Mrs. Douglas sought to recapture the merriment by asking, “Please stay for dinner. We have so much to catch up on.”
Jonah looked at Tom, who nodded his acceptance of the invitation.
Mrs. Douglas smiled and left the room to get the preparations started for dinner.
Tom looked lovingly at his sister and said, “Ya look all aglow. Married life must agree with ya.”
Daphne blushed and, looking at me, admitted, “Yes, it’s wonderful.”
I grinned from ear to ear and gave Daphne a look that bespoke my love and adoration for her.
Both Tom and Jonah chuckled at the reaction that Tom’s observance had caused.
Daphne and I joined in with laughter of our own.
I looked at Willie, who was situated in one of the parlor chairs. He was already asleep. The adult conversations must have lulled him to la-la-land.
Then Tom, in a serious vein, commented, “Jim, ya must have been in some crucial military operations to have been promoted to tha rank of Captain already.”
Jonah took up the probe by inquiring, “How did ya do it?”
Daphne started to answer, but I gave her a narrow-eyed squint, which stopped further information on any of my past military missions.
Tom caught the exchange between Daphne and me, and I could see that it had aroused his curiosity.
I turned to Jonah and said, “A lot of us in this part of Virginia were in on tha Frederick City raid. I have to admit it was a success, and we all reaped rewards.”
I hoped this would allay any further questions as to my military past, but I could see that Tom’s reaction to my explanation didn’t alleviate his curiosity as to my attaining the rank of captain so rapidly.
However, due to Southern gentlemanly manners, no in-depth interrogation ensued, but Tom was not satisfied with my answer and, no doubt, he would be trying to find out more information about me.
We relaxed into an awkward silence that was shattered when Willie, who had apparently woken up, heard Jonah’s question and my answer, piped up, “Cousin Jim, what about tha two raids ya helped put down and tha Yanks ya shot?”
I was flabbergasted and at a loss for words. My face turned a bright red, and Daphne had to hide her face behind her fan to keep from laughing out loud.
After looking furtively at the room’s occupants, I gained a small semblance of speech control and sputtered feebly, “Ah, well, Willie, that’s a different story.”
I was now the center of attention. Tom looked at me for further information. Jonah had a shocked look on his face in reaction to my supposed past escapades. Daphne was still trying not to laugh at my discomposure. Willie had crossed his arms and possessed the proud and pompous look of a juvenile, who thought he had answered an adult’s question, but had in reality opened a huge can of worms instead.
Tom was the first to break the ice by asking, “Jim, when did all this take place?”
I sighed and admitted, “Shortly after I came back from tha dinner I attended at yar family’s manor.”
Jonah then remarked, “So all tha rumors we heard about yar shootouts with tha Gills and with Marshal Gill and his deputies was really true.”
Tom continued, “When I got back to Harpers Ferry on my first leave and was able to participate in y’all’s wedding, I heard that Daphne had taken ya to Martinsburg to recuperate from some sort of wound. Was that wound incurred during tha Frederick City raid?”
I looked at Willie and said, “Young man ya may leave tha room and go find yar mother.”
Willie put on a pouting face and said, “Oh Cousin Jim, do I gotta?”
“Must I,” I corrected.
“Must I?” he repeated.
“Yes, now, move it,” I commanded.
Willie scurried off the sofa and trooped out the parlor door.