Once the conspirator was out of sight, I walked to the telegraph office. Peeking in the dingy front window, I observed that the office was still a wreck. It seemed like a million years ago that Lt. Pelham and I discovered Mr. Black’s body, the missing telegraph machine and the trashed office. After a few seconds of observation, I turned and walked toward the Potomac Bridge and Ferry Hill.
It took me a while to make the trek through the Confederate pickets to Ferry Hill, but once I got there, I went immediately to the stables. I felt bad because I realized this was the first time I had even thought about Stonewall since our return to Ferry Hill. As I entered the stables, I heard a very incessant whinnying from about midway of the stalls on the right side of the horse barn. I quickly walked to where the hullabaloo was occurring and opened the top part of the stall door.
Stonewall quit neighing and immediately stuck his head out of the opening and nudged me with his nose.
“I’m sorry old friend,” I apologized. “I won’t forget ya again.”
He really must have missed me because he didn’t even snort at my apology, but put his head against my chest, which was his way of requesting a meditative massage. I obliged by a gentle rubbing of his jaw, head and nose area for a long time to make up for my indigent treatment of my pal. He seemed to go deeper than usual into the mental fog of relaxation, if that is possible for an animal. Stonewall was, no doubt, the best horse that I had ever ridden. I didn’t consider him a typical equestrian animal. We had a sort of rapport that was hard to describe. I had never bonded with an animal before, so it was both an enlightening and an eerie experience.
Once I had provided Stonewall with his needed relaxation technique, I gently moved back into the hallway of the stables and looked around for my saddle. I spied it positioned over a saddle holder toward the back of the stable. I retrieved it, and as I came back to Stonewall’s stall, he droopily opened his eyes to see what I had brought. He snorted his distain, but didn’t hinder my saddling him up for a ride.
Without going to the house, I mounted and walked Stonewall to the back of the stable. John Lee was just coming around the edge of the barn and saw me. He smiled and walked toward us.
“Thanks for taking care of Stonewall,” I said.
He just nodded and asked, “Going for a ride?”
“Yeah,” I answered. “Have ya seen Al Madigan around here?”
“He told me to tell ya he’s gone down to town to check out tha area. He’s gonna go to Boteler Ford from tha Virginny side too,” he explained.
“Was he in his uniform?” I asked.
“Naw. He’s in plain clothes,” John Lee answered.
“How many pistols ya got now?” I questioned.
“I gots two and some loaded cylinders,” he answered.
“Well, keep ‘em handy. I ‘spect we’re in for some more trouble pretty soon.”
John Lee looked at me for a long minute and then asked, “What tis it ‘bout ya that always draws trouble?”
I grinned and quipped, “Just lucky I guess.”
He didn’t seem to think that was funny. So I just waived and rode off. I took the back way down to where it merges with the road from Sharpsburg. I didn’t have any problems crossing the bridge, but when I got to the Shepherdstown side I asked the corporal in charge if he remembered Al and, if so, when did he go into town. The corporal thought for a moment and then told me Al had gone into town about an hour ago. I thanked him and rode toward German Street.
I rode up German Street and then down Old Queen Alley looking for a glimpse of Al, but to no avail. Finally, I headed for Boteler Ford and Hattie’s Place. When we cleared the town I nudged Stonewall, and we loped the trail until we came to the Potomac River Road. Stonewall didn’t need to be told where to go, but headed straight for Hattie’s Place.
When we rode into the yard, I could see Al’s horse tied up to a fence next to the barn. I dismounted, and letting Stonewall go free, mounted the steps to the house. As soon as I was in the house, I heard a call from the dining room to come in. Entering the room, I was hit by all the wonderful smells that were coming from the pots that Hattie had cooking for supper. Hattie and Al were sitting at the dining table and looked like two thieves caught planning a robbery.
“Come in and sit down. Coffee’s on the hearth, if’n ya want some,” Hattie offered.
“Don’t mind if I do,” I responded. Once I found a tin cup and filled it with coffee, I joined them at the dining table.
“Well, what are ya two up to now?” I enquired. “Ya look like yar cooking up a plot to overturn tha government,” I added.
They both laughed nervously, but didn’t respond to my half-hearted accusation .
“Well, if’n y’all aren’t gonna come clean, I got a little piece of information that I need to share. I know who tha spy is in tha town that’s been causing all tha trouble,” I divulged.