Footsteps in Bay de Verde
Footsteps in Bay de Verde
“What in the name of God was that?” said her mother, starting to rise from her chair.
“It’s just the wind,” said her father, standing up. “I’ll get it, Mag.”
But then they heard the familiar shambling footsteps coming down the hall.
“Oh it’ll be Poor Keye,” said her Dad, sitting down again. “He must have come in on the evening train.”
Everyone settled back into their seats and the smoke billowed as the men puffed some more on their pipes. Mr. Fleming went back to his story
“They had to take him to Ned Keye’s house, ‘cause he wouldn’t hear about going up the hill to his own.”
Bridie was listening to Poor Keye’s footsteps as they approached the kitchen door. Step-shuffle-thump. Step-shuffle-thump.
But they didn’t come in. They went right on past, down the hall towards the back kitchen. Step-shuffle-thump. Step-shuffle-thump.
This delightful, old-fashioned ghost story takes readers to a cold winter night in Bay de Verde, a small town near the end of Conception Bay in Newfoundland. Bridie and her two siblings love nothing more than to sit in the kitchen late at night, waiting to hear the stories told by their neighbours as they smoked their pipes. These stories often started out with the weather and general happenings in Bay de Verde, but, as the night goes on, the best stories were told about shipwrecks, fairies, and ghosts.
On one such night, Bridie’s parents and the neighbours started talking about the prices of fish, the weather, and Jim Keye. Known as Poor Keye, because of his constant troubles, he was a regular at the story gatherings and always had candy in his pocket and a joke for the children. He was well-known around town for the sound he made when walking, step-shuffle-thump. But lately, Poor Keye hadn’t been around for the stories. He had ended up at a hospital in St. John’s for a bad cough.
As Mr. Fleming was about to begin a story about Billy Cotter, the front door crashes open. Everyone dismisses it as the wind, but then they hear a distinctive step-shuffle-thump. Believing Poor Keye had returned from the hospital, they wait for him to come into the kitchen. However, the steps continue to the back of the house. Bridie’s mother goes to get him, taking the only lamp with her. As the children and adults wait in the dark, they hear another crash. Bridie’s father runs after their mother. She had dropped the lamp but did not find Poor Keye anywhere. Everyone is stunned to find the front door still locked on the inside. The children are scared as the adults try to figure out what had happened. They all agree that they heard the footsteps of Jim Keye. At quarter past nine, Bridie’s mother sends the children up to bed. They huddle close together until they fall asleep.
The next morning during breakfast, a telegram arrives from St. John’s. Poor Keye had passed away the night before at ten after nine. The kitchen goes quiet as everyone realizes the time. Bridie’s younger sister screams.
Cotter recreates a ghostly tale that will leave readers with goosebumps and wanting more local stories from Bay de Verde. She has recounted the story that she heard herself from Brian Walsh whose mother was Bridie. The characters feel as familiar as family, and it is clear that the town is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone. Cotter perfectly recreates a cold winter night in Newfoundland and sets up the story as comforting yet spooky. However, Dwyer's realistic illustrations help bring the story to life. The use of blue and grey colours set the tone for a cold, almost frightening narrative, but the pops of colour add some warmth. The smoke from the men’s pipes is used to recreate what the children could be imagining from listening to the stories. Footsteps in Bay de Verde is a great story to curl up to with family and friends, but, of course, with a light on.
Julia Pitre is a children’s librarian with London Public Library in London, Ontario.