When Guthrie came, prepared by letters from fellow-mourners as bereaved as himself, it was but from one day to the next—only to “hear the particulars” and to see the little grave. Deborah was away from home, but in any case Mary would have been the one to perform the sad duties of the occasion; they were hers by right. She took him to the family cemetery on the only evening of his stay, and, herself speechless and weeping, showed him the whole place renovated and made beautiful for the sake of the latest comer. No weeds, no dead rose-bushes, no vampire ivy now; but an orderly garden, new planted and watered, and in the midst a small mound heaped with fresh-cut flowers. She had visited the child daily while he lived at Mrs Kelsey’s; now she almost daily visited his grave.
They dropped on their knees beside it, close as bride and bridegroom on altar steps, as father and mother at the firstborn’s cradle. The dusk was melting into moonlight; they could not see each other’s faces. When his big frame heaved with heavy sobs, she laid a timid hand—her beautiful hand—on his shoulder; and when he felt that sympathetic woman’s touch, he turned suddenly and kissed her. Afterwards he did not remember that he had done it.
She seemed to cling to him when, next morning, the time came for him to go.
“You will come again?” she implored him, in a trembling whisper. “You will come here when you return next time?”
“Oh, surely,” he replied, whispering too, and to the full as deeply moved. But when he got away it was to other lands that he turned his eyes, in the search for new interests to occupy his lonely life. With Lily and the baby dead, and Deborah Pennycuick given to another man, Australia had no more hold on him. His first letter to Redford notified that he had changed into another line, and that the name of his new ship was the Dovedale. She traded to the West Indies.
He forgot to write again when, not very long afterwards, he went back to his old line, at the invitation of the Company, as captain of the ship on which he had served as mate.
“’Dovedale’—Dovedale—hullo!” Mr Pennycuick broke the silence of his newspaper reading. “Why, isn’t that—Well, upon my soul! it does seem as if some folks were born unlucky. Here’s that poor young fellow— first he loses a charming wife, before he’s been married any time, and then the finest child going, and now here he’s gone himself, before his prime, with no end of a career before him—”
“Who?” cried Deb from the tea-table, where she was helping herself to a hot cake.
“Young Carey—our Carey; oh, it’s him all right, worse luck! His ship’s been wrecked, and only two A.B.s saved to tell the tale. Look here.”
He passed the newspaper, pressed under his broad thumb.
Deb stood to read the indicated item, while her father watched her face. Neither of them noticed Mary’s peculiar appearance, nor marked her departure from the room.