The greatest of the mysteries of womanhood, the most sacred, the most divine, the mighty mystery of a new life had come to me as it comes to other women. Yet how had it come? Like a lowering thunderstorm.
That golden hour of her sex, which ought to be the sweetest and most joyful in a woman’s life—the hour when she goes with a proud and swelling heart to the one she loves, the one who loves her, and with her arms about his neck and her face hidden in his breast whispers her great new secret, and he clasps her more fondly than ever to his heart, because another and closer union has bound them together—that golden hour had come to me, and there was none to share it.
O God! O God! How proudly I had been holding up my head! How I had been trampling on the conventions of morality, the canons of law, and even the sacraments of religion, thinking Nature, which had made our hearts what they are, did not mean a woman to be ashamed of her purest instincts!
And now Nature herself had risen up to condemn me, and before long the whole world would be joining in her cry.
If Martin had been there at that moment I do not think I should have cared what people might think or say of a woman in my condition. But he was separated from me by this time by thousands of miles of sea, and was going deeper and deeper every day into the dark Antarctic night.
How weak I felt, how little, how helpless! Never for a moment did I blame Martin. But I was alone with my responsibility, I was still living in my husband’s house, and—worst of all—another woman knew my secret.
Early next day Doctor Conrad came to see me. I thought it significant that he came in my father’s big motor-car—a car of great speed and power.
I was in my dressing-gown before the fire in the boudoir, and at the first glance of his cheerful face under his iron-grey head I knew what Alma had said in the letter which had summoned him.
In his soft voice he asked me a few questions, and though I could have wished to conceal the truth I dared not. I noticed that his face brightened at each of my replies, and at the end of them he said:
“There is nothing to be alarmed at. We shall be better than ever by-and-by.”
Then in his sweet and delicate way (as if he were saying something that would be very grateful) he told me what I knew already, and I listened with my head down and my face towards the fire.
He must have been disappointed at the sad way I received his news, for he proceeded to talk of my general health; saying the great thing in such a case as mine was to be cheerful, to keep a good heart, and to look hopefully to the future.
“You must have pleasant surroundings and the society of agreeable people—old friends, old schoolfellows, familiar and happy faces.”
I said “Yes” and “Yes,” knowing only too well how impossible it all was; and then his talk turned on general topics—my father, whose condition made his face very grave, and then his wife, Christian Ann, whose name caused his gentle old eyes to gleam with sunshine.