Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 11

     A strong tide and favorable cross winds pushed the "Elizabeth" into the North Sea for its voyage to North America.  On board were a number of families who had avoided the war by visiting European relatives and were returning home.  Roderick bonded with a french family by the name of Bacot. The father was named for his french huguenot grandfather Nicholas Bacot who'd settled in Charleston two generations earlier. The Bacots located along the Cooper River in a settlement of other huguenots who developed enterprising merchandising companies in Charleston. In the olden days, they paddled up the river into the center of town where the tall wooden spires of their church commanded prominenance among the live-oaks.  It was in this neighborhood that the french constructed a row of cement buildings to be used as tenement houses and stores. Business thrived in this district for many years, mostly due to their clandishness and genius for making a buck.  Nicholas Bacot did a cash business in his store and it is said that he hoarded jars of old french coins in his house. Also, he was known for his thrifty nature and haggling.  At the first news of the war, he locked the doors of his merchandising store and packed the family back to France where they lodged with an old grandmother.  The long protracted absence of three years caused him to worry over what he would find when he returned to his tenement house and store..  He managed to purchase a small cargo of iron nails and other commodities which he figured might bring him profit after a blockade.  For this reason, Roderick found a common thread of conversation and learned from him something of merchandising.
     "Monsieur Bacot, I might be interested in purchasing a keg of iron nails," Roderick said, remembering that he had a purse.  "As a matter of fact, I should like for your family to visit my home, Ashley Loche."
     "Oh no, sir, we cannot accept your hospitality until we access our own situation, nevertheless, I shall have a keg of nails put ashore," he said pronouncing the vowels in the old french style.
     "Then when your affairs are in order, please visit the plantation and let us continue our friendship."
     Also of interest to Roderick was Bacot's curly-haired daughter, Suzette whom he had pursued around the ship for several days until she slapped his face hard. He'd tried to kiss her and she recoiled with her little delicate hand and swatted him a stinging blow.  She was a petite beauty with entrancing blue eyes and long fluttering eyelashes, but strong-willed. Her olive skin was soft to touch, irresistably appealing. But the slap was a shocking set-back, especially because thereafter she avoided him and would not so much as glance at him.  So he established the friendship with her father.  In fact, his plans went far into the future.  He would purchase all supplies from the Pacot Company. 
     When the "Elizabeth" sailed down the Ashley River and dropped anchor on the dock of Ashley Locke, Suzette's eyes fixed on the large manor house whose commanding presence along the river rising in the midst of hundreds of ancient live-oaktrees draped in green leaves and entwined with gray moss slowly weaving its way to the top branches.  Its white columned porches accentuated the dark-green storm shutters buckled to every window and the red brick chimneys which rose far above the roof.    She was too young to know the story of the richest planter in the county, Angus McDonald, and his gala fox hunts and the luxurious plantation everyone craved to visit that he built for Catherine Winship in the hope that she would marry him.   From a distance she could see smidgets of flowers blooming over fallen trellises and sunken ditches replacing the footpaths which once lined with flower beds. Yet the two-storied brick house rising through the trees with its brick chimneys and dormer windows seemed to invite her inside. She was disappointed when her father refused the invitation.
If her father had guessed that she was impressed with grandeur he would have reminded her not to lust have riches.  She watched as sailors unloaded Roderick's cargo as well as one keg of nails from Bacot, then as Roderick waved farewell to Mr. Bacot, she removed one of her white gloves and waved it after him. Roderick thus encouraged, he focused on the nails..
     "Some of the docks in these parts sank," a sailor observed as waited with the keg on his shoulders.
     "Not this one," Roderick said, pounding his feet hard on the boards to test its stability.  "My grandpa and pa built this one. Nailed and glued every plank. No hurricane will ever upturn it!" He said proudly.  As he spoke, Duncan McDonald came walking across the dock dressed in the McDonald plaids overing his lacy shirt. A slight hump had grown into his back since he had last seen him, and he seemed shorter than Roderick remembered.  The moment that he saw him, he recognized himself in Duncan, the flaming red hair and blue eyes was a trademark of the McDonalds. He threw his arms around Duncan and gave him a  man hug. 
     "Aye, me wee grandson Roderick, home alas!" He answered with his thick Scottish brogue.
     "Grandpa!" Roderick cried,  throwing his arms around the old gentleman.
     "Look at the wee cargo ye brought with ye!"
      "Yes sir, I brought what Mr. Biggers calculated we needed."
      Catherine began to make her way out onto the dock. The sight of his mother brought tears to his eyes.  He did not know it until that moment, but he'd sorely missed his family. His spirits lifted when he hugged her and felt her soft motherly body..
     "I am happy to be home, mother," he said sweetkt, "and shall never leave this place again!"
     "Not even for a war, like your father?"
    "There won't be any more wars in these parts," he said confidently, "for our country is too big, even for the british."
     "I hope that you are correct, my son."

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