of happiness so deep and so intense that she was like one enchanted. And when she took the child in her arms she thought she must die of happiness. She did not hear the nurse speak, nor did she understand her when she took the babe from her arms and laid it alongside on the pillow, saying, 'You must let the little thing sleep; you must try to sleep yourself.'

Her personal self seemed entirely withdrawn; she existed like an atmosphere about the babe and lay absorbed in this life of her life, this flesh of her flesh, unconscious of herself as a sponge in warm sea-water. She touched this pulp of life, and was thrilled, and once more her senses swooned with love; it was still there. She remembered that the nurse had said it was a boy. She must see her boy, and her hands, working as in a dream, unwound him, and she gazed until he awoke and cried. She tried to hush him and to enfold him, but her strength failed; she could not help him, and fear came lest he should die; she strove to reach her hands to him, but all strength had gone from her, and his cries sounded hollow in her weak brain. Then the nurse came and said:

'See what you have done, the poor child is all uncovered; no wonder he is crying. I will wrap him up, and you must not interfere with him again.' But as soon as the nurse turned away Esther had her child back in her arms. She could not sleep. She could not sleep for thinking of him, and the night passed in long adoration.


CHAPTER XVII

ALL her joints were loosened; the long hospital days passed in gentle weariness; lady visitors came and asked questions, and Esther said her father and mother lived in the Vauxhall Bridge Road, and that she had saved four pounds. But the woman in the bed next to Esther (there were two beds in this ward) was wiser, and by declaring herself to be without

-126-

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