Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 13

     Every few weeks Roderick pitched sail on  "the Belle" into the Charleston harbor and made excuses to purchase supplies.  On such occasions his eyes sought out the lovely vision of the petite Suzette.  Her dress was always plain with a silver cross around her neck fashioned with an open four-petal Lily of France forming the Maltese Cross.  He asked her the meaning of the symbolism.
    "The four petals signify the four Gospels. Each petal of the periphery has two rounded points at the corners and signify the eight Beatitudes. The four petals are joined by four fleur-de-lis and represent the twelve apostles."
     "What is the open space shaped as a heart?"
     "The seal of John Calvin and the ring of gold under the center petal is a pendant dove, meaning the church."
     "Why do you always wear this necklace?"
     "Because my father wants to remember the suffering of our family in La Rochelle when they were forced into Catholicism."
      "Would you ever consider attending the reformed Anglican church here in Charleston?"
     Mr. Bacot overheard the conversation and chimed in.  "Ours is a simple religion, Roderick, we believe that it is our faith which will get us into heaven and not ritualism."
     "I am not so much for ritualism either," he said, remembering the school requirement that he attend Sunday services in Oxford.  Once he was employed at Abergenny, all that changed because the local rector could never gain an audience in the private quarters of the Earl of Neville who made his annual tithes without any sort of attendance.   He and Mr. Biggers were part of the private world of the earl.
     The huguenot community was laced with old country customs and language issues. Roderick was one of the few anglicans who engaged in business practices with the huguenots so he was sort of a phenomena or test case.  The more he was intwined in that society, however,  he wondered how he would ever be permitted to court a huguenot daughter.  Yet, Suzette was so enticing even in her plain clothes and the Lily of France around her neck.  Her large protruding eyes, thick lashes and a head of brown bouncing curles set her apart from others.  Interestingly enough, the moments that he was alone with her, the restraints of her religion did not seem to apply.  She had a mind of her own and tended to be manipulative.  For one thing, when the family attending parties at Ashley Loche and she saw the fancy gowns and jewels of the ladies, she hinted that it would be suitable for him to make her a present of jewelry.  She particularly fancied the diamond brooch which his mother had pinned to her dress. He was oblivious to the circumstances of the brooch but  was well aware that Catherine treasured it above all other jewelry.  Afterwards, Roderick made it a habit to contribute little items to her jewelry box which she kept out of sight from the scolds of her father.  The gifts were received with a slight curtsy and nothing more.  One afternoon after presenting her with a small ruby ring, he impatiently said "I would have a kiss for this."
     His remark energized her with more self-confidence and smiling flirtatiously, quipped: "Only for the diamond brooch!"  There it was.  She would have nothing less than the famous heirloom of the marquess of Abergenny!
     "So long as my mother lives, I could never give you the brooch, but if you will marry me it will be yours as an inheritance."
     "You mean that becoming your wife is the only way to acquire that brooch for my dress?"
     "There are other advantages to such a position," he said assured of the prosperity that cotton was bringing to the plantation.
     "When my father trusts you completely, I shall consider it," she said, putting a condition, knowing full well that she had the power to weedle his permission.
     "I should have thought that your father would trust me by now," he said seriously, "owing to the fact that I trust him to provide my plantation needs."
     "When I am in the mood to know, I shall ask him."
     Roderick was insulted and he spoke his mind.  "Well there is one thing that I do not approve of and that is playing games with feelings! Either your father trusts me or he does not.  At any rate, I should like to know if it be not wise for me to continue my account with his store!"
     She smiled flirtateously and  moved cagily towards him but he lifted his jaw and stood erect so that she could not make eye contact. 
     Months passed and while Suzette held fast to the idea of acquiring the diamond brooch as an endearing bribe for her hand in marriage, Roderick mused over whether or not marriage was a good idea. Meanwhile his apparent fascination for her greweven though he tried to hide it. But an amorous young man can no sooner squelch his feelings than the moon turn purple. So he did a daring thing, took a chance upon purchasing another brooch, one inset with diamonds and rubies, hoping that it would satisfy her.  The gesture was shocking and he was ashamed to tell his mother the cost of it.  It nearing springtime when the family planned another barbecue. A bed of yellow daffodils opened their buds and bloomed in the yard alongside a rock foot path going to the focal point of the garden and surrounded by boxwood hedges.  A cement bench was situated between two bronze statues.
     "Are you still angry with me?" Suzette sat on the bench and fanned herself with a plain fan tied at the bottom with two ribbons.
     "I suppose not."
     "I scarcely saw you all winter."
     "There is a great deal of  important work to be accomplished on a plantation year-round. If you lived here, you would understand it."
     "Well I should like to live here."
      "Do you think that your father trusts me yet?" She raised a flirty brow and considered his intentions were to have his kiss, but he did not make his move.  "You cannot keep me waiting forever on this matter," he insisted. 
     "You fret too much over my father's opinion when you should be more concerned with my pleasure."
     "Oh but I am, Suzette," he said while removing the brooch from his pocket and putting it into the palm of her hand. She examined it carefully, turning it several times seemingly to measure the size of the stones.  Then, she stood on her toes and kissed him gently on the lips.  "Oh no!" He declared, "I shall do the kissing!"  And with that, pulled her close and encountering no resistance delivered a long passionate kiss. "Then what is your answer?"
     "Yes, I will marry you."
      So it was that in June while the cotton bloomed its healthy crop of yellow flowers, Roderick was married to Suzette in her Huguenot church in downtown Charleston.  The ceremony was simple, without the fanfare and elegance that she would have preferred.  She wore  a plain white gown, the Lily of France necklance,  and a long veil which covered her face.   She did not wear the brooch or other jewelry he had given her  except at Ashley Loche.  As for Roderick, he was relieved.  At last he would be delivered into the arms of Venus to be smothered with the passionate kisses of human kindness and love, a place of enduring endearment and security!

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