But before the abortion narrative is resumed, Crick finally relates the story of his wife's kidnapping of a baby in the present in chapters 35 and 36, which is clearly done as a sort of replacement for the baby she aborted.
Thus, in chapter 39, "Stupid," which is apparently told to Price that night in the pub, Crick finally picks up the thread of the crucial abortion narrative he had dropped in the thirteenth chapter.
Crick is shocked to hear her say that she has been to a priest, using confessional language in his incredulous narration: "At length she confesses she has been talking to a priest.
When Crick relates the story of Mary's kidnapping the child at the local grocery store before he finally recalls the abortion, she was rendered a Virgin Mary figure: "A Madonna--and child." He thus casts himself as standing "before this bizarre Nativity, [in] the posture of an awestruck shepherd [...]" (265).
First, Crick briefly reads Mary's taking of the baby through the violent narrative of the French Revolution before adopting a biblical view of the incident: "So one day, after teaching the French Revolution, I come home to find that my wife's committed a revolutionary--a miraculous--act ..." (264).
Thus, immediately after he tells this story, its horror is so strong that his narration quickly skips forward to the present, and Price helps the grown Crick home from the pub in chapter 43, "Not So Final." After Price's exit, we are expecting more information about the abortion but instead are given the end of the present story in chapter 44, "Begin Again," whereby Tom and Mary return her stolen baby.
Interrogated by the waiting policeman and policewoman, Crick finally admits their responsibility in inherently confessional language surrounded by the crowd of onlookers, a move designed to integrate them back into the community but also, and more important, to answer for the crimes of their past as well:
After this telling confession, Crick gives further evidence of his conviction that the abortion was wrong.
Recalling his father's death through drowning in the phlegm that collects in his lungs because of the broncho-pneumonia he contracts from a flood in the Fens, Crick finally states, "when you drown you see it all pass before you.
His disappearance in the murky water of the Ouse is the other moment that goes on happening for Crick. It is, however, an eschatological event emptied of its true eschatological content and its power to redeem historical existence.
In Crick's tortured, elliptical confession of involvement in these crimes lie the seeds of his possible redemption.
(2) Although Margret Champion has recently identified Waterland as a "novel of confession," she unfortunately relegates her analysis of the novel's confessional aspects to a comparison of these with Bakhtin's analysis of Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground" in Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, and wrongly suggests Crick's dialogic voice constitutes his freeing state of autonomy (see 35, 36 and passim).
(3) James Acheson's essay "Historia and Guilt: Graham Swift's Waterland" is a felicitous exception to this trajectory of critical misunderstanding of the novel, although he wrongly stresses the reasons for Crick's guilt, focusing on what he perceives as Crick's failures as a husband:
Crick believes that Mary's Catholic sense of guilt over ending a life and her frustration at not being able to have children subsequently, may have contributed in some way to her irrational but firmly-held belief, in late middle age, that the baby is a gift from God.