"Tells ye? I'll tells ye a tale of love an' hate, so's I will! One as begun on th' very dawn o' ye world. Ye seed that ocean ov'r there? Ye seed how patient she is? All waitin' and broodin' an' quiet-like?
"Want to know as what she be waitin' fer? She be waitin' as I be waitin' fer one to come back as was lost long ago. Aye, I been not th' fust to wait on one to return from 'em waters, fer sure! Nor th' last neither!
"I'll tell ye of one who waited longest of all, that I will! An' whast becum of 'er an' that she waited 'pon! Then ye'll know why I look out at yon ocean as I does. Then ye'll know."
"Eachan? Eachan? Don't hide like that, Eachan, please."
With a whoop Eachan erupted from the fragrant wild lavender of the hillside and caught Molly about the waist, whirling her about as she screamed and giggled. When he put her down she pretended anger and scolded him for scaring her. Eachan tried to look repentant but his mouth betrayed him, breaking into his characteristic, roguish grin.
"How, now! And is that any way for the daughter of a merchant to behave!" Carter was struggling up the hill with the flustered Anita in tow.
"Molly! What would your mother think if she saw you like this? Put him down at once, you should be ashamed of yourself! And you, Master Teller! You should have more sense if you do not wish my employer to take the birch to you!"
Molly danced to Anita's side, camomile sticking to the hems of her dress. "Anita you tease! You wouldn't dare say anything to Mama! Why, I would never speak to you again!"
Anita had the grace to look embarrassed at her role as chaperone as she continued to gently berate Molly for her shameful behaviour.
"Really, Anita! As if anyone could see us up here!"
Cresting the cliff, now, Anita turned to gaze down over the edge to where Kingsport sprawled below them, gleaming white and shiny in the summer sun before the glorious blue of the Atlantic. As rich and dark as the folds of Molly's velvet skirts, and fringed with white as delicate as its lace trimmings.
And laughing Carter drew Molly to him and hugged her. "Darling Molly, why it is plain to see that everyone who should chance to look up shall see you behaving yourself so wantonly! Yes! Is that the flash of sun from a telescopic glass I see from the town hall?"
Laughing, Molly slapped him playfully on the arm and Anita looked away, blushing and quietly muttering, "Scandalous!"
"Molly! Up here! You can see the whole bay!" Molly pulled herself and Carter to where Eachan was standing on the very crest of the hill. Only Kingsport Head stood higher, with its strange house, the lights of which were sometimes visible high up in the morning mists.
"Master Blaine! That wouldn't be your arm around Miss Lovelace's waist, I hope!"
"Why, no, Anita. Of course not. Such a thing would not be seemly."
"Then be sure to remove it, young sir!"
Carter laughed and raised the arm in the air to show that it was no longer cradling Molly's slim waist.
"As you may see, Anita. I am a gentleman of integrity!"
"In a pig's eye! You spend too much time with that rogue, Master Teller over there, and don't think I don't know what you two get up to when your father's back is turned! Why, if Mr. Lovelace knew I allowed Molly to see the son of a sailor he'd pack my bags for me, and that's a fact! And I dare say that if Mr. Blaine knew where, and with whom, his son spent his time, it would be the strap he would take to you!"
"Anita, me lass! Your words would be as darts in me chest did I not know that ye have a heart carved of purest gold. We love ye for ye warmth and ye compass'n, see as we don't, and ye know that Molly would be deeply pained should she see us no more. Aye, noble is th' heart that in silence minds the happiness of others, and ye be noble as any I seen, me lass!" Anita stared at him in surprise at this speech, but too late to catch the wink he'd thrown at Carter.
"Master Teller. It is long-suffering that I am, listening to your silver words! And surely no sailor ever held a tongue so smooth! It must be some fever of my mind that makes me permit Molly to spend time with you, but it is true that it makes her happy. I pray that you will not break her heart."
"Not I, Anita. Never."
"Then, young sir, you should return to the hill, lest Master Blaine steal the object of your affections!"
The summer sun continued to shine on the emerald clifftop and the air was painted with young laughter.
Goodman Device was leaning on his counter and talking to Mayor Graves, when he first saw the woman walking towards The White Ship. It was easy to stare because she walked with a poise and a grace that had already captured the attention of two of the town's youths. Young Danny Ainsley and Mervyn Holt were sat on a low wall on the other side of the street and gazing open-mouthed at the visitor.
Certainly, Goodman thought, visitors are rare in Kingsport, but really their behaviour was most uncouth. Still, the bearing of the woman demanded attention and as she walked it seemed that even the baked dust of the street was in awe of her, since it refused to adhere to her skirts. Her striking black hair, pinned severely back, almost shimmered with a blue as deep as the ancient Atlantic, and as full of mystery. Her skin was pale and free from any blemish, and her clothes bespoke of taste and wealth. When Goodman's eye moved to the pretty young maid behind her, struggling with two laden cases, his businessman's demeanour returned and he found himself reaching for the room ledger.
"Looks like you have a customer." Graves nodded towards the approaching women.
"Then let me detain you no longer." Graves inclined his head towards the Innsman. "Goodman."
Goodman nodded back. "Good day to you Deacon."
As the woman and her maid swept into the entrance of the Inn, the Mayor tipped his hat and left. The two visitors approached Goodman's desk.
"Dear Sir, my name is Constance Charidon and I should like to book a room. My husband will be joining me in a day or so."
"Welcome to Kingsport Mrs Charidon."
Constance smiled, "Thank you Mr ..."
"Please forgive me Madame, my name is Goodman Device, I am the owner of The White Ship Inn."
"Well, Mr Device, I shall require a sea-facing room. Catrine will carry my cases."
"Certainly, Madame, if you will follow me, although I should tell you we are some distance from the waterfront here."
"But it can be seen?"
"When the mists do not lie heavy, yes it can be seen."
"Then, kind sir, that will be sufficient."
"Has Madame travelled far."
Constance halted and turned to look at him. Goodman was immediately captivated by her eyes. Blue as the deeps themselves, the irises seemed fringed as though with white breakers, and he imagined he could see a relentless, surging motion in them. He took an involuntary step back, flinching from the intensity of her gaze.
"Further than you might imagine, Mr Device. Perhaps further than you can."
The nights shroud the wharfs of Kingsport heavily. The spray and the salt conspire to call the mists that roll mercilessly into town, even in the heights of summer, and nights are always cold in Kingsport.
Weary from a day toiling in the Illsley shipyards, Old Seumas returned to his home and beat his son who should have been working on the Mayor's new yacht instead of dallying with his friends.
The harbour was thronged with the fishing fleet making their vessels secure for the night, and everywhere the fog swirled and floated. Seeping into the clapboards and timbers of Kingsport's dwellings and prying at the cracks and entrances to the homes within, as though seeking communion with the hardy peoples of the town.
Many of the fishers now shared an ale in the crowded taverns on the dock telling tales of how they'd courageously evaded the British Men-o'-War off the coasts of New England. Though it was felt that the Revolutionary War must find them soon enough. Still, the ale flowed freely and the hearts of these rough people were jaunty.
Few walked the streets at night when the mists laid their claim, and when strange light shone from the lonely house on the very edge of Kingsport Head. So it was that only Seth Derby and his employer Raneleigh Gardner came running down the alley to answer the screams that were choked by the fog in the night.
They found young Mervyn Holt; clutching a wall in blind terror and screaming when they attempted to lay their hands on him. Nothing would the petrified youth tell them of what had happened, but in an alley behind him they found the remains of Danny Ainsley.
It seemed as though the fog pressed closer than usual. There were those that night who swore they saw thicker patches as though something vaporous and malignant swirled amongst the dampness, but few heeded them, because truly the ale flowed freely in the taverns.
"I tell ye there be witchcraft in this! Unnatural was the souls that was abroad last night!"
At his words there was some muted laughter amongst the other sailors, but mirth did not seem appropriate this morning.
"Aye, you listen to me now. Somethin' took the life of that boy, an' that somethin' took his flesh with it!"
"Seumas, it is either drunk or mad that you are! And neither one will help with the rigging of this boat!"
"You may mock me, Jonas Tuttle, but the Reverend himself told me there was naught left of that boy but his bones!"
"If it was your demons who did it, then whys are they holding the Holt lad for the murder? Tell us that ya old fool!"
"Aye? And was it the Holt lad who killed and skinned the boy without so much as a drop of his blood staining his jersey? They says as how the bones was slick with blood when they found them, and that blood wouldne clot! Yet not a drop spilt on his frien's clothes, nor any found on his hands! And both been seen leaving the dock tavern alive and well not twenty minutes before!"
"And I reckon was the Reverend who spoke to ye from the bottom of a bottle!"
Some laughter rippled through the sailors at that. But old Seumas was not to be dissuaded.
"Aye, ye laugh now that the sun is at ye backs! But wasne it not you, Warren Orne! You who told us ye'd seen pale shapes in the fog?"
"I was three sheets to the wind and well ye know it, Teller!" But Orne looked uncomfortable and uncertain as he threaded the ropes.
"Aye. Well I knows what I knows, and 'twas the fishers who told me what they'd seen as they cast their nets yesterday. A ship that gleamed as ivory in the sun, an' I've heard tell of such a ship afore and I tells ye, no good can come of such a sighting! Ye mark my words!"
"Mr Teller!" The voice boomed across the harbour and immediately the boat grew silent. The figure of Tobias Gardner, manager of the shipyard, stood imposingly upon the dock. Dark and severe in his expensive clothes trimmed with gold chain.
"Is it not your son who was supposed to report this morn to prepare the Mayor's craft for the sea?"
"Aye Sur! My lad it was."
"And, Mr Teller, pray will you tell me where it is that the lad has got to? Were it not that his ship-handling is second to none of the lads here, I would whip him within an inch of his life!"
"Mr Gardner, sur, I swears I do not know where the lad be. And ye needna worry about punishin' the boy, he'll get such a beating for this as he'll remember till doomsday!"
"That's as well be, but if the Mayor's yacht is not ready for the Regatta, then I'll flay the hide from the boy personally, and yours right after! And that's a promise! See to it Mr Teller!"
Carter stared at the face of Old Neptune stamped by the wind and the sea into the very flesh of the cliff.
"Do you think he dreams?"
"Nay, he watches over us he does! Unsleepin' and vigilant. That's ole Neptune!"
"Well you'll need him watching over you when comes the Regatta!"
Eachan propped himself up on one arm to stare at his rival. "Aye, and it's you as thinks you can beat me, is it?" He laughed.
"You never could match me."
Eachan laughed again. "The very salt o' the Atlantic flows in me veins, and you knows it! Comes the Regatta 'twil be my eyes that Molly will gaze at adoringly! Jest you wait and see!"
"The beauteous Miss Lovelace sees naught in you but a game to drive her father to distraction! Well you know it is me that she loves!"
Eachan grunted, amused. "That be not what she tole me when we were at the cove together!"
Carter looked up in surprise, then laughed relievedly. "And you almost had me, there! Old Anita would die before she let Molly go off alone with a scoundrel like you. I call you a liar, Sir! See if I don't!"
Eachan laughed. "And who is that says Anita, bless her, knews ought about it? There be ways to open locks as are known only to us rogues!"
"Ah, but Molly herself would know better!"
"You thinks so?"
"Come Regatta, I will prove it so!"
Their rivalry would certainly have continued but the clamouring of a bell in the town drew their attention.
"'Tis not time for services! Why do they ring the bell?"
"Come, Eachan! Let's see why they summon the town!"
"Oh, I cannot go down there, Carter! I shoulda been at the quay near on hours ago! If I'm seen I'm for it, and God himsel' cannot protect me!"
"Come on, Eachan! You can hide by the bait store. One more worm will surely not be noticed!"
Mayor Graves watched as the townspeople filed curiously into the square. He could see the town fathers standing to one side. Abel Blaine, father of the young Carter, Elizah Tuttle the shipbuilder. There was Eric Quimby standing with his wife Eleanor, one hand protectively clutching her shoulder.
He looked out into the curious, and slightly frightened, faces of the townspeople. Goodman Device and wife Edna from the Inn, Raneleigh Gardner the merchant. The Fowlers, the Derbys, the Ornes. Even the weathered faces of those sailors not out to sea; Jonas Tuttle and Seumas Teller. Deacon Graves frowned when he saw Teller's son was not with him, and glanced to where Blaine was also frowning. It came as no shock to Graves that Blaine's son was absent as well.
"Good people of Kingsport. I share your loss over the life of young Danny, and it pains me to say that those responsible still walk free. Please be sure to lock all your doors at night and stay off the streets if possible."
A ripple of fear spread through the crowd, but Graves held aloft his hand.
"I assure you that everything which might be done is being done. If you are careful and take precautions then there is no need for alarm, I have doubled the watch. Still, you have a right to know how matters stand and we have yet to catch the villain.
"Reverend McGilchrist here has requested to say a few words. Reverend?"
Reverend Enoch McGilchrist stepped up to the crowd and regarded them hawklike from beneath his thick, bushy eyebrows. When he spoke, his voice was sonorous and deep, marking him as a master of the pulpit and a stirrer of men's hearts.
"Ware, good people of Kingsport, ware! For the divil walks amongst us once more! I have seen his signs and the Lord hath told me that he is abroad! Pray for your souls and for those that ye love, for damnation has come to Kingsport and only in the pure flames of your faith is there deliverance from the coarser fires of hell!
"Mark me, good people, for his servants walk in the night and in the mist and there be those amongst us as have called evil to this town! We must be strong and we must be vigilant if there is to be a hope for us!
"I say to you, as it is written in scripture, we must seek the evil ones who have brought the divil among us! We must be vigilant and seek out those who would call evil upon our town. There is a name for their foulness and the Good Book tells us how we must deal with them. I say to you now; thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!"
"A witch? They think witches be amongst us?"
"Eachan, don't be fool! Just stupid superstition, that's what my father says."
"Well, my father says diff'rent! An' he learnt from his father before him! Kingsport been always been a lodestone for mysteries from the seas. He points to the house on the cliff and there is not a soul alive as can attest to who built 'un!"
"Just superstition! I'm telling you."
"That's as mebbe. But I wouldne want to be walking the paths of Kingsport when the mist rolls in, and nor should ye!"
Constance stood at the window and watched as rich, velvety darkness crept from the sea towards the harbour. Already the pores of the ocean had opened and a white breath had begun to gather in the hollows.
Marking each day, she had stood like this, or on the waterfront of a dozen seaports, and watched the breakers dissipating on the shore. And each passing day the blue of her eyes had more closely matched the seething folds of the ancient ocean as she wet her lips with anticipation.
Now night fell as a shroud, but Constance lit no light and her gaze led to the sea where she willed a ship to appear where none currently sailed. There was a quiet tear in her eye and another that rolled down her rosewater-scented cheek.
"Please, my love." She whispered, but the rising fog swallowed her words, and her breath fell in tiny droplets, killed by the chill in the air.
Her maid appeared at her shoulder and concernedly drew her mistress back into the room before closing the window and drawing the heavy drapes. One lighted lamp she had placed on a table by the bed, now she turned up the wick on another and allowed the warm light to thaw the room.
And yet, the second tear slowly rolled down its ivory cheek.
It wasn't just mist that crept into Kingsport that night, it was death. Vaporous and unstoppable and only the most promising youths felt its touch.
In their beds, in the streets, in rooms and lodgings, the theft of life was occurring and leaving only, bloody and broken, the bones of its victims.
As Molly lay abed, there came a rattle at her window. Outside the mists swirled, beading the thick glass with slick moisture as though something damp were pressing itself at the pane.
Molly stirred uneasily in her sleep, rising from unsettling dreams, and the window rattled again. A persistent sound reaching into her and penetrating her sleep.
She opened her eyes reluctantly, unsure what had woken her, but there was a whisper in the fog at her window, and the glass rattled as though stroked by bony talons.
Molly . . . Molly . . .
Molly sat upright and looked to the window where darkness pressed against the glass behind the drapes. Drawing a gown to her she winced at the touch of her bare feet to the cold floor and moved slowly to where the drapes moved and squirmed in the draft.
She pulled them aside and stared into the night to where a light bobbed down below in the mist.
"Molly?" The whisper came again.
"Eachan? Is that you?" She whispered back to the night and saw the lantern bob in affirmation.
"It's me, Molly." Eachan stood below the window, his face aflame with the light of the lamp. As soon as he saw Molly at the window, he dropped the small handful of little pebbles he'd used on the glass.
"Eachan, what are you doing? It's late."
"I 'ad to see you, Molly, I 'ad to. I want you to come away with me."
"Come away with me, Molly! I love you."
"Please, Molly. I've been saving the money from the shipyard. My pa thinks he's got it all, but I hid some of it and lied. It's not much, but I can get a job wherever we go. Please come with me." The rehearsed speech came to Eachan's lips like honey, spoken in the same tones he'd used on Anita just yesterday.
"Oh, Eachan! You know I can't."
"Yes ye can, Molly! I'll see you right, see if I don't. An' don't worry about your father. Come daybreak we'll be far awa' from here. Far awa'."
"Oh Eachan, it's not that simple."
"It is, Molly, don't say that it ain't, it is!"
"No, Eachan, you don't understand. It's Carter."
"Carter . . .?" Lead weights began to gather in Eachan's stomach.
"He was here earlier, Eachan, with his father. He . . . He brought a ring."
Eachan's voice was scarcely a breath in the darkness. ". . . no . . ."
"I'm sorry, Eachan. I love you, really I love you, but I love Carter too. And you know Father would never let me marry a fisherman's son."
"But I love you . . ."
"I said yes, Eachan. I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, but I'm promised to Carter now."
There was a convulsive movement in the fog and the light vanished.
"Eachan?" But the mist swallowed her voice, and there was no response.
It seemed to Goodman that the woman was waiting for something. Her husband, of course, she said her husband would be joining her. And yet it seemed that she was waiting for something else, some signal that only she could see.
He hurried about the scullery, working on the breakfast his guest had ordered, and yet the smell of the cooking food made him gag, made him feel ill.
Those poor young boys. How can something so evil strike boys so young? Whatever mischief young men may make, nothing warranted such bloody retribution! Why had the Lord forsaken them so utterly?The Reverend McGilchrist's words from the morning sermon still echoed in his thoughts, but Goodman couldn't pull his thoughts from faces he'd seen alive and happy only the day before.
So many killed. What kind of monster is it that stalks our mists and rips the flesh from the bones of children? Poor Eddie Fowler, and young Charles Oakes. Maude Oakes must be out of her mind with grief!
The ham sizzled and steamed in the pan, but the smell of cooking still made Goodman nauseous.
At least Mervyn Holt is at rest. Freed from the town's suspicions. Poor lad. It must have shamed old Zachary Holt to hear his son screaming all the time, but what cost silence? Just bones, they said, bloody bones gripping the bars of his cell and sitting upright with no meat on 'em.
The breakfast finished, he carried it out and gave it to Catrine to take to the table where her mistress waited. It was no trouble really, he told himself, trying to push the images of bloody skeletons in the alleys, beds and homes of Kingsport from his mind. With no other guests to mind, it was no trouble at all.
And yet he shuddered. Had not little Alex drowned in that boating accident, he would have been of just an age to . . .
. . . to be found . . .
And suddenly nausea sought release.
Kingsport town square slowly filled with anger and hate. Sparking in ever growing arcs amongst the scared people.
Mayor Graves appealed fruitlessly for calm and rationality, but there was only one voice they wished to hear and those were the wrathful tones which rang through the square now and fired the people with a new purpose.
"Burn the witch! Burn the witch! Burn the witch!"
"We give thanks to you, Almighty Lord God, He-Is-and-He-Was, for using your great power and beginning your reign."
"Burn the witch! Burn the witch! Burn the witch!"
"The nations were seething with rage and now the time has come for your own anger, and for the dead to be judged and for your servants the prophets, for the saints and for all who worship you, small or great, to be rewarded.
"The time has come to destroy those who are destroying the earth! Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!"
"Burn the witch!"
To Graves the light which came to their eyes seemed not to be a reflection of the wholesome sun. Nor could he entirely believe it shone from heaven.
The sun travelling in its relentless arc shone down on evil deeds that day and finally set into a bleeding sky. The mist that boiled from the sea, reaching for the rising moon, masked the planning of deeds that were darker still.
A heart hidden by day, pained and broken, finally hardened to cold stone. Flashing in the moonlight as chill and as sharp as the blade that it wielded with determination. The tears that Eachan wept were real and salt, but whether he wept them for deeds that were done or those yet to come he could not have said.
From the council chambers came the sounds of celebration and laughter. The bright light and air from the open doorway steamed as it met the chill of night. When Carter Blaine finally emerged from his prenuptial party the shadow which swiftly followed was dark and anonymous but in truth, had Carter seen its face, he would probably not have recognised his old playmate.
The earthen streets of Kingsport, hard and sun-baked by day, were slick and chill by night and Carter's steps as he made his way home were drunken and uncertain. Closer to the harbour some parties still strode through the darkened alleys with their lamps, their torches and their religious fervour held high, but here the streets were dark and silent. The God fearing were locked tight, though insecure, in homes which had failed to protect and the Wrathful were seeking vengeance in the wharfs and brothels.
Eachan's steps were sure and quiet, and yet Carter heard them.
"Eachan? Is that you my freh . . . my friend?"
Knuckles clutched tightly around the hilt of the gutting knife flexed suddenly uncertain.
"Eachan? That you? Been looking fuh . . . for you everywhere!"
Silent feet closed the distance between them, Eachan was a shadow that loomed from the mist, but Carter saw nothing of his intent.
"Great news . . . Eachan! Great . . . Molly . . . Molly and I are to be wed!"
Closing . . . almost touching distance. Again the steps faltered, irresolute.
". . . Wanted you to know Eachan! Want yuh . . . You to be bssshhh . . . Best man! Want yuh . . ."
Closer . . .
". . . Want you to be there, my fruh . . . My friend. Eachan!"
Closer . . . There.
"I'm sh . . . so happy, Eachan, so happy."
Somewhere in the night and the mist the razored knife fell. There was a clatter as it bounced from the hard ground. A choked sound might, just might, have been a quiet sob.
"Eachan, I . . ." Carter stared for a moment at the knife on the ground, then looked back into the eyes of his rival. "Eachan?"
Then Eachan embraced him. "I'm . . . I'm pleased for you both." He forced out from a throat raw with pain, then withdrew. Carter still wore a surprised expression on his face as he staggered. Without Eachan's support he was back in the grip of the alcohol. He squinted in the darkness at the tears on his friend's face.
"Eachan? What is it."
"Nothin', nothin' at all. I'm sorry . . ." Eachan turned to go.
"Wait, Eachan!" But Eachan had taken trembling steps into the fog and turned the corner, scarcely able believe the jealous madness which had almost overcome him. His eyes blinded with tears and obscured by the fog, he tried blinking rapidly to clear them but the swirling shapes in the fog continued to stream past him. Wraithlike patches of white mist like distorted screaming faces and reaching, clawing hands sweeping past him in the night.
And behind him agonised screaming began. Jolted by the sound, Eachan turned and ran back the way he had come, rounding the corner and gasping in sudden choked horror at what he saw.
Shrieking white shapes continued to swirl in the fog about him. Semi-solid and churning, but before him a terrifying shape of greater solidity flopped and writhed on the ground. Blood-slick and fleshless the mangled shape of Carter reached towards him with one stripped and skeletal limb. One flayed arm and shoulder struggled to hold aloft the bare skull as Carter stared towards his friend with eyeless sockets.
Then the tortured victim of the mist-wraiths crumbled to the bloodied soil and moved only spasmodically thereafter.
And still the ghostly shapes swum and rolled in the mist and Eachan felt vile paws tugging at him, nipping at his flesh. Screaming in horror and disgust he plunged into the night and was gone.
That which remained of Carter Blaine shuddered once more, and died.
Dawn was a time of wonders and portents. Old Seumas Teller found his son's bed empty and not slept-in, horror came to the Blaine household, religious fervour became whipped to a new level. And it was at dawn that a ship of ivory hove to the wharves of Kingsport and ended the wait of Constance Charidon.
Bright was that morn as the last mists breathed away in the town's secret hollows, and bright was that ship as it broke the waves of the morning ocean. It's lines were old, of a style not seen for many long years and it gleamed in the sun like polished bone.
The older sailors watched it with mistrust. They didn't like the strange rigidity of the sails and there was something in the shape and size of her boards that made them cross-themselves and look away. Nor could any of them put a name to the wood of which she was built. All avowed that it had the look of ivory, but that was surely impossible. None could see any name on the prow of her, and those that could make out the weathered figurehead became silent and uncommunicative, but few of their observant comrades missed their shudders.
And yet Kingsport was a freeport and the ship was welcomed, even in this time of tragedy, when it pulled into the stout jetty. For the folk of Kingsport are of old sea-faring stock and well they knew the needs of sailors who'd been long at sea, and there were none amongst them that would turn such away.
Even so, mistrust was heightened not abated when the crew of that mysterious ship became visible.
Constance stood upon the firm boards of the jetty and watched as the ship hove to shore. Ropes were swiftly made fast and the gangplank was lowered. She could barely contain her excitement as the crew appeared at the gangway.
By now news had spread and a small crowd had gathered to watch the strangely beautiful ship and the women of the harbour had gathered. Perhaps out of curiosity, or to see what trade they could make for sailors long out of port. An audible gasp was heard when this strange people finally descended.
Beautiful were they. Not one was older than eighteen and their grand tunics and cloaks were of an old style that few even remembered in paintings. Their skin was clear and browned by the suns of strange lands, their tunics hung open to breasts of hard, chiselled muscle and they walked with a fluid grace and control that all marvelled to behold.
The women were immediately caught by the spell of these strange handsome people. The more respectable folk who'd also gathered to watch, found their unease lifting when they looked upon them. Many fancied that they saw family resemblances and in this time of great loss, they welcomed the sense of new kinship they felt.
And so it was that not one boyish member of that crew left the ivory ship who did not have a girl on each arm, or a family offering their home and hospitality.
Yet throughout this Constance stood and watched unmoved until the final, lone figure descended the gang. The richness of his costume marked him as a captain of sorts, but Constance threw caution to the wind and ran towards him crying:
And Caleb stood his ground and waited while she rushed to him, then swung her from her feet and into his embrace. His strong arms supporting her as though she weighed nothing at all, he clasped her to his breast, their lips met and the song of the Atlantic was naught to the beating of their hearts.
"Molly, please . . ." The ballad of the surging ocean sang here as well, as Eachan approached the edge of the cliff with trepidation.
"Molly, come away from there, lass, please."
"You! You did it! You killed him, I know it!"
"Nay, Molly. That be not the way it was . . ."
"Yes it is! That's what they are saying in the town, and I saw you the night before! I know you planned this! You filthy murderer!"
"Molly, please . . . come away from th' cliff. I loved Carter, I could ne'er kill him! I'm no murderer, I . . ."
"Lies! You liar!"
"Molly, I were angry and jealous, that I were, but I didne . . ."
"Old Jonas says he saw you sharpening a skilleting knife! You did it! You!"
"Molly, please, the cliff. Come back awa' fro' the cliff . . ."
"You fiend! He trusted you, befriended you. And I . . . How could I be so blind, you filthy sailor! Now he is gone and there is nothing for me here . . ."
"Molly, don't talk like that! This be no tale like them books you read! You fall an' you'll be killed, Molly . . ."
"I'll be with Carter . . ."
"Molly, NO! Please . . ."
"Wherever he is gone, I want to go there too. Did you think you could kill him and win me? Did you think I was a prize you could murder for? Well, here is your prize Eachan! Come and get me!"
"Miss Lovelace? Molly? Where you got to then girl?" Eachan turned, his stomach knotting as he heard Anita clambering up the hill.
"May you burn in hell Eachan!"
"Molly . . . NO!"
Eachan darted forward, hand outstretched and felt the air move across his open palm as she hurled herself from the cliff top without so much as a cry. He raced to the edge and, although he could see her veil drifting on the breeze from the ocean, Molly herself had fallen out of sight. But from below there was a heavy thump and a clattering of dislodged stones.
His tightly clenched eyes squeezed out tears. He knew the cliffs and the rocks below and he didn't need to lean out further to know her fate. When he opened them again it was to see the shocked face of Anita staring at him and the cliff edge alternately, frozen in horror.
Sudden fear surged through him and he began to run. Even as he heard Anita's voice calling the alarm behind him, so he felt his heart pounding fit to burst and felt the mechanical action of his legs running, fleeing.
But inside he was dead.
Created: October 28, 2006