And as the months went on the wonder deepened in Eugenia’s eyes. The old restlessness was gone; she was like one who, having looked into the holy of holies, keeps the inward memory clear. She was in the supreme mental state—attained only by religious martyrs or maternal, yet childless, women long married—when physical pain loses its relative values before the exaltation of an abiding vision. And, above all, she was what each woman of her race had been before her—a mother from her birth?
From the day of the child’s birth it did not leave Eugenia’s sight. Her eyes followed it when it was carried about the room, and she watched wistfully the dressing and undressing of the round little body. She knew each separate frock that she had made before its coming, and each day she called for a different and a daintier one. “I must make new ones,” she said at last, “he is such a beauty!” And she would hold out her arms for him, half dressed as he was, and, as he lay beside her, fresh and cool and fragrant as a cowslip ball, she would cover the soft pink flesh with passionate kisses. Her motherhood was an obsession, jealous, intense, unreasoning.
They had named him after the general—Thomas Battle Webb, but to Eugenia he was “the baby,” the solitary baby in a universe where birth is as common as death. And, indeed, he was a thing of joy—the nurse, Dudley, Miss Chris, all admitted it. There was never so round, so rosy, so altogether marvellous a baby, and never one that laughed so much or cried so little. “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” declared Miss Chris. “I can see his luck already in his eyes.”
At first Eugenia had been tortured by a fear that the little life would go out as the other had done; but, as the weeks went on and he lived and fed and fattened, her fear was lost in the wondering rapture of possession. Nothing so perfectly alive could cease to be.
When she was well again she dismissed the nurse and took, herself, entire charge of the child. “There are no mammies these days,” she had said in reply to Dudley’s remonstrances, “and I can’t trust him with one of the new negroes—I really can’t. Why, I saw one slap a baby once.” So she bathed and dressed him in the mornings and rocked him to sleep at midday and at dark, and in the brightness of the forenoon gave him an airing on the piazza that overlooked the back garden. From the time of her getting up to her lying down he left her arms only when he was laid asleep in the little crib beside her bed.