restricted access 27. Cholera Gives Me a Godchild
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27 o Cholera Gives Me a Godchild Beaujon Hospice,  March —‘‘You are all she will have’’     Caroline at the hospice. She was in pain, and the doctor handed me such a frail little girl that I said to myself, ‘‘She will never live.’’ The father was present. He asked me to hold the little girl at the baptismal fonts with one of his friends, whom he would be bringing the next day at ten o’clock. M. Richard kept his word. At fouro’clock hewas at my house. I teased him about his sudden change. He urged me, ‘‘Agree to come dine tomorrow with your friend and my cousin. It is the only way you can persuade me that you do not hold anything against me.’’ ‘‘I hold nothing against you, but I have too much to do; I am a godmother .’’ ‘‘You will be free at six o’clock and I shall come by for you.’’ ‘‘No, send your cousin, and you will pick up Victorine.’’  ,    The next day at nine o’clock, I was at the hospice with my little bundle. I dressed my godchild for whom everything was too big. I had to gather her little bonnet. At the church my heart sank. There was a wedding ceremony. I thought about Lionel, and a couple of tears dropped from myeyes down to the little girl’s forehead. I showed the spot to the priest, who wiped it with holy oils. I gave her the name of Solange in memory of Berry, and mine, so she would remember me. On the way out of the church I held her pressed against my heart. I felt like running away with her as if she were mine. I walked toward the hospice and ruefully placed her in her cradle. I  Cholera Gives Me a Godchild took charge of finding a nursemaid. I did not return to see her until the next day. Caroline looked pale and hollow-eyed. ‘‘Have you found a nursemaid?’’ ‘‘Yes, she will be here tomorrow.’’ ‘‘Oh! Madame, it is not tomorrow she must come, but today. Death is in this room. Since your last visit, five women and four children have died.’’ ‘‘Do not worry, tomorrow will be here soon.’’ ‘‘But, madame, look across the way.’’ And she lay back down. I crossed the room and, in fact, I did see something atrocious: a young woman, who must have been about twenty-two years old, was holding a tiny baby in her arms. She was trying to nurse him, but he would not suckle. I stopped an orderly and asked her what that meant. She looked skyward without replying. ‘‘Here,’’ I told her as I slipped five francs into her hand, ‘‘take good care of the woman over there.’’ ‘‘Oh! You are her daughter’s godmother? Take her away right now.’’ She walked off to take care of the sick woman. ‘‘Did you see?’’ Caroline said. ‘‘Certainly, but do not torment yourself. I am taking Solange with me. The nursemaid wagon where I went, on Rue de la Victoire, will be there another three days. I shall keep her at my house. I shall return to see you tomorrow.’’ In Caroline’s absence I had hired a German girl who had previously worked for me by the day. This was  March . That day the Beaujon Hospice was all astir because rooms were being rearranged. Women in labor were moved from the first floor to the third. Everything was scrubbed and impeccably clean. In spite of these precautions, death was reaping a terrible harvest. Since Caroline’s admittance, seventeen women and children had suddenly been taken away. Mortality was two-thirds more prevalent among women who had just given birth. I asked for the intern on duty and requested that he tell me frankly what he knew. ‘‘Well! Mademoiselle, if you care for the life of this poor woman, take her away, even though she has not been here the nine days. There is no longer any doubt, it is cholera.’’ ‘‘Tomorrow her husband will bring her to me. Have her card signed.’’ The next day a carriage stopped at my door. Caroline was carried in  Cholera Gives Me a Godchild more than led in by her husband. I took a step backward; she seemed so changed. Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks hollow, her lips black. I put her in my bed and sent for my doctor, Lionel’s. The doctor looked at her for a...


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