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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter V

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The effort which Henriette had to make to restrain him had a calming effect upon herself. Bitter and indignant as she was, she did not want George to be killed. She clung to her father, beseeching him to promise her that he would not do such a thing; and all that day and evening she watched him, unwilling to let him out of her sight.

There was a matter which claimed her immediate attention, and which helped to withdraw them from the contemplation of their own sufferings. The infant must be fed and cared for--the unhappy victim of other people's sins, whose life was now imperiled. A dry nurse must be found at once, a nurse competent to take every precaution and give the child every chance. This nurse must be informed of the nature of the trouble--another matter which required a great deal of anxious thought.

That evening came Madame Dupont, tormented by anxiety about the child's welfare, and beseeching permission to help take care of it. It was impossible to refuse such a request. Henriette could not endure to see her, but the poor grandmother would come and sit for hours in the nursery, watching the child and the nurse, in silent agony.

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This continued for days, while poor George wandered about at home, suffering such torment of mind as can hardly be imagined. Truly, in these days he paid for his sins; he paid a thousand-fold in agonized and impotent regret. He looked back upon the course of his life, and traced one by one the acts which had led him and those he loved into this nightmare of torment. He would have been willing to give his life if he could have undone those acts. But avenging nature offered him no such easy deliverance as that. We shudder as we read the grim words of the Jehovah of the ancient Hebrews; and yet not all the learning of modern times has availed to deliver us from the cruel decree, that the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children.

George wrote notes to his wife, imploring her forgiveness. He poured out all his agony and shame to her, begging her to see him just once, to give him a chance to plead his defense. It was not much of a defense, to be sure; it was only that he had done no worse than the others did--only that he was a wretched victim of ignorance. But he loved her, he had proven that he loved her, and he pleaded that for the sake of their child she would forgive him.

When all this availed nothing, he went to see the doctor, whose advice he had so shamefully neglected. He besought this man to intercede for him--which the doctor, of course, refused to do. It was an extra-medical matter, he said, and George was absurd to expect him to meddle in it.

But, as a matter of fact, the doctor had already been interceding--he had gone farther in pleading George's cause than he was willing to have George know. For Monsieur Loches had paid him a visit--his purpose being to ask the doctor to continue attendance upon the infant, and also to give Henriette a certificate which she could use in her suit for a divorce from her husband.

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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