We were struck with the singular fact that, even in the height of some of these hurricanes, the sky remained serene and the sun shone brightly … The wind coming to us from the south was dry.
Filippo is getting weaker, day by day. It’s hard to describe the anxiety I feel as I watch him lacing his boots each morning, the clumsy fingers stabbing at each separate eyelet. Something has gone out of him, some virtue; some will to survive went with Laurence. He’s given up hope of return, I know.
Even when the wind is with us he stumbles blindly along in it, a calf to the shambles. Today I called an early halt, unable to bear his unsteady, shuffling progress any longer. The tent cannot be put up properly without poles, but we have devised a simple frame of ski and surveying equipment. The drill for putting it up is simple enough, but three times he let his rope fall as I crawled around fixing the pegs. I was tempted to curse him, but then I saw his face: bitter-white, as cold as winter, purple round the lips.
Inside, as we heated the hoosh, he confessed to me the agony he was suffering from friction. His under-trousers went under with the sledge, and his private parts have been rubbed almost raw by the constant swish of wet furs. I persuaded him to strip them off, and started to dab at the worst parts with vaseline and gauze.
“Lorenzo did this for me, before …”
His remark came as a surprise to me. We’ve hardly mentioned Laurence since he fell, and I had no idea that Filippo was suffering this discomfort even before the loss of the sledge. He was in delirium by now, though, and continued to mumble half to himself.
“Lorenzo, little Lorenzo. His hands were soft and cold, like the snow. His body was as white as a girl’s …”
The brute’s prick by now was starting to stand up, so I hastily ceased my ministrations and tried to steer his mind onto other things. Filippo had a great wish to see Australia and New Zealand, and I started to tell him of the green hills and hot bubbling pools we soon should visit together. In vain. I already suspected what he had to tell, but that made it no better hearing it from his lips.
“Back home, when two boys like each other, they give each other girl’s names. I was his Phillippa, he my little Laura. I did not tell him I had known a