Arriving at the hotel, Al and I dismounted, took our cayuses to the area across from the hotel, in a shaded area near the river, and released them to graze. Then we went back to the hotel, mounted the front steps, and entered to await the arrival of our ladies and my substitute.
As we entered the hotel, the clerk actually grimaced, which made me laugh. We headed to the hotel café and took seats at a table near the window.
Both of us turned our attention toward the street scene and remained silent for a long time. I might have even dozed off for a few minutes, but I jerked awake when the carriage full of ladies and my substitute came to an abrupt halt in front of the hotel.
I heard high-heeled shoes running up the steps to the hotel lobby. Taking in a deep breath, I stood and waited for the storm.
She rushed in looking wildly about, and once she fixated on me, ran to my open arms. As usual, she hugged me so hard it was difficult to breathe.
I finally had to say in a semi-strangled voice, “Liebchen, yar squeezing me to death.”
When she released me from her stranglehold, I actually gasped for breath, and after a few seconds, recovered enough oxygen to be functional.
She leaned back and looked up at me with soulful eyes that conveyed fear for my safety and thankfulness that I was still alive. Then her eyebrows were raised in a questioning expression that I took to mean, “Did you get him? Are we alright now?”
I just nodded and she grabbed me again in a fierce embrace.
Immediately, I uttered, “Not so hard, Liebchen.”
She let go of my torso and I know every rib and lung in my body was appreciative.
I happened to look at Al, who had also stood when Daphne entered the room. His eyes were bulging out as he looked at the beautiful woman who had applied unchaperoned hugs to me.
It dawned on me that he probably had never seen Daphne before. So with a big smile on my face, I gently took Daphne by the shoulders and moved her to arms- length away from me. Turning her toward Al, I said, “I want ya to meet Al Madigan, a very good friend of mine.”
She focused her hawk-like gaze momentarily on Al, who was still bewildered by our outward display of affection. Apparently, Al passed her first impression’s test because she advanced on him, grabbed his hand, and shook it so hard that I believe it rattled his teeth.
“Any friend of Jim’s is a friend of mine,” she declared with a big smile on her face.
“Al Madigan, may I introduce my wife, Daphne Jane Newcomer-Hager,” I said with a laugh.
Al looked at me like a six-pound solid cannon shot had hit him square in the gizzard. Then he looked down at the diminutive beauty before him and stuttered, “Pl…plea…pleased to meet ya, ma’am.”
I laughed at his awkwardness in the very astonishing series of unanticipated events to which he had suddenly become privy.
Al took a deep gulp, looked at me, and as Daphne released his hand, said, “Ya been quite busy since I saw ya last.”
Both Daphne and I laughed at his witticism.
At that moment, we all heard a person clearing her throat from the front of the café and turned to see Mrs. Douglas with Hattie at her side.
“I take it that tha vandal that was our nemesis has been dispatched and is no longer a danger,” Mrs. Douglas stated.
“Quite so,” I rejoined.
“Then may we continue to Ferry Hill and more comfortable quarters?” she questioned.
“Yes,” I declared, and for the first time in weeks, I felt as if the Sword of Damocles had been lifted from above my head.