Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 20

     Mr. Pitts waited at the wharf in a brand new surry drawn by two fine thoroughbred horses. He sat wearing a fashionable top hat and a soft pair of leather gloves which enabled him to handle the team with finess and skill. Since the move to Beaufort, he was called upon to learn extraordinary skills, such as riding and hunting and was quite pleased with himself. It was a cold wintry day and he remembered to put two lap blankets inside the carriage and totie a third blanket around his shoulders. The horses were impatiently digging their hoofs into the dirt street. "Easy, girl. Easy girl," Potts said in a calming voice while patting the neck of one of the mares. He did not trust himself to tie up so waited several hours in the chilling wind. Eventually the sloop passed through the barrier islands and dropped its main sail.
     "Yah hoo!" He yelled excitedly as the team reared. "I did not say for you to trot," he said in his high-pitched british accent while reining them back, "tis simply an express of exuberance. Heads up me pretties, the lonely master hath taken a wife!"
     Mr. Potts led a charmed life in Beaufort.  He was fond of his new mistress who preferred to write her own personal correspondence. The intimate details of the affairs George Mans would dissolve under her tender care.  She was assisted into the surry by her anxious husband who pulled a lap blanket over her knees.  "The wind can be daunting this time of year," he said, "but we are together at last."  The ride to the house chilled every bone in Potts' body as he sat on his perch holding fast the reins with his gloved hands.  The harder that the wind blew, the more spirited the horses hoofs were to break into a gallop. Mr. Potts tried to hold them in the canter, but blisters were rubbing together his fingers and he loosened his grip.  When he did, the team broke into a full gallop. Mr. Potts pulled hard on the reins and when finally they reached the house, he somehow brought the team to a dead stop. Lucas saw his dilemma and rushed to take charge.
     "Not a good pair for a team," he said as he threw off the harnass.   
    "Are you all right, Miss Catherine?" Potts asked.
    "Mr. Potts, you certainly gave us a scare."
     The first winter passed and then the cycle of life.  George Mans had fourteen years of happiness with Catherine before they grew old.   Nickie and Dunk were all grown up and the youngest, Martha, was fourteen. Nothing had changed for poor unwanted Martha since birth. She was a sweet child, but slow to comprehend and was virtually ignored by her parents. Her presence only served as a vivid reminder of a miserable marriage. Suzette did not changed her temperament, she continued her rantings.  The peace-offerings had long since stopped. She could never be satisfied.
      And all the while Catherine was content to livein quiet repose with George Mans absent of the ego of her earlier years.  George Mans was rich beyond his wildest dreams.  The South Sea cotton
yielded an era of a prosperity that they thought would last forever. The cloth saturated America and replaced all but the European fine satins and italian silks. It was the great year of 1822 when all of America was right with itself.  It had forgotten its wars and  began to breathe an economy of pleasure and prosperity.  In the South most all the plantations threaded the needle and spun cotton. The ladies replaced the wide farthinggale girdle with fancy petticoats and hoop skirts, a fashion which would last for the next thirty years or so. Lucas never returned to Charleston and built himself a home nearby where he could continue to manage the partnership's Manningham.
     Late one afternoon in July, Catherine complaining of the humidity went to her room for a nap. When she did not come downstairs a late supper repass, George went to her bedroom and observed her lying peacefully on the bed.  Her eyes were closed and the wrinkles which creased around them seemed to be gone. She resembled a younger version of herself.  George remembering her that way almost called out the name "Catherine Winship", but then thinking himself too silly, said "Catherine, my dearest."  When she did not stir, he leaned over the bed and kissed her on the lipss.   He froze. For a moment he was terrified, the thought came into his head that his Catherine was dead. And he was correct.

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