Monday, August 8, 2011

Chapter 9

    Angus rode on horseback through a path of ancient moss-laden oak trees which dominated the Drayton plantation. The gray moss stretching across the limbs shaded the road before he was in the clearing leading to the manor house. But first, he wanted to inspect the mausoleum built for Colonel Drayton's body.   It was to the rear of the manor house on a flat area overlooking the river and near the dock shed. Several large  bales of cotton from last fall were stacked under the shed and smelling musky.
    The mausoleum was made of cut stone, wide enough to accommodate the one grave and was raised about four feet high. He was surprised to note that Catherine was standing ominously in front of it. She wore a long cloak to protect her dress from briars and had the hood raised over her hair. She clutched her arms, seeming to shiver in the air of an early morning's spring.  Her demeaner, the slumping of her shoulders and the tearful eyes reflected an attitude of lingering grief.
      Angus walked over to where she stood read aloud the first line of the inscription.   "Here lies Colonel Henry Drayton,loving husand, father and patriot of the American cause."
     "He was that, a true patriot," She said with a deep sigh from her throat. "He risked everything, his reputation and all of his possessions whilst pretending to be a loyalist, and all the while
helping all those prisoners escape. All of us had to pretend and cooperate with the British, to keep our families safe."
    "Ye ought not play the role with me, with just the two of us standing here. There was no one in Charleston who thought of you as a patriot, my dear."
     "You cannot scoff at me, Angus McDonald! I did what I could to procure secrets from
Sir Manigault and pass on information to the Colonel.   What with everyone taking credit for being patriots of the cause, they fail to realize that my association with the duke caused me to sacrifice my own reputation."
     Angus laughed. "Why did ye nought go off with Lord Manifault?"
     "You well know the answer to helped me to avoid ever seeing him agaiin."
     "Ye tricked me."
     "Think what you please, Angus McDonald, but I am from one of Charleson's most respectable families. This is my country and worse off for it too.  My personal sacrifices engaged me during the years when I would have otherwise married."
     "I asked you," he said bluntly.
     "You know full well that you are not from the proper family."
     "I know.  I am just a boy from Moore County. "I suppose that John Beavers is from the proper family."
     "He is one of Augusta's most respectable merchants."
      Angus laughed, thinking of the money he wasted in gambling. "We all have something unpleasant to hide, Catherine, even your precious John Beavers."
     "What do you mean?"
     "There must be a good reason that such a man of sterling cannot offer ye the life of a planter's wife."
     A pink blush burned in her cheeks. His words stung.  Gossip had it that Angus was one of the largest planters in Charleston and that his Ashley Loche was expanding into an empire of rice plantations. He had friends and influence and was liked for his frankness, a trait which she hated.  By tradition all proper young ladies were married by the age of eighteen years, and, she was an old maid.  Her prospects of marriage were diminishing. She pulled her cloak tightly around her neck and muffled a sigh deep in her throat.

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