Trial by Flight
H. S. M. KEMP
I LIKED young Doc Nealey the moment I met him. It was at Emerald Lake, where, as chief pilot for Churchill Airways, I spent most of my time. He came out in Bill Harding’s car, with Bill himself and with Bill’s sister, Kay. Bill, by the way, called himself president of the company and, between times, flew one of the Fairchilds. The three of them stepped from the car, and Bill introduced me to Doc Nealey—a tallish chap, slenderly built, with a square-rigged jaw and frank-looking eyes. I’d heard of him as an up-and-coming young medico who was making a name for himself in our home city of Riverburg, and I wondered what had brought him to the base. But it didn’t take me long to find out. It was Kay Harding. A week he was there—on a holiday, so he allowed; and everywhere that Katie went the Doc was sure to go.
That evening, Bill and I sat on the ramp by the lake-front, smoking while nighthawks boomed above. Across the bay, lights twinkled in the cottages of the summer resort; farther along, camp-fires glowed as tourists fried their evening ham and eggs. But Bill and I weren’t looking in that direction. Against the afterglow of the sunset, a canoe drifted lazily. There was the thrumming of a guitar, a snatch of song; and, later, a girl’s throaty laugh. Bill turned to me.
“Doc’s the latest victim. And, boy, has he got it bad!” I liked that word “victim.” For I knew Kay Harding— featherbrained, spoilt; a wisecracking product of modernism. Kay always had a string of fellows trailing her, and she changed her fancies as often as she changed her hats. Squinting at the canoe out there and sizing up Doc for what he w'as, I felt peeved. Compared to the oily-haired sheiks, Doc seemed a bit too good.
“When did she hook him?” I asked.
“Three months ago. At a dance in town. D’you know,” grinned Bill, “I’ve got a notion that Doc’ll make it stick. Kay’s had these whims before, but Doc looks like a serious threat to me.” Bill tossed his smoke into the water. “Kay’s young—if twenty-three’s young these days—and she’s sort of dizzy. But when the right man comes along, Kay’ll fall hard.”
I looked at Bill and grinned. For Bill, though he didn’t know it, was another Kay cast in the masculine mold. Good executive and a good pilot, but wild as a hawk when the fancy took him. A lean-faced, dark-eyed young devil who should have smashed the Fairchild and his own precious neck many moons ago. I guess I sighed.
“Here’s hoping, Bill. The Doc strikes me as being the goods. And I’d hate to see a featherhead pile him up in a crash.”
BUT AS THE days passed, I began to lean to Bill’s way of thinking. If signs w-ere anything to go by, Kay was hooked as bad as Doc Nealey. Get the two of them together, and the rest of us ceased to exist. Moreover, I recast some of my opinions of Kay Harding. She could, I found, be réally
sensible. I guess it’s old age, but if there’s one thing that sets my teeth on edge, it’s the everlasting wisecracking of the sort indulged in by Kay. Cheap stuff that went well with her lipstick and her flat, boyish figure.
And Doc Nealey? If I liked him at first, I swore by him now. He was all wool and a yard wide. A man’s man. Nor was he bashful of speaking of what lay on his heart.
“Ever been in love, Dan?” he once asked me. And when I grinned, he went on: “That’s because you’ve never given yourself the chance. I used to be cynical as you are.”
We were in the workshop, he loading his pipe and I cleaning some spark plugs.
“There’s only one thing bothering me,” he said after a pause. “It’s Kay and her flying. I wish to heaven she’d cut it out. Of course, I’m not against the sort of flying you do—steady stuff, and using your head. But you know her. If anything happened to Kay . . . well, I don’t think I’d stand it.”
He looked so serious, so downright tragic, that I had to laugh.
“Don’t worry, Doc,” I comforted him. “Chances are Kay’ll last longer at the game than I will. Fools rush in .... Well, you know the rest.”
But in one way, I couldn’t blame him. Kay owned and flew a Moth of her own, and veteran though I may claim to be, some of the things she did in that ship made my hair curl. I even went so far as to warn her that wings could be torn off, and that if she found it necessary to test the theory it might be a good idea to take a ’chute along. But what did I get for my pains?
“Listen, Big Boy. Just because you flew in the war and are getting old ...” The stuff that set my teeth on edge.
rT"'HEN THE LAST night of Doc’s holiday came. Over in the pavilion, the beach management were throwing the weekly dance. I happened to be there; and halfway through the evening, Kay and her crowd piled in. I say her crowd. There was Kay herself, and Bill, and Doc Nealy. Add to these. Gil Strickland, our third pilot; Tommy Blake, the mechanic; and two more girls of a stripe with Kay. And, excepting for the Doc, they were all feeling pretty reckless.
Doc seemed embarrassed, but Kay didn’t notice this. She caught him and swung him out on to the floor.
I guess the gang thought they were enjoying themselves. They whooped, yelled and ordered the orchestra to pep things up, but still Kay wasn’t satisfied.
“This party’s dead. But, Bill. I’ve got a brain wave.” She grabbed her brother and made him listen. “Let’s take the Fairchilds and beat it over to Minnewak. The closing dance comes off tonight. More life there in five minutes than you’d get here in a week.”
Bill frowned owlishly, but the rest of the crowd were strong for the proposition. Kay turned to me. “How about it, Dan? Coming along?”
“Count me out,” I answered. “Too near bedtime.”
I doubt if Kay heard what I said. She was already checking over her bunch.
“Seven of us. What do we do—pile in ARO, or take the two of ’em?”
“Take the two,” was the prompt chorus. “Let’s go!”
It was just the sort of thing that Kay would have thought of. Minnewak Beach was eighty miles to the west of our base, the resort in the heart of Thunder Mountain Park. I tried to veto the scheme, but neither Kay nor Bill would listen. It meant night flying, with a hilarious pair at the controls. But I was only a pilot, while Bill was president of the concern. I lost my argument and they headed for the door. All but Doc Nealey, who hung back.
Kay noticed the move. “C’mon, Fred !” she called. “Step on it !”
Doc beckoned her over. “Listen, Kay. Let the others go. You and I . .
“You and I nothing! We’ll be the life of the party.” “But, Kay ...”
Doc seemed to hesitate and I felt sorry for him. Then Kay looked at him with suddenly appraising eyes.
“Not scared, are you?” She gave a tight little laugh. “You’re scared; got the wind up. Come on; out with it!” Doc’s jaw ran into little knots and there was a hurt look on his face.
“Not that, Kay. But ...”
Then Kay laughed; a cruel, sneering laugh.
“You haven’t got the courage for the air—and I knew it all the time ! Three days ago I suggested a trip to town with me and you got out of it. Yesterday Bill wanted to fly us over to Cranberry Lake with the mail and you stalled again. Now, tonight, you’ve another excuse.” She paused, tossed her raven ’s-wing curls and drilled him with those reckless grey eyes of hers. “Turn me down on this trip tonight, and you’ve turned me down for good.”
I wished I was a thousand miles away just then. I took in Kay’s heightened color; noticed, too, how her breast was heaving as she waited for Doc to answer. And the Doc himself? Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much hurt on a man’s face before. He was pale as death as he stood there, his tongue running along his dry lips. It isn’t nice to watch the crucifixion of a man’s soul . . .
“You don’t know what you’re saying, Kay,” hè began, chokingly. “If you—”
“I know what I’m saying!” flared the girl. “And I’m waiting for your reply.”
Across the hall the orchestra was playing “I’ll String Along With You;” the milling dancers brushed us by as we stood there; and I—well, I didn’t know whether to swear, to laugh, or to take these kids and knock their heads together. And while the point remained undecided, Kay shrilled a high-pitched little laugh, turned on her heel and was gone.
"COR A MOMENT, Doc and I stood awkwardly. “Let’s take a smoke,” I said.
Outside, under the stars with the orchestra swinging into a waltz, we found seats on a bench. We lit our pills and smoked for a while in silence.
“Crazy little fool—Kay,” I offered. “Glad you turned her down. She runs wild around here and thinks she runs everyone else. She’ll get over it, though.”
Doc sighed. “No. I don’t think so. Trouble is she had me dead to rights.”
“Dead to rights? What d’you mean?”
Doc seemed to take a jump. “To tell the plain unvarnished truth, Dan, I’m scared to death to fly. You can laugh. Flying is your job, and you think nothing of it. But to me, the thought of stepping into a pleine is ghastly.”
I laughed outright then. “Well, don’t worry about it. I know hundreds of chaps like you. Men who would face anything on the ground, but get all goosey at the sight of a ship.”
“ ’Tisn’t only that,” returned Doc. “You see, my kid brother was killed in a crash at Borden. He was an Army pilot and drove into another plane at five thousand feet. I saw the accident. It was awful. Can’t get it out of my mind.”
I began to understand things. “Yeah? That would shake you up. And Kay—told her about it?”
“Why should I ? It would make me a bigger coward than
There wasn’t much to say; so after a while we got up and walked back to the base. Halfway there we heard the roar of the two Fairchilds taking off and got a glimpse of them against the sky. I read Doc’s thoughts.
“Don’t worry about them. They both can fly a ship.”
My guess was good; for about three in the morning the roar of the returning planes woke me up. I went to sleep again and rolled out at seven, thankful for a clear head and an appetite for breakfast.
But I made a discovery. Doc Nealey—and Bill’s car— had gone.
I^ater, when the others got up, I mentioned the matter. Kay didn’t look so good, being a trifle heavy around the eyes for a girl of twenty-three.
“Drifted, eh? And what do I care, Big Boy? What do I care !”
But within the next couple of months I found I didn’t know as much about women as I thought I did. The affair between Kay Harding and Doc Nealey was definitely off,
but it hit the lady hard. She went thin and carried a moody, despondent air; she was anything but the Kay Harding of a month or so before.
And then what? Did she put Doc Nealey out of her thoughts? Did she do the other thing—settle the misunderstanding for her own peace of mind? Not Miss Kay Harding. Hitherto it had been her practice to fly into Riverburg. land on the river and do a bit of shopping before coming back to the base. She began to vary this little jaunt with something entirely new. Instead of making a direct landing, she developed the habit of roaring low over the big business block where Doc Nealey had his office. Another bit of play was to fly over the golf links when Doc was out for a game and treat the crowd to a solo exhibition of crazy stunting.
I cursed when I heard about it. The ordinary onlooker would be threatened with heart failure; so what about Doc Nealey, who still worshipped her very name? I could have taken the sadistic little imbecile across my knee . . . But I was only a hired man.
rTMIEN CAME fall and near freeze-up. Bill Harding decided on a novel experiment. Instead of tying up the three ships at the Emerald Lake base till winter flying commenced, his idea was to take his plane and freeze-up at Whitefish Narrows.
“The way it is.” explained Bill; “winter sets in a whole lot quicker in the north country than it does here. And as soon as freeze-up comes, there’s money to be made. Furbuying trips; a bit of early freighting from the jx>sts to the outposts. Kay thinks she’ll come along, too. Maud McLaren is a friend of hers; so Kay’ll be all right at the I Iudson's Bay Company till I make my first trip south.”
So late in October, Bill, Kay and the Fairchild droned north They were not exactly isolated, for the Forestry people maintained a radio station at Whitefish and another a short mile from our base. That way, we heard from them daily, and heard, too, that all was well. Once, I sat in and had a word with Kay.
“Getting over it—up there alone with your thoughts?” "What the devil d’you mean?” she retorted acridly. “Kay,” I said. “I think you’re all wet. It’s all right to try and stay mad ; but why cut off your nose to spite your pretty face?”
Her reply could only be written in parentheses; but I did think I caught a little break in her voice.
Then one day, just as ice was beginning to form around the edges of the lake, Ned Curtis, the radio operator, dropped in on us.
“Got a message from Whitefish this morning,” he grinned, “as well as an order for new parts.”
I swung up from the bunk. “What’s happened now?” Ned, still grinning, went on to tell me. He had been in conversation with Bill Harding and. according to Bill, things weren’t so good. The day previous, Kay had taken the Fairchild with Bill and Maud McLaren up for what might prove to be the last spin over open water. Judging by Bill’s remarks, Kay, in landing, had tried to throw a scare into an old Indian in a canoe in mid-river, cut it too fine and piled the Fairchild on to her back. “Nobody hurt?” I asked.
“The Guardian Angel seems to have been working overtime. Kay got a cut on her wrist. Maud a few scratches, and Bill a wallop on his head. Said it knocked him out for a time, but that he was over it now.” I grunted, and looked at the list of parts required.
“Judging by this, they’re a lucky trio. But Bill won’t make any early flights. Even if I wire the factory and have the repairs rushed here by express, I doubt if I can get’em in to Bill. How are things down North?” “Freezing fast. Cummings at Whitefish tells me one sharp night will close ’em up.”
I ordered the parts, and sat down to wait. The weather turned colder. Thanks to a wind, Emerald Lake itself stayed clear of ice, but I knew that 300 miles farther north, winter would be making itself felt. But the next morning a new worry came to crowd other things from my mind. Curtis dropped in with his daily report.
“Talking with Cummings at Whitefish this morning, and he had something to say about Bill Harding. Bill thought he was over his head injury, but it’s started again.” “How?” I asked.
“Kay said he had an uneasy night. Complained of sharp pains in his head and had a bad fit of vomiting.”
“•‘That doesn’t sound good, does it?” I put in.
“Dunno,” answered Ned. “Might be nothing so much; might be a lot. I told Cummings to stand by and let me have the latest at noon.”
THAT DAY Bill apjxîared to be better, but at eight of the following morning Kay wanted to speak to me. I went to the station and got in touch with her.
“That you, Dan? I’m worried about Bill. He has a high
fever this morning, and the pain in his head is terrible. Maud was over—she’s a registered nurse, you know—and she’s afraid of inflammation of the brain. Is there anything you can do?”
“Might fly a doctor in,” I suggested. “How about a landing?”
“That’s the worst of it. You know what it’s like at Whitefish; just swift water between the Hudson’s Bay and the village. Up river and below us there’s an inch of ice, but right here it’s open water.”
“Big enough to land on?”
“It might be, if it doesn’t freeze any more till you come in. The strip of open water is about two hundred yards across.”
1 frowned. This Buhl of mine was a going concern on the take-off and at landing. Hitting water at seventy miles an hour, a couple of hundred yards wasn’t too much to pull up in. And thinking of landing crosscurrents was out of the question. Whitefish Narrows earned its name. The river pinched in here to a scant quarter-mile, with high steep banks. Furthermore, though the banks were high, the river itself was shallow except for the absolute middle of the stream. But Bill was sick and demanding attention.
"Don’t worry, Kay. I ’ll slip into town and get a doctor. We’ll try it; but if I can’t make a landing, I can’t. We’ll have to think up something else.”
I knew the doctor I’d get; and that was Doc Nealey. I'm past romance and all that sort of thing, but it did l>k to me like the direct intervention of Fate. And when 1 told Doc my troubles, he looked serious.
“Bad, Dan. Especially if Bill has reached the fever stage. What can we do?”
I told him, frankly, “lie has to have a doctor—and 1 was wondering if you were the one for the job.”
He seemed to stiffen, and I could tell that his heart was beginning to pound. But looking at his hard, athletic body and his wide-set eyes, I thought I knew my man. He gulped—just once.
“I’ll go. And the sooner we start the better.” Learning that Maud McLaren was hospital trained, he nodded in satisfaction. “If the worst comes to the worst, Dan, we may have to try trepanning. I’ve done it before, but I’ll certainly need qualified help.”
So within the hour we loaded a bag of instruments into the car, following it with dressings and anaesthetic. But on the way to the base, luck began to play against us. We ran into snow and sleet, driven by a whipping north wind.
The storm held all that afternoon. A dozen times I went out from the bunkhouse and stared at that lowering sky. Visibility would be absolutely zero, and ice would form on the wings as soon as we took off. There was nothing to do but to wait for a break in the weather. But the break did not come until after night had fallen; and with the ceasing of the storm, the temperature lowered. I thought of that hoped-for landing at Whitefish Narrows; and as the temperature sank, my spirits went with them.
At the first streak of dawn, however, we were off. And worried though I was, I gave a speculative eye to Doc Nealey.
For the first few miles I could tell he was in sheer terror. He seemed stiff; tense; as though afraid of dropping through the floor of the plane. I thanked heaven that the air was smooth and tried to talk him out of his fears.
“One thing sure, Doc,” I told him. “Whether Bill lives or not, Kay’s finished stunting for good.”
The thought seemed to brighten him. and momentarily at least, took his mind off the terrors of the trip. And at last we reached Whitefish Narrows.
ALL THE WAY north I’d been noticing ■ that we were getting into winter’s domain. The lakes and creeks were frozen, and most of the bigger rivers held a coating of ice. And what went for the rest of the country went for Whitefish itself. But the one thing that upset all my calculations was the fact that Kay’s 200-yard strip of open water had now shrunk to but half that size.
Twenty-four hours and the sudden subzero drop had eliminated completely any thought of a regular landing. Trying it would mean a crash-up on the edge of the new ice, which would now be all of an inch and a half thick. The only possibility was that cross-current landing.
We roared over the Narrows three times. Out in front of the Hudson’s Bay post a little knot had gathered. Three were women ; and I knew two of them to be Maud McLaren and Kay Harding. Their faces were turned up to us, and I could almost read the anxietyin their eyes.
For a moment I felt baffled. There was, of course, the bare chance of making that cross-current landing. It meant dropping low, grazing the bank with the floats and hitting midstream. It meant, too, a probable pile-up on the opposite shore or on the shallow river-bottom. But what else for it? Turn tail and go back? Leave Kay and Bill for whatever the future might bring?
Over the post, I turned to Doc Nealey.
“Hold tight—and watch your face!”
We nosed down, scraped the bank—and open water and the far shore were rushing to meet us at 100 miles an hour.
There was a moment of uncertainty—a yell from Doc Nealey. Then I had gunned the motor, pulled her out of it—as we grazed the very chimneys of the Indian shacks.
My nerve hadn’t failed; but I knew the cost of trying to land. We were licked.
Little was said on the trip back ; and after our 600-mile flight, evening was beginning to fall. I offered to drive Doc to the city, but he said he preferred to wait and hear a further report from Whitefish Narrows. We went over to the cookshack for supper and after that dropped into the radio station.
Ned Curtis told us that he had been in communication with Cummings and knew all about our failure to land. He also said that Bill’s condition was steadily growing worse. He had made arrangements to signal again at eight o’clock, so we waited for the time to come. When it did, I spoke with Maud McLaren.
Maud told me that Kay did not care to leave her brother and had asked Maud to speak in her place.
“Bill’s in delirium,” said Maud. “I’ve done all I can, but that isn’t much.”
“Well, hold on,” I told her. “Doc Nealey is here with me, and maybe he can give you some advice.”
Doc took the headphones at my suggestion and for some minutes held a radio consultation with Maud. I still have a mind picture of him sitting there at the switchboard under the hanging lamp. Lines showed on his face that I had not noticed before, and he nervously pushed a curl of hair from his forehead.
“And Kay?” he asked her. “How is she standing it?”
Her answer, of course, I didn’t hear; but I saw him wince as though from a blow, and his lips tightened.
“Tell her,” he said, “that we’re not beaten yet. There may still be a chance.”
FOR THE LIFE of me, I could see no chance and put if down to Doc’s dislike of telling her there was none. For that reason 1 made no allusion to his remark, and we finally went back to the bunkhouse.
But there I could see he was under a strain. A man awaiting sentence of death would have acted no more nervously. He got up, sat down; started to speak at least three times, and changed his mind. At last : “It’s touch and go with Bill,” he said. “Once he starts with delirium ...” From there on, Doc’s remarks became technical, and I cut him short.
“But why tell me? There isn’t a cursed thing we can do till the ice thickens up. And the Lord alone knows when that’ll be.”
I glared ât Doc, and regretted my words. He was shivering as though with fever.
“I don’t know much about flying, Dan,” he managed to say; “but couldn’t a man land at Whitefish with a parachute?”
I frowned. “A man could, yes. Provided he knew something about the game.”
Continued on page 53
Continued from page 14
“But I mean—couldn’t I?’’
For a moment I stared at him in blank amazement. Doc Nealey, scared to death in a ship, was speaking of taking a drop—and wanting me to believe him. I looked at him again; and that nervousness, that sentenceof-death air was explained. Then the foolishness of it occurred to me.
“Of course you couldn’t. In the first place, you know nothing about it. Another thing, you may have noticed the country around Whitefish is all burned-over spruce. You’d probably skewer yourself in a treetop. The only chance would be to hit the river. And that’s out.”
“There isn’t more than an inch of ice. You’d go plunk through and never come up, once the current caught you.”
Doc looked at me, and the determination in that level look of his was magnificent.
“Tell you what I was thinking. Dan. I saw a picture once of some British airmen taking off from the wings of a plane. My idea was to get out on your lower wing with a ’chute, and wait till we got right over the Hudson’s Bay property. I’d pull the ripcord then, and you could drop me there.” He waited for a moment, then went on. “That would obviate the necessity of a drop from a great height, and I could be sure of missing the tree-tops.”
I looked at him in more amazement than ever. He hated the thought of flying, as I said; he called it “ghastly;” yet he was prepared to do a thing that called for none but the strongest of nerves.
“It might work,” I allowed. “It’ll take a stout heart and lots of sand ...”
“Oh, I’m no hero,” he said with a Tdry laugh. “In fact, I’m scared as the devil. But I can’t leave Kay in the lurch. She must be nearly beside herself with remorse. And if there’s anything I can do . . . It’s Kay,” he finished lamely.
What could I offer, pro or con? There was every chance of the attempt being successful; and if it did succeed—well, 1 might have a word to say to Miss Kay Harding at some future date. A word about courage.
That night before we rolled in I went over the plan carefully with Doc.
“The leading-edge of the lower wing has a foundation of plywood—about a foot wide, and running right out to the tip. You’ll get out by the pilot’s door on to this edge, grab the struts and wires, and work yourself along. If you face the tail, I can promise the wind will plaster you there solidly enough.” But as an added precaution I told him that I would run a length of thin rope from the first strut to the second as an additional life-line.
That night, however, I didn’t sleep so well. Doc was no wing-walker, and one misstep would be all that was necessary to send him hurling to his finish. But if he were to succeed, it would not be by me getting the wind up. He had his job, and I had mine.
WE TOOK OFF soon after dawn, Doc with the parachute strapped to his shoulders, and his instruments, his dressings and a bottle of anaesthetic strapped to his chest. I tried to make conversation with him, but failed dismally. So in silence we passed frozen Burntwood Lake, Trout Lake, and the monotonous stretch of wilderness between there and the Churchill. Then a swing toward the West, and all too soon for my liking we were over the Whitefish River.
“Now remember,” I told Doc; “take lots of time. I’ll wait till you look ready for it, and when you see my hand come down, off you go.”
The roar of the Buhl brought the population of the place into the open. In front of the Hudson’s Bay buildings a separate group
formed. Dropping low, I caught a glimpse of a waving handkerchief and Doc saw it as well. He turned to me, bit his lip, and said: “Now?”
“Sure,” I answered. “Above all, take your time and watch my hand.”
Four hundred feet up. Doc opened the pilot’s door, grabbed a strut, and the slipstream slammed the door behind him. Now it was entirely up to him.
Back to the wind, I saw him stand there for a moment and close his eyes. I knew how he felt—isolated, weak, nothing between himself and eternity. Then he glanced at me, tightened his bloodless lips and began to work his way along. Inch by inch he made it, the very force of pressure holding him tightly against the wires. If I had seen his jaw hard before, it was now clamped like a bear trap. But he made to the wing-tip as I commenced a wide, sweeping bank.
This would bring me directly above the front of the post, and the angle of the bank would keep his ’chute from fouling in the tail assembly. The crowd on the ground now read our intent. They pointed up, backed away as I nosed toward them.
I shot another glance at Doc. He was now I facing the wind, the fingers of one hand | clutching the ring on the rip-cord. Head into | shoulders, trousers flapping . . . He looked at me—and my hand smacked down.
If I had been looking for him to weaken at the critical moment I would have been disappointed. He tore at the ring—the pilot ’chute appeared—then came the slam of the main ’chute . . . Doc was whipped from that wing-tip as I might brush a fly from a table-top.
Motor gunned for everything she had, I shot up; cut into a steep bank and circled the post. Beneath me. Doc was swinging like a pendulum. For a moment he seemed to be drifting toward the riverfront; then I saw the ’chute collapse in front of the buildings. A bobbed-haired girl in riding breeches was the first to reach him—and I smiled to myself.
“Doc, old boy; it’s still up to you.”
THAT NIGHT, Ned Curtis and I sat in the radio station. A message came through from Cummings, saying that Doc Nealey was on the job but that it was too early for a verdict. I stayed with Ned, and the next morning, word came again. Doc had had to resort to trepanning, and he hoped the operation would be a success. Maud gave the story, and I was able to speak to her.
“He’s just wonderful, Dan,” was her tribute. “And I know what operations are. For a sterilizer he had to depend on the kitchen boiler. I was his assistant. And his operating theatre was Bill’s own room.”
I would liked to have had a word with Doc, but that was impossible at the time. Three days later, however, I spoke with Kay. Bill was definitely out of danger and the cloud that had shrouded the sick room was beginning to pass. What struck me most was the voice of Kay herself. The old hardboiled tone was gone; something more womanly had taken its place. She sounded contrite, almost reverent when she mentioned Doc Nealey.
Oh, I was ready for her. I had a homily all cut and dried. It was going to touch on courage; on mind over matter; on transcending love that could conquer fear or at least subordinate it. What I did say was:
“Tell Doc that I’ll be in for him just as soon as conditions warrant.”
Kay laughed then; and I’ll bet it was her first laugh for many an hour.
“I’ll tell him. But, Dan, you old dear,” she said in almost a whisper, “the way he feels now—and the way I feel—Fred won’t worry if he never comes out.”