“Wow!” I finally uttered in an adoring tone.
“What’d ya mean, wow?” Daphne questioned.
“Where I come from, that means fantastic or great or wonderful,” I informed her.
“Oh!” she spoke in an embarrassed tone and turned a reddened face to avert my gaze.
“Daphne, you were magnificent. Don’t be self-conscious. Ya never cease to amaze me,” I stated with awe in my voice.
Blushing profusely, she smiled and nervously pulled at her dress.
I held out my arms to her. She sat on the edge of my bed, and leaning forward, she laid her head on my chest. Then she began to softly cry. I put my arms around her and gently caressed her beautiful hair. I began to quietly hum Lorena and slowly rock back and forth. She was so tired that she went to sleep in my arms. I must have gone to sleep, also.
We both were awakened by Bessie noisily starting to straighten up some of the paraphernalia that had been scattered throughout the room during the time I was unconscious and recuperating.
Daphne rose from my arms and stood up. She was wobbly for a moment, but quickly regained her equilibrium. She then stated, “I need to freshen up. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
She looked at me imploringly, as if to say, “Is that alright?”
I smiled at her and jokingly said, “I promise to not go anywhere.”
“Ah, ya rascal. I bet you might try,” she returned accusingly. Then she left the room.
I turned to see Bessie looking intently at me. She had heard our banter. She held my gaze with an impartial stare and then turned back to her cleaning.
I ventured, “Ya have something to say, Bessie?”
She turned, faced me and announced, “Ya know that Marse Newcomer ain’t nevah gonna let ya marry Daphne, don’t cha?”
The questioning statement took me by surprise. I just looked at her as comprehension slowly came to my mind and then must have shown in my face. Without showing any triumphant expression or exulting in what she must have believed was going to be an evident end to my life, she turned back to her housework. With this fortuitous but dire warning in mind, I began to create a plan to counter Marse Newcomer and his minions.
I was aroused from deep contemplation when Daphne sashayed into the room. I swear the room brightened with her entrance. She was wearing a light green dress that accentuated her coal-black hair and dark brown eyes. Her hair, which was so long that it reached down her back to her waist, was entwined into one large braid. Whenever light from a candle or lantern touched her hair at just the right angle, her tresses emitted a greenish luster. It gave a mysterious enchantment to her being that would have beguiled a saint, let along an average Joe like myself. I just loved having the privilege of viewing all this loveliness.
Daphne swiftly became an insatiable flirt when she saw I was ogling her so intently. Giving me that ‘come hither’ stare, she blatantly asked, “How do I look?”
I laughed and enthusiastically reported,”Ya look breath-taking.”
She gave me a smile, bowed, and in her best coquettish southern belle-type voice, returned, “Why, thank ya, Mr. Hager. You’re too kind.”
I was so amused at her antebellum repartee that I laughed and declared, “Daphne, you’re something else.”
This confused her. She cocked her head, and with a questioning tone, reiterated, “I am ‘something else’?”
I saw her puzzlement, and rather than have her think I was making fun of her, I explained, “Where I come from, that means there’s no one that comes close to being like ya, and Darling, you are the most gorgeous woman in the world.”
She was at once mollified, and her brilliant smile seemed to illumine even the darkest parts of the room.