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|Damaged Goods||Upton Sinclair|
|Page 2 of 13||
"She isn't in danger?" cried George.
"The nurse is in danger of being contaminated."
But George had not been thinking about the nurse. "I mean my child," he said.
"Just at present the symptoms are not disturbing."
George waited; after a while he began, "You were saying about the nurse. Will you consent that I call my mother? She knows better than I."
"As you wish," was the reply.
The young man started to the door, but came back, in terrible distress. "I have one prayer to offer you sir; arrange it so that my wife--so that no one will know. If my wife learned that it is I who am the cause--! It is for her that I implore you! She--she isn't to blame."
Said the doctor: "I will do everything in my power that she may be kept ignorant of the true nature of the disease."
"Oh, how I thank you!" murmured George. "How I thank you!"
"Do not thank me; it is for her, and not for you, that I will consent to lie."
"And my mother?"
"Your mother knows the truth."
"I pray you, sir--we have enough to talk about, and very serious matters."
So George went to the door and called his mother. She entered and greeted the doctor, holding herself erect, and striving to keep the signs of grief and terror from her face. She signed to the doctor to take a seat, and then seated herself by a little table near him.
"Madame Dupont," he began, "I have prescribed a course of treatment for the child. I hope to be able to improve its condition, and to prevent any new developments. But my duty and yours does not stop there; if there is still time, it is necessary to protect the health of the nurse."
"Tell us what it is necessary to do, Doctor?" said she.
"The woman must stop nursing the child."
"You mean we have to change the nurse?"
"Madame, the child can no longer be brought up at the breast, either by that nurse or by any other nurse."
"But why, sir?"
"Because the child would give her disease to the woman who gave her milk."
"But, Doctor, if we put her on the bottle--our little one--she will die!"
And suddenly George burst out into sobs. "Oh, my poor little daughter! My God, my God!"
Said the doctor, "If the feeding is well attended to, with sterilized milk--"
"That can do very well for healthy infants," broke in Madame Dupont. "But at the age of three months one cannot take from the breast a baby like ours, frail and ill. More than any other such an infant has need of a nurse--is that not true?"
"Yes," the doctor admitted, "that is true. But--"
"In that case, between the life of the child, and the health of the nurse, you understand perfectly well that my choice is made."
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