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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter III

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"Why no!" exclaimed Henriette, anxiously.

"Well, today I went to see a doctor, and he says that there is a possibility--you understand it is nothing very serious--but it might be--I might possibly have lung trouble."

"George!" cried the girl in horror.

He put his hand upon hers. "Don't be frightened," he said. "It will be all right, only I have to take care of myself." How very dear of her, he thought--to be so much worried!

"George, you ought to go away to the country!" she cried. "You have been working too hard. I always told you that if you shut yourself up so much--"

"I am going to take care of myself," he said. "I realize that it is necessary. I shall be all right--the doctor assured me there was no doubt of it, so you are not to distress yourself. But meantime, here is the trouble: I don't think it would be right for me to marry until I am perfectly well."

Henriette gave an exclamation of dismay.

"I am sure we should put it off," he went on, "it would be only fair to you."

"But, George!" she protested. "Surely it can't be that serious!"

"We ought to wait," he said. "You ought not to take the chance of being married to a consumptive."

The other protested in consternation. He did not look like a consumptive; she did not believe that he WAS a consumptive. She was willing to take her chances. She loved him, and she was not afraid. But George insisted--he was sure that he ought not to marry for six months.

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"Did the doctor advise that?" asked Henriette.

"No," he replied, "but I made up my mind after talking to him that I must do the fair and honorable thing. I beg you to forgive me, and to believe that I know best."

George stood firmly by this position, and so in the end she had to give way. It did not seem quite modest in her to continue persisting.

George volunteered to write a letter to her father; and he hoped this would settle the matter without further discussion. But in this he was disappointed. There had to be a long correspondence with long arguments and protestations from Henriette's father and from his own mother. It seemed such a singular whim. Everybody persisted in diagnosing his symptoms, in questioning him about what the doctor had said, who the doctor was, how he had come to consult him--all of which, of course, was very embarrassing to George, who could not see why they had to make such a fuss. He took to cultivating a consumptive look, as well as he could imagine it; he took to coughing as he went about the house--and it was all he could do to keep from laughing, as he saw the look of dismay on his poor mother's face. After all, however, he told himself that he was not deceiving her, for the disease he had was quite as serious as tuberculosis.

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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