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“Good Lord, he’s split his chin!” cried Edna.

The child yelled with pain and rage. His blood was all over the front of his clean jersey, provoking annoyance from his mother and concern from her friend. He was soon gathered up and, still screaming, was carried off to the kitchen where a sticking plaster was found and ineffectively administered. When Edna realized that the plaster was of little use, she rushed to the mirror by the front door and pushed her thick but short black hair into place. She turned round, dragged her brown coat off the hallstand and quickly put it on. After another look in the glass, pouting because she did not like her appearance in her newly acquired horn-rimmed glasses, she reached into the cupboard under the stairs - which at that time contained a mattress to sleep on during an air-raid as an alternative to the Anderson shelter in the garden - to find Alex’s redundant pushchair. It had been carefully kept in fear lest there might be any more accidental births. She dumped him none too gently into it and took him to the casualty department at the hospital a few streets away.

She sat fretfully with her child in the waiting room for half an hour, doing her best to ignore the demands he expressed in between the little sobs he kept making that he should sit on her lap. In the end, the woman nursing her swollen thumb on a chair facing Edna across the room made sympathetic smiles towards Alex and shamed her into lifting him up and holding him close. He sniffed and whimpered by turns for five more minutes until the receptionist called her name.


II


“A split chin like that will need several stitches,” said the young doctor who pulled a long face as she saw it. “I think it would be best, Mrs Ryland, if he stayed here with us.”

“No child of mine is staying here with these bombs falling night after night,” was the reply. “Would you let me use a telephone, please?”

“Of course,” said the doctor, “Sister will show you where there is one.”

After the call had been passed round the underground regions of the big department store where her husband worked as Chief Maintenance Engineer, George was finally found. He wiped his hands on a cloth, on his greasy overalls, on the cloth again, and then through his thinning hair which had fallen over his face while he was working. He did not like being called to the telephone while he was involved in some tricky operation that involved skill and swearing. However, being told that it was his wife and knowing that she would only ring him at work if there were a real emergency at home, his greeting was almost kind as he took off his glasses to scratch his head,

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