I have to say that I wasn’t back to my normal state of health, but I wasn’t an invalid either. Each step I took back toward the main house seemed to help me gain a little bit more strength. However, I wasn’t going to push it by riding Stonewall back to Harpers Ferry.
I reached the back entrance to Uncle Jamison’s manor and stood for a moment watching Daphne supervise the loading of the carriage for our trip. Darting back and forth, she was a whirlwind of activity in getting our baggage attached to the small platform on the back of the coach. Ahab acted as her body guard, and with the servants under his constant glare, every order given by my Beloved was instantaneously obeyed.
Bessie acted as her quality control officer. If an item of work wasn’t performed to her liking, she would chastise the servant until it was. The packing was efficiently and rapidly completed.
Presently, Daphne saw me standing and admiring the efficiency of the triune team. I grinned at her and nodded my respect. She gave me a little smile of pride, and since the carriage team of four horses was already harnessed, she motioned for me to get in.
I nodded my obedience and turned toward Stonewall. I put both hands on either side of his jaw and gently pulled him toward me. He ambled forward and lowered his head to rest on my chest. I began a slow massage of his jawline and muttered, “I want ya to follow us. I might need ya, if we get ambushed by any Yanks, so please stay close. Don’t take orders from anybody but me.”
He snorted, and letting go of his head, I stood back. I draped his reins over the saddle. When I turned back to go to the carriage, I had accumulated quite an audience. All work had stopped and everyone was watching Stonewall and me.
Ahab was the first to react, “Get back to work,” he ordered in a gruff voice.
All the servants jumped and began to finish packing the few items left of our baggage. Daphne just grinned and shook her head at my antics. Bessie got in the carriage and sat in a seat that faced the rear of the vehicle. She had boxes and a small trunk in the seat next to her.
Ahab checked the security of the baggage and then climbed up on the driver’s seat. Daphne and I got in the carriage and sat in the seats facing the front of the American version of a hansom.
Daphne said, “Let’s go,” and Ahab snapped the reins. For some reason I perceived we were off on another adventure.
We left town on Queen Street and headed north, which quickly got my attention. I put my hands on the butts of my Colts. However, any apprehension was soon put to rest when we turned due east on a road and headed in a southeasterly direct. I relaxed the grips on my weapons and looked at Bessie. She had the same unperturbed look on her face that she carried all the time. I believe a herd of buffalo could stampede next to our carriage and she wouldn’t react.
I was sitting on the right side of the carriage and Daphne was on my left. She gripped my left arm and moved closer to my side. Almost immediately, she drifted off to the Land of Nod with her head resting on my left shoulder. I knew she was exhausted from taking care of me, but how she slept with all the machinations of our carriage over some rough patches of road is beyond me.
Ahab kept the horses moving at an easy gait, with periods of walking to rest them. We had left about 11:00 a.m. and I checked my watch when we came to a well- traveled crossroads. It was about 2:00 p.m. My movement must have woken Daphne because she asked, “Are ya hungry?”
I turned and looked down at this beautiful countenance surrounded by a loose fitting bonnet with ebony tresses escaping in cascades on either side of her face to land on her shoulders. I was totally captivated. All I could do was look into those dark brown pools of devotion and sigh.
Daphne sat up straight and looked at me like I was having a relapse of weakness. She ventured, “Are ya feeling alright?”
I just smiled whimsically and murmured, “I couldn’t feel any better.”
“Then why are ya looking at me that way?” she asked.
“You don’t know, do ya?” I queried.
“Know what?” she returned.
“Just how absolutely, drop-dead gorgeous you are,” I answered.
“Drop-dead gorgeous?” she asked with a puzzled expression.
I nodded and added, “Where I come from that means ya are so gorgeous that a man could drop dead just from looking at yar beautiful face.”
My explanation made her blush. I chuckled, and she blushed even more.
After a few awkward moments, she gathered herself and said, “Thank you, Jim. That was nice of you to tell me how you feel. You are such a romantic, and I love ya for it. ”
I smiled that I had told her in some small measure of how much I adored her even if it was rather crude.
I was so lost in emotion that I hadn’t even noticed Bessie, who was sitting as still and as silent as the Sphinx. I suddenly became aware of her and looked in her direction. As usually she maintained her stoic façade but with one exception, a tear was slowly making its meandering way down her right cheek.