Authors: Elisabeth Ogilvie
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 III of the Tide Trilogy
Published by Down East Books
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Copyright Â© 1947, 1974 by Elisabeth Ogilvie
Reprinted 1974 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
The ebbing tide / by Elisabeth Ogilvie.
1. WomenâMaineâFiction. 2. IslandsâMaineâFiction. 3. Sorensen, Joanna Bennett (Fictitious character)âFiction. 4. MaineâFiction. I. Title. II. Ogilvie, Elisabeth, 1917-
PZ3.O348 Eb12 PS3529.G39
ISBN 978-1-60893-490-4 (pbk.: alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-60893-491-1 (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 my mother and father
HE LITTLE BOY SQUATTED
contentedly in the warm muddy spot in front of the barn, eating a cracker and savoring its crisp saltiness. He was eighteen months old, sturdy and round-bottomed in his dark blue overalls and the blue sweater that fitted so beautifully over his hard little stomach. A yellow bang escaped from his helmet and lay on his forehead, almost touching his blond eyebrows; beneath them his blue eyes bent a benign and judicial gaze on the large drake which stood before him.
The drake, a mallard whose father had been wild, stared at the cracker. “Qua-qua-quack,” he said whisperingly. A small neat brown duck joined him. Together they looked at the cracker and whispered polite hints. The small boy, who was very perceptive, broke off a piece and offered it. They were happy, the three of them, in the sunny, sheltered barnyard. The sun struck an iridescent blue-green glimmer from the ducks' feathers. The same sun brought out the kinglets and crossbills and chickadees to chatter in the tops of the spruces and hang upside down from the top branches. The golden horse on the weatherÂvane above the barn gleamed and flashed in a sky that was soft with blowing plumes of white on a blue as clean and shining as the boy's eyes.
He was a peaceful little boy. For the moment his world was this; the deliciously soft, sun-thawed mud around him, the courteous voices of the ducks; the chickadees, the golden horse veering in the wind that blew over the tops of the spruces, and the never-absent sound of the sea. The sea was not in sight, for the boy was bounded by the house, the barn, the woods, and a field with more forest beyond. But the sound of the sea had been in his ears always, since he was two weeks old; and perhaps it had reached him in the secure and ancient dark where he had lived before he was born.
His father and mother watched him from the back doorstep. Though the month was March, they had brought their afternoon coffee outdoors, for there was no wind here behind the house, and the sun fell warmly through the bare lilac bushes that edged the walk. The bushes were thick and rough with age, but their knotty, slender branches made a clear and delicate pattern on the wide planks that had come many years before from a shipwrecked schooner.
Safe from the cutting edge of the wind, the air here had a certain promise of freshness, not definite enough to be spring, but more of a reassurance that spring would sometime come. The fragrance of the coffee blended with it.
The boy's parents sat on the end of the doorstep, their long legs stretched out before them. His father, Nils Sorensen, had finished his coffee and was smoking his pipe. He was thirty-seven years old, a slim, sparely built man; he was not so tall, perhaps, as his brothersÂin-law, but his body, in cleanly faded dungarees, flannel shirt, and rubber boots, had as much agile ease about it as it had ever had, and his eyes, watching his son, were as sharply, disturbingly blue as his wife had always known them to be. The years rested lightly on Nils Sorensen, and always would; it seemed as if he had never been without a certain, finely carved maturity in his face, and it had merely grown deeper and more sensitive with time.
He watched his son, and his wife looked fondly at the back of his neck, wondering why it should touch her heart so much that Nils' blond hair grew in the same sort of drake's tail that Jamie's did. . . . She had been Joanna Bennett once, and the Bennetts were all tall, with broad shoulders and narrow flanks, overpowering laughter or despair, and an odd charm in their black eyes that seemed alien to Maine; though it amounted practically to a coastal tradition that no Bennett could retain his health and happiness for long away from the red rocks and wind-tormented spruces of their island. Joanna was like the others, tall and supple with glossy black hair brushed back from her face, a warm dark skin under which the blood made rich color; her eyes were almost black under clear-etched brows like wings, and her spacious Bennett forehead was marked with a widow's peak.
There was a certain likeness between her and her husband; in their strong jaws and the firmness of their lips. Joanna laughed easily and often, her lower lip had a rich fullness, but in composure she showed the years of pride and self-reliance that had made her the woman she was now, at thirty-five.
As for Nils . . . he smiled now, suddenly, as the mallard left off being polite and took the cracker from Jamie's fingers. His smile was a Sorensen smile, not as quick and ready as a Bennett smile, for the Sorensens had never had as much to laugh at in childhood as the Bennetts. But it lit up his face with the warm steady glow of a lamp as compared to the lightning-flash grins of his brothers-in-law.
He got up slowly, and the sun struck off glints from his blond head. “Come on back to the shop with me, Jo. Bring Jamie.”
She put up her arm, lazily, and he pulled her to her feet. “All right. You call him while I take the cups in.” She went along the walk into the sun parlor, moving with erect ease in her comfortable saddle shoes, tweed skirt and cardigan. The Sorensens looked like two healthy, intelligent, and happy persons.
Which we are
, Joanna told herself stoutly, putting the coffee cups in the sink and adding another piece of birch to the stove.
As happy as anybody can be during a war
She took a jacket from behind the doorâit would be cold walking down to the harborâand remembered how many times in the last two years she had slipped on this jacket to walk down to the harbor with Nils, because the Coast Guard boat had come to take him back to duty. But this afternoon they were simply walking down to the fish house. He'd had a ten-day furlough; something out of the ordinary, because he'd never had anything more than a seventy-two hour pass since he'd enlisted. He told her the Lieutenant Commander at the Base thought he deserved it.
“Well, I should think so, too!” she said hotly. “After all, you're practically the only man they've got left who knows these watersâand will you tell me why only boys from the Middle West seem to get put on patrol duty here?”
Nils had smiled and said they had to be stationed somewhere, and his crew were darn' good kids, even if one had come from a sheep ranch in Utah and hadn't known how to row, and another one came from the mountains somewhere.
“Oh, I don't care!” Joanna had exclaimed happily. “Anyway, you've got a whole unexpected ten days, and so we're luckyâand we're darn' lucky that nobody else does know these waters the way you do! Maybe they won't send you away from Maine at all!”
She hadn't been selfish in hoping that. It was simply that she had two brothers in the Pacific, one on a destroyer and one on an LST, and knowing how she worried about them, she didn't see how she could endure the even more intense worry about Nils. Besides, his function here, skipper of a patrol boat whose run was anywhere that he might be sent in Penobscot Bay, was extremely important. There was much going on outside the rim of the bay and the Islanders realized it, although they had grown used to the shudder of the ground from depth charges, and the furious rattle of windows from not-tooÂdistant firing of destroyers and cruisers.