As she goes to listen at the door, it opens, and the man-midwife enters. His face is grave.
Mrs. Strongtharm and Miss Quiney ask him together, under their breath—Well?
He answers: It is well. We have saved her life, I trust.
—And the child?
—A boy. It lived less than a minute. . . . Yet a shapely child. . . .
Miss Quiney clasps her hands. Shall she, within her breast, thank God? She cannot. She hears the voice saying,—
A very shapely child. . . . But the labour was difficult. There was some pressure on the brain, some lesion.
They would have denied Ruth sight of the poor little body, but she stretched out her arms for it and insisted. Then as she held it, flesh of her flesh, to her breast and felt it cold, she—she, whose courage had bred wonder in them, even awe—she who had smiled between her pangs, murmuring pretty thanks—wailed low, and, burying her face, lay still.
In the sad and cheated days that followed, she, with the milk of motherhood wasting in her, saw with new eyes—saw many things heretofore hidden from her.
She did not believe in any scriptural God. But she believed—she could not help believing—in an awful Justice overarching all human life with its law, as it overarched the very stars in heaven. And this law she believed to rest in goodness, accessible to the pure conscience, but stern against the transgressor.
Because she believed this, she had felt that the marriage rite, with such an one as Mr. Silk for intercessor between her vows and a clean Heaven, could be but a sullying of marriage. Yes, and she felt it still; of this, at any rate, she was sure.
But in her pride—as truly she saw it, in her pride of chastity—she had left the child out of account. He had inherited the world to face, not armed with her weapon of scorn. He had not won freedom through a scourge. He had grown to his fate in her womb, and in the womb she had betrayed him.
She had been blind, blind! She had lived for her lover and herself. To him and to her (it had seemed) this warm, transitory life belonged; a fleeting space of time, a lodge leased to bliss. . . . Now she fronted the truth, that between the selfish rapture of lovers Heaven slips a child, smiling at the rapture, provident for the race. Now she read the secret of woman’s nesting instinct; the underlying wisdom stirring the root of it, awaking passion not to satisfy passion, but that the world may go on and on to its unguessed ends. Now she could read ironically the courtship of man and maid, dallying by river-paths, beside running water, overarched by boughs that had protected a thousand such courtships. Each pair in turn—poor fools! —had imagined the world theirs, compressed into their grasp; whereas the wise world was merely flattering, coaxing them, preparing for the child.