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|Damaged Goods||Upton Sinclair|
|Page 1 of 13||
It was all George could do to control his voice. "You--you went to see him?" he stammered.
"Yes," said his mother. "You know him?"
"No, no," he answered. "Or--that is--I have met him, I think. I don't know." And then to himself, "My God!"
There was a silence. "He is coming to talk to you," said the mother, at last.
George was hardly able to speak. "Then he is very much disturbed?"
"No, but he wants to talk to you."
"Yes. When the doctor saw the nurse, he said, 'Madame, it is impossible for me to continue to attend this child unless I have had this very day a conversation wit the father.' So I said 'Very well,' and he said he would come at once."
George turned away, and put his hands to his forehead. "My poor little daughter!" he whispered to himself.
"Yes," said the mother, her voice breaking, "she is, indeed, a poor little daughter!"
A silence fell; for what could words avail in such a situation? Hearing the door open, Madame Dupont started, for her nerves were all a-quiver with the strain she had been under. A servant came in and spoke to her, and she said to George, "It is the doctor. If you need me, I shall be in the next room."
Her son stood trembling, as if he were waiting the approach of an executioner. The other came into the room without seeing him and he stood for a minute, clasping and unclasping his hands, almost overcome with emotion. Then he said, "Good-day, doctor." As the man stared at him, surprised and puzzled, he added, "You don't recognize me?"
The doctor looked again, more closely. George was expecting him to break out in rage; but instead his voice fell low. "You!" he exclaimed. "It is you!"
At last, in a voice of discouragement than of anger, he went on, "You got married, and you have a child! After all that I told you! You are a wretch!"
"Sir," cried George, "let me explain to you!"
"Not a word!" exclaimed the other. "There can be no explanation for what you have done."
A silence followed. The young man did not know what to say. Finally, stretching out his arms, he pleaded, "You will take care of my little daughter all the same, will you not?"
The other turned away with disgust. "Imbecile!" he said.
George did not hear the word. "I was able to wait only six months," he murmured.
The doctor answered in a voice of cold self-repression, "That is enough, sir! All that does not concern me. I have done wrong even to let you see my indignation. I should have left you to judge yourself. I have nothing to do here but with the present and with the future--with the infant and with the nurse."
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