By the time I got back to Ferry Hill by way of the hidden path it was just about 9:00 pm, which is the time I had told John Lee I would return. I dismounted Miss Dixie Belle at the back of the mansion. By this time I had shortened her name to Dixie for convenience sake, and gave her reins to John Lee.
He asked, “How did she do?”
I smiled and said, “Just great. I really enjoyed her company.”
John Lee smiled and Dixie nudged me gently with her nose before she was led into the stables.
I walked to the backdoor of the mansion and entered. There was some kind of affair going on in the parlor. As I approached the large room, I heard a familiar voice say, “We just got back from Nawth Carolina and was it a real show.”
I hurried to the parlor door, stopped and surveyed Daphne’s oldest brother, Tom, surrounded by four young ladies, Daphne, Mrs. Douglas, Willie Douglas and Lieutenant Pelham. I felt such joy at seeing the familiar faces, and I could see the two Lieutenants were overjoyed to congregate with the four rather beautiful young ladies. How Daphne got the four young ladies assembled in such a short period to meet her brother and Lt. Pelham was another of her social engineering feats.
Tom happened to turn and see me in the doorway and hurried forward. We shook hands and then hugged like long lost brothers. Lt. Pelham advanced and we shook hands also. We all moved to the rest of the gathering. Daphne suddenly was in my arms and we hugged. Then she introduced the four ladies who were in her tutoring classes back in Philadelphia. They were staying the night and then moving on to Staunton, Virginia in the morning. I also greeted Mrs. Douglas with a hug and shook Willie’s hand.
Anna entered the room and announced, “Dinner is served.”
We all moved to the dining room and were seated for a formal evening meal. As usual, the conversation was on the war and its effect on the populace and the army. Tom and Lt. Pelham were a part of the cavalry unit that had been assigned to General Jeb Stuart’s corps. They hadn’t been in any real fighting yet, but it seemed that Burnside was going to move toward Atlanta any day now.
After the War news was discussed, the two officers revealed they were here on a short leave. Tom had invited Lt. Pelham to spend his leave here in northern Virginia, and Pelham had accepted. By the attention that the blonde, long-haired young lady sitting next to Pelham was paying to him, I don’t think he regretted his decision. Plus, Tom was having a great time wooing a beautiful, red-headed petite young lady, who was playing a coquettish game with him.
After dinner, the party moved to the parlor and partook of some light brandy aperitifs. At about 11:00pm the party broke up with the young ladies retiring to two bedrooms upstairs. The Lieutenants returned to the Confederate camp near the Potomac Bridge. Mrs. Douglas and Willie retired to Mrs. Douglas’ bedroom upstairs. Daphne and I occupied the parlor for the night.
Once we had closed the door to the hallway, we undressed and got into our night clothes. Then Daphne came to me and treated me to one of her rib-crusting hugs. After a few seconds, I picked her up and carried her to the large chaise lounge, which was our bed for the night. She giggled the whole way. Lying her down on the comfortable couch, I snuggled in next to her and we pulled the blankets up to protect against the night chill.
We faced each other, and she suddenly wrapped her arms around my neck and said fervently, “I love ya so much. Thank ya for being my husband.”
I was so overcome by emotion that I couldn’t reply immediately. I just pulled her to me and we melted into each other so deeply that we could feel each other’s heartbeat.
Finally, I was able to say, “Ya are my precious wife and my reason for living. I am still in awe that ya married me. I love ya with all my heart.”
We both lay there in each other’s grasp for what seemed like an eternity of joy.
Finally, Daphne said, “I always thought it would be rather naughty, but enjoyable to initiate a chaise lounge into a conjugal bed.”
I replied, “My thoughts exactly.”
She giggled, and we blew out the candles on the table behind the chaise lounge.