The River Runs Deep – Episode 23

Sailesh Thakrar © Billy-Bob rode into town Illustration: Sailesh Thakrar

Before breaking camp next morning, he buried a small satchel in a hollow bole oft used by conductors for messages in the old Underground Railroad days.

Leaving the Kirkstones as clean and clear as if nobody had camped there, William trailed a pine bough as he rode away, masking his tracks.

After stabling his horse at the livery, he made for Dr Booth’s old office and took advantage of the barber shop and bath house, emerging clean and respectable-looking.

Checking in at Tyrell’s hotel, out of habit William almost gave the false name he’d been using.

Signing the book W. Robertson, he glanced keenly at Paul Tyrell.

They’d been in school together, but the younger man showed no recognition of the gaunt, weather-tanned face before him.

Not that it mattered, William reasoned, going to his room. Everybody in Deep River would know he was back pretty soon.

Leaving his saddlebags and poke at Tyrell’s, he went on foot to the river.

Whenever Frank Leasowe wasn’t aboard Missouri Belle, he was usually to be found at his warehouses.

Sure enough, there he was over by the dock, dealing with the skipper of a keelboat loaded with timber.

William waited until the conversation ended before respectfully approaching Leasowe and introducing himself.

“I’m looking for work, sir. Are you taking on hands at the warehouse?”

“Robertson, you say?” Leasowe’s eyes narrowed shrewdly. “You that kid the Sinclairs took in?”

“I am, sir.”

“You’re the one who ran off and joined the Union Army,” he remarked.

“Well, I never hold a grudge nor take against a man for fighting on the wrong side.

“The war’s over and I’m a patriot. This is the finest country in the world.

“What we have to do is build it up again. You do right by me, and I’ll do right by you.”

“I’ll do a good job, sir. You have my word upon it.”

“Don’t you make me regret taking you on,” Captain Leasowe warned, signalling for the foreman to come over.

“I’d hate for you to turn out to be a thief like your old man!”

Snow was falling heavily and the afternoon closing in to dusk when William approached Pipers Creek.

He saw lamps glowing within the Sinclair’s homestead. The stable door swung open and Andrew emerged, carrying an empty feed pail.

From the corner of his eye, he glimpsed a shadowy figure standing down beyond the gate.


It wasn’t so much a question as a greeting.

Practically sprinting the yards separating them, Andrew pulled open the wicket and hauled William inside, clapping him soundly on the shoulder.

“Welcome home! Let’s get indoors out of the cold!”

Laura and her mother had spent the afternoon baking, and while Shona checked on the pies, Laura was lighting lamps.

Adjusting the wick, she slid a glass chimney on to the lamp and set it down, then reached out to close the curtains.

“Ma!” She gasped, straining to better see through the gloaming. “Ma, come quick and look!”

Laura couldn’t believe it when, after stamping snow from his boots, William followed her father into the kitchen.

“Where have you been?” she blurted out, running to him.

She enveloped him in a big hug.

“Why didn’t you come home after the war?”

“Give the lad a chance to get his foot over the threshold!” Andrew interrupted.

“How about taking his wet hat and coat and putting them to dry?”

“Sorry.” Laura sighed, meeting William’s sombre eyes. “I didn’t mean to . . . You’ve been gone so long!”

“I’m the one who’s sorry.” William looked from her upturned face to Shona and Andrew. “I should have come sooner and –”

“You wrote letting us know you were safe,” Shona reassured him, reaching out to clasp his hands.

“You’re here now, Billy-Bob. Nothing else matters!

“Sit down,” she continued, drawing him into the warmth of the comfortable kitchen.

To be continued…

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