“But who can blame me when my child’s life is in danger?” I asked myself again, still tugging at my long gloves.
By the time I had finished dressing the Salvationists were going off to their barracks with their followers behind them. Under the singing I could faintly hear the shuffling of bad shoes, which made a sound like the wash of an ebbing tide over the teeth of a rocky beach—up our side street, past the Women’s Night Shelter (where the beds never had time to become cool), and beyond the public-house with the placard in the window saying the ale sold there could be guaranteed to make anybody drunk for fourpence.
stand the storm, it won’t be long,
And we’ll anchor in the sweet by-and-by.”
I listened and tried to laugh again, but I could not do so now. There was one last spasm of my cruelly palpitating heart, in which I covered my face with both hands, and cried:
“For baby’s sake! For my baby’s sake!”
And then I opened my bedroom door, walked boldly downstairs and went out into the streets.
I don’t call it Chance that this was the very day of my return to England.
If I had to believe that, I should have to disbelieve half of what is best in the human story, and the whole of what we are taught about a guiding Providence and the spiritual influences which we cannot reason about and prove.
We were two days late arriving, having made dirty weather of it in the Bay of Biscay, which injured our propeller and compelled us to lie to, so I will not say that the sense of certainty which came to me off Finisterre did not suffer a certain shock.
In fact the pangs of uncertainty grew so strongly upon me as we neared home that in the middle of the last night of our voyage I went to O’Sullivan’s cabin, and sat on the side of his bunk for hours, talking of the chances of my darling being lost and of the possibility of finding her.
O’Sullivan, God bless him, was “certain sure” that everything would be right, and he tried to take things gaily.
“The way I’m knowing she’ll be at Southampton in a new hat and feather! So mind yer oi, Commanther.”
We passed the Channel Islands in the spring of morning, and at breakfast-time we picked up the pilot, who had brought out a group of reporters. I did my best for the good chaps (though it is mighty hard to talk about exploring when you are thinking of another subject), and then handed them over to my shipmates.
Towards seven o’clock at night we heaved up to the grey stone pier at the head of Southampton Water. It was then dark, so being unable to see more than the black forms and waving hands of the crowd waiting for us with the lights behind them, I arranged with O’Sullivan that he should slip ashore as soon as we got alongside, and see if he could find my dear one.