After a moment another voice joined hers—a deep voice, the Reverend Mother’s.
All else was quiet. Not a sound on earth or in the air. A hush had fallen on the sea itself, which seemed to be listening for my precious darling’s last breath. The sun was going down, very red in its setting, and the sky was full of glory.
When the singing came to an end baby was babbling in my mother’s arms—“Bo-loo-la-la-ma-ma.” I took her and held her up to the open window, crying:
“Look, darling! Here’s Girlie!”
There was no answer, but after another moment the Reverend Mother came to the window. Her pale face was even paler than usual, and her lips trembled. She did not speak, but she made the sign of the Cross.
And by that . . . I knew.
“Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord, Lord, hear my cry.”
THE AUTHOR TO THE READER
I saw him off at Tilbury when he left England on his last Expedition. Already he was his own man once more. After the blinding, stunning effect of the great event there had been a quick recuperation. His spirit had risen to a wonderful strength and even a certain cheerfulness.
I did not find it hard to read the secret of this change. It was not merely that Time, the great assuager, had begun to do its work with him, but that he had brought himself to accept without qualm or question Mary O’Neill’s beautiful belief (the old, old belief) in the immortality of personal love, and was firmly convinced that, freed from the imprisonment of the flesh, she was with him every day and hour, and that as long as he lived she always would be.
There was nothing vague, nothing fantastic, nothing mawkish, nothing unmanly about this belief, but only the simple faith of a steady soul and a perfectly clear brain. It was good to see how it braced a strong man for life to face Death in that way.
As for his work I found him quite hopeful. His mission apart, I thought he was looking forward to his third trip to the Antarctic, in expectation of the silence and solitude of that strengthening region.
As I watched the big liner that was taking him away disappear down the Thames I had no more doubt that he would get down to the South Pole, and finish his task there, than that the sun would rise the following morning.
Whatever happens this time he will “march breast forward.”
MARTIN CONRAD TO THE AUTHOR
WIRELESS—ANTARCTIC CONTINENT (via MACQUARIE ISLAND AND RADIO HOBART 16).
Arrived safe. All well. Weather excellent. Blue sky. Warm. Not a breath of wind. Sun never going down. Constellations revolving without dipping. Feel as if we can see the movement of the world. Start south to-morrow. Calmer than I have ever been since She was taken from me. But She was right. She is here. “Love is stronger than death, many waters cannot quench it.”