It took a girl in hospital white to convince Dr. Walter Granger that an operating room is more than a theatre
GEORGE EDWARD ALLEN
IN ONE of the operating rooms of a great New York hospital there was an air of pleasurable excitement. The case was a beautiful one from the visiting students’ standpoint—a man’s leg swollen to barrel size by a rare disease of the lymphatics—and the surgeon was going to attempt an audacious operation. And that surgeon was young Walter Granger, who always gave a good show.
With one exception, everything was ready. The great Lindstrom himself had come down from his laboratory and was tugging impatiently at his white beard. The pick of the nurses—and Granger could pick ’em, the internes agreed—were in position, with his instruments laid out in order. Granger’s assistant, a man of twice his age and five times his reputation, stood there with his gloved hands and his forearms thrusting at right angles from his side like the flippers of a seal; and the anesthetist was already pouring on the Waters of Lethe. Indeed, the only thing missing was the surgeon himself. Walter Granger was late, as usual.
Just then he sauntered into the room. “He thinks he’s Charlie Mayo,” one of the internes whispered to his companion.
“Huh! That boy would try to tell old Charlie how to do it.”
But Granger did not even glance at the spectators, nor notice the indrawn breaths and the slight jutting of chins that his arrogant entrance always caused. “Well?” he snapped at the nurse who was hurrying toward him with a sterile gown.
But before the nurse could adjust his mask he lifted his face in the strong light, as though to let them have a last good look at his handsome features. And they were handsome, the internes perceived. That was the devil of it. They were as cleanly cut as by Walter Granger’s own scalpel. And he knew it, and knew that the nurses knew. His eyes had a sardonic gleam, but this did not prevent them being extraordinarily vivid and impressive eyes, black as his soul; and his black hair was beautifully combed.
“It doesn’t interæt me personally,” he had said one evening, after calmly admitting his good looks. “But it counts more than an American College Fellowship in getting good-paying patients. If a Park Avenue matron wants an appendix lifted from an abdomen somewhat the worse for wear, wouldn’t she prefer a handsome surgeon? The answer is obvious even to a mind like yours.”
Only after he was gloved, gowned and masked, did he deign a glance to his audience. “What’s happening here today, a strip-tease performance?” he asked sarcastically.
No one answered. It was impossible to answer without profanity.
“Well, I suppose you want to see some surgery. There’s little enough of it around this veterinary hospital. But keep out of my way, and if one of you as much as coughs, out he goes.”
T_JE TURNED to the young interne who was acting as anesthetist. “He's almost under, isn’t he. doctor? Splendid, splendid. But you know, you rather remind me of the native servant who used to wash my hair out in Burma. Except that he ¡xgt;ured on the water just a little more slowly and carefully than you pour on ether. Of course, if you're in a big hurry, you might simply sock him in the jaw.”
The head-washing anecdote was one of Walter Granger’s inventions. He had been born in Burma of an American woman married to an English civil servant, but he had left there at the age of ten, as the internes who had grudgingly studied his life history knew perfectly well. But the anesthetist only gritted his teeth behind his mask.
‘‘Perhaps you intend to put under some of our young visitors as well,” Walter went on. ‘‘They can cut the air in this room with a knife, if they can’t cut anything else . . . Scalpel !”
“How does that bozo get by with it?” fine of the internes whispered to his companion.
But the answer was obvious as slt;x)n as Walter Granger took knife in hand. He held it as delicately as an artist holds his brush, almost mincingly it seemed, but there was something almost uncanny in the smooth, swift and silky parting of the flesh.
His incision was a long one for Walter Granger, but in the opinion of the spectators, much too short. He was showing off. they told themselves. He couldn't possibly, even with that uncanny eye in his fingertip, find the dilated lymph trunks in such a little hole and implant them into the veins. Later he’d have to lengthen the wound, and it would burn him, and they’d be glad.
But he did not lengthen the wound; and in some strange way that would have annoyed them if they could have escaped from the room and thought it over, they were glad of this instead, it was such beautiful surgery, so gentle and yet so devilish bold. By his movements and terse sarcastic comments and explanations, they realized that the operation was going rapidly and well. As men, not women, they could judge the work instead of the worker, and as medicos they thought that medicine was about the only thing that mattered in the world; and in giving him his due they almost sided with him. And there were times when there was nothing left of him to hate, just a disembodied brain with a blade for its antenna.
But there were other times when they could have cut his throat with his own scalpel. One of these was when a nurse, hating him so hard that little waves of sexual passion were stealing through lier, handed him forceps instead of scissors.
“Scissors." lie repeated in an ironically tender voice. “You know, what you cut your pretty little toenails with. And if you’ll just try to bear with me until this is over . . .”
It was over before the spectators could catch their breaths. Where jxgt;ssible he had implanted the dilated lymph trunks into veins, and elsewhere lie had made artificial lymphatics by introducing sterilized silk thread into the affected part and prolonging it into the normal tissue. Of course he graciously permitted his assistant to sew up the wound.
But he could not leave the rrxnn without one final flourish, in this case a sacrilege of medical religion. Stroking his beard, old Doctor Lindstrom had stopped him near the door.
“Goot work, young faller.”
It was just the opening Walter Granger wanted. The internes saw his eyes change into two sparks. And in a pleasant conversational tone, he asked:
"Shall I send the bill to you?”
“The man’s a pauper. And you’re on the boardemdash;who else can I send it to? It's for a thousand dollars. In spite of all the other thousand-dollar operations I've done this month. I'll deduct all my salary as assistant house surgeon, and that will leave only seven hundred and fifty you owe me.”
But if Walter hoped either to embarrass or annoy the old scientist, he was disappointed. Lindstrom tugged thoughtfully at his beard.
"Only seven hunner fifty? Ach. I will do better dan dat. You coom to my office ven you haf dressed. 1 vill not pay you in money, but I vill gif you a chance for twice der amount in mooch-needed schooling.”
Give him just a minute, the spectators knew, and Walter would return the jibe with interest, but they hugged their sides when the old doctor went on blandly:
“A chance to make not yust a goot wivasectionist, but a goot doctor.”
TILTALTER GRANGER could take it. His worst * * enemies among the internesemdash;and they were not that really, because he had never hurt anything more tender than their feelingsemdash;handed it to him on this score. When the joke was on him, he gave forth a belly laugh that was perfectly genuine. So was his charm when he turned it on, but he did so only at his own pleasure and for His own admiration.
In fact, he was so confident of his own excellence that any
joke aimed at him had the added humor of absurdity. But there was no use accusing Walter of conceit. He admitted it freely.
Anyway, he liked the old scientist and wished him all the few remaining victories he could win. And to the disgusted amazement of the internes, the liking seemed to be returned.
They thought it must be because of Walter’s occasional reversal of form. Every so often he would come lugging in some crippled or ailing tenement child, pay the kid’s hospital expenses out of his own pocket, and cut out his adenoids or lengthen his bones, cussing all the while. But when anyone spoke of it he fairly hooted. Couldn't the jackasses see that those cases had unique pathological features? Catch him doing any charity work except as preparation for fat fees.
But it was not this left-hand kindness that attracted Lindstrom. Although the old scientist had won the Nobel Brize for his penetrating studies of the lymphatics, also he could sei far into that closet, so strongly locked and barred, the human heart; and among the follies and faults of Walter’s make-up lie found something that not only fascinated him but touched him deeply.
He flid not know quite what it was. Perhaps it was a power for glt;xgt;d that Walter had not yet developed. Perhaps it was only courage but of a very strange kind, for courage can be touching in the extreme.
“Do you know der reason I inwite you here today?” the old scientist began.
“Because you had just seen some fairly passable surgery.” Walter answered in good form.
“Yell, partly. But mostly for somet’ing you say to der anesthetist, something werry impolite. You tell him how you vas born in Burma.”
“You knew that already, doctor.”
“I had forgot. Doctor, you could pick up der Burmese language werry difficult, I believeemdash;werry quickly.” “Overnight, I suppose.” Walter told him airily.
“And also you are interested in elephantiasis.” “Academically, yes. It’s the most beautiful disease I ever ran into.” Walter’s eyes had lighted up in a peculiar way, but the glimmer quickly died down. “But I can’t afford to be actively interested in any such oddities. Iemdash;” “Young feliar, der Foundation is about to send a man into Upper Burma. Der main job is to study elephantiasis. And I haf been asked to recommend dat man.”
“That’s very flattering, butemdash;”
“Not von leg big as a barrel, but hunnerds.”
"Yell?” For sometimes Walter mocked the old man to his face, a little joke between them.
“I fink of Perkins first, but he has not der open eyes nor der eye on der fingertip. In my young day even der little fellars had eyes on der fingertips. It vas necessary, you see. or dey lose every patientemdash;no long incisions den for a surgeon to look into like a peepshow. Wit only carbolic acid to spray around, he must make only a leetle hole for his finger and his finger must see for him; a big hole like der fellars make now, and the patient turn up his toe from septicemia. It take too long now for der students to grow an eye on der fingertip, but you haf it as a gift of Gott, credit to you not one bit. Also der ojxm eyes to see somet'ings when it is stuck in front of der nose.”
V\ TAUTER flushed a little. He was more pleased than ** he felt his self-assurance should permit. “Doctor, I’d like to goemdash;”
“Who vouldn’t. wit a grain of sense?” the old doctor snapped.
“But because I’ve got a grain of sense, I’m going to stay at home.”
“On account of der marriage?”
“Partly. Dorothy would no doubt go, but I wouldn't ask it. Exile in Burma, away from her friends, her horses, her social lifeemdash;”
“Vat are horse shows compared to science? Vat is der odder reason?”
But Walter did not enjoy presenting the other reason to this fat old scientist, sitting there in his pigpen of an office, with ashes all over his coat. It was queer that what you would boast of to one person you were ashamed to have another know.
“The trip would simply delay my chosen career.”
“Your career! Pah!”
“That’s pronounced ‘bah,’ doctor.”
“However you pronounce it, it means der same-emdash;der laugh of der horse. I know vat you mean. You marry der lady from dat street emdash;Park is der nameemdash; and you go to der party and putty quick you is Valter Granger, der fashionable surgeon, who charge a t’ousand dollar to take out one leetle ovary. You has hours between eleven and t’ree. Your surgery is polished like der table you eat off of. but you take no more hunnerd to one chances where you might learn somet 'ings, because you lose der reputation as a miracle man. You
"But someone’s got to handle that luxury trade and get the heavy sugar.” Walter broke in. "Then why not me?” “Because t’ousands of surgeons can do der routine work, but so werry few who can increase a leetle. just a leetle. der world knowledge. So werry leetle is known about
elephantiasis. If you go out dair. you can study and maybe perfect der technique of treatment. But vat is der use talking to jackasses? Go ahead with your fashionable peoples and go to der devil.”
But Walter laughed, and then a sheepish grin broke over the old doctor’s flushed face. “Yell?”
“Yell.” Walter answered. “I’ll call on you when I’m drawing down a hundred grand a year, and give a new dissecting room for the universityemdash; to be named after me, of course.”
“You had better gif a new tank for odder cadavers like you. But dey will be doing somet’ingemdash;helping to teach young doctors and you will be doing nossing. But if you change der mind before tomorrow night, let me know.” Doctor Lindstrom reached for a book and buried his nose in it. Yet his little bright eyes followed the tall, graceful, outrageous figure all the way to the door. I vould like to wring his neck if I could do so without harm to dat moochneeded head, he was thinking . And Walter was thinking, I’d like to take him up. but tomorrow night’s the rehearsal, and after the honeymoon the real beginning of my career.
T_JE WAS a lucky fellow to win Dorothy, for herself -*• alone. The rehearsal went off smoothly as a blood transfusion, the bride too lovely and desirable for words. It was part of a groomsman’s duty to show envyemdash;a rite as old and sacred as the orange blossomsand usually his last, private, and most ardent toast was to his own narrow escape; yet Walter’s ushers looked at Dorothy with wistful,
cowlike eyes . . . But fifty-fifty, the bridesmaids had heart throbs that would make a cardiagraph like the skyline of the Himalaya Mountains.
On the following day, Walter w'as a little late arriving at the church. A thyroidectomy had taken longer than he had expected, and not only to honor Dorothy but to take the eye of prospective lady patients in the pews, he had dressed with such infinite care that it amounted to genius. When he arrived he found the traffic congested, newspaper photographers w'ith big black-eyed cameras waiting in line, and mounted policemen herding what would later be called “a throng of curious people milling about the doors."
All this was for Dorothy, of course. She wras neither wealthy nor a society sensation, but her hemoglobin was reputedly sky-blue. But he did not feel in the least outclassed. Not every girl was marrying the coming top-flight surgeon of New York. Fifty-fifty, he decided—just the right formula for a successful marriage.
But one of the ushers waiting for him in the vestry looked worried. “She hasn’t come yet, and here’s a note for you.” the man said, handing him an envelope addressed in Dorothy’s hand. “A special messenger took it to your place, but he missed you, and brought it here.”
“Oh, I dare say she’s just changed her mind,” Walter answered airily. “Female prerogative, you know'.” Yet he had a slight sinking feeling that the ductless-gland experts had never scientifically explained. Just what in the deuce she would be writing him at this hour
“You’ve got nerve,” the usher told him. “If it were me ...”
With his steady surgeon fingers Walter tore off the edge of the envelope. Pursing his lips, he read the note carefully.
“Yes," he announced, after a little pause. “Women are that way.”
“Good lord, man, you just mean she’s going to be late?”
“No, she fooled us that time. In fact”—Walter sneaked a quick breath to steady his voice—“she’s not coming at all.”
“She discovered, when she tried to put on her weddingdress. that she couldn’t go through with it. And she’s run off and married’’—Walter examined the note again “an orchestra leader by the name of David Herts.”
WALTER was performing of course, the usher thought.
Not even a fish would take so calmly the theft of his sweetheart’s eggs. But if he had on his silk hat he would doff it just the same.
Actually, Walter was reacting to habit so deeply ingrained that it was second nature. He reached for a cigarette, then remembered he was in a church and did not light it. He grinned sardonically at the stupefaction in the usher’s face. But meanwhile he w;as thinking as rapidly and powerfully as ever in his life.
I’ve lost Dorothy, but there’s plenty of time in the future to brood over that. Right now I’m on the spot. I’ve been jilted by Park Avenue, and my prestige and prospects are in shock and about to die on the table. The church is full of patients who will or who won’t, according to what happens in the next few minutes. The newspaper men are just
outside the door, and back at ttic hospital are my fellow medicos, not to mention the internes whose eyes will grow beady with joy. I’ve got to do something tx>ld and impressive and do it now.
“Will you ask the minister to step here?" iie told the usher . . . “And then you may ask the reixirters to send in one of their number for a statement.”
“Man, if I ever get hydrophobia, will you take my case?” said the usher.
A few minutes later both the clergyman and the rejxirter, the first pale with fright and the other with professional ecstasy, were standing before him. Gravely Walter gave them the facts.
"Good heavens!” the minister gasped.
"But when you explain to the congregation, please tell them that 1 am among those who wish her every happiness,” Walter went on. “Mite as it is, it was not only her right but her duty to marry the man that she truly loved.”
“But she could have waited—” "That is love, sir. I bear her no resentment."
“You are a noble young man. Most noble! I will inform the congregation.” And the minister hurried out.
“If you’re not noble, at least you’re dead game,” the reporter conceded. “Now' gimme a little more along that same swell line.”
“I have lost one of the most charming and beautiful girls in New York City, and one of the most glorious. My loss is Mr. Herts’ gain. But if I may speak medically, the heart is an involuntary muscle. No one can be blamed for its behavior.” “Wait till I get that down, just as you said it Involuntary
muscle is swell But, doc. I've
got to play fair with the boys. Would you mind if I call ’em just one from every big paperand get your photograph too?”
“Really you should take Mr. I lerts’ photograph. I íe is the winner of this rather close race. But if you wish pictures of the runner-up . .
A few minutes later he stood at the vestry entrance, his Ixiutonniere reminding the whole world of his loss, dressed in what the reporters would call imjxxcable taste, while lights flashed and cameras«clicked.
But the rejxirters’ eyes were almost as big as the lens.
“Doc, have you any other statement to make before we break for the telephones?" the sjxikesman asked him respectfully.
Walter hesitated briefly. “You might be interested to know that I am accepting an offer from one of the medical foundations to go to Burma for research work, ’ he said modestly. “Whether or not Mrs. Herts’ action has anything to do with my acceptance, I must decline to say."
SO DOCTOR Walter Granger left New York in what was at least a small blaze of glory.
"He’s sold his soul to the devil,” one of the internes commented gloomily. “There’s no other way to account for his luck. Here he gets the worst smack in the face in the history of the institution, jilted by a girl that everybody knew he was marryin’ for her little dough and her rich friends, and what does he do? Sounds off like Romeo, and even those bozos on the newspapers fall for it. Did you see those pictures in the paper? He even takes a gix>d newspaper picture, damn him. Did you see what the Broad wavite said about him? ‘The ethics of the medical profession evidently include sportsmanship grade A. and this writer's hat is off to one Walter Granger. M.D.’ Can you beat it? And those sob stones in every paper about him going out to Burma for scientific research with a tin halo on his head, when he’s only getting out from under. And two years from now' he’ll be corning back with the prestige of a foundation man. steal all our best patients, and but maybe
Continued on page 26
Continued from page 9—Starts on page 7
some swell tiger will eat the quack up.”
“But he’s no quack,” his fellow answered, “and that’s the devil of it.”
This was a sapient comment. Walter was already looking forward to his Burma job. At night he dreamed of legs big as barrels not one but hundreds laid out for him to experiment on and cure. In his spare time he ex|x-ctlt;si to polish his general surgery on the native population.
Walter’s contribution to shipboard life across the Atlantic was confined to an occasional strut on the deck in his perfectly chosen and becoming sport clothes, and to setting an example of how to wear evening clothes at dinner.
But when he had changed ships at Naples and saw the moon on the Mediterranean Sea, he came out of his cave in search of amorous adventure. Lighting his pipe, he took a stroll around the sjxgt;rt deck.
It was time for the winter visit of the “fishing fleet” to Bombay and Calcutta emdash;the fish being eligible bachelors in a woman-scarce land emdash;and he noticed a good many unattached girls. And most of them noticed him. If they had good profiles they gazed thoughtfully out to sea. the moonlight softening their faces; if not, they lcxgt;ked up, their brows a little knitted by their absorption in their own thoughts.
To none of these he gave a second glance. Not that he disparaged them for their interest in him it was but natural, he thought but they were not sufficiently distinguished to attract him. And of course the out-and-out hunters who met his eyes and put in their own eyes a kind of swimmy expression, aroused in him only scientific curiosity. He was inclined to think they achieved the effect by throwing their gaze out of focus. I íe must remember to talk it over with a first-classophthalmologist.
But there was one girl writing letters in a little alcove just off the promenade who interested him immensely. For she continued to write letters as lie lounged in the doorway, and did not put the end of the penholder in her mouth and gaze off into space. She was the last girl on board, he decided, that an ordinary fellow would try to mash. And that was why he sat down on the opposite side of her double writing desk.
HE STRUGGLED with an impression he had seen her before, but lie had had a similar impression about hundreds of other people, usually wrongly. All human faces were stereotyigt;ed from a few patterns, he thought, with t he address added and one or two variations made, as in advertising letters. Incredible as it seemed. there were no doubt hundreds of girls who llt;xgt;ked very much like her. And for that matter even more incredible there were no doubt hundreds of men who looked like him.
He looked her over very carefully before he leaped. She was not beautiful, but unusually pretty and attractive; and from a doctor's standpoint she was superb, with that slim but sturdy llt;xgt;k he noticed especially in the girls from North Europe, particularly Swedes.
Some girls did not advertise the fact that man isa primate mammal, but this girl did and in the most beautiful way. An artist would have admired the full. lxgt;ld curves of her upper body even more than his friends, the obstetricians, gynecologists, and pediatricians.
Her coloring tcxj suggested the Baltic Sea. Her hair was pale gold without looking metallic, about the shade of yellow chartreuse and quite as smooth, and she wore it parted in the middle, with a big knot at the back of her slim neck. And he concluded, after an examination of her deep blue eyes and milky skin, that this was its original color, but of course he had been deceived on this score many times before.
She was rather broad between the cheek bones, with a quick slope to a sturdy little chin. Hyperpituitary, he thought. Her nose was inconspicuous emdash;which was the nicest thing he could say about anyone’s
nose, evolutionary vestige of a snout as he knew it to be. And her lips were lovely in color and shape, and she puckered them a little as she wrote.
He wondered if her writing still made sense. If it was an act, it was one of the best he had ever seen. In fact it was so flawless that he was almost embarrassed into putting on one himself taking up a pen and pretending to write a letter.
But that was what an ordinary man would have done, he thought. So he asked in level tones:
“Won’t you please put down that pen and talk to me?”
She gave a little start and glanced up. “Did you speak to me?”
“I very rarely talk to myself.”
“Then what did you say? I’m sorry. I was so intent on my letter.” And her manner was of one trying to avoid being rude.
“I said I’d like to have you talk to me. I don’t know a soul on this boat”emdash;golly, that’s feeble, he thoughtemdash;“and we’d be certain to get acquainted later, anyway.”
She smiled in a secretive way. “I’d be delighted to talk to you. But as you started this, perhaps you'd better talk to me.”
CLEVER, he thought. Considers herself perfectly capable of taking care of herself. I íe suggested that she wind up her letter and come with him out on the sjxirt deck. The moon was shining, and it would be pretty going through the Strait of Messina.
But she had to add a paragraph or two, she answered. Instead she added a whole page, which made Walter look forward to the rest of the voyage with a mild but distinct thrill. Finally she gave him a smile, licked the envelope with a quick red tongue, stamped it, and put it in her purse. “I’m ready,” she told him.
They took two chairs that would overlook the lights of the Sicilian coast. “I wonder if I’ve seen you somewhere before,” he began.
Again she gave that secretive smile. “I wouldn’t think it likely.”
“We’ve got to have a handle for each other. My name is Walter Granger. Unless you feel like calling me by my first name straight off, you can call me doctor.” Usually girls gave a little start, at least a look of excited interest and pleasure, when he told them his profession. He knew that almost all women had a romantic feeling about doctors, and although he considered it nonsense medicine was one of the most mundane of all callings, dirty, messy, often hypocritical, and the number of its dubs, dolts, crooks, quacks and jackasses was simply appalling still he rather counted on it as part of his due. But tonight he counted in vain. He was watching the girl’s face, the moonlight was full in her
eyes, and he might as well have told her he was a chiropractor.
“My name is Vivian Smith.”
“Smith’s a marvellous name, easy to remember. And Vivian is just the little added dash it needs. It suits you too.”
She made no comment, just sat waiting with a pleased kx)k that might be either from flattery or amusement. We talk a most ungodly lot of tosh when we talk to women, he thought, but it’s part of the sex illusion.
“Then my name ought to be Merlin, hadn’t it?” he went on. “You’ll win my love and then leave me up a tree. For in case you don’t remember ...”
“Just ordinary people like me have read ‘Idylls of the King,” she broke in. “Go on.”
He took time to think this over. If her expression was not so sweet, he might suspect she was trying to burn him up.
“Are you going to Egypt or all the way to Bombay?” he asked.
“To Bombay, Colombo, and points east,” she answered.
“That’s fine. This opens up better and better. I don’t suppose there’s any such luck as you going to Burma?”
“Just where I am going, as a matter of fact.”
“What a perfectly amazing coincidence !” “Would you say so, doctor? It doesn’t seem so amazing to me. You probably chose this boat because of the good connection at Colombo for Rangoon. A lot of us going out there did the same.”
“That’s good straight thinking, but are you going to Upper Burma?”
“Yes. A town you’ve never heard of. La-Taung.”
“Let’s see. Doesn't that mean something about the moonemdash;and a hill?”
“It means Moon Mountain, literally.” “Isn’t that astonishing? It ixgt;pped up out of my subconscious mind. But where is La-Taung? Is it near Myit-Asa?”
“About thirty miles. But there’s nothing but a horse trail between, and it's fartheremdash;”
“Only thirty miles! The cells of one man’s brain laid out let’s seesay three hundred thousand to the inchemdash;would stretch more than thirty miles. Well. I’m going to Myit-Asa, practically next door. I suppose you don’t think that is an amazing coincidence?”
"Is it, doctor? But you must be going to Myit-Asa for the Foundation, and since my father stationed at La-Taung asked them to send a doctor there, you and I were bound to meet sooner or later.”
Walter was dumfounded. “You’re going out to visit your father?” he asked rather meekly at last.
“I'm going to stay there with him.” “Who is your father? He’s not a doctor, is he?”
For an instant Walter felt almost foolish.
The tone he had been taking with her had not been quite the right tone with the daughter of a fellow physician, especially if the latter happened to be a famous and great research worker. He prided himself on his powers of diagnosis and on using the right technique for every case, but this time he had taken an amputation knife when he had needed a No. 15 scalpel.
“What are your father’s initials? Probably I’ve heard of him.”
“Oh, no. He’s a medical missionary and has been living out there twenty years.”
WALTER leaned back in his chair.
He had his opinion of medical missionaries. Vivian’s father probably still prescribed calomel for a general cleaning out. But he’d be nice to the old man, give him a few pointers, use him as an assistant when he could, throw him some of the more simple cases.
And he’d be nice to his daughter too, so far away from home. He had already taken note of several sheltered places on the boatdeck. Soon they were leaning against a little rail between two lifeboats, and he slipped his hand into hers.
This technique was usually very effective with maternal and self-reliant types. Their hands closed on his as on a child’s and the sailing was more or less smooth from then on. But, “I’m not going to hold your hand,” she told him good-naturedly, and dropped it.
“Then I’m going to hold yours.”
She did not object, but when he drew her nearer and tried to kiss her, she shook her head.
“It would be thrilling, wouldn’t it?” he asked in low but his most resonant tones. “It would to me. It would be sweet (too many woulds. he thought)emdash;and we’d have that much between us, anyway. Here we are out on this bitter salt sea, two people, our souls as remote and lonely as stars in space. But there’s the moon doing her best to encourage usemdash;”
“You don’t need any encouraging, doctor,” she broke in pleasantly, “and no amount of encouraging is going to work on me.”
“I suppose you think that two people naturally drawn to each other ought to sacrifice several evenings to the great god Convention?”
“Oh. no. I don’t think that. But perhaps we’re not naturally drawn to each other.” This did not stand to reason, he reflected. She must have a defense mechanism of some kind.
“I’m worried about you, Vivian. As the daughter of a missionary, you have probably some old-fashioned and wicked ideas cheating you out of life. Beauty and youth are not immortal, unfortunately. There is beauty, a strange cold beauty, in ascetism. and no doubt your fatheremdash;”
But just then she giggled. He stopped. In the moonlight, he saw her color rise.
“I’m sorry, doctor,” she said with what seemed genuine contrition. “I didn’t mean to be rude. But to think of my father as an ascetic, filling me full of wicked ideas of bottling up my youth and beautyemdash;for you see. he’s not like that at all. He’s just a plain old doctor. And I’d kiss you at the drop of a hat if I wanted to.”
“I see.” And looking back over his past, he could not remember such a lame response.
“But I don’t want to and I’m not going to, not on this trip. You don’t mind. I’m sure; the boat’s loaded to her beams with kissable girls. But I’m very much interested in your ideas.”
He sat still just a moment, then he
smiled. And that smile was quite genuine.
Vivian saw it and came nearer relenting
than any time during the evening. It was
the most thorough and complete fall, he
was thinking, that anyone had taken out
of him for years: he could make a good story
of it to tell in his mellower moments . .
But whether this was supreme vanity,
superb sportsmanship, or diabolical cun-
Continued on page 28
How Quaint Restraint
Our Uncle Adolphus, I proudlv recall.
When asked how he felt would sigh, “Not good at all,”
Or moan and say “Poorly,” or "Shoddy enough.”
Or “Only just so-so,” or "Terrible tough;”
But Uncle (Poor Uncle, let’s give him his dues!)
Just never assumed that his blood count was news.
He moaned arid he groaned and he frequently said,
“I feel like the dickens! I’m more than half dead!”
But ever he spared us his basal metab..
Nor so much as hinted he'd heard from the lab.
No. not by so much as a wave of his hands
Did Uncle Adolphus refer to his glands,
And the rise and fall of his blood pressure’s markemdash;
He kept such statistics as that in the dark.
His health was imperfect, he made that fact plain
Without showing charts of his loss or his gain.
When I think of his vague and nameless complaint,
I’m proud of dear Uncle, and bless his restraint,
And drink to a record consistently cleanemdash;
He never paraded x-rays of his spleen. emdash;Lucretia Penny.
Continued from page. 26
rting at covering up, she would very much
like to know.
MOST men would have avoided Vivian thereafter. But because this was true, Walter was impelled to pursue her more than ever. Besides, his realistic viewpoint was quite real. If she did not appreciate him properly, it did not change the fact that she was one of the most attractive girls he had ever met. In one of the most fascinating operations he had ever performed, the patient had died.
He put his best foot forward for her. He expounded all the problems of the universe that he thought worthy of his attention. He edified her with the most profound and delicate workings of his mind.
At Port Said he escorted her off the ship and they had a riotous evening among the fezzed hawkers of imitation amber and French photographs. But she was still holding out on him, and only one night out of Bombay did he guess why.
The committee of shipboard activities, headed by an English general with curled mustaches, had called a fancy-dress party, and Walter strolled into the ballroom to see the costumes. They were about the same as usual, he noticed very gcxxl girls dressed as harlots, very inhibited girls dressed in practically nothing, meek little men garbed as gangsters, six-foot oedopic giants wearing rompers, strait-laced Puritans cloaked as lecherous Turks, jxxjr kicked-about cockneys parading as Indian rajahs, and enough other expressions of suppressed desires to make a psychologist jump up and down with excitement.
Among the hula dancers, Chinese mandarins, old-fashioned girls, Charlie Chaplins, and Mahatma Gandhis, he noticed a girl with a nice figure in nurse’s costume. At the angle he saw her, her hair half-concealed by lier cap. she conjured up a vision of his own hospi tal. overrun by apprentice nurses. He had seen her there! That very girl had taken her training there. She must have been about the decks for days, but because she had worn civvies . .
Just then the girl turned her full face. It was Vivian.
Then the truth broke u|X)ti him in one million-volt flash. The girl at the training school and girl by the rail in the moonlight were the same girl. Not once but many times he had seen her carrying bedpans and trays, and it had been Vivian all the time. He understood now his first fleeting impression of having seen her before. Of course she had had the advantage of him from the outset, and what a gorgeous job of leg-pulling she had done!
It had tx'en a bit bold, he reflected. The ABC of nurses’ training is to stand in awe of doctors. But he did not blame her for making the most of her holiday, even to refusing him a kiss.
She was surrounded by lovelorn Englishmen, but he swept her onto the dance floor. “How are we this morning, Miss Smith?” he asked in his assistant house-surgeon voice.
She raised her eyes to him briefly. “No temperature, dlt;xtlt;gt;r. ”
“You told me one lie, Vivian. You said you didn’t think it likely I’d seen you before.”
"You hadn’t. I was just a piece of furniture to you.”
SHE HAD taken the training course in order to serve with her father in the Burma hills. Walter judged that she was comptent, and his manner toward her changed. He talked to her such shop as she could understand. He paid her the honor of telling her his most brilliant ideas and plans.
Medicine was a business, he said, the same as selling cemetery lots. In fact some doctors, it seemed, should combine the two trades. He would let the other fellows, the sentimental chaps sticky with professional ethics, take the poor and free arses.
“When I push off into private practice, no paupers need apply." She might have
heard this one before it had been widely quoted after he had tossed it off to a group of internes but not likely.
“I think you’d be wasting your talents out in Burma,” she remarked.
“It’s a grxxJ place to add the finishing touches to technique. White guinea pigs or black guinea pigs, all the same to me.”
Did he llt;x)k forward to seeing his native country? Only as a laboratory. Did he know that the hills of the Wa tribesmen were next door to his new station? No, he didn't know that.
“I’ve been reading about the Wa in the ‘Burma Gazeteer’ in the ship’s library,” he said. “But it was published early in the century and of course the fascinating little brutes are mere psalm singers by now.”
She said nothing, merely smiled her interest.
“I would have enjoyed having neighbors enterprising enough to hunt heads. I wonder what their technique of amputation was. Isn’t it a pity that all the wild charm of the country has been destroyed?”
“A great pity. But perhaps, doctor, you could find an old man in their hills who would remember the good old days. You might take a trip up there on some weekend. You’re so interested in all branches of surgery.”
Meanwhile Walter was toying with a fascinating notion. Why not employ Vivian as his chief nurse? He could manage her salary, semi-privately if necessary. But it was characteristic of Walter not to mention the matter until he could be certain of her qualifications. No nurse’s pretty face or figure had ever atoned to him for one slipshod act in the operating room.
But after they had changed ships at Colombo and were halfway across the Bay of Bengal, an opportunity rose not only to
judge her competence but to display his own.
Walter had been pleased to give a few pointers to the ship’s doctor, a middle-aged Englishman named Sharp. His reward was to be wakened shortly after sunrise to the realization that there was a very sick man on board. In Sharp’s face was the same futile attempt to look calm and confident that he had seen in the faces of badly frightened internes.
“ ’E’s a first-class passenger,” Sharp said, his fright bringing out the cockney like a jack-in-a-box, “and maybe you’d like to ’ave a look at ’im. I’ve got my own opinion, but two ’eadsare better than one.”
\\ J ALTER ’S eyes were sharp as a * * hawk’s in the act of catching a rabbit as he leaned over the sick man. I íe counted his pulse, which was only a little fast. He t(X)k his temperature, which was not overly high. lie noted his vomiting, which was projectile, and his intense pain that increased when Walter pressed any part of his abdomen and grew unbearable at the slightest touch low and to the right.
Walter gave a little nod and pointed out the door.
“Acute appendicitis,” he pronounced, when he and Sharp were alone.
“Just what I said myself.”
“Is that so-called swimming tank filled this early? Think I’ll take a dive.” And Walter started to move off.
“Just a minute, Doctor Granger. Do you think it’s going to rupture? What would you say was the best thing to be done?”
“What have you done already, doctor?”
“Well, ’e complained of an ache early last eveningemdash;I got ’im a hot water bottle and ...” Sharp’s words died away and
the look that is commonly called haunted
was in his eyes.
“And you gave him a purgative?”
“A dose of castor oil. doctor. ’E suggested it ’imself and I thought it couldn’t ’urt ’im. But. doctor, wouldn’t you say ’e could wait till we get to Rangoon?”
“When we get to Rangoon he’ll be waiting in the cold room.”
“Oh. good ’eavens!”
“Unless you operate in the next hour.” “But how can I? I ’aven’t the facilities. There’s a ’eavy sea running too. 1 ’aven’t performed a major for a long time. You know what our work is ’ere, sea-sickness mostly, and malarial cases on the way ’ome. I could do well enough in a proper ’ospital, but out ’ere on the ruddy oceanemdash;” “Nice-looking chap, in the prime of life.” “A buna sahib, too, you know, Indian Civil Service. If ’e was just a stray American touristemdash;” For Sharp was so frightened he was letting go everything. “Time’s passing, doctor.”
“Look ’ere, won’t you do this ’ere operation?”
“Under certain conditions, yes. First, I’ll talk to the patient.”
Walter explained the situation briefly and bluntly. He would perform the operation if the patient desired. It was a dangerous one but it was his opinionemdash;merely an opinionemdash;that the danger of a ruptured appendix and peritonitis was much more grave. His fee would be two hundred English pounds.
“Did you sayemdash;two hundred pounds?” the Civil Service man gasped between spasms of pain.
“As I have no license to practice on this ship, you may pay Doctor Sharp and he’ll pay me.”
Only two nights before the Englishman had spoken of Walter as a young whippersnapper. A typical flashy American, and a monster of conceit. Sharp, on the other hand, was a proper English doctor, a few cuts down the line but respectful to his betters. But the patient did not suggest that Sharp do the cutting. That cutting would be on his own precious abdomen, against which personal prejudice did not weigh.
“Do the best you can for me, doctor.”
V\ 7ALTER began to give orders. The W ship atoned for her moderate size and out-of-date equipment by an extravagant amount of swank. Walter sent up instructions to the captain to heave to and barely hold steerage way to reduce the roll of the ship to a minimum. The captain would have done so anyway, and he wouldn't have objected to a humble request in behalf of an important passenger, butemdash;“The old barnacle is swearin’ sompin’ ’orrid,” a seaman reported.
Walter had all the passageways and decks adjacent to the sick bay roped off. so that he would not be disturbed by the sound of voices and passing feet. As this happened to include the main entrance to the dining room, all the first-class passengers, including the wife of a governor, could go there through the kitchen or not at all. Yet for all the completeness of his arrangements, his patient was on the table with his assistant and nurses in their places in a startling brevity of time.
As he entered the sick bayemdash;not a moment late this morning, because the case was critical and anyway his audience was t(xD small to be worth insultingemdash;he felt a thrill of pleasurable excitement. There wasn’t room to dissect a cat. Although the captain had done his best, the floor still swayed and swung. Doctor Sharp, nominally his assistant, would be only in his way. and Sharp’s nurse, who was acting as anesthetist, would bear watching. And his surgical nurse, on whose dexterity and intelligence his own good form depended, was one he had never used before, in fact a girl he had met on shipboard named Miss Smith. Only the extreme urgency of the operation, not the valuable experience it would give him, prevented him from cancelling it even now.
Continued on page 30
Continued jrotn page 28
The Smith girl started off well. Before he could ram out his arms and bark his usual, “Is this a ladies’ rest room?" she was beside him and holding out his gown. His gloves were on his hands and his mask over his mouth before he could make a gesture of any kind.
The operation proved to be one of the most diverting he had ever performed. The desired appendix was enormously distended, in fact it was only by the grace of God that it hadn’t already burst, which would have meant delaying the operation and another man having the fun and collecting the fee. Not to mention the probability of the patient’s death.
If he relieved the pressure against the swollen appendix by anything like a workable incision, it might burst here and now, flooding the peritonital cavity with pus. So he dared cut barely wide enough to slip it out endwise. And to detach it and get hold of it without piercing it with his knife or damaging the surrounding tissues, took all—or nearly all—that he had.
In fact the operation proved so diverting -—one little butterfly touch after another when the ship was dead still, and yet working against time to save the patient shock— that Walter forgot all else. He was not aware of telling Sharp to get his damned bear paws out of his way, or of reminding Sharp’s nurse that the ether with which she was so generous was not a mother’s lullaby at eventide. And only when the appendix was out and the wound sewed up did he remember that his new surgical nurse, Miss Smith, had elicited no comments from him of any kind.
Why? Simply because she was a whizbang. She had handed him knives, gut, sponges, scissors, forceps and retractors without the slightest hesitation or mistake. She was sterile as a mule, and always at hand without being in the way. A nurse like that made surgery one long dream of bliss.
And she wasn’t Miss Smith ! He discovered this when he came to. She was his own Vivian.
TVÆUCH to the secret disgust of the captain and most of the passengers— not that they wanted anyone to suffer, but the ruddy Yank was insufferable—the patient made a rapid recovery. There was almost no surgical shock, no high fever to index dread septicemia, and the night before the ship was due into Rangoon the man was out of danger.
That night Walter led Vivian to the sun deck, where he had ordered two chairs. His marvellous surgery had stirred her imagination and inspired her to romantic dreams, he thought, but their meeting tonight must be purely professional. He
began by handing her six English pounds. “What’s this for?” she demanded. “Three days nursing at two pounds a day.”
“I’m not going to take it. What I did was off the record, trying to be decent to a fellow passenger. And I’ve helped the other nurse only an hour or so every day.” “Don’t be idiotic. We’re all fellow passengers bound for the grave. Part of a day counts as a full day. And the patient included it in my cheque.”
She put the money in her purse. “I’ll give it back to him, if he’ll take it. If not, it goes to some of the deck passengers.” “It’s your money. You can throw it around as you like. But a trained nurse should cultivate the scientific spirit and not be sentimental.”
“All right,” she said with a curious grimness, “I won’t be sentimental.”
“Now I’ve got something rather wonderful to tell you. I’ve got a job for you.”
“If you make good—and I feel sure you will—it will be permanent. I want you to help me with my work in Burma.”
“I’m sorry, but I already have a job.” At first he could not believe hisears, then he smiled kindly;
“Oh. you mean working for your father.” “That’s exactly what I do mean.”
“I understand how you feel—your desire to help him—but he can get plenty of native nurses, and you can see him often. You'll be only thirty miles away.”
“No, I’m going to be right there.” “Come, come, Vivian. Let’s not carry sentiment too far. I have great respect for the mission doctors, and I think your father must be a fine example of the type. Also, his general practice among the natives is important to the profession. But it would teach you nothing. For the sake of your career, you must attach yourself to me.” “To you?” And there was something in her voice, a kind of passionless flatness out of the warm dark, that made him whirl toward her. But before he could speak she went on with the same devastating calm: “I wouldn’t attach myself to you if I have to be a scullery maid the rest of my life.”
For once he did not smile. “Vivian—” “Don’t speak. It’s my turn, for once. I didn’t think I’d ever take my turn, but I’m going to. My father is old-fashioned, he hasn’t even a fair fraction of your medical skill, but he’s a better doctor than you’ll ever be in your life.”
She did not know it. he thought—and must never know it—but she was hitting very close to home.
“You don’t even know what the word doctor means.” And then with a quick sharp breath she flung up from her chair and walked swiftly away.
To be Continued