The River Runs Deep – Episode 35

A few days later, Bea and Gideon had a quiet wedding at Pipers Creek.

Laura was allowed the day off by Irene Leasowe, on the strict understanding she come into work early the next morning.

Mrs Leasowe was having another of her grand luncheon parties, and everything had to be perfect for when the ladies descended upon the Hawthorns.

There was still an hour or so to go, and Laura was in the hall arranging an elaborate display of hothouse flowers and plants to greet the guests when they entered.

She’d been mindful of not clattering pails or dropping scissors, for Captain Leasowe was ensconced in his study across the hall.

The captain didn’t take kindly to any disturbance while he was working, especially on a sailing day.

Relieved when the lavish display was done, Laura was gathering bits and pieces into an empty pail when she heard the rumble of wagon wheels and the ring of the doorbell.

As she hurried to the door and drew it open, the bell clanged a second time.

“I’m here to see your master . . .” The bewhiskered, dishevelled old man broke off, staring past Laura into the hallway.

Half-turning, she saw Captain Leasowe striding from the study, his face like thunder.

“Go about your duties, Laura.”

“Yes, sir.” Bobbing a curtsey, she scurried away down the hall.

“Long time, no see.” She heard the stranger laugh. “You’ve sure done well for yourself, old friend.”

The study door snapped shut behind the two men, and Laura didn’t give them another thought.

Late that evening, after the ladies departed in their carriages and Captain Leasowe had sailed aboard Missouri Belle, things finally quietened down at the Hawthorns.

Before setting off home, Laura went to the housekeeper’s room and tapped upon the door.

She found Myrtle at her table, a pot of ink and a lamp at her side, a pen in her hand and the writing tablet before her.

“I’m sorry to disturb you.”

“You’re not. Come in,” Myrtle responded, setting aside her pen and rising to fetch another cup. “Sit yourself down.”

“We have to cancel our lesson tomorrow.” Laura sighed. “Mrs Leasowe’s decided to stay home to catch up with her correspondence.”

“That’s a shame, but it can’t be helped,” Myrtle replied. “Will you be able to tell Johan and your sister?”

Laura nodded, wearily sipping her coffee, then voiced a question she’d often wondered about but never felt able to ask.

“Why do you stay, Miss Myrtle? At the Hawthorns, I mean.”

“That’s a long story,” the elderly woman replied.

“Thirty years ago, when the Leasowes came to Deep River, they bought me and my daughter, Olivia, as slaves to take care of the house.

“Josephine was born here. When she was a teenager, as you know, the captain planned on sending Josephine to Louisiana, so she ran away.

“When Adelaide heard that Josephine was in Canada, knowing where she was gave me great comfort,” Myrtle related.

“I understand,” Laura murmured. “After Billy-Bob left, if we’d only known where he was, his being away wouldn’t have felt so – so empty somehow.”

“I know that empty feeling, child.

“Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder where Stephen is, and what’s happened to him all these years.”


“My man.” Myrtle spoke softly, her eyes tender. “We were born and raised on a plantation in Virginia.

“Stephen had a special way with horses – real quiet and gentle.

“We got to be sweethearts, and when he was eighteen and I was sixteen, we jumped the broom together.

“We were so happy! Even happier when Olivia came.

“The plantation had a run of bad years and the master sold Stephen.

“I don’t know where he was taken, and he’ll have no idea what became of Olivia and me.

“Nor that he has a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter now.”

“Sometimes there are notices in ‘The Clarion’!” Laura exclaimed, ashamed she’d never paid them much attention. “Asking about missing people.”

“There’s a lot of folks out there searching for kin, Laura,” Myrtle concluded softly. “I’ll never stop trying to find my Stephen – not as long as I live!”

To be continued…

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