Guthrie Carey began life young. He was not a week over twenty-one when, between two voyages, he married Lily Harrison, simply because she was a poor, pretty, homeless little girl, who had to earn her living as a nondescript lady-help in hard situations, and never had a holiday. He saw her in a Sandridge boarding-house, slaving beyond her powers, and made up his mind that she should rest. With sailor zeal and promptitude, he got the consent of her father, who was glad to be rid of her out of the way of a new wife; took the trembling, clinging child to the nearest parson, and made her a pensioner on his small wages in a tiny lodging of her own. They honeymooned for a fortnight, off and on, as his ship could spare him—the happiest pair of mortals in the wide world—and then parted in tears and anguish unspeakable for the best part of a twelvemonth.
He came back to find himself a father. Wonderful experience for twenty-one! Never was such a heavenly mystery of a child! Never such an angelic young mother!—eighteen, and with the bloom of that most beautifying convalescence like a halo about her. He was first mate now, with a master’s certificate and a raised salary; it was time to make a home. So while she nursed the baby in Sandridge—with the aid of a devoted friend, the landlady’s cousin—Guthrie Carey busied himself across the way at Williamstown, fixing up a modest house. He also had a devoted friend, in the person of a Customs officer, whose experienced wife took charge of the operations. Lily was to see nothing until all was ready for her. It was to be a “pleasant surprise”.
The last touches had been given—tea put in the caddy, meat and butter in the safe, flowers in the vases. Mrs Hardacre, in her best gown, spread a festive supper-table, and Bill, her spouse, stood by with a Government launch to take the proud young husband to his wife, and to bring them back together.
Lily awaited him, trembling, tearful, wild with the joy of going home. Her step-mother had come to Sandridge to see her off, and had brought her a present of a macintosh, on the merits of which she dilated with fervour as she twirled it round and round.
“Buttons right down to the feet,” she urged persuasively, “and cape hanging below the waist”—the second Mrs Harrison was a big woman. “You might go through a deluge in it. And so stylish, my dear! You can wear it when you go out in threatening weather of an afternoon, and be quite smart.”
“Well, it’s pretty threatening now,” said Guthrie uneasily. “I don’t know that it wouldn’t be wiser—”
“Oh, no, no!” Lily implored. “No trains tonight! No way but this, Guthrie. I can’t get wet—in this nice waterproof. I don’t care how it blows—the more the better—with you with me.”
“We can keep him safe. He is going to be rolled in your ’possum rug. We can take him inside if it is cold. Oh, we must go by sea, Guthrie!”