On the Rocks Online - Sue Hallgarth Page 0,1
at the sea beyond.
Someone must have scurried away from the edge, Edith guessed. The old sheep trails everyone used could get much too close for comfort along Seven Days Work. Inexperienced hikers were often afraid, especially when they found themselves sharing a trail with the sheep that still grazed loose among the rocks.
Then a sound came, muffled, something like a shout. Edith strained to hear, but it was gone. Nothing followed. Just water falling and the waves. Gulls still chattered near the weir. Edith touched her brush to the paper, fanned it slightly, and then pulled the stroke down. This would work, yes, she decided. She reached for the ocher and glanced again at the cliff.
Soundless this time, motion. The back of a red shirt straightened. An arm shot out. Then a body appeared to fling itself over the edge, head first as though diving. It was a man, dressed in what looked from this distance like a business suit, but tilted oddly, sideways, as though he had decided to face Edith throughout his decline. After the first rushed impulse, the body seemed to slow precipitously and momentarily to drift, then pick up speed again as it neared the waves, Edith realized with a shock, receding from the rocks below.
EDITH alone had seen the body plummet. Eric Dawson, the solitary rower, glimpsed only the end of its fall, his attention directed by Edith’s horrified shout and frantic gestures. He laid to the oars and watched Edith spin away, running first toward the cliffs at Seven Days Work, then back toward the cottages at Whale Cove. Before he reached the spot where he thought the body landed, just south of the waterfalls, he saw the cliff by the cottages fill up with women, first the one they called Cather, then several more. Cottage Girls. He could tell by their clothes. None of the local women wore men’s horse-riding pants or dresses that looked like sacks with no waists at all. They were holding onto each other and pointing, running back and forth, arms flailing. A dog leapt from one to another, almost spinning in air, then charged a few sheep making their way toward the cove. White dots disappeared into the trees. Eric could hear only his own breath, the quick creak of the oars, and the waves washing him in.
When he reached the beach, Eric could see no body, just a few boulders poking through the foam. Instead of leaping out of the dory and running to rescue the man as he expected, Eric had to climb onto the seat of his dory to get a vantage point. He put his hand to his forehead, shading his eyes as though that might help him find the man. Then he noticed reddened foam sliding from one of the boulders, and just beyond a dark suit rose and fell, slapping gently against the rocks nearby.
“STRAIGHT UP. THAT’S how I take mine,” Sabra Jane accepted the cup Edith had offered earlier that afternoon. “I’m not a fussy person. Never have been.”
The day had been typical on Grand Manan, a small island in New Brunswick, located just above Campobello in the Bay of Fundy. Populated by fishing villages and invaded each spring by a few tourists and colonies of summer residents, Grand Manan spent most mornings cloaked in fog, then the sky would clear and the day would remain peaceful, quiet, and generally uneventful.
Edith smiled, appreciating Sabra Jane’s directness. It matched her sensible habits of dress, the tailored red shirt with sleeves rolled to the elbows revealing the strong hands and wrists of a potter. Locally, Sabra Jane was famous for her clothes and long, loping stride. People thought it was nice that she could also make pots.
Edith bent to offer the second cup to Willa, turning the tray slightly so Willa could reach the milk and sugar easily.
“Just a touch of milk and sugar. That’s all I ever take,” Willa settled back in the Adirondack chair, placing her heels on the low wicker table that did double duty as their hassock outdoors. “And I like my tea hot,” she sipped. “Hot and strong, so I can taste it. Just the way I like coffee. It’s the taste I’m after, and the heat. Sets me up as if it had a lot of caffeine but without the aftereffects.” They had been talking earlier that afternoon, as they prepared the soil for planting herbs, about homeopathy and Willa’s preference for Sanka, one of the special