The River Runs Deep – Episode 26

“How is Bea’s wedding dress coming along?” Adelaide asked, gathering Shona’s provisions.  

“Measuring and sewing those pintucks and pleats on the bodice kept us on our toes!” Shona laughed. “It’s lovely material to work, and we’re almost finished.” 

“Have they named the day yet?” 

“Bea wants a spring wedding, so I expect they’ll decide a date as soon as the house is fixed up.” 

“Widow Thwaite was on her own for a long time; the place fell into a sorry state,” Adelaide commented, adding up Shona’s bill. 

“I was passing by last week and saw William and Doctor Joffey working there,” she added. “They’ve done wonders already!” 

“It’s coming along fine,” Shona agreed, packing her baskets. “Gideon intends making the downstairs room into a cottage hospital.” 

“So I’ve heard!” Adelaide exclaimed. “Doctor Joffey is a dedicated man. We’re fortunate he came to Deep River and decided to stay.” 

Later that week, Adelaide was in one of the front windows, arranging an attractive display of beribboned boxes of candy and posies of silk flowers, when Hal Carmichael strode into the store, surveying her handiwork. 

“I see the greetings cards and fancy-goods drummer has passed this way.” 

“There are people who enjoy Valentine’s Day, Hal,” Adelaide pointed out. 

“People who have more money than sense,” he countered, handing her two sheets of paper.  

“This letter arrived today, and here’s the notice I’ve worked up for ‘The Clarion’.” 

Information Wanted. 

I am looking for my older brother, Victor Ridgeway. We were field hands at Longacre in Deep River, Missouri, until our master, Royston Ridgeway, sold me to a gentleman in Alabama. 

Please send any information to this newspaper. 

Felix Ridgeway. 

Putting on her spectacles, Adelaide began reading. 

Since the war, she and Hal, together with Edgar Watts and Leonard Scott, two fellow conductors from their Underground Railroad days, had been working to locate and reunite couples, families and friends separated due to slavery. 

“Nate from the livery was one of Ridgeway’s slaves,” Hal continued. “I asked if he knew what happened to Victor. He doesn’t recall either brother. 

“They must have been before his time.” 

“Clara might know,” Adelaide considered, removing her spectacles. “She was born at Longacre. 

“Can you mind the store for me, please, Hal?” 

“All right, but where are you going?” 

“For afternoon tea at Tyrell’s,” she replied, fetching her hat and cloak. “I shan’t be long.” 

There wasn’t anybody in the lobby when Adelaide entered Tyrell’s hotel, but on the landing a young man was hauling a trunk from one of the rooms. 

“I’ll be right with you,” he called, manoeuvring the cumbersome trunk on to the staircase. 

“Be careful!” she returned. 

Johan Kuiper was porter, bell-hop, desk clerk and general jack-of-all-trades at the hotel. 

“You should have somebody helping you with that monstrosity.” 

“Mr Paul’s gone out, or he would have given me a hand,” Johan explained, setting the trunk at the foot of the stairs.  

“What can I do for you, Miss Adelaide?” 

“A pot of tea and one of Clara’s pastries, please.” 

“Reckon we can manage that.” He smiled, joining her. “Come this way.” 

“I’ve ordered the textbook you wanted,” she told him while they crossed the lobby. 

Johan had ambitions to teach one day, and for two years had been studying with a correspondence college in Baltimore. 

“Mr Scott will bring it when he comes to town next week,” she added. 

“Thank you. That book will be a big help.” 

Going through the archway into the hotel’s genteel tea room, Johan showed Adelaide to one of the small tables. 

“I’ll tell Clara you’re here.” 

While Adelaide was waiting and reflecting upon Felix Ridgeway’s search for his brother, the hotel’s door opened. 

To be continued…

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