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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter VI

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These was only one person he dared to talk to: that was his mother--to whom he ought to have talked many, many years before. He was moved to mention to her the interview he had overheard in the doctor's office. In a sudden burst of grief he told her of his struggles and temptations; he pleaded with her to go to Henriette once more--to tell her these things, and try to make her realize that he alone was not to blame for them, that they were a condition which prevailed everywhere, that the only difference between her husband and other men was that he had had the misfortune to be caught.

There was pressure being applied to Henriette from several sides. After all, what could she do? She was comfortable in her father's home, so far as the physical side of things went; but she knew that all her friends were gossiping and speculating about her separation from her husband, and sooner or later she would have to make up her mind, either to separate permanently from George or to return to him. There was not much happiness for her in the thought of getting a divorce from a man whom deep in her heart she loved. She would be practically a widow the rest of her life, and the home in which poor little Gervaise would be brought up would not be a cheerful one.

George was ready to offer any terms, if only she would come back to his home. They might live separate lives for as long as Henriette wished. They would have no more children until the doctor declared it was quite safe; and in the meantime he would be humble and patient, and would try his best to atone for the wrong that he had done her.

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To these arguments Madame Dupont added others of her own. She told the girl some things which through bitter experience she had learned about the nature and habits of men; things that should be told to every girl before marriage, but which almost all of them are left to find out afterwards, with terrible suffering and disillusionment. Whatever George's sins may have been, he was a man who had been chastened by suffering, and would know how to value a woman's love for the rest of his life. Not all men knew that--not even those who had been fortunate in escaping from the so-called "shameful disease."

Henriette was also hearing arguments from her father, who by this time had had time to think things over, and had come to the conclusion that the doctor was right. He had noted his son-in-law's patience and penitence, and had also made sure that in spite of everything Henriette still loved him. The baby apparently was doing well; and the Frenchman, with his strong sense of family ties, felt it a serious matter to separate a child permanently from its father. So in the end he cast the weight of his influence in favor of a reconciliation, and Henriette returned to her husband, upon terms which the doctor laid down.

The doctor played in these negotiations the part which he had not been allowed to play in the marriage. For the deputy was now thoroughly awake to the importance of the duty he owed his daughter. In fact, he had become somewhat of a "crank" upon the whole subject. He had attended several of the doctor's clinics, and had read books and pamphlets on the subject of syphilis, and was now determined that there should be some practical steps towards reform.

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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