The River Runs Deep – Episode 24

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

“I’m about to take an apple and pecan pie out of the oven.”

“Walter should be home soon,” Andrew said as they sat down around the table.

“Bea said she’ll be late tonight. She’s going somewhere with Gideon.”

“Gideon is Bea’s fiancé,” Laura explained. “They’re getting married in spring.”

“What about you?” Shona glanced up from serving helpings of pie, smiling at William.

“Are you married? Or have you a sweetheart?”

“No, ma’am. Neither one.” He laughed, shaking his head. “I’ve never stayed in one place long enough to get settled.”

“In that letter you sent when the war ended,” Laura began, “you said you probably wouldn’t stay in the army. What did you do?”

“Early in the war, I helped a Scot who’d sailed to America when he was young and set up in Chicago,” William said.

“He wasn’t in uniform when we met, so I didn’t know until later he was high up in the Union Army and had once saved Mr Lincoln’s life.

“Our paths crossed several more times, and we worked well together. He told me if ever I got to Chicago to go see him.” William threw Laura a smile. “That’s what I did.”

“You’ve been to Chicago?”

She’d read about that city and seen pictures of Chicago’s fancy department stores, fashionable hotels and railroad cars.

“It must be a real exciting place!”

He laughed.

“I was only there a short time, but it was lively!”

“Where do you live now?” Laura persisted curiously.

“Did you get to be a newspaperman, like you used to talk about?”

“No, I never did.”

“What do you do, then? For work?” she went on.

“I turn my hand to whatever comes my way.” William shrugged, draining his coffee. “I’ve a job at Leasowe’s.”

“Leasowe’s?” she echoed. “I work for the Leasowes – well, for Mrs Leasowe – at the Hawthorns!”

“Nowhere fancy for me,” he replied. “I’m down in the warehouses. Saw Frank Leasowe himself and he took me on.”

“You’re staying in Deep River?” Laura’s eyes shone.

William nodded.

“For a spell, anyhow.”

Shona beamed.

“I’ll heat stone-pigs and make up your bed; you’ll likely be wanting an early night.”

“Thank you, ma’am, that’s kind, but I’ve stabled my horse in town and checked in at the hotel.”

“You’re staying at Tyrell’s?” Laura exclaimed in consternation. “Why would you do that instead of being here with us?”

“I left Pipers Creek a long time ago,” he reasoned, glancing across the table. “Can’t expect everything to be like it was.”

“This is your home, son,” Andrew chipped in, meeting the younger man’s eyes. “Always will be.

“Besides,” he added, grinning and helping himself to another piece of pie, “Shona’s cooking is much better than anything you’d get at Tyrell’s!”

Leaving the men to their coffee, Laura and her mother put the stone-pigs to heat and the supper potatoes and parsnips to roast.

They were upstairs when Walter arrived home from school and, while they were fetching sheets from the linen chest, they heard bursts of laughter and snatches of animated conversation drifting from the kitchen.

“Whatever can they be talking about, Ma?”

“They’ll be spinning yarns and telling tall tales,” Shona opined. “Once menfolk start, there’s no stopping them.”

With William’s bed made, Laura and Shona went to find Andrew, William and Walter putting on their coats, hats and boots.

“We’re going into town with Billy-Bob to collect his horse and belongings,” Andrew explained, drawing open the heavy door. “We’ll be back for supper.”

Light in heart and step, Laura hurried back indoors to help with the meal.

It wasn’t until everything was done and ready that she had a spare moment to gather her thoughts.

Billy-Bob hadn’t said much about the years he’d been gone, and there was a great deal she longed to know.

She wanted to hear more of the Scotsman who’d saved Mr Lincoln and lived in Chicago.

She was eager for details of places he had travelled, and keen to know what he’d done and seen there.

And she must ask why, after staying away for so long, he’d come back home to Deep River . . .

To be continued…

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