Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chapter 12

     That evening a fire was built in the parlor to warm a chilly April evening. Mrs. Drayton settled in front of it, snuggling her knees under a tartan blanket.  Although Mrs. Drayton's family had been in America for several generations, the precious emblems of Scotland were still part of her hope chest. Too, she was comfortable with the McDonalds. Somehow they were the link to her past.  Angus was kind and solicitious and brought a sincere dialog to the discussion.  He was not the most genteel gentleman that she had known, but was impeccably honest, not to mention the undercover work that he had done for the Colonel during the occupation. There was something about his taking Catherine to London to wait out the war and returning her quite unexpectantly one evening to Drayton Manor.  Angus had lifted her into his arms and carried her inside the house. She had a fever and a fierce cough and he gently laid her on the couch. She thought then that Angus was in love with the woman in his arms. As it was Catherine's illness caused her to remain at Drayton Manor many long months, until the British finally left Charleston. The whole episode was hush-hush.  The widow felt a certain empathy for Catherine's plight, having a lover during the occupation, a single woman in Charleston well past the age of marriage. A dilemma that Catherine herself had not accepted.  She was always searching for the ideal husband, one of her own class, as she had so often said.
     Now her skirts made a swishing sound as she walked across the room and commenced fanning herself with a nervous energy. She was bored with Duncan's plaintive expressions and jealous of Angus' divisive attention to the widow.  Life on a working plantation did not compare to the social activities of the town.  And now, especially with the Colonel gone, Drayton Manor was cold and empty of people. But she was determined to stay on in the dreary house so long as Mrs. Drayton needed her, knowing that when the widow felt better, she would return to Charleston. Perhaps then the widow's grief would be diminished and Catherine would be included in the Drayton's friendships and parties.
     Duncan was in his element, having the flattery of two ladies, and he found himself interested in the most ordinary of conversation. He relished in Mrs. Drayton's advice as to his personal grooming and fashioned himself in the Charlestonian style, a brocade vest for the evening and a silk craveat around his neck.  Within a short while, through her good influence, he looked nothing like the Duncan McDonald from Moore County. Should she stay long enough, he expected that he would stop his piddling altogether, nailing, repairing, building, and relegate all of his work to the servants. But as time passed, a new idea came to mind.  He would soon explain it to Angus.

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