Issue 24, Summer-Fall 1960
So much is true: the last thing in the world the Baldridges desired that summer day was any contact with the Bevis girl. When they started down across the rocks, Mrs. Baldridge went first. She carried the blanket and the woolen cape from Innsbruck, in case of wind. Earl brought the towels, the fly repellent, and the binoculars—they were expensive, and he surefooted. Mrs. Baldridge herself, however, took some pride in her ability to cross the tumbled crags rapidly, if not recklessly, one lean foot placed before the other in a steady,skillful progress that required a constant shifting of eye from the rock beneath one’s foot (the flat black, the rough-grained, the treacherously balanced) to those ahead. It was thus impossible to see until she reached the first pocket of beach whether the better stretch of sand beyond was occupied or not.
Only if it was vacant, utterly, shining empty and wet under a shimmer of gulls, would they set foot upon it.
They objected to all the Bevis’s, but most of all to Victoria; they didn’t agree that she had grown attractive during the past winter. A strange, sand-colored child—except for those rather startling sapphire eyes—she was perhaps leggier, certainly no more gracious. And she retained her old, uneasy ubiquity. Berrying on a crisp morning the Baldridges would meet her gaze, oddly cold for a child barely in her teens, thorough a filigree of brambles. Bird-watching, their glasses caught her as surely as a magnet catches filings, and once, a motionless figure brooding on a rock, she had cast an inimical, long look in thier direction that had left Earl quite flustered. One could not, in all fairness, accuse her of discourtesy. But everywhere, everywhere, she violated their privacy.
And the Baldridges had come to Cap’n Wyatt Point for privacy, and mark you, had come first. There had been no one on the Point when they discovered it, the Cap’n himself having already been taken away by some one from the State, and the title to his land gone to his daughter in Augusta.
Then, too, everything south of Portland had proved prohibitive, and all too likely to be banded by shaky cottages and sheds where you could watch baby seals and buy clams or carved wooden gulls. They had been quite discouraged until they stumbled on the Point, which was hard to find in the first place and once found, next to impossible to traverse because of the road that struggled through matted pine and cedar and was, where it threaded the salt marshes, awash as often as it rained.
Yet that same road, as Earl predicted the first day, had long discouraged many an unwanted neighbor.
Mrs. Baldridge stopped now, firmly, in such a fashion that it could not possibly be interpreted as a loss of balance. It had been a cool summer, and brief—already, in early August, she had seen a sandpiper on the beach. Mrs. Baldridge did not like sandpipers. Terns, yes, and cormorants, yes—sand-pipers, no. She did not like the stilt-legged gaiety with which the small birds scuttled back and forth with the sliding foam, almost as if they rejoiced that they presaged the beginning of fall and the end of everything.
Now she pivoted, searching the pale sky for those thin clouds that could skim so quickly until they masked the sun and then hung motionless and sullen, while beneath it was suddenly cold. Seeing none, she turned to wave encouragingly to Earl, He was not twenty feet behind her, but she would not call, since the crashing water would cover all but the most unseemly shriek.
Then she went on.