Ezra stammered, “Is sumpin’ wrong?”
I didn’t answer immediately, but took another look at the deceased just to make sure. Once I had confirmed my initial identification, covering my gaffe I answered, “Nothing’s wrong. For a minute there, I thought I knew him, but I was mistaken.”
My declaration seemed to allay Ezra’s fear that I had killed a local man.
I asked Ezra to help me load the dead man on my horse. Working together, we draped him over the back of my horse and I held him by his belt as we crested the top of the hill to the Douglas mansion.
As we made the trip I mused about this being the drunk who I had exchanged clothes with. It seemed like that was a hundred years ago. What had it been really? Three months? I had always hoped he hadn’t gotten a good look at me right before I cold-cocked him. Well, now I won’t have to worry about him ever recognizing me in a chance meeting. That was a relief.
Ezra had taken point as we rode up the hill, and he turned around periodically to see if I needed any help keeping the body on the back of the horse. He caught me smiling to myself during one of his checks. I quickly wiped the smile off my face, but he gave me a frightened look, as if I was a person that reveled in killing. I didn’t make any attempt to allay his probable notion. I guess I liked the idea of my prowess with a gun to get around. But the truth was I had come to a sort of edict in my personal philosophy: If you threatened or hurt my loved ones or friends, I would protect them to the maximum.
Once we got to Ferry Hill, the household had settled down. Most everyone had been assigned a servant in attendance and had retired for what was left of the night. Ezra and I unloaded the corpse in the stables. John Lee covered the body with a blanket. Then, he and Ezra began to clean the carriage, wipe down and currycomb the carriage team of horses, and unsaddle the horses we rode down the hill.
I decided to check on the inhabitants of the mansion before I started home. I entered the back door of the mansion and found one of the servants that had backed up Ezra when I first approached the house. He had a pistol cocked and pointed at me when I came through the door. I wasn’t expecting to be accosted on entering the house and my eyes went wide from the shock.
The servant apologized, “Sorry, suh, but Ole Miss told me to protect the back door tonight.”
I responded, “Don’t be apologetic. Serves me right for not knocking before entering. Keep up the good work, and thanks for not shooting me.”
The servant had a very serious look on his face, and I do believe he would have shot if he hadn’t recognized me. I asked him his, and he said it was Joshua. I was beginning to think that all the male servants were named after Books of the Old Testament.
I asked if the ladies had retired for the night. He said that Miss Daphne had stayed downstairs and was still in the parlor. I thanked him again and started for the parlor. I saw the servant’s face out of the corner of my eye, and he wasn’t too happy with my destination.