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"But good heavens!" she cried, "how can such a thing be possible? How can I, a dancer, an athletic woman with muscles of steel, a woman who has never known a day's illness in her life, have given birth to a hunchback child?"

It s not so bad as that, Madame. The boy won't actually be a hunchback—at least we must pray that he won't. The deformity is only a slight one. But if you ask me, I will teil you candidly that it is quite possible just because you are a dancer of abnormal strength that your child was born a weakling. In my experience, I have invariably observed that it is the lazy phlegmatic women who produce the healthiest babies."

And Paul, sucking his thumb, stared at his mother solemnly, patiently, with round dark eyes that seemed too heavy for his waxen face.

Lina returned to Paris, summoned Heinrich and burst into tears.

"My child's deformed. And they can't cure him— he'11 never be the same as other boys! It's so cruel, it's so cruel," she continued, walking up and down the room in a veritable transport of rage, "that Nordstrom and I, in a moment of folly, should have created a being that we didn't want, that never asked to be born, and that will always be, when it grows up, abnormal, an invalid, a poor miserable sickly creature with a crooked back!"

"But my poor Lina, you are not to blame! It's not your fault that the child is deformed."

"It's my fault that the child was born at all." And she murmured, desolate, wiping her eyes: "What's worse than anything is the fact that I can't love Paul. I can't, I can t, and really I have tried . . . but he's so strange, so ugly . . . more like a gnome than a human child . . . yes, that's what it is, he's like something out of Les Elfes', and I don't want even to touch him or be near him'

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