Marcella felt very small, very helpless. She had a sudden vision of a man dying in an agony of poisoning while she stood frantic in a doctor’s laboratory, antidotes all round her, but no knowledge in her brain of which drug to use. And all the time his agony went on, and death drew nearer. She had not the least idea in the world what to do for Louis Fame. He frightened her, he disgusted her, he made her feel hungrily anxious to help, he made her feel responsible and yet helpless, but at the same time it mattered and challenged her that he had appealed to her at all. She thought of her father, and remembered with a pang that she knew nothing about him except superficially. She thought of his books, but nothing in them seemed helpful. She thought of the Bible, of her poetry, her legends. They were a blur, a mist. Nothing in them held out a hand to hail her. There seemed nothing that she could do.
“Oh,” she cried passionately, “I’m such a fool. If only I was clever! If only I knew what to do.”
Before she had finished speaking came a flash of insight, and she went on, in the same breath, “But there’s one thing that occurs to me. You think about yourself far too much. Old Wullie—I’ll tell you about him some day—used to say that if we were quiet and didn’t fuss about ourselves too much God would walk along our lives and help us to kill beasts—like whisky—”
“God? Oh, I’m fed up with God! I’ve had too much of that all my life at home,” he said dully.
She had no answer for that, but as she bade him good night at the top of the companion-way she saw herself in armour. Her vague dreams of John the Baptist, of Siegfried and of Britomart suddenly crystallized, and she saw herself, very self-consciously, the Deliverer who would save Louis Fame. It did not occur to her to wonder if he were worth saving. He was imprisoned in the first windmill she had encountered on her Don Quixote quest—and so he was to be rescued.
She wakened to a world of blue and silver next morning; the sunlight seemed to come from the sea with a cold, hard glitter; there was a keenness in the air, a sharp tang of sea-salt with an underlying suggestion of something that was pleasantly reminiscent of Dr. Angus’s surgery. The sailors were sluicing the deck with great hoses, and sprinkling it with little watering-cans of disinfectant. Up on the fo’c’sle her deck-chair was side by side with another on which “L. F.” was stencilled; after breakfast she went there with a book, expecting Louis to follow her. Presently Jimmy discovered her, bringing three other children with him, and they sat with shining eyes while she told them fairy-tales.
When they drew into Plymouth Harbour the fo’c’sle was cleared, and Marcella watched a few people going ashore. Not very many went: they had not been at sea long enough to welcome a change on land, and the Oriana only stayed two hours to take on mails and passengers.