The River Runs Deep – Episode 06

Sailesh Thakrar © The main characters from the story Illustration by Sailesh Thakrar

Billy-Bob was sweeping out front of Miss Adelaide’s store when he spotted Caleb striding into town.

His first notion was Ma must have taken bad and his father had come to fetch him.

Calling out, Billy-Bob tossed aside the broom and raced along the busy street, weaving between carts, riders and window-shoppers.

Caleb neither heard nor saw him. He made directly for the sheriff’s office and went inside.

Billy-Bob stopped in his tracks, expelling a relieved breath. It wasn’t about Ma, then.

But why had his father come into town? He should be at the mine.

What business could he have with the sheriff? Pa didn’t like Wes Pearce. He said the sheriff was nothing more than a bully.

Retracing his steps, Billy-Bob picked up his broom and got on with his chores.

There was plenty to do, because Deep River was busier and more crowded than usual.

The Missouri Belle was due, and the steamboat’s arrival brought carts, riders and folks from miles around flooding into town.

Today, there was even more excitement – the Belle had a travelling magic show aboard.

Billy-Bob was hitching up the wagon ready to drive out to the waterfront and collect the store’s goods as Missouri Belle’s whistle heralded her approach.

When he and Miss Adelaide reached the river, you could scarce put a pin between the crush of vehicles and mass of people teeming around the wharf.

Among them was the Great Zipoli’s Travelling Magic Show with their tents, trunks and props.

“Wait up!”

Andrew Sinclair hailed Billy-Bob and Adelaide while they were manoeuvring the store’s heavily laden wagon from the crowded riverfront.

“Glad I caught you!” He grinned, waving a handful of passes at Billy-Bob.

“Mr Zipoli dished out free tickets to the crew for this afternoon’s show.

“Shona will take the girls and Walter, and I figured you and your ma might like to go along. She’ll pick you both up in the buggy.”

Thus everything was arranged.

It was a wonderful show! Outings and treats were rare occurrences for the Robertsons and, as Hannah said while Mrs Sinclair drove them home later, they’d had a grand time, but it was a shame Andrew and Caleb couldn’t come.

Both men were working, of course. Andrew aboard Missouri Belle and Caleb over at the mine office.

As soon as they got back to their cabin, Billy-Bob changed out of his Sunday clothes and made good the promise he’d made his father to collect more wood for the pile.

When he’d brought back his fourth load and Hannah came out to tell him she was about to dish up supper, he called it a day.

Stacking the boughs and branches ready to be cut into kindling, Billy-Bob washed his hands under the pump and went in to eat.

Hannah was fetching crockery from the dresser, then turned round, beaming at him.

Billy-Bob could see she was tired after their outing, but she looked better today than she had in a long time.

“We did have such a good day, didn’t we?” Hannah exclaimed, adding wistfully, “I wish your pa’d been with us, though.”

Billy-Bob saw a shadow cross his mother’s eyes and her voice faltered as she set Caleb’s place at table.

“Your pa works very hard for us. I hope he won’t be working late again tonight.”

It was the end of a perfect day.

Laura and Bea were still chattering and giggling about the magic show, far too excited for sleep.

“Girls, settle down,” Shona called upstairs for the umpteenth time. “You can talk in the morning.”

The sisters did hush, but not for long.

Bea was soon whispering about the lady in the spangly dress who’d been sawn in two when Laura’s sharp ears heard a shout from down in the yard.

“That’s Billy-Bob!”

Darting to the window, she flung it open, leaning out.

Pa had been shutting up the barn and Laura watched him stride towards Billy-Bob, his lantern lighting up the boy’s face.

“It’s Pa, Mr Sinclair!” Billy-Bob cried. “Pa hasn’t come home!”

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.