Carol stood at the ship’s rail peering into the dimness of early dawn. The Captain had told her that they would be arriving in St. Vincent in the morning and she wanted to be ready for the first sight of the island. All the goodbyes were behind her; Miss Lefroy and the other teachers back in England were already fading into the memory of another life. Before her was the homecoming she had looked forward to for nearly three years.
“Well, Miss Carol, you are up early,” said the First Officer’s hearty voice. “You’re going to have to wait another hour or so to see that island of yours. We’ll not be arriving until about ten o’clock.”
“I’m longing to see it,” said Carol.
“Well, you still have time to go down and have some breakfast. I’ll call you when the sun comes up and you can watch for the volcano on the horizon.”
Carol felt that she couldn’t eat a bite, but as she sipped her tea and found hot toast and a boiled egg very acceptable she thought how nice it was to be treated as a grown-up.
She had thoroughly enjoyed the ocean voyage with a friendly group of passengers and ship’s officers, and found herself involved in musical evenings and small impromptu dances. She was no more the shy little schoolgirl, but a young lady holding her own in society.
The sky brightened and Carol watched faint outline of the island appear on the horizon, then grow more distinct until suddenly it was daylight and in no time the ship was sailing into the sunlit arms of Kingstown harbour. There was the familiar little town (was it smaller than she remembered?) and the green surrounding mountains, and yes, she could see the red roofs of Windsor halfway up the hillside. She was excited and scared and happy all at once and afterwards could never remember the morning clearly. Dad and Willie and Fred on the jetty; the carriage waiting to drive her home with old Leo grinning as he helped her in with her smaller bags. People in the crowd calling out, “Hello, here you are home again!” and “Nice to see you back, Carol” “Welcome home!” until at last they were up the steep hill, into the driveway, with Mother and the girls waiting on the verandah.
All that first day was laughing, crying confusion. Everyone remarking on how much she had grown, how they liked her dress and her hairstyle; Willie teasing her that she was even pretty now; and the servants giggling at her English accent. She was hugging brothers and sisters: some who had grown older, some who had grown fatter, others who were handsome, and some who looked thin and tired, but Mother was just the same. Later came the married sisters with their families. First was Georgina with the girls growing up and even Basil, the baby, a sturdy boy firmly held by father Carden who had visited her at school and had so kindly taken her to the theatre. Ethel was there with her three girls, Mona still a baby, and Trixie with her husband John and handsome little Jack, all living nearby and welcoming Carol home. As she lay in bed that night, tired out but too excited to sleep she thought, “They all still call me Monks but I’m no longer the baby, I’m a real person and everyone treats me as if I’m new and interesting!”
It was a happy carefree time. After all her trunks were unpacked and her new clothes admired by her sisters, the presents distributed to everyone with squeals of joy from the little nieces and nephews, she soon fell into the easygoing pleasant routine of home, with few duties and plenty of leisure time.
After the structured hours of school the casual social life of the young people delighted Carol. She was a lively good-natured girl with dark hair and big brown eyes and before long she was a popular member of a congenial group of young people with Doris and Fred, as well as other local families. They went riding and visited Willie on the estate where he was manager; took picnics to the beach for bathing; enjoyed sailing parties up Leeward to see the waterfalls at Baleine or to Bequia to spend a weekend with friends. There were small dances at home; or dinners where married sisters enjoyed playing hostess and introducing their young sister just home from England. Visitors from the various ships were entertained and visits from British warships always produced a spate of parties and dances. Some times the officers would give a dance on board ship with fairy lights decorating the rigging and under the huge tropical moon nothing could be more romantic! To one of these Carol wore her most beautiful white satin balldress embroidered with pearl beads, only to find the heat of her partners’ hands melted the beads and quite ruined the dress. It was a big joke in the family that all Carol’s partners stuck to her!
One day at lunch Fred said, “I met the new young doctor today. He’s from England and is working with Dr. Durrant. He’s called Gordon Ewing.”
“What is he like?” asked Blanche.
“Oh, quite a little fellow- not much to look at, but very pleasant. I suggested he might drop in one evening but he said hewould call first.”
Call he did, with the required number of engraved calling cards, and before long he became a much sought after member of the island society. He was charming and polite, very neat and immaculate in dress, with blue eves in a fair-complexioned face. He was older than the young group to which Carol belonged but he enjoyed joining in some of their outings although his work was demanding. Before long it became obvious that he was one of her admirers.
“Do you like him, Monks?” asked Doris one night as they were going to bed.
“Y-e-s,” said Carol. “He’s so different from the men here. He’s been to America and India and all sorts of other countries when he was ship’s doctor on the Cunard and P&O liners and he can talk about so many interesting things.”
“Well of course he’s quite a bit older than you are. Twelve years, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but he doesn’t seem stuffy like some older men. Anyway I like blue eyes,’ Carol giggled, “and his head is such a nice shape!”
Some months later the engagement was announced in the weekly newspaper and before long there was another engagement: Fred had asked a pretty blonde Barbadian, Mildred Ince, to marry him and there was a combined party for both couples. They enjoyed the greater freedom that engagement brought, and in the evening would stroll out into the garden and sing the songs Carol had brought home with her. Mother and Dad were not too happy- Dad felt that though Gordon had a good profession and could certainly support a wife, he seemed to move from one job to another and might not stay long in St. Vincent. Mother considered both Fred and Carol too young and she did not care for either Gordon or Mildred, but this was not unusual, she disliked all her sons and daughters-in-law!
During this time the family had a sudden and tragic blow. Doris came to breakfast one morning complaining that she was getting a stye on her eye. By evening it was larger and inflamed, but she said that she would bathe it with boracic and it would be better. However in the morning her eye was closed and the whole side of her face was swollen, so Dr. Durrant was called. Before penicillin there was not much could be done to cure an infection, and in the tropics it was said that there was not much illness, but a lot of death. In a few days pretty young Doris was dead. John Louis had died some years before of pneumonia while in the USA but this death was at home in the heart of the family.
Two years after Carol returned from school she was married to Gordon in June 1914 at the Cathedral in Kingstown. It was a happy family wedding with two young nieces, Marion and Milly, in pale lavender dresses carrying bouquets of mauve lilies and wearing big hats that looked rather like wedding cakes. The bride was in ivory satin and a veil with a wreath of orange blossom in her hair. Both hats, bouquets and the bridesmaids’ dresses were made at home but Carol’s dress was ordered from the States. The reception was at Windsor, and the bride was careful to send wedding photographs and cuttings from the newspapers to her new mother-in-law and relatives in Northern Ireland. They had received an invitation months earlier, but of course could not accept, so no member of Gordon’s family was present.
A wedding in 1914! No one could imagine how their world would change in the next few years.