I think that was the last straw of my burden, for my mind came back with a swift rebound from Maggie Jones’s child to my own.
The thought of leaving my baby behind now terrified and appalled me. It brought me no comfort to think that though I was poor my father was rich, for I knew that if he ever came to know of my child’s existence he would hate it and cast it off, as the central cause of the downfall of his plans.
Yet Martin’s child alone, and at the mercy of the world! It could not and must not be!
Then came a fearful thought. I fought against it. I said many “Hail Marys” to protect myself from it. But I could not put it away.
Perhaps my physical condition was partly to blame. Others must judge of that. It is only for me to say, in all truth and sincerity, what I felt and thought when I stood (as every woman who is to be a mother must) at the door of that dark chamber which is Life’s greatest mystery.
I thought of how Martin had been taken from me, as Fate (perhaps for some good purpose still unrevealed) had led me to believe.
I thought of how I had comforted myself with the hope of the child that was coming to be a link between us.
I thought of the sweet hours I had spent in making my baby’s clothes; in choosing her name; in whispering it to myself, yes, and to God, too, every night and every morning.
I thought of how day by day I had trimmed the little lamp I kept burning in the sanctuary within my breast where my baby and I lived together.
I thought of how this had taken the sting out of death and victory out of the grave. And after that I told myself that, however sweet and beautiful, all this had been selfishness and I must put it away.
Then I thought of the child itself, who—conceived in sin as my Church would say, disinherited by the law, outlawed by society, inheriting my physical weaknesses, having lost one of its parents and being liable to lose the other—was now in danger of being left to the mercies of the world, banned from its birth, penniless and without a protector, to become a drudge and an outcast or even a thief, a gambler, or a harlot.
This was what I thought and felt.
And when at last I knew that I had come to the end of my appointed time I knelt down in my sad room, and if ever I prayed a fervent prayer, if ever my soul went up to God in passionate supplication, it was that the child I had longed for and looked forward to as a living link with my lost one might be born dead.
“Oh God, whatever happens to me, let my baby be born dead—I pray, I beseech Thee.”
Perhaps it was a wicked prayer. God knows. He will be just.
It was Saturday, the seventh of June. The summer had been a cold one thus far; the night was chill and heavy rain was beating against the window-pane.