Our Friend Manso

By Benito Pérez Galdós; Robert Russell | Go to book overview

XXXIII
A CURSE ON YOU, MY HUMANITARIAN HEART!

YOU WERE AN AUXILIARY pressed into universal service, a little machine enrolled in the assistance of others; you were, more properly, a priest of what we call altruism, a religion very little practiced. If you produced blooms, you hastened to arrange them in the vase of generosity, where all might help themselves; if thorns, you stuffed them into the pocket of egotism and suffered the stabs alone. That's how I was thinking as I walked to the Provincial Government Building, a place I could count on for finding what my little godson needed. Earlier I had tried to see Augusto Miquis, a young and respected doctor friend of mine. He wasn't in; but his companions told me that perhaps I might find him at the Provincial Government. As luck would have it, he was in charge of examining the wet nurses. This happy coincidence gave me great encouragement; I considered Maximín redeemed already, and wasting no time I presented myself in those paternal offices, which give a fine example, with many others, of the proven and universal vigilance of our Administrative Branch and of how wretched we should all be if it weren't there to care for all our needs, bearing us in its loving arms from the cradle to the grave. Let it suffice to say that in a desire to give us all things it even breast-feeds us.

I had some acquaintance with government-as-doctor, government-as- teacher, and many other varieties of this provident institution; but I had yet to meet the government-as-wet-nurse. I was aghast as I went into that great room, not very light or clean, and saw the mammiferous squadron, lined up on fixed benches against the wall, while two doctors--one of them was Angusto--performed their examinations. The disagreeable herd was revolting in the extreme, and my first thought was a consideration of the horrible perversion and baseness of those women. At first glance one could tell the difference between those who had taken on this work as a regular calling, and those who had ended up in such indignity through a combination of misfortune and poverty. Some were accompanied by greedy parents; others by their

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