I just looked at her in stunned silence. She continued, “She just came down the stairs, sobbing, ran into the left parlor, and locked the door. Now, I ask you again, what did you do to her?”
“I didn’t do anything to her,” I lied.
“Well, you did something. What was it?” she demanded.
In a very contrite voice, I admitted, “We dealt with a very alarming aspect of my background.”
“What do you mean, ‘your background?’” she persisted.
I let out a sigh and responded, “I don’t have time to explain. I must get back to Shepherdstown as quickly as possible. I apologize for the abrupt departure, but I have to go. Daphne will no doubt explain when she has had time to reflect dispassionately. I am going to commandeer one of the captured Yankee horses, if they haven’t already been transferred to Shepherdstown. If they have, I ask permission to utilize one of your horses for travel.”
She looked at me with a quizzical expression. I could tell she was trying to recall all the events that I had been a part of and discern what I meant by “my background.” Finally, she snapped back to the present and indignantly retorted, “I doubt I could stop you if you did.”
Just then Ezra came into the room, still carrying his shotgun. I turned and nodded at him. He nodded back with the confidence of one who had braved the perils of battle. I looked at Mrs. Douglas and, inclining my head toward Ezra, declared, “Oh, but I believe you could.”
She grasped Ezra’s new self-assurance, and her eyes widened as she realized his new status in the household. Turning to me, she rasped, “Get you gone from this house.”
I bowed chivalrously. Then I walked over to Ezra and extended my hand to him. He reached for my hand, and tears welled up in our eyes and as we shook hands as equals. When I was able to control my emotions, I uttered, “Thank you for saving our lives.”
He was too overcome to say anything, but just nodded his head. I quickly left the room and headed out the back door for the stables.
I found John Lee at his usual post, polishing the carriage. He turned and smiled as I approached him. I held out my hand and said, “I want to thank you for bringing the cavalry and for your courageous attack to drive off the Yanks. It seems we are always indebted to you, John Lee. We owe you our lives.”
He smiled broadly and heartily shook my hand. I asked if any Yankee horses were left and he indicated there were. He had one saddled in a jiffy. As I swung up on the mount, he asked me to wait a minute. He went to a blanket in one of the stable stalls and, after fumbling with it for a moment, brought me the pistol I had given him before he rode off to bring the cavalry to our rescue.
“I ‘spect y’all will be wanting this back, Marse Jim.”
I smiled at him and said, “You better keep it. You never know when you might need it. And my name is Jim.”
We saluted each other, and I rode down the hill toward Shepherdstown.