“Miss Deborah’s complexion is wonderful.”
“Yes. But oh, Deb isn’t to be compared with Mary in anything except looks. She is eaten up with vanity—one can’t be surprised—and is very dictatorial and overbearing; you could see that at lunch. But Mary is so gentle, so unselfish—her father’s right hand, and everybody’s stand-by.”
“I don’t think Miss Deborah seemed—”
“Because you don’t know her. I do. She simply loathes children, while Mary would mother all the orphan asylums in the world, if she could. I always tell her that her mission in life is to run a creche—or should be. Lawks! How she will envy me when I get that boy of yours to look after!”
Guthrie’s feet seemed to take tight hold of the ground. “Really, Miss Urquhart—er—I can’t thank you for your goodness in—in asking him up here—but I’ve been thinking—I’ve made up my mind that the best thing I can do is to take him home to my own people.” The idea was an inspiration of the desperate moment. How to put it into practice he knew not, and she tried to show him that it was impracticable; but he stuck to it as to a life-buoy. He would write to his sister—all the ‘people’ he owned apparently—and find somebody who was going home; and “Isn’t it time to be putting our things together? Miss Pennycuick told us we were to be there for tea at four o’clock, if possible.”
Behold him at Redford, with his tea-cup in his hand. He was safe now from talk about the baby; but he was also cut off from the lovely Deborah, now wandering about her extensive grounds with another young man. Old Father Pennycuick had him fast. They sat together under a verandah of the great house.
“There were no pilots then,” said the old man, puffing comfortably at his pipe—“there were no pilots then, and we had to feel our way along with the cast ‘o the lead. We got ashore at Williamstown, on sailors’ backs, and walked to Melbourne. Crossed the Yarra on a punt, not far from where Prince’s Bridge now is—”
“Yes,” said Guthrie Carey.
He seemed to be listening attentively, his strong, square face set like a mask; but his eyes roamed here and there.
“Bread two-and-six the small loaf,” Mr Pennycuick dribbled into his dreaming ears. “Eggs sixpence apiece. Cheap enough, too, compared with the gold prices. But gold was not thought of for ten years after that. I tell you, sir, those were the times—before the gold brought all the riff-raff in.”
The sailor murmured something to the effect that he supposed they were.
“We’d got our club, and a couple of branch banks, and a post-office, and Governor La Trobe, and Bishop Perry, and the nicest lot of fellows that ever came together to make a new country. We were as happy as kings. All young men. I was barely twenty-three when I took up Redford—named after our place at home. You know our place at home, of course?”