She doesn't know how to tell him. What can be said? These are the thoughts that flit through her mind like restless birds unwilling to alight. She came home so suddenly, so silent and shy that he must suspect something was wrong. Her letters had been odd, she knew that now, full of shy happiness and the promise of love, and he jovially asked her once whether she'd have a young man to visit soon. She should have told him then, that there had been a young man and that she had loved him, but the words choked in her throat and she gave herself a little longer. For there was a hope, there was such a hope that it had all been a terrible misunderstanding, that the doctor she had seen in Muskoka when her courses had stopped had been wrong, when he'd poked and prodded and told her that in seven months she'd have a child.
In the end she doesn't have to tell him because he guesses. And that is worse than anything she can imagine. She would rather have her time back, imagines it a thousand times the ways it could have gone, her telling him in shame, in anger, with tears, dry-eyed and cold, begging his forgiveness, unembarrassed in the knowledge that she had been loved even if for so short a time. She could have told him the name, let him go with his gun to avenge his dishonoured daughter, the gun that had never been taken off the wall not even to shoot a rabbit. She could have withheld it, and faced the shame alone. But she is too late, he asks her one day if there has been bad business afoot, if in fact she is with child, and she can only nod once. Then the faintness takes her, and when she wakes he has lifted her to her bed, and she can hear him becoming steadily and bitterly drunk. He doesn't sing that night or shout.
He doesn't say anything at first. He asks no questions, not even her lover's name. He only tells her briefly a story of his own weakness, of another young woman with child who he had offered to marry when he knew, but an accident had occured and she had never properly recovered. The grasp on his hand tells her he will not let this happen, and he takes her to the doctor down in the village. They could not afford to travel for a doctor, and why would they- all too soon her transgression would be apparent. The doctor looks at her solemnly and tells her she is weakened, that her lungs do not sound healthy. That this child is a danger to her. As though that could change anything, could mend time and repair her foolishness.
That part she doesn't tell Abel, but he guesses it anyway. It's in every bit of love he gives her, the knowledge that soon she could be gone, her and her tiny child. She wonders if that replaced any anger, time beginning its healing early, smoothing over her memory with the possibility of a graceful death. She doubts sometimes that he loves her, how could he love her after this. But then he smooths her hair, and buys her little presents as though she were herself a child still, and tells her with every touch and glance that she is still his little girl. She hears him once at night sobbing as though his heart would break, and she curls in on herself and pretends not to hear it.
He tries his best with the house when she is too far along to help, when all she can do is rest and fear the day that comes ever closer. She's only twenty two. The doctor tells her younger women than her have had babies, but she can't find the words to explain that that isn't what fears her, but what comes after. How can she care for a baby? How can a baby live here with them here in this house. How can she live (to her the baby is a daughter touched by the shame of all Eve's race,) under the aegis of a fallen mother, and a drunk grandfather? She hugs herself at night, and makes her plans. The child must be given up. But then she shudders for they've heard the lurid tales of orphanages, and how can she send her baby there? She scours her memory in vain for relatives who can be trusted, for someone in town who might take a child and not care of the sin of its providence.
Sometimes she lets herself think of the baby with hope. She imagines her little girl sometimes, dressed in white and dancing in the woods, free as the wind, like a sprite who cannot be touched by human hands. But that's not often, more commonly she fears her dreams. When the night comes, she is ill-prepared, the midwife is late, and she is taken by fear that she will die here alone in the house and no-one will remember her, no-one will think a kind word when they hear of her passing, save her father, and how will he remember when taken by the drink? Abel holds her hand, and she wishes she had the strength to send him from the room, to absolve him of the task of watching his daughter die, (for in that moment she felt sure she would, could not imagine living through this agony.) But he would not go if she did, she knows that and wishes his love had a more worthy recipient.
When the midwife comes, she shoos him from the room, tells him to boil water, and rip sheets. Tuts as though a man has no knowledge of these things, and Cecily cries. The midwife is briskly kind, she bathes Cecily's head and does not tell her this is the wages of sin, holds her hand for a moment and tells her to push, and afterwards she is very neat, and very swift wrapping the baby gently in a napkin, giving him to Cecily to kiss and hold for a moment, then removing him with few words to show to his grandfather.
When Abel comes back into the room, he looks older and wistful and the baby is quiet in his arms. He kisses her on the forehead though, and brings the pillow higher, pays the midwife money they can ill-spare. He tells her they will live as they have always lived, and the baby will live with them and happily. That she must rest and get better, cure the bad cough that had been afflicting her so recently, and that together they will be a family. He talks to her then, talks to her as his daughter and gives praise to the Lord in the words he so rarely uses that she has lived this night through and has a fine and healthy son to show for it. For a moment she can believe all will be well. For a moment she is safe with her son in her arms, and his grandfather by their side.