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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter II

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Said the other: "I do not wish to lie to you. No, it is not absolutely certain, it is probable. And there is another truth which I wish to tell you now: our remedies are not infallible. In a certain number of cases--a very small number, scarcely five per cent--they have remained without effect. You might be one of those exceptions, your wife might be one. What then?"

"I will employ a word you used just now, yourself. We should have to expect the worst catastrophes."

George sat in a state of complete despair.

"Tell me what to do, then," he said.

"I can tell you only one thing: don't marry. You have a most serious blemish. It is as if you owed a debt. Perhaps no one will ever come to claim it; on the other hand, perhaps a pitiless creditor will come all at once, presenting a brutal demand for immediate payment. Come now--you are a business man. Marriage is a contract; to marry without saying anything--that means to enter into a bargain by means of passive dissimulation. That's the term, is it not? It is dishonesty, and it ought to come under the law."

George, being a lawyer, could appreciate the argument, and could think of nothing to say to it.

"What shall I do?" he asked.

The other answered, "Go to your father-in-law and tell him frankly the truth."

"But," cried the young man, wildly, "there will be no question then of three or four years' delay. He will refuse his consent altogether."

"If that is the case," said the doctor, "don't tell him anything."

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"But I have to give him a reason, or I don't know what he will do. He is the sort of man to give himself to the worst violence, and again my fiancee would be lost to me. Listen, doctor. From everything I have said to you, you may perhaps think I am a mercenary man. It is true that I want to get along in the world, that is only natural. But Henriette has such qualities; she is so much better than I, that I love her, really, as people love in novels. My greatest grief--it is not to give up the practice I have bought--although, indeed, it would be a bitter blow to me; my greatest grief would be to lose Henriette. If you could only see her, if you only knew her--then you would understand. I have her picture here--"

The young fellow took out his card-case. And offered a photograph to the doctor, who gently refused it. The other blushed with embarrassment.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "I am ridiculous. That happens to me, sometimes. Only, put yourself in my place--I love her so!" His voice broke.

"My dear boy," said the doctor, feelingly, "that is exactly why you ought not to marry her."

"But," he cried, "if I back out without saying anything they will guess the truth, and I shall be dishonored."

"One is not dishonored because one is ill."

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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