“No . . . Yes . . . Well,” she said, “now that thee’st saying so . . . perhaps it’s a birthmark.”
“Did’st strike thy face against anything when baby was coming?”
I made some kind of reply, I hardly know what, but the truth, or what I thought to be the truth, flashed on me in a moment.
Remembering my last night at Castle Raa, and the violent scene which had occurred there, I told myself that the flush on baby’s face was the mark of my husband’s hand which, making no impression upon me, had been passed on to my child, and would remain with her to the end of her life, as the brand of her mother’s shame and the sign of what had been called her bastardy.
How I suffered at the sight of it! How time after time that night I leaned over my sleeping child to see if the mark had passed away! How again and again I knelt by her side to pray that if sin of mine had to be punished the punishment might fall on me and not on my innocent babe!
At last I remembered baby’s baptism and told myself that if it meant anything it meant that the sin in which my child had been born, the sin of those who had gone before her (if sin it was), had been cast out of her soul with the evil spirits which had inspired them.
“This sign of the Holy Cross + which we make upon her forehead do thou, accursed devil, never dare to violate.”
God’s law had washed my darling white! What could man’s law—his proud but puny morality—do to injure her? It could do nothing!
That comforted me. When I looked at baby again the flush had gone and I went to bed quite happy.
I think it must have been the morning of the next day when the nurse who had attended me in my confinement came to see how I was going along.
I told her of the dimness of my sight and the aching of my eyeballs, whereupon she held up her hands and cried:
“There now! What did I tell you? Didn’t I say it is after a lady feels it?”
The moral of her prediction was that, being in a delicate state of health, and having “let myself low” before baby was born, it was my duty to wean her immediately.
I could not do it.
Although the nurse’s advice was supported by my Welsh landlady (with various prognostications of consumption and rickets), I could not at first deny myself the wild joy of nursing my baby.
But a severer monitor soon came to say that I must. I found that my money was now reduced to little more than two pounds, and that I was confronted by the necessity (which I had so long put off) of looking for employment.
I could not look for employment until I had found a nurse for my child, and I could not find a nurse until my baby could do without me, so when Isabel was three weeks old I began to wean her.
At first I contented myself with the hours of night, keeping a feeding-bottle in bed, with the cow’s milk warmed to the heat of my own body. But when baby cried for the breast during the day I could not find it in my heart to deny her.