The River Runs Deep – Episode 31

The Valentine’s ball – a whole month ago now – with its excitement, music and dancing, was a cherished memory for Edith.

Her only disappointment was that having been occupied on the platform playing the melodies, she hadn’t had an opportunity to dance with William.

At the end of the evening he’d driven her and Pippa home to Delderfield.

Pippa had rustled up warm toddies and the three gathered around the drawing-room’s fireside, toasting their toes and fingers, recounting memorable moments from the ball.

When Pippa declared herself exhausted, she bid them goodnight.

Edith and William talked quietly for a while longer, gradually lapsing into companionable silence as they sat together in the flickering firelight of the comfortable old room.

The mantel clock had long struck midnight before William reluctantly admitted he’d best make tracks for Pipers Creek.

It was while Edith was showing him out into that cold, frosty February night that William offered her his arms, and they’d danced together on the moon-washed verandah.

If Valentine’s night was a joyous occasion, the weeks since had been happier still, with she and William spending as much time in one another’s company as work allowed.

During her years teaching at Claremont, Edith had established a routine of rising early and devoting a few precious, undisturbed hours to her own music before the day’s lessons began.

It was a routine she maintained at Delderfield.

Edith relished wrapping up snugly, taking her coffee and notebooks on to the verandah and settling on the swing-couch to compose her “Riverboat Sketches” for the festival.

It was barely daybreak and the weather was unseasonably mild.

Delderfield’s gardens were golden with daffodils, first buds blurring the silhouettes of bare trees across the parkland, and birds singing and calling high amongst the boughs.

To her delight, Edith saw William striding up through the beech walk.

She waved to him, disappearing indoors and returning with another cup.

She was pouring his coffee when William joined her on the verandah.

“Tell me you’re playing hooky!” She laughed, even though he was clad in work clothes and carrying a gunny sack.

“Instead of going to Leasowe’s, we’re spending this glorious day at Beaver Lake.”

“If only!” He gazed down into Edith’s eyes, kissing her before taking a seat beside her.

“You said you were travelling to Fenwick today?”

“Pippa’s shopping for soft furnishings and a pair of antique book cabinets for Charles’s study.” Edith nodded.

“There are several stores in Fenwick she especially likes.

“After we’ve taken the boys to school, we’re catching the stage.”

“Will you mail this for me in Fenwick?” he asked, taking a small package from the sack.

“I can’t risk mailing it here. Word is sure to get around as to where it’s going and who sent it.”

“I can certainly see why this would set tongues wagging!” Edith exclaimed, raising her eyebrows as she read the addressee.

“Why, everybody’s heard
of –”

“He’s an old friend in Chicago,” William interrupted. “We met during the war.”

“If he replies, why not instruct correspondence be sent to Delderfield, addressed to Edward Havilland?”

“He will need to contact me, so thank you.”

William took the pen and ink she offered and began writing on the package, glancing sidelong at her.

“Edward Havilland?”

She laughed.

“Years ago I used my own name when I sent music to publishing companies, and every one rejected my work.

“Then Winifred Buckley, the principal at Claremont, suggested I use a masculine nom de plume.”

“And your music got published.” William grinned, returning the pen.

“I recall Miss Adelaide telling me the Brontë sisters’ work was published under men’s names.”

“They probably weren’t the first to do it, and I doubt I shall be the last,” she opined, taking the package from him.

“I’ll mail this as soon as we arrive in Fenwick.”

“Aren’t you going to ask what’s inside?” William wondered.

“I’m curious as a cat, but it must be hush-hush or else you’d be able to mail it yourself in Deep River.”

To be continued…

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