Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chapter 23

     Catherine was easy to manage. She was sweet to him so long as she had her way so he gave way to most of her whims.  Slowly Angus' contentment increased to happiness.  The land yielded its goodies as though it were responding to that same happiness. The flower garden bloomed with winding branches of purple wisteria, yellow jasmine vines and wild honeysuckle sweetened the smell of warm summer days.  For the first time acres of yellow corn tassled in the fields and the long arching pendulous leaves of flowering rice pollinated in the breeze across river beds promising to survive for many years as a ratoon crop in the black fertile soil. Prosperity bloomed before his eyes.  Catherine filled the manor house with servants and trained them in their specialities. There was a butler, a head housekeeper and several maids under her, personal upstairs maids, coachmen and so on. And there were parties, a constant flow of friends.  The dapper Duncan relished in the attention. Unlike his son, he had long since forgotten that he was from Moore County and thought of himself as a Charlestonian gentleman, embracing his new life enthusiastically. Why couldn't Angus make the same mental transformation?  Instead, it always stood between Angus and Catherine.
     Then the letter arrived from Lord Manigault.  It was folded in half and pressed together with the Manigault wax seal.  Catherine was standing on the dock observing the unloading of a huge stone urn when one of the sailors placed it in her hand. Her heart raced wildly as she unwrapped it and parts of the wax seal fell between the cracks of the dock. Once again she experienced the thrill of noblesse as her eyes danced joyfully across the looping letters drawn in black ink in the bourgeoisie style of the peerage.
     "My dear," the words read, "it to our mutual interest that we meet discreetlyat your aunt's home on  the first Saturday in August.   George Manigault, 5th duke of Cornwall, Lord of Pickerny of Barbadoes."
    Her first thoughts were of the brooch.  He wanted the brooch!  Well, he wasn't going to get it!  It was too valuable a piece. Suddenly she was nauseated, a sickness swelled in the pit of her stomach. She grabbed the railing thinking that she would vomit. Angus walked towards her.  She quickly hid the letter in her bosom.
    "What is it, my dear?  You look pale.  Perhaps you should go inside out of the weather."
    "Here, let me help you," he said, gently steering her across the dock with his arms around her shoulders. "This is no place for you this time of day.  You should stay inside until late afternoon when the sun is not so intense."
      He escorted her upstairs to the bedchamber.  "Now take a wee nap and everything will be better soon."
     As soon as he left the room, she dug into her jewelry case and finding the diamond brooch, wrapped it carefully inside Lord Manigault's letter. What was she to do?  She dreaded the prospect of seeing him again and particularly his wife.  Anything could happen here. After all, she had in her possession Lady Manigault's most treasured family heirloom. The Abergavenny family crest was inscribed on the reverse side.  She had pressured him into giviing it to her with the promise that when he did so, she would become his mistress.  A promise she never intended to keep, in fact she did everything to avoid a confrontation when she returned from England. Satisfied that she was safely hidden from the duke by Mrs. Drayton on her plantation, Angus helped some patriots escape the occupation, going into Virginia. When he returned with the news that Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown,  the British fleet retreated and the loyalists absconded from Charleston to avoid being hanged as traitors.  Sir George Manigault's name was on that list.  The likelihood of his bringing Lady Manigault into the colony was remote.  His letter said "discreet".  That meant that he would be alone and not wish to be seen.  That fact gave Catherine the upper hand.  She had to face him.
     On that first Saturday, she persuaded Angus to allow here onboard "the Belle" when he delivered the last of the corn crop to auction.  He argued that she should not go, but she insisted. 
    "I just want to retrieve a little jewelry box and some personal items  from my aunt's old house.  I will wait there for when you are finished. You can send me a note when you are ready to sail."
     He squinted his eyes and focused on the sky. At a far distance he could see gathering storm cloud.  "With those clouds and a strong wind, the waves will be as hard as nails in this wee sloop."
     "I do not care about that."
     "Ye might be concerned when ye start wretching like ye did this morning."
     "Please, Angus, I need my personal items."
     "Aye," he reluctantly agreed.

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