Marcella felt thrilled with the excitement of it all, but doubted her powers of cooking.
“You needn’t worry, old lady,” said Louis. “It’s fried sheep for breakfast, dinner and tea unless a cow breaks its leg and has to be slaughtered. And then it’s fried cow. And damper and flapjacks. I can do that much cooking in a southerly buster with three sticks for firing, standing on my head.”
But she decided to be on the safe side and scoured Sydney for a cookery book. She found a very fat and flushed and comfortable Mrs. Beeton. It apparently weighed about two pounds. A week later Marcella decided that its weight was at least two stone, but the pretty picture of cooked foods, and the kindly advice it gave about answering doors, folding table napkins and serving truffles were all very reassuring.
They had a tremendous argument about books. Louis flatly refused to take any. Marcella refused to go without some. Finally she packed the New Testament, “Parsifal” and the cookery book inside her swag. Later, opening all her books to write her name in them before leaving them on the shelf downstairs for the use of Mrs. King’s “boys,” she noticed the gipsy woman’s prophecy in the title page of “Questing Cells” and took that along too.
For the last time, they slept on the roof; as soon as Louis was asleep and Marcella lying quiet beside him, she had a visitation of her dreams about drunkards’ children. Creeping from under the blankets silently, she walked right along the roof in the moonlight to have the matter out with herself once and for all. She did not want to take bad dreams away to a new life with her.
“I won’t believe it. What’s more, I don’t believe it,” she said decidedly. “Louis may be a drunkard. Father was. So were all the Lashcairns for ages. But I’m not. And my child is not going to be. After all—is he our child—? I mean—Jesus was not Joseph’s child—only—”
She stopped, waiting. This was an immense, breathtaking thought.
“Just his body is made by Louis and me—and all the rest of him comes—new—quite new. The spirit—the quickening spirit—”
She felt, once more, as if her feet were taking wings with the hopefulness of this thought.
“Why that’s what the Catholics mean by Immaculate Conception! Of course it is! Why—it’s all Immaculate Conception! How on earth could it, logically, be anything else?”
She went back, then, and lay down very still. Louis lay white and quiet in the moonlight.
“You may hurt him, Louis, if I happen to die. Not that I intend to, for one small instant! You may let him be hungry and cold. But you won’t hurt him inside. I’ll see to it that there’s strength in him—the quickening spirit.”
Her last sleep in Sydney was dreamless.