It would be impossible to say how this incident affected me. I felt as if a moral earthquake had opened under my feet.
What had I been doing? In looking forward to the child that was to come to me I had been thinking only of my own comfort—my own consolation.
But what about the child itself?
If my identity ever became known—and it might at any moment, by the casual recognition of a person in the street—how should the position of my child differ from that of this poor girl?
A being born out of the pale of the law, as my husband would say it must be, an outcast, a thing of shame, without a father to recognise it, and with its mother’s sin to lash its back for ever!
When I thought of that, much as I had longed for the child that was to be a living link between Martin and me, I asked myself if I had any right to wish for it.
I felt I had no right, and that considering my helpless position the only true motherly love was to pray that my baby might be still-born.
But that was too hard. It was too terrible. It was like a second bereavement. I could not and would not do it.
“Never, never, never!” I told myself.
Thinking matters out in the light of Maggie Jones’s story, I concluded that poverty was at the root of nearly everything. If I could stave off poverty no real harm could come to my child.
I determined to do so. But there was only one way open to me at present—and that was to retrench my expenses.
I did retrench them. Persuading myself that I had no real need of this and that, I reduced my weekly outlay.
This gave me immense pleasure, and even when I saw, after a while, that I was growing thin and pale, I felt no self-pity of any sort, remembering that I had nobody to look well for now, and only the sweet and glorious duty before me of providing for my child.
I convinced myself, too, that my altered appearance was natural to my condition, and that all I needed was fresh air and exercise, therefore I determined to walk every day in the Park.
I did so once only.
It was one of those lovely mornings in early spring, when the air and the sky of London, after the long fog and grime of winter, seem to be washed by showers of sunshine.
I had entered by a gate to a broad avenue and was resting (for I was rather tired) on a seat under a chestnut tree whose glistening sheaths were swelling and breaking into leaf, when I saw a number of ladies and gentlemen on horseback coming in my direction.
I recognised one of them instantly. It was Mr. Vivian, and a beautiful girl was riding beside him. My heart stood still, for I thought he would see me. But he was too much occupied with his companion to do so.
“Yes, by Jove, it’s killing, isn’t it?” he said, in his shrill voice, and with his monocle in his mole-like eye, he rode past me, laughing.