The River Runs Deep – Episode 41


Only one person had ever called her by that name.

“Alfred!” Whirling round, she saw him sprinting up the street. “How are you?”

“Good.” He shrugged, returning her warm smile. “You look great, Edie. I spotted you in the audience at the opening night.

“Are you living here now? Those boys who went in the store, are they yours?”

She shook her head.

“My nephews; I’m visiting Deep River while I work on a composition about riverboats.”

“I often sing your parlour songs.” Alfred grinned. “You are Edward Havilland, aren’t you? I’d recognise your music anywhere.

“You’re one of the best.”

He broke off, interrupted by yells from his fellow actors to hurry.

“I’d better go, or the stage’ll leave without me and I’ll be walking to Kansas.”

They were shaking hands when Alfred laughed.

“Oh, Edie.” Leaning across, he kissed her. “I’m sorry we lost touch.”

“So am I.” She met his gaze. “It is so good to see you again, Alfred.”

With that, he raced over to catch up with the stage, which was already moving, accompanied by cheers of fellows leaning out to drag him aboard.

The door slammed shut and Alfred leaned from the window, waving to her.

Edith returned his wave.

Alfred hadn’t changed an iota – and it had been very good seeing him again.

“Riverboat Sketches” was progressing beautifully.

Edith was absorbed in her music and hadn’t given any thought to Charles’s desk for quite some while.

With scant enthusiasm, she finally resumed the task, grappling with five great, heavy drawers.

The middle one wouldn’t open the whole way and, reaching in, Edith could feel a bulky object lodged behind the drawer.

After some manoeuvring, she withdrew a bundle of unopened letters.

They were the letters she’d written to Alfred Wynne in New York and mailed from Claremont.

Tugging loose the cord, other letters tumbled free: letters Alfred had sent to her at Claremont.

How had they come into Charles’s possession?

Cassie, the school secretary! All mail went through her office.

She’d always been smitten with Charles, Edith recalled, and Charles could be persuasive.

“Edith, are you still fussing with that desk?” Pippa demanded, showing William into the study. “William’s here for you!”

“I forgot the time.” Edith scrambled to her feet. “I need to change . . .”

“You look fine to me.” William laughed, kissing her.

“I’ll only be a minute –” She was interrupted by a siren’s shrill scream. “Whatever is that?”

“A cave-in at the mine,” he returned tersely. “I’ve heard it before, when I was a boy.

“I’ll have to go, Edith. They’ll need men to dig folks out.”

William hurriedly kissed her goodbye, but for a split second Edith clung to him.

“Come back safe,” she whispered. “I love you.”

Men from all four corners of Deep River answered the siren’s call, funnelling towards the Overton Mine.

Most were carrying any tool that might help dig out survivors. If there were any.

Running across open country to the workings, William was a boy again.

A boy who’d heard the siren and stood at the cabin door with his mother, watching Pa and Grandpa disappearing into the mine, while the surface was screams and chaos.

Nearing the workings all these years later, the sight meeting William’s eyes seemed exactly the same.

He met up with Andrew, and the pair were waiting to go underground when Gideon emerged, bearing a badly hurt man in his arms.

“It’s like a house of cards down there,” he muttered. “The cave-in’s bringing down walls and roofs by the minute.

“There are pockets of people trapped all over the place!”

Working alongside Andrew, William had no notion of how long they were below ground.

Hours passed, digging, hauling out survivors, relaying them along a chain to the surface.

Every so often, someone would blow a whistle and the rescuers downed tools and fell silent, listening for cries or shouts for help.

He and Andrew had barely freed a small boy before an almighty shudder cracked open the earth above them.

Bombarded with a hail of rubble and shattered shoring beams, they ran for their lives.

Glancing over his shoulder, William saw the roof and a wall collapsing mere yards behind them.

“There’s somebody back there!” he yelled, turning. “I can see his boot!”

Shielding his head with one arm and holding up the lantern in his raised hand, William plunged back along the tunnel, but he stopped in his tracks.

In the lantern’s dim light, he glimpsed the remains of a man who’d lain buried for many a year.

A man who’d once worn a white shirt with a necktie and been clad in a dark suit of clothes.

A man with a heavy, old-fashioned watch chain fastened across the front of his vest – just like his father had worn . . .

To be continued…

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