It was a wooden image of the Virgin (about the length of my hand) daubed over with gilt and blue paint, and when he stuck it up in front of his face as he lay in his sleeping-bag, I knew that he expected to go out before morning, and wished that to be the last thing his old eyes should rest on.
I am not much of a man for saints myself (having found that we get out of tight places middling well without them), but perhaps what Treacle did got down into some secret place of my soul, for I felt calmer as I fell asleep, and when I awoke it was not from the sound of my darling’s voice, but from a sort of deafening silence.
The roaring of the wind had ceased; the blizzard was over; the lamp that hung from the staff of the tent had gone out; and there was a sheet of light coming in from an aperture in the canvas.
It was the midnight sun of the Antarctic, and when I raised my head I saw that it fell full on the little gilded image of the Virgin. Anybody who has never been where I was then may laugh if he likes and welcome, but that was enough for me. It was all right! Somebody was looking after my dear one!
I shouted to my shipmates to get up and make ready, and at dawn, when we started afresh on our journey, there may have been dark clouds over our heads but the sun was shining inside of us.
[END OF MARTIN CONRAD’S MEMORANDUM]
Sister Mildred was right. Our Blessed Lady must have interceded for me, because help came immediately.
I awoke on St. Stephen’s morning with that thrilling emotion which every mother knows to be the first real and certain consciousness of motherhood.
It is not for me to describe the physical effects of that great change. But the spiritual effect is another matter. It was like that of a miracle. God in his great mercy, looking down on me in my sorrow, had sent one of His ministering angels to comfort me.
It seemed to say:
“Don’t be afraid. He who went away is not lost to you. Something of himself is about to return.”
I felt no longer that I was to be left alone in my prison-house of London, because Martin’s child was to bear me company—to be a link between us, an everlasting bond, so that he and I should be together to the end.
I tremble to say what interpretation I put upon all this—how it seemed to be a justification of what I did on the night before Martin left Ellan, as if God, knowing he would not return, had prompted me, so that when my dark hour came I might have this great hope for my comforter.
And oh how wonderful it was, how strange, how mysterious, how joyful!
Every day and all day and always I was conscious of my unborn child, as a fluttering bird held captive in the hand. The mystery and the joy of the coming life soothed away my sorrow, and if I had shed any tears they would have dried them.