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  Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter II

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The doctor was a man about forty years of age, robust, with every appearance of a strong character. In the buttonhole of the frock coat he wore was a red rosette, the decoration of some order. Confused and nervous as George was, he got a vague impression of the physician's richly furnished office, with its bronzes, marbles and tapestries.

The doctor signaled to the young man to be seated in the chair before his desk. George complied, and then, as he wiped away the perspiration from his forehead, stammered out a few words, explaining his errand. Of course, he said, it could not be true, but it was a man's duty not to take any chances in such a matter. "I have not been a man of loose life," he added; "I have not taken so many chances as other men."

The doctor cut him short with the brief remark that one chance was all that was necessary. Instead of discussing such questions, he would make an examination. "We do not say positively in these cases until we have made a blood test. That is the one way to avoid the possibility of mistake."

A drop of blood was squeezed out of George's finger on to a little glass plate. The doctor retired to an adjoining room, and the victim sat alone in the office, deriving no enjoyment from the works of art which surrounded him, but feeling like a prisoner who sits in the dock with his life at stake while the jury deliberates.

The doctor returned, calm and impassive, and seated himself in his office-chair.

"Well, doctor?" asked George. He was trembling with terror.

"Well," was the reply, "there is no doubt whatever."

George wiped his forehead. He could not credit the words. "No doubt whatever? In what sense?"

"In the bad sense," said the other.

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He began to write a prescription, without seeming to notice how George turned page with terror. "Come," he said, after a silence, "you must have known the truth pretty well."

"No, no, sir!" exclaimed George.

"Well," said the other, "you have syphilis."

George was utterly stunned. "My God!" he exclaimed.

The doctor, having finished his prescription, looked up and observed his condition. "Don't trouble yourself, sir. Out of every seven men you meet upon the street, in society, or at the theater, there is at least one who has been in your condition. One out of seven--fifteen per cent!"

George was staring before him. He spoke low, as if to himself. "I know what I am going to do."

"And I know also," said the doctor, with a smile. "There is your prescription. You are going to take it to the drugstore and have it put up."

George took the prescription, mechanically, but whispered, "No, sir."

"Yes, sir, you are going to do as everybody else does."

"No, because my situation is not that of everybody else. I know what I am going to do."

Said the doctor: "Five times out of ten, in the chair where you are sitting, people talk like that, perfectly sincerely. Each one believes himself more unhappy than all the others; but after thinking it over, and listening to me, they understand that this disease is a companion with whom one can live. Just as in every household, one gets along at the cost of mutual concessions, that's all. Come, sir, I tell you again, there is nothing about it that is not perfectly ordinary, perfectly natural, perfectly common; it is an accident which can happen to any one. It is a great mistake that people speak if this as the 'French Disease,' for there is none which is more universal. Under the picture of this disease, addressing myself to those who follow the oldest profession in the world, I would write the famous phrase: 'Here is your master. It is, it was, or it must be.'"

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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