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|Damaged Goods||Upton Sinclair|
|Page 4 of 10||
"And yet," pursued the doctor, "you publish romances about adultery!"
"Yes," said George, "that's what the readers want."
"They don't want the truth about venereal diseases," exclaimed the other. "If they knew the full truth, they would no longer think that adultery was romantic and interesting."
He went on to give his advice as to the means of avoiding such diseases. There was really but one rule. It was: To love but one woman, to take her as a virgin, and to love her so much that she would never deceive you. "Take that from me," added the doctor, "and teach it to your son, when you have one."
George's attention was caught by this last sentence.
"You mean that I shall be able to have children?" he cried.
"Certainly," was the reply.
"I repeat it to you; if you take care of yourself properly for a long time, conscientiously, you have little to fear."
"Ninety-nine times out of a hundred."
George felt as if he had suddenly emerged from a dungeon. "Why, then," he exclaimed, "I shall be able to marry!"
"You will be able to marry," was the reply.
"You are not deceiving me? You would not give me that hope, you would not expose me? How soon will I be able to marry?"
"In three or four years," said the doctor.
"What!" cried George in consternation. "In three or four years? Not before?"
"How is that? Am I going to be sick all that time? Why, you told me just now--"
Said the doctor: "The disease will no longer be dangerous to you, yourself--but you will be dangerous to others."
"But," the young man cried, in despair, "I am to be married a month from now."
"That is impossible."
"But I cannot do any differently. The contract is ready! The banns have been published! I have given my word!"
"Well, you are a great one!" the doctor laughed. "Just now you were looking for your revolver! Now you want to be married within the month."
"But, Doctor, it is necessary!"
"But I forbid it."
"As soon as I knew that the disease is not what I imagined, and that I could be cured, naturally I didn't want to commit suicide. And as soon as I make up my mind not to commit suicide, I have to take up my regular life. I have to keep my engagements; I have to get married."
"No," said the doctor.
"Yes, yes!" persisted George, with blind obstinacy. "Why, Doctor, if I didn't marry it would be a disaster. You are talking about something you don't understand. I, for my part--it is not that I am anxious to be married. As I told you, I had almost a second family. Lizette's little brothers adored me. But it is my aunt, an old maid; and, also, my mother is crazy about the idea. If I were to back out now, she would die of chagrin. My aunt would disinherit me, and she is the one who has the family fortune. Then, too, there is my father-in-law, a regular dragoon for his principles--severe, violent. He never makes a joke of serious things, and I tell you it would cost me dear, terribly dear. And, besides, I have given my word."
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