Jefferson Square Park was considerably more crowded by the time the first group of friends and boarders returned from watching the parade. The first to arrive were three of her boarders, Mr. David Chapman, and Mrs. Barbara Hewitt and her son Jamie, along with her maid Kathleen’s younger brother Ian. They’d all been invited to see the parade from the upper floors of the firm where Chapman worked.
Annie, watching the boys tell Kathleen and Beatrice about the parade, said to Barbara Hewitt, “They certainly seemed to have had a splendid time. How long did the march go on? I expected you all would get to the park earlier. Were the crowds just awful once the parade ended?”
Nate was now two hours late, and she was trying not to worry that more than crowded horse cars were the cause. What if he’d gotten cold feet after last night? Setting the date making their future together all too real. No, she was being silly.
“My goodness, yes. While the tail-end of the procession passed us around three, just getting across Market Street took forever.”
Annie turned to Jamie who had come up beside them, saying, “What was your favorite part of the procession?”
“Oh, the wagon with the mining camp. They were so jolly. There was a fiddler, and they were doing some sort of jig. You should have seen the cart that was supposed to be the North Pole with the ship the Jennette that is stuck up there. The ice looked so real, and there was a polar bear and everything.”
“My, that does sound wonderful. I gather there were a good number of bands. We could hear some of them as we left the boarding house. They must have been quite loud.”
“Deafening, some of them,” said Barbara. “Each trying to outdo the next.”
“Well, from where you were watching the parade, you were probably getting them coming and going,” Annie said. “I am just glad everyone had a good time. Jamie, why don’t you go and ask Mrs. O’Rourke to start distributing the food? I expect you and Ian are pretty hungry after all that excitement.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jamie said with fervor and ran back over to Beatrice.
His mother laughed and said, “You would think they hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast, but Mr. Chapman was so thoughtful––providing lemonade and sandwiches for us all. I don’t see Laura yet. Is Mr. Dawson bringing her?”
“No, Laura was invited by her friend Kitty Blaine to attend the procession, and I do believe they were going to attend the literary and musical events after the parade. As for Nate, I don’t know what has kept him.”
Barbara pointed towards the street and said, “Look, isn’t that Laura getting out of that carriage? Oh, and there is Kitty behind her.”
“Oh, Annie, Barbara, what an extraordinary treat today has been,” Laura said, running up and giving each of them a hug. “Kitty’s father rented a room right at the corner of Third and Market, so we saw everything. And since we were at the beginning of the procession, there was lots of time for us to make it to the Grand Opera House down on Mission for the later events.”
Annie reached out her hand to Kitty, who hung shyly in back of Laura, saying, “Miss Blaine, so pleased you were able to come to our picnic. And I know that Mr. Dawson would like me to convey his thanks to you and your father for entertaining Laura today. He should be here soon to thank you himself.”
“It was all my pleasure, Mrs. Fuller. Father knew I wouldn’t want to sit with him on the viewing stand, and literary events aren’t exactly his cup of tea, so he was delighted I would have a companion for the day. And John the coachman did an excellent job of making sure we weren’t bothered by the crowds.”
Annie smiled inwardly, having met “John the coachman” several times when she went out to ask if he wanted something to drink while he waited to take Kitty home from visiting Laura. He was a slow talking but very polite giant of a man, who appeared quite capable of acting as chaperone to his mistress. She didn’t imagine even the most high-spirited of July Fourth revelers would dare harass any young lady under his protection.
Annie told Laura and Kitty to go over to say hello to Mrs. O’Rourke. “She and Kathleen seem to have cooked up enough for an army.”
To Barbara, she said, “Why don’t you rescue poor Mr. Chapman from the boys, while I see if Kathleen will make up a plate for Kitty’s coachman? I know from experience he won’t leave his horses, but it looks like he is planning on staying until it is time to take Kitty home.”
A few minutes later, Annie stood for a moment to look at the scene laid out before her. Beatrice had turned over the sturdy wooden crate she’d used to transport the plates and utensils for the meal and was sitting on it in queenly dignity under the shade of the oak. Meanwhile, Kitty and Laura were laughingly trying to sit upright on the ground in their fashionable attire, while eating from their heaped-up plates. Kathleen, whose dress was a bit more serviceable in the shape and volume of its skirt, was sitting quite primly, eating a ham sandwich and listening to Ian and Jamie, who were trying to eat and talk at the same time. David Chapman had piled several of the extra blankets up for Barbara to sit on and was holding her plate while she delicately picked at her potato salad.
All around her in Jefferson Square were similar scenes. Small children darted and shrieked around women in gaily colored outfits and men in their more somber hues. She heard snatches of songs from a group with a guitar, noticed an impromptu game of croquet at one corner of the park, and saw that the members of one of the parade’s bands were asleep under a tree in apparent exhaustion, their instruments at their sides. There were a couple of hours before the sun would sink behind the dunes to the west, but the shadows were long, and the light through the dark green shrubbery and evergreens of the park already began to take on the soft haze that meant the evening fog was massing along the coast.
Annie felt suddenly chilled, and she pulled up her shawl and walked over to Beatrice to ask her to make up two plates, one for her and the other for Nate. Surely he will be joining us soon. –– Deadly Proof: Victorian San Francisco Mystery Book 4
Hope you are all having a lovely 4th of July. I am deeply into the editing of my next two books in my Paradisi Chronicles series. But I am happy to announce that the Violet Vanquishes a Villain, the novella that comes right after Deadly Proof is now available as an audiobook. Also, I have started the research for the next book in the Victorian San Francisco series.
M. Louisa Locke