A Poor Wise Man
In her bed in the maternity ward Edith at first lay through the days, watching the
other women with their babies, and wondering over the strange instinct that
made them hover, like queer mis-shaped ministering angels, over the tiny
quivering bundles. Some of them were like herself, or herself as she might have
been, bearing their children out of wedlock. Yet they faced their indefinite futures
impassively, content in relief from pain, in the child in their arms, in present
peace and security. She could not understand.
She herself felt no sense of loss. Having never held her child in her arms she did
not feel them empty.
She had not been told of her mother's death; men were not admitted to the ward,
but early on that first morning, when she lay there, hardly conscious but in an
ecstasy of relief from pain, Ellen had come. A tired Ellen with circles around her
eyes, and a bag of oranges in her arms.
"How do you feel?" she had asked, sitting down self-consciously beside the bed.
The ward had its eyes on her.
"I'm weak, but I'm all right. Last night was awful, Ellen."
She had roused herself with an effort. Ellen reminded her of something,
something that had to do with Willy Cameron. Then she remembered, and tried
to raise herself in the bed.
"Willy!" she gasped. "Did he come home? Is he all right?"
"He's all right. It was him that found you were here. You lie back now; the nurse
Edith lay down and closed her eyes, and the ecstasy of relief and peace gave to
her pale face an almost spiritual look. Ellen saw it, and patted her arm with a
"You poor thing!" she said. "I've been as mean to you as I knew how to be. I'm
going to be different, Edith. I'm just a cross old maid, and I guess I didn't
"You've been all right," Edith said.
Ellen kissed her when she went away.