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Unbegotten child, p.1
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       Unbegotten Child, p.1

           Winston K. Marks
 
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Unbegotten Child


  Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  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, "hashappened to the medical world? In Italy, they tell me I have anabdominal tumor. In Paris, it's cancer. And now you fat-heads aretrying to tell me I'm pregnant!"

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

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

  "See here, now," I said, letting a stern note enter my voice. "Youcame here requesting a verification of the malignancy of thisgrowth. Our discovery of a six month foetus is a fact, not anaccusation."

  "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 andthe bees before you were emptying bedpans. Now will you get off thissubject of babies and find out whether it's safe for me to start anycontinued stories?"

  * * * * *

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

  As resident physician for over fifteen years, I had learned patiencein these matters. But the thought that this lovely creature expectedme 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 andirregularities of symptoms such as the absence of morning sickness andthe like, I would like to enlist your cooperation in deliveringyourself 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, oreven in the mood for any other alliance. But men just don't fit myframe of reference. And regardless of what kind of a damned fool I maymake of myself in the future, I haven't, to date! Doctor, the kind ofcooperation you ask for hasn't been known for two thousand years."

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

  "Phillipe Sansome, in Paris."

  "The surgeon?"

  She nodded. "And don't try to explain that he misdiagnosed becausehe'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'tset well with the staff there, and they got into such a squabble Ifigured I'd better remove the cause of it all before the dear old manlost his license."

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

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

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

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

  She listened intently to the quick, light, foetal heartbeat for over aminute, and gradually a faraway gleam lighted her eyes. "Oh if youwere only right," she said softly, "Here I've chased stories all overthe globe half my life, and I'd have the biggest story since the floodright 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 incomplete exasperation.

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

  * * * * *

  There was no reason to keep the female news-correspondent in bed, butshe wouldn't stir. She was confident that Phillipe Sansome's findingswould convince us. Three days passed with no word from Paris. Then, onthe fourth day, her medical history arrived in the briefcase of thefamous 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 SaraCaffey, maternity patient. Is it _possible_?"

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

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

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

  He grabbed pen and paper and moved his chair to my desk. He wrotebriefly. "_Voila!_ These simple adjustments in her metabolism--diet,and just a few so petite injections. And may I remain here in thebehind-ground, incognito? I will help with other work--at no cost, ofcourse. 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 aUnited States Senator pleading for the opportunity to scrub out themen's room at the House of Representatives. Just the same, I wouldn'tbe stampeded or overawed. Several provocative explanations for theFrench doctor's concern came to mind.... Was he the repudiated fatherof Sara's unborn child? Or was he a practitioner of artificialinsemination, with a rather unfortunate error to his credit?

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

  * * * * *

  He frowned, "I suppose I must. But you will believe little of it. Myown staff agreed with my diagnosis, but they violently rejected mytheory. Wait until they hear _your_ diagnosis, doctor!" He unzippedhis 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, wrinkledhands through his sparse gray hair. "But her obstinacy will not availagainst evolution. No more than we doctors' monumental ignorance."

  "Evolution? Explain, please."

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

  "Incredible!" I exclaimed.

  Sansome spread his hand on the record sheets. "Facts are neverincredible," he reminded me gently. "What follows, however, will taxyour credulity, and I beg of you to allow me to impose an outrageousconcept whose only virtue appears to be its demonstrated validity."

  "Proceed."

  "In forty years of slicing away tumerous growths, I had become morbidat the dreadful incidence of recurrence and the obscene mortalityrate. In spite of all our techniques, these cancers have increasedwith the
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