South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club Lake Conemaugh      Celestia     Father says he comes for the fishing, but in truth he comes to keep an eye on other businessmen. I have never seen him hook a worm or tie a fly. I cannot imagine him gutting a fish or scraping scales. The only scales he knows are for banking and shipping. But his partners and rivals decided it was time for fresh air, exercise, peace and quiet, away from the filth and crowds of the city. So, even at this pastoral lakeside resort, my father will not miss even the glimmer of a business deal spoken over rifles or fishing reels.   Mother likes the sociability of the other ladies though they cut her with their tongues. She does not always follow their jokes but laughs along. The gentlemen come to hunt animals; the ladies come to hunt other ladies of a weaker sort.   Estrella shines--glossy dark eyelashes and smooth pink cheeks. My parents' favorite, and, at nineteen, my senior by three years. She starts each day in a steamer chair with plaid blankets and a book. She plays the part of the lovesick sweetheart--her beau, Charles, learns the family business back home in Pittsburgh-- but her natural buoyancy is not long repressed. Fun always knows where to find her. Just now, an errant croquet ball rolls under her chair. She laughs and runs to the game, the dappled sunlight, and the jovial golden boys. Handsome Frederick meets her halfway, extending his arm. Frederick with his shock of blond hair, broad shoulders, and skin glowing with health . . . Poor old Charles with his consumptive cough better arrive soon if he wants to find his intended still betrothed. He cannot compete with the gaiety and romance of our sparkling little lake in the mountains.   Now about me--if I am not the fun-loving beauty, then I must be the serious one, the one who would toss the croquet ball back, wave and sigh, but be infinitely more fascinated with my book than with the superficial cheer of the society crowd. The one who gets the joke but does not tolerate it. The one who baits the hook and guts the fish with Peter, the hired boy.       Peter     Papa says, "It's unnatural-- lakes weren't meant to be so high in the mountains, up over all our heads. Rich folks think they know better than God where a lake oughta be."   He's talking about South Fork Reservoir, miles of icy creek water held in place above our valley by a seventy-foot earthen dam.   The owners call it Lake Conemaugh. They raised it up from a puddle, built fancy-trim houses all in a row and a big clubhouse on the shore, stocked it with fish, and now they bring their families in from Pittsburgh every summer season. Most of them stay in the clubhouse, like an oversized hotel with wide hallways, a huge dining room, and a long front porch across the whole thing. Dozens of windows, too, so every room has a view of the reservoir--I mean, the lake.   Papa says, "They can't stack up enough money against all that water."   "Oh, Papa." I wave off the idea. Everybody in Johnstown kids each other about the dam breaking. We laugh because it always holds. Papa says we're laughing off our fear. Folks think he's something of a crank for always bringing it up.   I don't say anything more--at least until I can think how to tell him the sportsmen's club up at the reservoir is my new boss.     Papa says, "Don't go up there. Being around all those rich folks'll only give you ideas of things you can't have."   He looks at Mama's picture. I know he's thinking of ideas she had for things he couldn't give her. That was before she went to rest underground in the cemetery on the hill.   Papa works underground in a different hill, digging coal Excerpted from Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.