I T WAS A crisp morning, one of those spring mornings full of promise just like Harriet Loveridge, whose fresh young face of sixteen years still held the prettiness of a child, tinged with the dreams of future summers. She leaped out of bed, just in time to watch her father through her window, striding out of the gate and along the road towards Harbour Quarry. He looked fit and strong for his thirty-six years. It was nearly six o'clock, when her father was due to begin his day's work.
Since her mother's long bout of pneumonia last winter Harriet had taken on most of the cottage chores. She splashed her face with water from the bowl on her dresser and gave her hands a cursory scrub. They would be clean enough after she had finished the washing, but first she had her mother's breakfast to prepare. She went downstairs to find the stove already lit and a kettle simmering on the side. She poured boiling water into the already brewed pot of tea and cut a couple of thin slices of yesterday's loaf.
'Mama, Mama it's a lovely morning,' she gently called as she put down the tray to kiss her. 'How are you feeling today?'
'Ta, Harriet love.' Harriet's mother sat up in bed and sipped her tea. Um, that's good. I'm feeling a touch stronger, but if you could give your father's old work clothes a scrub this morning before going up the cutting to the dairy, I think I could manage the baking today.'
'That's grand to hear Mama, but shall I go to the baker's for a penny loaf as a treat, to save you the trouble of baking?' Harriet asked. 'After all, father was paid yesterday and I did make the pie last night before coming to bed.
'You're a thoughtful girl,' exclaimed Harriet's mother.
Harriet scrubbed the filthy clothes until her hands felt raw, then she put them through the ringer before hanging them quickly outside in the yard. Next she reached up for the red tin and picked out a few doubles. Grabbing her shawl she flicked back her long auburn hair as she walked into the sunshine, following in her father's footsteps.
'Good morning to you,' she called to Mrs Johnson, her next-door neighbour, who was also putting out her washing.
'Good morning Harriet,' Mrs Johnson replied. 'Do you think Annie will be well enough to join us on Friday night?'
'I do hope so Mrs Johnson. She's feeling much stronger today but I must rush now. I'll call in later on,' Harriet replied as cheerfully as possible. In truth, the reminder of the 'sending off celebration' for her neighbour's son Edward, who was leaving the island to work on a passenger steamer from Sarnia to England, brought a cloud to Harriet's otherwise clear blue day.
She turned up La Valée where the shade of a beautiful wooded glen meandered up towards La Ville and seemed to reflect the perceptive change in her mood. Only five days to go before he left. As she walked, her thoughts focussed on Edward. Three years her senior, he had played the role of big brother for as long as she could remember. Since neither of them had brothers or sisters of their own, which was unusual on the island, Edward had always been there for her. Although he teased her incessantly, he had also protected and defended her fiercely.
Each year Edward had spent six weeks of the summer living with his aunt and uncle on the neighbouring island of Sarnia, initially as an errand boy for their lodging house in St Peter Port, but later supplementing this meagre income by helping the stevedores loading the waiting ships down at the harbour. He always came back with exciting tales of people he had met and places he had visited. Last year was the worst