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´╗┐Title: Unbegotten Child
Author: Marks, Winston K., 1915-1979
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 "Unbegotten Child" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note:

    This etext was produced from Galaxy Science Fiction November 1953.
    Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.
    copyright on this publication was renewed.

                           unbegotten child

                           By WINSTON MARKS

                        Illustrated by VIDMER

     _If this was true, there ought to be another edition of What
      Every Young Girl Should Know!_

       *       *       *       *       *

"What," she demanded, sitting bolt upright in the hospital bed, "has
happened to the medical world? In Italy, they tell me I have an
abdominal tumor. In Paris, it's cancer. And now you fat-heads are
trying to tell me I'm pregnant!"

I stuffed my stethoscope into my jacket pocket and tried to pat her
hand. "Take it easy, Mrs. Caffey--"

"It's _Miss Caffey_, damn you," she said snatching her hand away, "and
better I should have gone to an astrologer!"


"See here, now," I said, letting a stern note enter my voice. "You
came here requesting a verification of the malignancy of this
growth. Our discovery of a six month foetus is a fact, not an

"Look, Buster, I'm a thirty-six-year-old spinster. Like the joke goes,
I haven't been married _or anything_. Also, I knew about the birds and
the bees before you were emptying bedpans. Now will you get off this
subject of babies and find out whether it's safe for me to start any
continued stories?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Such protestations from unmarried mothers were not uncommon, but Sara
Caffey's cold convictions were unshakable. She sank back into her
seven satin pillows and sighed mightily. Her wide-spaced, intelligent
eyes glared at me from a handsome, if somewhat overly strong, face.
Creamy white shoulders swept gracefully into gradually darkening neck
skin and frankly tanned cheeks and broad forehead. Her straight,
slender nose was sunburned.

As resident physician for over fifteen years, I had learned patience
in these matters. But the thought that this lovely creature expected
me to believe that she was an unfulfilled old maid got under my skin,
particularly under the circumstances.

"Miss Caffey, I am a physician, not a philosopher. Just the same,
permit me to congratulate you on your virginity."

"Thanks," she said, in a voice not untinged with pride.

"However," I went on, "in spite of certain contra-indications and
irregularities of symptoms such as the absence of morning sickness and
the like, I would like to enlist your cooperation in delivering
yourself of an infant within the next three months."

"Dr. Foley, please understand!" She threw her hands apart in despair.
"I love children. I would have an acre of them if I were married, or
even in the mood for any other alliance. But men just don't fit my
frame of reference. And regardless of what kind of a damned fool I may
make of myself in the future, I haven't, to date! Doctor, the kind of
cooperation you ask for hasn't been known for two thousand years."

I tried another tack. "Well, since you arrived without a medical
history on your condition, would you tell us the name of your last
doctor so we may write for a transcript?"

"Phillipe Sansome, in Paris."

"The surgeon?"

She nodded. "And don't try to explain that he misdiagnosed because
he's hungry for surgical fees. He didn't plan to operate. In fact,
that's why I left. He was trying some new cure of his own that didn't
set well with the staff there, and they got into such a squabble I
figured I'd better remove the cause of it all before the dear old man
lost his license."

While she was speaking, I casually drew back the covers and exposed
her slightly swollen abdomen. It, too, had a surprising coat of tan. I
donned my stethoscope, moved the diaphragm around until I had what I
wanted, and held it there.

"Yes, I know of Dr. Sansome," I told her. "We shall send a wire at
once for your case record. Helps, you know. Now, if you will just slip
these into your ears--"

She let me hang the stethoscope around her neck, and even brushed back
her shining black hair so I could adjust the ear-pieces for her.

"If Doctor Sansome had heard that," I said, "he would have changed his

She listened intently to the quick, light, foetal heartbeat for over a
minute, and gradually a faraway gleam lighted her eyes. "Oh if you
were only right," she said softly, "Here I've chased stories all over
the globe half my life, and I'd have the biggest story since the flood
right here in my own tummy!"

She lay back again. "But of course, you're wrong."

"Then what do you call the sounds you've just heard?" I said in
complete exasperation.

"Gut rumble," she said. "Now go along like a nice intern and find me a
passel of surgeons and let's have at this tumor, cancer, bubble-gum or
what have you. I want out of here, fast as I can mend."

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no reason to keep the female news-correspondent in bed, but
she wouldn't stir. She was confident that Phillipe Sansome's findings
would convince us. Three days passed with no word from Paris. Then, on
the fourth day, her medical history arrived in the briefcase of the
famous surgeon himself.

"I flew," he apologized, "but it took two days to detach myself.
Delighted to meet you, Dr. Foley. Your cable mentioned a Miss Sara
Caffey, maternity patient. Is it _possible_?"

He was large for a Frenchman, and his gauntness was compounded by an
obvious lack of sleep. His black eyes bore into mine as if to drag out
what appeared to me to be a fairly mundane admission.

"We call her that," I said shrugging. "And as to her condition, you
may examine her yourself."

"_Sacre bleu!_" His eyes rolled up like bloodshot cue-balls. "She
left us at her own insistence. Aside from ethics, we must not disturb
her by my reappearance. But I have a favor to ask. A giant mountain of
a fantastic favor. Now that I have found her again, I must not lose
her, certainly not, until--"

He grabbed pen and paper and moved his chair to my desk. He wrote
briefly. "_Voila!_ These simple adjustments in her metabolism--diet,
and just a few so petite injections. And may I remain here in the
behind-ground, incognito? I will help with other work--at no cost, of
course. I will be an orderly, if you will. But I must remain in touch.
Close touch."

I was a bit nonplussed. A man of Sansome's reputation! It was like a
United States Senator pleading for the opportunity to scrub out the
men's room at the House of Representatives. Just the same, I wouldn't
be stampeded or overawed. Several provocative explanations for the
French doctor's concern came to mind.... Was he the repudiated father
of Sara's unborn child? Or was he a practitioner of artificial
insemination, with a rather unfortunate error to his credit?

"Your request is unusual," I said cautiously, "but not entirely
unreasonable. In order to justify it, I am sure you will be willing to
explain your interest in this case, will you not, Doctor?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He frowned, "I suppose I must. But you will believe little of it. My
own staff agreed with my diagnosis, but they violently rejected my
theory. Wait until they hear _your_ diagnosis, doctor!" He unzipped
his briefcase. "She probably protests that she has a malignant tumor,
not a baby," he remarked as he laid thick sheafs of paper on my desk.

"You are so very right," I said.

"Madamoiselle is magnificent," he observed, running slender, wrinkled
hands through his sparse gray hair. "But her obstinacy will not avail
against evolution. No more than we doctors' monumental ignorance."

"Evolution? Explain, please."

"Here is the case history." He drummed on it with his short-clipped
nails. "In it, you will find that Caffey came to us three months ago
with her body cavity in the grasp of a small octopus of a soft form
carcinoma. The pain reached from pelvis to chest."

"Incredible!" I exclaimed.

Sansome spread his hand on the record sheets. "Facts are never
incredible," he reminded me gently. "What follows, however, will tax
your credulity, and I beg of you to allow me to impose an outrageous
concept whose only virtue appears to be its demonstrated validity."


"In forty years of slicing away tumerous growths, I had become morbid
at the dreadful incidence of recurrence and the obscene mortality
rate. In spite of all our techniques, these cancers have increased
with the persistence of Nature herself.

"In a fit of prolonged depression brought on by a foolishly strenuous
research of histories, my mind stumbled into a stupid preoccupation
with a few isolated cases of exogenic pregnancy. One which fascinated
me was the young 17-year-old boy from whose lung a surgeon removed a
live three-month foetus. Somehow the obvious explanation refused to
satisfy me. It was, of course, concluded that the foetus was an
undeveloped twin to the boy himself.

"This _could_ be so; but on what facts was this assumption based?
None. Only the absence of any other theory justified the concept. The
surgeon had expected to find a hard carcinoma.

"And it came to me suddenly that _he had found his cancer_!

"My interpolation was this: Mankind is suffering an evolutionary
change in his reproductive procedure. The high incidence of various
tumors evidences Nature's experiments in developing a asexual

       *       *       *       *       *

Sansome's statement so flabbergasted me that I looked at him for signs
of facetiousness or irrationality. His extreme fatigue was
evident--but his calmness and clarity of self-expression in a foreign
language indicated no mental confusion. A hoax of such magnitude was
outside the realm of possibility for a surgeon of his distinction.

The man was simply following a blind alley of reasoning, set off by
his life-long frustration of battling cancer.

I mustered my patience and drew him out, hoping he would find a
contradiction in his own theory.

"This is a rather staggering notion, Dr. Sansome," I said. "Have you
been able to support it with--additional evidence?"

"Until Miss Caffey," he said, "frankly, no. Not the kind of evidence
that is acceptable. But the theory has much to defend it. In your own
Journal of the A. M. A., May 7, 1932, Dr. Maud Slye published the
first solid evidence that predisposition to so-called malignant tumor
is hereditary. Is this not a better characteristic of a true mutation,
rather than of a disease?"

"Perhaps," I said. "But how does Mother Nature justify the
desirability of a change from our present rather successful bisexual
system? And isn't she being rather cruel in her methods? Think of the
millions she has made suffer in her experiments."

"Mother Nature," Sansome pronounced positively, "is neither kind nor
cruel. She is manifestly indifferent to all but the goal of survival
of the species. Our civilization has set out to thwart her with
increasingly more effective methods of birth-control. In the light of
survival, Nature is most justified in trying to bring millions of
frustrated, childless humans to parenthood.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Meanwhile," he said, riffling the case history of Sara Caffey, "let
us examine the evidence at hand. Our patient arrived in Paris
positively cancerous. After confirming the diagnosis, I proposed an
unprecedented treatment based on my theory. We know several body
conditions which promote the rapid development of carcinoma, such as
excess alkalinity and high blood sugar content and so forth. Instead
of trying to reduce these and fight the tumor, I reversed the
treatment and aided Miss Caffey's body to support and encourage its
growth to what I predicted would be a new maturity.

"And what happened?" He threw up his hands. "In two months, the
tendrils of the octopus withdrew into the central body of the tumor.
The tendency to spread in search for attenuated nourishment was
reversed with the treatment. This alone was an accomplishment, for it
would have made the growth operable in a short time.

"Unfortunately, word of my unorthodox prescription reached a jealous
colleague, and he set off such a quarrel at the Institute that Miss
Caffey packed up and left with the generous misconception that she was
saving me from embarrassment. I had no opportunity to assure her that
the Cancer Institute would decide ultimately in my favor--which it
shall when I return with a photostat of a certain birth certificate."

He smiled for the first time, and his charm was so powerful that I
sincerely wanted to believe in him. I could see no use in denying him
his request, for his prescriptions were of an innocuous nature for a
normally pregnant woman such as Sara Caffey. I trusted that a normal
birth of a typical baby would finally dissuade him.

I extended my hand again. "You are most welcome to stay with us,
doctor," I told him. "The treatment you desire is within reason, and I
admire your tenacity with your theory. I hope you will forgive me,
however, if I say that I find your premises rather tenuous. I feel
that we will witness a very normal birth, and ultimately Miss Caffey
will find it to her peace of mind to confess a secret marriage, or, at
most--an alliance of which she may be pathologically ashamed at the

Sansome grasped my hand with enthusiasm. "_Bien! Tres bien!_" he
exclaimed. "This is more generous even than I expected. Certainly I do
not expect a scientist of your station to swallow my theory at a gulp,
Dr. Foley. I will admit that my persistence depends more than it
should on intuition. But we shall see. I am grateful to you." And he
kissed me firmly on each cheek.

       *       *       *       *       *

A study of Sansome's carefully prepared case history on Sara Caffey
did disturb me a little. I ordered a thorough reexamination, and was
left with some puzzling conclusions at the apparent absence of
tumorous growth, malignant or otherwise.

Sara was enduring most of the classic symptoms of typical pregnancy,
and was enjoying Dr. Sansome's treatment hugely. She guzzled the
alkaline-producing fruit juices, fortified with carefully rationed
dribbles of gin. She nibbled contentedly at the sweets which the
Frenchman supplied anonymously. And she raised merry hell because we
refused to operate.

After two weeks, she threatened to leave. I was paged over the P. A.
and got to her room in time to catch her trying to zip up her skirt.

She looked at me impatiently, and then back to her abdomen. "Damned
thing's getting out of hand."

She had on an expensive tweed suit, and the smart, powder-blue
cashmere coat I helped her into made her look her role of
distinguished world traveler, syndicated columnist and woman of parts.

She hunched her shoulders forward slightly, so the loose folds of the
coat concealed her protruding middle.

"Thanks," she said casually. "I'll write you a check and be on my

"Dr. Sansome will be disappointed," I said casually.

"You heard from him?" she asked with interest.

I nodded.

She put her hands on her hips. "And you still persist with your
fatuous idea that I'm going to have a baby?"

"Let us say," I evaded, "that we have adopted Dr. Sansome's treatment
on a wait-and-see basis. You said yourself that he refused to operate.
We have definitely confirmed that much. Your condition is still
inoperable, but you are coming along fine."

"Well, now, why didn't you tell me that before." She threw off her
coat and relieved the pressure of her waist zipper with a grateful
sigh. "Now you're making sense. Send out for another Spillane. I'll go
along with that. But no more of this drivel about transferring me to
the maternity ward, see?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten nights later, she changed her mind. I passed her room after a late
emergency case. The door was open and I heard her crying softly to
herself. I stopped in. Her bed lamp was on, and for a change she
looked all woman.

I felt her pulse and asked, "What's the matter, Sara?"

"I'm going to have a baby!" she sobbed. "I've been feeling something
peculiar for some time. But tonight it kicked the hell out of me."

"Want to talk about it?" I asked, still holding her wrist.

She looked at me with genuine bafflement in her eyes. Her face was
puckered up like a hurt child's. "But it's so impossible, doctor. I'm
sorry I talked to you the way I have, but so help me, I'm a good

I almost said, _Well, these things happen_, but that would have
sounded pretty silly. It was evident that she still wouldn't admit
even to herself how and when it had happened.

"Ever go on a good binge?" I suggested.

"Not since I was sixteen," she exclaimed. "But I could use one right
now. No, that might hurt the baby." She folded her arms protectively
around her middle. "I don't get it. I don't get it at all. But if
that's the way it is--" A crooked, pleased smile wrinkled tears from
her cheeks. "Leave it to Sary to do things the unusual way."

She looked up at me. "Did you know I was the first white woman to
interview a Rajah's harem eunuch?"

"Looks like you have a real story this time," I said, playing along
with her.

"Yeah. But who in hell will write it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Phillipe Sansome made himself eminently useful. He assisted in surgery
every morning, refusing fees and pleading with everyone to maintain
his anonymity. The staff was in on the conspiracy, and the nurses
smiled indulgently at him behind his back. But Sansome was too great a
man to ridicule. The general feeling was the same as mine. He was
older than he thought, not in body, but in over-tired nerves and
exhausted mind. None contested his skill with the scalpel; but none
gave ten cents worth of credence to his twist on the theory of

As Sara's confinement proceeded with precise conformity to my
expectations, I thought Sansome would lose heart--but he didn't. He
arranged to be present in the delivery room with as much interest as
if we expected a breach birth of a two-headed panda.

I was unfortunately called to Baltimore at the last minute. I flew
both ways, but my haste was in vain. Sara gave birth while I was still

I checked in with more excitement than I'd thought possible. I asked
at the desk, "How's Caffey?"

"Fine. Gave birth an hour ago. Beautiful little girl--"

I didn't wait for more. I dashed upstairs to the maternity ward, where
Sara had finally consented to be moved, and slipped into her room.

She was tired, but conscious. She smiled at me peculiarly.

"So it's a girl!" I exclaimed. "Wait until I see Sansome. A beautiful,
healthy, normal baby!"

A hand tapped me softly on the shoulder, and I turned to look into
Sansome's triumphant eyes.

"Without a navel," he said.

                                                          --WINSTON MARKS

       *       *       *       *       *

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