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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter IV

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Between her words the doctor heard the sobbing of George, whose head was buried in his arms. "Madame," he said, "your love for that baby has just caused you to utter something ferocious! It is not for you to choose. It is not for you to choose. I forbid the nursing. The health of that woman does not belong to you."

"No," cried the grandmother, wildly, "nor does the health of out child belong to you! If there is a hope of saving it, that hope is in giving it more care than any other child; and you would wish that I put it upon a mode of nourishment which the doctors condemn, even for vigorous infants! You expect that I will let myself be taken in like that? I answer you: she shall have the milk which she needs, my poor little one! If there was a single thing that one could do to save her--I should be a criminal to neglect it!" And Madame Dupont broke out, with furious scorn, "The nurse! The nurse! We shall know how to do our duty--we shall take care of her, repay her. But our child before all! No sir, no! Everything that can be done to save our baby I shall do, let it cost what it will. To do what you say--you don't realize it--it would be as if I should kill the child!" In the end the agonized woman burst into tears. "Oh, my poor little angel! My little savior!"

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George had never ceased sobbing while his mother spoke; at these last words his sobs became loud cries. He struck the floor with his foot, he tore his hair, as if he were suffering from violent physical pain. "Oh, oh, oh!" he cried. "My little child! My little child!" And then, in a horrified whisper to himself, "I am a wretch! A criminal!"

"Madame," said the doctor, "you must calm yourself; you must both calm yourselves. You will not help out the situation by lamentations. You must learn to take it with calmness."

Madame Dupont set her lips together, and with a painful effort recovered her self-control. "You are right, sir," she said, in a low voice. "I ask your pardon; but if you only knew what that child means to me! I lost one at that age. I am an old woman, I am a widow--I had hardly hoped to live long enough to be a grandmother. But, as you say--we must be calm." She turned to the young man, "Calm yourself, my son. It is a poor way to show our love for the child, to abandon ourselves to tears. Let us talk, Doctor, and seriously--coldly. But I declare to you that nothing will ever induce me to put the child on the bottle, when I know that it might kill her. That is all I can say."

The doctor replied: "This isn't the first time that I find myself in the present situation. Madame, I declare to you that always--ALWAYS, you understand--persons who have rejected my advice have had reason to repent it cruelly."

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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