Suzie’s father was relieved then angry when she came home, though strangely lost interest in yelling at her as soon as he started. Without even punishing her, he sat back down at his desk and seemed to forget she was there as he began scribbling on a piece of paper and mumbling to himself. “No, I can’t go at night, then I can’t see him.”
“See who, the Berry man?” Suzie said, peeking over his shoulder to see what he was writing, but he quickly covered the paper.
“Suzie, please,” he said sharply, then melted when he saw her face. “I’m sorry.” He turned the paper over and put an arm around her, sighing. “Oh, how I wish your mother were here. She would know what to do.”
“What to do about what?” Her father took a deep breath and stood up, leading Suzie away from the desk. “C’mon now, let’s get you to bed. I’ve got work to do.”
Suzie lay in bed for what seemed like hours, wondering what Mr. Trihuger had asked her father to do. If she knew what it was, maybe she could help him, since her mother no longer could.
The next morning, though she had barely slept at all, Suzie sprang out of bed, hoping to catch her father before he left. But he wasn’t at his desk, and on the kitchen table she found breakfast waiting for her, along with a note. “I picked berries already for Mrs. Langley, and have an important errand to do. Don’t worry if I am not back before dark. This may take all day.”
First disappointed that he was gone, Suzie quickly decided it would be much easier to find out things without him around. Getting dressed as fast as she could, she grabbed some food and launched out the door, nearly smacking into Oliver.
“Morning!” he said, grinning happily.
Suzie already hated this cheerful new Oliver. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s a nice day. I thought we could go to the beach,” he said.
“Won’t you get your glasses wet?” Suzie grumbled, heading past him on the small path that led from her house to the larger path around the island.
“I’m not going to go swimming, silly,” said Oliver, still cheerful, trotting behind her.
“Don’t call me silly!” Suzie snapped. “And why did your mom let you come here by yourself? Wasn’t she worried about the Berry Man?”
“No...I didn’t tell her about him,” he said.
“Hey,” she said, stopping to study his face. “Weren’t you worried about walking here by yourself? Didn’t you think you might run into him?”
Oliver shrugged. He was having so much fun looking at things with his glasses, he hadn’t thought about the Berry Man at all. “No, I guess not,” he said, smiling.
Just another thing not to like about the new Oliver, Suzie thought, but she held her tongue this time, deciding now that he could see, he might be useful if they were to run into the Berry Man.
“Fine. I’ll go with you to the beach, but you have to go somewhere with me first,” she said, turning right onto the main path.
Oliver followed reluctantly until he realized they were heading to Mrs. Langley’s house, which he loved almost more than his own. If he could, he would spend all day at her back door, watching her hand out fresh, warm loaves of bread as he drank in the wonderful smells.
“You two are here early,” said Mrs. Langley, opening the top half of the door to her house after seeing the children approach. “I’m sorry, but your loaves aren’t quite ready yet.”
“I know, that’s OK,” Suzie said, handing Mrs. Langley the berries she was carrying. “My dad picked the berries today and he gets up a lot earlier than us.”
“Oh, I see,” Mrs. Langley said, looking down at Oliver, who was leaning over the door, his eyes closed. “Well, it shouldn’t be too much longer, so would you two like to come inside and wait?”
Mrs. Langley wiped her hands on her apron and pulled open the rest of the door, laughing as Oliver nearly tumbled inside. She led the children back to a large brick oven, where the wonderful smells were coming from.
“Careful, now. Please don’t touch anything, especially the oven,” Mrs. Langley said, standing in front of a table with several bowls that had towels draped over them. “The loaves need a few more minutes.”
She reached into a bowl of flour and rubbed it over her hands, then clapped them gently before lifting the towel off one of the bowls and pulling out a ball of dough. Oliver was entranced as she began to knead it into the counter, but Suzie squirmed impatiently.
“Mrs. Langley?” Suzie said, so anxious she nearly barked. “Did – did you know my mother?”
Mrs. Langley stopped kneading and looked at Suzie, her face soft and eyes sad. “Yes. Yes, I did.”
“Were you a spy like her?” Suzie cried.
Mrs. Langley coughed, expecting a completely different question. “A spy? Where did you hear that?”
Suzie paused, wanting to tell her about the book and meeting Mr. Trihuger, but wasn’t sure she should. And before she could decide what to say instead, Mrs. Langley wiped her hands on her apron and put a hand on her shoulder.
“Now, Suzie. Your mom was certainly brave and curious enough to be a spy, but she was never so rude as to spy on people,” she said, patting the girl before turning to Oliver. “Now, Sir Oliver — would you like to try kneading?”
Oliver was so excited he could only nod, his eyes wide. “I thought you might,” said Mrs. Langley, smiling and reaching up to pull a clean rag off a shelf above her. “But first, let’s wipe those glasses off, they’re a bit steamy. By the way, where did you get those?”
Oliver froze, hoping Suzie would come up with a quick lie. But she was heading to the door.
“Um, m-my mom just found them. I - I think they were my dad’s,” was all Oliver could come up with, thinking Mrs. Langley would never believe him, but before she could answer, Suzie called from the door. “Oliver, could you bring us our bread later? I need to go.” And she marched outside without waiting for an answer.
Oliver turned back to the counter, where Mrs. Langley had placed another ball of dough in front of him.
“OK, now, first put some flour on your hands,” she said, and Oliver obeyed, clapping his hands as Mrs. Langley had done, though he wasn’t sure why. When his hands were ready, he picked up the dough, which was so warm and soft, it felt alive.
Before he knew what he was doing, Oliver lifted the ball to his cheek. He stopped, worried, but Mrs. Langley just smiled, her face looking like she had just seen someone she hadn’t seen in years.
“Oliver, how would you like to come here tomorrow and learn how to make bread?”
Oliver could only nod, his voice drowning in happiness.