Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chapter 15

     Thanksgiving morning began at daylight with the sound of trumpets heralding the annual fox hunt and coming from all parts were horsemen and family members who would observe the hunt from their carriages. All the neighboring plantations and town dwellers were anxious to see the grand plantation which Angus McDonald had built for himself. Angus stood on the front portico watching an array of fine thoroughbred horses, red hunt jackets and long boots trotting in a queue along the mossy-oak road, then stop to observe the picture of the brick manor house rising ahead of them on the knoll. It  was cloaked with a low elevation of early morning mist from the river and a cloud of black smoke drifting from the red brick chimneys and dissipating into a forest of  broad leaf magnolias, weeping willows and mossy oaks. The doric columns supporting the porches glistened as the sun pushed through clouds and opened a blue sky.  Ashley Loche was the largest manor house of all of the river plantations.  That was what surprised them all. 
      Angus kept his promise as he commenced observing the young daughters who had come to watch. Girls in this section of the country married before they were eighteen. He would have to select from this group if he truly wanted a wife.   His heart was not in it, but he'd promised his father. He gave the signal for Lucas to loose the fox and then the hounds and then mounting his roan mare led the hunt party into the thick of the wood. Duncan followed.  He did not equal his son in the equistrian skills as Angus had learned from the army during the war chasing Indians.  The families in their carriages followed as long as the road would allow before turning back. 
     The hunters returned to the manor about 10:00 for a hearty breakfast and they were all anxious to see inside of the manor house. The guests strolled from room to room admiring the lavish furnishings. No one had guessed that the quiet manner of the Scottish fellow from Moore County was a man of taste.  Hence forward, no invitation to Ashley Loche would ever be declined.  The dining room table was spread with food from corner to corner and smelled of fried trout, slab bacon, scrambled eggs, hoke cakes and sweet breads.
     Angus approached one of the less pretentious girls, Mary Jordan, a daughter of one of his militia buddies. She was a slender little thing, flat chested, with inquiring eyes and freckled cheeks.      Compared to her peers, she was not glamorous or beautiful nor did she clammor for attention. If he had to marry, he did not wish someone he had to succor.  The gardens were almost finished, with its hanging arbors, stone statues and foot paths. After breakfast, a trail of guests strolled in the garden observing the pottery and flower beds, including Catherine clinging tenatiously to the arm of John Beavers. Duncan was escorting the giggly Mrs. Pierpont .  Angus paused among the girls and asked Mary to walk with him.
     "I am acquainted with your father from the militia meetings," he told her, remembering that Mr. Jordan's house was on the battery. "Are you a Charleston girl?"
     "If you mean 'was I born' there, the answer is 'no'. I was born at Edgefield, a place you have probably never heard of."
     "Yes, I know Edgefield," he said confidently.  "I passed through there once...during the war.  Before he was captured, he remembered seeing the militia scattered throughout the region taking their pot shots at the British. 
     Her young face looked up at him and she asked a simple question. "You were in the war?"
     He nodded. Almost ten years had passed. Suddenly he felt old.
     "Some people say that you are Scottish."
     "Aye. Is that distasteful to ye?"
    "No, I suppose not. I was simply wondering why the Scots would fight for independence?"
     "What ye say is true.  Me own father chose not to fight."
     "Why you, then?"
     "Because I resented the British denying our own the throne in Scotland and then meddling with our lives in this country as well. And because while serving the army, they took he through the land, to the plains, valleys and mountains, and taught me to hunt in all of this grand space.   I am an adventurer at heart."

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