I felt better after I had taken tea, and as it was then seven o’clock, and the sun was setting horizontally through the cypresses of the cemetery, I knew it was time to go.
I could not do that, though, without undressing baby and singing her to sleep. And even then I sat for a while with an aching heart, and Isabel on my knee, thinking of how I should have to go to bed that night, for the first time, without her.
Mrs. Oliver, in the meantime, examining the surplus linen which I had brought in my parcel, was bursting into whispered cries of delight over it, and, being told I had made the clothes myself, was saying:
“What a wonderful seamstress you might be if you liked, ma’am.”
At length the time came to leave baby, and no woman knows the pain of that experience who has not gone through it.
Though I really believed my darling would be loved and cared for, and knew she would never miss me, or yet know that I was gone (there was a pang even in that thought, and in every other kind of comforting), I could not help it, that, as I was putting my cherub into her cot, my tears rained down on her little face and awakened her, so that I had to kneel by her side and rock her to sleep again.
“You’ll be good to my child, won’t you, Mrs. Oliver?” I said.
“’Deed I will, ma’am,” the woman replied.
“You’ll bath her every day, will you not?”
“Night and morning. I allus does, ma’am.”
“And rinse out her bottle and see that she has nice new milk fresh from the cow?”
“Sure as sure, ma’am. But don’t you fret no more about the child, ma’am. I’ve been a mother myself, ma’am, and I’ll be as good to your little angel as if she was my own come back to me.”
“God bless you,” I said in a burst of anguish, and after remaining a moment longer on my knees by the cot (speaking with all my heart and soul, though neither to nurse nor to baby) I rose to my feet, dashed the tears from my eyes, and ran out of the house.
I knew that my eyes were not fit to be seen in the streets, so I dropped my dark veil and hurried along, being conscious of nothing for some time except the clang of electric cars and the bustle of passers-by, to whom my poor little sorrow was nothing at all.
But I had not gone far—I think I had not, though my senses were confused and vague—before I began to feel ashamed, to take myself to task, and to ask what I had to cry about.
If I had parted from my baby it was for her own good, and if I had paid away my last sovereign I had provided for her for a month, I had nothing to think of now except myself and how to get work.
I never doubted that I should get work, or that I should get it immediately, the only open question being what work and where.
Hitherto I had thought that, being quick with my pen, I might perhaps become secretary to somebody; but now, remembering the typist’s story ("firms don’t like it"), and wishing to run no risks in respect of my child, I put that expectation away and began to soar to higher things.