The late afternoon sun shone through the windows of the left parlor as I opened the doors to see if the planning cabal was still in session. Needless to say, they were hard at it.
Daphne looked up, smiled at me and blew me a kiss. Then she and Annie went into another round of discussion about the baby clothes and how they needed to be cared for.
Mrs. Douglas began to shuffle through a few piles of infant clothing, which had suddenly appeared since I had last set foot in the parlor earlier this morning. I took a wild guess and deduced that these were Willie Douglas’s old baby clothes that were now ours to use. The colors of the clothes ranged from white to a drab gray. It seemed that hand-me-downs were a customary sacrament in the 19th century, as well as the 20th century, when I was growing up.
I closed the parlor door and went upstairs to our bedroom. I retrieved all my extra loaded cylinders for my Colt pistols and put them in my vest pockets. Taking a deep breath, I looked longingly around at the bedroom that Daphne and I shared for the last few months. It had been heavenly. I was hoping that we would have many more years together.
Walking slowly downstairs, I went to the left parlor and peeked in. The three ladies had their heads together, probably conjuring up a whole passel of things to do at the cottage. I watched them for a few moments and then hissed, “Pssst,” at Daphne.
She looked at me and grinned.
I smiled back and motioned to her to come out in the hall.
Once in the hall, she rushed into my arms and said, “Ya won’t believe all tha wonderful things we’re gonna do to tha cottage.”
I laughed and squeezed her tightly. Then I said, “I can’t wait to see all ya’ve got planned.”
She had me in one of her chest crushing hugs and wouldn’t let go. Then she confessed, “I want ya to know that I’ve never been so happy in all my life as I am right this moment, and it’s all because of ya.”
If it is possible, I believe she gripped me harder. I finally had to plead, “Darlin, yar squeezing me to death. Can ya let go a little?”
She laughed and eased up, which allowed me to actually suck in a breath of fresh air. If I didn’t know any better, I believed Daphne was part boa constrictor.
I reached up and took her by her shoulders. Gently I pushed her back, which caused her to let go of me. I held her at arm’s length and took a few deep breaths.
She chuckled and asked, “What did ya wanna see me about?”
I finally got my lungs operating again and uttered, “Whew.”
Then I lied.
“I got word from Mosby that he needed to see in Harpers Ferry as soon as possible.”
She immediately frowned, crossed her arms and demanded in a rapid staccato beat, “Haven’t ya done enough for tha Cause? Can’t he leave ya alone for a while? I’m ‘bout ready to declare war on the gov’ment if’n he don’t leave us alone.”
I had to smile at her onslaught, which was the wrong thing to do, because she stamped her foot and added, “I mean it Jim.”
I glanced down at the floor, got a hang dog look on my face and acknowledged truthfully, “I hate it just as much as ya do, but I promise to get back as soon as I can.”
She lost some of her bluster, but she still wore a frown and glared at me, which seemed to make her deep brown eyes flare to life.
I added, “Darlin, ya don’t need to get so worked up during this time cause it might hurt little Jamie Lee some way.”
This statement caught Daphne by surprise. She hadn’t thought about our incubating baby, and almost immediately, she let out a sigh and said, “Ya’re right. I have to think about her right now.”
Her whole mien changed as if another entity took control of her senses. She quit frowning and, looking reflectively at me, stated, “Thank ya for getting me to remember my duty to our child.”
It was all I could do to keep from crying. I just nodded and croaked, “I love ya Daphne. Thank ya …”
I couldn’t finish. So I took her in my arms and fought back the tears that wanted to spill down my checks. Somehow I was able to staunch the flow.
Daphne wrapped her arms around me, but didn’t squeeze too hard. She sobbed and declared, “I love ya too Jim. So very much.”
It took a few moments to regain control of my emotions. When I had, I released my hold on her and she released her grip on me. We moved back so we could see each other’s face. She had her phantom handkerchief and was dabbing her eyes.
I pulled her to me and kissed her fiercely. She responded in like manner. It seemed as if each of us poured passion, love and adoration into each other during our prolonged embrace.
We broke from the melding of our spirits and looked at each other in a new light. It seemed as if we were now united on a deeper plane than just the physical plane.
We smiled at each other with a joy that was akin to a kind of mental rapture.
Daphne said, “I’ll be praying for ya.”
I put my left hand on Daphne’s shoulder and my right hand where our baby was located and vowed, “I will complete this mission and get back to my family quickly.”
Turning , I walked toward the mansion’s back door.