Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 1

     The castle Abergenny was a magnificent stone structure located in Wales, was awarded by the British crown to the first earl, George Nevil, for his service during the English wars. The barony passed in lineage to the 5th earl who died without an heir and thus the estate passed in abeyance to his sister, Matilda, wife of Sir George Manigault, duke of Cornwall.
     Matilda had suffered financially in her marriage to a faithless and impoverished duke washed clean of his titled inheritance by a long lineage of dukes who mismanaged the estates in Cornwall.  They had combined their paltry fortunes to travel to the colonies and establish a mediocre plantation in Charleston, South Carolina. Too, when the American patriots won their war for independence at Yorktown and Lord Cornwallis made his hasty retreat, they found themselves in the company of other loyalists retreating to New Providence Island in Barbadoes. All that remained was the misery of waiting for Matilda to inherit her fortune from her older brother, the coveted Abergenny and its titles. When it finally happened, they were immensely relieved. Matilda rushed to sail to Wales while the duke stayed behind to retrieve the treasure he'd buried on the Charleston plantation and the one precious heirloom missing from her collection, the diamond brooch given to the first marquess of Abergenny and inscribed with the family crest. Her suspicions were that her husband had given the brooch to Miss Catherine Winship, a popular Charleston girl attempting to break into the aristocracy. A letter was sent by him from Port Royal announcing his delay in acquiring passage. She did not care how long he delayed or even if he had a tryst with Miss Winship but she did want the brooch. His personal ambition for the earldom would assure his arrival.  Eventually she would see the coal black hair and greedy brown eyes pleading with her to understand him. In the meanwhile, she prepared the great house to receive a number of guests for an extended visit. That was her purpose, to spend large sums of money entertaining the nobility.
     Lord Manigault came running in the flustering haste of a coach over-powered by his excitement to view Abergenny.  The coach wound itself through a village to an old stone wall which marked the boundaries of the old fiefdom. The coachman passed through an opening and maneuvered the ruts in an old field road which led to the castle. The journey seemed to be endless, but the duke comforted himself with the thought that he was the earl and all of this was his so long as Matilda lived.  Then the ancient estate would revert back to the crown. He shoved back into the corners of his mind the worry that he might out-live her and be inconvenienced thusly. When the coach finally came to a stop in front of the castle, he brushed off his suit of clothes and awaited the coachman to assist him down. Then he stood admiring the vast stone steeples and spheres, counting to himself a hundred windows. It was a modern castle by all accounts.  A set of steep steps was laid out before him. He was still beset by the injuries of his recent dual, so he took his silver-tipped cane and gently maneuvered himself up each step.  It was a trying experience which he would blame on his infirmities and advancing age.
The inside of the castle was elegantly drawn in the taste of the first earl. Generations had sublimely passed with few alterations. The Neville family crest was ornamented in the dark maghony wood and furnishings. It was something that all of his predecessors accepted, so Lord Manigault settled his mind to it. His trunks were dispatched into the old lord's chamber of thirteen adjoining rooms. "A place of great loneliness," he thought when he saw it.
     Matilda was waiting for him in his small parlor.  It would be a rare appearance into his quarters.  He folded his body to the waist, bowing only as deeply as the pain in his side would allow.
     "So pitifully unrefined. You must improve this shameful display before you present yourself to the king to be knighted!" She said disapprovingly.
     "Yes, my dear," he said while moving towards her to kiss her hand, but she swatted him away.  "My dearest wife, how I cherish the vision of you once more and aspire to the hope of our love and  mutual happiness at Abergenny."
     "First, explain your delay."
     "I suffered a long protracted delay in Port Royal. When finally an English ship arrived, it was a cargo vessel.  Nevertheless, the captain took his bribe and transported me to Gravesend where...."
     "I do not care to learn of the sorted details of your inconveniences, sir."
     "I dug the treasure from our old garden in Charleston and packed it inside of two trunks."
     "Trifles, compared to Abergenny. Pray tell me about the brooch?"
     This was the moment that he dreaded; his face stung with a red flush.  While he hesitated, she put a monacle to one eye and observed his shabby attire.  During the long journey, the duke's wardrobe  became shabby and he of necessity discarded his finest brocade vest, several lace shirts, cumberbuns, trousers and stockings.  The vissitudes of duelling and subsequent bleeding through clothing had demanded its disposal. 
     "Regretfully, I could not recover it, my dear."
     "Miss Winship possesses it!"
     He blushed again.  "Yes, my dear."
     She squared her shoulders and lifted her chin.  Her eyes were filled with resentment and disgust. "From henceforth," she said as an announcement, "there will be no more of your disgusting bantering and fourberie."
     "Yes\, my love."
     "Do not speak of love to me, your lordship!"

No comments:

Post a Comment