The River Runs Deep – Episode 14

Sailesh Thakrar © Alfred Wynne takes Edith's hand Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

The semester was racing by.

The girls sang the last line of their song, and as she played its final notes, Edith beamed across from the piano.

“Well done. You kept together beautifully!”

After the girls left the music room, Principal Buckley came in.

“The choir’s coming along splendidly.” She considered her protégée.

“Today’s your free afternoon, isn’t it? Off into town again?”

Edith returned Winifred Buckley’s warm smile.

“I’m going to the concert in the park.

“The band is excellent, especially its singer, Mr Alfred Wynne. He’s a fine baritone.”

“Then I mustn’t keep you. I hope the weather stays fair,” Miss Buckley commented. “It doesn’t look promising.”

Hurriedly putting on her bonnet, Edith snatched up her gloves and sped along the corridor.

Passing the secretary’s office, she was hailed by Cassie Jennings, the school secretary.

“Another letter for you. It isn’t from your brother, though,” Cassie remarked.

“You haven’t heard from him for a while, have you?”

“Charles and I don’t keep in touch,” Edith replied, feeling a flicker of hope.

It was from a publisher to whom she’d submitted her music. Not classical pieces, but parlour melodies for folks to play at home.

It was brief. Determined not to allow yet another disappointment to spoil her afternoon, Edith hurried into town.

Park concerts were well attended, so she was relieved to find the last free seat on the front row as Alfred Wynne stepped on to the bandstand.

“Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming to our concerts this season.

“I see familiar faces who have been here every week.”

Alfred’s gaze swept the audience, but Edith felt certain his attention lingered upon her.

The band struck up and Alfred’s voice filled the air.

Raindrops began falling during the next song. By verse three, torrents of rain were slanting across the park and the audience fled.

The band ceased playing and followed suit.

Leaping from the bandstand, Alfred sprinted to Edith, bowing formally and offering his hand.

“Alfred Wynne at your service, Miss . . .?”

“Edith,” she said, shaking his hand. “Edith Havilland.”

“Miss Edith Havilland.” He laughed, rivulets of water streaming from his hair. “What say we get out of this rain and have tea?”

Edith and Alfred Wynne sat sipping coffee, watching the rain and talking.

At least, Alfred talked. Edith mostly listened.

“Now summer’s over,” he finished with a careless shrug, “I’m out of work.”

“What will the band do?” Edith asked.

“Makes no odds to me. I only stepped in when the regular singer let them down.

“Put me on a stage and there’s not much I can’t handle.” Alfred grinned.

“I’m an actor. I was in ‘Hamlet’ in Philadelphia last year, and played Romeo in Boston the year before.

“Something will turn up,” he added.

“What if it doesn’t?” Edith queried. “Might you leave New Prospect?”

“Maybe.” His eyes twinkled. “Depends if I’ve something to stay for.”

Edith caught her breath.

Alfred Wynne was pretty fresh, but she liked him.

“This is a swanky place!” Alfred whistled when they entered Claremont’s side gate and started through the school’s grounds. “You really live here?”

“Since I was seven,” Edith replied, leading the way around the house. “This is the staff wing.”

“Can I see you again? Tonight?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“I’ve junior prep duty.”

“Tomorrow? We could go dancing?”

“That would be wonderful.” Edith was rueful. “But Claremont has a staff curfew, so I can’t stay out late.”

“I never stay out late,” Alfred declared.

Clasping her hands and leaning closer, he brushed his lips against her cheek.

“Until tomorrow.”

Edith beamed up at him, unaware that, from the window of the secretary’s office, their parting was witnessed by Cassie.

To be continued…

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