A dying old man (the Bride's father) spends his days at the beach remembering the past and his lost loved ones.
It wasn't quite the same as being at sea, the Captain knew, but it was the next best thing, and at least here he could be close to the water.
Walter liked the sea - it was the only place that he knew of where a man could think and feel completely free. Love alone had pulled him ashore and his two years with Martha had been the happiest of his life.
But she had died having Emily and, at that time, in his grief, Walter had gone back to the sea, leaving the infant behind with his older sister.
Foolish man that he'd been, it had taken him years to forgive the wee thing for her mother's death ... as if she'd had anything to do with it... And it was only his sister's final illness that had brought him back, for there was no one else to keep the child.
He had tried to harden his heart towards young Emily, but he saw too much of Martha in the girl and he had come to love her. For her part, it had been hard for her to adjust to this gruff stranger who had taken the place of her beloved Auntie. But, in time, she had come to love him, too.
They were that rare thing: not only father and daughter, but also the best of friends - and life was good.
Until the day that wretched creature had come into their lives...
Walter sighed and pulled out the letter. It had been folded and re-folded so many times that it was no longer readable, but he carried it with him like a talisman and had read it often enough that each and every word was burned into his soul:
Please forgive me but by the time you read this letter we shall be married. Bart is a wonderful man and I'm sure that once you get to know him like I do that you'll love him too. He has to take care of some business so we'll be gone for a few days but will be back as soon as we can. I hope that you can forgive us for disobeying you, but I know that we are meant to be together. Please don't be too angry. Love forever,
Emily & Bart"
He sighed, re-folded the scrap of paper, and then put it away.
How clearly he remembered the day she had brought him home! And how proud she was of him, as though she had found something special among the ranks of common men. Though - like all young girls' fathers - Walter was naturally apprehensive, he had been hopeful that she indeed had found a worthy young fellow.
The Captain's years at sea had schooled him well in the reading of the winds and waves and of the faces of men. And he hadn't liked what he saw in the face of the one who stood before him. But Walter was a diplomatic man and he had held his peace until after their visitor had left.
"What do you think?'' his daughter asked him anxiously.
Captain Barrett paused and looked into the distance. "Do you want my honest opinion?" he asked.
"Of course I do," she said indignantly.
"I don't care for him," he said. ''Not one bit.''
Emily was shocked. And hurt. "But, why not?"
He had answered her as gently and as truthfully as he could. And, of course, she hadn't believed him...
She had tried weeping, pleading, and arguing with him, but he had seen too many times what inevitably happened when good women took up with bad men, and he was determined to spare her that fate. Finally, he had put his foot down and forbade her to ever speak of him again.
"Some day you will thank me for this," he had told her as she wept and raged before him. He was to leave the next morning for a short trip, but promised to be back in time to take her to the Sunday morning service.
On a chilly morning four days later, his errand complete, he returned home to a cold and empty cottage. Emily was nowhere to be seen but he had found the letter placed neatly in the center of the empty table. He read the note through quickly, and then he jammed it into his pocket and rushed to the closet - to that place where his most precious possession, his dead wife's wedding dress, had been lovingly kept all these years.
It was gone.
He took off in hot pursuit but made it only as far as the old cemetery, where he had found his daughter's lifeless body sprawled under the old oak tree. Her 'wonderful man' had knocked her on the head and made off with her dowry, leaving her to die there alone in the woods.
There was nothing more that could be done for her, so he had had his girl hastily buried - still in her mother's gown - and then he left, vowing to neither rest nor quit until he had tracked down and destroyed the beast that had murdered his Emily.
The search had been long and difficult and, although he came close once or twice, in the end death had caught up with the culprit first. By then he was tired of always being on the move, so he had finally come home to stay...
The sound of church bells jolted him back to the present.
The Captain snorted and shook his head. Here he was - a used up old man wasting his remaining days dreaming of things long since buried in the past.
The bells rang again. He supposed that he ought to be in the pews too, but his church-going days had ended when Emily had died.
This beach was his church now.