Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chapter 11

     Angus slipped on a pair of leather gloves and took the reins for the awkard  journey  of maneauvering the Drayton carriage through the woods along a narrowly cutt path. As the carriage rocked in and out of the rutted terrain, he promised himself that he would widen and improve it, make it a public road. Catherine grew restless and impatient with the discomforts, while Mrs. Drayton was fascinated with a family of deer and fawns dashing through the brush and squirrels as they scampered across the path. After awhile they came to a clearing and saw ahead of them barns and stables, a fenced paddock, and slave cabins.  Then, another road, this one lined on each side with sprawling oak trees and hanging moss, leading to the river and the manor house.  The terrain was much like the Drayton plantation, except that it was overgrown with weeds and scrub trees.
    The manor house sat fairy-tale-like along a slightly angled slope facing the Ashley River,  a brick edifice rising to prominence in a vast blue background of sky and white clouds.  The main section of the house was structured with a steep roof, four brick chimneys and white doric columns on the front and back porches. There were tall stacks of unpainted plank boards in the yard.  Angus' own personal miseries and loneliness had caused him to add two wings, one on each side.  Stone walkways were being laid from the house to the river and lined with native plants and bushes and the pungent scent of white magnolia blossoms from the woods drifted along the path. Duncan McDonald and Lucas stood scratching their heads as the ladies stepped down from the carriage. 
     "What is that Winship woman doing here?"Lucas said disgustedly.
      Duncan's eyes observed Catherine. She wore a full cloak over her dress and the hood was pulled tightly around her hair, the effect emphasizing her white china doll skin and dark brown eyes.  The cloak billowed outward as she stepped down and he could see that she had a tiny waist. "So that is Catherine Winship!" Duncan said admiringly. "It might not hurt to 'ave a pretty face about the place."
     "Not so. That one is trouble."
     Duncan walked over to the carriage and offered his arm to the frailing widow.  "Welcome to Ashley Loche," he said cheerfully, smiling at the ladies.
     "Would ye mind assisting us in taking the trunks inside?" Angus called to Lucas. He walked over to the carriage and avoiding eye contact with Catherine, helped Angus lift one of the trunks.
     "The house servants should do that chore," Catherine told Duncan.
     "Aye," he answered grinning. "We could use some suggestions. As ye can see, we just completed the left wing of the house. But come inside. I shall show you everything."
     The front foyer was flanked with two short columns leading into a large square room with wooden oak floors covered with woollen rugs. A glass chandelier hung from a high ceiling vacant of candles. The room donned several chairs and sofas, and an English cherry breakfront along the wall.
     "I hath never seen a manor house of this design," Catherine said admiringly.  "This room could use some pictures on the wall and a piano forte in front of the windows."
     "Angus got the idea during the war when he was in Virginia and visited some of the homes there..."
     She interrupted.  "Hhmm." This was something that she did not know, nor cared about now.
     He led her into another room, the dining area displaying a cherry table surrounded by twelve chairs with brocaded seats. The table had inserts to expand its size.  Catherine was surprised. She had never supposed that he had friends enough for the table. Then she remembered.  She had seen him at several fox hunts, and he did seem to know most of the gentlemen. 
     "Angus has an affluent factor in London who selected the furnishings."
     Catherine nodded, thinking of her experiences in London with Angus and his factor. Yes, He had been of great service to them both in securing passage back to Charleston, especially after her embarrassing a play for the old earl and then being refuted for it.  Actually, she owed more to Angus than she wished to admit. The whole drama was replaying out its unpleasantness in her mind as Duncan showed her the rest of the house.  She did not express it, but she was impressed with Ashley Loche,

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