Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chapter 24

     "Do not forget to send me the note when you are ready too sail," Catherine alerted Angus as they sailed into the harbor and he helped her onto the pier.
     "I want to get unloaded," he said glancing around for some dock hands.
     "Go ahead, Angus.  I will enjoy a stroll to my aunt's house." Then, blowing him a kiss, said "Now do not forget to send me the note!"
     He noticed an approaching vessel flying a dutch flag."
      While the last load of corn was being haulled off the pier, the dutch vessel dropped anchor.
     An old-fashioned dandy figure wearing silver-buckled shoes and carrying a silver-tipped cane crossed the pier and walked briskly along battery row, passing the crowded markets.  Perched on top of his head hair and pulled over his forehead  was the distinctly familiar british three-cornered hat trimmed in red braid and from his narrow waist swung a fancy scabard engraved with the family crest.  Although several persons paused to observe the only person wearing a long coat in a steamy hot Saturday in August, he went unrecognized.
     Catherine waited nervously on the porch and saw him the moment that he stepped around the corner onto Church Street.  Time had not changed him except that he no longer wore a puruke and his coal black hair was neatly tied at the nape of his neck.  The quick dark eyes, square jaw and the way that he moved accentuated his conceit. The handsome  Lord Manigault skipped up the stairs oto the porch and kissed her hand and a familiar way.  Then gestured that they go inside the house.
     "My dear," he said taking her in his arms and kissing her passionately on the neck and drooling on her shoulders, whispered intimately. "My dear."  She pushed him away.
     "My husband will return at any moment.  What is it that you want?"
     "Come let us sit in the parlor and renew our acquaintance," he said holding firm to his cane. She stared as he walked with some difficulty. "Except for this hitch in my hip I am fit." Then making himself comfortable in the chair, breathed in a deep breath.  "We hath much to share, you and I."
     "You do not seem surprised that I have married."
     "No, my dear, I hath my spys.  The grand occasion was in June, I believe."
     "What about yourself? Is there still a Lady Manigault?"
     "Oh yes, that is the bond of a life-time my dear."
     "She is the Abergavenny on the brooch?"
      He nodded  "And as you might suspect, that is why I am here.  You see, the duchess is the last in line to inherit Abergavenny."
     "Where is that estate?"
      "In Wales, near Monmouth. Please do not interrupt me again. It was the reason that I married her in the first place, for her 200 pounds a year and the fact that she would ultimately inherit from her older brother.  It is what we hath waited for all of these years.  Now that he is dead, I shall be pronounced the fifth earl.  An earldom is no small thing, my dear."
      She frowned, remembering the old earl that she had once tried to trap into marrying her. 
   " I am here to collect the brooch as well as some items that were buried in the ground before I made my hasty departure.  While we speak, some hands are at my old plantation, digging in the garden."
     "How is the duchess?" She asked suddenly and unintentionally.
     "The Barbadoes weather was not to her liking. We would have never taken residence there, were it not forthe surrender of  Lord Cornwallis."  Catherine indulged herself by raisiing a disapproving eye brow.  "You no doubt remember that I told it is a loveless marriage and that I hath little to offer her save the worthless title of duke, the end of a lineage. The duchess is the Countess Abergavenny.  You see how it goes, my dear."
     "Is that where you are next going?"
     "Yes, after I collect the brooch. You do still have it in your possession, my dear?"
     "It is mine," she said firmly."
     "How can that be?  It belongs to a very powerful and noble family in Wales and was a gift of  King George I when he knighted Sir Abergavenny and granted the estate. The countess is in a precarious situation, should she not have it in her possession." She was not convinced. "It is very valuable, moreso that you can imagine.  The diamond settings alone are worth over 100 pounds.  Now that my wife is a countess and close to the King, she would be negligent should she fail to wear it in court.  Tis like unto a family crest, needing to be publicly displayed. She hath long since suspected that I gave it to you."
      "I should think that she would be content that I no longer trouble you."
     "The duchess hath been fitfully tiresome and unhappy. She is aware of the the Dutch vessel taking on supplies at this port. She is certain that I am with you now.  So you see, should I return with the brooch she will be satisfied that I can be trusted.  Catherine, the brooch will prove my fidelity to the house of Abergavenny."
     "Why should I be sympathetic to the countess?"
     The duke's armpits were wet with sweat and he removed a linen handerchief and wiped his forehead several times.
     "I never acclimated to this stagnating climate."
       Catherine left the room and poured them both a glass of water. "I imagine that the tropical weather in Barbadoes is more stifling."
      Catherine examined the freckles that the harsh sun had stained into his cheeks despite the shade of his hat and the tanned neck which he tried to hide with a silk craveat tied into a large bow around his neck. There were deep wrinkles gorge into his forehead and around his mouth.
      "Lord Manigault, tell me the truth."
     "It was punishing and I despised it. Catherine, I was condemned as a traitor, stripped of my possessions and banished into an uncivilized society unfit for any decent man."
     "And your island plantation?"
     "Before departing, I freed my slaves and left the hopeless venture to grow over in weeds. I was not suited to the role of a planter."    
     Catherine understood. The pitiful expression in his eyes said it all. He was destined to the hapless life of an aristocrat at the end of his lineage and preying upon his wife's inheritance.  Not the man of her husband's statue. For the first time, she appreciated the fact that her husband worked with his own hands. "There is more."
     "Yes," he said sadly. "The countess must wear the brooch when we are presented to King George III."
     It the sound of rain drops on the porch, Catherine opened the front door to allow a breeze inside the house.  She was convinced to return the brooch.

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