Claggart felt the looming apprehension within himself as he opened the letter from his mistress. Skimming to the end, his heart stopped. Sophia was with child.
For weeks, Claggart debated whether or not he should leave his childless wife for his mistress. He decided that although it was a knotty situation, he would meet his child one time only, in a dark alley of his small English town. He would then return to a normal life with his wife.
Six months later, Claggart arranged the meeting with Sophia. He tossed and turned until two in the morning, their determined meeting time. Rising cautiously, as to not wake his wife, Claggart left his house. He walked tentatively through the labyrinth of streets and alleyways. Before he made the final turn into the crepuscular alley, Claggart took a moment to poise himself. He took a deep, steady breath, and slowly made the turn. He saw a huddled shadow in the corner between two buildings. Peering closer, he could make out the faint outline of Sophia, nuzzling the baby. Claggart locked eyes with the baby. The baby’s blue eyes sent a chill straight to Claggart’s bones. Suddenly, he felt the complete weight of his ignominious deed. Inhaling sharply, Claggart stepped back around the corner and pressed his back to the wall before Sophia could see him. He crouched, trying to muffle his sobs. Claggart realized he needed to return home, as he had no good alibi for why he was out at such a time. He ran home, struggling to catch his breath between sobs. He entered his bedroom and laid his eyes on his wife, sleeping peacefully, unknowingly. As he gazed upon her serene beauty, Claggart realized that he could not hurt her this way. He had to leave.
Grabbing his clothing and most needed possessions frantically, Claggart stumbled down the stairs. He could hear his wife stirring above him. Fearing that she would soon awaken, he had time to write only a two word note: “I’m sorry.” Wiping the tears from his cheeks, he placed the note atop the fireplace mantle and walked out,...