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
Published by Down East Books
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16 Carlisle Street, London W1D 3BT, United Kingdom
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Copyright Â© 1954 by Elisabeth Ogilvie
Reprinted 1999 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.
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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ogilvie, Elisabeth, 1917â2006
The Seasons Hereafter / by Elisabeth Ogilvie.
p. cm. â (Bennett's Island saga ; 4)
1. IslandsâMaineâFiction. 2. WomenâMaineâFiction. I. Title. II. Series: Ogilvie, Elisabeth, 1917-Bennett's Island saga ; 4.
ISBN 978-1-60893-337-2 (pbk. : alk. paper)
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
n an afternoon in April, when rags of dirty snow twisted about the blackened tree trunks and the wind off the wrinkled gunmetal harbor blew in chilly puffs between the buildings, Vanessa walked home from the public library with five books in each arm. She passed among the smuts and dreariness as if none of it existed, or as if she herself were invisible; by the grimy variety store on the corner, the service station, the Harborview Hotel (two rooms to let over a bar); through the children, including the retarded one who Was fastened on a long chain let out of a ground-floor window. He sat all day on a box digging in the mud with a spoon, while the others swirled shrieking around him in a vortex of vituperative energy.
She crossed General Mattox Square, a sad triangle of wiry barberry and turfless soil tramped stone-hard. In a puff of wind her open raincoat flew out, and one hem brushed the granite shaft with the bronze plaque that no one had read since the Mayor did, aloud, on the day it was dedicated in 1880. On the other side of the barberries she was on Water Street, and she drew a long breath and lifted her sleepwalker's face to the dense black tangle of elm boughs that arched the street. The elms had been set out when the shipyard and limestone gentry inhabited Water Street, before the days when General Mattox Square was dedicated, with the Grand Army Veterans all out and the town band playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Gulls flew over the elms then as now, slanting white against the dark clouds, their voices lost in the noise rising up from the city. Vanessa's eyes, yellow-gray under the thick ginger bang and the strong eyebrows, contemplated the gulls and not the sordid destiny of Water Street a hundred years after the planting of the elms. As if by extrasensory perception, she avoided holes in the pavement, other walkers, and trash spilled across uneven bricks. She walked on with her gaze uplifted, the end of her pony tail bouncing lightly between her shoulder blades. The man's black raincoat was too large and blew out around her like a cloak, her white sneakers were wet and dirty, and the edges of the narrow-legged jeans rubbed harshly against her bare ankles.
As if she had been secretly counting her steps, she came to a stop by a lamp post, lowered her chin, and looked straight ahead. At that instant a mass of slate-colored cloud opened to let the sun shed a sudden pale light on Vanessa's house, turning its dampness into a luminous mist that obscured the scars and stains of the faÃ§ade; for this moment the house stood in stately radiance behind the elms. The sight warmed her even down to her chilled feet and into the numbed fingers cramped around the books. The jungle dooryard beyond the broken iron palings took on an artful confusion, as if it had been landscaped, and the fanlit door and long front windows displayed their perfection with no suggestion of what lay behind them.
The door under the fanlight was scaly and pitted, but she kept the hinges oiled so that it moved with a rich ease she enjoyed. In the hall she ignored the smell of old plumbing, and moved lightly past closed doors and the staircase to the kitchen, at the back of the house. She shifted her books again, dredged the key out of her hip pocket with two fingers, and unlocked the door. Inside, she kicked the door shut behind her, and she was home.
She dropped the books to the square table, flexed her arms, and looked about her with a small indulgent smile at the exposed pipes, the soapstone sink and set tubs, the pine wainscotting nearly black with varnish and dirt, and the massive black range, behind which an oil jug gulped noisily at regular intervals. Against an outside wall were a primitive gas stove and an early Frigidaire. The walls and ceiling were darkened by years of smoke and cooking, and the thick screen of overgrown shrubbery outside the windows shadowed the room into early dusk. Dirty dishes were piled on the drain board and in the sink, and there were little heaps of cigarette ashes here and there on the top of the stove.
Still smiling, Vanessa pushed a dented and grease-filmed tea-kettle over the burner flame and took a mug from the cupboard over the sink. She turned on the pin-up lamp hung between the windows and over the table, took a teaspoon from the cluster standing in an old pressed-glass cream pitcher, and measured out instant coffee from the jar always kept there along with sugar, canned milk, vinegar, pencils, and nonfunctioning ballpoint pens. Several crushed cigarette packages containing one or two cigarettes lay beside empty match-folders, the last electric-light bill, a small gray egg-shaped rock, a twig of forsythia she'd brought in from the back yard to force and had forgotten. It had been lying there for a week. The rock had been there longer. She didn't know why that was there.
Vanessa was thirty, and tall. The thick hair, ginger brown, brushed tightly back over her skull and fastened into a pony tail, would have seemed an affectation except that she was unaware of it She hadn't cut her hair for a long time, and simply hauled it back hard to get it out of the way. She had worn it like that for fifteen years, as she had lived in jeans, sneakers, and men's shirts except for the period when her foster mother made her wear dresses and proper shoes to school. At this moment, as she drifted about the gloomy kitchen, she could have been still the tall bony fifteen-year-old. The poor light softened her features, her long mouth was young with pleasure, the cat-colored eyes above the sharp cheekbones were mysterious with the luminosity of quiet water.
Whenever she came near the table she touched the books with nervous, sinewy hands. Suddenly she seized one and opened it and became instantly hypnotized by the print. She stood entranced until she was freed by the noise of the kettle boiling. Hurriedly she took a thick heel of bread from the box, spread it with margarine and jam, and poured hot water over the coffee in the mug.
She dragged a chair across the aged linoleum and settled herself, the books about her plate and mug like ramparts. There was the long ineffable moment of delicious indecision, fingers hovering over one binding and then another. She finally opened one book and propped it against the others. As definitely as if a soundproof door had swung shut behind her and locked, she had left this world.
'm glad she's a bookish young one,” her foster mother used to say. “Rather a book than a boy any time, that one, and Lordie, I'm some thankful! It's books or being down at the shore with Ralph, and let me tell you, I don't say a word when she comes in stinking with bait.”
She never said much anyway. The Bearses were sparse with words, middle-aged when they took her at a bony long-legged twelve. She had never been a cuddly, confiding child; she had never learned to be in her long hegira from one foster home to another. The Bearses were not demonstrative, but neither were they naggers, and after her first meal at their table and her first night in the neat plain room that was not shared with anyone else, she made up her mind she wasn't going to be moved from this place.