Rhoda sighed again and leaned on the arm of my chair, chin on her hands. “There’s no one to dance with you either, Mother.”
I rescued the end of my kerchief from the baby’s grasp and stood him up on my lap. “You’d like to dance, wouldn’t you, William?” The chubby little boy churned his legs and squealed.
At this, Rhoda frowned. “Elijah and William are too young to care about dancing.”
“Come, Rhoda. I’ll be your partner!” Seventeen-year-old Nancy saved the day when she danced over to our corner, bowed, and extended her hand. Rhoda’s frown turned to giggles. She dropped a curtsey and skipped into the center of the room. Turning the baby so he could watch Rhoda, I bounced him in time to the music and mouthed a thank-you to Nancy. Elijah, who cared naught about dancing, beat one of his blocks on the floor.
A blast of wintry air set the fire flickering as it swept through the parlor. I leaned forward in my chair and saw a dark-haired, broad-shouldered man in the hall shed his cloak and hand it and his cocked hat to the butler. Could it be? A squeak was all I could manage as I rose to my feet.
Aunt Jean heard my soft exclamation and stopped playing. Everyone turned to follow my gaze, and I held my breath until light fell upon the man’s face.
“Uncle Thomas!” Rhoda ran to fling her arms around his waist as he came into the parlor.
As my brother-in-law and I locked eyes, I could tell something was very wrong by the way the corners of his mouth turned down. I swallowed hard as I passed the baby to my mother. “We weren’t expecting you, Thomas. When did you get home?”
He ignored my questions for the moment. “I thought I saw someone signaling ‘one if by land’ from the front window as I rode up.”
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