Outside the house and below the porches are massive tangles of hydrangea bushes. A front lawn spills down to the seawall, which is little more than a rocky barricade against the ocean and which is covered at this time of year with masses of beach roses. Thus, the view from the porch is one of emerald leaves with blots of pink against a blue so sparkling it is not so much a color as the experience of light. To the west of the lawn are orchards of Sheep's Nose and Black Gilliflower apples, and to the north is the beach which stretches two miles along the coast. Fortune's Rocks is the name not only for the horseshoe of land that cradles this beach, but also for the gathering of summer houses, of which the Biddefords' is but one, on its dunes and rocks.
"Olympia, I called to you," her father says when she, with her wet hem, climbs up to the rock on which he is standing. She expects him to be cross with her. In her impatience to feel the sea on her feet, she inadvertently went to the beach during the men's bathing hours, an activity that might be acceptable in a girl, but is not in a young woman. Olympia explains as best she can that she is sorry; she simply forgot about the men's bathing hours, and she was not able to hear him call to her because of the wind. But as she draws nearer to her father and looks up at his face and observes the manner in which he glances quickly away from herthis is not like himshe realizes that he must have witnessed her bare-legged walk from the seawall to the ocean's edge. His eyes are watering some in the wind, and he seems momentarily puzzled, even bewildered, by her physical presence.
"Josiah has prepared a tray of bread and pastes," her father says, turning back to her and regaining the slight loss of his composure. "He has taken it to your mother's room so that you both might have something to eat after the long journey." He blinks once and bends to his watch. "My God, Olympia, what a shambles," he adds.
He means, of course, the house.
"Josiah seems to be handling the crisis well enough," she offers.
"Everything should have been prepared for our arrival. We should have had the cook by now."
Her father wears his frock coat still. His boots are heavy and black and covered with dust, and she thinks he must be extraordinarily hot and uncomfortable. Clearly, he dressed that day with some indecisiontrailing Boston behind him even as he was anticipating the sea.
In the bright sunlight, Olympia can see her father's face more clearly than she has all winter. It is a strong face, one that suggests character, a face he inherited from his father before him and then later, through his own behavior, has come to deserve. His most striking feature is the navy of his eyes, a blue so vivid that his eyes alone, even with the flecks of rust in the irises, suggest moral rectitude. A fan of wrinkles, however, as well as folds of skin at the lids, soften the suggested righteousness. His hair is graying at the sides and thinning at the front, but he has high color and has not yet begun to grow pale as is so often the fate of ginger-haired men in their middle age. Olympia is not sure if she has ever thought about her father's height, nor can she accurately say how tall he isonly that he is taller than her mother and herself, which seems in keeping with the proper order of the universe. His face is elongated, as Olympia's will one day be, although neither of them is precisely thin.
"When you have finished your tea, I should like to see you in my study," her father says in the ordinary manner in which he is accustomed to speak to her, though even she can see that something between them has changed. The sun etches imperfections in his skin, and there are, in that unforgiving light, tiny glints of silver and ginger spread along his jaw line. He squints in the glare.
© 1999 by Anita Shreve
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