Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chapter 14

     If Duncan McDonald thought that plantation life was dull, it changed when he took upon himself the portrait of a gentleman. After Mrs. Drayton returned to her house in Charleston, Duncan was a frequent visitor, observing proper etiquette and allowed the widow to groom and dress him in fashionable vestiments. And handsome he was, with his graying hair and long sideburns.
His ruggedness, the deep wrinkles aligning his forehead, crow's feet etched around  his eyes and his smile was appealing.  Duncan had an especial sexual charm to older women. He made regular visits to Mrs. Drayton's afternoon tea parties and games of wisk.
     "Do ye mind if I watch ye play, Mrs. Pierpoint?" He asked as he pulled up a chair beside an elderly widow.  She giggled and proceeded to overbid her hand. The contract was 3 spades doubled. The play was just as atrocious as the bidding. As her partner, Mrs. Angles, laid down the dummy, she expelled a deep sigh. Mrs. Drayton led trump, the 3 of spades which was won by her partner and returned. When Mrs. Pierpoint finally took the third trump trick, a cool sweat was on her forehead. She had planned to cross-rough the hand and now that the trumps were gone, she had to somehow take tricks in the other suits. The result was brutal. Down three, doubled.  Mrs. Drayton wrote plus 800 points in her little tally book.
     "There was nothing that you could do once they led trump," her partner reflected.
    Mrs. Pierpoint twitched nervously while glancing sideways at Duncan.
     "Oh well, tis only a game," he said cheerfully. "Me dearly departed wife used to say 'tis only a moment in time lost on a dime'."
     She laughed, grateful that he had changed the mood.
     Later he walked down to the battery and finding Mrs. LaRoche sitting on her front porch, joined her. Her house overlooked the pier and a cool river breeze softened the air. The LaRoche family were french hugenots who had left the Isle of Re before the war to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Although middled-aged, her husband was determined to soldier himself into the patriot army. One morning in 1776 he rode away proudly carrying a sword with the LaRoche family crest engraven on the handle.  He must have been slain during one of the first battles because he never returned.  Five years had passed, but she still waited for him on the front porch. Duncan enjoyed himself.  She spoke fondly of the french isles and her old life and Duncan told of his clan's support of Bonnie Prince Charles and the cruelty of the British. It was always an afternoon well passed.    
     While his father was thus being transformed, Angus was still lending his hand to the planting of rice roots.  As the plants sprouted green and filled the whole basin, he hired an overseer.  Then planned more crops, corn and indigo.  His evenings were working on the accounts and drawing elaborate plans for a flower garden which would be admired by all who visited Ashley Loche. 
     One evening, Lucas visited the plantation office and watched Angus drawing his plans in the dim light of candles.  Since the war he had cultivated his portion of the land given by the Colonel, but nothing so grand as Ashley Loche.  In other acreage, they were partners. Angus had a plat of the plantation laid flat on the table and was sketching in his plans to construct a dock far into the deep water of the river to accomodate large vessels.
     "Need some help building the dock?" He asked. "I saw a pot of glue next to the plankboard. Ehre ye gonna use it on the dock?"
     "Yes, pa is adamant upon first gluing down the planks, then securing them with nails. Tis an old Inverness superstitution that such will prevent storms from getting under the boards and ripping them off."
     "It will be a long time gettin done."
     "But it will last.  I want the house and outbuildings, the dock, everything at Ashley Loche to be permanent."
     "Nothing lasts forever, Angus."


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