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- CONSCIENCE - 13/13 -


Certainly, violence was not recreation, and it would be more agreeable to go in his way peacefully, by the power of intelligence and work, than to make a way by blows; but he had not chosen this road, he was thrown into it by circumstances, by fate, and whoever wishes to reach the end cannot choose the means. If one must walk in the mud, what matters it, when one knows that one will not get muddy?

If Caffie had had heirs, poor people who expected to be saved from misery by inheriting his fortune, he would have been touched by this consideration, undoubtedly. Robber! The word was yet more vile than that of assassin. But who would miss the few banknotes that he would take from the safe? To steal is to injure some one. Whom would he injure? He could see no one. But he saw distinctly an army of afflicted persons whom he would benefit.

A timid ring of the bell made him start violently, and he was angry with himself for being so nervous, he who was always master of his mind as of his body.

He opened the door, and a man dressed like a laborer bowed humbly.

"I beg your pardon for disturbing you, sir."

"What do you want?"

"I called on account of my wife, if you will be so good as to come to see her."

"What is the matter with her?"

"She is about to be confined. The nurse does not know what to do, and sent me for a doctor."

"Did the nurse tell you to come for me?"

"No, sir; she sent me to Doctor Legrand."

"Well?"

"His wife told me he could not get up on account of his bronchitis. And the chemist gave me your address."

"That is right."

"I must tell you, sir, I am an honest man, but we are not rich; we could not pay you--immediately."

"I understand. Wait a few minutes."

Saniel took his instruments and followed the laborer, who, on the way, explained his wife's condition.

"Where are we going?" Saniel asked, interrupting these explanations.

"Rue de la Corderie."

It was behind the Saint Honore' market, on the sixth floor, under the roof, in a room that was perfectly clean, in spite of its poverty. As soon as Saniel entered the nurse came forward, and in a few words told him the woman's trouble.

"Is the child living?"

"Yes."

"That is well; let us see."

He approached the bed and made a careful examination of the patient, who kept repeating:

"I am going to die. Save me, doctor!"

"Certainly, we shall save you," he said, very softly. "I promise you."

He turned away from the bed and said to the nurse:

"The only way to save the mother is to kill the child."

The operation was long, difficult, and painful, and after it was over Saniel remained a long time with the patient. When he reached the street a neighboring clock struck five, and the market-place had already begun to show signs of life.

But in the streets was still the silence and solitude of night, and Saniel began to reflect on what had occurred during the last few hours. Thus, he had not hesitated to kill this child, who had, perhaps, sixty or seventy years of happy life before it, and he hesitated at the death of Caffie, to whom remained only a miserable existence of a few weeks. The interests of a poor, weak, stunted woman had decided him; his, those of humanity, left him perplexed, irresolute, weak, and cowardly. What a contradiction!

He walked with his eyes lowered, and at this moment, before him on the pavement, he saw an object that glittered in the glare of the gas. He approached it, and found that it was a butcher's knife, that must have been lost, either on going to the market or the slaughterhouse.

He hesitated a moment whether he should pick it up or leave it there; then looking all about him, and seeing no one in the deserted street, and hearing no sound of footsteps in the silence, he bent quickly and took it.

Caffie's fate was decided.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

As free from prejudices as one may be, one always retains a few As ignorant as a schoolmaster Confidence in one's self is strength, but it is also weakness Conscience is a bad weighing-machine Conscience is only an affair of environment and of education Find it more easy to make myself feared than loved Force, which is the last word of the philosophy of life I believed in the virtue of work, and look at me! Intelligent persons have no remorse It is only those who own something who worry about the price Leant--and when I did not lose my friends I lost my money Leisure must be had for light reading, and even more for love People whose principle was never to pay a doctor Power to work, that was never disturbed or weakened by anything Reason before the deed, and not after Will not admit that conscience is the proper guide of our action


CONSCIENCE - 13/13

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