“Martin! Martin! I am coming to you!”
I was in this mood (sitting in my chair as I had done all day and staring into the small slow fire which was slipping to the bottom of the grate) when I heard a soft step in the corridor outside. At the next moment my door was opened noiselessly, and somebody stepped into the room.
It was Mildred, and she knelt by my side and said in a low voice:
“You are in still deeper trouble, Mary—tell me.”
I tried to pour out my heart to her as to a mother, but I could not do so, and indeed there was no necessity. The thought that must have rushed into my eyes was instantly reflected in hers.
“It is he, isn’t it?” she whispered, and I could only bow my head.
“I thought so from the first,” she said. “And now you are thinking of . . . of what is to come?”
Again I could only bow, but Mildred put her arms about me and said:
“Don’t lose heart, dear. Our Blessed Lady sent me to take care of you. And I will—I will.”
Surely Chance must be the damnedest conspirator against human happiness, or my darling could never have been allowed to suffer so much from the report that my ship was lost.
What actually happened is easily told.
Two days after we left Akaroa, N.Z., which was the last we saw of the world before we set our faces towards the Unknown, we ran into a heavy lumpy sea and made bad weather of it for forty-eight hours.
Going at good speed, however, we proceeded south on meridian 179 degrees E., latitude 68, when (just as we were sighting the Admiralty Mountains, our first glimpse of the regions of the Pole) we encountered a south-westerly gale, which, with our cumbersome deck cargo, made the handling of the ship difficult.
Nevertheless the Scotia rode bravely for several hours over the mountainous seas, though sometimes she rolled fifty degrees from side to side.
Towards nightfall we shipped a good deal of water; the sea smashed in part of our starboard bulwarks, destroyed the upper deck, washed out the galley, carried off two of our life boats and sent other large fragments of the vessel floating away to leeward.
At last the pumps became choked, and the water found its way to the engine-room. So to prevent further disaster we put out the fires, and then started, all hands, to bale out with buckets.
It was a sight to see every man-jack at work on that job (scientific staff included), and you would not have thought our spirits were much damped, whatever our bodies may have been, if you had been there when I cried, “Are we downhearted, shipmates?” and heard the shout that came up from fifty men (some of them waist deep in the water):
We had a stiff tussle until after midnight, but we stuck hard, and before we turned into our bunks, we had fought the sea and beaten it.