At the end of the summer Catherine returned to Ashley Loche. The emotional onsloughts, tantrums and unpleasantness caused her to keep her plans to marry George Mans a secret.
It was a horrible time of the year for Roderick and conversation with him was difficult. The fields were full of spindle pickers plucking cotton from open bolls and wearing long aprons. It was important to harvest the cotton before the rainy season spoiled its texture. Roderick was in the fields alongside the workers overseeing the operation. The first several days of picking was stored in gins for separation of lint and seed before being wire baled into modules shaped like giant bread loafs and stored in barns.
Suzette was furious that Roderick was absent and passed long hours pouting in her room. She was developing an angry paranoia into her personality which she justified by his neglect of her since the birth of Martha. But he had provided preparations for the care of the child which did not involve Suzette. She had a wet-nurse and personal servant to wait her needs. The child would be kept separate from Nicky and Dunk and would be shut away in a room upstairs.
While Roderick struggled to keep his vow not to sleep with Suzette, she spoke harshly and vindictively. Her unpleasantness was felt throughout the household, a person no one wished to engage.
Catherine's desire to be helpful was thwarted by the strained atmosphere. As the stormy autumn months began to close in with rains and high winds, Roderick worked to secure a dry storage for his unshipped cotton bales. He fretted over the spoiling dampness and mold. But finally the ship arrived and the bales were loaded. Duncan came onto the dock to watch the process and chat with the crew. When he grew tired he sat on the porch and watched. But as the days faded and the ship weighed anchor, the old man well into his years slipped away into time immortal. Dunk found him dead on the porch and ran into the house to fetch the green and black stripped McDonald plaid.
"This is my grandpa," he said as the others congregated on the porch. Then he carefully laid the plaid over the old man's shoulders while Nickie sobbed. "Our grandpa is gone on to another place," he told his sister. "Tis a place where he will no longer be old and feeble, but young and happy."
"Do you promise?"
"Yes, and grandmother he would want to buried with his plaid."
Catherine agreed. "You are so wise."
Late the next afternoon after Suzanne insisted upon a brief mourning period of hymn singing and praying, the plaid was placed over the body and he was buried in the graveyard beside Angus.
"I regret to say that Duncan McDonald hath passed on," Catherine wrote to George. "The hearts o the little grandchildren are broken and they are too young to know how to grieve properly. Because of the family's stressful circumstances I am reluctant to mention our plans to marry and feel that the situation would best be served by the presence of Uncle George. Too, it is a somber reckening for Roderick, having moved into the position as head of the McDonald clan. He feels that it is encumbant upon him to teach Nickie and Dunk the traditional ways of the Scottish fathers."
It meant something for Catherine too. She could no longer see a living resemblance of Angus in his father. Perhaps now she could forget Angus and move on with her life. After the funeral, she announced her plans to marry.
Roderick was stunned, while Suzette expressed her pleasure by chatting agreeably and cooperating with Roderick. Several days passed before George Mans arrived. He came as soon as he received her letter. There was a smile on his lips and his limp did not seem as hindering. Indeed, it was a great moment for him because this poor soul was to experience love! She took him to the grave of Duncan and pointed to Duncan's name etched on a slate headstone.
"I shall truly miss grandpa," George said sadky.
"Yes, an era of McDonald's is closed. Initially, I held it against Angus for being from
Moore County, North Carolina but grandpa Duncan helped me to understand his brave family's persecution in Scotland and the reason that they were of such poor circumstances when they cane to this country."
"Does this close it for you?" George asked.
"Yes," she said.
His joy was full and impatience wanting as he drew her close and kissed her passionately on the lips. The old feelings were aroused, something that she did not expect. But it was so, she did care for him. She did know how far that those feelings stretched back in time. In fact, she was not quite sure when she stopped loving Angus. Suddenly she unbuttoned her bloude and unpinned the diamond brooch from her slip, then without a word, pressed it into his fist.
"No, no, Catherine, this brooch is yours forever."
The marriage ceremony was had at a local parish church in Charleston with the family attending. It was a simple private ceremony which went unnoticed by the community and following it, Catherine and Mans boarded his little sloop and sailed for Beaufort County and his "Manningham."
As they sailed away in the wake of the waves, Suzette turned to Roderick and said viciously: "Now I am mistress of Ashley Loche!"
Roderick hung his head low. "Oh God help us," he murmured. It was true. She was in control.