I hardly knew what else was happening. My heart was heaving like a dead body on a billow. All that the priest had said was gone. In its place there was a paralysing despair as if the wheels of life were rolling over me.
MEMORANDUM BY MARTIN CONRAD
My dear, long-suffering, martyred darling!
It makes my blood boil to see how the very powers of darkness, in the name of religion, morality, philanthropy and the judgment of God, were persecuting my poor little woman.
But why speak of myself at all, or interrupt my darling’s narrative, except to say what was happening in my efforts to reach her?
While we were swinging along in our big liner over the heaving bosom of the Mediterranean the indefinable sense of her danger never left me day or night.
That old dream of the glacier and the precipice continued to haunt my sleep, with the difference that, instead of the aurora glistening in my dear one’s eyes, there was now a blizzard behind her.
The miserable thing so tortured me as we approached Malta (where I expected to receive a reply to the cable I had sent from Port Said to the house of Daniel O’Neill) that I felt physically weak at the thought of the joy or sorrow ahead of me.
Though there was no telegram from my darling at Malta, there was one from the chairman of my committee, saying he was coming to Marseilles to meet our steamer and would sail the rest of the way home with us.
Indirectly this brought me a certain comfort. It reminded me of the letter I had written for my dear one on the day I left Castle Raa. Sixteen months had passed since then, serious things had happened in the interval, and I had never thought of that letter before.
It was not to her father, as she supposed, and certainly not to her husband. It was to my chairman, asking him, in the event of my darling sending it on, to do whatever was necessary to protect her during my absence.
If my chairman had not received that letter, my conclusion would be that my dear little woman had never been reduced to such straits as to require help from any one. If he had in fact received it, he must have done what I wished, and therefore everything would be well.
There was a certain suspense as well as a certain consolation in all this, and before our big ship slowed down at Marseilles I was on deck searching for my chairman among the people waiting for us on the pier.
I saw him immediately, waving his travelling cap with a flourish of joy, and I snatched a little comfort from that.
As soon as the steamer was brought to, he was the first to come aboard, and I scanned his face as he hurried up the gangway. It was beaming.
“It’s all right,” I thought; “a man could not look as happy as that if he were bringing me bad news.”
A moment afterwards he was shaking my hand, clapping me on the shoulder, and saying: