It was then twelve o’clock and baby was once more crying for her food, so I looked for a place in which I might rest while I gave her the bottle again.
Suddenly I came upon what I wanted. It seemed to be a garden, but it was a graveyard—one of the graveyards of the old London churches, enclosed by high buildings now, and overlooked by office windows.
Such a restful place, so green, so calm, so beautiful! Lying there in the midst of the tumultuous London traffic, it reminded me of one of the little islands in the middle of our Ellan glens, on which the fuchsia and wild rose grow while the river rolls and boils about it.
I had just sat down on a seat that had been built about a gnarled and blackened old tree, and was giving baby her food, when I saw that a young girl was sitting beside me.
She was about nineteen years of age, and was eating scones out of a confectioner’s bag, while she read a paper-covered novel. Presently she looked at baby with her little eyes, which were like a pair of shiny boot buttons, and said:
“That your child?”
I answered her, and then she asked:
“Do you like children?”
I answered her again, and asked her if she did not like them also.
“Can’t say I’m particularly gone on them,” she said, whereupon I replied that that was probably because she had not yet had much experience.
“Oh, haven’t I? Perhaps I haven’t,” she said, and then with a hard little laugh, she added “Mother’s had nine though.”
I asked if she was a shop assistant, and with a toss of her head she told me she was a typist.
“Better screw and your evenings off,” she said, and then she returned to the subject of children.
One of her chums in the office who used to go out with her every night to the music-halls got into trouble a year or two ago. As a consequence she had to marry. And what was the result? Never had her nose out of the wash-tub now!
The story was crude enough, yet it touched me closely.
“But couldn’t she have put her baby out to nurse and get another situation somewhere?” I asked.
“Matter o’ luck,” said the girl. “Some can. Some can’t. That’s their look out. Firms don’t like it. If they find you’ve got a child they gen’r’lly chuck you.”
In spite of myself I was a little down when I started on my journey again. I thought the parcel was cutting my wrist and I felt my feet growing heavier at every step.
Was Maggie Jones’s story the universal one?
If a child were born beyond the legal limits, was it a thing to hide away and be ashamed of?
And could it be possible that man’s law was stronger than God’s law after all?
I had walked so slowly and stopped so often that it was two o’clock in the afternoon when I passed through Aldgate.