When the earl was alone, he sat to himself and read Catherine's tear-stained letter. The words were sadly poignant and heart-wrenching and a pang of emotion touched his heart as she explained the circumstances of the death of Angus to her only son. The untrenchable Angus McDonald, arising from his struggles with unwavering determination to conquer the circumstances of his birthright, fighting for American independence, building a personal empire in Ashley Loche and finally closing the pages of his life in one last fight against the British. The earl pressed his fingers into the old hip wound dug by the unskilled sword of the foiles of Angus McDonald. Tradition had not counted when blood was drawn for it was not the finely crafted gentleman's sword, rather the wide soldier's blade which cut him. And then there was Catherine who wanted to chase after her husband but who turned back when he begged her to stay and tend his wound. the only influence which he had over her was the blood splashed over his white ruffled sleeves and satin vest and the fact that he lay helpless and bleeding in a swamp. His defeat was monumental, the cocky certainty of killing Angus McDonald was gone forever. His desperation persuaded Catherine to stay behind and bind his wound and when she did so, his passion to have her dissipated in the ordeal and embarrassing sojourn at Port Royal where he had to lie about his identity and endure the reputation of having a mistress in his room. The shameful experience taught him to regret ever having pursued the woman.
But then there was Catherine, nursing him well, looking after his needs in the face of prying eyes and gossiping tongues and having no prospects of her own. That made her sacrifice a true labor of love.
But finally she wrote the dreaded letter to Angus that she was expecting his child. It was not easy for her. She was afraid that her husband would not come after her. But the invincible Angus McDonald chunked his pride and came for his wife.
"The paddies are washed away," she wrote, "and your grandfather labors with his own hands to save the roots, but he is old and cannot accomplish what needs to be done. I pray that as soon as the seas are freed of our enemies that you should come home and take your place as master of Ashley Loche.."
As he read, fresh ideas flashed inside of his head. Ashley Loche could be his redemption!
"Mr. Potts! Bring Roderick McDonald into my rooms!"
"But tis late, my lord. He sleeps."
"Wake him! Bring him at once!"
"Roderick, my boy, thank you for allowing me to read your mother's letter. I understand that you are sorely needed at home, but do not worry, my head is cranking up ideas to save us both."
"Sir?" Roderick rubbed his eyes. He had been aroused from a deep sleep.
"Can you not see it? We share parallel universes, you and I. You, with your Ashley Loche and I, with my Abergenny. Eventually this estate with its titles will matricate back to the crown. Although she is strong-willed, Lady Matilda's health is declining. I dare not hope that she will recover. Eventually we must endure the sickle of the grim reaper. Ashley Loche is in a state of deterioration. The plantations require intensive labor, strict supervision, and a sort of ingenuity which your father possessed and which cannot be replicated by others. When you are in a position to return to America, it will require a great deal of ingenuity and money to restore the plantation to its former glory. Do you agree?"
"Yes, my mother wrote it."
" I am satisfied that you possess the McDonald stuffings to accomplish it."
"What is the plan, my lord?"
"But you lack the necessary funds to begin again. That is where I merge into your universe. I, with amply funds but without a home. I will provide the funds necessary to restore the plantation."
"Oh no sir, " Roderick protested.
"It is not in the spirit of generosity that I gender this proposal. In exchange, I would expect to share in the ownership of Ashley Loche and also to reside there."
"I should write my mother."
"From the tone of your mother's letter she worries over a failing plantation and the knowledge that your aging grandfather cannot save it either. But you can, you hath not the tenacity of your father."
"But I am nought like my father either!" Roderick said with great emotion as tears came into his eyes.
The earl smiled. "Yes you are."
"How do you know these things?"
"You must believe that I am well informed on such things."