We galloped into town at the double quick, as we use to say in Civil War Reenactments, which seemed like a million years ago and literally in a galaxy far, far away.
I halted Stonewall in front of the hotel and jumped down out of the saddle. I saw the backs of a squad of cavalry men just turning the corner, at the far end of the street, opposite to the direction from which I had come. I guessed that Colonel Daniels had already instituted a form of Martial Law until the town could elect another town marshal.
I bounded up the stairs to the second floor and found Daphne with Hattie Gray and Mrs. Douglas, hard at work packing my new bride’s paraphernalia. John Lee stood at one end of the room with a dazed look on his face, but ready to do any manual labor required at a moment’s notice.
Daphne drew her hand across her face and fixed a strand of hair behind her right ear. She was all aglow with the process of packing and she looked adorable. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have crossed the room, pulled into an embrace, and kissed her until she yelled for mercy. However, that was not an available prerogative at the present time.
Daphne saw me, gave me a quick smile and said, “Tha clothes packing is done. We just need to get everything in tha carriage now.”
Not taking anything for granted, I turned to Hattie and Mrs. Douglas and asked, “May we go back to Shepherdstown with ya?”
The two ladies looked at each other, and Mrs. Douglas said, “Of course, John Lee will drive us in my carriage back to Shepherdstown.”
I bowed and said, “We thank ya so much.”
Mrs. Douglas smiled and so did Hattie.
I ventured, “Do ya and Hattie have a room for tha night here in tha hotel?”
“Yes, we are sharing a room on tha third floor,” she informed me.
I nodded and thought, “I betcha that makes for quite a different cohabitation, a blue nose aristocrat and a yeoman farm woman.” I was able not to show any surprise at the amazing information, which led me to mentally pat myself on the back.
“Well, ladies, ya have performed a miracle of rapid packaging, wrapping and boxing,” I uttered in admiration.
Daphne smiled and said, “If it hadn’t been for John Lee, I don’t believe we could have gotten all tha cases and boxes closed.”
I looked at John Lee, who smiled and sort of rolled his eyes. I smiled back and then said, “Well is everyone ready to eat supper?”
The ladies all looked surprised, but finally after they had shared a glance at each other that holds an enormous amount of information that we men will never understand, the consensus was favorable for supper.
It was then that I broached a taboo subject. “I hope y’all don’t mind eating in tha kitchen with Daphne, John Lee and me.”
Mrs. Douglas nearly choked. Hattie looked shunned. Daphne gave me a “I’m gonna shoot you when I get you alone” look. I didn’t even look at John Lee. I knew he was embarrassed, but this was one part of my plan to get him away from Mrs. Douglas and in my employ.
To alleviate the situation, Daphne piped in, “Auntie, tha quarters are cramped, I admit, but we get better service and tha food is hotter.”
Mrs. Douglas sighed and said, “Alright. Let’s get to it. I’m hungry.”
With that last declaration, we all trooped down to the kitchen. The cook looked at our gaggle and just shook her head. We followed her to the employee table, and even though we were cramped, we all fit in around the table. I put John Lee between me and Daphne.
It was an awkward few moments, but momentarily I asked, “Mrs. Douglas, do ya know where Daphne and I could take up residence in Shepherdstown?”
She looked at me with a shocked expression and said, “I thought it was settled. Y’all are gonna stay with me? At least until tha baby comes.”
I nearly fell out of my chair.