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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter V

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Monsieur Loches had been pacing up and down the room as he spoke, and now he clenched his fists in sudden fury.

"Very well! I will not address myself to the law. Since I learned the truth I have been asking myself if it was not my duty to find that monster and to put a bullet into his head, as one does to a mad dog. I don't know what weakness, what cowardice, has held me back, and decided me to appeal to the law. Since the law will not protect me, I will seek justice for myself. Perhaps his death will be a good warning for the others!"

The doctor shrugged his shoulders, as if to say that this was no affair of his and that he would not try to interfere. But he remarked, quietly: "You will be tried for your life."

"I shall be acquitted!" cried the other.

"Yes, but after a public revelation of all your miseries. You will make the scandal greater, the miseries greater--that is all. And how do you know but that on the morrow of your acquittal, you will find yourself confronting another court, a higher and more severe one? How do you know but that your daughter, seized at last by pity for the man you have killed, will not demand to know by what right you have acted so, by what right you have made an orphan of her child? How can you know but that her child also may some day demand an accounting of you?"

Monsieur Loches let his hands fall, and stood, a picture of crushed despair. "Tell me then," he said, in a faint voice, "what ought I to do?"


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For a while the doctor sat looking at him. "Sir," he said, at last, "tell me one thing. You are inflexible; you feel you have the right to be inflexible. But are you really so certain that it was not your duty, once upon a time, to save your daughter from the possibility of such misfortune?"

"What?" cried the other. "My duty? What do you mean?"

"I mean this, sir. When that marriage was being discussed, you certainly took precautions to inform yourself about the financial condition of your future son-in-law. You demanded that he should prove to you that his stocks and bonds were actual value, listed on the exchange. Also, you obtained some information about his character. In fact, you forgot only one point, the most important of all--that was, to inquire if he was in good health. You never did that."

The father-in-law's voice had become faint. "No," he said.

"But why not?"

"Because that is not the custom."

"Very well, but that ought to be the custom. Surely the father of a family, before he gives his daughter to a man, should take as much precaution as a business concern which accepts an employee."

"You are right," was the reply, "there should be a law." The man spoke as a deputy, having authority in these matters.

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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