Authors: Elisabeth Ogilvie
The Bennett Island Series
An Answer in the Tide
Summer of the Osprey
Day Before Winter
High Tide at Noon
The Storm Tide
Dawning of the Day
The Seasons Hereafter
Strawberries in the Sea
Book I of the Tide Trilogy
Published by Down East Books
A wholly owned subsidiary of The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, Maryland 20706
16 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3BT, United Kingdom
Distributed by National Book Network
Copyright Â© 1944, 1971 by Elisabeth Ogilvie
Reprinted 1971 by arrangement with the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Bennett's Island actually existsâunder another name.
All rights reserved
. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
This book was previously cataloged by the Library of Congress as follows:
Ogilvie, Elisabeth, 1917â2006
High tide at noon / by Elisabeth Ogilvie.
1. WomenâMaineâFiction. 2. IslandsâMaineâFiction. 3. Sorensen, Joanna Bennett (Fictitious character)âFiction. 4. MaineâFiction. I. Title. II. Ogilvie, Elisabeth, 1917-
PZ3.O348 Hi7 PS3529.G39
ISBN 978-1-60893-486-7 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-60893-487-4 (electronic)
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.
Printed in the United States of America
To Donald MacCampbell
SLAND LAY VERY STILL
under the clear golden light of a midsummer noon. The whole world was bathed in a windless silence, steeped in warmth. Yet the air, alive with a peculiar clarity, had a sparkling edge.
Here in the great bay the sea held a blue that shook the heart, but the sky laid hold on you in a different way. The islands rose from one blueness and touched another, and in the glowing light they shone white and creamy and tawny and red, crested darkly with spruce. On the farthest northern horizon the mountains billowed along the sky in richly tender curves, grape-blue with distance. It was a day to drink like wine, and feel its intoxication seep through your heart and soul.
The dragger was incongruously dingy and loud in all this brilliant silence. Bound for the fertile grounds far to the east of the Island, it had swerved from its course to enter the harbor. It was such a quiet harbor that when the engine stopped, and the boat slid noiselessly toward the wharf, the silence beat hard against the woman's eardrums. Or was it her heart that hammered so? She didn't know; she only knew she was taut with the effort of sitting still on the bow while the man made a line fast to the wharf. She sat Indian fashion, hands gripping her ankles, and her eyes tried to see everything at once. There lay the Island; entering the harbor, you were in its arms. She'd always thought that, ever since she could first remember.
How strange the harbor was now, like a blue bowl filled to brimming, the water hardly murmuring as it moved against the rocks. Strange, and dreamlike . . . There were no boats at the moorings, that was it. Not even a punt or a dory left behind, not even a forgotten mooring buoy. There were no slim white boats lying above their tranquil reflections, no faint click of oarlocks across the harbor as a dory came out from the beach. Even the gulls were hushed in this hushed place, where the buildings stood locked and boarded-up along the shore, knee-deep in beach peas and evening primrose. The houses stood desolate against the woods, their gardens gone wild and full of birdsong now that there was no one to frighten the singers. The windows looked down at the harbor and the dragger, and the woman there on the bow, and they were blank and unseeing; yet, curiously, they stared.
“Wharf never was much good,” one of the men grumbled, and she turned to look at him, eyes wide and dark in the pallor of her face. She spoke as if she were in a dream. “What did you say?”
“I said the damn wharf never was much good, and it's sure gone to pieces since nobody's been usin' it. It'll come down for fair in the next williewaw. Don't look as if 'twould hold you, Jo.”
“Oh, she ain't so hefty,” the younger man said, as she stood up and stretched her cramped body. There was a wing of too-early whiteness in her black hair, but she had kept a young girl's slenderness, and her bones were strong and long under smooth, healthy brown skin.
“I guess I'll be leaving you boys,” she said. “It was grand of you to go out of your way to drop me here, Larry.”
The older man looked dourly at the Island. “What I don't like is leavin' you here, a woman alone in this godforsaken place twentyÂfive miles from nowhere. It gives me the creeps just to look at it. Too quiet.”
“It's waiting,” said the woman in a low voice, and her lips curved in a small secret smile. Then it widened and flashed across her face, full of an inner vitality that made her dark eyes wonderfully alive in spite of their weariness. “What is there to be afraid of? It's safer here than it's ever been. And the house is still there.” She began to climb the ladder to the wharf, her hands and feet swift and familiar on the rungs. “Toss up my stuff, Larry, and thanks again.”
“You're sure you ain't scared?”
She was scornful. “Go catch your fish. I'll see you when you come back tonight.”
Larry scowled and shrugged, plainly disavowing responsibility. The younger man, casting off, looked up at her with an unmistakable glint that said
She's a fine woman, easy on the eyes
. Then the dragger was on its way again, its engine echoing back and forth between the red and tawny-yellow ledges with an ear-shattering clamor. The woman stood alone on the wharf without an atom of uncertainty in her bearing; her hands were thrust into the pockets of her shabby suit jacket, her neck rose slim and strong and brown from the open collar of her blouse. Her black head was high, and her chin had unconsciously squared. She was listening. She was watching. . . .
There were no boats in the harbor now, no lobsters in the lobster car that floated, an empty and rotting box, beside the empty and rotting wharf. There was no sound of saw and hammer from the workshops, no freshly painted buoys hung against weathered shingles, no new traps of yellow wood piled high on the beach rocks. Bennett's Island was a desert island now, forgotten and scorned save by the woman whose footsteps sounded so strange in the emptiness.
Joanna Bennett had come home.
It was queer how the smell of fish clung to the old shed on the wharf. At the far end of its gloom there was daylight, sun and spruce trees, and a blue sky. She walked among the old hogsheads that had been such a torment to her curiosity in the days when her head barely reached the tops, and she couldn't see what fascinating and pungent treasures they contained. Now, though she knew they were empty, she couldn't resist stopping to look, and then went on, grinning a small grin at herself. It felt good. Her face had been quiet and unsmiling for so long.
She came out by the store, with its cobwebbed windowsâat least the spiders still lived on the Island. The red paint around the door was faded to pink, and the sign, Bennett's Island Post Office, was hardly readable. Now she was in the village, and all at once its silence swept down and entered into her so that she walked along like a creature in a dream, herself no more real than that dream.
The old path was choked with Queen Anne's lace, evening primrose, the delicate blue chicory, and tansy; it smelled hot and aromatic in the windless sunshine, and it was full of small contented buzzings. When she passed the dun-colored shabbiness of the house called the Binnacle, she could look up toward the well. The grass had grown tall around it, in its central place in a field that was a silvery-green sea. She went toward it along an overgrown path and put the cover back; below, she saw her own face darkly, with blue sky behind her head.
When she looked up she saw Gunnar Sorensen's windbreak of spruces. The big house behind them had always been dazzlingly white and exquisitely neat, its shrubs groomed with Scandinavian tidiness. Now the clapboards were grayed with wind and weather, the sevenÂsisters bush that crawled over the door was rosy and white with unpruned bloom, and the hollyhocks hid the windows in tropical flamboyance. The lilac plumes had faded on their bush.