Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 23

     The duke reached his old home in Cornwall the first week in October.  Red and brown leaves were blowing furiously across the landscape to unknown destinations, landing in the soil where they would crumble and complete the final stages of fall.   Orange Pumpkins of every size lay in the fields waiting for the harvest moon. It was that time of year when the peasants celebrated by playing  their fiddles in the orangish light of moon and dancing.  The duke vaguely recalled these traditions. It was so long ago. Their coach brought them along the road to the manor house at dusk just as the moon lit a path to the front passage.  One of the peasants waved at the coach and the duke instinctively returned the gesture.  Someone said: "It's the old duke! He is returned!"  A crowd gathered and followed the coach to the manor house.  The door to the coach opened and the  duke and Mr. Potts set down their feet on Cornish soil.  The duke had returned to replenish his estates.  Cheering commenced.
     "These are your people and they are pleased that you are returned to them," Potts said.
     The duke raised his hands to hush the cheering and when a profound silence occurred and without a person stirring, he spoke with sincerity.  "Greetings, my friends.  I wish you prosperity and happiness."
     "Are you returned to stay?" Someone asked.
     He considered the question momentarily and then with an emotional quiver in his voice, answered: "Yes." They cheered again.  Indeed.  They had their duke back and now prosperity would abound in the land.
     "I must do something to help these people," he whispered to Potts.
     The duke hobbled across the marble floor of the grand foyer and resting on his silver-tipped cane, greeted the household staff.  "You are the head housekeeper?" He said to a stoutish cornish woman.
    "Your lordship, I am Mrs. Means, she answered with a respectful courtsey.
     "Mrs. Means," he said softly.  "This gentleman is Mr. Potts, my personal secretariat, from whom your instructions will come." 
     "Yes madam," Potts said sharply, "Come morning please provide a list of names of local farmers and merchants as well as a list of standard kitchen stores.  And tomorrow as a celebration to the household his lordship would desire several pigs roasted in his honor to include sweet potatoes, pumpkins,  and local seasonal vegetables."
     Mr. Potts paused to wipe his glove on a nearby table and to observe the general cleanliness of the house and hearing the sound of flames  popping  flames in  the fireplace, he walkerd into the study.
It was the old retreat of the Manigault dukes. Upon the walls were ancestral portraits. The mildew had been wiped clean from the canvases and the aged oil colors appeared vibrant. The duke pointed to a family portrait of his parents and siblings and especially to a keenly handsome boy having a full head of coal black hair.  "That is me when I was about seven years of age," he said proudly.
     Mr. Potts was warming his hands over the fire.  "There is a chill in the air," he said.
     "This old dungeon lacks the comforts of Abergenny," he sighed, "but, every crank and cranny of it is my home."
     "I understand, but it's neglected state will cost you more than a few shillings to restore."
     The duke seated himself in a large decorative wooden chair, possibly dating from the 14th century and stretched out his legs.  His body was stiff and sore all over from the protracted coach journeys required to reach the isolated cornish manor.  The moonlight was so bright that Potts opened the doors to the outside so that he could stare at it's great size.  The house was near the sea and the incoming tide could be heard lashing against the rocks. "Nevertheless, I shall love taking my walks in the sand along the seashore," he said.  He stood in the doorway for sometime staring at the moon and when he finally closed the door and returned to the fireplace noticed that the duke had fallen asleep in the hard wooden chair.

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