Civil War Transcendence, part 359

 

I went back in our hotel room and closed the door.  I stood facing the door for a few seconds and listened to make sure the troopers began the disposal of the bodies from the hallway. When I was assured they had begun the process, I turned to see Daphne observing me from across the room. She had donned the everyday garb that she normally wore.

I said, “Are ya alright?”

She nodded and then began to cry.  I opened my arms and she ran into my embrace. “It’s alright, Darling. It’s alright,” I cooed.

“I was so fearful for yar life, Jim. I couldn’t bear to lose ya. I love ya so much, “she sobbed.

“I know, Liebchen. I promise to be as careful as I can be, but these times call for drastic measures,” I explained.

“Oh, Jim,” she wailed.

Taking her by the shoulders and gently moving her out of my embrace so I could see her face, I promised, “We are about at tha end of tha tunnel in dealing with tha secret forces that have been opposing us. It shouldn’t be much longer and we’ll be rid of ‘em.”

“Oh, Jim, I hope so. I’m so scared,” she confessed.

Fixing her with a loving gaze, I said, “Liebchen, I’m gonna ask a big favor of ya.

I need ya to be my rock because I’m scared, too. So, if ya will summon that will of iron that I’ve seen ya exhibit and exhort me to vanquish our foes, I can accomplish my mission that much faster.”

Daphne looked at me for a long moment. I guess that I must have shocked her with my admission of fear. Gradually, she stopped crying, and I saw her transform before my eyes from a sobbing young wife in fear for her life to a strong-willed women bent on eradicating the evil threating the future of her family.  Slowly she reached up and took my hands from her shoulders and grasped my hands in hers.

With a determined glare, she ordered me like the Spartan wives of old, “Crush our enemies, Jim.”

I smiled and said, “Gladly.”

I put on my coat with a grimace, donned my hat, and walked to the door. Before I opened it, I turned to look her and commanded, “Don’t go out until I return. Lock the door and don’t open it to anyone. If anyone tries to enter, shoot ‘em.”

She nodded.

I turned back to the door and opened it. Looking down the hall, I saw that the bodies were gone.  I closed the door and proceeded down to the front desk. I informed the clerk that the bodies had been disposed of and that he could get the hallway cleaned up.

He nodded fearfully and asked, “Will y’all be departing anytime soon?”

I smiled grimly and said, “Not hardly.”   I left as he gave me a despondent look.

I left the hotel by the back door, and keeping a sharp lookout for any lurking men, who might be taking an excessive interest in me, I quickly strode to the livery stable.

On entering the front entrance, I yelled, “John Lee, are ya in here?”

I heard an answering shout, “Yeah.”

John Lee appeared from one of the stalls down toward the end of the building. About the same time, I heard a loud whinny from another stall across from where John Lee appeared. Then the unmistakable head of Stonewall appeared as he looked at me from the open top door of his stall.

I hurried toward them. I shook John Lee’s hand and asked, “Did ya have any problems during tha night?”

He shook his head and said, “Nary a one.”

“Good,” I replied. “Could I ask another favor?” I begged.

“Course,” he answered.

“Could ya go to tha hotel and sit outside Daphne’s room til I get back?” I pleaded.

“Sho ‘nuff,” he said and began to trot toward the hotel.

“Don’t let ‘em give ya any trouble ‘bout acting as a sentry for Daphne. Get a chair and sit outside tha room. Tell ‘em Captain Hager commanded ya to do it,” I yelled.

He waved his hand that he understood as he left the livery and headed toward the hotel.

359 horse

I turned toward Stonewall and walked over to his stall. He lowered his head and I began our ritual of gently rubbing his jaws, while he rested his head against my chest. After a few minutes, I said, “We’ve got to get to the cavalry camp.”

Stonewall gave a disgusted snorted and added a whinny to make it known that he didn’t like the fast paced life we were living.  I quickly saddled him, got aboard his strong back, and rode out of the livery like the wind.

We made it to the cavalry camp without mishap. At the entrance to the fortified area, I was waved through toward the Colonel’s tent.

Once I galloped to the Colonel’s headquarters, I jumped down from Stonewall and advanced on the guard, who quickly ushered me into the presence of the Colonel.

My abrupt entrance to the Colonel’s tent caused him to exclaim, “What tha?”

I promptly saluted, which brought the Colonel back to his senses. Once he returned my salute, I stated, “Colonel, I know who’s probably tha head of tha spy ring that’s been operating in our region.”

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Civil War Transcendence, part 358

She was pointing at my left arm. I could see that blood had stained the night shirt sleeve from the middle of my upper left arm to the elbow.  I guess she had grabbed my wounded appendage when she flew into my arms out in the hall.

I didn’t feel any pain yet, probably because the shock to my body hadn’t worn off. After all the wounds that I had endured in the last few months, I could tell it wasn’t anything serious. However, in this day and time, any wound could get out of control.

To prevent a possible infection, I asked, “Liebchen, could ya get me some alcohol?”

This stopped her dead in her tracks.  “What does that mean?” she asked.

I looked at her and said, “What?”

She looked at me sternly and demanded, “Ya called me some name. What does it mean?”

“Oh, I guess that just slipped out,” I confessed with a grin.

“Jim Hager, what does it mean?” she insisted.

I chuckled, blushed, and looking awkwardly at the floor, explained, “It means sweetheart.”

She looked at me for a few seconds and then, in a low voice, asked, “In what language?”

“German,” I answered.

She looked at me in awe for a few more seconds and then admitted, “No one has ever called me by a loving name in another language.”

“I meant it as my pet name for ya and only ya. I hope ya don’t mind. Like I said, it just jumped out of my mouth, when I thought of ya,” I professed.

“I think it is a most beautiful gift, Jim,” she asserted, while we both looked into each other’s eyes with love and adoration.

358 apothecary

Suddenly, Daphne jerked back to the present and said, “I need to get you some alcohol for the wound,” she chimed.

“Just give the desk clerk some money and tell him to send Doc Morton a message to deliver some alcohol in a bottle to our room,” I advised.

She nodded, and putting on a very long robe, went to the second floor landing. She called down to the desk clerk, and when he appeared, she threw him a silver coin and made her request. He hurried off like a jack rabbit to do her bidding.

Once Daphne was in the room, I removed my night shirt and donned some underwear and my trousers. She cleaned the wound with water and a clean hand towel. The wound was not deep. It was merely a graze. However, we waited for the desk clerk to appear with the alcohol so we could disinfect the injury.

It didn’t take long before we heard a knock at the door, and the desk clerk handed over the alcohol bottle. Then he sheepishly asked, “Sir, when may the bodies be moved from the hall? It’s causing the hotel patrons some grief.”

I’ll have ‘em removed when my cavalry squad gets here,” I promised.

He nodded and went downstairs.

Daphne applied an abundance of alcohol to my arm. After the third application, I was used to the pain and quit grimacing.

Finally, I said, “I think that will do it. I need to get dressed before the squad of cavalry arrives.”

She acquiesced to my request, but not before she had wrapped the wound with some cotton material she produced from one of her boxes.

I gingerly put on a shirt and tucked it into my trousers. Then, I donned a vest that covered my bracers (suspenders). Just seconds later, we heard the sound of multiple boots coming down the hall.

I immediately opened the door and entered the hall.

There were about 10 troopers being led by a sergeant, who happened to be the sergeant that was on duty when I reported to the cavalry camp the day before.

He was a crusty old soldier. He didn’t salute when he stopped in front of me, but looking around me at the bodies down the hall, retorted with a smirk, “Well, Lieutenant, I see you have been busy.”

“Captain,” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m a captain,” I corrected.

“Oh,” he murmured. Then he thought better of his salty disposition, and coming to attention, saluted.

I returned the salute and said, “Take the bodies to the mortician, and have one of the men to relay to the Colonel that I will be coming to camp in just a few minutes.”

He replied, “Aah, yes sir.” Then he hesitantly asked, “Sir, what happened?”

Pointing at the dead men, I recounted, “During the early hours of the morning, those men gathered in front of a room down the hall and were prepared to kill my wife and me.  Fortunately for us, they went to the wrong door. They yelled for me to come out, but we were located in this room.” I pointed to the door of our present room.

I continued, “I was armed when I came out of this room and accosted them. They turned to fire, but I got two of them before they could get a shot off. One man shot and grazed my left arm, but I dispatched him.”

The sergeant and the men stood in shocked silence, looking back and forth between the dead men and me.

Finally, I directed, “So get the bodies to the funeral home, and I will go brief Colonel Daniels.”

The sergeant looked at me as if I had grown a second head. Then he snapped to attention, and turning to the troopers, barked, “Ya heard the captain! Get the bodies to the mortician!”

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Civil War Transcendence, part 357

 

I had started up the stairs in front of Daphne, but looked back at her and extended my had as we climbed toward our room. She smiled demurely and put her hand in mine. I gently pulled her upward as we progressed to the second-floor landing.

Once on the landing, I slowly turned her toward me and pulled her into my arms. She put her arms around my neck and pulled me down so that our lips touched ever so lightly. As my arms entwined her body, our kiss became more urgent.

After a frenzied few seconds I abruptly broke from the kiss, reached down and picked her up into my arms. Swiftly, I ran down the hall to my room, kicked open the door and carried her across the threshold.

357 door knock

Late in the night, I awoke to someone banging on the door down the hall that had been occupied by Daphne during the day as her preparation room for our wedding. Later, I discovered it was the room listed under her name on the hotel register downstairs.

I slipped out of bed and retrieved my two Colts. Daphne stirred and began to say something, but I gave her a shhh sound. In the moonlight that broke through the sheer window curtains, I could see her sitting up in bed. I whispered, “Get on tha floor.”

Thank heavens she didn’t argue but agilely glided out of bed and laid flat on the floor.  I nodded, put my Colts on the small wash table beside the door jamb, and gently removed the chair that I had wedged under the door knob. I set it aside, picked up one of my Colts with my right hand, and ever so deftly, turned the door knob with my left. Unfortunately, the door knob squeaked, but the noise was drowned by the furious bellow that erupted down the hall.

“We know yar in thar, Hager. Come out with your hands up or we’ll come in and get ya.”

I pulled open the door a few inches and saw three men with pistols drawn facing the door to Daphne’s room, which was the opposite side of the hall and about the third door down. I reached and filled my hand with the other Colt.  Using the barrel of the Colt in my left hand, I swung the door open, and cocking both Colts simultaneously, I aim them at the trio. Then I said in a bemused voice, “Y’all looking for me?”

I know that my appearance had two results. First, the men were taken by surprise by me being behind them, and two, I must have looked a sight in a long white night shirt. In their minds, it must have been both disconcerting and amusing. However, it caused them to be just a little too slow as they turned to point their pistols in my direction. Once the abductors began to move, I pulled the triggers on both Colts. I continued to cock the hammers and pull the triggers in a volley type fire until the hammers hit on empty cylinders.  The hallway was filled with smoke and it was impossible to see the intruders.

I slipped back into the room and went for my bag which was packed with loaded cylinders. Implementing a fast reload, I turned to go back to the door when I heard a moan from the hallway.

A hesitant voice from the floor asked, “Jim, are ya alright?”

“Yes’m,” I answered and then added, “Do ya have a weapon?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Then get it, and if’n it ain’t me that comes back through tha door, blow their head off!” I commanded.

I heard shuffling as Daphne hurried to obey my order.

I gave a furtive glance into the hallway. The smoke had thankfully risen to the top of the ceiling, allowing a clear view of the hallway. In front of the door to Daphne’s room lay a jumble of bodies. Two were perfectly still. One was moaning and flapping his arm back and forth in the thralls of pain and despair.

I cocked both Colts, and holding them at the ready, I advanced on the gaggle of bodies. I almost gasped at the first corpse I approached. It was Marshal Gill.

Apparently, he had stood behind his two henchmen and had his back to me. He was the first to go down. He was lying on his right side with rivulets of blood flowing from two holes in his chest. His lifeless bulging eyes displayed the surprise he had experienced in his last moments.

Another body was directly behind the marshal’s body. He was lying flat on his back with his arms flayed over his head. His neck and head were perforated with hideous wounds. His arms still held both pistols in a death grip.

The last member of the ambuscade had ceased moaning. He was bleeding from two wounds in his abdomen. He knew he was dying because a gut shot wound in the 19th century always meant death.

I squatted down on my haunches to look clearly into his face, but I didn’t recognize him. He grasped my arm, which made me wince, and sputtered, “Tell my woman I went out like a man.”

I retorted, “Who sent ya?”

The man moaned loudly as his body was wracked with a surge of pain. “Ba, Ban, Bank,” he gasped as his soul slowly left his body.

People were starting to congregate on the second floor landing and looking down the hallway at the bloody spectacle. They began pointing at the bodies. Suddenly, one man yelled, “Go get the marshal.”

I commanded, “No need. He is one of tha dead men. Go to tha cavalry camp and have a squad dispatched to report to me in my room. Y’all let tha dead men lay where they fell.”

One of the men rapidly went down the stairs, hopefully in answer to my directive.

I know that I looked very silly in my night shirt with my bare legs and bare feet showing below the knees. I made a hasty retreat to my room, but before entering I yelled, “Daphne, it’s me. Don’t shoot.”

She literally ran out of the room and flew into my arms, which cause me to yelp.

I remarked, “We’re causing a spectacle out here,” and quickly directed her back into the room.

Once in the room, Daphne looked at me in horror and gasped, “Jim, yar shot.”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 356

As we rode around the block to the hotel, I leaned close to Daphne’s ear and whispered, “That money that ya have in tha trust is yars.  Just because we got married doesn’t entitle me to it, no matter what tha Virginia dowry laws say.”

She looked up at me and said, “If ya say so.”  Then she kissed me full on the lips and didn’t care what the passing populace of Harpers Ferry thought about it.

After we unclenched, she nestled in my arms, but it didn’t last long before we were in front of the hotel and had to vacate the carriage. I waved at John Lee as Daphne and I bounded up the stairs to the hotel front porch and entered the lobby.

As she headed up the stairs, she notified me, “I have to change into my dress for tha gathering in tha hotel dining room. Could ya see if tha musicians have arrived, and if so, get ‘em to start playing?”

That we were having musicians at this get together was another jolt to my nervous system. I nodded like the village idiot as she hurried up the stairs and thought, “When did she have time to do all this elaborate planning? I know she already had a lot of tha wedding paraphernalia, but still this took a lot of work.”

It was made clearer when I entered the hotel dining room and found Daphne’s aunt, Mrs. Douglas and my rescuer, Hattie Gray busily distributing food to the tables that lined the dining room walls.  Apparently, Mrs. Douglas had already taken charge of the celebration, because the musicians had already begun to play. I took a moment to observe the instrumentalists. There were a banjo player, a guitar picker, a fiddler and a pianist. Where the ladies had procured the piano was a mystery to me, because it had never graced any of the rooms of this hotel.

I yelled, “Ladies!”

My outburst startled both women, but once they turned to see who had been so boisterous, they broke out in big grins.  Hattie quickly placed a plate of cookies on a table and rushed to greet me. We hugged and I asked, “When did y’all get here?”

Mrs. Douglas also approached me, but she just presented her hand, and we followed the social etiquette of the day by formally shaking hands. Hattie blushed and extricated herself from the hug and backed up to put a space between us.

“We just got here ‘bout half an hour ago. We’s too late for tha wedding, but thought we would help out at tha celebration,” Hattie explained.

Looking around the hotel dining room, I remarked, “Looks like y’all are doing an excellent job.” Then I probed, “How’d y’all get here?”

“Mr. Throckmorton gave us tha use of his carriage,” Hattie answered.

“Really?” I answered.

Just then a gaggle of guests began to arrive, and I was thrust to the entrance of the dining room to shake hands and receive laudatory expressions for marrying the most beautiful woman in the region. I was blushing from ear to ear and trying to give evasive answers to the numerous questions about the abruptness of the wedding and where Mr. and Mrs. Newcomer were.

Finally, I heard applause from the lobby and deduced that Daphne had come down the stairs in her celebration dress. I had been awed by the beauty of her white wedding gown at the church, but when she entered the dining room to take her place beside me, I was struck dumb.

She had parted her hair at the crown of her head and combed it so that it fell straight down to the top of her shoulders, emphasizing her perfect face.  Since she was never one for excess makeup, she had deftly applied a very light blush to her cheeks and had slightly reddened her lips.  Her bare neck was adorned with a necklace of emeralds that highlighted her deep green silk dress. The top of the dress covered her shoulders and continued downward into full length sleeves. However, from the insides of the sleeves the dress plunged downward and then straight across a top of her chest revealing a hint of cleavage.

She saw the effect she had on me and smiled coyly at my imbecilic gaze. To keep the crowd moving, which had stopped to gaze at her, and to bring me back to a coherency, she took her place next to me and extended her hand to a person in line.

“Thank you so much for coming. Jim and I really appreciate it,” she gushed.

The crowd kept coming in the door for what seemed like an hour, and I swear that a few men went through the line more than once just to view her somewhat revealing dress.  However, she paid then no attention. Periodically, she would glance slyly at me and smile.  More than once I had to take a few deep breaths to keep control.

356 virginia reel

Finally, everyone had been greeted, food had been consumed, and drink had been distributed.  The musicians suddenly stopped and made the announcement to grab a partner. Everyone rushed to take Daphne’s hand, but I said, “She’s my partner for dancing tonight boys.”  As the honored couple, we took the floor, and remembering the 19th century dances from my reenacting days, we began the celebration with a Virginia Reel.

The night’s celebration continued with dancing, a toast by Tom Newcomer, who gave his regrets that his parents couldn’t attend due to a family emergency, and the continued flow of town folk expressing wishes for our happiness.

Toward the end of the evening, we were awarded with the appearance of Caleb and Joshua Throckmorton, along with their mother, the sister-in-law of Mr. Throckmorton, who was the banker in Shepherdstown, Virginia.  We had a great reunion with a lot of wild and exaggerated stories being told of our confrontations with the Gill gang. All the hyped tales got me to thinking about the highwayman that I had asked Colonel Daniels to recover from the Newcomer barn.

When the crowd began to thin down, I pulled Caleb aside and asked, “How did ya know about tha wedding? We only planned it this morning.”

“Uncle Elias Throckmorton sent a rider to tell us about it and said we needed to attend. The rider told me to tell ya that Uncle Elias apologized for now being here, but to give ya his congratulations,” Caleb commented.

I smiled, nodded my approval and remarked, “That was very nice of him. Daphne and I really appreciate it.”

Finally, we informed what was left of the celebratory gathering that we were retiring for the night, and after more handshakes and well wishes, we climbed the stairs to our rooms.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 355

 

355 carriage

We climbed into the carriage and entwined arms as the first wedding attendees began pelting us with rice. John Lee flicked the horses’ reins and we were off to the hotel reception.

On the way I looked at Daphne very seriously and said, “I don’t have a farthing with which to pay for any of this. Do ya think tha merchants will allow me to pay it back on a monthly basis?”

Daphne looked at me in shock, which was an unusual emotion for her.

All I could say was, “What?”

For what seemed like twenty minutes, but was probably only twenty seconds, she stared deeply at me. It seemed as if she were recording every movement of my eyes, the rate of my breathing, every twitch of my facial muscles and the pigment of my face.  Then in almost disbelief she uttered, “Ya don’t know, do ya?”

“Know what?” I asked in bafflement.

“I have a large trust fund that was bestowed on me when I reached eighteen. It was really given as a dowry of sorts to lure that Charles Town banker, who father and mother liked, to be a suitor. They made tha mistake of legally giving it to me without any limiting provisions. Once I had received it and read tha trust agreement, I summarily withdrew tha sum from tha bank that originally had it and deposited it in another bank of my own choosing. Father has tried to wrestle it back, but to no avail. That has been a bone of contention in our family ever since,” she confessed.

I just stared back at her in astonishment.

She slowly smiled and acknowledged, as if to herself, “And ya never even knew about it, did ya?”

Her eyes filled with tears that spilled down her cheeks. Then out of nowhere the phantom handkerchief appeared to dab at the tiny rivulets.  Suddenly, she threw caution to the wind and lunged at me. She wrapped her arms around my neck and hugged me fiercely. She cried, “Ya do love me. Ya do love me and not for just my dowry.”

Her abrupt pounce catapulted me back into the seat and crushed the breath from me. I was forced to grab her by the shoulders and gently push her away a few inches so that I could breathe.  Once oxygen was again allowed to enter my lungs, I stammered, “Of course, I love ya.”

Then in a more petulant tone, I uttered, “And, no, I didn’t know of any trust fund, dowry or whatever ya call it.”

“Oh Jim, I’m so glad,” she sobbed with her head buried in my chest.

It took a moment for her revelation to sink in. Her account of the trust fund and her action in taking possession of its capital explained a lot of the dissident undercurrent that I sensed in the Newcomer household. It also explained the defiant confrontation between Daphne and her father that spawned her excommunication.

I clutched her close to me and said, “Ya poor darling. I felt there was a deep fissure in your family, but I never realized how deep it was until now.”

I unclasped her arms from around my neck, and taking hold of her shoulders, I gently moved her back from me so I could look into her eyes.

She tried to avert her face and said, “Don’t look at me Jim. I must look a sight.”

“You look beautiful and I want you to look at me,” I pleaded.

Once Daphne had turned to face me, I said, “I really didn’t know that ya held any reservations about my love for ya. I never knew about any wealth that ya had or might have had.  I just wanted ya.”

Thank goodness she was “cried out”, as we say down South. She brought the spectral handkerchief to her eyes once more, but she didn’t cry. Then she whispered, “I know that now. I know that ya love me and only me.”

I took her in my arms again and declared, “This wedding was truly a joining of us into a family, but it has also been a deepening of tha love we share.”

Daphne added, “Amen.”

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 354

 

I have to admit, I don’t remember too much of the service. I was in a daze and thought I must be hallucinating due to all the wonderful things that had happened in the last twenty-four hours and were also happening right now.  I was definitely on cloud nine.

I do remember that when it came time for the placement of the ring, I was very embarrassed, because I didn’t have a ring for Daphne. I was about to tell the preacher to skip that portion of the service when Tom touched my shoulder and handed me a simple gold band for the ring finger on Daphne’s hand.  I let out a sigh of relief and gave him a smile while mouthing the words, “Thank ya.”

Daphne smiled and gave me her hand for the formal sacrament of commitment. I momentarily was confused because I remembered she had carried a bouquet when she came down the aisle, but it had disappeared. I quickly looked at the bridesmaid and saw that she held both hers and Daphne’s bouquets. I shook my head and thought, “When did that exchange happen?”

bouquet

Disregarding this trivial matter, I slipped the ring on Daphne’s petite finger and marveled at her delicate and lovely appendage. Then I looked into her eyes and repeated the pledge of my love, following the preacher’s prompting of the formal declaration.

However, I added a vow at the end of the regular pronouncement, “I shall love ya for ever and ever.”

She had tears in her eyes when she nodded, smiled at me and said, “And I ya.”

I think that Daphne had to repeat some vows that the preacher repeated for her to utter, but they were pronounced quickly.

Lastly, the preacher asked us to kneel. I and Daphne’s bridesmaid helped get her dress situated so she could join me as we knelt in front of the pastor. Placing his right hand on Daphne’s head and his left on mine, he bestowed his blessing on us, gave thanks to God, and led us and the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer.

Once he had finished, he told us to rise. Getting Daphne to her feet wasn’t easy due to the vastness of her dress and petticoats.  However, the task was accomplished with the minimum of effort.

When we were once again facing the minister, he smiled and said those words I had been waiting for, “I now pronounce ya man and wife. Ya may kiss tha bride.”

I believe that Daphne and I had really been waiting for this moment, because we grabbed each other furiously and kissed so passionately that the congregation cheered. Our kiss lingered to the point that the preacher uttered a brief, “Ahem.”

We finally parted and laughed to the chagrin of the pastor and the delight of the audience.  Turning back toward the auditorium, we interlocked arms and strode down the aisle to the back of the church.

For some reason, I felt a dark presence when we entered the small foyer at the entrance to the sanctuary. Quickly positioning Daphne behind me, I retrieved a Colt from my belt as my gaze swept the small room, but to no avail. Then suddenly, I had a brief glimpse of a green and turquoise spot no bigger than a hand in front of the right entrance door. Abruptly, the door swung open of its own accord and the ethereal illumination disappeared.  San Cirr Ray had made her presence known and had reminded me of my vow to do the aliens’ bidding, whatever that was going to be.

Daphne grabbed my arm and urgently whispered, “What’s wrong, Jim?”

I reinserted my Colt in my belt, and taking her hand in mine while looking in that angelic face, I assured her, “Nothing Darling. I just had a feeling that something just wasn’t quite right in here, but I must have been mistaken.”

I guided her back to my side and asked, “Where do we go from here?”

She smiled broadly and announced, “We’re going to tha hotel for a reception.”

In a disheartened voice I asked, “Right now?”

That made her laugh, and nodding, she added, “Yep, right now!”

“How long will that last?” I asked gloomily.

“Oh, a couple of hours, I guess,” she answered while trying to keep a straight face.

“Ya know that ya’re torturing me,” I declared.

That brought a hearty laugh and she asserted, “Well, traditions must be upheld.”

“Traditions be da…!”

That was all I got out of my mouth before she put her index finger over my lips and said in a sultry voice, “Don’t rush it, my Darling. Tha wait will be worth it.”

All I could do was take a big gulp of air and marvel at the suggestive smile that had suddenly transformed this prim and proper 19th century bride into the promise of a passionate lover.

All I could do was nod my head, which felt like it had been hit with a sledge hammer, and stammer, “O, O, okay.”

Whereupon she took me by the arm and directed me out the front doors of the church to her waiting carriage, which had John Lee ensconced at the driver’s station.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 353

 

A groom always looks at the altar to see if the bride is located there. Of course, I did, and sure enough, she wasn’t.

Brides deserve the chance of making a grand entrance, and Daphne was not to be denied that privilege.

I removed my hat, and as I began to walk down the aisle to my position next to a person in robes, who I deduced was the preacher, John Lee turned to go elsewhere.

Church

I stopped and asked, “Where ya going?”

“Up to the loft,” he said with a ‘ya should know that’ look.

I realized that the church was segregated. I had read history books that this was the case in most areas in the South.  I just nodded my head in realization.

He trooped to the stairway leading to the loft and disappeared.

Without any supporting males in my corner, I let out a sigh and began walking to the front of the church.  I felt self-conscious, because suddenly I comprehended that the church was already half-full, and people were filing in behind me to find seats for the ceremony.  I was red as a beet by the time I had walked to the front of the church.

The preacher smiled at my discomposure and motioned me to his left. I nodded, laid my hat on the front row pew, and followed his orders. Understanding suddenly hit me like a sledgehammer. I had no ring and no best man. I panicked.  I was about to turn to the preacher and explain my deficiencies, when out of the side door at the front of the church, walked Tom Newcomer.

I gasped, not only because he was attending the wedding, but because he was wearing a private’s Confederate cavalry uniform.

He walked over to me and held out his hand. In a daze, I took it and looked at him like an addled fool. He smiled and said, “I hope ya don’t have a problem with me being yar best man.”

Gathering my wits about me and then clutching his hand in earnest, I said, “Not in the least. Thank you for coming.”

He smiled and I returned it with pure bonhomie. We released our hands, and he took up his position to my left. I looked him up and down and marveled at how much he had matured in the short time since we had met.  I was about to ask him how he got permission to join up when a small choir of four women and two men walked out of the same door that had emitted Tom and took up the front row of pews on the opposite side of the auditorium that faced the audience.

I was so mesmerized by all the unexpected events that I hadn’t noticed that the congregation had constantly been increasing, and that there had been a lot of hubbub from the assembly. However, once the choir had taken their position, the crowd quieted and the choir began to quietly sing, a cappella, “Abide with Me.“

I was flabbergasted. I had sung this hymn numerous times while attending church services in my universe. However, I didn’t know that it had been published so far back in time that it was sung in 1862.  The choir’s harmony was amazing. I recognized two altos, two sopranos and two bass voices.  Their blend of parts would make the angels smile.  I was caught up in their enchantment, and for the first time, relaxed and enjoyed the festivities.

I actually closed my eyes for a second in rapt attention to the heavenly voices. When I opened them, a woman was half way down the aisle.  She was carrying a small bouquet of red roses and wearing a full length gown of what appeared to be white satin. My jaw dropped at the extravagance of her gown.  Serenaded by the choir, the woman, who I didn’t recognize, took her place to the right of the preacher and turned to look up the aisle toward the back of the church.

Suddenly, the choir ceased their divine singing and an organ boomed out the beginning strands of “The Wedding March.”

I jumped a little due to the eruption of the famed refrain. Quickly, I searched for the location of the organ, and looking up into the loft, I spied a man seated at the instrument while a young boy was pumping a handle that provided the energy to the massive pipes located directly behind the organ.

Immediately, the congregation came to their feet and looked at the center aisle toward the back of the church.  My position was such that I couldn’t see if anyone had entered the aisle, but momentarily Daphne came into view as she walked toward the church altar. I literally had chills run up and down my spine.  She was a vision of loveliness. Her long ebony locks hung in curls highlighting a perfect oval face. Her lips were red and her cheeks were lightly rouged. She gave me a demure smile that promised love and passion from the depth of her soul.  I had to fight back tears. I was still astounded that this wonderful and beautiful young woman loved such an undeserving person as me.

I came out of my trance to actually focus on her wardrobe. Her head was festooned with a crown of red roses entwined with white daisies. Her neck was bare except for a pearl necklace.  The top part of her gown featured a décolleté design. It began at the top of her shoulders and plunged to a point that was not revealing or indelicate.  The waistline was snug against her body with the lower part of the gown flaring into a bell shape produced by many layers of petticoats. The gown material was white satin, which I estimated was very rare for this part of Virginia during 1862.  In her left hand, she carried a bouquet of what appeared to be white gardenias.

But the crowning achievement was the person escorting her down the aisle. It was none other than Major John Singleton Mosby.  You could tell that he was still recovering from his wound because of his slow progress, but he had a huge smile of pride on his face. Once a majority of the congregation saw that he was the person to present the bride, they began to clap and cheer.  The response from the crowd made him and Daphne began to laugh in what appeared to be sheer delight.

Tom and I joined in the clapping. I have to say that I have never been so moved in my life. I finally had to do some cheering to keep from crying. The fact that I was about to be wed to the most beautiful woman in the world, plus having a hero of the Confederacy and my own personal hero come from his recovery bed to give her in matrimony, was mind-boggling.

When the pair reached the front of the church, the crowd quieted and the preacher issued those initial words of the ceremony, “Who gives this woman in holy matrimony?”

Major Mosby uttered loudly, “I do.”

Before he handed Daphne to me, I gratefully shook his hand, and observing how tired he was, I helped him to the front row pew. He smiled at me in appreciation.

I turned to Daphne. She looked at me with a look of love and respect that melted my heart.  I smiled from ear to ear, and it took all my self-restraint to keep from taking her in my arms at that point in the service. She must have read my mind because she chuckled, and to prevent any passionate move on my part, entwined her arm in mine.  Then she pulled me around so we faced the preacher.

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Coming Soon! Assassins of History

Coming Soon in Paperback and Kindle

Assassins of History: Transference

A mysterious time machine takes Sheldon Owen Woods on a sinister ride from the 21st century back to the Civil War, where something is enormously wrong.

Everything is out of kilter. People who are supposed to be dead are alive. Armies that are supposed to be fighting don’t exist. Relatives who shouldn’t be in this part of the county are living here.

Sheldon adopts the alias of Jim Hager, until he can figure out how to get home without creating a time travel paradox.

Swept up in the historic events of the American Civil War in western Maryland, Jim Hager combines his modern martial arts training with 19th century marksmanship to stay alive. On top of the battlefield dangers, the menacing power that sent him on this unexplainable journey is stalking him and now wants him dead.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 352

 

We arrived at the cavalry camp in no time. The sergeant I had talked to before was still on duty, and he ushered me in without preamble as I rode up to the guard post. I went immediately to Colonel Daniels’ tent and dismounted.  His guard said that the Colonel had gone to the mess tent for his noon meal.

I got directions from the guard, and getting back on Stonewall, I rode fifty yards to the 19th century version of a mess hall.

Sure enough, the Colonel was eating at the officer’s table with some of his staff. I got his attention. He excused himself and came outside the tent to talk with me. I quickly apologized and told him I had failed to inform him that we had brought back the body of one of the assassins. It was at the Newcomer barn to the southwest of Harpers Ferry. When I told him the identity of the culprit, his face flushed a bright red color.

“May I asked the Colonel to recover the body from the Newcomer’s and let me know tomorrow when you will be confronting Marshal Gill about his deputy’s attempted assassination? I would like to be in the contingent that accosts him,” I requested.

The Colonel’s continence turned very grim, and then he displayed a very foreboding smile. “I will be glad to have you in attendance. I will send for you tomorrow when we have the body ready for viewing by Marshal Gill,” he informed me.

“Will the Colonel will allow me a suggestion?” I asked.

The Colonel gave a curt nod.

“Based on all the people that have been uncovered in the probable spy ring and those that we still need to uncover, it might be that only your most faithful officers and men should be utilized for the recovery of the deputy’s body,” I suggested.

The Colonel looked at me with an exasperated expression for a moment and then bowed his head in contemplation for another moment. Raising his head to look at me sternly, he stated, “Unfortunately, I believe you are correct in your assumption of the information getting out and alerting Marshal Gill. I wish you had told me of the evidence of the deputy’s body earlier. I could have already dispatched a unit to retrieve it.”

I blushed from head to toe at my indigence. All I could say was, “I am definitely at fault, Sir.”

The Colonel continued his stern gaze and added, “Don’t let it happen again.”

I returned, “Yes, sir.”

“Ya are dismissed, Lieutenant,” and then he added with a small smile, “Wait, I guess I better amend that to Captain.”

I saluted and said, “Yes, sir.”

I about-faced, mounted Stonewall and left the camp as fast as I could.  Once on the road to Harpers Ferry, I breathed a sigh of relief and thought, “Now I can concentrate on our wedding.”

Once back at the hotel, I dismounted Stonewall and walked him to the back of the hotel where John Lee was still trying to get all of Daphne’s things transferred to her room. I tied Stonewall’s reins to a wheel of the carriage, waved at John Lee, who returned my gesture, and went to my room.

I undressed and found some old trousers and a shirt to wear. Taking my black suit and boots to the front desk, I deposited them with the clerk for brushing and polishing, in regard to the boots.

Going back upstairs, I lay down for a short nap. However, I was roused from a deep sleep by a banging on my door. I quickly picked up a Colt and unlocked the door. A maid stood in the hallway with my suit and boots. I thanked her and took my apparel from her. I slipped her a dollar for her trouble. She thanked me profusely and hurried downstairs. I hung my suit on a wall peg and got back in the bed.

 

About an hour later, I was awakened from an even deeper sleep by someone knocking at the door. Coming suddenly out of a self-induced coma, I sprang from the bed with a Colt aimed at the door expecting it to be battered down any minute. Once I realized there was no eminent danger, I calmed down, unlocked the door and opened it.

Peeking outside, I viewed John Lee with his hat in his hand and a big smile on his face. “I’s been sent to bring ya to tha Presbyterian Church for yar wedding.”

I grinned from ear to ear and said, “I’ll be down in just a second,” and closed the door. It didn’t take me long to dress in my black apparel.

Once downstairs, John Lee motioned me out the back door. Not uttering a word, we walked solemnly down the alley to a side street and then up to the Presbyterian Church. As I mounted the stairs to the church’s front porch, my stomach was in my throat. I was in a daze. I stopped in front of the double-door entrance way and took a deep breathe. I pulled one of the doors open, while John Lee opened the other one. Then we entered the place of worship.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 351

 

The Colonel stopped dead in his tracks as I rapidly walked to the guard post.

“Good luck,” he said. And then as an afterthought he chimed, “And congratulations!”

“Thank ya, sir,” I replied with a wave.

When I got to the guard post, Stonewall had found a tree under which to reside and munch on the grass that surrounded the base.  He jerked his head up from his snack when he sensed me approaching.

One of the guards ventured, “Lieutenant, ya sure do have yar horse trained.”

I replied affably, “Sarge, he ain’t trained. We just understand each other.”

The sergeant had a puzzled look on his face as I swung into the saddle.  I just smiled and said, “Take care. Oh, yes. By the way, where is Major Mosby?”

The sergeant returned, “He’s at home being tended to by his wife and the camp doctor. I understand he’s curing right well.”

I nodded and asked, “Where’s his home?”

“It’s a small house on tha north edge of town just a few streets down from Bolivar Heights,” he offered.

“Thanks, Sarge,” I returned and directed Stonewall toward the hotel on Shenandoah Street in Harpers Ferry.

I knew that Daphne was probably in a tizzy trying to get everything just right for the wedding and our honeymoon night.  We ambled along at an easy pace and reached the hotel entrance in no time.  I dismounted, and pulling Stonewall toward me, I rested his head against my chest. He went into a trance almost immediately.

I rubbed his jaws and said, “We are gonna have another member to our family and I want ya to protect her tha same as ya do me.”

He snorted, which I took as an acceptance of my request.  I continued to massage his head for a moment or two more. Then I said, “I’ll be back in a minute. I wanna get someone to take ya to tha livery for tonight.”

Stonewall didn’t reply, but just stayed in his trance.

I mounted the stairs to the hotel, and on approaching the registration desk, asked, “I believe that my fiancée registered us for tha night. She’s Daphne Newcomer. Is that correct?”

The clerk immediately became animated, and nodding his head in the affirmative, gushed, “Oh, yes sir. She has two rooms for y’all. Yars is room 202. Hers is room 203. She’s preparing for yar wedding today and has gone to tha Presbyterian Church one block over to make tha necessary arrangements. She also indicated that she’ll have yar suit brushed and ironed as soon as ya can get it back to me. We have a woman that does ironing for our hotel.”

I nodded in agreement and asked, “I take it that my clothes are already in my room?”

The clerk bobbed his head repeatedly to signify his agreement.

I then requested, “Do ya know where Miss Newcomer’s driver is?”

“Yes sir. He is out back and is still taking Miss Newcomer’s things upstairs,” he replied.

I thanked him and went out the back door of the hotel. John Lee was gathering up an armload of Daphne’s boxes to take upstairs. When he saw me, he stopped, put them down, and we shook hands. I hadn’t had a chance to talk with him during the drive to Harpers Ferry, so I ventured, “How come ya were at tha Newcomer’s place this morning? I thought ya would be at Ferry Hill.”

Miss Daphne sent word last night to her cousin that y’all could use some help this morning moving out of tha Newcomer house,” he explained.  Continuing he said, “So Mrs. Douglas asked me to go help. So, I left last night and got to Halltown early this mornin.”

“I really wanna thank ya for coming to our rescue. It seems ya are always getting us out of some bad fix,” I stated.

John Lee just smiled and said, “Tis my pleasure.”

I drew closer to him and asked, “Ya still got the pistol I gave ya?”

He said, “Yes.”

“Well, be on tha lookout for trouble. Major Mosby has been shot from ambush, and we got stopped night before last on tha road while traveling to tha Newcomers by two armed men who had been sent to kill us,” I clarified.  “John Lee, I think therah is a gang of men who are Yankee spies in tha area. Please be on yar guard. If’n ya see anything unusual or out of tha ordinary, let me know.”

His eyes widened and then narrowed. “Ya kin count on me Jim,” he vowed.

“We are gonna be going to Shepherdstown tomorrow morning. Are ya gonna put tha carriage and horses in tha livery for tonight?” I inquired.

“Yes sir,” he answered.

“Would ya be so kind as to take Stonewall with ya and bed him down in tha livery also?” I requested.

‘Yes, I’ll be glad to. Where is he?” he asked.

“He’s at tha front of tha hotel at tha hitching post. By tha way, ya got enough money to pay tha livery?” I queried. “If’n ya don’t, I got some.”

“Miss Daphne gave me nuff to take care of tha horses,” he informed me.

“Where ya gonna stay tonight?” I asked.

“In tha livery,” he answered.

“We can get ya a better place than that,” I asserted.

“No, I needs to be with tha horses. I ‘spect if’n there’s bad men around, tha horses need to be looked after,” he stated.

I nodded in agreement and declared, “I guess ya’re right. But tonight and tomorrow morning I want ya to come to tha hotel for yar meals.”

“I can’t eat at tha hotel. It’s just for white folks,” he gasped.

“Well, ya can eat in tha kitchen and ya are gonna eat tha same food we do. I’ll make sure of that,” I vowed.

Then a thought hit me hard and I uttered, “Oh my Lord.”

John Lee looked at me in astonishment at my outburst. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“I forgot about tha body of tha assassin we left in tha Newcomer barn,” I said.

“I need to go back to tha cavalry camp,” I stated. “I’ll see ya later,” I added and reentered the hotel via the back door.

As I reached the registration desk, I looked at the clerk and declared, “Our servant is gonna eat his meals in ya’ll’s kitchen and I want him to be served tha same food that we are served. You understand?”

The clerk looked at me in astonishment and opened his mouth to speak. I held up my hand in abeyance and queried, “Were ya here tha last time I had a little mishap in yar hotel?”

He touched his forehead and nodded vigorously. Then he affirmed, “Yar servant will be taken care of.”

I nodded and went out the front of the hotel at a trot. Stonewall heard me coming and came awake with a whinny. I declared, “We gotta go back to tha cavalry camp.”

Mounting the faithful cayuse, I directed him back up the road at a gallop.

 

 

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