THE door of the specialist's house had shut [FE] [MS] behind them with a soft, respectful click. Lizzie Pierce and Harriett sat in the taxi-cab, holding each other's hands. Harriett spoke. 'He says I've got what Mamma had.' Lizzie blinked away her tears; her hand loosened and tightened on Harriett's with a nervous clutch. Harriett felt nothing but a strange, solemn excitement and exaltation. She was raised to her mother's eminence in pain. With every stab she would live again in her mother. She had what her mother had. Only she would have an operation. This different thing was what she dreaded, the [FE] thing her mother hadn't had, and the going away into the hospital, to live exposed in the free ward among other people. That was what she minded most. That and leaving her house, and Maggie's leaving. She cried when she saw Maggie standing at the gate in her white apron as the taxi- cab took her away. She thought, 'When I come back again she won't be there.' Yet somehow she felt that it couldn't happen; it was impossible that she should [MS] come back and not find Maggie there. She lay in her white bed in the white- curtained cubicle. Lizzie was paying for the cubicle. Kind Lizzie. Kind. Kind. She wasn't afraid of the operation. It would happen in the morning. Only one thing worried her. Something Connie [FE] had told her. Under the anaesthetic you said things. Shocking, indecent things. But there wasn't anything she could say. She didn't know anything.... Yes. She did. There were Connie's stories. And Black's Lane. Behind the dirty blue palings in Black's Lane. The nurses comforted her. They said if you kept your mouth tight shut, up to the last minute before the operation, if you didn't say one word you were all right. She thought about it after she woke in the morning. For a whole hour before the operation she refused to speak, nodding and shaking her head, communicating by gestures. She walked down the wide corridor of the ward on her way to the theatre, very upright in her white flannel dressing-gown, with her chin held high [FE] [MS] and a look of exaltation on her face. There were convalescents in the corridor. They saw her. The curtains before some of the cubicles were parted; the patients saw her; they knew what she was going to. Her exaltation mounted. She came into the theatre. It was all white. White. White tiles. Rows of little slender knives on a glass shelf, under glass, shining. A white sink in the corner. A mixed smell of iodine and ether. The surgeon wore a white coat. Harriett made her tight lips tighter. She climbed on to the white enamel table, and lay down, drawing her dressing- gown straight about her knees. She had not said one word. She had behaved beautifully. [FE] The pain in her body came up, wave after wave, burning. It swelled, tighten- ing, stretching out her wounded flesh. She knew that the little man they called the doctor was really Mr Hancock. They oughtn't to have let him in. She cried out, 'Take him away. Don't let him [MS] touch me '; but nobody took any notice. 'It isn't right,' she said. 'He oughtn't to do it. Not to any woman. If it was known he would be punished.' And there was Maggie by the curtain, crying. 'That's Maggie. She's crying because she thinks I killed her baby.' The ice-bag laid across her body stirred like a live thing as the ice melted, then it settled and was still. She put her hand [FE] down and felt the smooth, cold oilskin distended with water. 'There's a dead baby in the bed. Red hair. They ought to have taken it away,' she said. 'Maggie had a baby once. She took it up the lane to the place where the man is; and they put it behind the palings. Dirty blue palings. . . . Pussycat. Pussycat, what did you there? Pussy. Prissie. Prissiecat. Poor Prissie. She never goes to bed. She can't get up out of the chair.' A figure in white, with a stiff white cap stood by the bed. She named it, fixed it in her mind. Nurse. Nurse that was what it was. She spoke to it. 'It's sadsad to go through so much pain and then to have a dead baby.' [MS] The white curtain walls of the cubicle [FE] contracted, closed in on her. She was lying at the bottom of her white-curtained nursery cot. She felt weak and diminished, small, like a very little child. The front curtains parted, showing the blond light of the corridor beyond. She saw the nursery door open and the light from the candle moved across the ceiling. The gap was filled by the heavy form, the obscene yet sorrowful face of Connie Pennefather. Harriett looked at it. She smiled with a sudden ecstatic wonder and recognition. ' Mamma--'