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´╗┐Title: Damaged Goods; the great play "Les avaries" by Brieux, novelized with the approval of the author
Author: Brieux, Eugene, 1858-1932, Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Damaged Goods; the great play "Les avaries" by Brieux, novelized with the approval of the author" ***

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The Great Play "Les Avaries" of Eugene Brieux

Novelized with the approval of the author

by Upton Sinclair


+++Page 4 is a virtually unreadable letter in handwritten script from M.


My endeavor has been to tell a simple story, preserving as closely as
possible the spirit and feeling of the original. I have tried, as it
were, to take the play to pieces, and build a novel out of the same
material. I have not felt at liberty to embellish M. Brieux's ideas, and
I have used his dialogue word for word wherever possible. Unless I have
mis-read the author, his sole purpose in writing LES AVARIES was to
place a number of most important facts before the minds of the public,
and to drive them home by means of intense emotion. If I have been able
to assist him, this bit of literary carpentering will be worth while. I
have to thank M. Brieux for his kind permission to make the attempt, and
for the cordial spirit which he has manifested.

Upton Sinclair


DAMAGED GOODS was first presented in America at a Friday matinee on
March 14th, 1913, in the Fulton Theater, New York, before members of
the Sociological Fund. Immediately it was acclaimed by public press and
pulpit as the greatest contribution ever made by the Stage to the cause
of humanity. Mr. Richard Bennett, the producer, who had the courage to
present the play, with the aid of his co-workers, in the face of most
savage criticism from the ignorant, was overwhelmed with requests for a
repetition of the performance.

Before deciding whether of not to present DAMAGED GOODS before the
general public, it was arranged that the highest officials in the United
States should pass judgment upon the manner in which the play teaches
its vital lesson. A special guest performance for members of the
Cabinet, members of both houses of Congress, members of the United
States Supreme Court, representatives of the Diplomatic corps and others
prominent in national life was given in Washington, D.C.

Although the performance was given on a Sunday afternoon (April 6,
1913), the National Theater was crowded to the very doors with the most
distinguished audience ever assembled in America, including exclusively
the foremost men and women of the Capital. The most noted clergymen of
Washington were among the spectators.

The result of this remarkable performance was a tremendous endorsement
of the play and of the manner in which Mr. Bennett and his co-workers
were presenting it.

This reception resulted in the continuance of the New York performances
until mid-summer and is responsible for the decision on the part of Mr.
Bennett to offer the play in every city in America where citizens feel
that the ultimate welfare of the community is dependent upon a higher
standard of morality and clearer understanding of the laws of health.

The WASHINGTON POST, commenting on the Washington performance, said:

The play was presented with all the impressiveness of a sermon; with all
the vigor and dynamic force of a great drama; with all the earnestness
and power of a vital truth.

In many respects the presentation of this dramatization of a great
social evil assumed the aspects of a religious service. Dr. Donald C.
Macleod, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, mounted the rostrum
usually occupied by the leader of the orchestra, and announced that the
nature of the performance, the sacredness of the play, and the character
of the audience gave to the play the significance of a tremendous sermon
in behalf of mankind, and that as such it was eminently fitting that
a divine blessing be invoked. Dr. Earle Wilfley, pastor of the Vermont
Avenue Christian Church, asked all persons in the audience to bow
their heads in a prayer for the proper reception of the message to be
presented from the stage. Dr. MacLeod then read the Bernard Shaw preface
to the play, and asked that there be no applause during the performance,
a suggestion which was rigidly followed, thus adding greatly to the
effectiveness and the seriousness of the dramatic portrayal.

The impression made upon the audience by the remarkable play is
reflected in such comments as the following expressions voiced after the

from my pulpit a sermon one tenth as powerful, as convincing, as
far-reaching, and as helpful as this performance of DAMAGED GOODS must
be, I would consider that I had achieved the triumph of my life.

COMMISSIONER CUNO H. RUDOLPH--I was deeply impressed by what I saw, and
I think that the drama should be repeated in every city, a matinee one
day for father and son and the next day for mother and daughter.

REV. EARLE WILFLEY--I am confirmed in the opinion that we must take up
our cudgels in a crusade against the modern problems brought to the
fore by DAMAGED GOODS. The report that these diseases are increasing is
enough to make us get busy on a campaign against them.

SURGEON GENERAL BLUE--It was a most striking and telling lesson. For
years we have been fighting these condition in the navy. It is high time
that civilians awakened to the dangers surrounding them and crusaded
against them in a proper manner.

MRS. ARCHIBALD HOPKINS--The play was a powerful presentation of a very
important question and was handled in a most admirable manner. The
drama is a fine entering wedge for this crusade and is bound to do
considerable good in conveying information of a very serious nature.

MINISTER PEZET, OF PERU--There can be no doubt but that the performance
will have great uplifting power, and accomplish the good for which it
was created. Fortunately, we do not have the prudery in South America
that you of the north possess, and have open minds to consider these
serious questions.

have considerable effect in educating the people of the nature of the
danger that surrounds them.

SENATOR KERN, OF INDIANA--There can be no denial of the fact that it is
time to look at the serious problems presented in the play with an open

Brieux has been hailed by Bernard Shaw as "incomparably the greatest
writer France has produced since Moliere," and perhaps no writer ever
wielded his pen more earnestly in the service of the race. To quote from
an article by Edwin E. Slosson in the INDEPENDENT:

Brieux is not one who believes that social evils are to be cured by laws
and yet more laws. He believes that most of the trouble is caused
by ignorance and urges education, public enlightenment and franker
recognition of existing conditions. All this may be needed, but still we
may well doubt its effectiveness as a remedy. The drunken Helot argument
is not a strong one, and those who lead a vicious life know more about
its risks than any teacher or preacher could tell them. Brieux also
urges the requirement of health certificates for marriage, such as many
clergymen now insist upon and which doubtless will be made compulsory
before long in many of our States.

Brieux paints in black colors yet is no fanatic; in fact, he will
be criticised by many as being too tolerant of human weakness. The
conditions of society and the moral standards of France are so different
from those of America that his point of view and his proposals for
reform will not meet with general acceptance, but it is encouraging to
find a dramatist who realizes the importance of being earnest and who
uses his art in defense of virtue instead of its destruction.

Other comments follow, showing the great interest manifested in the play
and the belief in the highest seriousness of its purpose:

There is no uncleanness in facts. The uncleanness is in the glamour, in
the secret imagination. It is in hints, half-truths, and suggestions the
threat to life lies.

This play puts the horrible truth in so living a way, with such clean,
artistic force, that the mind is impressed as it could possibly be
impressed in no other manner.

Best of all, it is the physician who dominates the action. There is no
sentimentalizing. There is no weak and morbid handling of the theme.
The doctor appears in his ideal function, as the modern high-priest of
truth. Around him writhe the victims of ignorance and the criminals
of conventional cruelty. Kind, stern, high-minded, clear-headed, yet
human-hearted, he towers over all, as the master.

This is as it should be. The man to say the word to save the world of
ignorant wretches, cursed by the clouds and darkness a mistaken modesty
has thrown around a life-and-death instinct, is the physician.

The only question is this: Is this play decent? My answer is that it is
the decentest play that has been in New York for a year. It is so decent
that it is religious.--HEARST'S MAGAZINE.

The play is, above all, a powerful plea for the tearing away of the veil
of mystery that has so universally shrouded this subject of the penalty
of sexual immorality. It is a plea for light on this hidden danger, that
fathers and mothers, young men and young women, may know the terrible
price that must be paid, not only by the generation that violates the
law, but by the generations to come. It is a serious question just how
the education of men and women, especially young men and young women, in
the vital matters of sex relationship should be carried on. One thing is
sure, however. The worst possible way is the one which has so often been
followed in the past--not to carry it on at all but to ignore it.--THE

It (DAMAGED GOODS) is, of course, a masterpiece of "thesis drama,"--an
argument, dogmatic, insistent, inescapable, cumulative, between science
and common sense, on one side, and love, of various types, on the other.
It is what Mr. Bernard Shaw has called a "drama of discussion"; it
has the splendid movement of the best Shaw plays, unrelieved--and
undiluted--by Shavian paradox, wit, and irony. We imagine that many
audiences at the Fulton Theater were astonished at the play's showing
of sheer strength as acted drama. Possibly it might not interest the
general public; probably it would be inadvisable to present it to them.
But no thinking person, with the most casual interest in current social
evils, could listen to the version of Richard Bennett, Wilton Lackaye,
and their associates, without being gripped by the power of Brieux's
message.--THE DIAL.

It is a wonder that the world has been so long in getting hold of this
play, which is one of France's most valuable contributions to the drama.
Its history is interesting. Brieux wrote it over ten years ago. Antoine
produced it at his theater and Paris immediately censored it, but soon
thought better of it and removed the ban. During the summer of 1910
it was played in Brussels before crowded houses, for then the city was
thronged with visitors to the exposition. Finally New York got it last
spring and eugenic enthusiasts and doctors everywhere have welcomed it.

A letter to Mr. Bennett from Dr. Hills, Pastor of Plymouth Church,

23 Monroe Street Bklyn. August 1, 1913.

Mr. Richard Bennett, New York City, N.Y. My Dear Mr. Bennett:

During the past twenty-one years since I entered public life, I have
experienced many exciting hours under the influence of reformer, orator
and actor, but, in this mood of retrospection, I do not know that I
have ever passed through a more thrilling, terrible, and yet hopeful
experience than last evening, while I listened to your interpretation of
Eugene Brieux' "DAMAGED GOODS."

I have been following your work with ever deepening interest. It is not
too much to say that you have changed the thinking of the people of our
country as to the social evil. At last, thank God, this conspiracy of
silence is ended. No young man who sees "Damaged Goods" will ever be the
same again. If I wanted to build around an innocent boy buttresses of
fire and granite, and lend him triple armour against temptation and the
assaults of evil, I would put him for one evening under your influence.
That which the teacher, the preacher and the parent have failed to
accomplish it has been given to you to achieve. You have done a work for
which your generation owes you an immeasurable debt of gratitude.

I shall be delighted to have you use my Study of Social Diseases and
Heredity in connection with your great reform.

With all good wishes, I am, my dear Mr. Bennett, Faithfully yours,

Newell Dwight Hillis


It was four o'clock in the morning when George Dupont closed the door
and came down the steps to the street. The first faint streaks of dawn
were in the sky, and he noticed this with annoyance, because he knew
that his hair was in disarray and his whole aspect disorderly; yet he
dared not take a cab, because he feared to attract attention at home.
When he reached the sidewalk, he glanced about him to make sure that no
one had seen him leave the house, then started down the street, his eyes
upon the sidewalk before him.

George had the feeling of the morning after. There are few men in this
world of abundant sin who will not know what the phrase means. The fumes
of the night had evaporated; he was quite sober now, quite free from
excitement. He saw what he had done, and it seemed to him something
black and disgusting.

Never had a walk seemed longer than the few blocks which he had to
traverse to reach his home. He must get there before the maid was
up, before the baker's boy called with the rolls; otherwise, what
explanation could he give?--he who had always been such a moral man, who
had been pointed out by mothers as an example to their sons.

George thought of his own mother, and what she would think if she could
know about his night's adventure. He thought again and again, with a
pang of anguish, of Henriette. Could it be possible that a man who was
engaged, whose marriage contract had actually been signed, who was soon
to possess the love of a beautiful and noble girl--that such a man could
have been weak enough and base enough to let himself be trapped into
such a low action?

He went back over the whole series of events, shuddering at them, trying
to realize how they had happened, trying to excuse himself for them.
He had not intended such a culmination; he had never meant to do such a
thing in his life. He had not thought of any harm when he had accepted
the invitation to the supper party with his old companions from the law
school. Of course, he had known that several of these chums led "fast"
lives--but, then, surely a fellow could go to a friend's rooms for a
lark without harm!

He remembered the girl who had sat by his side at the table. She had
come with a friend who was a married woman, and so he had assumed that
she was all right. George remembered how embarrassed he had been when
first he had noticed her glances at him. But then the wine had begun
to go to his head--he was one of those unfortunate wretches who cannot
drink wine at all. He had offered to take the girl home in a cab, and on
the way he had lost his head.

Oh! What a wretched thing it was. He could hardly believe that it was he
who had spoken those frenzied words; and yet he must have spoken them,
because he remembered them. He remembered that it had taken a long
time to persuade her. He had had to promise her a ring like the one her
married friend wore. Before they entered her home she had made him take
off his shoes, so that the porter might not hear them. This had struck
George particularly, because, even flushed with excitement as he was,
he had not forgotten the warnings his father had given him as to the
dangers of contact with strange women. He had thought to himself, "This
girl must be safe. It is probably the first time she has ever done such
a thing."

But now George could get but little consolation out of that idea. He
was suffering intensely--the emotion described by the poet in the bitter
words about "Time's moving finger having writ." His mind, seeking some
explanation, some justification, went back to the events before that
night. With a sudden pang of yearning, he thought of Lizette. She was a
decent girl, and had kept him decent, and he was lonely without her. He
had been so afraid of being found out that he had given her up when he
became engaged; but now for a while he felt that he would have to break
his resolution, and pay his regular Sunday visit to the little flat in
the working-class portion of Paris.

It was while George was fitting himself for the same career as his
father--that of notary--that he had made the acquaintance of the young
working girl. It may not be easy to believe, but Lizette had really been
a decent girl. She had a family to take care of, and was in need. There
was a grandmother in poor health, a father not much better, and three
little brothers; so Lizette did not very long resist George Dupont, and
he felt quite virtuous in giving her sufficient money to take care of
these unfortunate people. Among people of his class it was considered
proper to take such things if one paid for them.

All the family of this working girl were grateful to him. They adored
him, and they called him Uncle Raoul (for of course he had not been so
foolish as to give them his true name).

Since George was paying for Lizette, he felt he had the right to control
her life. He gave her fair warning concerning his attitude. If she
deceived him he would leave her immediately. He told this to her
relatives also, and so he had them all watching her. She was never
trusted out alone. Every Sunday George went to spend the day with his
little "family," so that his coming became almost a matter of tradition.
He interested her in church affairs--mass and vespers were her regular
occasions for excursions. George rented two seats, and the grandmother
went with her to the services. The simple people were proud to see their
name engraved upon the brass plate of the pew.

The reason for all these precautions was George's terror of disease.
He had been warned by his father as to the dangers which young men
encounter in their amours. And these lessons had sunk deep into George's
heart; he had made up his mind that whatever his friends might do, he,
for one, would protect himself.

That did not mean, of course, that he intended to live a virtuous life;
such was the custom among young men of his class, not had it probably
ever occurred to his father that it was possible for a young man to do
such a thing. The French have a phrase, "l'homme moyen sensuel"--the
average sensual man. And George was such a man. He had no noble
idealisms, no particular reverence for women. The basis of his attitude
was a purely selfish one; he wanted to enjoy himself, and at the same
time to keep out of trouble.

He did not find any happiness in the renunciation which he imposed
upon himself; he had no religious ideas about it. On the contrary,
he suffered keenly, and was bitter because he had no share in the
amusements of his friends. He stuck to his work and forced himself to
keep regular hours, preparing for his law examinations. But all the
time he was longing for adventures. And, of course, this could not go
on forever, for the motive of fear alone is not sufficient to subdue the
sexual urge in a full-blooded young man.

The affair with Lizette might have continued much longer had it not been
for the fact that his father died. He died quite suddenly, while George
was away on a trip. The son came back to console his broken-hearted
mother, and in the two week they spent in the country together the
mother broached a plan to him. The last wish of the dying man had
been that his son should be fixed in life. In the midst of his intense
suffering he had been able to think about the matter, and had named the
girl whom he wished George to marry. Naturally, George waited with some
interest to learn who this might be. He was surprised when his mother
told him that it was his cousin, Henriette Loches.

He could not keep his emotion from revealing itself in his face. "It
doesn't please you?" asked his mother, with a tone disappointment.

"Why no, mother," he answered. "It's not that. It just surprises me."

"But why?" asked the mother. "Henriette is a lovely girl and a good

"Yes, I know," said George; "but then she is my cousin, and--" He
blushed a little with embarrassment. "I had never thought of her in that

Madame Dupont laid her hand upon her son's. "Yes, George," she said
tenderly. "I know. You are such a good boy."

Now, of course, George did not feel that he was quite such a good boy;
but his mother was a deeply religious woman, who had no idea of the
truth about the majority of men. She would never have got over the shock
if he had told her about himself, and so he had to pretend to be just
what she thought him.

"Tell me," she continued, after a pause, "have you never felt the least
bit in love?"

"Why no--I don't think so," George stammered, becoming conscious of a
sudden rise of temperature in his cheeks.

"Because," said his mother, "it is really time that you were settled in
life. Your father said that we should have seen to it before, and now it
is my duty to see to it. It is not good for you to live alone so long."

"But, mother, I have YOU," said George generously.

"Some day the Lord may take me away," was the reply. "I am getting
old. And, George, dear--" Here suddenly her voice began to tremble with
feeling--"I would like to see my baby grandchildren before I go. You
cannot imagine what it would mean to me."

Madame Dupont saw how much this subject distressed her son, so she went
on to the more worldly aspects of the matter. Henriette's father was
well-to-do, and he would give her a good dowry. She was a charming and
accomplished girl. Everybody would consider him most fortunate if the
match could be arranged. Also, there was an elderly aunt to whom Madame
Dupont had spoken, and who was much taken with the idea. She owned a
great deal of property and would surely help the young couple.

George did not see just how he could object to this proposition, even if
he had wanted to. What reason could he give for such a course? He could
not explain that he already had a family--with stepchildren, so to
speak, who adored him. And what could he say to his mother's obsession,
to which she came back again and again--her longing to see her
grandchildren before she died? Madame Dupont waited only long enough for
George to stammer out a few protestations, and then in the next breath
to take them back; after which she proceeded to go ahead with the match.
The family lawyers conferred together, and the terms of the settlement
were worked out and agreed upon. It happened that immediately afterwards
George learned of an opportunity to purchase the practice of a notary,
who was ready to retire from business in two months' time. Henriette's
father consented to advance a portion of her dowry for this purpose.

Thus George was safely started upon the same career as his father, and
this was to him a source of satisfaction which he did not attempt to
deny, either to himself of to any one else. George was a cautious young
man, who came of a frugal and saving stock. He had always been taught
that it was his primary duty to make certain of a reasonable amount of
comfort. From his earliest days, he had been taught to regard material
success as the greatest goal in life, and he would never have dreamed
of engaging himself to a girl without money. But when he had the good
fortune to meet one who possessed desirable personal qualities in
addition to money, he was not in the least barred from appreciating
those qualities. They were, so to speak, the sauce which went with the
meat, and it seemed to him that in this case the sauce was of the very

George--a big fellow of twenty-six, with large, round eyes and a
good-natured countenance--was full blooded, well fed, with a hearty
laugh which spoke of unimpaired contentment, a soul untroubled in its
deeps. He seemed to himself the luckiest fellow in the whole round
world; he could not think what he had done to deserve the good fortune
of possessing such a girl as Henriette. He was ordinarily of a somewhat
sentimental turn--easily influenced by women and sensitive to their
charms. Moreover, his relationship with Lizette had softened him. He had
learned to love the young working girl, and now Henriette, it seemed,
was to reap the benefit of his experience with her.

In fact, he found himself always with memories of Lizette in his
relationships with the girl who was to be his wife. When the engagement
was announced, and he claimed his first kiss from his bride-to-be, as
he placed a ring upon her finger, he remembered the first time he had
kissed Lizette, and a double blush suffused his round countenance. When
he walked arm and arm with Henriette in the garden he remembered how he
had walked just so with the other girl, and he was interested to compare
the words of the two. He remembered what a good time had had when he
had taken Lizette and her little family for a picnic upon one of the
excursion steamers which run down the River Seine. Immediately he
decided that he would like to take Henriette on such a picnic, and he
persuaded an aunt of Henriette's to go with her as a chaperon. George
took his bride-to-be to the same little inn where he had lunch before.

Thus he was always haunted by memories, some of which made him cheerful
and some of which made him mildly sad. He soon got used to the idea, and
did not find it awkward, except when he had to suppress the impulse to
tell Henriette something which Lizette had said, or some funny incident
which had happened in the home of the little family. Sometimes he found
himself thinking that it was a shame to have to suppress these impulses.
There must be something wrong, he thought, with a social system which
made it necessary for him to hide a thing which was so obvious and so
sensible. Here he was, a man twenty-six years of age; he could not
have afforded to marry earlier, nor could he, as he thought, have been
expected to lead a continent life. And he had really loved Lizette; she
was really a good girl. Yet, if Henriette had got any idea of it, she
would have been horrified and indignant--she might even have broken off
the engagement.

And then, too, there was Henriette's father, a personage of great
dignity and importance. M. Loches was a deputy of the French Parliament,
from a district in the provinces. He was a man of upright life, and a
man who made a great deal of that upright life--keeping it on a pedestal
where everyone might observe it. It was impossible to imagine M. Loches
in an undignified or compromising situation--such as the younger man
found himself facing in the matter of Lizette.

The more he thought about it the more nervous and anxious George became.
Then it was decided it would be necessary for him to break with
the girl, and be "good" until the time of his marriage. Dear little
soft-eyed Lizette--he did not dare to face her personally; he could
never bear to say good-by, he felt. Instead, he went to the father,
who as a man could be expected to understand the situation. George was
embarrassed and not a little nervous about it; for although he had never
misrepresented his attitude to the family, one could never feel entirely
free from the possibility of blackmail in such cases. However, Lizette's
father behaved decently, and was duly grateful for the moderate sum of
money which George handed him in parting. He promised to break the news
gently to Lizette, and George went away with his mind made up that he
would never see her again.

This resolution he kept, and he considered himself very virtuous in
doing it. But the truth was that he had grown used to intimacy with a
woman, and was restless without it. And that, he told himself, was why
he yielded to the shameful temptation the night of that fatal supper

He paid for the misadventure liberally in remorse. He felt that he had
been a wretch, that he had disgraced himself forever, that he had proved
himself unworthy of the pure girl he was to marry. So keen was his
feeling that it was several days before he could bring himself to see
Henriette again; and when he went, it was with a mind filled with a
brand-new set of resolutions. It was the last time that he would ever
fall into error. He would be a new man from then on. He thanked God
that there was no chance of his sin being known, that he might have an
opportunity to prove his new determination.

So intense were his feelings that he could not help betraying a part of
them to Henriette. They sat in the garden one soft summer evening, with
Henriette's mother occupied with her crocheting at a decorous distance.
George, in reverent and humble mood, began to drop vague hints that he
was really unworthy of his bride-to-be. He said that he had not always
been as good as he should have been; he said that her purity and
sweetness had awakened in him new ideals; so that he felt his old life
had been full of blunders. Henriette, of course, had but the vaguest of
ideas as to what the blunders of a tender and generous young man like
George might be. So she only loved him the more for his humility, and
was flattered to have such a fine effect upon him, to awaken in him such
moods of exaltation. When he told her that all men were bad, and that
no man was worthy of such a beautiful love, she was quite ravished, and
wiped away tears from her eyes.

It would have been a shame to spoil such a heavenly mood by telling the
real truth. Instead, George contented himself with telling of the new
resolutions he had formed. After all, they were the things which really
mattered; for Henriette was going to live with his future, not with his

It seemed to George a most wonderful thing, this innocence of a young
girl, which enabled her to move through a world of wickedness with
unpolluted mind. It was a touching thing; and also, as a prudent young
man could not help realizing, a most convenient thing. He realized the
importance of preserving it, and thought that if he ever had a daughter,
he would protect her as rigidly as Henriette had been protected. He
made haste to shy off from the subject of his "badness" and to turn the
conversation with what seemed a clever jest.

"If I am going to be so good," he said, "don't forget that you will have
to be good also!"

"I will try," said Henriette, who was still serious.

"You will have to try hard," he persisted. "You will find that you have
a very jealous husband."

"Will I?" said Henriette, beaming with happiness--for when a woman is
very much in love she doesn't in the least object to the man's being

"Yes, indeed," smiled George. "I'll always be watching you."

"Watching me?" echoed the girl with a surprised look.

And immediately he felt ashamed of himself for his jest. There could be
no need to watch Henriette, and it was bad taste even to joke about it
at such a time. That was one of the ideas which he had brought with him
from his world of evil.

The truth was, however, that George would always be a suspicious
husband; nothing could ever change that fact, for there was something in
his own conscience which he could not get out, and which would make it
impossible for him to be at ease as a married man. It was the memory of
something which had happened earlier in his life before he met Lizette.
There had been one earlier experience, with the wife of his dearest
friend. She had been much younger than her husband, and had betrayed an
interest in George, who had yielded to the temptation. For several years
the intrigue continued, and George considered it a good solution of a
young man's problem. There had been no danger of contamination, for he
knew that his friend was a man of pure and rigid morals, a jealous
man who watched his wife, and did not permit her to contract those new
relations which are always dangerous. As for George, he helped in this
worthy work, keeping the woman in terror of some disease. He told her
that almost all men were infected, for he hoped by this means to keep
her from deceiving him.

I am aware that this may seem a dreadful story. As I do not want anyone
to think too ill of George Dupont, I ought, perhaps, to point out that
people feel differently about these matters in France. In judging the
unfortunate young man, we must judge him by the customs of his own
country, and not by ours. In France, they are accustomed to what is
called the MARIAGE DE CONVENANCE. The young girl is not permitted to go
about and make her own friends and decide which one of them she prefers
for her husband; on the contrary, she is strictly guarded, her training
often is of a religious nature, and her marriage is a matter of
business, to be considered and decided by her parents and those of the
young man. Now, whatever we may think right, it is humanly certain that
where marriages are made in that way, the need of men and women for
sympathy and for passionate interest will often lead to the forming of
irregular relationships after marriage. It is not possible to present
statistics as to the number of such irregular relationships in Parisian
society; but in the books which he read and in the plays which he saw,
George found everything to encourage him to think that it was a romantic
and delightful thing to keep up a secret intrigue with the wife of his
best friend.

It should also, perhaps, be pointed out that we are here telling the
truth, and the whole truth, about George Dupont; and that it is not
customary to tell this about men, either in real life or in novels.
There is a great deal of concealment in the world about matters of sex;
and in such matters the truth-telling man is apt to suffer in reputation
in comparison with the truth-concealing one.

Nor had George really been altogether callous about the thing. It had
happened that his best friend had died in his arms; and this had so
affected the guilty pair that they had felt their relationship was no
longer possible. She had withdrawn to nurse her grief alone, and
George had been so deeply affected that he had avoided affairs and
entanglements with women until his meeting with Lizette.

All this was now in the far distant past, but it had made a deeper
impression upon George than he perhaps realized, and it was now working
in his mind and marring his happiness. Here was a girl who loved him
with a noble and unselfish and whole-hearted love--and yet he would
never be able to trust her as she deserved, but would always have
suspicions lurking in the back of his mind. He would be unable to have
his friends intimate in his home, because of the memory of what he had
once done to a friend. It was a subtle kind of punishment. But so it
is that Nature often finds ways of punishing us, without our even being
aware of it.

That was all for the future, however. At present, George was happy. He
put his black sin behind him, feeling that he had obtained absolution
by his confession to Henriette. Day by day, as he realized his good
fortune, his round face beamed with more and yet more joy.

He went for a little trip to Henriette's home in the country. It was
a simple village, and they took walks in the country, and stopped to
refresh themselves at a farmhouse occupied by one of M. Loches' tenants.
Here was a rosy and buxom peasant woman, with a nursing child in her
arms. She was destined a couple of years later to be the foster-mother
of Henriette's little girl and to play an important part in her life.
But the pair had no idea of that at present. They simply saw a proud
and happy mother, and Henriette played with the baby, giving vent to
childish delight. Then suddenly she looked up and saw that George was
watching her, and as she read his thoughts a beautiful blush suffused
her cheeks.

As for George, he turned away and went out under the blue sky in a kind
of ecstasy. Life seemed very wonderful to him just then; he had found
its supreme happiness, which was love. He was really getting quite mad
about Henriette, he told himself. He could hardly believe that the day
was coming when he would be able to clasp her in his arms.

But in the blue sky of George's happiness there was one little cloud of
storm. As often happens with storm-clouds, it was so small that at first
he paid no attention to it at all.

He noted upon his body one day a tiny ulcer. At first he treated it with
salve purchased from an apothecary. Then after a week or two, when this
had no effect, he began to feel uncomfortable. He remembered suddenly he
had heard about the symptoms of an unmentionable, dreadful disease, and
a vague terror took possession of him.

For days he tried to put it to one side. The idea was nonsense, it was
absurd in connection with a woman so respectable! But the thought would
not be put away, and finally he went to a school friend, who was a man
of the world, and got him to talk on the subject. Of course, George had
to be careful, so that his friend should not suspect that he had any
special purpose in mind.

The friend was willing to talk. It was a vile disease, he said; but one
was foolish to bother about it, because it was so rare. There were other
diseases which fellows got, which nearly every fellow had, and to which
none of them paid any attention. But one seldom met anyone who had the
red plague that George dreaded.

"And yet," he added, "according to the books, it isn't so uncommon.
I suppose the truth is that people hide it. A chap naturally wouldn't
tell, when he knew it would damn him for life."

George had a sick sensation inside of him. "Is it as bad as that?" he

"Of course," said the other, "Should you want to have anything to do
with a person who had it? Should you be willing to room with him or
travel with him? You wouldn't even want to shake hands with him!"

"No, I suppose not," said George, feebly.

"I remember," continued the other, "an old fellow who used to live out
in the country near me. He was not so very old, either, but he looked
it. He had to be pushed around in a wheel-chair. People said he had
locomotor ataxia, but that really meant syphilis. We boys used to poke
all kinds of fun at him because one windy day his hat and his wig were
blown off together, and we discovered that he was as bald as an egg.
We used to make jokes about his automobile, as we called it. It had a
little handle in front, instead of a steering-wheel, and a man behind to
push, instead of an engine."

"How horrible!" remarked George with genuine feeling.

"I remember the poor devil had a paralysis soon after," continued the
friend, quite carelessly. "He could not steer any more, and also he lost
his voice. When you met him he would look at you as it he thought he was
talking, but all he could say was 'Ga-ga-ga'."

George went away from this conversation in a cold sweat. He told himself
over and over again that he was a fool, but still he could not get the
hellish idea out of his mind. He found himself brooding over it all day
and lying awake at night, haunted by images of himself in a wheel-chair,
and without any hair on his head. He realized that the sensible thing
would be for him to go to a doctor and make certain about his condition;
but he could not bring himself to face the ordeal--he was ashamed to
admit to a doctor that he had laid himself open to such a taint.

He began to lose the radiant expression from his round and rosy face. He
had less appetite, and his moods of depression became so frequent that
he could not hide then even from Henriette. She asked him once or twice
if there were not something the matter with him, and he laughed--a
forced and hurried laugh--and told her that he had sat up too late the
night before, worrying over the matter of his examinations. Oh, what a
cruel thing it was that a man who stood in the very gateway of such
a garden of delight should be tormented and made miserable by this
loathsome idea!

The disturbing symptom still continued, and so at last George purchased
a medical book, dealing with the subject of the disease. Then, indeed,
he opened up a chamber of horrors; he made up his mind an abiding place
of ghastly images. In the book there were pictures of things so awful
that he turned white, and trembled like a leaf, and had to close the
volume and hide it in the bottom of his trunk. But he could not banish
the pictures from his mind. Worst of all, he could not forget the
description of the first symptom of the disease, which seemed to
correspond exactly with his own. So at last he made up his mind he must
ascertain definitely the truth about his condition.

He began to think over plans for seeing a doctor. He had heard somewhere
a story about a young fellow who had fallen into the hands of a quack,
and been ruined forever. So he decided that he would consult only the
best authority.

He got the names of the best-known works on the subject from a
bookstore, and found that the author of one of these books was
practicing in Paris as a specialist. Two or three days elapsed before he
was able to get up the courage to call on this doctor. And oh, the shame
and horror of sitting in his waiting-room with the other people, none of
whom dared to look each other in the eyes! They must all be afflicted,
George thought, and he glanced at them furtively, looking for the
various symptoms of which he had read. Or were there, perhaps, some like
himself--merely victims of a foolish error, coming to have the hag of
dread pulled from off their backs?

And then suddenly, while he was speculating, there stood the doctor,
signaling to him. His turn had come!


The doctor was a man about forty years of age, robust, with every
appearance of a strong character. In the buttonhole of the frock coat
he wore was a red rosette, the decoration of some order. Confused and
nervous as George was, he got a vague impression of the physician's
richly furnished office, with its bronzes, marbles and tapestries.

The doctor signaled to the young man to be seated in the chair before
his desk. George complied, and then, as he wiped away the perspiration
from his forehead, stammered out a few words, explaining his errand. Of
course, he said, it could not be true, but it was a man's duty not
to take any chances in such a matter. "I have not been a man of loose
life," he added; "I have not taken so many chances as other men."

The doctor cut him short with the brief remark that one chance was all
that was necessary. Instead of discussing such questions, he would make
an examination. "We do not say positively in these cases until we have
made a blood test. That is the one way to avoid the possibility of

A drop of blood was squeezed out of George's finger on to a little glass
plate. The doctor retired to an adjoining room, and the victim sat
alone in the office, deriving no enjoyment from the works of art which
surrounded him, but feeling like a prisoner who sits in the dock with
his life at stake while the jury deliberates.

The doctor returned, calm and impassive, and seated himself in his

"Well, doctor?" asked George. He was trembling with terror.

"Well," was the reply, "there is no doubt whatever."

George wiped his forehead. He could not credit the words. "No doubt
whatever? In what sense?"

"In the bad sense," said the other.

He began to write a prescription, without seeming to notice how George
turned page with terror. "Come," he said, after a silence, "you must
have known the truth pretty well."

"No, no, sir!" exclaimed George.

"Well," said the other, "you have syphilis."

George was utterly stunned. "My God!" he exclaimed.

The doctor, having finished his prescription, looked up and observed his
condition. "Don't trouble yourself, sir. Out of every seven men you meet
upon the street, in society, or at the theater, there is at least one
who has been in your condition. One out of seven--fifteen per cent!"

George was staring before him. He spoke low, as if to himself. "I know
what I am going to do."

"And I know also," said the doctor, with a smile. "There is your
prescription. You are going to take it to the drugstore and have it put

George took the prescription, mechanically, but whispered, "No, sir."

"Yes, sir, you are going to do as everybody else does."

"No, because my situation is not that of everybody else. I know what I
am going to do."

Said the doctor: "Five times out of ten, in the chair where you are
sitting, people talk like that, perfectly sincerely. Each one believes
himself more unhappy than all the others; but after thinking it over,
and listening to me, they understand that this disease is a companion
with whom one can live. Just as in every household, one gets along at
the cost of mutual concessions, that's all. Come, sir, I tell you again,
there is nothing about it that is not perfectly ordinary, perfectly
natural, perfectly common; it is an accident which can happen to any
one. It is a great mistake that people speak if this as the 'French
Disease,' for there is none which is more universal. Under the picture
of this disease, addressing myself to those who follow the oldest
profession in the world, I would write the famous phrase: 'Here is your
master. It is, it was, or it must be.'"

George was putting the prescription into the outside pocket of his
coat, stupidly, as if he did not know what he was doing. "But, sir," he
exclaimed, "I should have been spared!"

"Why?" inquired the other. "Because you are a man of position, because
you are rich? Look around you, sir. See these works of art in my
room. Do you imagine that such things have been presented to me by

"But, Doctor," cried George, with a moan, "I have never been a
libertine. There was never any one, you understand me, never any one
could have been more careful in his pleasures. If I were to tell you
that in all my life I have only had two mistresses, what would you
answer to that?"

"I would answer, that a single one would have been sufficient to bring
you to me."

"No, sir!" cried George. "It could not have been either of those women."
He went on to tell the doctor about his first mistress, and then about
Lizette. Finally he told about Henriette, how much he adored her. He
could really use such a word--he loved her most tenderly. She was so
good--and he had thought himself so lucky!

As he went on, he could hardly keep from going to pieces. "I had
everything," he exclaimed, "everything a man needed! All who knew me
envied me. And then I had to let those fellows drag me off to that
miserable supper-party! And now here I am! My future is ruined, my whole
existence poisoned! What is to become of me? Everybody will avoid me--I
shall be a pariah, a leper!"

He paused, and then in sudden wild grief exclaimed, "Come, now! Would
it not be better that I should take myself out of the way? At least, I
should not suffer any more. You see that there could not be any one
more unhappy than myself--not any one, I tell you, sir, not any one!"
Completely overcome, he began to weep in his handkerchief.

The doctor got up, and went to him. "You must be a man," he said, "and
not cry like a child."

"But sir," cried the young man, with tears running down his cheeks,
"if I had led a wild life, if I had passed my time in dissipation with
chorus girls, then I could understand it. Then I would say that I had
deserved it."

The doctor exclaimed with emphasis, "No, no! You would not say it.
However, it is of no matter--go on."

"I tell you that I would say it. I am honest, and I would say that I
had deserved it. But no, I have worked, I have been a regular grind. And
now, when I think of the shame that is in store for me, the disgusting
things, the frightful catastrophes to which I am condemned--"

"What is all this you are telling me?" asked the doctor, laughing.

"Oh, I know, I know!" cried the other, and repeated what his friend
had told him about the man in a wheel-chair. "And they used to call me
handsome Raoul! That was my name--handsome Raoul!"

"Now, my dear sir," said the doctor, cheerfully, "wipe your eyes one
last time, blow your nose, put your handkerchief into your pocket, and
hear me dry-eyed."

George obeyed mechanically. "But I give you fair warning," he said, "you
are wasting your time."

"I tell you--" began the other.

"I know exactly what you are going to tell me!" cried George.

"Well, in that case, there is nothing more for you to do here--run

"Since I am here," said the patient submissively, "I will hear you."

"Very well, then. I tell you that if you have the will and the
perseverance, none of the things you fear will happen to you."

"Of course, it is your duty to tell me that."

"I will tell you that there are one hundred thousand like you in
Paris, alert, and seemingly well. Come, take what you were just
saying--wheel-chairs. One doesn't see so many of them."

"No, that's true," said George.

"And besides," added the doctor, "a good many people who ride in them
are not there for the cause you think. There is no more reason why
you should be the victim of a catastrophe than any of the one hundred
thousand. The disease is serious, nothing more."

"You admit that it is a serious disease?" argued George.


"One of the most serious?"

"Yes, but you have the good fortune--"

"The GOOD fortune?"

"Relatively, if you please. You have the good fortune to be infected
with one of the diseases over which we have the most certain control."

"Yes, yes," exclaimed George, "but the remedies are worse than the

"You deceive yourself," replied the other.

"You are trying to make me believe that I can be cured?"

"You can be."

"And that I am not condemned?"

"I swear it to you."

"You are not deceiving yourself, you are not deceiving me? Why, I was

The doctor laughed, contemptuously. "You were told, you were told! I'll
wager that you know the laws of the Chinese concerning party-walls."

"Yes, naturally," said George. "But I don't see what they have to do
with it."

"Instead of teaching you such things," was the reply, "it would have
been a great deal better to have taught you about the nature and cause
of diseases of this sort. Then you would have known how to avoid the
contagion. Such knowledge should be spread abroad, for it is the
most important knowledge in the world. It should be found in every

This remark gave George something of a shock, for his father had owned
a little paper in the provinces, and he had a sudden vision of the way
subscribers would have fallen off, if he had printed even so much as the
name of this vile disease.

"And yet," pursued the doctor, "you publish romances about adultery!"

"Yes," said George, "that's what the readers want."

"They don't want the truth about venereal diseases," exclaimed the
other. "If they knew the full truth, they would no longer think that
adultery was romantic and interesting."

He went on to give his advice as to the means of avoiding such diseases.
There was really but one rule. It was: To love but one woman, to take
her as a virgin, and to love her so much that she would never deceive
you. "Take that from me," added the doctor, "and teach it to your son,
when you have one."

George's attention was caught by this last sentence.

"You mean that I shall be able to have children?" he cried.

"Certainly," was the reply.

"Healthy children?"

"I repeat it to you; if you take care of yourself properly for a long
time, conscientiously, you have little to fear."

"That's certain?"

"Ninety-nine times out of a hundred."

George felt as if he had suddenly emerged from a dungeon. "Why, then,"
he exclaimed, "I shall be able to marry!"

"You will be able to marry," was the reply.

"You are not deceiving me? You would not give me that hope, you would
not expose me? How soon will I be able to marry?"

"In three or four years," said the doctor.

"What!" cried George in consternation. "In three or four years? Not

"Not before."

"How is that? Am I going to be sick all that time? Why, you told me just

Said the doctor: "The disease will no longer be dangerous to you,
yourself--but you will be dangerous to others."

"But," the young man cried, in despair, "I am to be married a month from

"That is impossible."

"But I cannot do any differently. The contract is ready! The banns have
been published! I have given my word!"

"Well, you are a great one!" the doctor laughed. "Just now you were
looking for your revolver! Now you want to be married within the month."

"But, Doctor, it is necessary!"

"But I forbid it."

"As soon as I knew that the disease is not what I imagined, and that I
could be cured, naturally I didn't want to commit suicide. And as soon
as I make up my mind not to commit suicide, I have to take up my regular
life. I have to keep my engagements; I have to get married."

"No," said the doctor.

"Yes, yes!" persisted George, with blind obstinacy. "Why, Doctor, if I
didn't marry it would be a disaster. You are talking about something
you don't understand. I, for my part--it is not that I am anxious to be
married. As I told you, I had almost a second family. Lizette's little
brothers adored me. But it is my aunt, an old maid; and, also, my mother
is crazy about the idea. If I were to back out now, she would die of
chagrin. My aunt would disinherit me, and she is the one who has the
family fortune. Then, too, there is my father-in-law, a regular dragoon
for his principles--severe, violent. He never makes a joke of serious
things, and I tell you it would cost me dear, terribly dear. And,
besides, I have given my word."

"You must take back your word."

"You still insist?" exclaimed George, in despair. "But then, suppose
that it were possible, how could I take back my signature which I put at
the bottom of the deed? I have pledged myself to pay in two months for
the attorney's practice I have purchased!"

"Sir," said the doctor, "all these things--"

"You are going to tell me that I was lacking in prudence, that I should
never have disposed of my wife's dowry until after the honeymoon!"

"Sir," said the doctor, again, "all these considerations are foreign to
me. I am a physician, and nothing but a physician, and I can only
tell you this: If you marry before three or four years, you will be a

George broke out with a wild exclamation. "No sir, you are not merely a
physician! You are also a confessor! You are not merely a scientist; and
it is not enough for you that you observe me as you would some lifeless
thing in your laboratory, and say, 'You have this; science says that;
now go along with you.' All my existence depends upon you. It is
your duty to listen to me, because when you know everything you will
understand me, and you will find some way to cure me within a month."

"But," protested the doctor, "I wear myself out telling you that such
means do not exist. I shall not be certain of your cure, as much as any
one can be certain, in less than three or four years."

George was almost beside himself. "I tell you you must find some means!
Listen to me, sir--if I don't get married I don't get the dowry! And
will you tell me how I can pay the notes I have signed?"

"Oh," said the doctor, dryly, "if that is the question, it is very
simple--I will give you a plan to get out of the affair. You will go
and get acquainted with some rich man; you will do everything you can to
gain his confidence; and when you have succeeded, you will plunder him."

George shook his head. "I am not in any mood for joking."

"I am not joking," replied his adviser. "Rob that man, assassinate him
even--that would be no worse crime than you would commit in taking a
young girl in good health in order to get a portion of her dowry,
when at the same time you would have to expose her to the frightful
consequences of the disease which you would give her."

"Frightful consequences?" echoed George.

"Consequences of which death would not be the most frightful."

"But, sir, you were saying to me just now--"

"Just now I did not tell you everything. Even reduced, suppressed a
little by our remedies, the disease remains mysterious, menacing, and
in its sum, sufficiently grave. So it would be an infamy to expose your
fiancee in order to avoid an inconvenience, however great that might

But George was still not to be convinced. Was it certain that this
misfortune would befall Henriette, even with the best attention?

Said the other: "I do not wish to lie to you. No, it is not absolutely
certain, it is probable. And there is another truth which I wish to
tell you now: our remedies are not infallible. In a certain number of
cases--a very small number, scarcely five per cent--they have remained
without effect. You might be one of those exceptions, your wife might be
one. What then?"

"I will employ a word you used just now, yourself. We should have to
expect the worst catastrophes."

George sat in a state of complete despair.

"Tell me what to do, then," he said.

"I can tell you only one thing: don't marry. You have a most serious
blemish. It is as if you owed a debt. Perhaps no one will ever come to
claim it; on the other hand, perhaps a pitiless creditor will come all
at once, presenting a brutal demand for immediate payment. Come now--you
are a business man. Marriage is a contract; to marry without saying
anything--that means to enter into a bargain by means of passive
dissimulation. That's the term, is it not? It is dishonesty, and it
ought to come under the law."

George, being a lawyer, could appreciate the argument, and could think
of nothing to say to it.

"What shall I do?" he asked.

The other answered, "Go to your father-in-law and tell him frankly the

"But," cried the young man, wildly, "there will be no question then of
three or four years' delay. He will refuse his consent altogether."

"If that is the case," said the doctor, "don't tell him anything."

"But I have to give him a reason, or I don't know what he will do. He
is the sort of man to give himself to the worst violence, and again my
fiancee would be lost to me. Listen, doctor. From everything I have said
to you, you may perhaps think I am a mercenary man. It is true that I
want to get along in the world, that is only natural. But Henriette has
such qualities; she is so much better than I, that I love her, really,
as people love in novels. My greatest grief--it is not to give up the
practice I have bought--although, indeed, it would be a bitter blow to
me; my greatest grief would be to lose Henriette. If you could only see
her, if you only knew her--then you would understand. I have her picture

The young fellow took out his card-case. And offered a photograph to the
doctor, who gently refused it. The other blushed with embarrassment.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "I am ridiculous. That happens to me,
sometimes. Only, put yourself in my place--I love her so!" His voice

"My dear boy," said the doctor, feelingly, "that is exactly why you
ought not to marry her."

"But," he cried, "if I back out without saying anything they will guess
the truth, and I shall be dishonored."

"One is not dishonored because one is ill."

"But with such a disease! People are so stupid. I myself, yesterday--I
should have laughed at anyone who had got into such a plight; I should
have avoided him, I should have despised him!" And suddenly George
broke down again. "Oh!" he cried, "if I were the only one to suffer; but
she--she is in love with me. I swear it to you! She is so good; and she
will be so unhappy!"

The doctor answered, "She would be unhappier later on."

"It will be a scandal!" George exclaimed.

"You will avoid one far greater," the other replied.

Suddenly George set his lips with resolution. He rose from his seat. He
took several twenty-franc pieces from his pocket and laid them quietly
upon the doctor's desk--paying the fee in cash, so that he would not
have to give his name and address. He took up his gloves, his cane and
his hat, and rose.

"I will think it over," he said. "I thank you, Doctor. I will come back
next week as you have told me. That is--probably I will."

He was about to leave.

The doctor rose, and he spoke in a voice of furious anger. "No," he
said, "I shan't see you next week, and you won't even think it over. You
came here knowing what you had; you came to ask advice of me, with the
intention of paying no heed to it, unless it conformed to your wishes.
A superficial honesty has driven you to take that chance in order to
satisfy your conscience. You wanted to have somebody upon whom you could
put off, bye and bye, the consequences of an act whose culpability you
understand! No, don't protest! Many of those who come here think and act
as you think, and as you wish to act; but the marriage made against
my will has generally been the source of such calamities that now I am
always afraid of not having been persuasive enough, and it even seems to
me that I am a little to blame for these misfortunes. I should have been
able to prevent them; they would not have happened if those who are the
authors of them knew what I know and had seen what I have seen. Swear to
me, sir, that you are going to break off that marriage!"

George was greatly embarrassed, and unwilling to reply. "I cannot swear
to you at all, Doctor; I can only tell you again that I will think it

"That WHAT over?"

"What you have told me."

"What I have told you is true! You cannot bring any new objections; and
I have answered those which you have presented to me; therefore, your
mind ought to be made up."

Groping for a reply, George hesitated. He could not deny that he had
made inquiry about these matters before he had come to the doctor. But
he said that he was not al all certain that he had this disease. The
doctor declared it, and perhaps it was true, but the most learned
physicians were sometimes deceived.

He remembered something he had read in one of the medical books. "Dr.
Ricord maintains that after a certain period the disease is no longer
contagious. He has proven his contentions by examples. Today you produce
new examples to show that he is wrong! Now, I want to do what's right,
but surely I have the right to think it over. And when I think it
over, I realize that all the evils with which you threaten me are only
probable evils. In spite of your desire to terrify me, you have been
forced to admit that possibly my marriage would not have any troublesome
consequence for my wife."

The doctor found difficulty in restraining himself. But he said, "Go on.
I will answer you afterwards."

And George blundered ahead in his desperation. "Your remedies are
powerful, you tell me; and for the calamities of which you speak to
befall me, I would have to be among the rare exceptions--also my
wife would have to be among the number of those rare exceptions. If a
mathematician were to apply the law of chance to these facts, the result
of his operation would show but slight chance of a catastrophe, as
compared with the absolute certainty of a series of misfortunes,
sufferings, troubles, tears, and perhaps tragic accidents which
the breaking of my engagement would cause. So I say that the
mathematician--who is, even more than you, a man of science, a man of
a more infallible science--the mathematician would conclude that wisdom
was not with you doctors, but with me."

"You believe it, sir!" exclaimed the other. "But you deceive yourself."
And he continued, driving home his point with a finger which seemed to
George to pierce his very soul. "Twenty cases identical with your own
have been patiently observed, from the beginning to the end. Nineteen
times the woman was infected by her husband; you hear me, sir, nineteen
times out of twenty! You believe that the disease is without danger, and
you take to yourself the right to expose your wife to what you call the
chance of your being one of those exceptions, for whom our remedies
are without effect. Very well; it is necessary that you should know the
disease which your wife, without being consulted, will run a chance of
contracting. Take that book, sir; it is the work of my teacher. Read it
yourself. Here, I have marked the passage."

He held out the open book; but George could not lift a hand to take it.

"You do not wish to read it?" the other continued. "Listen to me."
And in a voice trembling with passion, he read: "'I have watched the
spectacle of an unfortunate young woman, turned into a veritable monster
by means of a syphilitic infection. Her face, or rather let me say
what was left of her face, was nothing but a flat surface seamed with

George covered his face, exclaiming, "Enough, sir! Have mercy!"

But the other cried, "No, no! I will go to the very end. I have a
duty to perform, and I will not be stopped by the sensibility of your

He went on reading: "'Of the upper lip not a trace was left; the ridge
of the upper gums appeared perfectly bare.'" But then at the young man's
protests, his resolution failed him. "Come," he said, "I will stop. I am
sorry for you--you who accept for another person, for the woman you say
you love, the chance of a disease which you cannot even endure to hear
described. Now, from whom did that woman get syphilis? It is not I who
am speaking, it is the book. 'From a miserable scoundrel who was not
afraid to enter into matrimony when he had a secondary eruption.' All
that was established later on--'and who, moreover, had thought it best
not to let his wife be treated for fear of awakening her suspicions!'"

The doctor closed the book with a bang. "What that man has done, sir, is
what you want to do."

George was edging toward the door; he could no longer look the doctor in
the eye. "I should deserve all those epithets and still more brutal ones
if I should marry, knowing that my marriage would cause such horrors.
But that I do not believe. You and your teachers--you are specialists,
and consequently you are driven to attribute everything to the disease
you make the subject of your studies. A tragic case, an exceptional
case, holds a kind of fascination for you; you think it can never be
talked about enough."

"I have heard that argument before," said the doctor, with an effort at

"Let me go on, I beg you," pleaded George. "You have told me that out of
every seven men there is one syphilitic. You have told me that there are
one hundred thousand in Paris, coming and going, alert, and apparently

"It is true," said the doctor, "that there are one hundred thousand
who are actually at this moment not visibly under the influence of the
disease. But many thousands have passed into our hospitals, victims of
the most frightful ravages that our poor bodies can support. These--you
do not see them, and they do not count for you. But again, if it
concerned no one but yourself, you might be able to argue thus. What I
declare to you, what I affirm with all the violence of my conviction,
is that you have not the right to expose a human creature to such
chances--rare, as I know, but terrible, as I know still better. What
have you to answer to that?"

"Nothing," stammered George, brought to his knees at last. "You are
right about that. I don't know what to think."

"And in forbidding you marriage," continued the doctor, "is it the same
as if I forbade it forever? Is it the same as if I told you that you
could never be cured? On the contrary, I hold out to you every hope; but
I demand of you a delay of three or four years, because it will take me
that time to find out if you are among the number of those unfortunate
ones whom I pity with all my heart, for whom the disease is without
mercy; because during that time you will be dangerous to your wife and
to your children. The children I have not yet mentioned to you."

Here the doctor's voice trembled slightly. He spoke with moving
eloquence. "Come, sir, you are an honest man; you are too young for such
things not to move you; you are not insensible to duty. It is impossible
that I shan't be able to find a way to your heart, that I shan't be
able to make you obey me. My emotion in speaking to you proves that I
appreciate your suffering, that I suffer with you. It is in the name of
my sincerity that I implore you. You have admitted it--that you have not
the right to expose your wife to such miseries. But it is not only your
wife that you strike; you may attack in her your own children. I exclude
you for a moment from my thought--you and her. It is in the name of
these innocents that I implore you; it is the future, it is the race
that I defend. Listen to me, listen to me! Out of the twenty households
of which I spoke, only fifteen had children; these fifteen had
twenty-eight. Do you know how many out of these twenty-eight survived?
Three, sir! Three out of twenty-eight! Syphilis is above everything a
murderer of children. Herod reigns in France, and over all the earth,
and begins each year his massacre of the innocents; and if it be not
blasphemy against the sacredness of life, I say that the most happy are
those who have disappeared. Visit our children's hospitals! We know too
well the child of syphilitic parents; the type is classical; the doctors
can pick it out anywhere. Those little old creatures who have the
appearance of having already lived, and who have kept the stigmata of
all out infirmities, of all our decay. They are the victims of fathers
who have married, being ignorant of what you know--things which I should
like to go and cry out in the public places."

The doctor paused, and then in a solemn voice continued: "I have told
you all, without exaggeration. Think it over. Consider the pros and
cons; sum up the possible misfortunes and the certain miseries. But
disregard yourself, and consider that there are in one side of the
scales the misfortunes of others, and in the other your own. Take care
that you are just."

George was at last overcome. "Very well," he said, "I give way. I
won't get married. I will invent some excuse; I will get a delay of six
months. More than that, I cannot do."

The doctor exclaimed, "I need three years--I need four years!"

"No, Doctor!" persisted George. "You can cure me in less time than

The other answered, "No! No! No!"

George caught him by the hand, imploringly. "Yes! Science in all

"Science is not God," was the reply. "There are no longer any miracles."

"If only you wanted to do it!" cried the young man, hysterically. "You
are a learned man; seek, invent, find something! Try some new plan with
me; give me double the dose, ten times the does; make me suffer. I give
myself up to you; I will endure everything--I swear it! There ought to
be some way to cure me within six months. Listen to me! I tell you I
can't answer for myself with that delay. Come; it is in the name of my
wife, in the name of my children, that I implore you. Do something for

The doctor had reached the limit of his patience. "Enough, sir!" he
cried. "Enough!"

But nothing could stop the wretched man. "On my knees!" he cried. "I
put myself on my knees before you! Oh! If only you would do it! I would
bless you; I would adore you, as one adores a god! All my gratitude, all
my life--half my fortune! For mercy's sake, Doctor, do something; invent
something; make some discovery--have pity!"

The doctor answered gravely, "Do you wish me to do more for you than for
the others?"

George answered, unblushingly, 'answered, unblushingly, "Yes!" He was
beside himself with terror and distress.

The other's reply was delivered in a solemn tone. "Understand, sir,
for every one of out patients we do all that we can, whether it be the
greatest personage, or the last comer to out hospital clinic. We have no
secrets in reserve for those who are more fortunate, or less fortunate
than the others, and who are in a hurry to be cured."

George gazed at him for a moment in bewilderment and despair, and then
suddenly bowed his head. "Good-by, Doctor," he answered.

"Au revoir, sir," the other corrected--with what proved to be prophetic
understanding. For George was destined to see him again--even though he
had made up his mind to the contrary!


George Dupont had the most important decision of his life to make; but
there was never very much doubt what his decision would be. One the one
hand was the definite certainty that if he took the doctor's advice, he
would wreck his business prospects, and perhaps also lose the woman he
loved. On the other hand were vague and uncertain possibilities which it
was difficult for him to make real to himself. It was all very well to
wait a while to be cured of the dread disease; but to wait three or four
years--that was simply preposterous!

He decided to consult another physician. He would find one this time who
would not be so particular, who would be willing to take some trouble
to cure him quickly. He began to notice the advertisements which
were scattered over the pages of the newspapers he read. There were
apparently plenty of doctors in Paris who could cure him, who were
willing to guarantee to cure him. After much hesitation, he picked out
one whose advertisement sounded the most convincing.

The office was located in a cheap quarter. It was a dingy place, not
encumbered with works of art, but with a few books covered with dust.
The doctor himself was stout and greasy, and he rubbed his hands with
anticipation at the sight of so prosperous-looking a patient. But he was
evidently a man of experience, for he knew exactly what was the matter
with George, almost without the formality of an examination. Yes,
he could cure him, quickly, he said. There had recently been great
discoveries made--new methods which had not reached the bulk of the
profession. He laughed at the idea of three or four years. That was
the way with those specialists! When one got forty francs for a
consultation, naturally, one was glad to drag out the case. There were
tricks in the medical trade, as in all others. A doctor had to live;
when he had a big name, he had to live expensively.

The new physician wrote out two prescriptions, and patted George on the
shoulder as he went away. There was no need for him to worry; he would
surely be well in three months. If he would put off his marriage for six
months, he would be doing everything within reason. And meantime, there
was no need for him to worry himself--things would come out all right.
So George went away, feeling as if a mountain had been lifted from his

He went to see Henriette that same evening, to get the matter
settled. "Henriette," he said, "I have to tell you something very
important--something rather painful. I hope you won't let it disturb you
too much."

She was gazing at him in alarm. "What is it?"

"Why," he said, blushing in spite of himself, and regretting that he had
begun the matter so precipitately, "for some time I've not been feeling
quite well. I've been having a slight cough. Have you noticed it?"

"Why no!" exclaimed Henriette, anxiously.

"Well, today I went to see a doctor, and he says that there is a
possibility--you understand it is nothing very serious--but it might
be--I might possibly have lung trouble."

"George!" cried the girl in horror.

He put his hand upon hers. "Don't be frightened," he said. "It will be
all right, only I have to take care of myself." How very dear of her, he
thought--to be so much worried!

"George, you ought to go away to the country!" she cried. "You have
been working too hard. I always told you that if you shut yourself up so

"I am going to take care of myself," he said. "I realize that it is
necessary. I shall be all right--the doctor assured me there was no
doubt of it, so you are not to distress yourself. But meantime, here is
the trouble: I don't think it would be right for me to marry until I am
perfectly well."

Henriette gave an exclamation of dismay.

"I am sure we should put it off," he went on, "it would be only fair to

"But, George!" she protested. "Surely it can't be that serious!"

"We ought to wait," he said. "You ought not to take the chance of being
married to a consumptive."

The other protested in consternation. He did not look like a
consumptive; she did not believe that he WAS a consumptive. She was
willing to take her chances. She loved him, and she was not afraid. But
George insisted--he was sure that he ought not to marry for six months.

"Did the doctor advise that?" asked Henriette.

"No," he replied, "but I made up my mind after talking to him that I
must do the fair and honorable thing. I beg you to forgive me, and to
believe that I know best."

George stood firmly by this position, and so in the end she had to give
way. It did not seem quite modest in her to continue persisting.

George volunteered to write a letter to her father; and he hoped this
would settle the matter without further discussion. But in this he was
disappointed. There had to be a long correspondence with long arguments
and protestations from Henriette's father and from his own mother.
It seemed such a singular whim. Everybody persisted in diagnosing his
symptoms, in questioning him about what the doctor had said, who the
doctor was, how he had come to consult him--all of which, of course, was
very embarrassing to George, who could not see why they had to make such
a fuss. He took to cultivating a consumptive look, as well as he could
imagine it; he took to coughing as he went about the house--and it was
all he could do to keep from laughing, as he saw the look of dismay on
his poor mother's face. After all, however, he told himself that he
was not deceiving her, for the disease he had was quite as serious as

It was very painful and very trying. But there was nothing that could be
done about it; the marriage had been put off for six months, and in the
meantime he and Henriette had to control their impatience and make the
best of their situation. Six months was a long time; but what if it had
been three or four years, as the other doctor had demanded? That would
have been a veritable sentence of death.

George, as we have seen, was conscientious, and regular and careful in
his habits. He took the medicine which the new doctor prescribed
for him; and day by day he watched, and to his great relief saw the
troublesome symptoms gradually disappearing. He began to take heart,
and to look forward to life with his former buoyancy. He had had a bad
scare, but now everything was going to be all right.

Three or four months passed, and the doctor told him he was cured. He
really was cured, so far as he could see. He was sorry, now, that he
had asked for so long a delay from Henriette; but the new date for the
wedding had been announced, and it would be awkward to change it again.
George told himself that he was being "extra careful," and he was repaid
for the inconvenience by the feeling of virtue derived from the delay.
He was relieved that he did not have to cough any more, or to invent
any more tales of his interviews with the imaginary lung-specialist.
Sometimes he had guilty feelings because of all the lying he had had to
do; but he told himself that it was for Henriette's sake. She loved him
as much as he loved her. She would have suffered needless agonies had
she known the truth; she would never have got over it--so it would have
been a crime to tell her.

He really loved her devotedly, thoroughly. From the beginning he had
thought as much of her mental sufferings as he had of any physical harm
that the dread disease might do to him. How could he possibly persuade
himself to give her up, when he knew that the separation would break her
heart and ruin her whole life? No; obviously, in such a dilemma, it was
his duty to use his own best judgment, and get himself cured as quickly
as possible. After that he would be true to her, he would take no more
chances of a loathsome disease.

The secret he was hiding made him feel humble--made him unusually gentle
in his attitude towards the girl. He was a perfect lover, and she
was ravished with happiness. She thought that all his sufferings were
because of his love for her, and the delay which he had imposed out of
his excess of conscientiousness. So she loved him more and more, and
never was there a happier bride than Henriette Loches, when at last the
great day arrived.

They went to the Riveria for their honeymoon, and then returned to live
in the home which had belonged to George's father. The investment in
the notary's practice had proven a good one, and so life held out every
promise for the young couple. They were divinely happy.

After a while, the bride communicated to her husband the tidings that
she was expecting a child. Then it seemed to George that the cup of his
earthly bliss was full. His ailment had slipped far into the background
of his thoughts, like an evil dream which he had forgotten. He put away
the medicines in the bottom of his trunk and dismissed the whole matter
from his mind. Henriette was well--a very picture of health, as every
one agreed. The doctor had never seen a more promising young mother, he
declared, and Madame Dupont, the elder, bloomed with fresh life and joy
as she attended her daughter-in-law.

Henriette went for the summer to her father's place in the provinces,
which she and George had visited before their marriage. They drove out
one day to the farm where they had stopped. The farmer's wife had a
week-old baby, the sight of which made Henriette's heart leap with
delight. He was such a very healthy baby that George conceived the idea
that this would be the woman to nurse his own child, in case Henriette
herself should not be able to do it.

They came back to the city, and there the baby was born. As George paced
the floor, waiting for the news, the memory of his evil dreams came back
to him. He remembered all the dreadful monstrosities of which he had
read--infants that were born of syphilitic parents. His heart stood
still when the nurse came into the room to tell him the tidings.

But it was all right; of course it was all right! He had been a fool,
he told himself, as he stood in the darkened room and gazed at the
wonderful little mite of life which was the fruit of his love. It was a
perfect child, the doctor said--a little small, to be sure, but that was
a defect which would soon be remedied. George kneeled by the bedside and
kissed the hand of his wife, and went out of the room feeling as if he
had escaped from a tomb.

All went well, and after a couple of weeks Henriette was about the house
again, laughing all day and singing with joy. But the baby did not gain
quite as rapidly as the doctor had hoped, and it was decided that the
country air would be better for her. So George and his mother paid a
visit to the farm in the country, and arranged that the country woman
should put her own child to nurse elsewhere and should become the
foster-mother of little Gervaise.

George paid a good price for the service, far more than would have been
necessary, for the simple country woman was delighted with the idea of
taking care of the grandchild of the deputy of her district. George came
home and told his wife about this and had a merry time as he pictured
the woman boasting about it to the travelers who stopped at her door.
"Yes, ma'am, a great piece of luck I've got, ma'am. I've got the
daughter of the daughter of our deputy--at your service ma'am. My!
But she is as fat as out little calf--and so clever! She understands
everything. A great piece of luck for me, ma'am. She's the daughter
of the daughter of our deputy!" Henriette was vastly entertained,
discovering in her husband a new talent, that of an actor.

As for George's mother, she was hardly to be persuaded from staying in
the country with the child. She went twice a week, to make sure that all
went well. Henriette and she lived with the child's picture before them;
they spent their time sewing on caps and underwear--all covered with
laces and frills and pink and blue ribbons. Every day, when George
came home from his work, he found some new article completed, and was
ravished by the scent of some new kind of sachet powder. What a lucky
man he was!

You would think he must have been the happiest man in the whole city
of Paris. But George, alas, had to pay the penalty for his early sins.
There was, for instance, the deception he had practiced upon his friend,
away back in the early days. Now he had friends of his own, and he could
not keep these friends from visiting him; and so he was unquiet with the
fear that some one of them might play upon him the same vile trick. Even
in the midst of his radiant happiness, when he knew that Henriette was
hanging upon his every word, trembling with delight when she heard his
latchkey in the door--still he could not drive away the horrible thought
that perhaps all this might be deception.

There was his friend, Gustave, for example. He had been a friend of
Henriette's before her marriage; he had even been in love with her at
one time. And now he came sometimes to the house--once or twice when
George was away! What did that mean? George wondered. He brooded over
it all day, but dared not drop any hint to Henriette. But he took to
setting little traps to catch her; for instance, he would call her up on
the telephone, disguising his voice. "Hello! Hello! Is that you, Madame
Dupont?" And when she answered, "It is I, sir," all unsuspecting, he
would inquire, "Is George there?"

"No, sir," she replied. "Who is this speaking?"

He answered, "It is I, Gustave. How are you this morning?" He wanted to
see what she would answer. Would she perhaps say, "Very well, Gustave.
How are you?"--in a tone which would betray too great intimacy!

But Henriette was a sharp young person. The tone did not sound like
Gustave's. She asked in bewilderment, "What?" and then again, "What?"

So, at last, George, afraid that his trick might be suspected, had to
burst out laughing, and turn it into a joke. But when he came home and
teased his wife about it, the laugh was not all on his side. Henriette
had guessed the real meaning of his joke! She did not really mind--she
took his jealousy as a sign of love, and was pleased with it. It is
not until a third party come upon the scene that jealousy begins to be

So she had a merry time teasing George. "You are a great fellow!
You have no idea how well I understand you--and after only a year of

"You know me?" said the husband, curiously. (It is always so fascinating
when anybody thinks she know us better than we know ourselves!) "Tell
me, what do you think about me?"

"You are restless," said Henriette. "You are suspicious. You pass your
time putting flies in your milk, and inventing wise schemes to get them

"Oh, you think that, do you?" said George, pleased to be talked about.

"I am not annoyed," she answered. "You have always been that way--and I
know that it's because at bottom you are timid and disposed to suffer.
And then, too, perhaps you have reasons for not having confidence in a
wife's intimate friends--lady-killer that you are!"

George found this rather embarrassing; but he dared not show it, so he
laughed gayly. "I don't know what you mean," he said--"upon my word I
don't. But it is a trick I would not advise everybody to try."

There were other embarrassing moments, caused by George's having things
to conceal. There was, for instance, the matter of the six months' delay
in the marriage--about which Henriette would never stop talking. She
begrudged the time, because she had got the idea that little Gervaise
was six months younger than she otherwise would have been. "That shows
your timidity again," she would say. "The idea of your having imagined
yourself a consumptive!"

Poor George had to defend himself. "I didn't tell you half the truth,
because I was afraid of upsetting you. It seemed I had the beginning of
chronic bronchitis. I felt it quite keenly whenever I took a breath, a
deep breath--look, like this. Yes--I felt--here and there, on each side
of the chest, a heaviness--a difficulty--"

"The idea of taking six months to cure you of a thing like that!"
exclaimed Henriette. "And making our baby six months younger than she
ought to be!"

"But," laughed George, "that means that we shall have her so much the
longer! She will get married six months later!"

"Oh, dear me," responded the other, "let us not talk about such things!
I am already worried, thinking she will get married some day."

"For my part," said George, "I see myself mounting with her on my arm
the staircase of the Madeleine."

"Why the Madeleine?" exclaimed his wife. "Such a very magnificent

"I don't know--I see her under her white veil, and myself all dressed
up, and with an order."

"With an order!" laughed Henriette. "What do you expect to do to win an

"I don't know that--but I see myself with it. Explain it as you will, I
see myself with an order. I see it all, exactly as if I were there--the
Swiss guard with his white stockings and the halbard, and the little
milliner's assistants and the scullion lined up staring."

"It is far off--all that," said Henriette. "I don't like to talk of it.
I prefer her as a baby. I want her to grow up--but then I change my
mind and think I don't. I know your mother doesn't. Do you know, I don't
believe she ever thinks about anything but her little Gervaise."

"I believe you," said the father. "The child can certainly boast of
having a grandmother who loves her."

"Also, I adore your mother," declared Henriette. "She makes me forget my
misfortune in not having my own mother. She is so good!"

"We are all like that in our family," put in George.

"Really," laughed the wife. "Well, anyhow--the last time that we went
down in the country with her--you had gone out, I don't know where you
had gone--"

"To see the sixteenth-century chest," suggested the other.

"Oh, yes," laughed Henriette; "your famous chest!" (You must excuse this
little family chatter of theirs--they were so much in love with each

"Don't let's talk about that," objected George. "You were saying--?"

"You were not there. The nurse was out at mass, I think--"

"Or at the wine merchant's! Go on, go on."

"Well, I was in the little room, and mother dear thought she was all
alone with Gervaise. I was listening; she was talking to the baby--all
sorts of nonsense, pretty little words--stupid, if you like, but tender.
I wanted to laugh, and at the same time I wanted to weep."

"Perhaps she called her 'my dear little Savior'?"

"Exactly! Did you hear her?"

"No--but that is what she used to call me when I was little."

"It was that day she swore that the little one had recognized her, and

"Oh, yes!"

"And then another time, when I went into her room--mother's room--she
didn't hear me because the door was open, but I saw her. She was in
ecstasy before the little boots which the baby wore at baptism--you

"Yes, yes."

"Listen, then. She had taken them and she was embracing them!"

"And what did you say then?"

"Nothing; I stole out very softly, and I sent across the threshold a
great kiss to the dear grandmother!"

Henriette sat for a moment in thought. "It didn't take her very long,"
she remarked, "today when she got the letter from the nurse. I imagine
she caught the eight-fifty-nine train!"

"Any yet," laughed George, "it was really nothing at all."

"Oh no," said his wife. "Yet after all, perhaps she was right--and
perhaps I ought to have gone with her."

"How charming you are, my poor Henriette! You believe everything you are
told. I, for my part, divined right away the truth. The nurse was simply
playing a game on us; she wanted a raise. Will you bet? Come, I'll bet
you something. What would you like to bet? You don't want to? Come, I'll
bet you a lovely necklace--you know, with a big pearl."

"No," said Henriette, who had suddenly lost her mood of gayety. "I
should be too much afraid of winning."

"Stop!" laughed her husband. "Don't you believe I love her as much as
you love her--my little duck? Do you know how old she is? I mean her
EXACT age?"

Henriette sat knitting her brows, trying to figure.

"Ah!" he exploded. "You see you don't know! She is ninety-one days and
eight hours! Ha, ha! Imagine when she will be able to walk all alone.
Then we will take her back with us; we must wait at least six months."
Then, too late, poor George realized that he had spoken the fatal phrase

"If only you hadn't put off our marriage, she would be able to walk
now," said Henriette.

He rose suddenly. "Come," he said, "didn't you say you had to dress and
pay some calls?"

Henriette laughed, but took the hint.

"Run along, little wife," he said. "I have a lot of work to do in the
meantime. You won't be down-stairs before I shall have my nose buried in
my papers. Bye-bye."

"Bye-bye," said Henriette. But they paused to exchange a dozen or so
kisses before she went away to dress.

Then George lighted a cigarette and stretched himself out in the big
armchair. He seemed restless; he seemed to be disturbed about something.
Could it be that he had not been so much at ease as he had pretended to
be, since the letter had come from the baby's nurse? Madame Dupont had
gone by the earliest train that morning. She had promised to telegraph
at once--but she had not done so, and now it was late afternoon.

George got up and wandered about. He looked at himself in the glass for
a moment; then he went back to the chair and pulled up another to put
his geet upon. He puffed away at his cigarette until he was calmer. But
then suddenly he heard the rustle of a dress behind him, and glanced
about, and started up with an exclamation, "Mother!"

Madame Dupont stood in the doorway. She did not speak. Her veil was
thrown back and George noted instantly the look of agitation upon her

"What's the matter?" he cried. "We didn't get any telegram from you; we
were not expecting you till tomorrow."

Still his mother did not speak.

"Henriette was just going out," he exclaimed nervously; "I had better
call her."

"No!" said his mother quickly. Her voice was low and trembling. "I did
not want Henriette to be here when I arrived."

"But what's the matter?" cried George.

Again there was a silence before the reply came. He read something
terrible in the mother's manner, and he found himself trembling

"I have brought back the child and the nurse," said Madame Dupont.

"What! Is the little one sick?"


"What's the matter with her?"

"Nothing dangerous--for the moment, at least."

"We must send and get the doctor!" cried George.

"I have just come from the doctor's," was the reply. "He said it was
necessary to take our child from the nurse and bring her up on the

Again there was a pause. George could hardly bring himself to ask
the next question. Try as he would, he could not keep his voice from
weakening. "Well, now, what is her trouble?"

The mother did not answer. She stood staring before her. At last she
said, faintly, "I don't know."

"You didn't ask?"

"I asked. But it was not to our own doctor that I went."

"Ah!" whispered George. For nearly a minute neither one of them spoke.
"Why?" he inquired at last.

"Because--he--the nurse's doctor--had frightened me so--"


"Yes. It is a disease--" again she stopped.

George cried, in a voice of agony, "and then?"

"Then I asked him if the matter was so grave that I could not be
satisfied with our ordinary doctor."

"And what did he answer?"

"He said that if we had the means it would really be better to consult a

George looked at his mother again. He was able to do it, because she
was not looking at him. He clenched his hands and got himself together.
"And--where did he send you?"

His mother fumbled in her hand bag and drew out a visiting card. "Here,"
she said.

And George looked at the card. It was all he could do to keep himself
from tottering. It was the card of the doctor whom he had first
consulted about his trouble! The specialist in venereal diseases!


It was all George could do to control his voice. "You--you went to see
him?" he stammered.

"Yes," said his mother. "You know him?"

"No, no," he answered. "Or--that is--I have met him, I think. I don't
know." And then to himself, "My God!"

There was a silence. "He is coming to talk to you," said the mother, at

George was hardly able to speak. "Then he is very much disturbed?"

"No, but he wants to talk to you."

"To me?"

"Yes. When the doctor saw the nurse, he said, 'Madame, it is impossible
for me to continue to attend this child unless I have had this very day
a conversation with the father.' So I said 'Very well,' and he said he
would come at once."

George turned away, and put his hands to his forehead. "My poor little
daughter!" he whispered to himself.

"Yes," said the mother, her voice breaking, "she is, indeed, a poor
little daughter!"

A silence fell; for what could words avail in such a situation? Hearing
the door open, Madame Dupont started, for her nerves were all a-quiver
with the strain she had been under. A servant came in and spoke to her,
and she said to George, "It is the doctor. If you need me, I shall be in
the next room."

Her son stood trembling, as if he were waiting the approach of an
executioner. The other came into the room without seeing him and he
stood for a minute, clasping and unclasping his hands, almost overcome
with emotion. Then he said, "Good-day, doctor." As the man stared at
him, surprised and puzzled, he added, "You don't recognize me?"

The doctor looked again, more closely. George was expecting him to break
out in rage; but instead his voice fell low. "You!" he exclaimed. "It is

At last, in a voice of discouragement than of anger, he went on, "You
got married, and you have a child! After all that I told you! You are a

"Sir," cried George, "let me explain to you!"

"Not a word!" exclaimed the other. "There can be no explanation for what
you have done."

A silence followed. The young man did not know what to say. Finally,
stretching out his arms, he pleaded, "You will take care of my little
daughter all the same, will you not?"

The other turned away with disgust. "Imbecile!" he said.

George did not hear the word. "I was able to wait only six months," he

The doctor answered in a voice of cold self-repression, "That is enough,
sir! All that does not concern me. I have done wrong even to let you see
my indignation. I should have left you to judge yourself. I have nothing
to do here but with the present and with the future--with the infant and
with the nurse."

"She isn't in danger?" cried George.

"The nurse is in danger of being contaminated."

But George had not been thinking about the nurse. "I mean my child," he

"Just at present the symptoms are not disturbing."

George waited; after a while he began, "You were saying about the nurse.
Will you consent that I call my mother? She knows better than I."

"As you wish," was the reply.

The young man started to the door, but came back, in terrible distress.
"I have one prayer to offer you sir; arrange it so that my wife--so that
no one will know. If my wife learned that it is I who am the cause--! It
is for her that I implore you! She--she isn't to blame."

Said the doctor: "I will do everything in my power that she may be kept
ignorant of the true nature of the disease."

"Oh, how I thank you!" murmured George. "How I thank you!"

"Do not thank me; it is for her, and not for you, that I will consent to

"And my mother?"

"Your mother knows the truth."


"I pray you, sir--we have enough to talk about, and very serious

So George went to the door and called his mother. She entered and
greeted the doctor, holding herself erect, and striving to keep the
signs of grief and terror from her face. She signed to the doctor to
take a seat, and then seated herself by a little table near him.

"Madame Dupont," he began, "I have prescribed a course of treatment for
the child. I hope to be able to improve its condition, and to prevent
any new developments. But my duty and yours does not stop there; if
there is still time, it is necessary to protect the health of the

"Tell us what it is necessary to do, Doctor?" said she.

"The woman must stop nursing the child."

"You mean we have to change the nurse?"

"Madame, the child can no longer be brought up at the breast, either by
that nurse or by any other nurse."

"But why, sir?"

"Because the child would give her disease to the woman who gave her

"But, Doctor, if we put her on the bottle--our little one--she will

And suddenly George burst out into sobs. "Oh, my poor little daughter!
My God, my God!"

Said the doctor, "If the feeding is well attended to, with sterilized

"That can do very well for healthy infants," broke in Madame Dupont.
"But at the age of three months one cannot take from the breast a baby
like ours, frail and ill. More than any other such an infant has need of
a nurse--is that not true?"

"Yes," the doctor admitted, "that is true. But--"

"In that case, between the life of the child, and the health of the
nurse, you understand perfectly well that my choice is made."

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!"

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."

"The only thing of which I should repent--" began the other.

"You simply do not know," interrupted the doctor, "what such a nurse is
capable of. You cannot imagine what bitterness--legitimate
bitterness, you understand--joined to the rapacity, the cupidity, the
mischief-making impulse--might inspire these people to do. For them the
BOURGEOIS is always somewhat of an enemy; and when they find themselves
in position to avenge their inferiority, they are ferocious."

"But what could the woman do?"

"What could she do? She could bring legal proceedings against you."

"But she is much too stupid to have that idea."

"Others will put it into her mind."

"She is too poor to pay the preliminary expenses."

"And do you propose then to profit by her ignorance and stupidity?
Besides, she could obtain judicial assistance."

"Why, surely," exclaimed Madame Dupont, "such a thing was never heard
of! Do you mean that?"

"I know a dozen prosecutions of that sort; and always when there has
been certainty, the parents have lost their case."

"But surely, Doctor, you must be mistaken! Not in a case like ours--not
when it is a question of saving the life of a poor little innocent!"

"Oftentimes exactly such facts have been presented."

Here George broke in. "I can give you the dates of the decisions." He
rose from his chair, glad of an opportunity to be useful. "I have
the books," he said, and took one from the case and brought it to the

"All of that is no use--" interposed the mother.

But the doctor said to George, "You will be able to convince yourself.
The parents have been forced once or twice to pay the nurse a regular
income, and at other times they have had to pay her an indemnity, of
which the figure has varied between three and eight thousand francs."

Madame Dupont was ready with a reply to this. "Never fear, sir! If there
should be a suit, we should have a good lawyer. We shall be able to pay
and choose the best--and he would demand, without doubt, which of the
two, the nurse or the child, has given the disease to the other."

The doctor was staring at her in horror. "Do you not perceive that would
be a monstrous thing to do?"

"Oh, I would not have to say it," was the reply. "The lawyer would see
to it--is not that his profession? My point is this: by one means or
another he would make us win our case."

"And the scandal that would result," replied the other. "Have you
thought of that?"

Here George, who had been looking over his law-books, broke in. "Doctor,
permit me to give you a little information. In cases of this sort, the
names are never printed."

"Yes, but they are spoken at the hearings."

"That's true."

"And are you certain that there will not be any newspaper to print the

"What won't they stoop to," exclaimed Madame Dupont--"those filthy

"Ah," said the other, "and see what a scandal? What a shame it would be
to you!"

"The doctor is right, mother," exclaimed the young man.

But Madame Dupont was not yet convinced. "We will prevent the woman from
taking any steps; we will give her what she demands from us."

"But then," said the other, "you will give yourselves up to the risk of
blackmail. I know a family which has been thus held up for over twelve

"If you will permit me, Doctor," said George, timidly, "she could be
made to sign a receipt."

"For payment in full?" asked the doctor, scornfully.

"Even so."

"And then," added his mother, "she would be more than delighted to go
back to her country with a full purse. She would be able to buy a little
house and a bit of ground--in that country one doesn't need so much in
order to live."

At this moment there was a tap upon the door, and the nurse entered. She
was a country woman, robust, rosy-cheeked, fairly bursting with health.
When she spoke one got the impression that her voice was more than she
could contain. It did not belong in a drawing-room, but under the open
sky of her country home. "Sir," she said, addressing the doctor, "the
baby is awake."

"I will go and see her," was the reply; and then to Madame Dupont, "We
will take up this conversation later on."

"Certainly," said the mother. "Will you have need of the nurse?"

"No, Madame," the doctor answered.

"Nurse," said the mother, "sit down and rest. Wait a minute, I wish to
speak to you." As the doctor went out, she took her son to one side and
whispered to him, "I know the way to arrange everything. If we let
her know what is the matter, and if she accepts, the doctor will have
nothing more to say. Isn't that so?"

"Obviously," replied the son.

"I am going to promise that we will give her two thousand francs when
she goes away, if she will consent to continue nursing the child."

"Two thousand francs?" said the other. "Is that enough?"

"I will see," was the reply. "If she hesitates, I will go further. Let
me attend to it."

George nodded his assent, and Madame Dupont returned to the nurse. "You
know," she said, "that our child is a little sick?"

The other looked at her in surprise. "Why no, ma'am!"

"Yes," said the grandmother.

"But, ma'am, I have taken the best of care of her; I have always kept
her proper."

"I am not saying anything to the contrary," said Madame Dupont, "but the
child is sick, the doctors have said it."

The nurse was not to be persuaded; she thought they were getting ready
to scold her. "Humph," she said, "that's a fine thing--the doctors! If
they couldn't always find something wrong you'd say they didn't know
their business."

"But our doctor is a great doctor; and you have seen yourself that our
child has some little pimples."

"Ah, ma'am," said the nurse, "that's the heat--it's nothing but the heat
of the blood breaking out. You don't need to bother yourself; I tell you
it's only the child's blood. It's not my fault; I swear to you that she
had not lacked anything, and that I have always kept her proper."

"I am not reproaching you--"

"What is there to reproach me for? Oh, what bad luck! She's tiny--the
little one--she's a bit feeble; but Lord save us, she's a city child!
And she's getting along all right, I tell you."

"No," persisted Madame Dupont, "I tell you--she has got a cold in her
head, and she has an eruption at the back of the throat."

"Well," cried the nurse, angrily, "if she has, it's because the doctor
scratched her with that spoon he put into her mouth wrong end first! A
cold in the head? Yes, that's true; but if she has caught cold, I can't
say when, I don't know anything about it--nothing, nothing at all. I
have always kept her well covered; she's always had as much as three
covers on her. The truth is, it was when you came, the time before last;
you were all the time insisting upon opening the windows in the house!"

"But once more I tell you," cried Madame Dupont, "we are not putting any
blame on you."

"Yes," cried the woman, more vehemently. "I know what that kind of talk
means. It's no use--when you're a poor country woman."

"What are you imagining now?" demanded the other.

"Oh, that's all right. It's no use when you're a poor country woman."

"I repeat to you once more," cried Madame Dupont, with difficulty
controlling her impatience, "we have nothing whatever to blame you for."

But the nurse began to weep. "If I had known that anything like this was
coming to me--"

"We have nothing to blame you for," declared the other. "We only wish to
warn you that you might possibly catch the disease of the child."

The woman pouted. "A cold in the head!" she exclaimed. "Well, if I catch
it, it won't be the first time. I know how to blow my nose."

"But you might also get the pimples."

At this the nurse burst into laughter so loud that the bric-a-brac
rattled. "Oh, oh, oh! Dear lady, let me tell you, we ain't city folks,
we ain't; we don't have such soft skins. What sort of talk is that?
Pimples--what difference would that make to poor folks like us? We don't
have a white complexion like the ladies of Paris. We are out all day in
the fields, in the sun and the rain, instead of rubbing cold cream
on our muzzles! No offense, ma'am--but I say if you're looking for an
excuse to get rid of me, you must get a better one than that."

"Excuse!" exclaimed the other. "What in the world do you mean?"

"Oh, I know!" said the nurse, nodding her head.

"But speak!"

"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."


"Go ahead."

"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

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

"Oh, yes; then it's so that I will be sure to take care of her? I

"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."

"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

"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."

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!"

And the mother in turn cried. "Don't abandon us, sir! You ought to make
allowances! If you knew what that child is to me! I tell you it seems to
me as if I had waited for her coming in order to die. Have pity upon us!
Have pity upon her! You speak of the weakest--it is not she who is the
weakest? You have seen her, you have seen that poor little baby, so
emaciated! You have seen what a heap of suffering she is already; and
cannot that inspire in you any sympathy? I pray you, sir--I pray you!"

"I pity her," said the doctor, "I would like to save her--and I will do
everything for her. But do not ask me to sacrifice to a feeble infant,
with an uncertain and probably unhappy life, the health of a sound and
robust woman. It is useless for us to continue such a discussion as

Whereupon Madame Dupont leaped up in sudden frenzy. "Very Well!" she
exclaimed. "I will not follow your counsels, I will not listen to you!"

Said the doctor in a solemn voice: "There is already some one here who
regrets that he did not listen to me."

"Yes," moaned George, "to my misfortune, to the misfortune of all of

But Madame Dupont was quite beside herself. "Very well!" she cried. "If
it is a fault, if it is a crime, if I shall have to suffer remorse for
it in this life, and all the punishments in the life to come--I accept
it all for myself alone! Myself alone, I take that responsibility! It is
frightfully heavy, but I accept it. I am profoundly a Christian sir; I
believe in eternal damnation; but to save my little child I consent to
lose my soul forever. Yes, my mind is made up--I will do everything to
save that life! Let God judge me; and if he condemns me, so much the
worse for me!"

The doctor answered: "That responsibility is one which I cannot let
you take, for it will be necessary that I should accept my part, and I
refuse it."

"What will you do?"

"I shall warn the nurse. I shall inform her exactly,
completely--something which you have not done, I feel sure."

"What?" cried Madame Dupont, wildly. "You, a doctor, called into a
family which gives you its entire confidence, which hands over to you
its most terrible secrets, its most horrible miseries--you would betray

"It is not a betrayal," replied the man, sternly. "It is something which
the law commands; and even if the law were silent, I would not permit a
family of worthy people to go astray so far as to commit a crime. Either
I give up the case, or you have the nursing of the child stopped."

"You threaten! You threaten!" cried the woman, almost frantic. "You
abuse the power which your knowledge gives you! You know that it is you
whose attention we need by that little cradle; you know that we believe
in you, and you threaten to abandon us! Your abandonment means the death
of the child, perhaps! And if I listen to you, if we stop the nursing of
the child--that also means her death!"

She flung up her hands like a mad creature. "And yet there is no other
means! Ah, my God! Why do you not let it be possible for me to sacrifice
myself? I would wish nothing more than to be able to do it--if only
you might take my old body, my old flesh, my old bones--if only I might
serve for something! How quickly would I consent that it should infect
me--this atrocious malady! How I would offer myself to it--with what
joys, with what delights--however disgusting, however frightful it
might be, however much to be dreaded! Yes, I would take it without fear,
without regret, if my poor old empty breasts might still give to the
child the milk which would preserve its life!"

She stopped; and George sprang suddenly from his seat, and fled to her
and flung himself down upon his knees before her, mingling his sobs and
tears with hers.

The doctor rose and moved about the room, unable any longer to control
his distress. "Oh, the poor people!" he murmured to himself. "The poor,
poor people!"

The storm passed, and Madame Dupont, who was a woman of strong
character, got herself together. Facing the doctor again, she said,
"Come, sir, tell us what we have to do."

"You must stop the nursing, and keep the woman here as a dry nurse, in
order that she may not go away to carry the disease elsewhere. Do not
exaggerate to yourself the danger which will result to the child. I am,
in truth, extremely moved by your suffering, and I will do everything--I
swear it to you--that your baby may recover as quickly as possible its
perfect health. I hope to succeed, and that soon. And now I must leave
you until tomorrow."

"Thank you, Doctor, thank you," said Madame Dupont, faintly.

The young man rose and accompanied the doctor to the door. He could not
bring himself to speak, but stood hanging his head until the other was
gone. Then he came to his mother. He sought to embrace her, but she
repelled him--without violence, but firmly.

Her son stepped back and put his hands over his face. "Forgive me!" he
said, in a broken voice. "Are we not unhappy enough, without hating each

His mother answered: "God has punished you for your debauch by striking
at your child."

But, grief-stricken as the young man was, he could not believe that.
"Impossible!" he said. "There is not even a man sufficiently wicked or
unjust to commit the act which you attribute to your God!"

"Yes," said his mother, sadly, "you believe in nothing."

"I believe in no such God as that," he answered.

A silence followed. When it was broken, it was by the entrance of the
nurse. She had opened the door of the room and had been standing there
for some moments, unheeded. Finally she stepped forward. "Madame," she
said, "I have thought it over; I would rather go back to my home at
once, and have only the five hundred francs."

Madame Dupont stared at her in consternation. "What is that you are
saying? You want to return to your home?"

"Yes, ma'am," was the answer.

"But," cried George, "only ten minutes ago you were not thinking of it."

"What has happened since then?" demanded Madame Dupont.

"I have thought it over."

"Thought it over?"

"Well, I am getting lonesome for my little one and for my husband."

"In the last ten minutes?" exclaimed George.

"There must be something else," his mother added. "Evidently there must
be something else."

"No!" insisted the nurse.

"But I say yes!"

"Well, I'm afraid the air of Paris might not be good for me."

"You had better wait and try it."

"I would rather go back at once to my home."

"Come, now," cried Madame Dupont, "tell us why?"

"I have told you. I have thought it over."

"Thought what over?"

"Well, I have thought."

"Oh," cried the mother, "what a stupid reply! 'I have thought it over! I
have thought it over!' Thought WHAT over, I want to know!"

"Well, everything."

"Don't you know how to tell us what?"

"I tell you, everything."

"Why," exclaimed Madame Dupont, "you are an imbecile!"

George stepped between his mother and the nurse. "Let me talk to her,"
he said.

The woman came back to her old formula: "I know that we're only poor
country people."

"Listen to me, nurse," said the young man. "Only a little while ago you
were afraid that we would send you away. You were satisfied with the
wages which my mother had fixed. In addition to those wages we had
promised you a good sum when you returned to your home. Now you tell
us that you want to go away. You see? All at once. There must be some
reason; let us understand it. There must certainly be a reason. Has
anybody done anything to you?"

"No, sir," said the woman, dropping her eyes.

"Well, then?"

"I have thought it over."

George burst out, "Don't go on repeating always the same thing--'I have
thought it over!' That's not telling us anything." Controlling himself,
he added, gently, "Come, tell me why you want to go away?"

There was a silence. "Well?" he demanded.

"I tell you, I have thought--"

George exclaimed in despair, "It's as if one were talking to a block of

His mother took up the conversation again. "You must realize, you have
not the right to go away."

The woman answered, "I WANT to go."

"But I will not let you leave us."

"No," interrupted George angrily, "let her go; we cannot fasten her

"Very well, then," cried the exasperated mother, "since you want to go,
go! But I have certainly the right to say to you that you are as stupid
as the animals on your farm!"

"I don't say that I am not," answered the woman.

"I will not pay you the month which has just begun, and you will pay
your railroad fare for yourself."

The other drew back with a look of anger. "Oho!" she cried. "We'll see
about that!"

"Yes, we'll see about it!" cried George. "And you will get out of here
at once. Take yourself off--I will have no more to do with you. Good

"No, George," protested his mother, "don't lose control of yourself."
And then, with a great effort at calmness, "That cannot be serious,
nurse! Answer me."

"I would rather go off right away to my home, and only have my five
hundred francs."

"WHAT?" cried George, in consternation.

"What's that you are telling me?" exclaimed Madame Dupont.

"Five hundred francs?" repeated her son.

"What five hundred francs?" echoed the mother.

"The five hundred francs you promised me," said the nurse.

"We have promised you five hundred francs? WE?"


"When the child should be weaned, and if we should be satisfied with
you! That was our promise."

"No. You said you would give them to me when I was leaving. Now I am
leaving, and I want them."

Madame Dupont drew herself up, haughtily. "In the first place," she
said, "kindly oblige me by speaking to me in another tone; do you

The woman answered, "You have nothing to do but give me my money, and I
will say nothing more."

George went almost beside himself with rage at this. "Oh, it's like
that?" he shouted. "Very well; I'll show you!" And he sprang to the door
and opened it.

But the nurse never budged. "Give me my five hundred francs!" she said.

George seized her by the arm and shoved her toward the door. "You clear
out of here, do you understand me? And as quickly as you can!"

The woman shook her arm loose, and sneered into his face. "Come now,
you--you can talk to me a little more politely, eh?"

"Will you go?" shouted George, completely beside himself. "Will you go,
or must I go out and look for a policeman?"

"A policeman!" demanded the woman. "For what?"

"To put you outside! You are behaving yourself like a thief."

"A thief? I? What do you mean?"

"I mean that you are demanding money which doesn't belong to you."

"More than that," broke in Madame Dupont, "you are destroying that poor
little baby! You are a wicked woman!"

"I will put you out myself!" shouted George, and seized her by the arm

"Oh, it's like that, is it?" retorted the nurse. "Then you really want
me to tell you why I am going away?"

"Yes, tell me!" cried he.

His mother added, "Yes, yes!"

She would have spoken differently had she chanced to look behind her and
seen Henriette, who at that moment appeared in the doorway. She had been
about to go out, when her attention had been caught by the loud voices.
She stood now, amazed, clasping her hands together, while the nurse,
shaking her fist first at Madame Dupont and then at her son, cried
loudly, "Very well! I'm going away because I don't want to catch a
filthy disease here!"

"HUSH!" cried Madame Dupont, and sprang toward her, her hands clenched
as if she would choke her.

"Be silent!" cried George, wild with terror.

But the woman rushed on without dropping her voice, "Oh, you need not
be troubling yourselves for fear anyone should overhear! All the world
knows it! Your other servants were listening with me at your door! They
heard every word your doctor said!"

"Shut up!" screamed George.

Her mother seized the woman fiercely by the arm. "Hold your tongue!" she

But again the other shook herself loose. She was powerful, and now her
rage was not to be controlled. She waved her hands in the air, shouting,
"Let me be, let me be! I know all about your brat--that you will never
be able to raise it--that it's rotten because it's father has a filthy
disease he got from a woman of the street!"

She got no farther. She was interrupted by a frenzied shriek from
Henriette. The three turned, horrified, just in time to see her fall
forward upon the floor, convulsed.

"My God!" cried George. He sprang toward her, and tried to lift her, but
she shrank from him, repelling him with a gesture of disgust, of hatred,
of the most profound terror. "Don't touch me!" she screamed, like a
maniac. "Don't touch me!"


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.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

So inevitably there had been a discussion of the whole question between
the two men. The doctor had granted the first request, but refused the
second. In the first place, he said, there was a rule of professional
secrecy which would prevent him. And when the father-in-law requested
to know if the rule of professional secrecy compelled him to protect
a criminal against honest people, the doctor answered that even if
his ethics permitted it, he would still refuse the request. "I would
reproach myself forever," he said, "if I had aided you to obtain such a

"Then," cried the old man, vehemently, "because you profess such and
such theories, because the exercise of your profession makes you the
constant witness of such miseries--therefore it is necessary that my
daughter should continue to bear that man's name all her life!"

The doctor answered, gently, "Sir, I understand and respect your grief.
But believe me, you are not in a state of mind to decide about these
matters now."

"You are mistaken," declared the other, controlling himself with an
effort. "I have been thinking about nothing else for days. I have
discussed it with my daughter, and she agrees with me. Surely, sir, you
cannot desire that my daughter should continue to live with a man who
has struck her so brutal, so cowardly, a blow."

"If I refuse your request," the doctor answered, "it is in the interest
of your daughter." Then, seeing the other's excitement returning, he
continued, "In your state of mind, Monsieur Loches, I know that you will
probably be abusing me before five minutes has passed. But that will not
trouble me. I have seen many cases. And since I have made the mistake
of letting myself be trapped into this discussion, I must explain to you
the reason for my attitude. You ask of me a certificate so that you may
prove in court that your son-in-law is afflicted with syphilis."

"Precisely," said the other.

"And have you not reflected upon this--that at the same time you will be
publicly attesting that your daughter has been exposed to the contagion?
With such an admission, an admission officially registered in the public
records, do you believe that she will find it easy to re-marry later

"She will never re-marry," said the father.

"She says that today, but can you affirm that she will say the same
thing five years from now, ten years from now? I tell you you will
not obtain that divorce, because I will most certainly refuse you the
necessary certificate."

"Then," cried the other, "I will find other means of establishing
proofs. I will have the child examined by another doctor!"

The other answered. "Then you do not find that that poor little one has
been already sufficiently handicapped at the outset of its life? Your
granddaughter has a physical defect. Do you wish to add to that a
certificate of hereditary syphilis, which will follow her all her life?"

Monsieur Loches sprang from his chair. "You mean that if the victims
seek to defend themselves, they will be struck the harder! You mean that
the law gives me no weapon against a man who, knowing his condition,
takes a young girl, sound, trusting, innocent, and befouls her with the
result of his debauches--makes her the mother of a poor little creature,
whose future is such that those who love her the most do not know
whether they ought to pray for her life, or for her immediate
deliverance? Sir," he continued, in his orator's voice, "that man has
inflicted upon the woman he has married a supreme insult. He has made
her the victim of the most odious assault. He has degraded her--he has
brought her, so to speak, into contact with the woman of the streets. He
has created between her and that common woman I know not what mysterious
relationship. It is the poisoned blood of the prostitute which poisons
my daughter and her child; that abject creature, she lives, she lives in
us! She belongs to our family--he has given her a seat at our hearth! He
has soiled the imagination and the thoughts of my poor child, as he
has soiled her body. He has united forever in her soul the idea of
love which she has placed so high, with I know not what horrors of the
hospitals. He has tainted her in her dignity and her modesty, in her
love as well as in her baby. He has struck her down with physical and
moral decay, he has overwhelmed her with vileness. And yet the law is
such, the customs of society are such, that the woman cannot separate
herself from that man save by the aid of legal proceedings whose scandal
will fall upon herself and upon her child!"

Monsieur Loches had been pacing up and down the room as he spoke, and
now he clenched his fists in sudden fury.

"Very well! I will not address myself to the law. Since I learned the
truth I have been asking myself if it was not my duty to find that
monster and to put a bullet into his head, as one does to a mad dog. I
don't know what weakness, what cowardice, has held me back, and decided
me to appeal to the law. Since the law will not protect me, I will seek
justice for myself. Perhaps his death will be a good warning for the

The doctor shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that this was no affair
of his and that he would not try to interfere. But he remarked, quietly:
"You will be tried for your life."

"I shall be acquitted!" cried the other.

"Yes, but after a public revelation of all your miseries. You will make
the scandal greater, the miseries greater--that is all. And how do you
know but that on the morrow of your acquittal, you will find yourself
confronting another court, a higher and more severe one? How do you
know but that your daughter, seized at last by pity for the man you have
killed, will not demand to know by what right you have acted so, by what
right you have made an orphan of her child? How can you know but that
her child also may some day demand an accounting of you?"

Monsieur Loches let his hands fall, and stood, a picture of crushed
despair. "Tell me then," he said, in a faint voice, "what ought I to


For a while the doctor sat looking at him. "Sir," he said, at last,
"tell me one thing. You are inflexible; you feel you have the right to
be inflexible. But are you really so certain that it was not your duty,
once upon a time, to save your daughter from the possibility of such

"What?" cried the other. "My duty? What do you mean?"

"I mean this, sir. When that marriage was being discussed, you certainly
took precautions to inform yourself about the financial condition of
your future son-in-law. You demanded that he should prove to you that
his stocks and bonds were actual value, listed on the exchange. Also,
you obtained some information about his character. In fact, you forgot
only one point, the most important of all--that was, to inquire if he
was in good health. You never did that."

The father-in-law's voice had become faint. "No," he said.

"But why not?"

"Because that is not the custom."

"Very well, but that ought to be the custom. Surely the father of a
family, before he gives his daughter to a man, should take as much
precaution as a business concern which accepts an employee."

"You are right," was the reply, "there should be a law." The man spoke
as a deputy, having authority in these matters.

But the doctor cried, "No, no, sir! Do not make a new law. We have
too many already. There is no need of it. It would suffice that people
should know a little better what syphilis is. The custom would establish
itself very quickly for a suitor to add to all the other documents
which he presents, a certificate of a doctor, as proof that he could
be received into a family without bringing a pestilence with him. That
would be very simple. Once let the custom be established, then the
suitor would go to the doctor for a certificate of health, just as he
goes to the priest for a certificate that he has confessed; and by that
means you would prevent a great deal of suffering in the world. Or let
me put it another way, sir. Nowadays, before you conclude a marriage,
you get the lawyers of the two families together. It would be of at
least equal importance to get their two doctors together. You see, sir,
your inquiry concerning your son-in-law was far from complete. So your
daughter may fairly ask you, why you, being a man, being a father who
ought to know these things, did not take as much care of her health as
you took of her fortune. So it is, sir, that I say to you, forgive!"

But Monsieur Loches said again, "Never!"

And again the doctor sat and watched him for a minute. "Come, sir," he
began, finally, "since it is necessary to employ the last argument, I
will do so. To be so severe and so pitiless--are you yourself without

The other answered, "I have never had a shameful disease."

"I do not ask you that," interrupted the doctor. "I ask you if you have
never exposed yourself to the chance of having it." And then, reading
the other's face, he went on, in a tone of quiet certainty. "Yes, you
have exposed yourself. Then, sir, it was not virtue that you had; it
was good fortune. That is one of the things which exasperate me the
most--that term 'shameful disease' which you have just used. Like all
other diseases, that is one of our misfortunes, and it is never shameful
to be unfortunate--even if one has deserved it." The doctor paused,
and then with some excitement he went on: "Come, sir, come, we must
understand each other. Among men the most exacting, among those who with
their middle-class prudery dare not pronounce the name of syphilis,
or who make the most terrifying faces, the most disgusted, when they
consent to speak of it--who regard the syphilitic as sinners--I should
wish to know how many there are who have never exposed themselves to a
similar misadventure. They and they alone have the right to speak. How
many are there? Among a thousand men, are there four? Very well, then.
Excepting those four, between all the rest and the syphilitic there is
nothing but the difference of chance."

There came into the doctor's voice at this moment a note of intense
feeling; for these were matters of which evidence came to him every day.
"I tell you, sir, that such people are deserving of sympathy, because
they are suffering. If they have committed a fault, they have at least
the plea that they are expiating it. No, sir, let me hear no more of
that hypocrisy. Recall your own youth, sir. That which afflicts your
son-in-law, you have deserved it just as much as he--more than he,
perhaps. Therefore, have pity on him; have for him the toleration which
the unpunished criminal ought to have for the criminal less fortunate
than himself upon whom the penalty has fallen. Is that not so?"

Monsieur Loches had been listening to this discourse with the feeling of
a thief before the bar. There was nothing that he could answer. "Sir,"
he stammered, "as you present this thing to me--"

"But am I not right?" insisted the doctor.

"Perhaps you are," the other admitted. "But--I cannot say all that to my
daughter, to persuade her to go back to her husband."

"You can give her other arguments," was the answer.

"What arguments, in God's name?"

"There is no lack of them. You will say to her that a separation would
be a misfortune for all; that her husband is the only one in the world
who would be devoted enough to help her save her child. You will say to
her that out of the ruins of her first happiness she can build herself
another structure, far stronger. And, sir, you will add to that whatever
your good heart may suggest--and we will arrange so that the next child
of the pair shall be sound and vigorous."

Monsieur Loches received this announcement with the same surprise that
George himself had manifested. "Is that possible?" he asked.

The doctor cried: "Yes, yes, yes--a thousand times yes! There is a
phrase which I repeat on every occasion, and which I would wish to post
upon the walls. It is that syphilis is an imperious mistress, who only
demands that one should recognize her power. She is terrible for
those who think her insignificant, and gentle with those who know how
dangerous she is. You know that kind of mistress--who is only vexed when
she is neglected. You may tell this to your daughter--you will restore
her to the arms of her husband, from whom she has no longer anything
to fear, and I will guarantee that you will be a happy grandfather two
years from now."

Monsieur Loches at last showed that he was weakened in his resolution.

"Doctor," he said, "I do not know that I can ever go so far as
forgiveness, but I promise you that I will do no irreparable act, and
that I will not oppose a reconciliation if after the lapse of some
time--I cannot venture to say how long--my poor child should make up her
mind to a reconciliation."

"Very good," said the other. "But let me add this: If you have another
daughter, take care to avoid the fault which you committed when you
married off the first."

"But," said the old man, "I did not know."

"Ah, surely!" cried the other. "You did not know! You are a father, and
you did not know! You are a deputy, you have assumed the responsibility
and the honor of making our laws--and you did not know! You are ignorant
about syphilis, just as you probably are ignorant about alcoholism and

"No," exclaimed the other, quickly.

"Very well," said the doctor, "I will leave you out, if you wish. I am
talking of the others, the five hundred, and I don't know how many
more, who are there in the Chamber of Deputies, and who call themselves
representatives of the people. They are not able to find a single hour
to discuss these three cruel gods, to which egotism and indifference
make every day such frightful human sacrifices. They have not sufficient
leisure to combat this ferocious trinity, which destroys every day
thousands of lives. Alcoholism! It would be necessary to forbid the
manufacture of poisons, and to restrict the number of licenses; but as
one has fear of the great distillers, who are rich and powerful, and of
the little dealers, who are the masters of universal suffrage, one
puts one's conscience to sleep by lamenting the immorality of
the working-class, and publishing little pamphlets and sermons.
Imbeciles!...Tuberculosis! Everybody knows the true remedy, which would
be the paying of sufficient wages, and the tearing down of the filthy
tenements into which the laborers are packed--those who are the most
useful and the most unfortunate among our population! But needless to
say, no one wants that remedy, so we go round begging the workingmen not
to spit on the sidewalks. Wonderful! But syphilis--why do you not occupy
yourself with that? Why, since you have ministers whose duty it is to
attend to all sorts of things, do you not have a minister to attend to
the public health?"

"My dear Doctor," responded Monsieur Loches, "you fall into the French
habit of considering the government as the cause of all evils. Show us
the way, you learned gentlemen! Since that is a matter about which you
are informed, and we are ignorant, begin by telling us what measures you
believe to be necessary."

"Ah, ah!" exclaimed the other. "That's fine, indeed! It was about
eighteen years ago that a project of that nature, worked out by the
Academy of Medicine, and approved by it UNANIMOUSLY, was sent to the
proper minister. We have not yet heard his reply."

"You really believe," inquired Monsieur Loches, in some bewilderment,
"you believe that there are some measures--"

"Sir," broke in the doctor, "before we get though, you are going to
suggest some measures yourself. Let me tell you what happened today.
When I received your card I did not know that you were the father-in-law
of George Dupont. I say that you were a deputy, and I thought that you
wanted to get some information about these matters. There was a woman
patient waiting to see me, and I kept her in my waiting-room--saying to
myself, This is just the sort of person that our deputies ought to talk

The doctor paused for a moment, then continued: "Be reassured, I will
take care of your nerves. This patient has no trouble that is apparent
to the eye. She is simply an illustration of the argument I have been
advancing--that our worst enemy is ignorance. Ignorance--you understand
me? Since I have got you here, sir, I am going to hold you until I have
managed to cure a little of your ignorance! For I tell you, sir, it is
a thing which drives me to distraction--we MUST do something about these
conditions! Take this case, for example. Here is a woman who is very
seriously infected. I told her--well, wait; you shall see for yourself."

The doctor went to the door and summoned into the room a woman whom
Monsieur Loches had noticed waiting there. She was verging on old age,
small, frail, and ill-nourished in appearance, poorly dressed, and yet
with a suggestion of refinement about her. She stood near the door,
twisting her hands together nervously, and shrinking from the gaze of
the strange gentleman. The doctor began in an angry voice. "Did I not
tell you to come and see me once every eight days? Is that not true?"

The woman answered, in a faint voice, "Yes, sir."

"Well," he exclaimed, "and how long has it been since you were here?"

"Three months, sir."

"Three months! And you believe that I can take care of you under such
conditions? I give you up! Do you understand? You discourage me, you
discourage me." There was a pause. Then, seeing the woman's suffering,
he began, in a gentler tone, "Come now, what is the reason that you
have not come? Didn't you know that you have a serious disease--most

"Oh, yes, sir," replied the woman, "I know that very well--since my
husband died of it."

The doctor's voice bore once again its note of pity. "Your husband died
of it?"

"Yes, sir."

"He took no care of himself?"

"No, sir."

"And was not that a warning to you?"

"Doctor," the woman replied, "I would ask nothing better than to come as
often as you told me, but the cost is too great."

"How--what cost? You were coming to my free clinic."

"Yes, sir," replied the woman, "but that's during working hours, and
then it is a long way from home. There are so many sick people, and I
have to wait my turn, It is in the morning--sometimes I lose a whole
day--and then my employer is annoyed, and he threatens to turn me off.
It is things like that that keep people from coming, until they dare not
put it off any longer. Then, too, sir--" the woman stopped, hesitating.

"Well," demanded the doctor.

"Oh, nothing, sir," she stammered. "You have been too good to me

"Go on," commanded the other. "Tell me."

"Well," murmured the woman, "I know I ought not to put on airs, but you
see I have not always been so poor. Before my husband's misfortune,
we were well fixed. So you see, I have a little pride. I have always
managed to take care of myself. I am not a woman of the streets, and to
stand around like that, with everybody else, to be obliged to tell
all one's miseries out loud before the world! I am wrong, I know it
perfectly well; I argue with myself--but all the same, it's hard, sir; I
assure you, it is truly hard."

"Poor woman!" said the doctor; and for a while there was a silence. Then
he asked: "It was your husband who brought you the disease?"

"Yes, sir," was the reply. "Everything which happened to us came from
him. We were living in the country when he got the disease. He went half
crazy. He no longer knew how to manage his affairs. He gave orders here
and there for considerable sums. We were not able to find the money."

"Why did he not undergo treatment?"

"He didn't know then. We were sold out, and we came to Paris. But we
hadn't a penny. He decided to go to the hospital for treatment."

"And then?"

"Why, they looked him over, but they refused him any medicine."

"How was that?"

"Because we had been in Paris only three months. If one hasn't been a
resident six months, one has no right to free medicine."

"Is that true?" broke in Monsieur Loches quickly.

"Yes," said the doctor, "that's the rule."

"So you see," said the woman, "it was not our fault."

"You never had children?" inquired the doctor.

"I was never able to bring one to birth," was the answer. "My husband
was taken just at the beginning of our marriage--it was while he
was serving in the army. You know, sir--there are women about the
garrisons--" She stopped, and there was a long silence.

"Come," said the doctor, "that's all right. I will arrange it with you.
You can come here to my office, and you can come on Sunday mornings."
And as the poor creature started to express her gratitude, he slipped a
coin into her hand. "Come, come; take it," he said gruffly. "You are not
going to play proud with me. No, no, I have no time to listen to you.
Hush!" And he pushed her out of the door.

Then he turned to the deputy. "You heard her story, sir," he said. "Her
husband was serving his time in the army; it was you law-makers who
compelled him to do that. And there are women about the garrisons--you
heard how her voice trembled as she said that? Take my advice, sir, and
look up the statistics as to the prevalence of this disease among our
soldiers. Come to some of my clinics, and let me introduce you to other
social types. You don't care very much about soldiers, perhaps--they
belong to the lower classes, and you think of them as rough men. But let
me show you what is going on among our college students--among the men
our daughters are some day to marry. Let me show you the women who prey
upon them! Perhaps, who knows--I can show you the very woman who was the
cause of all the misery in your own family!"

And as Monsieur Loches rose from his chair, the doctor came to him and
took him by the hand. "Promise me, sir," he said, earnestly, "that you
will come back and let me teach you more about these matters. It is a
chance that I must not let go--the first time in my life that I ever got
hold of a real live deputy! Come and make a study of this subject, and
let us try to work out some sensible plan, and get seriously to work to
remedy these frightful evils!"


George lived with his mother after Henriette had left his home. He was
wretchedly unhappy and lonely. He could find no interest in any of the
things which had pleased him before. He was ashamed to meet any of his
friends, because he imagined that everyone must have heard the dreadful
story--or because he was not equal to making up explanations for his
mournful state. He no longer cared much about his work. What was the
use of making a reputation or earning large fees when one had nothing to
spend them for?

All his thoughts were fixed upon the wife and child he had lost. He was
reminded of Henriette in a thousand ways, and each way brought him a
separate pang of grief. He had never realized how much he had come to
depend upon her in every little thing--until now, when her companionship
was withdrawn from him, and everything seemed to be a blank. He would
come home at night, and opposite to him at the dinner-table would be his
mother, silent and spectral. How different from the days when Henriette
was there, radiant and merry, eager to be told everything that had
happened to him through the day!

There was also his worry about little Gervaise. He might no longer hear
how she was doing, for he could not get up courage to ask his mother
the news. Thus poor George was paying for his sins. He could make no
complaints against the price, however high--only sometimes he
wondered whether he would be able to pay it. There were times of such
discouragement that he thought of different ways of killing himself.

A curious adventure befell him during this period. He was walking one
day in the park, when he saw approaching a girl whose face struck him as
familiar. At first he could not recollect where he had seen her. It was
only when she was nearly opposite him that he realized--it was the girl
who had been the cause of all his misery!

He tried to look away, but he was too late. Her eyes had caught his, and
she nodded and then stopped, exclaiming, "Why, how do you do?"

George had to face her. "How do you do?" he responded, weakly.

She held out her hand and he had to take it, but there was not much
welcome in his clasp. "Where have you been keeping yourself?" she asked.
Then, as he hesitated, she laughed good-naturedly, "What's the matter?
You don't seem glad to see me."

The girl--Therese was her name--had a little package under her arm, as
if she had been shopping. She was not well dressed, as when George had
met her before, and doubtless she thought that was the reason for his
lack of cordiality. This made him rather ashamed, and so, only half
realizing what he was doing, he began to stroll along with her.

"Why did you never come to see me again?" she asked.

George hesitated. "I--I--" he stammered--"I've been married since then."

She laughed. "Oh! So that's it!" And then, as they came to a bench under
some trees, "Won't you sit down a while?" There was allurement in her
glance, but it made George shudder. It was incredible to him that he
had ever been attracted by this crude girl. The spell was now broken

She quickly saw that something was wrong. "You don't seem very
cheerful," she said. "What's the matter?"

And the man, staring at her, suddenly blurted out, "Don't you know what
you did to me?"

"What I did to you?" Therese repeated wonderingly.

"You must know!" he insisted.

And then she tried to meet his gaze and could not. "Why--" she

There was silence between them. When George spoke again his voice was
low and trembling. "You ruined my whole life," he said--"not only mine,
but my family's. How could you do it?"

She strove to laugh it off. "A cheerful topic for an afternoon stroll!"

For a long while George did not answer. Then, almost in a whisper, he
repeated, "How could you do it?"

"Some one did it to me first," was the response. "A man!"

"Yes," said George, "but he didn't know."

"How can you tell whether he knew or not?"

"You knew?" he inquired, wonderingly.

Therese hesitated. "Yes, I knew," she said at last, defiantly. "I have
known for years."

"And I'm not the only man."

She laughed. "I guess not!"

There followed a long pause. At last he resumed, "I don't want to blame
you; there's nothing to be gained by that; it's done, and can't
be undone. But sometimes I wonder about it. I should like to
understand--why did you do it?"

"Why? That's easy enough. I did it because I have to live."

"You live that way?" he exclaimed.

"Why of course. What did you think?"

"I thought you were a--a--" He hesitated.

"You thought I was respectable," laughed Therese. "Well, that's just a
little game I was playing on you."

"But I didn't give you any money!" he argued.

"Not that time," she said, "but I thought you would come back."

He sat gazing at her. "And you earn your living that way still?" he
asked. "When you know what's the matter with you! When you know--"

"What can I do? I have to live, don't I?"

"But don't you even take care of yourself? Surely there must be some
way, some place--"

"The reformatory, perhaps," she sneered. "No, thanks! I'll go there
when the police catch me, not before. I know some girls that have tried

"But aren't you afraid?" cried the man. "And the things that will happen
to you! Have you ever talked to a doctor--or read a book?"

"I know," she said. "I've seen it all. If it comes to me, I'll go over
the side of one of the bridges some dark night."

George sat lost in thought. A strange adventure it seemed to him--to
meet this girl under such different circumstances! It was as if he were
watching a play from behind the scenes instead of in front. If only he
had had this new view in time--how different would have been his life!
And how terrible it was to think of the others who didn't know--the
audience who were still sitting out in front, watching the spectacle,
interested in it!

His thoughts came back to Therese. He was curious about her and the life
she lived. "Tell me a little about it," he said. "How you came to be
doing this." And he added, "Don't think I want to preach; I'd really
like to understand."

"Oh, it's a common story," she said--"nothing especially romantic.
I came to Paris when I was a girl. My parents had died, and I had no
friends, and I didn't know what to do. I got a place as a nursemaid.
I was seventeen years old then, and I didn't know anything. I believed
what I was told, and I believed my employer. His wife was ill in a
hospital, and he said he wanted to marry me when she died. Well, I liked
him, and I was sorry for him--and then the first thing I knew I had a
baby. And then the wife came back, and I was turned off. I had been a
fool, of course. If I had been in her place should have done just what
she did."

The girl was speaking in a cold, matter-of-fact voice, as of things
about which she was no longer able to suffer. "So, there I was--on the
street," she went on. "You have always had money, a comfortable home,
education, friends to help you--all that. You can't imagine how it is
to be in the world without any of these things. I lived on my savings as
long as I could; then I had to leave my baby in a foundling's home, and
I went out to do my five hours on the boulevards. You know the game, I
have no doubt."

Yes, George knew the game. Somehow or other he no longer felt bitter
towards this poor creature. She was part of the system of which he was
a victim also. There was nothing to be gained by hating each other.
Just as the doctor said, what was needed was enlightenment. "Listen," he
said, "why don't you try to get cured?"

"I haven't got the price," was the answer.

"Well," he said, hesitatingly, "I know a doctor--one of the really good
men. He has a free clinic, and I've no doubt he would take you in if I
asked him to."

"YOU ask him?" echoed the other, looking at George in surprise.

The young man felt somewhat uncomfortable. He was not used to playing
the role of the good Samaritan. "I--I need not tell him about us," he
stammered. "I could just say that I met you. I have had such a wretched
time myself, I feel sorry for anybody that's in the same plight. I
should like to help you if I could."

The girl sat staring before her, lost in thought. "I have treated you
badly, I guess," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm ashamed of myself."

George took a pencil and paper from his pocket and wrote the doctor's
address. "Here it is," he said, in a business-like way, because he felt
that otherwise he could become sentimental. He was half tempted to tell
the woman what had happened to him, and all about Henriette and the
sick child; but he realized that that would not do. So he rose and shook
hands with her and left.

The next time he saw the doctor he told him about this girl. He decided
to tell him the truth--having already made so many mistakes trying
to conceal things. The doctor agreed to treat the woman, making the
condition that George promise not to see her again.

The young man was rather shocked at this. "Doctor," he exclaimed, "I
assure you you are mistaken. The thing you have in mind would be utterly

"I know," said the other, "you think so. But I think, young man, that
I know more about life than you do. When a man and a woman have once
committed such a sin, it is easy for them to slip back. The less time
they spend talking about their misfortunes, and being generous and
forbearing to each other, the better for them both."

"But, Doctor," cried George. "I love Henriette! I could not possibly
love anyone else. It would be horrible to me!"

"Yes," said the doctor. "But you are not living with Henriette. You are
wandering round, not knowing what to do with yourself next."

There was no need for anybody to tell George that. "What do you think?"
he asked abruptly. "Is there any hope for me?"

"I think there is," said the other, who, in spite of his resolution, had
become a sort of ambassador for the unhappy husband. He had to go to
the Loches house to attend the child, and so he could not help seeing
Henriette, and talking to her about the child's health and her own
future. He considered that George had had his lesson, and urged upon the
young wife that he would be wiser in future, and safe to trust.

George had indeed learned much. He got new lessons every time he went to
call at the physician's office--he could read them in the faces of the
people he saw there. One day when he was alone in the waiting-room, the
doctor came out of his inner office, talking to an elderly gentleman,
whom George recognized as the father of one of his classmates at
college. The father was a little shopkeeper, and the young man
remembered how pathetically proud he had been of his son. Could it be,
thought George, that this old man was a victim of syphilis?

But it was the son, and not the father, who was the subject of the
consultation. The old man was speaking in a deeply moved voice, and he
stood so that George could not help hearing what he said. "Perhaps you
can't understand," he said, "just what it means to us--the hopes we had
of that boy! Such a fine fellow he was, and a good fellow, too, sir! We
were so proud of him; we had bled our veins to keep him in college--and
now just see!"

"Don't despair, sir," said the doctor, "we'll try to cure him." And he
added with that same note of sorrow in his voice which George had heard,
"Why did you wait so long before you brought the boy to me?"

"How was I to know what he had?" cried the other. "He didn't dare tell
me, sir--he was afraid of my scolding him. And in the meantime the
disease was running its course. When he realized that he had it, he went
secretly to one of the quacks, who robbed him, and didn't cure him. You
know how it is, sir."

"Yes, I know," said the doctor.

"Such things ought not to be permitted," cried the old man. "What is
our government about that it allows such things to go on? Take the
conditions there at the college where my poor boy was ruined. At the
very gates of the building these women are waiting for the lads! Ought
they to be permitted to debauch young boys only fifteen years old?
Haven't we got police enough to prevent a thing like that? Tell me,

"One would think so," said the doctor, patiently.

"But is it that the police don't want to?"

"No doubt they have the same excuse as all the rest--they don't know.
Take courage, sir; we have cured worse cases than your son's. And some
day, perhaps, we shall be able to change these conditions."

So he went on with the man, leaving George with something to think
about. How much he could have told them about what had happened to that
young fellow when only fifteen years old! It had not been altogether the
fault of the women who were lurking outside of the college gates; it was
a fact that the boy's classmates had teased him and ridiculed him, had
literally made his life a torment, until he had yielded to temptation.

It was the old, old story of ignorant and unguided schoolboys all over
the world! They thought that to be chaste was to be weak and foolish;
that a fellow was not a man unless he led a life of debauchery like the
rest. And what did they know about these dreadful diseases? They had the
most horrible superstitions--ideas of cures so loathsome that they could
not be set down in print; ideas as ignorant and destructive as those
of savages in the heart of Africa. And you might hear them laughing
and jesting about one another's condition. They might be afflicted with
diseases which would have the most terrible after-effects upon their
whole lives and upon their families--diseases which cause tens of
thousands of surgical operations upon women, and a large percentage of
blindness and idiocy in children--and you might hear them confidently
express the opinion that these diseases were no worse than a bad cold!

And all this mass of misery and ignorance covered over and clamped
down by a taboo of silence, imposed by the horrible superstition of
sex-prudery! George went out from the doctor's office trembling with
excitement over this situation. Oh, why had not some one warned him in
time? Why didn't the doctors and the teachers lift up their voices and
tell young men about these frightful dangers? He wanted to go out in
the highways and preach it himself--except that he dared not, because he
could not explain to the world his own sudden interest in this forbidden

These was only one person he dared to talk to: that was his mother--to
whom he ought to have talked many, many years before. He was moved to
mention to her the interview he had overheard in the doctor's office. In
a sudden burst of grief he told her of his struggles and temptations; he
pleaded with her to go to Henriette once more--to tell her these things,
and try to make her realize that he alone was not to blame for them,
that they were a condition which prevailed everywhere, that the only
difference between her husband and other men was that he had had the
misfortune to be caught.

There was pressure being applied to Henriette from several sides. After
all, what could she do? She was comfortable in her father's home, so far
as the physical side of things went; but she knew that all her friends
were gossiping and speculating about her separation from her husband,
and sooner or later she would have to make up her mind, either to
separate permanently from George or to return to him. There was not much
happiness for her in the thought of getting a divorce from a man whom
deep in her heart she loved. She would be practically a widow the rest
of her life, and the home in which poor little Gervaise would be brought
up would not be a cheerful one.

George was ready to offer any terms, if only she would come back to his
home. They might live separate lives for as long as Henriette wished.
They would have no more children until the doctor declared it was quite
safe; and in the meantime he would be humble and patient, and would try
his best to atone for the wrong that he had done her.

To these arguments Madame Dupont added others of her own. She told the
girl some things which through bitter experience she had learned about
the nature and habits of men; things that should be told to every girl
before marriage, but which almost all of them are left to find out
afterwards, with terrible suffering and disillusionment. Whatever
George's sins may have been, he was a man who had been chastened by
suffering, and would know how to value a woman's love for the rest of
his life. Not all men knew that--not even those who had been fortunate
in escaping from the so-called "shameful disease."

Henriette was also hearing arguments from her father, who by this time
had had time to think things over, and had come to the conclusion
that the doctor was right. He had noted his son-in-law's patience and
penitence, and had also made sure that in spite of everything Henriette
still loved him. The baby apparently was doing well; and the Frenchman,
with his strong sense of family ties, felt it a serious matter to
separate a child permanently from its father. So in the end he cast
the weight of his influence in favor of a reconciliation, and Henriette
returned to her husband, upon terms which the doctor laid down.

The doctor played in these negotiations the part which he had not been
allowed to play in the marriage. For the deputy was now thoroughly awake
to the importance of the duty he owed his daughter. In fact, he had
become somewhat of a "crank" upon the whole subject. He had attended
several of the doctor's clinics, and had read books and pamphlets on the
subject of syphilis, and was now determined that there should be some
practical steps towards reform.

At the outset, he had taken the attitude of the average legislator, that
the thing to do was to strengthen the laws against prostitution, and to
enforce them more strictly. He echoed the cry of the old man whom George
had heard in the doctor's office: "Are there not enough police?"

"We must go to the source," he declared. "We must proceed against these
miserable women--veritable poisoners that they are!"

He really thought this was going to the source! But the doctor was quick
to answer his arguments. "Poisoners?" he said. "You forget that they
have first been poisoned. Every one of these women who communicates the
disease has first received it from some man."

Monsieur Loches advanced to his second idea, to punish the men. But the
doctor had little interest in this idea either. He had seen it tried so
many times--such a law could never be enforced. What must come first was
education, and by this means a modification of morals. People must cease
to treat syphilis as a mysterious evil, of which not even the name could
be pronounced.

"But," objected the other, "one cannot lay it bare to children in our
educational institutions!"

"Why not?" asked the doctor.

"Because, sir, there are curiosities which it would be imprudent to

The doctor became much excited whenever he heard this argument. "You
believe that you are preventing these curiosities from awakening?"
he demanded. "I appeal to those--both men and women--who have passed
through colleges and boarding schools! Such curiosities cannot be
smothered, and they satisfy themselves as best they can, basely,
vilely. I tell you, sir, there is nothing immoral about the act which
perpetuates life by means of love. But we organize around it, so far as
concerns our children, a gigantic and rigorous conspiracy of silence.
The worthy citizen takes his daughter and his son to popular musical
comedies, where they listen to things which would make a monkey blush;
but it is forbidden to discuss seriously before the young that act
of love which people seem to think they should only know of through
blasphemies and profanations! Either that act is a thing of which
people can speak without blushing--or else, sir, it is a matter for
the innuendoes of the cabaret and the witticisms of the messroom!
Pornography is admitted, but science is not! I tell you, sir, that is
the thing which must be changed! We must elevate the soul of the young
man by taking these facts out of the realm of mystery and of slang. We
must awaken in him a pride in that creative power with which each one of
us is endowed. We must make him understand that he is a sort of temple
in which is prepared the future of the race, and we must teach him that
he must transmit, intact, the heritage entrusted to him--the precious
heritage which has been built out of the tears and miseries and
sufferings of an interminable line of ancestors!"

So the doctor argued. He brought forth case after case to prove that the
prostitute was what she was, not because of innate vileness, but because
of economic conditions. It happened that the deputy came to one of the
clinics where he met Therese. The doctor brought her into his consulting
room, after telling her that the imposing-looking gentleman was a friend
of the director of the opera, and might be able to recommend her for
a position on the stage to which she aspired. "Tell him all about
yourself," he said, "how you live, and what you do, and what you would
like to do. You will get him interested in you."

So the poor girl retold the story of her life. She spoke in a
matter-of-fact voice, and when she came to tell how she had been obliged
to leave her baby in the foundling asylum, she was surprised that
Monsieur Loches showed horror. "What could I do?" she demanded. "How
could I have taken care of it?"

"Didn't you ever miss it?" he asked.

"Of course I missed it. But what difference did that make? It would have
died of hunger with me."

"Still," he said, "it was your child--"

"It was the father's child, too, wasn't it? Much attention he paid to
it! If I had been sure of getting money enough, I would have put it out
to nurse. But with the twenty-five or thirty francs a month I could have
earned as a servant, could I have paid for a baby? That's the situation
a girl faces--so long as I wanted to remain honest, it was impossible
for me to keep my child. You answer, perhaps, 'You didn't stay honest
anyway.' That's true. But then--when you are hungry, and a nice young
fellow offers you dinner, you'd have to be made of wood to refuse him.
Of course, if I had had a trade--but I didn't have any. So I went on the
street--You know how it is."

"Tell us about it," said the doctor. "This gentleman is from the

"Is that so?" said the girl. "I never supposed there was anyone who
didn't know about such things. Well, I took the part of a little
working-girl. A very simple dress--things I had made especially for
that--a little bundle in a black napkin carried in my hand--so I walked
along where the shops are. It's tiresome, because to do it right, you
have to patter along fast. Then I stop before a shop, and nine times out
of ten, there you are! A funny thing is that the men--you'd imagine
they had agreed on the words to approach you with. They have only two
phrases; they never vary them. It's either, 'You are going fast, little
one.' Or it's, 'Aren't you afraid all alone?' One thing or the other.
One knows pretty well what they mean. Isn't it so?" The girl paused,
then went on. "Again, I would get myself up as a young widow. There,
too, one has to walk fast: I don't know why that should be so, but it
is. After a minute or two of conversation, they generally find out that
I am not a young widow, but that doesn't make any difference--they go on
just the same."

"Who are the men?" asked the deputy. "Clerks? Traveling salesmen?"

"Not much," she responded. "I keep a lookout for gentlemen--like

"They SAY they are gentlemen," he suggested.

"Sometimes I can see it," was the response. "Sometimes they wear orders.
It's funny--if they have on a ribbon when you first notice them, they
follow you, and presto--the ribbon is gone! I always laugh over that.
I've watched them in the glass of the shop windows. They try to look
unconcerned, but as they walk along they snap out the ribbon with their
thumb--as one shells little peas, you know."

She paused; then, as no one joined in her laugh, she continued, "Well,
at last the police got after me, That's a story that I've never been
able to understand. Those filthy men gave me a nasty disease, and then I
was to be shut in prison for it! That was a little too much, it seems to

"Well," said the doctor, grimly, "you revenged yourself on them--from
what you have told me."

The other laughed. "Oh, yes," she said. "I had my innings." She turned
to Monsieur Loches. "You want me to tell you that? Well, just on the
very day I learned that the police were after me, I was coming home
furious, naturally. It was on the Boulevard St. Denis, if you know the
place--and whom do you think I met? My old master--the one who got me
into trouble, you know. There it was, God's own will! I said to myself,
'Now, my good fellow, here's the time where you pay me what you owe me,
and with interest, too!' I put on a little smile--oh, it didn't take
very long, you may be sure!"

The woman paused; her face darkened, and she went on, in a voice
trembling with agitation: "When I had left him, I was seized with a
rage. A sort of madness got into my blood. I took on all the men who
offered themselves, for whatever they offered me, for nothing, if they
didn't offer me anything. I took as many as I could, the youngest ones
and the handsomest ones. Just so! I only gave them back what they had
given to me. And since that time I haven't really cared about anyone any
more. I just turned it all into a joke." She paused, and then looking
at the deputy, and reading in his face the horror with which he was
regarding her, "Oh, I am not the only one!" she exclaimed. "There
are lots of other women who do the same. To be sure, it is not for
vengeance--it is because they must have something to eat. For even if
you have syphilis, you have to eat, don't you? Eh?"

She had turned to the doctor, but he did not answer. There was a long
silence; and then thinking that his friend, the deputy, had heard enough
for one session, the doctor rose. He dismissed the woman, the cause of
all George Dupont's misfortunes, and turning to Monsieur Loches, said:
"It was on purpose that I brought that wretched prostitute before
you. In her the whole story is summed up--not merely the story of your
son-in-law, but that of all the victims of the red plague. That woman
herself is a victim, and she is a symbol of the evil which we have
created and which falls upon our own heads again. I could add nothing to
her story, I only ask you, Monsieur Loches--when next you are proposing
new laws in the Chamber of Deputies, not to forget the horrors which
that poor woman has exposed to you!"

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Damaged Goods; the great play "Les avaries" by Brieux, novelized with the approval of the author" ***

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