Daphne and I began to take our breakfast table seats, which had been slyly assigned by Mrs. Douglas in an effort to keep us from shunning the 19th century etiquette of husband and wife not showing affection in public.
Once we were seated, Mrs. Douglas turned to Daphne and queried, “Well what are y’all’s plans for tha future?”
Daphne was stumped by the question. Her eyes glazed over, because she hadn’t made any plans. Our lives had been so hurly burly for the last month that we hadn’t had a chance to make any plans. We had been reactive to the events that Life had thrown our way, instead of being proactive to what we wanted to accomplish.
To get Daphne off the hot seat, I stated, “Well, I have to propose a plan for an operation, and I need to start it right away.”
Mrs. Douglas looked at me, raised her eyebrows and said, “Really? And where will ya be going to work on that proposal?”
“I was going to use tha school house in Shepherdstown,” I answered.
“Well, do ya have any future plans other than those?” she probed.
“Yes, ma’am. We’re gonna look in Shepherdstown for a house to rent and get outta yar hair as soon as we can.”
Daphne looked around Mrs. Douglas and smiled at me. I smiled back, and we both sort of looked at each other like two love-sick teenagers.
Mrs. Douglas leaned forward to obstruct our view, and once she has our attention, said, “The reason that I asked wasn’t to get rid of y’all. I didn’t know what y’all had in mind for tha future. Since y’all are staying in tha vicinity, I have a small cottage in Shepherdstown on Old Queen Alley that would fit y’all to a tee.”
Daphne emitted a joyous laugh and hugging Mrs. Douglas, declared, “Oh Cousin, that would be just heavenly!”
Mrs. Douglas turned a bright red in embarrassment, which I didn’t know she was capable of, and hugged Daphne back.
I made a little noise to get the ladies’ attention, and when they looked at me, I stated, “Mrs. Douglas we appreciate your help from tha bottom of our hearts, but we’ll have to pay ya a monthly rent for tha use of yar cottage.”
Mrs. Douglas turned to look at me and immediately understood by my serious expression that my pride required me to pay for our abode.
She nodded her head and stated, “Alright, how about eight dollars a month? I believe that’s tha going rate in Shepherdstown for a cottage.”
I nodded my agreement, and pulling the small wad of U.S. dollars from my pocket, I gave her a one hundred dollar bill.
She looked down with mouth agape at the large amount of money. Then she looked at Daphne. Then they both turned to look at me with the same stunned expression.
I smiled at them both and stated to Mrs. Douglas, “I believe that’ll cover our rent for tha next year.”
Mrs. Douglas nodded and stuttered, “Ah, I ah, I ah believe it does.”
Daphne looked at me with a “where did ya get all that money?” look.
I thought I would tease her for awhile so I just shrugged.
As usual, she narrowed her eyes at me, but before she could begin her interrogation I suggested, “Let’s eat. I’m starved.”
I got away without having to give a long explanation, due to the immediate urgency of having breakfast. It was delicious even though it was cold. I especially enjoyed the honey and butter that I slathered on two cathead biscuits. The eggs might have been cold, but they had been prepared exquisitely, and combined with the crispy bacon, were on par with Hattie’s breakfasts.
Once we had eaten our fill, I proposed, “I guess Daphne and I need to go to Shepherdstown and see what all we need to do so we can move into tha cottage.”
Mrs. Douglas said, “I ‘spect so. Like I said, tha cottage is on Old Queen Alley, which is just a block north of German Street. It’s a whitewashed board building with a small porch and a front door that is painted blue. So why don’t ya two scoot and go see it?”
We both laughed at her suggestion and got up from the table.
Daphne went to her cousin, hugged her again and whispered, “Thank ya so much.”
Mrs. Douglas smiled broadly, nodded toward me and instructed, “Take good care of her.”
I smiled back and returned, “Always.”