The following morning, Jedidiah and I climbed into the first coach together, and I had to admit a slight part of me hoped the Green-Cloaked-Lady and her mother would join us.  Instead, Clam’s thin body poked its way into the compartment and sat on my left side.  He was followed quickly by Flam and the plainly dressed maid of Lady Silver.  The maid’s appearance in this coach surprised me greatly, since she ought to be accompanying her mistress.  Instead, she sat down next to Flam whose bodily width crammed Jedidiah into the wall of the coach.  My friend excused himself and moved across the aisle to my right side where he gained an inch or two more for his own shoulders.

Flam immediately reached across the aisle to crush my hand.  “Beauregard Sampson, sir.  Bo for short.  Noticed you at the table last night and this mornin', but never got to introduce myself.  Fine day, ain’t it!”

“Yes, it is, sir.  My name is Matthew Fitzgerald.  Nice to meet you.”

“Now, I already met Jed Simons and Nathaniel Greenwood yesterday.” Bo boomed out, “Rode in the coach all the long day, we did!  Swapped many a tale.  You met them?”

“I met Mr. Simons at the dinner table last night,” I responded, “but Mr. Greenwood and I have not gotten acquainted.”  Nathaniel reached his bony hand toward mine, and we shook much less vigorously than Bo and I had.

“Nice to meet you,” Nathaniel intoned quietly and retracted his hand.

Bo’s mouth opened in a large grin and his wide white teeth divided the thick black mustache above from the full black beard below.  His coffee breath warmed the air.  “This here’s my wife, Mrs. Cecilia Sampson.”  The plainly dressed woman nodded her head and somehow conveyed a calmly approachable friendliness along with a slight touch of regality.

I nodded in return at her and offered a polite, “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Sampson,” all the while grinning inwardly at my incorrect guess that she was Lady Silver’s maid and traveling companion.  Thinking further, I was more than a little amazed that this calm, quiet person would be married to Flamboyant Bo.  I then decided to find out how accurate my guess about Nathaniel’s occupation had been.  I turned to my left and addressed him in a tone that I hoped conveyed nothing beyond polite small-talk, “Mr. Greenwood, are you traveling on business or pleasure?”

“Neither,” he replied, and I had to listen carefully to make out his word.

“Oh?” my upward intonation invited him to fill in the blanks.

His pause made me wonder if he would, but finally he spoke again.  “My father is ill.  I hope that he is alive when I arrive home.”

“Oh.” I felt like a cad. “As do I, Mr. Greenwood.”  I said fervently, then I added, “Where is home for you?”  His clipped syllables and oddly pronounced vowels told me he was not from Alabama, although that is where our coaches had started their journey yesterday.

“Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

Bo broke in, unable, I assume, to contain himself any longer.  “Well, that’s a mighty far distance to be from home!  Cissy and I are travelin’ North as far as Indiana.  Gotta wedding to ‘tend to.  Cissy’s sister’s tyin’ the knot, ain’t that right, Cissy?”

Mrs. Sampson nodded and smiled her gentle smile at him.

“Means an awful lot to my wife to be there for her sister.  So we just said, ‘To heck’ with the plantin’ (Pardon my language, but Cissy’s used to it, and I’m sure you gentlemen don’t mind.) and took off for the weddin’.”

"I see."  While my mind caught the fact that Flam farmed, and apparently had a trusted overseer who could manage his slaves and the planting season without him, I could not picture him as a wealthy plantation owner.  His manners and clothing if nothing else indicated otherwise.  Why, I was more finely dressed, and I was an overseer myself, in a way.  I decided he must have worked his way into owning a farm, and although I like to think of myself as more advanced than this, I found myself fighting down prejudiced thoughts regarding his social status.
"Any o' y'all been fishin' in Indiana?" he addressed the three of us in the bench facing him.  It seemed like a nonsensical question.  Anyone living in Alabama was not likely to have made the three to four week journey to Indiana.  We all indicated we had not.  Bo's expressive face showed eager anticipation, and he began describing in great detail the amount and types of fish to be caught in Indiana based on a letter from apparently a rather verbose relative of his wife's.

I settled into the seat cushion as best I could, enjoying the tales spun for us by our personal travel entertainer and wondering how long his stories could hold out on this journey.
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