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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter II

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"You must take back your word."

"You still insist?" exclaimed George, in despair. "But then, suppose that it were possible, how could I take back my signature which I put at the bottom of the deed? I have pledged myself to pay in two months for the attorney's practice I have purchased!"

"Sir," said the doctor, "all these things--"

"You are going to tell me that I was lacking in prudence, that I should never have disposed of my wife's dowry until after the honeymoon!"

"Sir," said the doctor, again, "all these considerations are foreign to me. I am a physician, and nothing but a physician, and I can only tell you this: If you marry before three or four years, you will be a criminal."

George broke out with a wild exclamation. "No sir, you are not merely a physician! You are also a confessor! You are not merely a scientist; and it is not enough for you that you observe me as you would some lifeless thing in your laboratory, and say, 'You have this; science says that; now go along with you.' All my existence depends upon you. It is your duty to listen to me, because when you know everything you will understand me, and you will find some way to cure me within a month."

"But," protested the doctor, "I wear myself out telling you that such means do not exist. I shall not be certain of your cure, as much as any one can be certain, in less than three or four years."

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George was almost beside himself. "I tell you you must find some means! Listen to me, sir--if I don't get married I don't get the dowry! And will you tell me how I can pay the notes I have signed?"

"Oh," said the doctor, dryly, "if that is the question, it is very simple--I will give you a plan to get out of the affair. You will go and get acquainted with some rich man; you will do everything you can to gain his confidence; and when you have succeeded, you will plunder him."

George shook his head. "I am not in any mood for joking."

"I am not joking," replied his adviser. "Rob that man, assassinate him even--that would be no worse crime than you would commit in taking a young girl in good health in order to get a portion of her dowry, when at the same time you would have to expose her to the frightful consequences of the disease which you would give her."

"Frightful consequences?" echoed George.

"Consequences of which death would not be the most frightful."

"But, sir, you were saying to me just now--"

"Just now I did not tell you everything. Even reduced, suppressed a little by our remedies, the disease remains mysterious, menacing, and it its sum, sufficiently grave. So it would be an infamy to expose your fiancee in order to avoid an inconvenience, however great that might be."

But George was still not to be convinced. Was it certain that this misfortune would befall Henriette, even with the best attention?

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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