Bookmark #2 Owen Sound, Ontario
Rogues’ Wedding, by Terry Griggs
Wagons jammed the road as passengers spilled out of them to join the milling throng on the dock. Children streaked through the crowd, dogs, a chicken on the loose; a young man barged through carrying a skeletal white-haired woman in his arms who was dressed in purple satin from toe to bonnet as though rigged out in her own coffin lining.
— from Rogues' Wedding by Terry Griggs, published by Random House of Canada. Bookmarked at Owen Sound’s Waterfront Trail on September 2, 2010.
About Terry Griggs and Rogues' Wedding
Terry Griggs was born in 1951 on Manitoulin Island and grew up in a tourist camp her parents owned and operated outside Little Current. Lake Huron is a recurring setting for her novels and short stories for adults and children. Griggs’s work has been nominated for the Governor General‘s Award and in 2002 she won the Marian Engel Award.
Rogues’ Wedding is the story of Griff Smoulders, a Victorian-era bridegroom who runs away on his wedding night, touching off a series of accidental adventures. Meanwhile, his bride Avice refuses to be scorned and sets out to track Griff down. Rogues’ Wedding was published in 2002 and was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.
Rogues Wedding is published by Random House of Canada.
Why Fenwick had chosen the dock for their assignation was a mystery that would come clear, Grif supposed, when he found him. If he found him. Grif was late, and the place was packed. He didn’t think there could be a busier spot in all of Owen Sound, with one steamer arriving and another preparing to depart. The harbour was dotted with tugs, sailboats, fishing boats. The dockside was even busier, and traffic on the land just as thick. Wagons jammed the road as passengers spilled out of them to join the milling throng on the dock. Children streaked through the crowd, dogs, a chicken on the loose; a young man barged through carrying a skeletal white-haired woman in his arms who was dressed in purple satin from toe to bonnet as though rigged out in her own coffin lining.
It was a carnival of apprehension and excitement. Hoots, shouts, shrieks, braying both animal and human. Deckhands were loading cargo onto one of the boats: mailbags, crates of flour and sugar for the northern settlements and the lumber camps, horses and cattle, all sensible beasts, and sensibly terrified. He was aware of the fear in people’s voices, too, although it was less straightforwardly expressed, diverted into chatter or a strained, shrill laughter almost painful to hear. True, these steamers did have a bad habit of catching on fire, and you wouldn’t want to be dwelling on that if you were a passenger or had a loved one on board. In his search for Fenwick, the man’s inscrutable features hidden somewhere in this crowd, he glanced into many faces more readable, several taut with worry, even premature sorrow. There were families gathered here who were about to be broken open by a great distance, a wound of space inflicted that would never be healed. So much talk about the sanctity of home and family, yet the truth was, people couldn’t stay put, couldn’t wait to leave. Free land out west, gold in the Yukon, factory jobs in the city. Material betterment might be the excuse, but restlessness was the drover.
For a time Grif was wedged between two stout fellows, one sniggering to himself, the other quietly weeping—both solid as bookends. Being stuck, he took the opportunity to gaze up at one of the steamers, the Northern Belle. She was a beauty, too, with her burnished brass and fancy mouldings, decorative as a birthday cake. And he thought, why not line up for his share, his serving of the journey? Fenwick had insisted he was a free man…insofar as that is possible, he had added. Philosophy aside, this boat could further that freedom, stretch the bounds of what was possible. It was what he wanted, wasn’t it: to stoke the fire in his breast that his impulsive departure had ignited? He had to go forward, on and on, and dare not look back where he knew she was standing, staring after him, granite-eyed and unforgiving. He did not believe that she was to be found in Europe enjoying a tour of forgetfulness. She was at his back, always at his back, waiting, like death itself.