Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Fenella is a young girl whose mother has recently died. At the start of the story, she walks through the wharf of Wellington late at night with her father, Frank, and her grandmother, Mary. The dimness and unfamiliarity of the setting metaphorically convey the great uncertainty Fenella faces as she leaves her father to live with her grandmother in Picton.
Fenella struggles with the enormous changes in her life. As Mary and Frank tearfully embrace and say goodbye, Fenella finds the sight “so awful” that she turns away. It appears that the gravity of the situation—both her mother’s death and her departure from her father—is overwhelming, especially when it rises to the surface in the emotional expressions of her father and grandmother.
Fenella is wearing all black, an indication that she is in mourning. Her bereaved state elicits the condolences of the stewardess on board the Picton boat, who calls her a “poor little motherless mite!” On board the boat, she displays her conscientiousness. Mary tasks Fenella with the care of her umbrella, and Fenella does her best to look after it, both on board the boat and after they arrive in Picton.
Despite the tragedy Fenella is facing, she is receptive to joy and delight. When she and Mary arrive at the home of the Cranes, she takes pleasure in the fragrant flowers, the soft-furred cat, and her grandfather’s kind welcome.
Frank is the father of Fenella and the son of Mary and Walter. He appears only at the beginning of the story, when he accompanies Fenella and Mary to the Wellington dock. He appears to have a close relationship with his mother, and he appreciates her care of Fenella. As they embrace before her departure, Frank says, “God bless you, mother!” He cares deeply for Fenella as well, and their parting is emotional, too. When Fenella asks him how long she is going to stay with her grandparents, he will not answer her directly or make eye contact with her, an indication of the pain of their parting. He gives her a shilling, a significant sum, and quicks takes his leave.
Frank has purchased a cabin for his mother and daughter to stay in so that they will be more comfortable on their journey. Given that Mary rarely affords herself this luxury, Frank’s accommodation of Mary and Fenella is indicative of his generosity.
Mary Crane is Frank’s mother and Fenella’s grandmother. Her age is not specified, but she is rather sprightly, hopping lightly up to the top bunk on the boat so that Fenella, who is an inexperienced traveler, can have the bottom. She appears to love her son very much, and as she parts from him at the Wellington dock, she cries and says, “God bless you, my own brave son!”
Mary is a caring and conscientious person. She takes her granddaughter after the death of her daughter-in-law. She puts Fenella in charge of her pretty umbrella, giving her something to do and focus on, perhaps to distract her from her grief over her mother. As Mary and Fenella prepare to disembark the boat, Mary asks Fenella to leave her banana behind for the stewardess, a friendly acquaintance of hers. This is another indication of Mary’s thoughtfulness. In the final moments of the story, more of Mary’s thoughtfulness is revealed. The printed text that is framed and hung over the Cranes’ bed 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 devised the text,...
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indicating that Mary values the preciousness and transiency of each passing moment.
The stewardess works on board the Picton boat. She is very kind to Mary, whom she knows from her prior voyages. She quickly understands that Fenella and Mary are in a state of bereavement, given their black attire, and she offers anything she can by way of comfort. When the stewardess returns to check on Fenella and Mary, Mary tells the stewardess about what happened to Fenella’s mother. Mary advises Fenella to leave her banana behind for the stewardess since she did not eat it herself.
Walter Crane is Mary’s husband, Frank’s father, and Fenella’s grandfather. He is described as being like a “very old wide-awake bird” with his fluffy white hair and long silver beard. He is kind and welcoming, smiling broadly and asking Fenella for a kiss.
Mr. Penreddy is a friend of the Cranes. He comes to collect Fenella and Mary from the Picton dock when their boat arrives and drive them to the Cranes’ house. Mary is happy to see him. He reports that Walter was doing well yesterday and that Mrs. Penreddy brought him some scones the week before.