Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 24

     In the months which followed Lord Manigault seemed content with his situation and almost happy, as he made plans to bring prosperity to the region.  It had been almost a hundred years since the impoverished peasants had paid rents to the duchy. They scarcely fed themselves from the worn-out land of their gardens. That was the problem of the last hundred years. He commenced ordering tools, plows, mules, horses, milch cows and chickens to work and fertilize the land. And sawyers came to cut down trees for fences and barns.  The undertaking was monumental for a duke so far advanced in age, but it gave him purpose and satisfaction to restore the duchy to its former profits.  His experience came from having created wealth at Abergenny, so he used that knowledge to the benefit of the village. His enthusiasm caught on.  The peasants plowed, planted and constructed.  The peasants proudly paid their crops to the duchy, every plant in its season.
     His fetish in restoring the desmesne and rebuilding the wall around the forecourt of the manor caused him to quit sorrowing for Catherine.  So much time passed since Trask Martain was notified by the solicitor of his possible inheritance that the duke surmised that the money sent him for the long onerous journey from Abergenny to Cornwall was wasted.  However, there was no certainty in the actions of Trask Martain. He was huskily built, his arms and calves carved with robust muscles,  of medium height with broad shoulders and the physique of a fighter.  A man in his forties spoiled by his appealing body, handsome face and a head of lusky black hair, he had no need to please the women who served him.  Arrogant at times and surly, he infrequently set his hands to labor.
     But one morning out of nowhere a man of his statue promenaded through the village and coming to the wall plopped down on it where he sat for awhile absorbing the desmesne and manor.  In his mind he was comparing it to the larger more ostentatious stone edifice of Abergenny with its showy gardens and brick bypaths.  An hour passed before he slid off the wall and approached a large wooden door and pounded on it with a brass handle. An eternity seemed to pass before a short unassuming servant opened the door.
     "The deliveries are to the rear," he said attempting to close the door while Trask holding it open allowed himself in the foyer.
     "Is your master home?"
     "Wait."  The servant said.
      Eventually a gentleman appeared.  It was Mr. Potts prepared to rid the premises of the intruder but when he saw the face and hair, stood silently staring at him.
     "What ehyre ye staring at!" Trask said gruffly.
     "May I have your name, sir?"
     "Trask Martain.  I am Trask Martain." He removed a crumbled letter from inside shirt. "This letter says that I should speak with the duke of Cornwall.  It is business.  My personal business."
     "Wait here, please."  Potts dared not speak further.  What happened next was up to the illegitimate son of George Manigault, the duke of Cornwall.  He stepped lively into the duke's study and whispered the astonishing news in his ear. 
     "Well, we shall see," the duke replied. "Place a chair in front of my desk that I may look directly into his eyes."
     The sound of Trask Martain's heavy boots following Potts into the study were heard throughout the inner-chambers of the house. His eyes fell uneasily on the duke's family portrait and he came to a halt before reaching the desk.  The duke wiggled the gold and ruby rings on his fingers indicating the chair.  Trask took his seat noisily. "Are you the one that I am to see...the  duke of Cornwall?" He asked. The duke was careful not to answer suddenly and taking a deep breath observed the appearance of Trask Martain who, except for his lack of poise, was well-marked with Manigault traits. He nodded.
     "What is the name of your mother?" He asked.
     "Millie Martain."
     "I understand that she is dead.  When did that occur?"
     "She passed on twenty years or so of the fever, as did one of my sisters."
     "You were born in the village of Abergenny?"
     "If you know this, why do you ask?"
     "I simply wish to acquaint myself with my son."
     "I always heard that I was the son of an earl."
     "And I am a duke."
     "Such matters are complicated and you have but to look into my face for the answer."
     "I see nothing save an old gray-haired man."
     "Your rudeness reflects your breeding," Mr. Potts uttered from the other side of the room.  He could not help himself.
     "I was raised by my old grandmother, sir!  Further, I seldom saw me own mother and ne'er knew a father!"
     "Ah, the sad tale, " Potts murmured.
     "Hath you labored in the spit of your own hands?" The duke asked suddenly.
     The question shook Trask loose from his objective, which was to sling a few insults at the duke and to ridicule his noble house and for this purpose had he walked the incredible distance from Wales to Cornwall.  Not one shilling of the duke's money had he spent hiring coaches and purchased but one item, and that was a pair of sturdy boots which still had a good sole on them.  The remainder gingled loosely inside the one tattered pocket of his trousers.  He opened his large hands and displayed them first to Mr. Potts and then to the eyes of the duke.  "I spit many a time on these hands to lift a wagon wheel or to plow a mule."  The duke seemed puzzled by the gesture and he reaffirmed himself using an expression he figured the duke would comprehend.  "I can take care of meself without the help of me betters."
     "Then you hath no interest in changing your birthright?"
     "I am a bastard," he answered.
     "Yes, naturally.  Did the parson explain the solicitor's letter?"
     "I am illegitimate," he insisted.
     "You hath the option of being recognized as the legimate son of the duke, you fool!" Mr. Potts blurted.
     "What? Suddenly I can be as good as me betters?"
     "Perhaps not," Mr. Potts admitted.
     He turned his sobering black eyes on the duke.  They were dark and foreboding, lit with generations of peasantry and the dismal fires of failure.  "Why in God's Name would you want me to take your place in this dungeon?  Are ye nought satisfied except to inject ye painful nobility upon me before ye die?"
     "I never supposed that you would refuse a life of wealth and pleasure," the duke said solemnly.  "Is there nothing that I can give you?"
     He  dug his fingers into the tattered pocket and flung the coins onto the floor, screaming angrily as he ran out of the house. "No! I do not want your stinking ways."
     Mr. Potts went to the window and observed Trask as he jumped over the wall and disappeared into the village.

No comments:

Post a Comment