“The worst thing that ever could happen,” I said. Harriet stopped walking and stared at me. “They had sailed about fifty miles down the coast to Livorno, where they greeted some friends who had come to join them in Italy.”
“And when they sailed home, they got caught in a storm.”
“And the three people on board … they all drowned. All three of them. Mary’s husband, a young man working on the boat, a good friend named Edward Williams.”
“And imagine Mary back at their place in San Terenzo, wondering where they were … wondering why they were so late … why they hadn’t heard any news … ?”
“And then, of course, the word finally came. The word that all were lost.”
Harriet was crying now. “Why are you telling me this?” she sobbed.
“Wait,” I said. “There’s something surprising.”
“They weren’t dead?”
“No, no … not that surprising.”
We were walking now along the path at the western edge of Goat Island, a way that gave us remarkable views of Horseshoe Falls. We walked out to what they call Terrapin Point. We both grew silent and just stared at the cataract.
After a bit, Harriet said, “No one could survive that.”
I waited—always hesitating some before correcting anyone, especially Harriet, who didn’t always take it too well—especially in the last year or so.
“I read that some stunt performers have done it,” I said.
“We’ll probably see stuff about it tomorrow … at the museum.”
I waited a little more. Then added: “And this one kid—a seven-year-old boy named Roger … something. Anyway, back in 1960 he went over in a boating accident—and survived. Everyone was amazed.”
“How do you know this stuff?” Harriet asked, with just an edge of anger—or envy—or both.
“I did some extra reading,” I said, “once I found out we’d be coming here.”
Harriet was silent for a while. She inhaled deeply. “I don’t know why,” she said, “that someone else’s knowledge bothers me so much—and bothers other people, too.”
“I don’t know, either,” I said. I didn’t want to say what I thought—that it had to do with jealousy and about having a feeling of inferiority, a feeling no one really likes. But I didn’t really feel that way—not at all. I loved learning things I didn’t know. Which is why so many kids didn’t like me, I guess.
Soon, we resumed our walk, and I resumed my story about that drowning in 1822.