When Jill got pregnant by her boyfriend, she was horrified. She was a Sunday School Superintendent. She had a reputation to live up to, but now she was carrying an adulterine. If her friends and family were to find out, they would be appalled but how could she hide it?
She wouldn't be able to tell her husband the baby was his, because he would know that it wasn't because she hadn't let him have sex for two years.
There was only one thing she could do. She would have to go down on her bended knees and beg her husband’s forgiveness and plead with him to let her stay and beg him to bring the baby up as his, and then when she'd got his name on its birth certificate she would be able to leave him and go off with her boyfriend, without anybody ever knowing the truth, and her clever, little scheme might have worked quite well, had there not been just one small but rather important point she completely overlooked.
The story begins with my wife, Jill about to tell me that she's become pregnant by a close family friend, but before she can begin goes into a flashback account of her view of the factors leading up to this horrendous event.
9 No Departure.
10 Unhappy Holidays.
The story continues with my wife about to tell me that she's become pregnant by a close family friend but before she can begin goes into a flashback account of my view of the factors leading up to this horrendous event.
12 Who Is To Blame?
14 Degradation Phobia.
15 Love Making
16 My Guilty Secret
18 Peculiar Incidents
19 More Peculiar Incidents.
The story continues with my wife telling me that she's become pregnant by a close family friend, but that she deeply regrets it, and wants to stay with me and have me bring the baby up as mine.
20 Revelation .
22 Getting Closer?
23 The Birth
24 The Flat.
26 Devious Measures.
27 The Guilty Party.
Sunday October 5th. 1969.
34 Brunswick Road, Fair Oak, Eastleigh, Hampshire.
After washing up the lunch things, I left the kitchen, and crossed the hall into the lounge. The autumn sun was streaming in through the large front-room window filling the room with a rich golden glow. It was my favourite sort of day. The golden glow filled me with a sense of peace and well-being, although it wouldn't have, had I known what lay ahead.
I stopped in the doorway. Something was wrong. My wife Jill was standing by the white-stone log-burning fireplace, which I'd devotedly built across the north wall from one side to the other, with oak panelled seats in alcoves on either side, her left arm outstretched, her hand resting lightly on the polished oak mantelpiece.
She stood tall, slim and elegant in her distinctive, county-style, brown and green tweed suit, silk cream blouse and crocodile leather, high-heeled shoes. Her shining, auburn hair framed her fair, oval face, and blue eyes, glamorously enhanced by cosmetics by Lancôme. She looked every inch the lady, as she was wont to do. But why was she standing?
Jill was never standing, when I entered the lounge on a Sunday afternoon. She was usually sitting on the sofa, talking to her old school-friend, Vic, or reading her novel.
And where was Vic? I had no idea and it didn't occur to me for a moment that he was sitting at home, becoming increasingly perplexed as the time came closer for him to receive the most momentous phone call of his life.
I was grateful to him for his visits because it meant that I could go sailing without feeling guilty at leaving Jill on her own so much. I seemed to have become obsessed. As soon as the sun shone and the wind blew, I was off. I couldn’t resist. I even went out in a Force 6 in the winter. Our new seventeen-foot "Kestrel" dinghy was difficult to sail single-handed, and I couldn't stand being beaten.
But although she couldn’t have been sat down talking to Vic, she could have been sat down reading her novel, "The Bell", which he'd lent her, in the hope that she would follow the example of Dora, the heroine, who leaves her husband and goes back to her first boyfriend, who, Vic liked to think, in Jill's case, was he.
And why was she leaning? Jill never leaned. She was too upright to lean - too upright physically and too upright morally.
She was particularly upright morally about sex. She didn't believe in it. She didn't believe in married women engaging in it, much, and she didn't believe in unmarried women engaging in it, at all. And if they did and "stupidly and irresponsibly" became accidentally pregnant, then that was very much worse. That was the depths of depravity.
Jill hated unmarried mothers with a vengeance, as she was quick to say if the subject came up, which I didn’t understand. It didn’t seem to be very Christian.
It didn't occur to me that she suffered from moral over-compensation from repressed shame at their prevalence in her own family.
She'd heard from an early age how her grandmother had become an unmarried mother twice, by stupidly and irresponsibly becoming accidentally pregnant by two men to whom she wasn’t married. And how she'd dumped both babies onto her married sister Hilda, to bring up, making both, her mum Gwen and her Aunty Lily, two bastard half-sisters abandoned by both parents.
And then, at the age of fifteen, whilst looking for a lipstick in her mother's dressing table, she'd stumbled upon her parent’s Marriage Certificate, hidden at the bottom of a drawer, and seen that the date of their wedding had preceded the date of her birth, by only two months. Her mother too, had stupidly and irresponsibly become accidentally pregnant by a man to whom she wasn’t married, and she, herself, had nearly been born a bastard, too.
Shocked and horrified by all the depravity in her mother’s family, she’d unconsciously become hyper-moralistic and pious in an attempt to disassociate herself from it, and to prevent any stain of it attaching to her. But her hyper-moralism and piety hadn't gone down very well with her father's family, who’d thought she had little to be hyper-moralistic and pious about, coming from a family like hers.
They were scathing about her grandmother, and they were even more scathing about her mother, who they saw as being worse, for having got pregnant on purpose, to trap their poor, unfortunate son and brother, Leonard, into marrying her, against his will, and had come to see Jill, the product of the vile trick, as a jumped-up, censorious, little prig, made worse by the fact of some of them having suffered from her censures themselves.
Being a bit hyper-moralistic and pious myself, however, for being a candidate for ordination in the Church of England, I came to see my future wife, quite differently. I came to see her as a sweet and pure young lady of class and distinction.
We met in church, at All Saints Eastleigh, where I'd attended since the age of five, firstly as a Sunday School pupil with the Sunday-School teachers, Miss Taylor and Miss Gale, and then at 10, as a choir-boy, with the choirmaster, Mr. Lowton, and then at 12 as a boy scout, with the Scout-Master, Dennis Prior, and then at 15, as a Youth Club member, with the Youth Leader, Mr. Horton, and then at 18 as a communicant with Canon Lambert, the vicar, and then at 21, as an ordinand, with Roger Atkins, the curate.
It had been after Sung Eucharist, one Sunday morning in February 1960. She was walking up the aisle as I was walking down. We met halfway. I stopped to ask her if there was anything I could do to help, and she bestowed upon me the most dazzling smile I’ve ever seen. It was like a benediction. I basked in its glow. It filled the highly vaulted and deeply shadowed church with sunlight. It was so radiant, I wondered what I'd done to deserve it. I was completely captivated.
She told me that she was the new Sunday School Superintendent coming back from the morning session to report to the curate, my friend, the Reverend Roger Atkins. She was twenty and I was twenty-four. She seemed like a gift from God sent to join me as my devoted partner, in my Divine calling of lifelong service to God and the Church.
Three months later, under the infallible direction of the Almighty's guiding hand, I asked her to marry me, and, to my great relief and joy she accepted and three months later, we were married.
Now, after nine years of devoted married life together, here was my sweet and pure young lady of class and distinction standing before me, by the fireplace, in the lounge of our own home; her left arm outstretched, her hand resting lightly on the mantelpiece. But why was she leaning?
I didn’t know. I'd never seen her leaning before, and it didn't occur to me for a moment that she wasn't so much leaning, as, propping herself up, for fear of falling down, from feeling sick with dread, at the horrifying news she had to impart: news so horrifying she feared she would never be able to impart it.
Jill was horrified. The ultimate nightmare had descended. The dread fate that had befallen her grandmother and her mother had now befallen her. She too had stupidly and irresponsibly become accidentally pregnant by a man to whom she wasn’t married.
All the denigration and disgrace that had fallen upon them would now fall upon her, only more so because her crime was worse, which came to her as a bit of a shock, because she hadn't known there was a crime worse than her grandmother's. She'd been brought up to think her grandmother’s crime was the worst there was, but she could see now that it wasn't.
Her grandmother had only become pregnant, as an immature, single teenager, and produced bastards, when she’d done it as a mature married woman, and would produce the most loathed object in Christendom, an adulterine.
And there was worse.
Her grandmother hadn't betrayed anybody: she hadn't slept with a man in his bed, and pretended to be faithful to him to his face, whilst having sex with another man behind his back.
And there was worse still.
She hadn’t just had sex with a chance encounter her husband didn’t know, but a close family friend, he knew very well and had even welcomed into his house, eight years earlier, at her behest.
And, there was worse still.
Her treachery hadn't just been wicked but depraved. She hadn’t just had sex far away from home, in the man’s house, so as not to defile her husband’s, but in her husband’s house, and not just whilst he was out of it, but whilst he was in it, lying ill in bed in one room whilst she was having sex in the next.
He would die if he knew, but he never would, because she wouldn't ever tell him, because it was one thing she would be able to keep to herself, unlike everything else, which she wouldn't, because if she didn't tell him, he’d find out anyway, and when he did, he would kick her out, divorce her for adultery and broadcast her sins to the world, and she would be ruined, and so she would have to get in first, and tell him and beg him to let her stay and beg him to bring the baby up as his or, her father's family would have a field day.
They would tear her to pieces. They would castigate her for her depravity and vilify her for her hypocrisy. All her censures of them would come back with a vengeance. She could hear them carping already.
"There you are. What did I tell you? The whole family's degenerate: like grandmother, like mother, like daughter. And what a hypocrite! Setting herself up to be a saint when she's worse than anybody. I told you she'd get her comeuppance, one day, didn't I? Little minx! “Be sure your sins will find you out.” that's what I always say. And her parading around as a Sunday School Superintendent. Some Superintendent! She's not fit to superintend a Public Convenience, let alone a Sunday School! And she's not been content just with breaking the Ten Commandments, and committing adultery, she's got pregnant and produced an adulterine as well. You would have thought she would have tried to avoid that - poor little scrap. What sort of a life has it got to look forward to now, coming from a background like that? Well now we know her for what she is: a depraved slut. But it's her husband I feel sorry for, poor man. Just think what he must be going through. The shock must nearly have killed him. He may never get over it. You wait until I see her. I'll have something to say."
They would grind her into the dust. She would never survive.
And she wouldn't fare any better with her husband's family. She'd fallen out with his little sister, Beryl, only the year after they'd got married. It had been at the Eastleigh Carnival Fair, in the August of 1961. She'd gone along in a foursome, with her husband, and Vic, and her cousin Brenda, who'd been visiting from Enfield, in Middlesex, but she'd known that Brenda would try to get her hooks into Vic, because she'd always fancied him and would think that with her being married and out of the way, she had a clear field, but she hadn't felt like being out of the way. Vic was her property.
He'd been her property for ten years, ever since they'd first met at grammar school, twenty years before, when he'd instantly become besotted, and her doting slave, and she didn't want to lose him now, and so she'd had to ignore her husband, and concentrate on Vic and monopolize him, to prevent Brenda from getting a look-in, and to show her up for having the temerity to think that she could replace her in his affections, but they'd bumped into Beryl, who'd seen what was going on, and had been appalled, and had written her a very nasty letter the next day telling her so, calling her a "disgusting flirt".
She could expect no mercy from that quarter. When her husband's family found out, they would just all sit round the dining-room table, looking at each other gravely and nodding sagely and saying, "I told you so." The very idea was horrendous.
And all her friends at the Church would be appalled too.
She'd broken the very vows she'd sworn before them at her Marriage Service and violated the very Scriptures she'd taught them at her Sunday School. They would never speak to her again. She would become a pariah.
But the greatest condemnation would come from her father.