I’m skipping ahead just a little in the story. Melvin has found out that his big brother Alec was lost overboard in a storm. After the memorial service, his mother sends him to the market to buy supplies for the salting yard.
“It’s all on account of the witch, you see,” Auntie Janis was saying to her middle-aged assistant, as she looked for the bottle of tarragon. “She used to be so nice and kind, but I suppose that you can never trust a witch. First she got ugly, and then she got old, and then she said that she didn’t want anybody visiting her anymore. Maybe she’s sending the storms out of spite, for all that I know.”
“Excuse me, Auntie,” Melvin said, taking out two large pieces of silver – a bit more than he’d need to pay for tarragon and paprika. “Which witch are you speaking of?”