Somewhere in a small room in a big city, a little woman with big problems lay on her bed.
She had rented the room under a false name. Ms. Green, the landlady, had her doubts when she registered herself as Ms. Stone on the boarding house register.
There was a set rule in the guest house; no visitors were ever allowed in the rooms. She could receive visitors in the drawing-room until ten PM at the latest when Ms. Green went to bed and thought it completely natural that all her guests did so too.
Despite Mrs. green's rules, there was a visitor in Stella's room, or rather Mrs. Stone's room. The little roommate had no name, at least not yet.
Stella had come to the big city, from the sweet, healthy countryside, where people could not imagine evil existed. But the fact is, people are people, wherever in the world. And moonlight can instill madness everywhere. In the countryside, one can hide love, but not its consequences. At least not if you're a woman.
Stella's accomplice in summoning this little ghost from the deep did not come with her to the city. He was poor, and besides, it would have broken his parents' hearts. His employer in the village would have fired him, and he desperately needed his seven dollars a week salary.
He had given Stella all his savings and had sent her to town.
A few days ago, Stella had gone up the four flights of stairs to her room for the last time. A few days ago, a doctor and a nurse also came by, and she gave most of her money to them in exchange for helping her to deliver the baby. Stella felt desperately lonely. During the day, when the baby slept, she sat and stared out the window. She often thought of home, where the breeze would moonseep over the peaceful fields. She wanted to go for a walk outside in the fresh air. She stared at the people in the street. They made her think of a circus parade. Maybe there was a circus somewhere. What difference would it make? She couldn't go anyway. She had no money. All she had was a baby with no name. She was homesick. Sick for the home from which she was banned. She felt like losing her mind in this jail-like loneliness, where her baby was sentenced as her fellow inmate.
She thought of the moon hovering over her village at night, following the people home, over the daisy-covered hills. The moon was probably lonely too.
The world was so beautiful. Except for her fate, her poverty, and her loneliness.
She didn't even have proper clothes to go out into the streets. She longed for light and music.
The world has no mercy on a woman who loves too much. It's a cruel world for women. Money is the only weapon the world respects. And if you had a lot of it, you could buy some that respect. But Stella had no money. So, she had to stay in the dark. Alone.
Stella never heard her come in. That woman who whispered in her ear:
"I fear there is nothing but darkness on your path, dear. The man to whom you have given all your love has long forgotten all about you. He is weak. Besides, you would not have been together long. It wouldn´t have taken long for him to start hating you. Who would want to take you as a wife? Without a job, and with a baby?
That baby is a burden. A yoke that will drown you in dark waters.
Your story will affect you for the rest of your life. And your baby's too. The older it gets, the more it will suffer. In time it will only live to despise you.
So many problems, honey. Worries you will never find a way out of, except, there is a way: if you're sleeping in your grave. All your troubles will be over. People will no longer mock you. They would even feel sorry for you. AND you wouldn't be lonely anymore. Never again.
End it, sweetheart. See that river in the distance over there? How peaceful it is in its depths. The waters will wash away your sorrows.
On second thought, it might be a long walk there, but look here: a window! Climb up the ledge and step away. Take your baby in your arms and walk into peace. You poor little lonely thing. Heaven will have mercy on you, and people will forgive you. Now go. Goodbye. Do not be afraid.
She didn't see her leave. When she turned her head, that soft-spoken woman was gone. But her words hung in the air. She could still hear her whisper.
Stella got up and staggered to the sleeping baby. She picked him up and kissed his forehead. Without waking him, she stumbled over to the window and pushed it up. She knelt on the ledge and stared at the street. She had always been afraid of heights. She kissed the baby again and took a deep breath. The cool clear air felt so good, but she got dizzy. She clung on. She wouldn't let herself fall until she said another prayer.
There was a knock on the door. It started again. She lost impetus and crept back. She dropped into a chair and pretended to rock the baby.
-"Come on in." she said calmly. She thought it would be Mrs. Green asking for the rent. When she looked up, she saw another woman.
-"Don't be afraid, dear." the woman said in a soft voice. "The only one who has the right to throw a stone at you is one who is free from sin. And I doubt it very much that you will find such a person here in this guest house. Or outside, for that matter. You are no better or worse than anyone. Everyone has a scandal to hide, and I know them all. We are all sinners. And you cannot say that following your most sacred instincts is a sin. You do not have to be afraid of a bit of gossip and backbiting.
You are not a criminal. You loved that boy very much. Maybe a little too much. That's all. Do not be ashamed of that! Keep your head up. The world owes you your keep. You are young and beautiful. Let that bay grow up to be a great and honorable man. Give that baby all the benefits of a good start in the world, it is yours if you want to take it. That's all you must do. Ask and it shall be given to you. Don't do anything stupid or rash.
Stella took a deep breath and looked up, but the woman was gone.
She went back to the window and shivered. If that woman hadn't knocked on the door, she'd be down there right now. She held the baby close to her.
-"I'll get you out of here, out of this gloomy place." she sobbed. She gave the baby a kiss on his forehead. She was dizzy with excitement and exertion. She sank back into the chair, trying to regain her strength. She heard something creak, or maybe there was another knock on the door. A voice out of the darkness reached her ears. A cold, hard voice.
-"That baby is way too noisy." the voice said in a hasty tone. "You're incredibly beautiful! There must be a market for you. But leave that baby behind. You're sitting here in the dark. Beauty glows in the dark, didn't you know? That's how I found you.
The world pays for beauty. There are women all over this city who got rich that way. Find a wealthy man. I bet they're willing to spend a thousand dollars a night on you.
In time you'll forget the bastard from that farm hole you came from. What did he ever give you? A baby? That was a ridiculously cheap move! Get you in this trouble, and then drop you.
You just have to do one thing: give up that baby, and I'll show you the way. No one ever needs to find out that you once had a baby. At a foundling’s agency, they don't ask questions.
The baby will be adopted by a wealthy couple and will receive the best care. It would be so much better off, and you'd be free. Free to taste life to the fullest. You really have the right to do that, you know? You sit here like a ragged doll with a baby with no name. Get rid of it! With you, it will only suffer. Put it out of its misery. Don't waste your youth, honey. Invest your beauty where it will pay off. Put that brat away and go! Don't let old-fashioned remorse hold you back. Just go!
Stella held onto the bay tightly and moved away from that grim counselor. When she turned around again, she was alone. That wretched woman was gone, but the air still trembled with her ruthlessness.
The baby started to fret. Stella bent over and brought the baby to her bosom. His little cries sounded like the babbling of a friendly stream. The moon rested on his little head.
A soft tap on the door. Stella turned to see a little woman. She spoke in a soft and motherly voice. Her tone was full of affection.
-"I heard your baby crying, honey. I had to come and have a look. Isn't it wonderful to be a mother?"
Stella whirled around, clenching the baby so hard it started to cry. The sound was like a wail that went straight through her heart.
-"Be brave, “the little woman sighed, "Don't give the baby up. Raise him to be a noble man. Give him ambition and inspiration. Don't pay heed to the insults of self-righteous people.
You have nothing to be ashamed of, and you should not go through life as if you had sinned.
You have been blessed with a precious treasure. Goodbye, sweetheart. Goodbye, enviable one, you mother!"
And the woman was gone.
The lonely young country girl no longer felt utterly disgraceful. The baby was not a punishment or a sign of Heaven's displeasure. The baby was a divine favor.
Stella was tired but satisfied. She fell asleep with the baby in her arms. The moon reached her window and sent in a long beam of light. It gleamed on her chest where the baby clung sleepily.
There was a blessing in the moonlight...