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|Damaged Goods||Upton Sinclair|
|Page 7 of 13||
"Excuse!" exclaimed the other. "What in the world do you mean?"
"Oh, I know!" said the nurse, nodding her head.
"It's no use, when you're only a poor country woman."
"I don't understand you! I swear to you that I don't understand you!"
"Well," sneered the other, "I understand."
"But then--explain yourself."
"No, I don't want to say it."
"But you must; I wish it."
"I'm only a poor country woman, but I am no more stupid than the others, for all that. I know perfectly well what your tricks mean. Mr. George here has been grumbling because you promised me thirty francs more a month, if I came to Paris." And then, turning upon the other, she went on--"But, sir, isn't it only natural? Don't I have to put my own child away somewheres else? And then, can my husband live on his appetite? We're nothing but poor country people, we are."
"You are making a mistake, nurse," broke in George. "It is nothing at all of that sort; mother is quite right. I am so far from wanting to reproach you, that, on the contrary, I think she had not promised enough, and I want to make you, for my part, another promise. When you go away, when baby is old enough to be weaned, by way of thanking you, we wish to give you--"
Madame Dupont broke in, hurriedly, "We wish to give you,--over and above your wages, you understand--we wish to give you five hundred francs, and perhaps a thousand, if the little one is altogether in good health. You understand?"
The nurse stared at her, stupefied. "You will give me five hundred francs--for myself?" She sought to comprehend the words. "But that was not agreed, you don't have to do that at all."
"No," admitted Madame Dupont.
"But then," whispered the nurse, half to herself, "that's not natural."
"Yes," the other hurried on, "it is because the baby will have need of extra care. You will have to take more trouble; you will have to give it medicines; your task will be a little more delicate, a little more difficult."
"Oh, yes; then it's so that I will be sure to take care of her? I understand."
"Then it's agreed?" exclaimed Madame Dupont, with relief.
"Yes ma'am," said the nurse.
"And you won't come later on to make reproaches to us? We understand one another clearly? We have warned you that the child is sick and that you could catch the disease. Because of that, because of the special need of care which she has, we promise you five hundred francs at the end of the nursing. That's all right, is it?
"But, my lady," cried the nurse, all her cupidity awakened, "you spoke just now of a thousand francs."
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