The mousy man looked up. Appealing to Pearson, he said, “He ran straight out—straight out from the side of the house. I’m not a careless driver. I’ve got kids of my own. I wasn’t going fast. I was almost stopped when it happened.”
   “And I say you’re a lousy liar.” It was the father, his voice choked with emotion and bitterness. “You killed him, and I hope you go to jail for it.”
   Pearson said quietly, “Just a moment, please.” There was silence, the others watching him. He motioned to the policeman’s notebook. “There’ll be a full report for the coroner, but I can tell you the preliminary findings now.” He paused. “The autopsy has shown it was not the car that killed the boy.”
   The patrolman looked puzzled. The father said, “But I was there! I tell you . . .”
   “I wish there were some other way to tell you this,” Pearson said, “but I’m afraid there isn’t.” He addressed the father. “The blow your boy received knocked him to the road, and there was a mild concussion which rendered him unconscious. He also sustained a small fracture of the nose—quite minor, but unfortunately it caused his nose to bleed profusely.” Pearson turned to the patrolman. “The boy was left lying on his back, I believe—where he fell.”
   The officer said, “Yes, sir, that’s right. We didn’t want to move him until the ambulance came.”
   “And how long was that?”
   “I’d say about ten minutes.”
   Pearson nodded slowly. It was more than enough time; five minutes would have been sufficient. He said, “I’m afraid that that was the cause of death. The blood from the nosebleed ran back into the boy’s throat. He was unable to breathe and he aspirated blood into the lungs. He died of asphyxiation.”
   The father’s face revealed horror, incredulity. He said, “You mean . . . if we’d only turned him over . . .”
   Pearson raised his hands expressively. “I meant what I said—I wish there were some other way to tell you this. But I can only report the truth: the original injuries to your boy were minor.”
   The patrolman said, “Then the blow from the car . . . ?”
   “One can’t be sure, of course, but my own opinion is that it was glancing and comparatively light.” Pearson gestured to the mousy man, now standing close beside them. “I imagine this man is telling the truth when he says the car was moving slowly.”
   “Mother of God!” It came from the father—a despairing, tortured wail. He was sobbing, his hands to his face. After a moment the mousy man led him to a settee, his arm around the other’s shoulders, his own eyes glistening.
   The patrolman’s face was white. He said, “Doctor, I was there all the time. I could have moved the boy . . . but I didn’t know.”
   “I don’t think you should blame yourself.”
   The man appeared not to have heard. He went on as if in a daze. “I took a first-aid course. I got a badge for it. All the time they taught us—don’t move anybody; whatever you do, don’t move them!”
   “I know.” Pearson touched the patrolman’s arm gently. He said slowly, “Unfortunately there are some exceptions to the rule—one of them is when someone is bleeding in the mouth.”
   In the main-floor corridor on his way to lunch David Coleman saw Pearson emerge from the anteroom. At first Coleman wondered if the senior pathologist were ill. He seemed distracted, unaware of his surroundings. Then he caught sight of Coleman and moved toward him. The younger man halted.
   “Oh yes . . . Dr. Coleman . . . There was something I had to tell you.” Coleman sensed that for some reason Pearson was having trouble marshaling his thoughts. Now he reached out absently and grasped the lapel of Coleman’s white lab coat. Coleman noticed that the old man’s hands were nervous and fumbling. He disengaged his coat.
   “What was it, Dr. Pearson?”
   “There was . . . something to do with the lab.” Pearson shook his head. “Well, it’s gone now . . . I’ll remember later.” He seemed about to turn away when another thought came to him. “I think you’d better take over the autopsy room. Starting tomorrow. Keep your eye on things. See they do a good job.”
   “Very well. I’ll be glad to do that.” David Coleman had some clear-cut ideas about the performance of autopsies, and this would be an opportunity to put them into effect. It occurred to him that while they were talking he might as well bring up something else. He said, “I wonder if I could speak to you—about the laboratories.”
   “The laboratories?” The old man’s mind still seemed to be elsewhere.
   “You’ll remember in my letter I suggested you might consider giving me charge of some part of the laboratories.” It seemed a little odd to be discussing this here and now, but Coleman sensed the opportunity might not occur again.
   “Yes . . . yes, I remember something being said.” Pearson appeared to be watching a group of three moving down the corridor away from them—a policeman and a little man, supporting a bigger man in the middle.
   “I wonder if I might start in Serology,” Coleman said. “I’d like to do some checks on the procedures—standard lab checks, that is.”
   “Um? What was that?”
   It was annoying to have to keep repeating things. “I said I would like to make some lab checks in Serology.”
   “Oh yes, yes . . . that’s all right.” Pearson said it absently. He was still looking away, down the corridor, when Coleman left.
   Elizabeth Alexander was feeling good. About to begin lunch in Three Counties Hospital cafeteria, she realized she had been feeling that way for days, but especially so this morning. The child inside her was alive and stirring; even at this moment she could detect its movements faintly. She had just come from a department-store sale where, amid the melee of women, she had victoriously acquired some bright fabrics for the apartment, including one length for the tiny extra bedroom which was to be the baby’s. And now she had met John.
   It was the first time they had had a meal together in the hospital. Use of the cafeteria by employees’ families was an unwritten privilege the hospital allowed, and John had learned about it a few days earlier. A few minutes ago they had lined up to select their food and Elizabeth had chosen a salad, soup, a roll, roast lamb with potatoes and cabbage, pie with cheese, and milk. John had asked good-humoredly, “Are you sure you have enough?”
   Elizabeth selected a stick of celery. Biting into it, she said, “This is a hungry baby.”
   John smiled. A few minutes earlier, on the way to lunch, he had felt defeated and depressed, this morning’s tongue-lashing by Dr. Pearson still fresh in mind. But Elizabeth’s infectious spirits had caused him to shrug it off, at least for the time being. After all, he reflected, there would be no more trouble in the lab because from now on he intended to watch his step carefully. In any case, Dr. Pearson had now done the sensitization tests himself—in saline and high protein—and had pronounced both test results negative. “So far as your wife’s blood is concerned,” he had said, “there is nothing for anyone to worry about.” In fact, he had been almost kindly about it—at least it seemed that way after the earlier outburst.
   There was another thing to remember: Dr. Pearson was a pathologist and John was not. Maybe Dr. Pearson was right; perhaps John had placed too much importance on some of the things that were taught at technology school. Wasn’t it a well-known fact that schools always pumped a lot of theory into you that you had no use for in the practical world outside? Goodness knows, he thought, there are plenty of subjects in high school and college that you never work at again once final exams are over. Couldn’t this be the same thing? Couldn’t John himself have taken too seriously the school theory about the need for a third sensitization test, whereas Dr. Pearson, with all his practical knowledge, knew it was unnecessary?
   What was it Dr. Pearson had said while he was doing the tests this morning? “If we changed our laboratory methods every time something new came up, there’d never be any end to it. In medicine there are new ideas coming out every day. But in a hospital we have to make sure they’re proven and valuable before we start to use them. Here we’re dealing with people’s lives and we can’t afford to take chances.”
   John had not quite been able to see how an extra blood test would imperil anybody’s life, but, all the same, Dr. Pearson did have a point about the new ideas. John knew from his own reading that there were lots of them around and not all good. Of course, Dr. Coleman had been pretty definite about the need for a third sensitization test. But then he was a lot younger than Dr. Pearson; certainly he had not had as much experience . . .
   “Your soup’s getting cold.” Elizabeth broke in on his thoughts. “What are you so pensive about?”
   “Nothing, honey.” He decided to put the whole thing out of his mind. Elizabeth, at times, had a disconcerting habit of worming out his thoughts. “I meant to ask you last week,” he said. “How was your weight?”
   “It’s about right,” Elizabeth answered cheerfully. “But Dr. Dornberger said I have to eat well.” She had finished her soup and was attacking the roast lamb hungrily.
   Glancing up, John Alexander noticed Dr. Coleman approaching. The new pathologist was on his way to the tables where the medical staff usually sat. On impulse Alexander rose from his chair. “Dr. Coleman!”
   David Coleman glanced across. “Yes?”
   “Doctor, I’d like to have you meet my wife.” Then, as Coleman came toward them, “Elizabeth, honey, this is Dr. Coleman.”
   “How do you do, Mrs. Alexander?” Coleman paused, holding the tray he had collected from the counter.
   A trifle awkwardly John Alexander said, “You remember, honey?—I told you the doctor came from New Richmond too.”
   “Yes, of course,” Elizabeth said. Then directly to Coleman, smiling, “Hullo, Dr. Coleman—I remember you very well. Didn’t you used to come into my father’s store sometimes?”
   “That’s right.” He recalled her clearly now: a cheerful, long-legged girl who used to clamber obligingly around that cluttered, old-fashioned store, finding things that had got lost in the confusion. She didn’t seem to have changed much. He said, “I think you once sold me some clothesline.”
   She answered brightly, “I believe I remember that. Was it all right?”
   He appeared to ponder. “Now you mention it, I think it broke.”
   Elizabeth laughed. “If you take it back, I’m sure my mother will exchange it. She still runs the store. It’s more of a mess than ever.” Her good humor was infectious. Coleman smiled.
   John Alexander had pulled back a chair. “Won’t you join us, Doctor?”
   For a moment Coleman hesitated. Then, realizing it would be churlish to refuse, “All right,” he said. He put down his tray—it contained a Spartan lunch—a small fruit salad and a glass of milk—and sat at the table. Looking at Elizabeth, he said, “If I remember, didn’t you have pigtails when I knew you?”
   “Yes,” she answered promptly, “and bands on my teeth as well. I grew out of them.”
   David Coleman found himself liking this girl. And seeing her here today had been like suddenly turning a page from the past. She reminded him of earlier years; Indiana had been a good place to live. He remembered the summers home from school, driving on rounds with his father in the doctor’s old and battered Chevrolet. He said reflectively, “It’s a long time since I was in New Richmond. My father died, you know, and Mother moved to the West Coast. There’s nothing to take me back there now.” Then drawing his thoughts away, “Tell me,” he said to Elizabeth, “how do you like being married to a medical man?”
   Swiftly John Alexander put in, “Not a medical man—just a technologist.” When he had said it he wondered why. Perhaps it was a reflex action from what had happened this morning. A few minutes ago, when Coleman had joined them, John had considered telling him about the incident in the lab. But immediately afterward he had decided not to. Talking freely with Dr. Coleman had got him into enough trouble already. He decided to leave well enough alone.
   “Don’t sell technology short,” Coleman said. “It’s pretty important.”
   Elizabeth said, “He doesn’t. But sometimes he wishes he had become a doctor instead.”
   Coleman turned to him. “Is that right?”
   Alexander wished Elizabeth had not brought this up. He said reluctantly, “I did have ideas that way. For a time.”
   Coleman speared some fruit salad with his fork. “Why didn’t you go to medical school?”
   “The usual reasons—money mostly. I didn’t have any, and I wanted to start earning.”
   Between mouthfuls Coleman said, “You could still do it. How old are you?”
   Elizabeth answered for him. “John will be twenty-three. In two months’ time.”
   “That’s pretty old, of course.” They laughed, then Coleman added, “You’ve still got time.”
   “Oh, I know.” John Alexander said it slowly, thoughtfully, as if knowing in advance that his own argument was unconvincing. “The trouble is, it would mean a big financial struggle just when we’re beginning to get settled. And besides, with a baby coming . . .” He left the sentence hanging.
   Coleman took the glass of milk and drank deeply. Then he said, “Plenty of people have gone through medical school with a baby. And financial problems.”
   “That’s exactly what I’ve been saying!” Elizabeth said it intensely, leaning forward across the table. “I’m so glad to hear it from someone else.”
   Coleman wiped his mouth with a napkin, then put it down. He looked directly at Alexander. He had a feeling that he had been right in his first impression of this young technologist. He seemed intelligent and conscientious; certainly he was interested in his work—that had been evident the other day. Coleman said, “You know what I think, John? I think if you feel like this, and don’t go to medical school while you have the chance, it may be something you’ll regret the rest of your life.”
   Alexander was looking down, absently moving his knife and fork.
   Elizabeth asked, “There’s still a need for a lot of doctors in pathology, isn’t there?”
   “Oh yes.” Coleman nodded emphatically. “Perhaps more in pathology than anywhere else.”
   “Why is that?”
   “There’s a need of research for one thing—to keep medicine moving ahead; to fill in the gaps behind.”
   She asked, “What do you mean—the gaps behind?”
   Momentarily the thought occurred to David Coleman that he was talking more freely than usual. He found himself about to express ideas which most of the time he kept locked in his own mind. But the company of these two had seemed refreshing, possibly because it was a change to be with someone younger after being around Dr. Pearson. Answering Elizabeth’s question, he said, “In a way medicine is like a war. And, just as in a war, sometimes there’s a spectacular advance. When that happens, people—doctors—rush to the new front. And they leave a lot of pockets of knowledge to be filled in behind.”
   Elizabeth said, “And that’s the pathologist’s job—to fill them?”
   “It’s the job of every branch of medicine. But sometimes in pathology there are more opportunities.” Coleman thought a moment, then continued, “There’s another thing too. All research in medicine is very much like building a wall. Someone adds a piece of knowledge—puts one brick on another; someone else adds one more, and gradually the wall grows. Finally someone comes along and puts the last brick on top.” He smiled. “It isn’t given to many to do spectacular things—to be a Fleming or a Salk. The best a pathologist can do, usually, is to make some modest contribution to medical knowledge—something within his own reach, within his own time. But at least he should do that.”
   John Alexander had been listening intently. Now he asked eagerly, “Will you be doing research here?”
   “I hope so.”
   “On what?”
   Coleman hesitated. This was something he had not spoken of before. But he had said so much now, he supposed one more thing would not make any difference. “Well, for one thing, on lipomas—benign tumors of fat tissue. We know very little about them.” Unconsciously, as he had warmed to his subject, his normal coolness and reserve had fallen away. “Do you know there have been cases of men starving to death, yet having tumors thriving inside them? What I hope to do is—” He stopped abruptly. “Mrs. Alexander, is something wrong?”
   Elizabeth had gasped suddenly and put her face in her hands. Now she took her hands away. She shook her head, as if to clear it.
   “Elizabeth! What is it?” Alarmed, John Alexander jumped up from his chair. He moved to go around the table.
   “It’s . . . it’s all right.” Elizabeth motioned him back. She closed her eyes momentarily, then opened them. “It was just . . . for a moment—a pain, then dizziness. It’s gone now.”
   She drank some water. Yes, it was true it had gone. But for a moment it had been like sharp hot needles—inside where the baby moved—then her head swimming, the cafeteria spinning around her.
   “Has this happened before?” Coleman asked.
   She shook her head. “No.”
   “Are you sure, honey?” It was John, his voice anxious.
   Elizabeth reached across the table and put a hand on his. “Now don’t begin worrying. It’s too early for the baby. There’s at least another four months to go.”
   “All the same,” Coleman said seriously, “I suggest you call your obstetrician and tell him what happened. He might want to see you.”
   “I will.” She gave him a warm smile. “I promise.”
   At the time Elizabeth had meant what she said. But afterward, away from the hospital, it seemed silly to bother Dr. Dornberger about a single pain that had come and gone so quickly. If it happened again, surely then would be the time to tell him—not now. She decided to wait.


   “Is there any news?”
   From the wheel chair Vivian looked up as Dr. Lucy Grainger came into the hospital room. It was four days since the biopsy, three since Pearson had sent the slides to New York and Boston.
   Lucy shook her head. “I’ll tell you, Vivian—just as soon as I know.”
   “When . . . when will you know . . . for sure?”
   “Probably today.” Lucy answered matter-of-factly. She did not want to reveal that she, too, was troubled by the waiting. She had spoken to Joe Pearson again last night; at that time he had said that if the second opinions were not forthcoming by midday today he would phone the two consultants to hurry them along. Waiting was hard on everyone—including Vivian’s parents, who had arrived in Burlington from Oregon the previous day.
   Lucy removed the dressing from Vivian’s knee; the biopsy scar appeared to be healing well. Replacing the dressing, she said, “It’s hard to do, I know, but try to think of other things as much as you can.”
   The girl smiled faintly. “It isn’t easy.”
   Lucy was at the door now. She said, “Perhaps a visitor will help. You have an early one.” She opened the door and beckoned. Mike Seddons came in as Lucy left.
   Seddons was wearing his hospital whites. He said, “I stole ten minutes. You can have them all.”
   He crossed to the chair and kissed her. For a moment she closed her eyes and held on to him tightly. He ran his hands through her hair. His voice in her ear was gentle. “It’s been hard, hasn’t it?—just waiting.”
   “Oh, Mike, if only I knew what was going to happen! I don’t think I’d mind so much. It’s . . . wondering . . . not knowing.”
   He drew slightly away, looking into her face. “Vivian darling, I wish there were something, just something I could do.”
   “You’ve done a lot already.” Vivian was smiling now. “Just being you—and being here. I don’t know what it would have been like without . . .” She stopped as he reached out and put a finger across her lips.
   “Don’t say it! I had to be here. It was preordained—all worked out by cosmic coincidence.” He gave her his bright, broad grin. Only he knew there was a sense of hollowness behind it. Mike Seddons, like Lucy, was aware of the implications of the delayed report from Pathology.
   He had succeeded in making Vivian laugh though. “Rubbish!” she said. “If I hadn’t gone to that old autopsy, and if some other student nurse had got to you first . . .”
   “Uh, uh!” He shook his head. “It might look that way, but you can’t escape predestination. Ever since our great-great ancestors were swinging from trees, scratching their underarms, our genes have been moving together across the dusty sands of Time, Life, and Fortune.” He was talking now for the sake of it, using the first words which came into his head, but it was having the effect he wanted.
   Vivian said, “Oh, Mike, you talk such wonderful nonsense. And I do love you very much.”
   “I can understand that.” He kissed her again, lightly. “I think your mother likes me too.”
   She put a hand to her mouth. “You see what you do to me! I should have asked first. Was everything all right—after you all left here last night?”
   “Sure it was. I went back with them to the hotel. We sat around and talked for a bit. Your mother didn’t say much, but I could see your father summing me up, thinking to himself: What kind of a man is this who presumes to marry my beautiful daughter?”
   Vivian said, “I’ll tell him today.”
   “What will you say?”
   “Oh, I don’t know.” She reached out and held Seddons by the ears, turning his head from side to side, inspecting it. “I might say, ‘He has the nicest red hair which is always untidy, but you can put your fingers through it and it’s very soft.’ ” She matched the action to her words.
   “Well, that should be a big help. No marriage is complete without it. What else?”
   “I’ll say, ‘Of course, he isn’t much to look at. But he has a heart of gold and he’s going to be a brilliant surgeon.’ ”
   Seddons frowned. “Couldn’t you make it ‘exceptionally brilliant’?”
   “I might, if . . .”
   “If what?”
   “If you kiss me again—now.”
   On the second floor of the hospital Lucy Grainger knocked lightly on the chief of surgery’s office door and went inside.
   Looking up from a sheaf of reports, Kent O’Donnell said, “Hullo, Lucy—rest your weary bones.”
   “Now you mention it, they are a little weary.” She dropped into the big leather chair which faced O’Donnell’s desk.
   “I had Mr. Loburton in to see me first thing this morning.” O’Donnell came around the desk and perched informally on the corner nearest Lucy. “Cigarette?” He held out an embossed gold case.
   “Thank you.” She took a cigarette. “Yes—Vivian’s father.” Lucy accepted the light which O’Donnell offered and inhaled deeply; the smoke was cool, relaxing. She said, “Both parents got here yesterday. Naturally they’re very concerned, and they know nothing about me, of course. I suggested Mr. Loburton have a talk with you.”
   “He did.” O’Donnell spoke quietly. “I told him that in my opinion his daughter couldn’t possibly be in better hands, that there was no one on the hospital’s staff in whom I would have greater confidence. I may tell you he seemed quite reassured.”
   “Thank you.” Lucy found herself intensely gratified by O’Donnell’s words.
   The chief of surgery smiled. “Don’t thank me; it’s an honest appraisal.” He paused. “What about the girl, Lucy? What’s the story so far?”
   In a few words she summed up the case history, her tentative diagnosis, and the biopsy.
   O’Donnell nodded. He asked, “Is there any problem with Pathology? Has Joe Pearson come through promptly?”
   Lucy told him of the delay and the reasons for it. He thought briefly, then said, “Well, I guess that’s reasonable. I don’t believe we can complain about that. But keep after Joe; I don’t think you should let it go beyond today.”
   “I won’t.” Lucy glanced at her watch. “I plan to see Joe again after lunch. He expected to know something definite by then.”
   O’Donnell made a wry face. “As definite as anything like that can ever be.” He mused. “Poor kid. How old did you say she is?”
   “Nineteen.” Lucy was watching Kent O’Donnell’s face. To her eyes it seemed to mirror thought, character, and understanding. She reflected: He has greatness and he wears it easily because it belongs to him. It made what he had said a few moments ago about her own ability seem warmer and more significant. Then suddenly, explosively, as if in a burst of revelation, Lucy knew what she had denied herself knowing these past months: that she loved this man—profoundly and ardently. She became aware, with startling clarity, that she had shielded herself from the knowledge, perhaps from an instinctive fear of being hurt. But now, whatever happened, she could shield herself no longer. For a moment the thought made her weak; she wondered if she had betrayed it on her face.
   O’Donnell said apologetically, “I’ll have to leave you, Lucy. It’s another full day.” He smiled. “Aren’t they all?”
   Her heartbeat faster, her emotions surging, she had risen and gone to the door. As he opened it O’Donnell put an arm around her shoulders. It was a casual, friendly gesture that any other of her colleagues might have made. But at this moment the effect seemed electric; it left her breathless and confused.
   O’Donnell said, “Let me know, Lucy, if there’s any problem. And if you don’t mind, I might drop in today and see your patient.”
   Collecting her thoughts, she told him, “I’m sure she’d like it, and so would I.” Then, as the door closed behind her, Lucy shut her eyes for a moment to control her racing mind.
   The ordeal of waiting for the diagnosis concerning Vivian had had a profound effect on Mike Seddons. By nature a genial and outgoing personality, in normal times he was noted for being one of the livelier spirits on Three Counties’ house staff, and it was not unusual to find him the focus of a noisy, boisterous group in the residents’ quarters. For the past several days, however, most of the time he had avoided the company of others, his spirits dampened by the knowledge of what an adverse verdict from Pathology could mean to Vivian and himself.
   His feelings about Vivian had not wavered; if anything, they had become more intense. He hoped he had conveyed this in the time he had spent last evening with Vivian’s parents after their initial meeting at the hospital. At first, as was to be expected, all of them—Mr. and Mrs. Loburton, Vivian, and himself—had been constrained, their talk awkward and at times formal. Even afterward it had seemed that the Loburtons’ meeting with a prospective son-in-law, which in other circumstances might have been an important occasion, had taken second place to their concern with the immediate problem of Vivian’s health. In a sense Mike Seddons felt he had become accepted because there was no time for anything else.
   Back at the Loburtons’ hotel, though, they had talked briefly about himself and Vivian. Henry Loburton, his big frame spilling from an overstuffed chair in the sitting room of their hotel suite, had asked Mike Seddons about his future, more, Seddons suspected, from courtesy than from any real concern. He had responded by telling them briefly of his own intention to practice surgery in Philadelphia when his residency at Three Counties ended. The Loburtons had nodded politely and had left the matter there.
   Certainly, it seemed, there would be no opposition to a marriage. “Vivian has always seemed to know what she wanted,” Henry Loburton had observed at one point. “It was the same way when she wanted to be a nurse. We were doubtful about it, but she had already made up her mind. There wasn’t much else to say after that.”
   Mike Seddons had expressed the hope that they would not consider Vivian too young to marry. It was then that Angela Loburton had smiled. “I imagine it would be rather difficult to object on that account,” she had said. “You see, I was married at seventeen. I ran away from home to do it.” She smiled at her husband. “We didn’t have any money, but we managed to get by.”
   Seddons had said with a grin, “Well, that much we’ll have in common—anyway, until my practice gets going.”
   That had been last night. This morning, after the visit with Vivian, he had felt for some reason a sense of lightness and relief. Perhaps he had been depressed unnaturally long and brighter spirits were seeking an outlet. But, whatever the cause, he felt himself seized by a cheerful conviction that everything would turn out well. The feeling was with him now—in the autopsy room where he was assisting Roger McNeil with the autopsy of an elderly woman patient who had died last night in the hospital. It had prompted him to begin telling humorous stories to McNeil; Mike Seddons had a fund of them—another reason for his reputation as a joker.
   Pausing in the middle of the latest, he asked McNeil, “Have you any cigarettes?”
   The pathology resident motioned with his head. He was sectioning the heart he had just removed from the body.
   Seddons crossed the room, found the cigarettes in McNeil’s suit coat, and lighted one. Returning, he continued, “So she said to the undertaker, ‘Thank you for doing that, even though it must have been a lot of trouble.’ And the undertaker said, ‘Oh, it wasn’t any trouble really. All I did was change their heads.’ ”
   Grim as the jest was in these surroundings, McNeil laughed aloud. He was still laughing as the autopsy-room door opened and David Coleman stepped inside.
   “Dr. Seddons, will you put out that cigarette, please?” Coleman’s voice cut quietly across the room.
   Mike Seddons looked around. He said amiably, “Oh, good morning, Dr. Coleman. Didn’t see you there for a minute.”
   “The cigarette, Dr. Seddons!” There was ice in Coleman’s tone, his eyes steely.
   Not quite understanding, Seddons said, “Oh . . . oh yes.” none, moved his hand toward the autopsy table with the body upon it.
   “Not there!” Coleman rapped out the words, stopping the surgical resident short. After a moment Seddons moved across the room, found an ash tray, and deposited the cigarette.
   “Dr. McNeil.”
   “Yes, Dr. Coleman,” Roger McNeil answered quietly.
   “Will you . . . drape the face, please?”
   Uncomfortably, knowing what was going through Coleman’s mind, McNeil reached out for a towel. It was one they had used earlier; it had several big bloodstains. Still with the same soft intensity, Coleman said, “A clean towel, please. And do the same for the genitals.”
   McNeil nodded to Seddons, who brought over two clean towels. McNeil placed one carefully across the face of the dead woman; the other he used to cover the external genitalia.
   Now the two residents stood facing Coleman. Both showed traces of embarrassment. Both sensed what was coming next.
   “Gentlemen, I think there is something I should remind you of.” David Coleman still spoke quietly—at no time since entering the room had he raised his voice—but there was no mistaking the underlying purpose and authority. Now he said deliberately, “When we perform an autopsy we do so with permission from the family of the one who has died. Without that permission there would be no autopsy. That is quite clear to you, I presume?”
   “Quite clear,” Seddons said. McNeil nodded.
   “Very well.” Coleman glanced at the autopsy table, then at the others. “Our own objective is to advance medical learning. The family of the deceased, for its part, gives us the body in trust, expecting that it will be treated with care, respect, and dignity.” As he paused there was silence in the room. McNeil and Seddons were standing very still.
   “And that is the way we will treat it, gentlemen.” Coleman emphasized the words again, “With care, respect, and dignity.” He went on, “At all autopsies the face and genitals will be draped and there will be no smoking in the room at any time. As for your own demeanor, and particularly the use of humor”—at the word Mike Seddons flushed a deep red—“I think I can leave that to your imagination.”
   Momentarily Coleman looked directly at each man in turn. Then, “Thank you, gentlemen. Will you carry on, please?” He nodded and went out.
   For several seconds after the door had closed neither spoke. Then, softly, Seddons observed, “We appear to have been skillfully taken apart.”
   Ruefully McNeil said, “With some reason, I think. Don’t you?”
   As soon as they could afford it, Elizabeth Alexander decided, she would buy a vacuum cleaner. The old-fashioned carpet sweeper she was using now collected the superficial dirt, but that was about all. She pushed it back and forth a few more times over the rug and inspected the result critically. Not very good, but it would have to do. She must remember to have a talk with John tonight. Vacuum cleaners were not terribly expensive, and one extra monthly payment shouldn’t make all that difference. The trouble was, though, there were so many things they needed. It was a problem, deciding which should come first.
   In a way, she supposed, John was right. It was all very well to talk of making sacrifices and doing without things so that John could go to medical school. But when you came right down to it, it was hard to manage on any reduced income once you became accustomed to a certain standard. Take John’s salary at the hospital, for example. It certainly did not put them in the big brackets, but it had made their life together comfortable and they were able to enjoy small luxuries which a few months ago had been out of reach. Could they surrender those things now? Elizabeth supposed so, but it would be difficult all the same. Medical school would mean another four years of struggling, and even after that there would be internship and perhaps residency, if John decided to specialize. Would it be worth it? Weren’t they perhaps better off taking their happiness as they found it at this moment, accepting a role—even if a modest one—in the here and now?
   That made sense, didn’t it? And yet, somehow, Elizabeth was still unsure. Should she still continue to urge John to aim higher, to enter medical school, at whatever cost? Dr. Coleman obviously believed he should. What was it he had said to John?—If you feel like this, and don’t go to medical school while you have the chance, it may be something you’ll regret the rest of your life. At the time the words had made a deep impression on Elizabeth and, she suspected, on John too. Now, remembering, they seemed more significant than ever. She frowned; perhaps they had better talk over the whole subject again tonight. If she were convinced of what John really wanted, maybe she could force him into a decision. It would not be the first time Elizabeth had had her own way about things that concerned them both.
   Elizabeth put the sweeper away and began to move around the apartment, tidying and dusting. Now, dismissing more serious thoughts for the time being, she sang as she worked. It was a beautiful morning. The warm August sun, shining brightly into the small but comfortable living room, showed off to advantage the new draperies she had made and had hung last night. Elizabeth stopped at the center table to rearrange a vase of flowers. She had removed two blooms which had faded and was about to cross to the tiny kitchen when the pain struck her. It came suddenly, without warning, like a blazing, searing fire and worse, much worse, than the day before in the hospital cafeteria. Drawing in her breath, biting her lip, trying not to scream aloud, Elizabeth sank into a chair behind her. Briefly the pain went away, then it returned, even—it seemed—more intensely. It was as if it were a cycle. Then the significance dawned upon her. Involuntarily she said, “Oh no! No!”
   Dimly, through the enveloping anguish, Elizabeth knew she had to act quickly. The hospital number was on a pad by the telephone. Suddenly the instrument on the other side of the room became an objective. Biding her time between each onset of pain, grasping the table for support, Elizabeth eased out of the chair and moved across. When she had dialed and a voice answered, she said, gasping, “Dr. Dornberger . . . it’s urgent.”
   There was a pause and he came on the line. “It’s . . . Mrs. Alexander,” Elizabeth said. “I’ve started . . . to have . . . my baby.”
   David Coleman knocked once on the door of Dr. Pearson’s office, then went in. He found the senior pathologist seated behind the desk, Carl Bannister standing alongside. The lab technician’s face had a taut expression; after a first glance he studiously avoided looking Coleman’s way.
   “You wanted to see me, I believe.” Coleman had been returning from doing a frozen section on the surgical floor when his name had been called on the public-address system.
   “Yes, I did.” Pearson’s manner was cool and formal. “Dr. Coleman, I have received a complaint concerning you from a member of the staff. Carl Bannister here.”
   “Oh?” Coleman raised his eyebrows. Bannister was still looking straight ahead.
   Pearson went on, “I understand you two had a little brush this morning.”
   “I wouldn’t call it exactly that.” Coleman kept his voice casual and unperturbed.
   “What would you call it then?” There was no mistaking the acidity in the old man’s tone.
   Coleman said levelly, “Frankly, I hadn’t planned to bring the matter to your attention. But, since Mr. Bannister has chosen to, I think you had better hear the whole story.”
   “If you’re sure it’s not too much trouble.”
   Ignoring the sarcasm, Coleman said, “Yesterday afternoon I told both serology technicians that I planned to make occasional spot checks of laboratory work. Early this morning I did make one such check.” Coleman glanced at Bannister. “I intercepted a patient’s specimen before delivery to the serology lab and divided the specimen into two. I then added the extra sample to the listing on the requisition sheet, showing it as an extra test. Later, when I checked, I found that Mr. Bannister had recorded two different test results when, of course, they should have been identical.” He added, “If you wish, we can get the details from the lab record now.”
   Pearson shook his head. He had risen from his chair and was half turned away; he appeared to be thinking. Coleman wondered curiously what would happen next. He knew that he himself was on perfectly secure ground. The procedure he had followed was standard in most well-run hospital labs. It provided a protection for patients and was a safeguard against carelessness. Conscientious technicians accepted lab checks without resentment and as a part of their job. Moreover, Coleman had followed protocol in telling both Bannister and John Alexander yesterday that the checks would be made.
   Abruptly Pearson wheeled on Bannister. “All right, what have you got to say?”
   “I don’t like being spied on.” The answer was resentful and aggressive. “I’ve never had to work that way before and I don’t figure I should start now.”
   “And I tell you you’re a fool!” Pearson shouted the words. “You’re a fool for making a damn silly mistake, and you’re an even bigger fool for coming to me when you get caught out.” He paused, his lips tight, his breathing heavy. Coleman sensed that part of the old man’s anger stemmed from his frustration at having no choice but to support what the younger pathologist had done, much as he might dislike it. Now, standing directly in front of Bannister, he snarled, “What did you expect me to do—pat you on the back and give you a medal?”
   Bannister’s face muscles were working. For once he appeared to have no answer. Surveying him grimly, Pearson seemed about to go on, then abruptly he stopped. Turning partly away, he gestured with his hand. “Get out! Get out!”
   Without a word, his face set, looking neither to right nor left, Bannister went out of the room and closed the door behind him.
   Now Pearson turned sharply to Coleman. “What the devil do you mean by this?”
   David Coleman could see the burning anger in the old man’s eyes. He realized that the affair with Bannister was merely a preliminary skirmish. Determined not to lose his own temper, he answered mildly, “What do I mean by what, Dr. Pearson?”
   “You know damn well what I mean! I mean by making lab checks—without my authority.”
   Coleman said coldly, “Do I really need your authority? For something routine like that?”
   Pearson slammed his fist on the desk. “Any time I want lab checks I’ll order them!”
   “If it’s of any interest,” Coleman said, still quietly, “I happen to have had your authority. As a matter of courtesy I mentioned to you yesterday that I would like to do standard lab checks in Serology, and you agreed.”
   Suspiciously Pearson said, “I don’t remember.”
   “I assure you the conversation took place. In any case, I’m not in the habit of making that kind of invention.” David Coleman felt his own anger rising; it was hard to conceal his contempt for this aged incompetent. He added, “I may say you seemed rather preoccupied at the time.”
   He appeared to have checked Pearson, at least partially. Grumblingly the old man said, “If you say so, I’ll believe you. But it’ll be the last time you do something like that on your own. Understand?”
   Coleman sensed that this was a critical moment, both for Pearson and himself. Icily he asked, “Do you mind telling me what kind of responsibility I’m to have in this department?”
   “You’ll get whatever I choose to give you.”
   “I’m afraid I don’t find that at all satisfactory.”
   “You don’t, eh?” Pearson was directly in front of the younger man now, his head jutted forward. “Well, there happen to be a few things I don’t find satisfactory either.”
   “For instance?” David Coleman had no intention of being intimidated. And if the old man wanted a showdown, he himself was quite willing to have it, here and now.
   “For instance, I hear you’ve been laying down the law in the autopsy room,” Pearson said.
   “You asked me to take charge of it.”
   “I told you to supervise autopsies, not to set up a lot of fancy rules. No smoking, I understand. Is that supposed to include me?”
   “I imagine that will be up to you, Dr. Pearson.”
   “I’ll say it’ll be up to me!” The other’s calmness seemed to make Pearson angrier. “Now you listen to me, and listen good. You may have some pretty fancy qualifications, mister, but you’ve still got a lot to learn and I’m still in charge of this department. What’s more, there are good reasons I’m going to be around here for a long time yet. So now’s the time to decide—if you don’t like the way I run things, you know what you can do.”
   Before Coleman could answer there was a knock on the door. Impatiently Pearson called out, “Yes?”
   A girl secretary came in, glancing curiously from one to the other. It occurred to Coleman that Pearson’s voice, at least, must have been clearly audible in the corridor outside. The girl said, “Excuse me, Dr. Pearson. There are two telegrams for you. They just came.” Pearson took the two buff envelopes the girl held out.
   When she had gone Coleman was about to reply. But Pearson stopped him with a gesture. Beginning to thumb open the first envelope, he said, “These will be the answers about the girl—Lucy Grainger’s patient.” His tone was quite different from that of a few moments before. He added, “They took long enough about it.”