Last Updated on November 14, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 496
Katherine Mansfield’s “The Voyage” takes place in New Zealand—in Wellington and Picton—near the turn of the twentieth century. The protagonist is a young girl named Fenella Crane, whose mother has recently died. At the beginning of the story, Fenella’s father, Frank, accompanies her and her grandmother, Mary, to the wharf in Wellington. It is night, and the looming machinery of the wharf seems “carved out of solid darkness.” They hear a loud boat whistle just before they arrive at the boat to Picton, which Mary and Fenella board. Shortly before the boat embarks, Frank and his mother embrace and bless one another. Their expression of emotion unsettles Fenella, and she turns away for a moment. Before he leaves, Frank gives Fenella a shilling, a large sum, which suggests to her that she will be staying with her grandmother for a long time.
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Once the boat has taken off, Mary and Fenella make their way to the cabin that Frank has reserved for them. The stewardess recognizes Mary and greets her. She notices the black clothing Mary and Fenella wear, infers their loss, and remarks that “sooner or later each of us has to go.” Fenella finds the cabin to be cramped and somewhat strange: there is a cake of brown soap that doesn't bubble and stiff sheets on her bed. Her grandmother retires to the top bunk, surprising Fenella with her nimble steps. Fenella falls asleep but wakes in the middle of the night to hear the stewardess speaking with Mary. The stewardess expresses her condolences as Mary explains what happened to Fenella’s mother.
In the morning, the boat has arrived in Picton, and Fenella and her grandmother prepare to disembark. Out on the deck, the air is very cold. The sun has not yet risen, and the stars are still dimly visible in the sky. Mary sees Mr. Penreddy—a family friend who has been helping to take care of Mary’s husband, Walter—and is pleased. Mr. Penreddy reports that he saw Mr. Crane just yesterday and that Mrs. Penreddy took over some scones for him last week. They arrive at the Cranes’ home, ascending a path of white pebbles flanked with flowers whose scent fills the cold air.
When they enter the house, Mary invites Fenella to wait in a sitting-room while she speaks to Walter. Fenella encounters a white cat, and she warms her cold hands in its fur as she listens to her grandparents’ pleasant voices. Her grandfather, Walter, invites her into his room, where he rests in bed. Walter, who has a rosy face and long white beard, invites Fenella to kiss him Over his bed is a framed piece of text that reads: “Lost! One Golden Hour / Set with Sixty Diamond Minutes. / No Reward Is Offered / For It Is Gone For Ever!” Walter tells Fenella that Mary painted the text, and he gives Fenella such a merry look it appears that he is winking.