The Secret of Trefusis Cove – Episode 20

They sat and listened to the creak of the oars and the water surging past the bow of the boat as the Saucy Sue cut through the wavelets.

“I don’t suppose,” Val whispered, “that you believe in mermaids?”

“You can’t live in Cornwall and not believe in the merfolk.”

Now he really was pulling their legs, Betty thought.

“I found a shell on the beach this afternoon.” Val reached into her pocket and held it out for him to take. “It’s very like one in a book I have.”

He shipped the oars and took the shell. There was just enough twilight to see by. He gazed at it closely.

“Well, I never. I ain’t seen one like that for I wouldn’t like to say how long.”

“What does it mean?”

He turned the shell over in his hand.

“This fish hook thing means that someone is falling in love with you – being hooked, you see. And the moon and the stars, that’s what he’ll be willing to give you.”

He handed the shell back to Val gently.

“The merfolk, they know these things. It was left for you to find. No doubt about that.”

“Oh, Aircut, what a load of twaddle.” Betty sniffed. “Poor Val’s already taken by this mermaid book she bought. Don’t encourage her with fairy tales. We’re both too mature and sensible for romance.”

Aircut took up the oars.

“Well, you explain it. A seashell on the beach, carved up pretty, set there for your friend to find. What else but something not of this world?”

“Yes,” Val said. “Remember what Shakespeare said about there being more things in heaven and earth.”

“I know what he said!” Betty was exasperated. “It’s an old shell someone threw away. You found it, that’s all.”

Aircut sighed.

“Anyone want coffee?”

He didn’t set the motor going. They sat in the gently rocking boat, drinking coffee from small enamel mugs. The coffee was delicious and Betty suspected that a little of Aircut’s cordial had been added. Just enough to take the chill off the night air.

The moon rose and Aircut played his concertina while they sang shanties.

“You ladies sing lovely,” Aircut said. “Would you consider singing along with us on the next Shanty Night at the Crab and Mermaid? A bit of feminine harmony would go down a treat.”

“Oh, we’re not that good,” Betty said.

“Come to a rehearsal with us. We’ll soon teach you the harmonies,” Aircut urged. “They’re simple.”

“Come on, Betty,” Val pleaded. “It’ll be fun.”

Betty smiled.

“OK, we might enjoy it. When shall we come to a rehearsal?”

“Tomorrow evening.” He stowed the mugs before taking up the oars again. “We’d best get back now the tide’s on the turn. I won’t bother with the outboard motor and I’ll take you right up to your beach. How’s that?”

“Perfect,” Val said.

As good as his word, Aircut ran the boat up the beach in front of Tangara and they climbed out.

“Give us a shove!” he called and they pushed the boat into the water again and shouted their thanks.

They squelched up the grassy slope and removed their sandals.

“All that about mermaids seems silly now we’re ashore,” Val said.

“It is silly. It’s part of Aircut’s bit for the tourists.”

“Not the seashell. That’s still a mystery.”

“Rubbish. It’ll be someone’s arts and crafts effort, thrown away.”

“It isn’t late,” Val said. “I think I’ll take some photos in the moonlight. It’s so beautiful out here.”

“I’m going to sit with my book. Don’t go too far.”

“OK, Mum.” Val laughed. “I’ll be very careful of the sea monsters.”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.