The River Runs Deep – Episode 15

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

The early weeks of semester were hectic, and between preparing lessons, teaching classes, grading work and making plans for Claremont’s choir, Edith had little free time.

Whatever time she did have, she spent with Alfred.

He’d found a job with a florist in New Prospect, and Edith was in town at Korngold’s when he slipped into the music shop and crept up on her, covering her eyes with his hands.

“Guess what?” he began, turning her around to face him. “I’ve an audition at the Little Theatre.”

Edith followed Alfred out to the flower store’s wagon.

“The play opens next month for a short run, then it goes on tour,” he explained, driving her back to school. “The part of Damis still isn’t cast.

“The audition’s this Thursday, so I don’t have much time to get ready.

“I’ve never heard of ‘Tartuffe’,” Alfred went on. “I haven’t a clue what the play’s about. A fella at the theatre said it was French.”

“Written by Molière in the 1600s.” Edith nodded.

“It’s a comedy about hypocrisy and deceit. Damis is son and heir of a wealthy Parisian family and is disinherited.”

“You’ve seen it?” Alfred asked.

“Read it. Claremont’s library has all Molière’s work.” Edith hesitated. “I could help you prepare for the audition, Alfred.

“I’ll borrow the play for you to read carefully,” she began.

“We’ll go through your lines together. We can rehearse at the folly in the school grounds.”

“The Robertsons’ bread is ready.” Bea took a batch of crusty loaves from the oven at Pipers Creek.

“I’ve already put the cinnamon oatcakes into the basket.”

“Billy-Bob really likes them,” Laura remarked bleakly. “I hardly ever see him any more. I miss him!”

“Billy-Bob has a man’s responsibilities, with his ma so poorly and them losing their home,” Bea reasoned.

“We’d best take the baking to the wagon.”

The girls were setting the baskets into the wagon when Shona emerged from the kitchen garden carrying a trug of vegetables.

“We’ll not be long, Bea,” Shona said, swinging Walter on to the seat next to Laura.

“I’ll fetch Hannah and we’ll start putting up our Christmas preserves.”

As they approached the cabin, Billy-Bob emerged from the shed where Grandpa William had kept his tools.

“You look busy.” Shona smiled. “How’s your ma?”

“She’s not sleeping good, Mrs Sinclair. We’ve fixed up some place to live. Ma’ll tell you about it.”

“Is there news?” Laura hissed after Shona went indoors and she and Billy-Bob were alone. “Jo must be there by now!”

“She’ll be travelling by night, likely on foot,” he replied, lifting the baskets from the wagon. “Canada’s hundreds of miles away.”

“I guess.” She followed him into the cabin.

Billy-Bob’s ma turned to greet her and Laura almost gasped with shock.

Hannah was thinner and paler than she’d been a few days ago.

She seemed to have shrunk. Her face and hands were white as paper, but her gentle eyes and smile were warm as ever.

“Mrs Sinclair,” Billy-Bob was saying. “Can I take Walter to Grandpa’s shed? I want to show him something.”

“Of course.”

“Shall I come?” Laura asked.

“No.” Billy-Bob grinned, taking the boy’s hand. “This is just for boys.”

In a flash, Walter was back. The door burst open and he cannoned inside, eyes shining and arms outstretched.

“Look, Ma! Look what Billy-Bob gave me!”

“Grandpa made it for me when I was little –” Billy-Bob began.

There was an almighty clatter.

Spinning around from watching Walter showing off the carved sail boat, they saw Hannah crumpled on the floor.

“Your ma’s coming round, Billy-Bob,” Shona murmured, kneeling beside her friend. “We’ll lift her into that chair beside the fire.”

Hannah gradually revived, turning to the anxious children.

“I’m all right,” she whispered with a smile.

“Shona and me want to talk now. Go to Indian Pond and sail Walter’s boat.”

To be continued…

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