Once we got back to the schoolhouse, all the folks who hadn’t gone to town to help put out the fires came out to greet us. There were questions all around, and for a few moments, it was pandemonium.
Finally, I yelled in a loud voice, “Friends, listen!”
That got everyone’s attention.
Then I said in a loud voice, “Let’s all go inside and Mr. Mumma, who so graciously drove our wagon, will relate what happened.”
This seemed to satisfy everyone. Everyone went inside and I asked Mr. Mumma to stand in the front of the room and tell what happened. Everyone watched as he went to the front of the room and began his tale.
I slipped to the back of the room where Daphne had positioned herself near the door. Only Peggy Newcomer and Mrs. Douglas saw us as I took Daphne by the arm and we sneaked outside.
We quickly walked around to the side of one of the wagons and into the dark. I suddenly swung Daphne around and into my arms. I crushed her to me and kissed her with a fierceness that I thought might scare her, but she pressed back with the same unrestrained passion. When we broke apart, we both had to take deep breaths because I believe the sheer desire had forced all the oxygen out of our bodies. It took a few seconds to recover. I was wobbly on my feet and had to put my hand on the side of the wagon to keep my balance.
Daphne blushed and, with her head down, said, “I have wanted you to do just that for a fortnight.”
It made me smile from ear to ear.
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, “When y’all rode out of here, I was so scared I would never see you again.”
I said with a confidence that I don’t think I have ever had before, “I am hard to kill.”
“Thank God for that,” she rejoined.
“I guess we better get back inside before they miss us,” I sighed.
“Jim, Peggy Newcomer saw us come out here. There will be all kinds of rumors spread around before the night is through, so don’t get angry.”
“I won’t,” I promised. “There are a lot of questions I need to ask you, and with the raiders in the vicinity, I am going to accompany you, Mrs. Douglas and Willie back home. So I guess we will really have the town talking by tomorrow.”
Daphne just grinned and took my arm as we stole in the back door of the schoolhouse.