Very soon, Mavis was more than ever in the grip of the fiend who seemed bent on torturing her without ruth. She had no idea till then of the immense ingenuity which pain can display in its sport with prey. During one long-drawn pang, it would seem to Mavis as if the bones in her body were being sawn with a blunt saw; the next, she believed that her flesh was being torn from her bones with red-hot pincers. Then would follow a hallowed, blissful, cool interval from searing pain, which made her think that all she had endured was well worth the suffering, so vastly did she appreciate relief. Then she would fall to shivering. Once or twice, it seemed that she was an instrument on which pain was extemporising the most ingenious symphonies, each more involved than the last. Occasionally, she would wonder if, after all, she were mistaken, and if she were not enjoying delicious sensations of pleasure. Then, so far as her pain-racked body would permit, she found herself wondering at the apparently endless varieties of torment to which the body could be subjected.
Once, she asked to look at herself in the glass. She did not recognise anything resembling herself in the swollen, distorted features, the distended eyes, and the dilated nostrils which she saw in the glass which Mrs Gowler held before her. She was soon lost to all sense of her surroundings. She feared that she was going mad. She reassured herself, however, because, by a great effort of will, she would conjure up some recollection of the loved one’s appearance, which she saw as if from a great distance. Then, after eternities of torment, she was possessed by a culminating agony. Sweat ran from her pores. Every nerve in her being vibrated with suffering, as if the accumulated pain of the ages was being conducted through her body. More and even more pain. Then, a supreme torment held her, which made all others seem trifling by comparison. The next moment, a new life was born into the world—a new life, with all its heritage of certain sorrow and possible joy; with all its infinite sensibility to pleasure or pain, to hope and love and disillusion.
When Mavis regained a semblance of consciousness, something soft and warm lay on her heart. Jill was watching her with anxious eyes. A queer little female figure stood beside the bed.
“Better, dear?” asked this person.
“Where’s Mrs Gowler?” whispered Mavis.
“She got tired of waiting, so I came in. I’ve been here a hour” (she pronounced the aspirate).
“Who are you?” asked Mavis.
“I’m the ‘permanent.’”
“The ‘permanent’: at least, that’s what they call me here. But you mustn’t talk. You’ve ’ad a bad time.”
“Is it a boy or a girl?” asked Mavis.
“A boy. Don’t say no more.”