In the wilds of Burma, Dr. Granger finds problems of life and death that surgical skill alone can not solve
GEORGE EDWARD ALLEN
The story: Dr. Walter Granger, distinguished surgeon at a great New York hospital, is disliked by his associates because of his overbearing attitude. They don't know that he performs many operations on poor people for nothing and also pays their hospital expenses. He is engaged to marry a society girl, after which he intends to become a high-priced surgeon to wealthy people. To his consternation he is jilted at the altar; and then, eager to get away from his politely jeering fellow doctors, he accepts a medical research post in Burma.
On board ship he meets Vivian Smith, whom he vaguely remembers as a member of the hospital training school for nurses. She is the daughter of a medical missionary in Burma and intends to serve with her father. She piques Granger because of her indifferent attitude and refusal to work under him as nurse; and when he speaks slightingly of her father and his work she retorts that, while her father may be less skilful as a surgeon, he is a far better doctor. “ You don't even know what the word doctor means,’’ she adds, and walks swiftly away from Granger.
SO THIS was Burma, Walter Granger thought as he walked down the gangplank. Although he was not in his best spirits—the shortsightedness and lack of appreciation and general shrewishness of a girl named Vivian Smith had deprived him of the best surgical nurse that had ever handed him a sponge—he decided he could take it in his stride.
Although he had left here over twenty years ago, he still knew the feel of the country. Everything was familiar the white sunlight, the clamor of rickshaw coolies in the wide streets, the light-stepping little Burmese maidens in their white jackets and gay skirts, and the golden roof of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda. But he saw nothing suggestive of romance, breathed no exotic atmosphere. These were the inventions of poets and travel agencies.
Of course a few minor obstacles would be placed in his path. He discovered this when he went to police headquarters for his rifle permits. There he received the same high-handed treatment that is meted out to ordinary tourists by lordly officials ordered about from one office to another, sternly questioned, forced to fill out innumerable petitions and documents, and finally left to fidget in an anteroom while the superintendent of police discussed an exciting tennis game with a friend.
But the great Indian Civil Service did not know the man with whom it was dealing. He was the same Walter Granger who had taken two hundred pounds from one of its most exalted members only a few days before, and he had no intention of reforming. When he had listened to the Oxford accents floating through the open door for a good ten minutes, he decided that his conquest of Burma might as well begin. The superintendent was just finishing with tennis and about to touch on golf when, to the complete horror of the great man’s deputies, assistant deputies, clerks and office boys. Walter burst in.
‘T am Doctor Walter Granger.”
“You’ll have to—”
“I came here to get scm > gun licenses, not to listen in on your dissertations on fashionable s|x>rts. I have waited more than a half hour for a routine act that in any properly conducted office could have been completed in two minutes. In fact the general inefficiency of this office, the incompetence and the waste of public funds, surpass anything I have seen in the Far East.”
The speech was delivered in a cold contemptuous voice and without a fumbled word. Walter had been rehearsing it silently for the j>ast five minutes. The superintendent was rivetted in his chair. There was nothing in the regulations to cover anything like this. But it was good English tradition for the great to be arrogant, so he naturally assumed the arrogant to be great.
He was probably a guest of the governor, the superintendent thought. "We’re a little behind this morning, because of sudden pressure of work.” And touching a bell, he ordered a stiffly saluting deputy to give Doctor Granger his license at once.
"DUT gun licenses bound in a little black lxx>k and ^ decorated with Imperial seals did not reconcile Walter for the loss of his perfect surgical nurse. Still a little irked, he dropped into the crowded lobby of the Strand Hotel. Here he could forget all about her, he thought, but he had scarcely settled himself when the provoking girl strolled in.
She was the usual pleasure to the eyes, he observed gloomily. Calloused as she was to shipboard sentiment, she was not above getting herself up with scientific cunning. She wore a short skirt that showed her fine, round, gastrocnemii tapering to slim exciting ankles, and the scarf of her sleeveless white shirt exactly matched the big knot of golden hair half-revealed by her smart white sun helmet.
Proud of her in spite of the way she had treated him. he watched her impact on the crowd. It was even more violent than he had expected. These men about the tables were burra sahibs, haughty Englishmen who ruled the country, but they stopped their glasses halfway to their lips, their remarks hung half-finished in midair, and they followed her to the elevator with sheeplike eyes.
As old Doctor Lindstrom had said, Walter could see something in front of his nose. He perceived at once that
the scarcity of white women in Burma amounted to a famine. And unless he took steps, decisive and immediate steps, he would sutler from it himself.
Getting the number from the room clerk, a moment later he was knocking on Vivian’s door.
“You?” she demanded at first sight of him.
“Yes, I saw you go through the lobby ”
“But I didn’t see you. There’s no use prolonging ” "Wait just a minute. I’ve thought over our conversation yesterday. I realize now that I was being very stupid.” "That is quite an admission from you. Doctor Granger.” Her tone was still crisp, but the expression in her eyes had changed slightly.
"I'm sorry I spoke so patronizingly of mission doctors. It was not professional, and since I know nothing about them, absolutely unjustified.” And this was perfectly true. "And so what?”
"But does your father do much surgery? Are you going to have scope for your training? Could or could not a native nurse do your work at his hospital? I’m speaking now purely for the good of the profession.”
“Since you put it that way—he does very little surgery. A native nurse could do my work there. But—”
"Then I ask you again to work for me. Not for my sake, nor for yours, but for the medical good of the country to save more lives.”
Walter had sense enough to say nothing more. He merely waited, looking humble and as soulful as possible. She glanced at him two or three times, moved across the room, looked out the window. At last she turned gravely.
"I can’t decide anything until I see father. He’s not very well. Perhaps you’d better make some other—”
"By all means.” Walter broke in hastily. “You and he talk it over and decide what is best. That will be splendid." And he hurried out like a doctor rushing to his next case.
Perfectly conceived and executed, he decided, but whether it would work . . .
V\ WALTER completed his arrangements with the Ameri** can consul and various medical boards, hired a cook and body servant, and four days later took the Road to Mandalay.
He saw no flying fishes. The road to that famous city, the baritone's delight, was now the railroad. He saw many idols made of mud. in fact pagodas dotted every landscape, but no signs of adventure, nothing to excite him about his return to Burma or reconcile him to his banishment from New York.
He went by train to Lashio and from there by car toward the Salween River. In these cattle-thronged Shan uplands were natives of a new type, more like Chinese than Burmese, wearing umbrella-size hats, but he was interested only in their swollen spleens. Here was his swell Park Avenue practice! Instead of socialites with millions, Shan milkmen with malaria ! And for two long weary years.
But in spite of himself he was impressed by the great Salween. Actually it was one of the major rivers of the world, rising in the highlands of Central Asia, known by a score of different names to a score of unknown tribes, its sixty-foot banks uncharted for a thousand miles. And mighty as it was, in its league-wide blaze of shingle and white sand it seemed a mere blue vein in a woman’s breast.
A native launch brought him the rest of the way to Myit-Asa. his headquarters on the east bank of the river. Here he found about what he had expected, comfortable living quarters, a twenty-bed hospital, reasonably well equipped, and a staff of natives headed by a bulky Bengali doctor named Chandra Lai. No, there wasn’t any New York trained surgical nurse with sunflower hair. He was a jackass to have ever dreamed . . .
But he was not completely cut off from his own kind. He had scarcely got his bags into his bedroom when the town’s solitary white resident came to call. He proved to be an agreeable fellow named Porter, the manager of a silver mine, and within an hour he was showing Walter the sights of Myit-Asa.
If the town was not large, at least it was cosmopolitan. It contained Burmese, Siamese, Chinese, Bengalese, Nepalese, Shans, and castaways from such assorted hill tribes as Karens, Talaings, La’hus, Akhas. Kachins. and Taungthus. In this respect, Walter assured his companion, it was the equal of New York City.
"But not quite so lively.” he added dryly.
"Dare say not. Still, it’s not too bad.”
“1 don’t see how it could be much worse.”
"Grant you. not much doing in the town. But get a mile or two back, and you’re in the Blue. One of the best shooting grounds in the world—wild elephant, bison, and tiger no end. Fact, the brutes carry' off a bloke now and then from the villages about.”
“But they're not as bad as the Wild Wa. That’s their country.” Porter pointed to some blue hills against the fading eastern sky.
“The Wild Wa ? Are you trying to pull my leg? Wild women, maybe, at their night clubs.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I was saying to Miss Smith what a pity it was that this country has been spoiled by civilization. We agreed that the Wa must have been interesting neighbors in the old days, before they were tamed.”
“Did old Smith’s daughter tell you the Wa were tamed?” “Well, she implied—”
“I’m not the one who pulled your leg.”
“You don’t mean they still hunt heads?”
“And she didn’t tell you? How jolly! Wait till the season really opens, just before seed planting. The dashed country will be strewn with poor johnnies without their noddles. What topping, jolly girls the Americans are!”
Y\ WALTER said no more until he and Porter stopped * * for a drink at a Chinese grogshop, but his face was faintly flushed. He liked his women not quite so topping and jolly, he was thinking. “Why don’t you fellows stop the head-hunting?” he demanded. “Isn’t it British territory?”
“Part of it. But we don’t even pretend to administer it; too dashed wild and steep. The Wa villages couldn’t be conquered short of a major expedition at enormous cost and some loss of life, out of the question now, and as soon as we turned our backs, the jolly old head-hunting would go right on.”
"I’d think you could bluff ’em.”
No bally fear. They don’t hold us in the same respect that we re held by most natives. You see—they’ve got a white head.”
“I don’t understand.”
“ I hey took two in fact, a good while ago, and we raided and burned their villages and apparently destroyed one of the heads. But they'd hidden the other in one of their dashed joss houses. And if a mere Lem Shan head can guarantee rain and good crops, with a pukka white man’s head they feel they can defy the whole boundin’ Empire.” “Why don’t you send in spies?”
“Three have tried it, natives of course one got back alive.”
“But look here. This is 1938. They wouldn’t dare do such a thing again would they? I mean take another white head.” Porter pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Ordinarily, no. As a rule they’re content with natives. But I've never cared to nimble about at night in plant ing season. And this coming season, especially.”
"Oh, just a bit of talk I’ve heard from the servants rumors, drums at night, all that. The rains have been shy the last three years; their priests have been making poo ja magic to find out why. The idea seems to lie that their white ghost the man’s ghost always remains with his head, y’understand is discontented and lying down on the job. Maybe he wants a white companion or two, maybe a wife. Anyway, if the rains fail this year, we can look for trouble.”
“Of course it's nothing but the dry years of a regular weather cycle.”
“Tell that to the Wild Wa. will you?” Walter found himself revising his anticipations. Head-hunters twenty miles east, a head snapper-off named Vivian Smith a little farther and a trifle north, man-eating tigers in an hour’s march perhaps his boredom would not be; as complete as he had first thought.
TT TURNED out that his medical practice alone filled his days and overflowed into his nights. Disease in this country w-as varied and rich as the flora and fauna. He could have had a brisk trade in elephantiasis alone, if he had wanted to drum it up, but in addition he trepanned skulls broken by rralebamboos in village frolics, explored magnificent ulcers, and removed gall and kidney stones like the pebbles of the Salween. He even tried his hand at such fancy and special ized surgery as removing cataracts.
Within two months it seemed to Walter that he had been here always. The Burmese language came back to him first in scattered words, then in faltering phrases, finally in rushing thoughts. He could hardly remember not having curry for lunch, or going to sleep without the wail of jackals in his ears. And to the natives he was the Sahib Saya-
Sawbwa, a title that to play safe honored him in Hindustani, Burmese and Shan, and meant Master-Doctor-Chief.
In the meantime he had not heard a word from Vivian. He had imagined her repenting her asperity on shipboard her heart growing fonder in his absence but in vain. But early one morning a hard-riding Shan boy brought this note :
Dear Doctor Granger:
I’m sorry 1 haven’t had a chance to call on my new neighbor, but lately I’ve been a little off my feed. Now I want a favor: will you send me by this bearer your heaviest rifle? An old tigress near our place has just killed a native, and one of the Shan hunters wants to try for her at once. If you are a keen shikar perhaps you’d like to come yourself. My daughter told me not to suggest it that we have no right to subject you to danger - but I am not well enough to attempt the hunt, and it is rightfully a white man’s job. But if you are t(x> busy, just send the rifle.
Walter was not t;x> busy. There was no case on the chart that Chandra Lai could not handle. Also, it would amuse him to show Vivian what short work he could make of a man-eating tiger. And as his fellow medico was not well, it was only decent ethics to call on him.
In less than ten minutes Walter and his bearer were on their way.
A THIRTY-MILE ride on a Burmese horse trail d(x“S not resemble a Sunday spin in America. There was not the traffic to contend with, but the Burmese saddle, a high-built affair of red plush, was devised for gluteus maximus muscles insensible and hard as iron from a lifetime’s squatting. His pony did not like the smell of white men. Getting on and off was invariably a minor crisis. Before the ride was half-finished he wished heartily that Doctor Smith had been a celibate all his days.
It was hardly dawn when they started, mid-afternoon when Walter made out Smith’s mission as a cluster of white dots among the (hatched r;x>fs of La-Taung. But chinstrapping his helmet and scorning his blisters, he clucked and kicked his jx>ny into a dashing canter. Smith and his daughter hurried to the gate to meet him.
Vivian’s father answered her description of “just a plain old dtxtor.” Although a medical missionary, he had no pious airs. A hill-girl mother who had brought no cattle to her father’s herd and offend«! the moralsof the tribe, would have the same care at his hands as a weddingringed convert. He had a pleasant round face, a round stomach, and a seedy-looking mustache he had been too busy to trim.
He l(x»k«l more than his sixty years.
There were deep, dark hollows under his eyes and his skin had a yellowish tinge.
The most Doctor Smith had admitt«l in his letter was being "off his feed” but Walter determined to ask a few jx>int«l questions before he returned home.
Vivian, on the other hand, had suffered no decline. He had never seen a healthier young woman, or a jxrkier. “And I'd kiss you at the drojî of a hat, if I want«! to.” she had gone on to say that moonlit night.
Three moons had waxed and waned since then, but she showed no signs of regretting what she had missed.
“By Jove, you’ve come just the right time.” Doctor Smith was saying. “The boys have rounded up the tiger in the grass not two miles from here. But they can't hold her after dark ; she's sure to break and bowl over one of ’em. So you'll either have to start fairly soon or lend your rifle to one of my Shan hunters.”
“And it’s very’ tall grass,” Vivian broke in calmly.
“Daughter—” Smith began wearily.
“And she’s roaring. Roaring terribly.
She’ll no doubt charge at the first sight of you. I’m afraid it's much too dangerous, unless you are a very exjx*rienc«l hunter.
Walter was not sure that he cared for these solicitations. But her eyes were big and her face very grave.
“And she’s wounded.” Vivian went on. solemnly. “The man she mauled tri«I to fight her with his knife, brave fellow, and cut her enough to make her wild with rage.
And in the grass she’s bound to see you before you see her, and then she’ll give a terrible roar and leap at you. probably from the rear. And even one scratch from a tiger usually causes gas gangrene. And your life is so valuable, doctor!”
Walter deplored the rule of etiquette that a man couldn’t slap a girl’s face, especially in the presence of her father. But he gave a hitch to his mental breeches and answered kindly:
“My life is valuable only for what service I can do my fellow men. Perhaps I am a sentimental fool to take this stand, but that’s the way I am.”
“It’s noble of you, doctor,” Smith broke in, not a little moved.
“Thank you, doctor. I felt sure you'd understand. Not that I blame women for wanting to protect their loved ones, it's the maternal instinct, but we must do our duty in sjMte of them. Am I right, doctor?”
Ile was perfectly right. Doctor Smith told him. And meanwhile Walter was watching Vivian out of the corner of his eye. But she was not as angry as he had expected, and if he had not been deceived in her so many times before lie would almost think she admired him.
Her father did not feel equal to the trip, she said, but she would go with Walter to the edge of the battleground. She could give him moral encouragement and—well, it was best to have a trained nurse close at hand. But when she had called for her horse and ridden with him in sight of some yellow grass beside a dry riverbed, the fun abrujitly ended and something very serious began.
Nothing that either of them had said seemed funny now. Life itself was not funny, but it was strangely sweet. He had never seen a wild tiger. He had agreed with the clever chaps at home that shooting one of them was merely highbracket hokum, inferiority-complexed people kidding themselves. He did not see one now, but he heard one.
At first he could hardly believe any tiger could make such noise. He wanted to tell himself that it was greatly exaggerated. As he and Vivian ajtproached the picket line it seemed to shake the ground.
“Noisy brute, isn’t she?” Walter managed to say.
“Part of her equipment for intimidation,” Walter explained, his voice only a little jerky. “Nature is wonderful in that resjx’ct. No doubt it jxiralyzes her natural prey with fright.”
“Ain’t nature grand?” she answered. For she was really a very up-and-coming girl.
“Probably she’ll back down when I walk boldly up to her.”
“For heaven’s sake. Walter, don’t get that idea in your head ”
HE HAD not. But unless he kept on talking he could not keejD on walking. And now the line of pickets was drawing back to meet them. Although the men still shouted and encouraged each other, it was Sawbwa 's pidgin from now on.
“But I egged you into it,” Vivian wailed.
“I’m grateful to you. It’s marvellously exciting.”
“Oh. cut it out. If you’re killed, it’s my fault. Look here. Let the beaters go, and tomorrow we’ll hire buffaloes and drive them in ahead of you. That’s the only reasonably safe way to get a wounded tiger.”
“She’d be gone by tomorrow—and I would too—down the sewer.” And this was the truth if he ever had told it in his life.
“Okay. But don’t shoot too soon. Remember that a big bullet will knock her down and kill her dead, if you’ll just wait to make sure. You can’t miss her if you’ll wait to make sure. You can’t—”
“Gut, nurse, gut . . . And a couple of large sponges.” Whether she got it all he did not know—any doctor would, and most nurses but it almost paid him for the prospect of getting killed by the tiger.
All the time they were walking nearer. The tiger kept roaring all the time. In fact she roared louder than ever at the sight of her new foes.
“You stay here,” Walter ordered out of a twisted throat. “I wish I could go with you, but I’d only be in your way. And vou’re so brave.”
It tended to soothe him. And he needed soothing; his adrenal glands, naturally active, had been stimulated beyond what he had thought medically possible. But a big Shan, grinning widely, half sjx>iled the effect.
“Sawbwa, we did not let Kya escape,” the man told him. blandly. “We have kept her here for the Sawbwa. That is she whom you hear, roaring.”
“Ahrr—row—woo—ugh!” Kya obliged.
“And after the Sawbwa has taken the skin he will give us baksheesh.”
“Will you please go to hell?” Walter asked politely in English.
“Yea, Sawbwa. Thank the Sawbwa.”
And now Walter had left them all behind him and was entering the grass. Fire had swept through it very early in the winter, shrivelling its plumes, but the young blades had not burned and now' made a tangled thatch four feet high.
And it w'as tiger color. The shadow's between the stalks all looked like tiger stripes.
He had hardly gone in ten steps when the roaring abruptly ceased. And that sudden silence was close to the limit of what a man could stand in the way of terror. It meant that the tiger was now in motion. She was going to go as far as possible from her former ambush of which her roars had given him the general direction, in order to take him wholly by surj)rise.
He had already lost all confidence in his ability to hold his fire for a sure shot, or to hit the side of a barn, and all confidence in his rifle. Nothing was carrying him forward now’ but his legs. Meanwhile he was cursing savagely and bitterly, as a frightened cat spits at a dog.
He knew about what the tigress would do, and she did do it, but no amount of anticij)ation had prejiared him for it. She came from the left as he had known she would come, because he was expecting her from the right. He heard the snarled grass tear apart and her coughing roar; he gave a yell, turned, and shot. That was all there was to it. He was conscious of neither waiting nor aiming; if he did so, it w'as the instinct of self-preservation taking over the controls. He could not believe that the brute was dead even when he saw her lying in the grass.
He gave her his other barrel. “You would, would you,” and he yelled and cursed at her dead body. He reloaded quickly, and stood covering her a long time, but she did not move. His mouth tasted bitter from nausea, and after a while he lowered his rifle and wip>ed his lips with the back of his hand. And then he knew’ that she was dead, and he was alive and unhurt and victorious.
The natives reached the scene first. They were big-eyed and frightened, but soon they began to grin and jabber at one another. By fast work he was able to get a cigarette out of his case and uncrumpled into his amber holder before Vivian came in sight.
“Is he dead?” Vivian called at first sight of him.
Continued on page 33
Continued from page 22
“It’s a female, I think,” Walter answered. “And more deader than the male.”
And if anyone could beat that on the spur of the moment, Walter’s hat was off to him.
17’ILLING a tiger w*as not half so diflicult as a bone transplantation, Walter reflected, or even an appendectomy. It was not even dangerous, provided a man could see along a barrel and pull a trigger at the same time. Yet his pulse was fast, his voice had a hysterical ring, and his inhibitory nerve centres were so paralyzed that he caught and kissed Vivian.
Nor did she seem to mind. Her eyes were bright but not with the scalpel brightness he had seen before. The truth was, she was practically a cave woman.
“That tigress won’t maul any more natives,” Walter shrilled as they came up on Smith’s porch—and Vivian nodded ecstatically. But when he sought to cover this bit of boasting by a civil question about Smith’s condition, she stood very still.
“Just a seasonal digestive upset,” Smith told him. “I’ll be all right in a few days.”
“Of course you wall, father,” Vivian broke in. “Doctor Granger, you have all the patients you can take care of at your own hospital. Dad’s my patient.”
He ignored her. “What do you mean by a ‘seasonal digestive upset?’ I’ve learned to mistrust vague terms of that kind. Please give me a complete history of your symptoms.”
Smith gave them. Walter listened with a gleam in his eyes Vivian had seen before. But it was her eyes that gleamed when he insisted that Smith lie down and submit to examination by percussion and palpitation. That gleam was partly fear, he thought, but mainly it was resentment.
Although she did not know it. this cut deep. He could stand denunciation as a man-he was used to it—but not as a doctor; this was his inmost citadel. All they had gained today was instantly lost. He could never forgive her, he thought; they must always be enemies. But he went ahead in a perfect mind with the examination.
“I’ll have to think this over,” he said when he had finished, and went out and took a chair on the verandah. A few minutes later Vivian joined him there.
“Well?” she demanded.
“What do you want? Surely not my opinion of your father’s condition.” His eyes were glittering.
“I didn’t want you to take his case, if that’s what you mean. But now' you’ve gone ahead—”
“Who could take it, if not me? Do you think that you, a mere trained nurse, are competent to handle it?”
“I—I didn’t think it was anything serious. Unless he got better, I was going to have him go to Rangoon. It’s not anything serious—is it? Oh.”
That last little bleat told Walter he now held the w'hip hand, but it was small consolation to his hurt professional pride. “If you have no respect for my opinion and don’t intend to act upon it, there’s no point in my giving it,” he said coldly.
“But I do respect it. Oh, you don’t understand.”
“How' can I misunderstand? I’m not exactly a moron. Your contempt for my medical attainments has been apparent from the first ; you expressed it very plainly on the ship. You added emphasis to it when you failed to take my offer—”
“I would have come, if father had been well,” the girl broke in. “I intended to, when we parted at Rangoon. That’s the truth.”
It w'as the truth. He saw it in her wide round eyes by the light through the windows and the splendor of the moon.
“I’ve never questioned your medical attainments, doctor.” she went on in low tones. “What I questioned was your attitude toward your profession, your ethics if you want to call it that. I was afraid
that if you took father’s case you’d want to operate at once.”
“Whether he needed it or not?”
“Oh, you’d persuade yourself that he needed it. You’d persuade him Vx>. Just to see what’s inside of him. Just to test your skill.”
“In other words, not a doctor but a vivisectionist. Is that what you mean?” “When you get down to it, I suppose that’s what I meant.”
"It’s a very serious charge. But you are about to receive what you will consider proof of it.”
“Oh, what do you mean? Not—”
“I shall recommend an immediate operation on your father.”
“But I’ll put it up to him, not you. If he consents I’ll go ahead, in spite of your opposition. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“If I oppose it, he’ll never consent.”
“At least I’ll do my best to persuade him. Right now—in case you care to be present.” Walter rose and turned to enter the house.
“Wait, doctor. I said 'if I oppose it’— maybe you didn’t hear me. Perhaps I’ve been wrong about you. I may be wrong in this case. If you’ll tell me why the operation is necessary ...”
HE WAS at the point of refusing. True, if he did, if he failed to persuade her and get her help in persuading her father, the latter would not consent to the operation. He realized this perfectly, but it was not his funeral. His pride as a man and a doctor . . .
Yet something moved in him and he hesitated. It seemed to be something that rose above pride, or else a higher pride than he had ever felt before. Perhaps it was the heart of a physician all unknown in his breast, beating through and over personal rancor and littleness. Perhaps it was simply—-it was a queer feeling life to save.
He began to speak with a power and earnestness she had never heard in him before. He admitted that many deaths must be laid to needless surgery. Many times he himself had operated in error or in vain. Smith might get well without the knife, indeed it might cause his death. But all his symptoms indicated some serious ailment in the region of his pancreas, possible embedded gallstone, perhaps something worse and unoperable. And Walter believed that the time to get at it was now, before it flared up in an acute attack.
“Can’t you study his case a little more before you decide?” Vivian asked.
“I’ve already decided. But I intend to wait until the day after tomorrow, and of course if he gets better in the meantime, I’ll reconsider.”
She was still a few seconds, then drew a deep breath. “Go ahead and talk to him. I won’t interfere.”
But Vivian might have interfered in the talk between Walter and his bearer; that was why she was not allowed to hear it. So certain he was not only of operating but of a rush job, that he sent Moung Ne on a dangerous errand, nothing less than a night ride of thirty miles over a trail haunted by tigers and by even more relentless foes at this time of year. Not until the sound of horse’s hoofs died away in the silence did he consult with Smith.
The following morning the old doctor did not arise from his bed. But although this was a mental rather than a physical symptom a general letdown after putting his case in Walter’s hands it was none the less important. Walter had observed long ago the power of the spirit over flesh. Now that Smith had stopped fighting, the march of the disease would be greatly quickened, although no doctor in the world could explain why. Walter wondered if Moung Ne would fulfill his mission in time.
On the other hand, perhaps lie need not operate at all. Further questioning into Smith’s history revealed that three years
before he had had similar symptoms, had sunk very low, but had recovered. It was good news, in a way; on the other hand, it enormously complicated Walter’s problem.
“What was your opinion of the nature of the trouble, doctor?” Walter asked. "Did you ever decide?”
“My opinion’s not worth much. I’m just an old mission doctor ’way behind the times. But I thought it might lx acute hemorrhagic pancreat itis. ”
“That’s very rare. I’ve seen only one case.”
“I know. Just a wild guess.”
“You might be right at that.” And if he
were . . .
This problem became more difficult as the day wore on. The pain in the region of the old doctor’s pancreas liad increased, the other local symptoms were more acute, but his general condition, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, were g;xxi. But if the operation became indicated, Walter was ready. Twilight brought back his bearer accompanied by Mah Kyi. his lean, dusky, highly trained Burmese surgical nurse. Also he had matched Smith’s blood with the blood of one of the villagers, in case a transfusion was necessary.
Vivian slept that night in a cot in her father’s room. At dawn she wakened Walter, sleeping in her room, and they stood whispering at the door. “I wish you’d come at once,” she said. “He doesn’t look right to me.”
Nor to Walter, when the latter put on bathrobe and slipixrs and bent over Smith’s bed. Yet the old doctor smiled and submitted cheerfully to an examination.
"Well, doctor, what do you think?” Smith asked. "There’s life in the old horse yet, eh?”
But there was also more pain, a little more anyway, in the region of Smith's pancreas. His bl;xxl pressure had dropjxd five points since Vivian’s last reading — early morning could account for that and he was running a low fever. With his stethoscojx Walter listened carefully to Smith’s heart and lungs, margined his heart by percussion.
"You’re in fine shape,” he told Smith. But to Vivian he said, in an undertone. “Give him some barley water, and as stxm as I'm dressed, we’ll talk it over.”
WALTER ordinarily dressed with care.
This morning his clothes wrere on before he knew it. so busy he was with his thoughts. Mah Kyi was with the patient, and Vivian was waiting for Walter on the verandah.
"He didn't retain the barley water,” was all she said.
Walter dropped into one of the porch chairs and wiped the sweat from his face. The sun was barely up, but the cool of night had already given up the struggle; the sticky heat came up from the ground, down from the sky, in from every point of the compass. There were high thin clouds, through which the sun showed as a whitehot disc.
“It’s going to lx a scorcher of a day, but it may rain before dark.” he said. “Then the Wa will save their crops.”
“Are you thinking about Wa crops?” Vivian asked bitterly.
“I should lx. Mah Kyi tells me a Shan trader lost his head night before last. As a matter of fact. I’m trying to clear the decks for what's before us here.”
“What is before us? Forgive me and come across, Walter.”
“I should say it may blow over—one of the toughest medical problems I’ve ever had to solve.”
“Immediate surgical intervention?” “Dx)k here, Vivian. This is your own father we’re talking about. If that’s going to influence you. even subconsciously, I’d better not do my thinking aloud—because then you might influence me. If ever in my life I need impersonal judgment, it's right now'.”
“If it will help you to think aloud, do it. I’ll forget he’s my father.”
“I wonder if you can. Vivian, do you know anything atout this disease? It’s toen called ‘an acute pancreatic drama.’ We’ve seen only the prelude, but when the curtain goes up, it goes up with a bang. There’s the devil to pay before you know it. If it runs its course, the patient is prostrated as though run over by a truck. Yet in spin* of that prostration the surgeon must operate, with maybe one chance in four of bringing him through.”
“But it didn’t run its course in the previous attack. He resisted it and got well. Maybe he can again.” She paused, curbing her heart, steeling her will. “But I'm ready when you are.”
“That’s a different tune than you sang two days ago. Well, I’ll meet you halfway. When do you think I should operate, if at all?”
“The moment you think the chance of collapse passes fifty-fifty.”
Walter jumped up and disappeared in the house. He did not ask Vivian to come with him, so she waited. He reappeared in atout ten minutes, leaning backward from calm.
“Hardly any change. But I’ve sent for the blood donor—just in case. And Vivian —you understand I’ll have to use you, too.”
“Me?” She spoke incredulously.
“I’m sorry, but we’re still shorthanded, and you’ll have to give the anesthetic. But I’ll have a screen up, so you won’t have to see—so you can devote your mind to your work. Mah Kyi will be surgical nurse.”
“She can give the anesthetic. You said she was an expert. I'll be surgical nurse.” Walter looked her in the eyes and shook his head.
“Didn’t we get along all right before? Am I not the tost nurse? Isn’t that all that matters?”
“Of course you’re the best nurse, but not for this operation. It’s much too much.”
“I tell you-
“Who’s in charge here, you or I? Look here, Vivian. If it were an ordinary operation on your father, I’d let you do your stuff. That would to tough enough on you. But this is not an ordinary operation. Nor is it a dramatic heart or brain operation, to keep you somehow on your toes; it’s a nasty piece of cutting and shoving and messing about, hours on end. with the patient likely to start checking at any second. And if you crack, we’re sunk.” “I won’t crack. Oh, you don’t understand. Oh. Walter—”
"Did you ever hear of a surgeon doing a major on one of his own folks? Mighty rarely. Because we knowr w’hat surgery is, the strain it is, even working on strangers. Do you, a mere trained nurse, pretend to know more than a doctor?”
She stood still a moment, then nodded her head. “You’re the toss,” she said.
“I wish I’d sent for my anesthetist too.” Walter grumbled. “Then you could wait outside.”
TJTER EYES filled with tears. He did not see them, because she turned her head and because he did not yet understand the human heart and its high yearnings. She returned to her father’s bedside. Walter went to inspect Smith’s small and poorly equipped surgical room.
“Acute pancreatic drama.” Walter thought often of this phrase as the day wore on and its stifling heat intensified. Every test he made showed that drama moving to an inevitable climax of surgery or death, or both; no test was fair because by the time he had finished it the patient's condition was worse. But every possible preparation for the operation had been made. Walter was waiting only for news of the battle, its fiercest heat in which Smith would hold his own or begin to break.
At last it was nothing more than the expression on Smith’s pale face—a drawn and anxious look—that decided Walter.
Most sick men look drawn and anxious, but not exactly in this way. He could not possibly put it in words—he had no scientific theory to account for it—he knew only that every time he had seen that look on a patient’s face, death was riding fast. It was as though the man’s spirit had seen its shadow.
He leaned over the tod. “Smith?”
The old doctor nodded his head.
“I shall operate at once.”
But Smith did not seem to know that he was the patient. He was simply concurring with the opinion of a younger and more brilliant man, eagerly, humbly; and for one of the few’ times in his medical experience, Walter’s eyes filled with tears.
But still he did not know why he had told Smith at all. In such cases doctors usually keep their knives concealed until the last possible minute. He had acted on impulse. In many instances lately he had done so, and it had proved a totter guide than he had ever dreamed. Smith’s mind was dulled, but his soul was alone and afraid in that rushing darkness, and Walter wanted to give it courage . . . But there was no proof in any laboratory in the world of the soul’s existence . . .
“Don’t break your neck,” he told the wide-eyed girl beside him. “The decision’s still very close. You know what to do, just do it. Moung Ne and I will get the patient over there. Tell Mah Kyi to to ready”— Walter glanced at Vivian’s wrist watch— “at a quarter to four.”
But when at twenty minutes to four Walter walked into the operating room, it was not Mah Kyi who was gowned and gloved and masked, but Vivian.
“I told you—” he began ominously. “Wait, doctor. Mah Kyi is sterile—I can help her into gown and gloves in half a minute. But I ask you again to let me help with this operation. I entreat you from the bottom of my heart.”
“Vivian, your whims at a time like this—”
“It’s not a whim. I believe I can help father’s chance of coming through alive.” “I'm the judge of that. How dare you try to interfere?”
“And I believe I’ll be helping other patients too, who come to you in the future and put their lives in your hands.” Her eyes were shining and her voice rang.
“What in heaven’s name do you mean? To teach me something I don’t know— make me a totter doctor? Are you mad?” He stopped, his eyes widened, and he added in a strange low tone, “Or inspired?” “Oh, Walter! How can I explain? I told you once that you don’t know what the word doctor means. Maybe I was wrong, but I want to show you what the word nurse means—under the hardest possible test. I’m playing a hunch. Let it go at that.”
Walter looked into her eyes, looked at the sick man waiting patiently for the knife, back into her eyes.
“It’s too deep for me. Maybe you’ve got the right steer. Mah Kyi?” He spoke in Burmese. “Begin to administer the anesthetic.”
T_TOW could Walter tell whether or not L Vivian proved her point? He was not Walter now but a surgical machine; she was an adjunct to that machine. As if he had room in his head for anything but the job in hand, from its first hypo to its last stitch !
He was alone as in a dream. When he called for tools, they were handed him, when he asked for sponges he found them in his hand, when in one hair-raising emergency—there were quite a number of these, he felt vaguely—his tongue slipped and he yelled for scissors instead of forceps, the mistake was rectified by some unknown power and he found himself with forceps; but what Vivian was doing all this time he was too busy to notice.
So with one thing and another, it was nearly midnight before he could think even of food and drink, let alone of a rather comely young " 'man who had acted as his
surgical nurse. But just then he looked across the patient’s bed and saw her. It was Vivian, and she looked very tired.
He did not speak for a moment. He merely sat gazing at her, while a series of what seemed to be violent electric charges shot up his spine and completely across his scalp. But these grew less acute and presently died away. After all, everything had turned out as he might have expected; he knew nothing that he had not alreadyknown in his inmost heart.
But he was too tired to face it. tonight. So he said quietly;
“This case is out of the red.”
“I know it.”
“The patient has wonderful resistance. Pulse, blood pressure, apjxarance—everything in his favor. Unless I carried in a bug, he’ll be out of danger in three days.” “It was magnificent surgery, doctor.” “Yes, I was in top form.” His voice changed slightly. “And I know why.” It changed again. “Eat something and go to bed. I’ll stay till Mah Kyi comes on at one o’clock, then I’ll raid the pantry and bed down just three jumps from the patient.”
She rose. “I’ll be in call too. Good night, doctor.”
“Doctor? Well, maybe if you’re always in call. Always, Vivian—for the love of heaven.”
A week fled by. It was another midnight. But tonight Smith lay in his own bed, in the sound healthful sleep that was rapidly building him up to go back to work. Walter and Vivian were sitting on the verandah steps, watching the moon blaze out of tattered clouds and hide again.
“I’ll be gone when you wake up in the morning,” he was saying.
“Don’t start before daylight. You might meet some Wild Wa on the way home from a raid.”
“You make the trip in daylight, too. But of course you’re the daughter of the ‘Fat Satvbwa,’ who’s been doctoring tame and half-wild Wa for twenty years.” “That would make my head all the more valuable, and they’d be paying dad an honor.”
Walter thought she was joking. “By the way, you haven’t told me just when to expect you.”
“I haven’t told you yet that I’m coming at all.”
“But you are—aren’t you?”
“If you really need me—yes.”
“I really need you, Vivian, and not just as an expert nurse. My education as a doctor has only begun.”
“Do you really mean that, Walter?”
He turned to speak, hut stopped and sat so still it gave the effect of a start. “I’m afraid I didn’t, Vivian,” he confessed in sudden wondering honesty. “I was just trying to get you to come. Yes, I was just
putting on my act. But that shows I do need vcu, doesn’t it?”
“Anyway, there’s a lot of surgery to do over there, and dad’s going to take it easy for a while and can get along with a native nurse. So you can expect me a week from today.”
For Walter, that week crawled. The last day of it barely crept, and as the shadows began to finger out over the grass the hands of his wrist watch seemed glued to its face. But when the sun outlined an unknown tree on the crest of the western hills, Vivian had not yet come.
In sudden and frantic haste Walter ran out and called his bearer. Time that had dawdled began to race pell-mell as he waited for his horse to be saddled. Already the light was failing. The tropic twilight was short. Before he was out of sight of his own compound, the tree shadows were massing and the wild parrots screaming to their roosts.
But he did not need to ride far. He had barely topjxd the ridge when he heard the jingle of a bridle bell. That would be Vivian. She would have a fancy Burmese saddle and tasselled headstall; she always did everything in style. If a man’s heart could speak, Walter’s was singing. He spurred forward.
But around the bend in the trail came not Vivian but a native riding fast, and leading a riderless pony. It was Moung Ka, Vivian’s bearer. When he caught sight of Walter he yelled.
When Walter heard the yell, his wild excitement died. He was never calmer in his life, more grim and deadly. He dismounted. His face in the twilight was composed, so that Moung Ka could tell his story quickly, clearly, without unintelligible shoutings.
“Where is your mistress?”
“I do not know, lord. Two hours ago 1 dropp'd behind, and when I rode fast again I found her pony quivering in terror by the trail, the reins caught in the thorns and the saddle empty.”
“What could have happened to her? Speak plainly, Moung Ka. We be two men.”
“Lord, I did not stop to look for signs in the trail. I am a poor man, with little ones of hungry mouths, and there was danger in the thickets. But the Sawbtva will see a long deep scratch on her pony’s thigh. That could he made by the claw of Kya, the tiger.”
“It is possible, although usually he makes three scratches in line, the centre very deep, the others shallow. But also it could be made by the point of a spear.”
‘‘A spear, lord?” Moung Ka held his breath.
“A Wa spear of bamboo, its point hardened in the fire.”
"Yes, lord. A Wa spear. This is not well.” To be. Continued