, and whilst she visits, win her over by seeking her advice."
"What about love?"
"Patience, my dear. The colonel and myself had an arranged marriage, but in time, we learned love. It will come, in time."