“And all his pomps?”
“I do renounce them.”
The actual baptism was like a prayer to me. I am sure my whole soul went out to it. And though I may have been a sinful woman unworthy to be churched, I know, and God knows, that no chaste and holy nun ever prayed with a purer heart than I did then, kneeling there with my baby’s bonnet to my mouth.
“Mary Isabel, I baptize thee in the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy Ghost.+”
Except that baby cried a little when the water was poured on her head (as she had cried when the salt was put on her tongue), I knew no more after that until I saw the candle in the godfather’s hand (which signified that my child had been made a Child of Light) and heard the priest say:
“Go in peace and the Lord be with thee.”
Then I awoke as from a trance. There was a shuffling of feet. The priest was going away. The solemn rite was at an end.
I rose from my knees, put a little money in the plate which the sacristan held out to me, gave a shilling to each of the two old sponsors, took baby back into my arms, and sat down in a pew to put on her bonnet and veil.
The spiritual exaltation which had sustained me lasted until I reached the street where the other mothers and their friends were laughing and joking, in voices that had to be pitched high over the rattle of the traffic, about going to the house opposite to “wet the baby’s head.”
But I think something of the celestial light of the sacrament must have been on my face still when I reached home, for I remember that as I knocked at the door, and waited for the rope from the kitchen to open it, I heard one of my neighbours say:
“Our lady has taken a new lease of life, hasn’t she?”
I thought I had—a great new lease of physical and spiritual life.
But how little did I know what Fate had in store for me!
I was taking off baby’s outdoor things when my Welsh landlady came up to ask how I had got on, and after I had told her she said:
And now thee’st got to get the jewel registered.”
“Within three weeks. It’s the law, look you.”
That was the first thing that frightened me. I had filled up truthfully enough the card which the Rector had sent me, because I knew that the register of my Church must be as sacred as its confessional.
But a public declaration of my baby’s birth and parentage seemed to be quite another matter—charged with all the dangers to me, to Martin, and above all to my child, which had overshadowed my life before she was born.
More than once I felt tempted to lie, to make a false declaration, to say that Martin had been my husband and Isabel was my legitimate child.
But at length I resolved to speak the truth, the plain truth, telling myself that God’s law was above man’s law, and I had no right to be ashamed.