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|Damaged Goods||Upton Sinclair|
|Page 8 of 9||
The doctor's voice bore once again its note of pity. "Your husband died of it?"
"He took no care of himself?"
"And was not that a warning to you?"
"Doctor," the woman replied, "I would ask nothing better than to come as often as you told me, but the cost is too great."
"How--what cost? You were coming to my free clinic."
"Yes, sir," replied the woman, "but that's during working hours, and then it is a long way from home. There are so many sick people, and I have to wait my turn, It is in the morning-- sometimes I lose a whole day--and then my employer is annoyed, and he threatens to turn me off. It is things like that that keep people from coming, until they dare not put it off any longer. Then, too, sir--" the woman stopped, hesitating.
"Well," demanded the doctor.
"Oh, nothing, sir," she stammered. "You have been too good to me already."
"Go on," commanded the other. "Tell me."
"Well," murmured the woman, "I know I ought not to put on airs, but you see I have not always been so poor. Before my husband's misfortune, we were well fixed. So you see, I have a little pride. I have always managed to take care of myself. I am not a woman of the streets, and to stand around like that, with everybody else, to be obliged to tell all one's miseries out loud before the world! I am wrong, I know it perfectly well; I argue with myself--but all the same, it's hard, sir; I assure you, it is truly hard."
"Poor woman!" said the doctor; and for a while there was a silence. Then he asked: "It was your husband who brought you the disease?"
"Yes, sir," was the reply. "Everything which happened to us came from him. We were living in the country when he got the disease. He went half crazy. He no longer knew how to manage his affairs. He gave orders here and there for considerable sums. We were not able to find the money."
"Why did he not undergo treatment?"
"He didn't know then. We were sold out, and we came to Paris. But we hadn't a penny. He decided to go to the hospital for treatment."
"Why, they looked him over, but they refused him any medicine."
"How was that?"
"Because we had been in Paris only three months. If one hasn't been a resident six months, one has no right to free medicine."
"Is that true?" broke in Monsieur Loches quickly.
"Yes," said the doctor, "that's the rule."
"So you see," said the woman, "it was not our fault."
"You never had children?" inquired the doctor.
"I was never able to bring one to birth," was the answer. "My husband was taken just at the beginning of our marriage--it was while he was serving in the army. You know, sir--there are women about the garrisons--" She stopped, and there was a long silence.
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