FICTION

Himself

Helen E. Williams April 1 1911
FICTION

Himself

Helen E. Williams April 1 1911

Himself

Helen E. Williams

SOMEBODY, from the other car, pushed open the door, and for a moment there came to him a whiff of spring.

“Without are the wind and the wallflowers,

The leaves, and the nests, and the rain,

And in all of them God is making His beautiful purpose plain,

But I wait in a horror of strangeness,

A tool on his workshop floor.........”

Who was it who had said that? He knew. And vet in the six full years of his professional life he, Baul Henneker, had thought that he knew. People had said so. “\\ e always like to have Dr. Henneker because lie understands.” That was what they said. That was what was generally felt. And now he knew. He had wondered a little several times. Once he had thought, “If 1 was not immune to the ills whereof llesli is heir to I could persuade myself—” It had got no farther than that. He had always been so well. All his life. And then his being a doctor. It he had not been a doctor—well, there was no use going into that now. What was that in Barnaby Pudge? That place where Hugh taunts Dennis, when his turn comes to be worked off? “See ilie hangman when it comes to himself!” Yes, it U;1S another story then—another story.

lie had felt so particularly well that day in . larch—the irony oí it!—that he had, just for the T°rt °t the thing, snowshoed over to his diphtheria

cases on the cross-road. His horse had been up all the night before with the roads—well, what roads were in the Townships in March—But he could have done it easily. If he had—no, there was no earthly use going into that either.

He remembered that when the more distant hills began to blur with the oncoming storm he had exulted. He loved the wind in his face, the taste of snow on his lips, the need to exert himself to reach his destination, get his work done, and be back home again before the early darkness should be upon him. Even on the way back, when he knew he could do it easily, he had pressed forward as if impelled by some unseen hand, driven by some sinister fate. Perhaps if he had gone more slowly he would have seen that the snowed over ditch into which he fell was only snowed over. He saw it plainly enough afterward, when he crawled out with a broken ankle. Somehow, after hours of painful effort, he had dragged himself to the roadside where, still later, he was picked up by a farmer and taken home on his sledge in a comatose condition. But even then, he remembered, he had thought it was only a matter of a broken ankle and perhaps grip—nothing like this. Good God! How could he? This meant—death.

The train was going more slowly now. They had begun the incline. There was none of that mad, joyous speeding, that sensation as of rushing along with life itself, such as there had been in the valley. One sensed re-adjustment, a settling down, all energy, as it were, subverted into just going. After the poetry of life, the prose. Yes. They were climbing. Through the window he could begin to look down on little amber streams threading the gorges, could see mayflowers dance themselves down to the very car windows. A purer air crept into the car, an air that chilled by the suggestiveness of its very purity.

In past years he had sent many of his patients up here. He recalled one case in particular. He was seeing a young fellow, whose meteoric career at McGill was temporarily interrupted, off at the Windsor station. His own words came back to him. “You’ve

got to light it. up and (’own. first and last, and all the time between whiles. A losing battle, you say? No good trying? Tell that to somebody else. You’ve played football. You used to be a craekerjaek at hockey. Did you play less hard when the game was dead against you? Not on your life .you didn’t! And you’re not going to now. You’re going up there, and you’re going to win out.”' And now here he was coming himself.

The train strained forward. Now it took them through deep tunnels, where the yellow sunlight was quite shut out. Now it bore them across picturesque ravines. Now through a midnight of sombre pines. But always it carried them upward. Late in the afternoon it stopped.

They were there.

With an effort Dr. ITenneker rose. He reached iij) for his hat and overcoat. As he lifted his grip his eye fell on the foreign hotel labels with which it was bespattered. There would soon be another. He waited until the hectic-looking man and the girl with the grievous cough had passed, and then followed out in their wake. He was expected at the Sanitarium, hut had not looked to be met by anything but the public conveyance. So when the man he had singled out from the platform as one of his own profession came forward and shook hands cordially. he was a little surprised, and still more so at his words.

“Dr. Pierce, of course. Just come this way, Dr. Pierce. \\ e will send your things on up and set out at once. A our train was quite half an hour late, and there s little enough time to lose. I had a bad moment just now before I saw you. I have heard of your ( lose shaves, and thought that this time you ran it a hit too close. Mighty good thing you didn’t! We >h(»uld have lost the woman, for I could never have operated alone.”

Tie stopped out of breath, and Dr. Henneker, who Inui been trying in vain to speak, seized this opportunity to get in a word edgewise.

“I think there must be some mistake,” he began, “I am—”

“Yes, I remember. You touched on that in your letter. You thought our diagnosis at fault, at least incomplete. You thought the root of the trouble lay deeper, that we should operate for cancer as well

as-but we won’t go into ’that now. Excuse me.

I’ll see that your things are sent up, and then-”

He was not gone long, but long enough for Dr. Henneker to think to a purpose and arrive at some sort of a decision.

“See here,” he said, when the other had joined him, “I’d like to know just where I stand, Dr.-er

“McCowan,” filled in his companion, adding, with a smile, “the stories I have heard of your memory are not far out o'* the way, I see.”

“Urn. No. Now about this operation, Dr. McCowan. You say that it is serious. Can’t you get in another doctor? I came, but the truth is I’m a bit seedy—touch of grip, you understand?—and if

you could call in someone else I’d rather not-”

“Heavens, man ! this isn’t a time to think of yourself! It’s a matter of life or death, I tell you. In the city I suppose you look at these things differently,” he went on more mildly, “you pick and choose, so to speak. Now, with us a life is a life.” “I’ve come to realize that,” Henneker said quietly. “But I’m game,” he added, a light coming into his eye, “only I wish you run through the case again with me. You went overit fairly minutely before, I suppose, but, well, you know my failing.” “Oh, all right. Just as you say. We can talk as we go along. Hope you don’t mind a little climbing? The house is off the main road and we save time that we can’t well afford to lose by taking this short cut.”

And so they started out. If Dr. Henneker did not always keep up with him, if on the steeper grades he was overtaken by fits of violent coughing, his companion was too pre-occupied with the subject

in liaml to pay much attention. Though after one of these spasms he did say, “George, but you have got a cough.”

‘Comes on like this sometimes,” gasped Henneker. “1 do myself proud when I really get started.”

“I should think you did ! But to go back to what you were saying—” And once more they engaged in a discussion which lasted until they reached their destination.

Of all the multifold divisions and subdivisions of his profession the thing that Paul Henneker loved 1 est of all to do was surgery. For the rest he had the horn physician’s inherent liking. For surgery lie had something more. It absorbed him. It lifted him above himself. For the time he was as one inspired. He did everything right for the simple reason that lie could not do it wrong. Dr. McCowan, watching him that afternoon, was filled with envy. He held his peace, however, until, everything well over, they had left behind them a thankful household and were again climbing hills. Then his thought found utterance.

“You had it in you to do a masterly piece of work like that, ’ he exploded, “and yet you were hissed about coming! If there had been any alternate e would have denied yourself the joy of your art—lor it was a joy. I could see that.”

\ es. It was a joy. And I used to think it was a little tiling to he able, allowed, to do one’s work! Little! Vs hat more could a man possibly ask?” Then anruptly, in an altered voice, “is it much farther to the Sanitarium?"

e e are just there. Of course you will stay over the night?”

‘‘I—Yes. Over the night.”

!‘We «fe full up now,” continued the other.

W Inch reminds me. We were expecting a patient I rom down your way. You didn’t happen to see anything of him, did you?”

Receiving no reply he turned and saw that his companion was swaying as he stood, saw that the

handkerchief that he held pressed to his lips was suifused with a crimson something that deepened while he looked. Too horrified even to speak he took him by the arm and half supported, half carried him the remaining few steps to the Sanitarium. As they entered an attendant came forward to meet them.

“Dr. Pierce telephoned that he missed his trahi and there was no other to-night, and he wanted to know if it would be too late if he came up to-morrow?”

“Missed his train! Then who the deuce is this?”

A glint of humor for an instant showed in Henneker’s eyes.

“The patient,” he coughed.

They got him to bed. They did everything they could. But everything, in this case, was not enough. Hemorrhage followed hemorrhage. Before morning he died. Once, between paroxysms, feeling the doctor’s troubled eyes upon him, he smiled.

“Don’t look so reproachful, McGowan.”

“It was a reckless thing to do,” fulminated the doctor, “a beastly, heroic thing!”

Henneker did not reply at once. He seemed to be thinking.

“No. Not reckless,” he said reflectively, “I was bound to be snuffed out sooner or later. And not heroic, for I’m not that sort of chap. I don’t much expect I can make you understand. But it was just sheer hankering to have it all of some use. That was what cut me up. I couldn’t see the use of it.— What makes you look so queer?” he broke off to ask.

“Nothing. I was just thinking of something George Eliot wrote about ‘the greatest gift the hero leaves his race is to have been a hero.’ Somehow you made me think of it.”