FROM CATCH ME ONCE, CATCH ME TWICE


They walked up a dirt road, past the last of the houses, to Signal Hill Road. Peter showed Ev a right of way that led through an old farm to the barrens of Signal Hill. The land was dotted with small ponds and boulders, and carpeted with plants that grew no higher than Ev's knee. Thelower paths were boggy, and when they were a safe distance from the military base, Peter led the way to a dry path farther up the hill. It was colder than it had been last Saturday. The overcast sky hung low and even in the shelter of Signal Hill the wind had a chill to it, a taste of the long winter to come. Frost had touched blueberry bushes among the grey rocks, painting their leathery leaves bright crimson. Ev breathed the chill air deeply. Places like this felt like home.

She didn't really mind that Peter moved so slowly because it gave her plenty of time to look around. Ev enjoyed small details most people overlook, the patterns of grey-green lichen on the rocks, the insignificant plants that grew on the barrens. These she knew by the names her father had taught her: Lambkill, Labrador Tea, Bog Rosemary with its needle-like leaves. They were old friends. The land had a curious feel to it here, for it had been walked upon for hundreds of years without ever being home to a single human being. It seemed as if anything might happen in such a place.

As they walked, Ev told Peter about Belbin's Cove. He said very little.Ev wondered if she was talking too much, or talking about herself too much, or just boring Peter. He was so quiet it was hard to tell.

Then down the hill a ways, in a steep-sided valley, Ev noticed an odd collection of rocks. The arrangement was too careful to be natural; it was something once made by man.

"What is that down there, Peter?" she asked.

He stopped. "Where?" and when she pointed he replied. "That's the ruin of an old spring house. There's a well in there. They used to fetch water from there for the soldiers on Signal Hill, back in the old days."

"I thought they'd get their water from the ponds," Ev said.

"So they did too, but sometimes in the summer the water in the ponds gets bad. Then too..." he stopped and looked uncomfortable.

Remembering her embarrassment a short while before, Ev almost didn't press him. But this seemed different and she wanted to know. "Then too, what?" she asked.

"There's something about wells and springs that draws people,"he said. "That could be why they put the spring house there. They're places where the earth and what's held secret under the earth meet."

"You sound like Uncle Ches when you talk like that." Shelaughed.

He laughed too. "Well, who else would tell me such a thing?"

"We have some time, right Peter?" she asked.

"We have all afternoon. Why?" He was more uneasy now.

"I'd like to go down and see that place. I know  its a climb. You could stay here and wait."

"Ev, I'm supposed to look out for you. You shouldn't be going  down there alone. There's an abandoned well inside."

"I won't fall in, silly. I'm careful. I just want to look."

Ev noticed the reluctance in Peter's eyes. He was silent for a long time. "All right," he said at last. "Just so's you don't stay too long." Then he fished into his pocket. "Here, take this with you." He held something out on the palm of his hand.

Ev looked at it, puzzled. It was a silver coin, a Newfoundland five cent piece. "What's that for?" she asked. She was about to make a joke, but something in Peter's face stopped her. She had never seen him look so serious.

"Luck," he said.

Ev waited for him to explain, but he remained silent. She shrugged and took it from him. It was smaller than a ten cent piece, almost weightless in her hand. "Sometimes you're an odd one, Peter Tilley," she said.

He nodded. "Sometimes I am. Now don't waste time down there.We still have work to do."

Ev moved down the slope quickly. Even though she hadn't minded walking so slowly with Peter, it felt good now to walk at her regular pace. She looked back once or twice and it seemed as if Peter hadn't taken his eyes from her. When she reached a small plateau, she waved.

She was out of his sight for a moment, skirting a boggy patch of land, when she heard it. Sweet, high music echoing out over the hills, the tune so sad and beautiful it almost made you forget who you were. It seemed to be coming from the ruin of the spring house. Maybe, she thought, if I'm quiet, I can see who's playing.

 Catch Me Once, Catch Me Twice, Janet McNaughton, $7.99 paperback, HarperCollins Canada, ISBN 0-00-639304-7 pp.93-96 

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