Read The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons Online

Authors: Barbara Mariconda

The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons

BOOK: The Voyage of Lucy P. Simmons
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Dedication

For Pamela Bramhall,
who has journeyed with Lucy
from the very beginning.

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

1

C
OASTAL
M
AINE
, 1906

T
here it was again—the sound of the ship's bell. Though there was no ship, and no wind, it clanged, echoing across the rocks and out over Simmons Point.

Addie stepped through the front door onto the veranda, where I sat snuggled in one of the oak rockers facing out to sea. Buried in my book, I hummed a scrap of the old sea chantey Father had taught me.
“A la dee dah dah, a la dee dah dee …”

“There 'tis—that accursed bell,” Addie exclaimed, pointing to the large brass toller Father had mounted against the wall beside the door.
“Ringin' of its own accord! Gives me the willies, I tell ye!”

She set a wicker picnic basket down beside the step. “If ye ask me, Miss Lucy, it's too early in the season fer a boat ride, but who'm I to question the cap'n?”

A boat ride?
And
a picnic! I threw the crocheted blanket from my lap, dropped my copy of
Treasure Island
onto the chair, gathered my skirts, and bounded down the steps.

“Won't be much of a picnic if ye leave behind the tea sandwiches,” Addie called.

I turned, grabbed the basket, and took off across the lawn.

“Your shawl, missy! You'll need a shawl out there on the water! And one fer your mother as well!”

It was early April—the time of year when the coast of Maine is still mostly gray and brown, when a damp chill wraps itself around you and you think spring may never really come. But I pretended not to hear, the basket bumping heavily against my leg as I ran.

When I approached
the garden, I slowed, out of breath and panting. Mother was tending her roses, clearing out the leaves that had cushioned them from the winter wind. When she saw me, she smiled, removed her apron, and hung it on the garden-shed hook. “I see Miss Addie told you Father's surprise!”

“We're going for a sail! Has Father already got the sloop in the water? Are we going all the way to Wiscasset? Can we—”

“Slow down, Lucille,” Mother said gently, adjusting her wide-brimmed hat. “Father has a plan, I'm sure. All we need to do is walk—
walk—
down to the slip.” She tweaked my chin and tousled my hair. “Here, darling, let me carry the basket; it's bigger than you are.”

In no time we wove our way along the pine-edged path, across the craggy rocks, and down the hill to the place where Father tied the small sailboat.

“There they are,” he boomed, “my two best girls!”

He bowed, gesturing toward his shipshape little sloop, which bobbed against the small dock. Mother smiled with just one side of her mouth and winked, like she did whenever he teased. In a grand sweep, he took the basket, placed it on board, then wrapped his arms around her. I wiggled in between them, hating the hint of that left-out feeling that tugged at me whenever they were close like that. But, as always, they pulled me into their little circle. Mother kissed the top of my head, and
Father squeezed me in a crushing hug.

And then, again, the ship's bell back at the house tolled.

We climbed aboard and settled in. Father untied the sloop and we pushed away. With a practiced hand he deftly worked the lines, raising its sails, and in minutes the light wind was spiriting us along. Mother pulled me close and wrapped us both in a thick wool blanket, then turned back the red-and-white checked cloth Addie had used to wrap our luncheon. “Chicken salad!” I exclaimed. “My favorite!” I popped one, then another small triangle into my mouth. “Hmmm,” I said as I reached for a third.

“Slow down, sweet one,” Mother said.

“No! Eat hearty!” Father exclaimed, smiling as he swallowed his fourth petite pointy sandwich. “Out on the water a sailor needs sustenance!”

“Oh, Edward,” Mother said, tsking her tongue, “the things you teach her!”

“Oh, indeed! Lucy, shall we show Mother what else you've learned?” From his pocket he pulled a small flute of whalebone and hardwood, with nautical scenes carved around the finger holes. Years ago Father had crafted it aboard his ship, passing many a lonely evening. As the son of a seafaring family, he knew many chanteys from days
of old. And now, so did I. He blew a cascade of notes, and I began:

We'll back up our topsails and heave our vessel to,

Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.

For we have got some letters to be carried home by you,

A-sailing down all on the coasts of High Barbaree.

For broadside! For broadside! the saucy pirates cried—

Here I stood and raised a fist as I sang out,

Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.

The broadside that we showed them was to sink them in the tide!

A-sailing down all on the coasts of High Barbaree.

Mother gasped. “Sit down, Lucille! You'll lose your footing!” But Father grinned, then blew the lilting melody with even more vigor. I waved my imaginary sword.

With cutlass and gun, oh, we fought for hours three.

Blow high! Blow low! And so sailed we.

The ship it was their coffin, and their grave it was the sea!

A-sailing down all on the coasts of High Barbaree.

Then he ended with the other tune, the one so old the words had been forgotten except for a snippet of the refrain.
“A la dee dah dah, a la dee dah dee,”
I hummed along on the wordless verses, then, as always, sang out on the
la dee dah dee
s. Father blew the last plaintive note, tucked the flute back into his pocket, and applauded. A frown had crept across Mother's face as she gazed across the water. “I don't like those songs,” she said softly. “They remind me too much of your days at sea, Edward.”

It was at that very moment that the fog began to roll in, eerily, ghostlike, swirling around our little sloop in long, misty wisps. In minutes the blue sky paled, and the sky, fog, and water became one seamless, white sheet.

Father stood very still, staring off through his spyglass with one squinted eye.

Mother shifted in her seat, her body tense and her brow knitted. “Edward,” she called, “let's turn back. I can barely make out the shore from the open sea.”

Father made a show of handing me his spyglass and flashed her a smile.

“It's but a fog coming in with the warmer air. Typical April in Maine, my dear. The shore's right there behind us. See the pines above the vapor?”

I hung the spyglass securely around my neck, then lifted it and peered through the lens. “Look, Mother,” I said. “Not only can you see the tips of the pines—you can see the roof of our house!”

She squinted, a doubtful expression on her face.

“I'll bring her around, Johanna,” Father said, and with a few polished moves he adjusted the sail so that it caught the slight breeze.

“All right, mates,” he said lightly, “your job is to keep our castle in your sights while I take us in!”

He winked at me, and I glanced back toward our landmark. But the slate-covered turrets, and even the tops of the pines, had disappeared into the mist. Father followed my gaze, and a hint of a shadow crossed his face. Mother bit her bottom lip.

“We'll be fine, Mother,” I said. After all, I reasoned, Father, a retired sea captain, had sailed huge ships across the open Atlantic. What was a little fog along the shore next to the storms he'd faced at sea?

Father turned and cocked his head.

“What is it, Edward?” Mother asked.

“Sh!” Father said. “I believe I hear a distress call....”

“But Edward!” Mother's voice had a frantic edge. The sky was growing darker, an odd pea-green tinge to it, giving the water a threatening, steel-gray cast. The wind picked up, ruffling the ribbon on Mother's hat and turning back the brim.

“Hold this line, Johanna,” Father said, handing her a coil of rope. “Just keep the boat steady.”

Mother held the rope with white knuckles.

“I'll help,” I whispered, wrapping my hands around hers, as much to feel her close to me as to help steady the sloop, which had begun to pitch back and forth with the rising waves.

Father took us farther out, straining his eyes and leaning into the wind.

“What in the world?” he said, almost to himself.

That's when I heard—faintly—a man's voice calling out. In seconds it was swallowed up by the whoosh of a cresting wave. I heard it again, along with a yipping, howling sound.

“Edward,” my mother called, “turn around, please. It's getting rough!”

“I hear someone calling for help,” Father said. “We can't very well ignore him.”

“Help! Somebody help me!”

The first drops of rain pelted down in large, cold splats.

“For the love of God,” Father said softly. “Look over there.”

At first all that was visible was the outline of a small, dilapidated rowboat.

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