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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter IV

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"Very well, then, a thousand francs."

George passed behind the nurse and got his mother by the arm, drawing her to one side. "It would be a mistake," he whispered, "if we did not make her sign an agreement to all that."

His mother turned to the nurse. "In order that there may be no misunderstanding about the sum--you see how it is, I had forgotten already that I had spoken of a thousand francs--we will draw up a little paper, and you, on your part, will write one for us."

"Very good, ma'am," said the nurse, delighted with the idea of so important a transaction. "Why, it's just as you do when you rent a house!"

"Here comes the doctor," said the other. "Come, nurse, it is agreed?"

"Yes, ma'am," was the answer. But all the same, as she went out she hesitated and looked sharply first at the doctor, and then at George and his mother. She suspected that something was wrong, and she meant to find out if she could.

The doctor seated himself in George's office chair, as if to write a prescription. "The child's condition remains the same," he said; "nothing disturbing."

"Doctor," said Madame Dupont, gravely, "from now on, you will be able to devote your attention to the baby and the nurse without any scruple. During your absence we have arranged matters nicely. The nurse has been informed about the situation, and she does not mind. She has agreed to accept an indemnity, and the amount has been stated."

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But the doctor did not take these tidings as the other had hoped he might. He replied: "The malady which the nurse will almost inevitably contract in feeding the child is too grave in its consequences. Such consequences might go as far as complete helplessness, even as far as death. So I say that the indemnity, whatever it might be, would not pay the damage."

"But," exclaimed the other, "she accepts it! She is mistress of herself, and she has the right--"

"I am not at all certain that she has the right to sell her own health. And I am certain that she has not the right to sell the health of her husband and her children. If she becomes infected, it is nearly certain that she will communicate the disease to them; the health and the life of the children she might have later on would be greatly compromised. Such things she cannot possibly sell. Come, madame, you must see that a bargain of this sort isn't possible. If the evil has not been done, you must do everything to avoid it."

"Sir," protested the mother, wildly, "you do not defend our interests!"

"Madame," was the reply, "I defend those who are weakest."

"If we had called in our own physician, who knows us," she protested, "he would have taken sides with us."

The doctor rose, with a severe look on his face. "I doubt it," he said, "but there is still time to call him."

George broke in with a cry of distress. "Sir, I implore you!"

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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