God keep her on her solitary way! England! England! England! Less than a week and I should be there!
That was early hours on Saturday morning—the very Saturday when my poor little woman, after she had been turned away by those prating philanthropists, was being sheltered by the prostitute.
Let him explain it who can. I cannot.
[END OF MARTIN CONRAD’S MEMORANDUM]
ONE HUNDRED AND THIRD CHAPTER
I must have been sitting a full hour or more on the end of my bed—stunned, stupefied, unable to think—when Miriam, back from the synagogue, came stealthily upstairs to say that a messenger had come for me about six o’clock the night before.
“He said his name was Oliver, and father saw him, and that’s how he came to know. ’Tell her that her child is ill, and she is to come immediately,’ he said.”
I was hardly conscious of what happened next—hardly aware of passing through the streets to Ilford. I had a sense of houses flying by as they seem to do from an express train; of my knees trembling; of my throat tightening; and of my whole soul crying out to God to save the life of my child until I could get to her.
When I reached the house of the Olivers the worst of my fears were relieved. Mrs. Oliver was sitting before the fire with baby on her lap.
At sight of me the woman began to mumble out something about my delay, and how she could not be held responsible if anything happened; but caring nothing about responsibility, hers or mine, I took baby from her without more words.
My child was in a state of deep drowsiness, and when I tried to rouse her I could not do so. I gathered that this condition had lasted twenty-four hours, during which she had taken no nourishment, with the result that she was now very thin.
I knew nothing of children’s ailments but a motherly instinct must have come to my aid, for I called for a bath, and bathed baby, and she awoke, and then took a little food.
But again she dropped back into the drowsy condition, and Mrs. Oliver, who was alarmed, called in some of the neighbours to look at her.
Apparently the mission of the good women was to comfort Mrs. Oliver, not me, but they said, “Sleep never did no harm to nobody,” and I found a certain consolation in that.
Hours passed. I was barely sensible of anything that happened beyond the narrow circle of my own lap, but at one moment I heard the squirling of a brass band that was going up the street, with the shuffling of an irregular procession.
“It’s the strike,” said Mrs. Oliver, running to the window. “There’s Ted, carrying a banner.”
A little later I heard the confused noises of a strike meeting, which was being held on the Green. It was like the croaking of a frog-pond, with now and then a strident voice (the bricklayer’s) crying “Buckle your belts tighter, and starve rather than give in, boys.” Still later I heard the procession going away, singing with a slashing sound that was like driving wind and pelting rain: