Daphne took a step backward, put one hand on her heart and the other over her mouth, and cried, “What?!”
Her face had turned an ashen gray and she had trouble breathing. The other ladies had emitted equally shocked exclamations.
I looked at John Lee, and he had a scrutinizing look on his face and a raised eyebrow that indicated he knew I was trying to put one over on the ladies.
After a few seconds, I looked at the ladies and asked, “Do y’all know how to dress up dummies to look like people?”
It took a few moments for the question to sink in. Then they began to get the picture of what I had in mind.
Daphne was the first one to come out of her catatonic state. She doubled up her fist, stepped toward me and hit me in my left arm as hard as she could. Then she commanded, “Don’t cha ever do that again. Ya hear?”
I bellowed, “Liebchen, that hurt!”
“I meant for it to hurt! Don’t ever do that again, and I mean it,” she said in a low, callous voice. “Now ya better apologize to my cousin and Hattie.”
I immediately turned to Mrs. Douglas and Hattie and said, “I’m sorry for the way I acted, and I apologize for tha stupid way I presented tha plan to ya.”
Daphne, who had put her hands on her hips when delivering her ultimatum, relaxed and in a normal voice asked, “What exactly are we to do?”
I motioned for the ladies to please sit on the bed. They obligingly trooped to the sturdy sleeping apparatus and sat down simultaneously, which made the rope slats groan like the bellow of a bull moose. John Lee moved until he was standing at the foot of the bed.
When my captive audience was comfy and attentive, I began, “I’m betting that the sniper is in town somewhere to see which way we leave town. I believe that he probably has an ambush site picked out on all three roads we might travel heading back to Shepherdstown. The only thing he needs to know is which road.”
I got some affirmative nods of the heads, including John Lee, so I continued, “I want y’all to dress in some brightly colored clothes, which can be taken off quickly and put on dummies. What I proposed to do is for us to get in tha carriage that we were going to take to Shepherdstown and at a place away from town, we will stop, and y’all will get out and exchange clothes with dummies. This will give tha appearance that yar still in tha carriage. Then tha carriage will drive on. Y’all will be picked up and brought back to tha hotel.”
The ladies looked at each other and passed vital information in their silent coded glances, which I have mentioned in the past is known only to the female gender. Finally, Daphne, who had been elected by acclamation as the spokesperson during the silent conversation, asked, “What about you and John Lee?”
“Well, we will have to stay with the carriage to alleviate any disbelief by the sniper that he’s being led into a trap,” I answered.
“Oh, no, no, no! I’m not losing ya after one week of marriage,” she declared loudly.
I had to shush her to keep her voice down. She toned down her voice, but repeated, “Ya ain’t getting away from our marriage that easy, Jim Hager.”
“I don’t believe being shot is an easy way to get out of marriage, Liebchen,” I declared. She bridled at my retort.
Then I added, “John Lee and I are gonna be wearing iron breastplates under our clothes.”
With that last bit of information, John Lee sort of let out a breath that he had been unconsciously holding. He gave me a nod of affirmation.
Daphne wasn’t to be cajoled into accepting my plan until all possible aspects were discussed. I was hoping that she would acquiesce without the one weak point in my plan being examined.
“What if he shoots ya in the head?” she blurted.
“I don’t have a way to prevent that,” I agreed.
Daphne immediately put her head in her hands and started crying.
I went to her immediately and, taking her by the shoulders, pulled her up and into my arms. I didn’t say a word. I just held her while she sobbed her heart out.