While still able, Matthew Maury banished all females from the room. Diana's mother and sisters acceded graciously as expected of genteel, Southern ladies; but at age thirty-five, Diana was too much like her father to submit. Stubbornly concealed behind heavy draperies, she listened to the march of death.
Matthew's slow, labored breathing accented the hushed whispers of Diana's brothers, Dick and Matsy, who flanked his bed. Like a metronome prescribing rhythm, the steady cadence of her husband's incessant pacing measured the beat. If Wellford stops pacing, will Father's breathing stop?
From her hiding place only one wall remained visible, where a determined blaze struggled to expel the chill of February in Virginia. Framed needlework enhanced the space above the fireplace, Diana's gift on her father's forty-first birthday. Knowing that he still treasured it twenty-six years later pleased her. "Psalm 25:4-5," it read: "Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day." Though her mother disapproved of her bold signature, "Diana Fontaine Maury-1847" splashed red across the corner: Diana pestered her into permitting it.
"How fitting!" Matthew said that day, commencing his usual lecture. "God has taught me His paths! Under our noses all the time--He used me, a lowly superintendent--to reveal His secret. Plain as day, the clue appeared in Psalm 77:19: 'Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.' Plain as day!"
Diana smiled, remembering the inevitable prelude to his Bible discourses: "Whenever I can meet with anything in the Bible on my subjects, it always affords me a firm platform on which to stand." Then he'd expound his favorite texts in Isaiah and Psalms concerning "paths in the sea", bedrock for his discoveries.
Some say he's a genius, Diana mused, but he claimed anyone who took God at His word could do the same. More than a "lowly superintendent" at the US Naval Observatory, this practical scientist was an ambitious seaman rising to the rank of lieutenant until permanently crippled. "God frustrated my course by placing me in that observatory with nothing more to do than study ships' logs and charts by the thousands," Father said. "God rubbed my nose in His patterns until I could see them." Always the innovator risking the wrath of bureaucrats to find faster, safer ways--Matthew correlated his findings on charts, mapping actual pathways through the seas.
While I mastered embroidery in 1847, Father issued free charts to all sea captains who agreed to use them and report back their findings. Becoming world-famous surprised even Mother. She was so proud when Father published his work in 1855, "The Physical Geography of the Sea". It bothered Mother how Father's highly educated contemporaries snubbed him, but Father just scoffed: none of them accomplished what he did--earning the nickname, "Pathfinder of the Seas". In spite of his personal blunders and rough sailing throughout his life, he was a great man, my father. Why did he never allow me to see him off? Diana grieved.
Matthew was a commander in the Confederate States Navy during the War Between the States.
In 1862 he sailed to England to procure ships. Young Matsy accompanied him; but as a married woman of twenty-four, Diana wished them bon voyage from home in Fredericksburg. She yearned to see them off in Havana, where they would board a British steamship crossing the Atlantic. Northern ships blockading Southern ports made even that route risky for Confederates.
Bon voyage: Because of my father, sailing is less hazardous and travel time cut in half; saved money alone exceeds the millions. Through his work, how many people experience good journeys, who otherwise might have been lost?
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me," Dick spoke, his hushed voice smothering emotion (John 14:6).
"Our planet is invested with two great oceans; one visible, the other invisible; one underfoot, the other overhead; one entirely envelops it, the other covers about two thirds of its surface," Father expressed in his book. What a joy he can expand his territory now to explore that other ocean! Because of trusting Jesus, "Pathfinder of the Heaven-bound", my father is assured a good journey throughout His realm.
Wellford's pacing stopped: silence finally prevailed. "Bon voyage, Father," Diana whispered, knowing her father's ultimate adventure had begun.
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