G.B. Edwards

Thinking of leaving

I thought we were going to ride back home then; but Jim wanted to go on to Plienmont, for some reason. I looked over at Lihou as we passed by L’Eree, and thought of the two of us on that little island by ourselves all night. I was wondering if he was remembering too. When we got passed Fort Grey, I pointed out to him that the cottage where old Mère Quéripel lived. It was a real old witch’s cottage. It was built end-on against the side of a worked out quarry, and the thatch was so low down you could hardly see the windows and they seemed to be looking at you sideways; and it had one crooked chimney coming out of the roof. Jim said, ‘I suppose Mère Quéripel come out of that chimney on her broomstick.’ I said, ‘I expect Liza do as well.’ ‘I wouldn’t be surprised,’ he said.

He wanted to go right on to the end, so we took the right-hand turning in front of the Imperial and went along by the Trinity Houses and round by Fort Pezeries and left our bikes on the grass by the Table des Pions. We then climbed down between the two big rocks and stood on the edge of the cliff looking at the Hanois, Jim said, ‘This is as far west as we can get, isn’t it?’ ‘It is,’ I said. He said, ‘America is over there.’ ‘I can see it,’ I said. ‘Let’s go, you and me,’ he said. I thought he was joking. ‘We’d get on all right,’ he said, ‘just two Guernsey boys, eh?’ He was bubbling over with the idea. ‘I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,’ he said.

On the way back he explained how he had it all arranged. His father was sending some cattle to the States and somebody had to go with them. Whoever went with the cattle would have his passage paid; and I could be the one to go and Jim would pay his own passage. His father was quite willing. ‘I would travel with you, of course,’ he said, ‘in the same part of the ship.’ I let him talk. I knew it was a wangle for them to pay my passage and not hurt my pride. He said, We’d be sure to get work with the cows. What d’you think?’ I said, ‘How can I leave my mother?’ He said, ‘I suppose not.’

He didn’t say another word for a long time. At last, just as we was turning inland at Gran’-Rock, he said, ‘Nothing perfect is ever allowed to happen in this world.’ I left him at Les Gigands. He wanted me to indoors with him, but I didn’t feel like it. It was a grey evening and when I got round Sandy Hook the grey sea was coming over the grey stones and the clock of the Vale Church was striking the three-quarters. They was as sad as the bells. My mother was just back from the Brethren when I got in. I told her I had seen Tabitha and Jean and they was well. I didn’t tell her Jim had asked me to go to America with him and I had refused for her sake. It wasn’t true altogether. I didn’t really want to go away from Guernsey. I bet they don’t have spider-crabs in America.

This excerpt from the peerless The Book of Ebenezer Le Page was first published in 1981. Gerald Edwards died in 1976, and we have Edward's literary executor Edward Chaney to thank for his persistent efforts finally resulted in the books publication.

The novel is suffused with the central character Ebenezer's character: his stubborness and pride, and the sadness with which he watched his beloved island change. It is interesting to note that Edwards actually lived most of his life away from the island, which is why this exerpt is particularly interesting. Edwards left, but his character remained.