Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chapter 26

Catherine followed the duke across the street as he walked quickly, taking long strides to reach the pier in a hurry. His right hand was gripping a narrow bladed sword which he jiggled nervously inside its scabard. Once he withdrew it completely and pointing to the family crest inscribed on the hilt said proudly. "How dare he challenge the duke of Cornwall!"
"Wait for me," she said, running to catch up.
"This is an inconvenience when I am scheduled to intercept a British ship at Port Royal," he grumbled, then snarled: "Who doth he think that he hath challenged? I received my instruction fromm the best masters, spent my youth with the foiles, learning the art of fencing. I shall kill him!"
"But he knows the sword."
"Your husband's class precludes his having the proper skills. Yes, I shall kill him."

They boarded the dutch vessel. Lord Manigault explained the temporary diversion to the captain, bribing him with some pound notes. "Chart a coarse for the headwaters of Alligator Creek." "Never mind, follow that little sloop. "The sails of "the Belle" were catching a swift wind down the Ashley.
Soon they neared the bend and the site of the old British encampment on the Drayton Plantation and below that was a black water pond of alligators shaded by the shaggy hanging moss trees. Angus selected the site because he was familiar with the swamp; he had swam these waters when he escaped from the british prison ship. The captain weighed anchor and two sailors prepared to row them ashore. The duke ordered them to wait with the boat. He did not wish any witnesses and glancing around, decided that he would dump Angus' body in the alligator bond. A boggy mist steamed off the lake and a steady rain drenched the clearing which Angus had selected as the field of honor. Suddenly Catherine left the duke's side and went running through the trees towards Angus where he stood impatiently awaiting the duke. His body was rigid and his eyes cold and foreboding
"Please do not do this," she pleaded. "Angus, you must not duel. He will kill you!"
But he looked past her at the cocky Lord Manigault as he swished haughtily towards the clearing then stopped short several paces from Angus and pulled loose the silk craveat from around his neck, removed his brocade vest and raised his left hand to the square. He was poised to fight. The rain drenched his clothes.
"Stand down, Catherine!" Angus said while pushing her into a heavily wooded area. Then he drew his sword from the scabard. The hilt was plain and the blade sharp. The duke danced closer. Angus assumed his old role of the predatory Indian fighter, cunning, elusive and striking his blows from angles not seen by the duke's quick eyes. He lunged towards the duke and missed. Time and time again the rhythm of the duke's feet spared him the onslought of the soldier's blade. The duke danced spritely, his sword tirelessly striking the counter-blows. But there was a moment when his hip buckled and he slipped in a patch of mud. Angus delivered a prefunctionary blow into the duke's hip. The duke fell to the ground clutching his side. Blood gushed onto his clothes.
"Are you satisfied, sir?" He gasped while rain droplets pounded his face. No answer. Angus spread eagle his feet over the duke's body and twirled his sword in his hand. Suddenly the duke's arrogance was wiped clean from his face and his eyes were filled with humiliation and fear that Angus would plunge the sword into his heart.
"Is your honor satisfied, sir?"
The pleading voice of the duke seemed to satisfy him and suddenly he pitched his sword high into the air and watched its wide blade fall over the duke, threatening to puncture his heart. It came down hard and Angus caught it on the hilt. Then he shoved it triumphantly into his scabard and walked away.
"Wait for me, Angus," Catherine called after him, but he kept walking.
The duke moaned painfully. "Please help me, Catherine," he begged before fainting.
She examined him and seeing the large amount of blood oozing from his wounds, realized that he would die if she did not to bind him. She removed his white ruffled shir and ripped it into strips. Then
wrapped it tightly around his mid-section. Once that was accomplished, she summoned the sailors to carry him to the long boat. As they loaded his limp body, Catherine scarcely saw the billowing sails of "the Belle" skimming fast across the river against a darkening sky and heavy pouring rains.
"You 'ave to board now, ma'am," one of the sailors said, giving her a boost up.
The muscled arms rushed to navigate the river in the storm and put them aboard the dutch vessel.
"What is this?" The captain asked as soon as he saw the duke being carried prostrate over the shoulder of one of the sailors and a woman beside him.
"His lordship lost his duel, sir?"
"Take them below."
The duke was taken to a cabin and left lying across a wooden bed without any coverings. He was still unconscious. Catherine poured a bowl of water and wiped fresh blood from around the wound, wondering if the duke would die. When finally he opened his eyes, she was grateful.
"You must get a surgeon," he told her.
"We are aboard the dutch cargo ship," she answered. He sighed deeply, realizing his weakness.
Two hours passed and the door opened. The same two sailors entered the room and lifted him.
"What are you doing?" She asked. "He will bleed if you move him."
"Captain's orders, ma'am. You will be put ashore at Port Royal."
But first, she took the precaution of removing his purse. Once on deck, she saw Port Royal, a fort previously occupied by the british. Beyond the fort was the thriving town of Beaufort surrounded by large rice plantations. As they got closer to the pier, she saw large stacks of canvas bags ready for loading. "We are bound for the West Indies," the sailor told her. "Lord Manigault embarks here. He was appointed to sail on a british vessel with the morning tide. As he missed it, you will need to make other arrangements."
"He is in desperate need of a surgeon."
"You can bribe the captain for special considerations."
"Please tell the captain that the duke will pay accommodations and a carriage."
The captain took his bribe. A carriage transported them to the Ox Bow, a local tavern.
"I 'ave a nice clean room for ye upstairs, Lady Manigault," the owner said grinning. The captain had assured him of a generous gratuity.
"Do you have a surgeon?"
"Yes, my lady, he will arrive this evening to attend the duke."

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