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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter V

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Monsieur Loches had been listening to this discourse with the feeling of a thief before the bar. There was nothing that he could answer. "Sir," he stammered, "as you present this thing to me--"

"But am I not right?" insisted the doctor.

"Perhaps you are," the other admitted. "But--I cannot say all that to my daughter, to persuade her to go back to her husband."

"You can give her other arguments," was the answer.

"What arguments, in God's name?"

"There is no lack of them. You will say to her that a separation would be a misfortune for all; that her husband is the only one in the world who would be devoted enough to help her save her child. You will say to her that out of the ruins of her first happiness she can build herself another structure, far stronger. And, sir, you will add to that whatever your good heart may suggest--and we will arrange so that the next child of the pair shall be sound and vigorous."

Monsieur Loches received this announcement with the same surprise that George himself had manifested. "Is that possible?" he asked.

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The doctor cried: "Yes, yes, yes--a thousand times yes! There is a phrase which I repeat on every occasion, and which I would wish to post upon the walls. It is that syphilis is an imperious mistress, who only demands that one should recognize her power. She is terrible for those who think her insignificant, and gentle with those who know how dangerous she is. You know that kind of mistress--who is only vexed when she is neglected. You may tell this to your daughter--you will restore her to the arms of her husband, from whom she has no longer anything to fear, and I will guarantee that you will be a happy grandfather two years from now."

Monsieur Loches at last showed that he was weakened in his resolution.

"Doctor," he said, "I do not know that I can ever go so far as forgiveness, but I promise you that I will do no irreparable act, and that I will not oppose a reconciliation if after the lapse of some time--I cannot venture to say how long--my poor child should make up her mind to a reconciliation."

"Very good," said the other. "But let me add this: If you have another daughter, take care to avoid the fault which you committed when you married off the first."

"But," said the old man, "I did not know."

"Ah, surely!" cried the other. "You did not know! You are a father, and you did not know! You are a deputy, you have assumed the responsibility and the honor of making our laws--and you did not know! You are ignorant about syphilis, just as you probably are ignorant about alcoholism and tuberculosis."

"No," exclaimed the other, quickly.

"Very well," said the doctor, "I will leave you out, if you wish. I am talking of the others, the five hundred, and I don't know how many more, who are there in the Chamber of Deputies, and who call themselves representatives of the people. They are not able to find a single hour to discuss these three cruel gods, to which egotism and indifference make every day such frightful human sacrifices. They have not sufficient leisure to combat this ferocious trinity, which destroys every day thousands of lives. Alcoholism! It would be necessary to forbid the manufacture of poisons, and to restrict the number of licenses; but as one has fear of the great distillers, who are rich and powerful, and of the little dealers, who are the masters of universal suffrage, one puts one's conscience to sleep by lamenting the immorality of the working-class, and publishing little pamphlets and sermons. Imbeciles! . . .Tuberculosis! Everybody knows the true remedy, which would be the paying of sufficient wages, and the tearing down of the filthy tenements into which the laborers are packed-- those who are the most useful and the most unfortunate among our population! But needless to say, no one wants that remedy, so we go round begging the workingmen not to spit on the sidewalks. Wonderful! But syphilis--why do you not occupy yourself with that? Why, since you have ministers whose duty it is to attend to all sorts of things, do you not have a minister to attend to the public health?"

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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