Her cogitations were interrupted by Miss Toombs putting a box of expensive cigarettes (which she had got from the waiter) in her hand.
“Why are you so good to me?” asked Mavis.
“I’ve always really liked you.”
“You wouldn’t if you knew.”
“Knew what?” “Come. I’ll show you.”
After Miss Toombs had settled with the waiter, they left the restaurant. Miss Toombs accompanied Mavis along the Wilton Road and Denbigh Street. Halverton Street was presently reached. Mavis opened the door of Mrs Gussle’s; with set face, she walked the passage to her room, followed by plain Miss Toombs. She unlocked the door of this and made way for her friend to enter. Clothes hung to dry from ropes stretched across the room: the baby slept in his rough, soap-box cradle.
Miss Toombs seemed to disregard the appearance of the room; her eyes sought the baby sleeping in the box.
“There!” cried Mavis. “Now you know.”
“A baby!” gasped Miss Toombs.
“You’ve been kind to me. I had to let you know.”
“Oh, you damn beast!” cried Miss Toombs.
Mavis looked at her defiantly.
“Oh, you damn beast!” cried Miss Toombs again. “You were always lucky!”
“Lucky!” echoed Mavis.
“To go and have a little baby and not me. Oh, it’s too bad: too bad!”
Mavis looked inquiringly at her friend to see if she were sincere. The next moment, the two foolish women were weeping happy tears in each other’s arms over the unconscious, sleeping form of Mavis’s baby.
MISS TOOMBS REVEALS HERSELF
“Fancy you being like this,” said Mavis, when she had dried her eyes.
“Not minding my having a baby without being married.”
“I’m not such a fool as to believe in that ‘tosh,’” declared Miss Toombs.
“What ‘tosh,’ as you call it?”
“About thinking it a disgrace to have a child by the man you love.”
“How can it be if it’s natural and inevitable?”
Mavis looked at Miss Toombs wide-eyed.
“Does the fact of people agreeing to think it wrong make it really wrong?” asked Miss Toombs, to add, “especially when the thinking what you call ‘doing wrong’ is actuated by selfish motives.”
“How can morality possibly be selfish?” inquired Mavis.
“It’s never anything else. If it weren’t selfish it wouldn’t be of use; if it weren’t of use it couldn’t go on existing.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow you,” declared Mavis, as she lit a cigarette.
“Wait. What would nearly all women do if you were mad enough to tell them what you’ve done?”
“Drop on me.”
“Because I’ve done wrong.”
“Are women ‘down’ on men for ‘getting round’ girls, or forgery, or anything else you like?”