I got over that, though—there’s nothing except death a man doesn’t get over down there—and a dark night came when (the ice breaking from the cliffs of the Cape with a sound that made me think of my last evening at Castle Raa) I found myself folding my hands and praying to the God of my childhood, not for myself but for my dear one, that He before whom the strongest of humanity were nothing at all, would take her into His Fatherly keeping.
“Help her! Help her! I can do no more.”
It was just when I was down to that extremity that it pleased Providence to come to my relief. The very next morning I was awakened out of my broken sleep by the sound of a gun, followed by such a yell from Treacle as was enough to make you think the sea-serpent had got hold of his old buttocks.
“The ship! The ship! Commander! Commander! The ship! The ship!”
And, looking out of my little window I saw him, with six or seven other members of our company, half naked, just as they had leapt out of their bunks, running like savages to the edge of the sea, where the “Scotia,” with all flags flying (God bless and preserve her!), was steaming slowly up through a grinding pack of broken ice.
What a day that was! What shouting! What hand-shaking! For O’Sullivan it was Donnybrook Fair with the tail of his coat left out, and for Treacle it was Whitechapel Road with “What cheer, old cock?” and an unquenchable desire to stand treat all round.
But what I chiefly remember is that the moment I awoke, and before the idea that we were saved and about to go home had been fully grasped by my hazy brain, the thought flashed to my mind:
“Now you’ll hear of her!”
[END OF MARTIN CONRAD’S MEMORANDUM]
The door of No. 10 was opened by a rather uncomely woman of perhaps thirty years of age, with a weak face and watery eyes.
This was Mrs. Oliver, and it occurred to me even at that first sight that she had the frightened and evasive look of a wife who lives under the intimidation of a tyrannical husband.
She welcomed me, however, with a warmth that partly dispelled my depression and I followed her into the kitchen.
It was the only room on the ground floor of her house (except a scullery) and it seemed sweet and clean and comfortable, having a table in the middle of the floor, a sofa under the window, a rocking-chair on one side of the fireplace, a swinging baby’s cot on the other side, and nothing about it that was not homelike and reassuring, except two large photographs over the mantelpiece of men stripped to the waist and sparring.
“We’ve been looking for you all day, ma’am, and had nearly give you up,” she said.
Then she took baby out of my arms, removed her bonnet and pelisse, lifted her barrow-coat to examine her limbs, asked her age, kissed her on the arms, the neck and the legs, and praised her without measure.