The River Runs Deep – Episode 34

“Look, Aunt Edith!” young Charlie shouted, leaping on the bench and pointing into the distance.

“More prairie schooners are coming into town!”

“Are they?” Edith murmured distractedly.

She’d been lost in thought, mulling over a problem she was having with the second of her “Riverboat Sketches”.

Turning, she saw the dust of approaching vehicles drawn by oxen, horses and mules.

“There are lots of them, aren’t there?”

“It’s a wagon train, Aunt,” Charlie went on.

“Every spring, pioneers drive through Deep River to the waterfront and buy supplies before they join trails heading to Santa Fe, Oregon and California.”

“Where’s Mama?” Barty piped up, tugging at Edith’s sleeve.

She and the boys were waiting on the church green for Pippa.

“She’s been a long time,” he added.

“Your mama’s gone into the store to ask Miss Adelaide for a recipe.”

“For cakes?” Barty asked hopefully. “And pies?”

“I’m afraid not. The recipe’s a concoction to clean and polish up your papa’s battered old desk.”

“It’s a fine desk,” Charlie admonished firmly. “Papa told me so. It was given to him by a general at West Point.”

“Here’s Mama!” Barty whooped, dashing across the green to meet her. “Can we go home, Mama?”

With the boys running on ahead, Edith and Pippa strolled through the afternoon sunshine towards Delderfield.

“Did you get the recipe to transform Charles’s desk into a thing of beauty?”

Pippa nodded.

“Adelaide says the ingredients work wonders, and that old desk is Charles’s most treasured possession.

“I keep hoping . . .” Her voice faltered. “I keep hoping that one day he’ll quit the Army.

“How wonderful it would be if every morning he went to a nice, safe job in an office and came home each evening to us.”

Edith bit her tongue and didn’t reply. Charles was Army through and through, exactly as their father and grandfather had been, and exactly as Pippa’s father, Colonel Bartholomew Delderfield, was.

Such men remained soldiers until the end of their days. Duty and regiment always came first.

“I love my husband dearly,” Pippa confided unexpectedly.

“But I doubt Charles would have proposed had I not been one of Colonel Delderfield’s daughters.

“Oh, I believe Charles does love me in his own way,” she went on hurriedly, silencing Edith.

“He isn’t in love with me, though.

“I wish with my whole heart Charles would look at me the way William looks at you!” Pippa declared, fixing her companion with a shrewd gaze.

“Are you going to marry him, Edith?”

Edith was rarely at a loss for words, but now she stumbled.

“I – I care deeply for William,” she admitted.

“You’re in love with him, you mean.”

“Perhaps, but . . .”

“But what?”

“I’m almost six years older than he is, Pippa.”

Pippa shrugged.

“What of it? Charles is years and years older than I am!”

“It’s different for a woman,” Edith pointed out.

“Besides, at summer’s end I shall return to Claremont and I don’t believe William will remain long in Deep River.”

“That man loves you, Edith!” Pippa persisted earnestly.

“It shows in his eyes every time he sees you. I hear it in his voice whenever he speaks your name.

“If you walk away, you’ll regret leaving William for the rest of your life!”

Laura didn’t tell Paul about the lessons.

Although she felt uneasy about not telling him, she agreed with Bea that Miss Myrtle learning to read was personal and private.

Besides, Laura had a nagging feeling that Paul might not approve.

The lessons were going very well and Laura looked forward to Tuesdays.

On other days, too, whenever Miss Myrtle could get away from the Hawthorns and Johan wasn’t on duty at the hotel, the three would meet at Bea’s house.

Midway through each session, Bea was in the habit of taking a tray of milk and cookies into the little sitting-room.

When she did so one evening in late April, Myrtle rose from her seat.

“Miss Sinclair, in case I don’t see you before the wedding . . .” She smiled, offering a small package in tissue paper.

“Here is something blue for your special day.”

“Oh, thank you!” Bea murmured, touched.

Bending to kiss the elderly woman’s cheek, she carefully unwrapped a fine handkerchief in a delicate shade of blue, edged with lace and embroidered with posies of spring flowers.

“I never saw anything so beautiful! I’ll treasure this gift always, Miss Myrtle.”

“You’re welcome.” Myrtle beamed. “May you and your man have years of happiness together.”

At the end of the evening, Johan walked Myrtle to the Hawthorns, as he did after every lesson, while Laura stayed to help her sister with the new house.

“Wasn’t it kind of Miss Myrtle to think of me?” Bea said as they worked.

“I’ve never seen such exquisite needlework.”

“You should see the cradle quilt she’s making for baby Myrtle,” Laura replied, folding brand-new table linen into the dresser drawer. “It’s so pretty.

“She wants to put a note inside when she sends the quilt to Canada, so Johan’s setting her writing exercises now.

“He told Miss Myrtle she’ll be writing letters in no time.”

“When he passes his course,” Bea opined, “it will be a fortunate town that engages him to teach at their school.”

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.