We all retired to the parlor after dinner, and each of us told what had been happening during the last few months. I purposely left out a lot of military information.
We finally broke up about 9:00 pm. The Newcomers went upstairs to Willie’s room. Willie was relegated to sleeping in his mother’s room.
I told Daphne that I needed to speak with John Lee and went to the stables.
John Lee was working on a harness by lantern light when I encountered him at the end of the stable. He looked up and smiled.
I pulled up a bale of hay and sat down. He continued to work on the leather goods and didn’t say a word.
Finally, I said, “I’m gonna be leaving tomorrow night. I would greatly appreciate it if ya would have Stonewall ready to go with enough food for four days and a bag of oats.”
He looked up, and I could tell he knew something special was going on, because he had a very serious look on his face.
I continued, “I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I want ya to take care of Daphne and our daughter no matter what.”
He took a big gulp of air and nodded gravely at my request.
I reached my right hand to him, and he took it in his right hand.
Then I said, “Ya and Al are tha best friends I have. Thank ya for all ya’ve done for us. I hope I have returned that devotion in kind, but, if I haven’t, I apologize. I just wanted to let ya know I think of ya as part of our family.”
John Lee looked surprised at first, but then he gripped my hand, and we shook hands.
I got up, put the hay bale back in its proper place and walked out of the stable.
Stonewall must have been dead to the world because he didn’t whinny once while I was in the stable.
The next morning, we had a big breakfast and said our good-byes to the Newcomers. They left for Halltown about 10:30am.
After they left, I went to the stables and let Stonewall out of his stall and gave him free rein of the area. Then I spent the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon in the stables, loading cartridge cylinders for my Colts. I had about eight of them completed before 2:00 pm.
I was feeling butterflies in my stomach because of the fateful mission on which we were about to embark. I knew that Daphne would be able to pick up on my sense of trepidation. So I stayed away from her as much as possible.
Luck was with me because Daphne, Annie and Mrs. Douglas were deep in their final planning stages of our move to the cottage in Shepherdstown. They were ensconced in the left parlor and making out their lists of things to carry to the cottage. Lord only knows when this great exodus was slated to take place.
I walked around the grounds, with Stonewall following close behind, and looked at all the trees, which were just starting to show buds. A few flowers had bloomed and were brilliantly displayed for our pleasure.
Once we got back at the stables, I turned to Stonewall. He stepped forward and put his head against my chest. I began to rub and massage his jaws. When he went into his meditative trance, I said, “We’re going on a very important mission tonight. I don’t know how it’ll turn out. We both could be killed.”
Stonewall snorted his understanding and gently nudged me with his head.
I continued, “I never have had tha privilege of tha rapport we have shared before, and I just wanted ya to know I couldn’t have accomplished any of tha missions I was given if it hadn’t been for ya.”
Stonewall nudged me again with his head. In response I moved to his side, wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him.
He whinnied and moved his head up and down.
I grinned and let him go. Then I said, “Well, it won’t be long before John Lee will saddle ya up and we’ll be on our way. So get as much rest as ya can.”
Stonewall snorted, turned, walked down to his stall and entered.
I grinned and walked to the back of Ferry Hill. Once at the back door, I took a deep breath and entered.