The River Runs Deep – Episode 30

With her organising and welcoming duties all done, Laura sighed contentedly, feeling Paul’s arms about her and abandoning herself to the music and the heady pleasure of his closeness.

James Young had a friendly way of setting right folks who were getting their steps muddled up, not least during a particularly lively gallop that left Laura breathless with its skips, hops, spins and turns.

The dance ended, the tempo slowed to a waltz and Jim called the change.

“Take your partners for a Ladies Excuse Me, folks!”

Still smiling after the spirited gallop, Laura was about to rest her hand on Paul’s shoulder and move into hold when she felt a tap upon her own shoulder.

“Excuse me.”

Turning, Laura saw Darleen Ridgeway behind her.

“May I, Laura?”

With that, Darleen neatly slipped into Paul’s arms and the couple instantly melted into the romantic waltz.

Laura found herself standing stock still amongst a swirl of dancers.

Trying to escape the floor, she felt a tentative hand upon her sleeve.

“I know this is a Ladies Excuse Me,” Johan began. “But may I have this dance, Laura?”

Stepping into his arms, she felt her embarrassment at being left alone melting away.

Johan was a good dancer and Laura was dismayed when the waltz ended and James called a schottische.

“I’m out of my depth with this one.” Johan laughed apologetically.

“It’s the sidesteps and twirls that catch me out. Would you like a cup of punch, Laura?”

“That’d be lovely,” she responded. “I’ve been meaning to ask about your correspondence course. What is it you’re –”

“Sorry about the interruption.” Paul was beside her, his arm about her waist, drawing her close. “Now, where were we?”

“Oh, but . . .” Laura protested, spinning back to face Johan, but he was no longer there.

Although it was late when the Sinclairs returned to Pipers Creek, Laura and Bea weren’t sleepy.

Long after Shona and Walter’s lamps were snuffed and darkness settled upon the house, a candle still burned bright in the girls’ room beneath the eaves

The sisters were chattering away as they prepared for bed, reliving every last detail of the ball.

William still wasn’t home. He’d offered to see the Havilland ladies safely back to Delderfield.

“The night was a success,” Bea declared, brushing her hair.

“Everybody enjoyed themselves. You should be proud of yourself, Laura.”

“Paul and I did it together,” her sister replied.

“I couldn’t have organised it without him.”

“What was Mrs Leasowe saying to you?” Bea asked.

“She looked serious, and left before anybody else.”

“She said I’d done a good job, especially with the musicians and all,” Laura related.

“She went home early because she was on her own, with Captain Leasowe being aboard the Belle like Pa is.”

“As long as Pa’s ashore for my wedding, that’s what matters. It’s only a month away now.”

“It’s a shame he missed the ball,” Laura said with a smile.

“Pa could’ve played his bagpipes on the platform with Billy-Bob and the others!”

“The music was wonderful,” Bea enthused, snuggling under the covers.

“William and Edith Havilland seemed to get along well, didn’t they?

“At the end of the night, when the pair of them swapped instruments, they got such a cheer.

“I didn’t know Billy-Bob could even play a guitar!”

“There are probably lots of things about Billy-Bob we don’t know,” Laura observed, slipping into bed and blowing out the candle.

Bea fell asleep almost at once, but Laura lay awake.

She’d tucked the beautiful Valentine Paul had given her under her pillow, and now slipped her hand beneath it, resting it upon the card.

With a contented sigh, Laura closed her eyes.

Still, sleep would not come. She heard the grandfather clock striking midnight.

With a heavy sigh, Laura turned on to her side and looked out through the small-paned window.

It was a cold, clear night. Bright, frosty moonlight flooded the room, lighting up the ledge where she’d placed the card bearing Robert Burns’s “A Red, Red Rose”.

Her gaze lingered upon that homemade Valentine. Who could have sent it?

To be continued…

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