The Loss of the Mar­ion

The Compass - - ORTHTE - Harold N. Walters

If whip­ping posts were still in fash­ion I fear I would be flogged for not be­ing a true New­found­lan­der — or some­thing.

Be­fore read­ing Linda Ab­bott’s The Loss of the Mar­ion [Flanker Press] I’d never — Never! Not once! — lis­tened to the song of the same name. Give ‘en twenty stripes! I was aware of the song’s ex­is­tence and, sure, I’d heard scraps of it as back­ground mu­sic here and there — at a wed­ding, p’raps — but I’d never — Never! Not once! — tuned an ear in from start to fin­ish. I hadn’t even skimmed the lyrics. Give ‘en an­other twenty stripes! Since read­ing this novel in­spired by the ac­tual events re­lated to the Mar­ion’s loss, I’ve done both. At Mr. Google’s house, I found and read the lyrics — “She’s a For­tune Bay schooner sail­ing out from St. Jac­ques.” Af­ter leav­ing Mr. Google’s house I went YouTub­ing un­til I found a video of Si­mani singing “The Loss of the Mar­ion.” Cut ‘en loose! Set ‘en free! If noth­ing else, Linda, you’ve helped me re­deem my­self — p’raps — in the eyes and minds of true New­found­land. For that, my thanks.

I’ve no­ticed that some New­found­land authors in­clude food in their open­ing scenes. A spell back I Re­Marked on a novel that tit­il­lated my taste buds in its open­ing para­graph with a de­scrip­tion of patch-a-berry jam. Now, here’s Linda Ab­bott gen­er­at­ing drools with her open­ing sen­tence: “Eight per­fectly rounded fish cakes siz­zled in the iron pan.”

B’ys! My hand au­to­mat­i­cally reached for the Heinz bot­tle so I could glob those cakes with ketchup.

The main char­ac­ter in this novel is Nel­lie Myles, a woman who of­ten has “funny feel­ings” — that’s bad funny, not ha-ha funny.

Nel­lie has a bad feel­ing about the Mar­ion’s im­pend­ing voy­age to the Banks. Not only do those feel­ings tor­ment her, but also, to make mat­ter worse she sees a to­ken of her hus­band Harry en­shrouded in fog. The ap­pear­ance of a to­ken is a sure sign that death is im­mi­nent.

Fewer than 50 pages into the story, the Mar­ion is lost, and there are still more than 150 pages to read. More than 150 pages seen from the per­spec­tive of — mostly — the women and chil­dren left be­hind.

Nel­lie’s daugh­ter, Bessie, is of­ten haunted by a night­mare phe­nom­e­non known to New­found­lan­ders as the Old Hag.

[Par­en­thet­i­cally, most folks cod them­selves that the Old Hag is sim­ply a night­mare dur­ing which the dreamer be­lieves he is fully — fully! — awake, but paral­ysed, and a de­mon-like crea­ture is about to gob­ble him up. I know — and so do you, if you’re hon­est — that the Old Hag is real and if she grabs your guts you’m a goner.]

Any­way, Bessie is re­peat­edly trou­bled by a night­mare of an evil, hooded man, thus es­tab­lish­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a truly malev­o­lent vil’yen in the vicin­ity.

Has Bessie’s hooded man some­how been in­volved with the Mar­ion’s loss? Is he maybe Cap­tain Mau­rice, a French­man who ap­pears to be Ike Jones’ neme­sis? Did he fol­low the Mar­ion from St. Pierre and scut­tle her at sea?

You know I can’t an­swer these ques­tions. Be­sides, there is the pos­si­bil­ity that a Ger­man war­ship fired on and sank the Mar­ion. It was 1915, af­ter all.

And, hey, the hooded man might only be a denizen of Bessie’s night­mare, a sub­sti­tute for the Old Hag her­self. You think? If the hooded man is a vill’yen, he is not alone. There is a lesser vill’yen, a wicked aunt who is hor­rid enough to have stepped out of the pages of a grim fairy tale. Nope, can’t tell you who she is. The plot of The Loss of the Mar­ion is full of en­ter­tain­ing developments. Just when one cri­sis ap­pears to be re­solved an­other ob­sta­cle is piled on the load. The plot is as twisty as a tansy coiled around a bar­na­cled rock.

There’s no deny­ing that the loss of the Mar­ion and her 17-mem­ber crew was a tragedy, a tragedy too com­mon in New­found­land’s his­tory. There’s no deny­ing that the fam­i­lies left be­hind must have suf­fered phys­i­cal hard­ship and en­dur­ing grief.

Nev­er­the­less, Linda Ab­bott has gone be­yond the ac­tual par­tic­u­lars of the catas­tro­phe and writ­ten a yarn that — dare I say it? — is fun to read.

For ex­am­ple, when the iden­tity of the hooded man is even­tu­ally re­vealed, you can pound the ta­ble top and say, “I bloody well knew that’s who he was!” Thank you for read­ing. Harold Walters is an avid reader liv­ing in Dunville, Pla­cen­tia Bay. He can be reached by email at the fol­low­ing: gh­wal­ters@per­ or gh­wal­

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