The Colonel stopped dead in his tracks as I rapidly walked to the guard post.
“Good luck,” he said. And then as an afterthought he chimed, “And congratulations!”
“Thank ya, sir,” I replied with a wave.
When I got to the guard post, Stonewall had found a tree under which to reside and munch on the grass that surrounded the base. He jerked his head up from his snack when he sensed me approaching.
One of the guards ventured, “Lieutenant, ya sure do have yar horse trained.”
I replied affably, “Sarge, he ain’t trained. We just understand each other.”
The sergeant had a puzzled look on his face as I swung into the saddle. I just smiled and said, “Take care. Oh, yes. By the way, where is Major Mosby?”
The sergeant returned, “He’s at home being tended to by his wife and the camp doctor. I understand he’s curing right well.”
I nodded and asked, “Where’s his home?”
“It’s a small house on tha north edge of town just a few streets down from Bolivar Heights,” he offered.
“Thanks, Sarge,” I returned and directed Stonewall toward the hotel on Shenandoah Street in Harpers Ferry.
I knew that Daphne was probably in a tizzy trying to get everything just right for the wedding and our honeymoon night. We ambled along at an easy pace and reached the hotel entrance in no time. I dismounted, and pulling Stonewall toward me, I rested his head against my chest. He went into a trance almost immediately.
I rubbed his jaws and said, “We are gonna have another member to our family and I want ya to protect her tha same as ya do me.”
He snorted, which I took as an acceptance of my request. I continued to massage his head for a moment or two more. Then I said, “I’ll be back in a minute. I wanna get someone to take ya to tha livery for tonight.”
Stonewall didn’t reply, but just stayed in his trance.
I mounted the stairs to the hotel, and on approaching the registration desk, asked, “I believe that my fiancée registered us for tha night. She’s Daphne Newcomer. Is that correct?”
The clerk immediately became animated, and nodding his head in the affirmative, gushed, “Oh, yes sir. She has two rooms for y’all. Yars is room 202. Hers is room 203. She’s preparing for yar wedding today and has gone to tha Presbyterian Church one block over to make tha necessary arrangements. She also indicated that she’ll have yar suit brushed and ironed as soon as ya can get it back to me. We have a woman that does ironing for our hotel.”
I nodded in agreement and asked, “I take it that my clothes are already in my room?”
The clerk bobbed his head repeatedly to signify his agreement.
I then requested, “Do ya know where Miss Newcomer’s driver is?”
“Yes sir. He is out back and is still taking Miss Newcomer’s things upstairs,” he replied.
I thanked him and went out the back door of the hotel. John Lee was gathering up an armload of Daphne’s boxes to take upstairs. When he saw me, he stopped, put them down, and we shook hands. I hadn’t had a chance to talk with him during the drive to Harpers Ferry, so I ventured, “How come ya were at tha Newcomer’s place this morning? I thought ya would be at Ferry Hill.”
Miss Daphne sent word last night to her cousin that y’all could use some help this morning moving out of tha Newcomer house,” he explained. Continuing he said, “So Mrs. Douglas asked me to go help. So, I left last night and got to Halltown early this mornin.”
“I really wanna thank ya for coming to our rescue. It seems ya are always getting us out of some bad fix,” I stated.
John Lee just smiled and said, “Tis my pleasure.”
I drew closer to him and asked, “Ya still got the pistol I gave ya?”
He said, “Yes.”
“Well, be on tha lookout for trouble. Major Mosby has been shot from ambush, and we got stopped night before last on tha road while traveling to tha Newcomers by two armed men who had been sent to kill us,” I clarified. “John Lee, I think therah is a gang of men who are Yankee spies in tha area. Please be on yar guard. If’n ya see anything unusual or out of tha ordinary, let me know.”
His eyes widened and then narrowed. “Ya kin count on me Jim,” he vowed.
“We are gonna be going to Shepherdstown tomorrow morning. Are ya gonna put tha carriage and horses in tha livery for tonight?” I inquired.
“Yes sir,” he answered.
“Would ya be so kind as to take Stonewall with ya and bed him down in tha livery also?” I requested.
‘Yes, I’ll be glad to. Where is he?” he asked.
“He’s at tha front of tha hotel at tha hitching post. By tha way, ya got enough money to pay tha livery?” I queried. “If’n ya don’t, I got some.”
“Miss Daphne gave me nuff to take care of tha horses,” he informed me.
“Where ya gonna stay tonight?” I asked.
“In tha livery,” he answered.
“We can get ya a better place than that,” I asserted.
“No, I needs to be with tha horses. I ‘spect if’n there’s bad men around, tha horses need to be looked after,” he stated.
I nodded in agreement and declared, “I guess ya’re right. But tonight and tomorrow morning I want ya to come to tha hotel for yar meals.”
“I can’t eat at tha hotel. It’s just for white folks,” he gasped.
“Well, ya can eat in tha kitchen and ya are gonna eat tha same food we do. I’ll make sure of that,” I vowed.
Then a thought hit me hard and I uttered, “Oh my Lord.”
John Lee looked at me in astonishment at my outburst. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I forgot about tha body of tha assassin we left in tha Newcomer barn,” I said.
“I need to go back to tha cavalry camp,” I stated. “I’ll see ya later,” I added and reentered the hotel via the back door.
As I reached the registration desk, I looked at the clerk and declared, “Our servant is gonna eat his meals in ya’ll’s kitchen and I want him to be served tha same food that we are served. You understand?”
The clerk looked at me in astonishment and opened his mouth to speak. I held up my hand in abeyance and queried, “Were ya here tha last time I had a little mishap in yar hotel?”
He touched his forehead and nodded vigorously. Then he affirmed, “Yar servant will be taken care of.”
I nodded and went out the front of the hotel at a trot. Stonewall heard me coming and came awake with a whinny. I declared, “We gotta go back to tha cavalry camp.”
Mounting the faithful cayuse, I directed him back up the road at a gallop.