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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter V

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It was in vain that Madame Dupont sought to control her daughter-in-law. Henriette was beside herself, frantic, she could not be brought to listen to any one. She rushed into the other room, and when the older woman followed her, shrieked out to be left alone. Afterwards, she fled to her own room and barred herself in, and George and his mother waited distractedly for hours until she should give some sign.

Would she kill herself, perhaps? Madame Dupont hovered on guard about the door of the nursery for fear that the mother in her fit of insanity might attempt some harm to her child.

The nurse had slunk away abashed when she saw the consequences of her outburst. By the time she had got her belongings packed, she had recovered her assurance. She wanted her five hundred; also she wanted her wages and her railroad fare home. She wanted them at once, and she would not leave until she got them. George and his mother, in the midst of all their anguish of mind, had to go through a disgusting scene with this coarse and angry woman.

They had no such sum of money in the house, and the nurse refused to accept a check. She knew nothing about a check. It was so much paper, and might be some trick that they were playing on her. She kept repeating her old formula, "I am nothing but a poor country woman." Nor would she be contented with the promise that she would receive the money the next day. She seemed to be afraid that if she left the house she would be surrendering her claim. So at last the distracted George to sally forth and obtain the cash from some tradesmen in the neighborhood.

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The woman took her departure. They made her sign a receipt in full for all claims and they strove to persuade themselves that this made them safe; but in their hearts they had no real conviction of safety. What was the woman's signature, or her pledged word, against the cupidity of her husband and relatives. Always she would have the dreadful secret to hold over them, and so they would live under the shadow of possible blackmail.

Later in the day Henriette sent for her mother-in-law. She was white, her eyes were swollen with weeping, and she spoke in a voice choked with sobs. She wished to return at once to her father's home, and to take little Gervaise with her. Madame Dupont cried out in horror at this proposition, and argued and pleaded and wept--but all to no purpose. The girl was immovable. She would not stay under her husband's roof, and she would take her child with her. It was her right, and no one could refuse her.

The infant had been crying for hours, but that made no difference. Henriette insisted that a cab should be called at once.

So she went back to the home of Monsieur Loches and told him the hideous story. Never before in her life had she discussed such subjects with any one, but now in her agitation she told her father all. As George had declared to the doctor, Monsieur Loches was a person of violent temper; at this revelation, at the sight of his daughter's agony, he was almost beside himself. His face turned purple, the veins stood out on his forehead; a trembling seized him. He declared that he would kill George-- there was nothing else to do. Such a scoundrel should not be permitted to live.

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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