We went outside and mounted our horses, left town and crossed the Potomac River into Maryland via the Shepherdstown covered bridge. Once in Maryland, I took one last look at Ferry Hill and mentally wished my beloved a fond farewell.
Nudging Stonewall, we began an easy lope southward down the C & O canal towpath. It didn’t take long before we got to the small community of Antietam, where there was a place to cross over to the Harpers Ferry Road. When we entered this main north-south byway, we walked our steeds for about an hour until they had regained their breath and strength.
Picking up the pace, we loped our steeds until we came to the community of Dargan, a few miles above Sandy Hook, where the bridge to Harpers Ferry was located. We walked the cayuses, and for the first time, the silence was broken when Lt. Kirkland asked in what seemed to be a distinctive northern accent, “How far do youse believe we will travel tonight?”
Al and I both turned to look in awe at his adaptation of speech from someone who sounded like a New Yorker or a New Jersian. I have to admit I just stared at him for almost thirty seconds before I answered, “Ya will definitely be tha one to speak for us during this mission.”
I looked at Al, and even in the darkness, I could see him smiling from ear-to-ear.
I just shook my head and we nudged our cayuses into a lope. We ate up the miles and made it to the south end of Maryland Heights. Once we made it past this prominent land mark we begin to walk our mounts as we headed toward Weverton, Maryland.
The moon was out and shone its radiance on the hard pan road we were traveling. We didn’t encounter any traffic, which was just fine with me.
When the horses had recovered, we picked up the pace until we entered the western side of Weverton. At that point I looked at my pocket watch, which was easily read in the moonlight. It was 2:00 am. I nodded and decided we would stop at the next town for the night. In my universe it was Brunswick, Maryland. I turned to Al and said, “What’s tha name of tha next town?”
Al answered, “It is called Barry, Maryland.”
I was completely taken back by his almost perfect eastern Maryland accent. My astonishment made him chuckle.
I just shook my head and muttered, “I guess I better adopt some type of Yankee accent, or I’m going to be left out in the cold.”
The two men looked at me and laughed at my rendition of a Maine accent. I used to watch a TV show about a mystery writer that lived in Maine. All the cast members had employed exaggerated Maine accents in their roles. I became pretty good in mimicking them. Apparently my foolishness might be put to good use.
We walked our mounts through Weverton. Then we loped the horses until we got into Barry. We found the local livery and roused the owner out of his bed, which was in a small room in the stable. Once he got our money and began rubdowns on our horses, we asked where we could bed down for the night. He directed us to the local rooming house, which was located only a block away.
We carried all our paraphernalia with us, just in case the livery owner got nosey and wanted to look through our saddle bags.
Stonewall gave me a parting whinny as we vacated the livery.
You couldn’t miss the rooming house. It was a three story structure with a large picket fence that enclosed both the house and beautiful flower beds that lined both sides of a stone walkway leading to the large front porch. I opened a squeaky fence gate, and we walked up the walk to the front porch. Mounting the four steps to the porch, I was about to knock on the front door, when it was abruptly opened.
A young woman stood in the doorway with an oil lamp in her left hand and a huge dragoon pistol in her right hand. I gasped aloud at the sight of her.
She was wearing a long red calico dress covered by a heavy black cape. Her long blonde hair was pulled back over her shoulders and fell down her back. A trembling voice demanded, “What’d ya want.”
I didn’t answer for what seemed to be an eternity, but finally stammered, “We were told this was a rooming house. We just wanted some rooms for tha night.”
The woman looked us over and saw we were carrying luggage. Her face lost some of its apprehension, but she didn’t lower the huge pistol that was pointed at my midsection, when she challenged, “Who told ya that?”
I uttered, “The livery stable owner?” and added, “We just rode into town and asked him where to find a room for tha night.”
Finally, she lowered her pistol and said, “Sorry for tha confrontation, but therah have been a lot of thieving, stealing and even killing in tha last few months.”
She walked to a table in the foyer and put the pistol and lamp on it. Then she put her face in her hands and began to sob. Almost immediately two young black women appeared out of a side parlor and rushed to her side.
I stuttered, “Ma’am, are ya alright?”
She just shook her head and wrapped her arms around the two young women. Then they all began to cry.
I looked at Al, who just shrugged.
However, Lt. Kirkland walked to the three and wrapped the three in his huge long arms. He rocked them back and forth for a few seconds and then said, “Why don’t ya tell us what happened?”
Almost immediately, the three women turned and wrapped their arms around Kirkland in a group hug. It reminded me of a mother hen with her chicks under her wings.