It was six o’clock. I was very tired. I was nine miles from Bayswater. I could not possibly carry baby back. What could I do?
Then, my brain being unable to think, a mystic feeling (born perhaps of my life in the convent) came over me—a feeling that all that had happened on my long journey, all I had seen and everything that had been said to me, had been intended to prepare me for (and perhaps to save me from) the dangers that were to come.
I think that gave me a certain courage, for with what strength of body and spirit I had left (though my heart was in my mouth still) I stepped across the pavement and knocked at the door.
MEMORANDUM BY MARTIN CONRAD
My great-hearted, heroic little woman!
All this time I, in my vain belief that our expedition was of some consequence to the world, was trying to comfort myself with the thought that my darling must have heard of my safety.
But how could I imagine that she had hidden herself away in a mass of humanity—which appears to be the most impenetrable depths into which a human being can disappear?
How could I dream that, to the exclusion of all such interests as mine, she was occupied day and night, night and day, with the joys and sorrows, the raptures and fears of the mighty passion of Motherhood, which seems to be the only thing in life that is really great and eternal?
Above all, how could I believe that in London itself, in the heart of the civilised and religious world, she was going through trials which make mine, in the grim darkness of the Polar night, seem trivial and easy?
It is all over now, and though, thank God, I did not know at the time what was happening to my dear one at home, it is some comfort to me to remember that I was acting exactly as if I did.
From the day we turned hack I heard my darling’s voice no more. But I had a still more perplexing and tormenting experience, and that was a dream about her, in which she was walking on a crevassed glacier towards a precipice which she could not see because the brilliant rays of the aurora were in her eyes.
Anybody may make what he likes of that on grounds of natural law, and certainly it was not surprising that my dreams should speak to me in pictures drawn from the perils of my daily life, but only one thing matters now—that these experiences of my sleeping hours increased my eagerness to get back to my dear one.
My comrades were no impediment to that, I can tell you. With their faces turned homewards, and the wind at their backs, they were showing tremendous staying power, although we had thirty and forty below zero pretty constantly, with rough going all the time, for the snow had been ruckled up by the blizzard to almost impassable heaps and hummocks.
On reaching our second installation at Mount Darwin I sent a message to the men at the foot of Mount Erebus, telling them to get into communication (through Macquarie Island) with the captain of our ship in New Zealand, asking him to return for us as soon as the ice conditions would permit; and this was the last of our jobs (except packing our instruments tight and warm) before we started down the “long white gateway” for our quarters at the Cape.