“I was wondering, Doctor, if you could recommend an obstetrician my wife could go to.”
   “That’s easy.” Pearson sounded relieved. Plainly he had wondered what was coming. “Dr. Dornberger’s a good man. He has an office right here in the hospital. Would you like me to call him?”
   “If it’s not too much trouble.”
   Pearson motioned to Bannister. “See if he’s in.”
   Bannister picked up the telephone behind them and asked for an extension. After a pause he said, “He’s in,” and offered the instrument to Pearson.
   With both hands gloved and wet, the old man motioned his head irritably. “Hold it! Hold it!”
   Bannister moved in closer and held the receiver against Pearson’s ear.
   “That you, Charlie?” The pathologist boomed into the mouthpiece. “I’ve got a patient for you.”
   In his office three floors above Dr. Charles Dornberger smiled and moved the telephone slightly away from his ear. He asked, “What can obstetrics do for your kind of patients?” At the same time he reflected that this call was convenient. Since the meeting which O’Donnell had called yesterday, Charles Dornberger had speculated on the best method of approach to Joe Pearson. Now, it seemed, an opportunity was presenting itself.
   Down in Pathology Pearson maneuvered the cigar to a corner of his mouth. He always enjoyed exchanges with Dornberger.
   “This isn’t a dead patient, you old fool. It’s a live one. Wife of one of my lab boys here—Mrs. John Alexander. They’re new in town. Don’t know anybody.”
   As Pearson mentioned the name Dornberger opened a file drawer and selected a blank card.
   “Just a minute.” He cradled the phone in his shoulder and, using his left hand to hold the card, wrote in a fine script with the right, “Alexander, Mrs. John.” It was typical of Dornberger’s organized approach to his practice that this was the first thing he did. Now he said, “Be glad to oblige, Joe. Will you have them call me for an appointment?”
   “All right. Be some time next week. Mrs. Alexander won’t be in town till then.” He grinned at Alexander, then added, still almost shouting, “And if they want twins, Charlie, it’s up to you to see they get them.”
   Pearson listened to Dornberger’s answer and chuckled. A thought struck him. “And hey! Another thing! None of your fancy fees for this job. I don’t want the boy coming to me for a raise so he can pay his doctor’s bill.”
   Dornberger smiled. He said, “Don’t worry.” On the card he made a notation, “Hospital employee.” It was a signal to himself that this was a patient he would charge no fee. Into the phone he said, “Joe, there’s something I want to talk to you about. When would be a convenient time to come and see you?”
   “Can’t make it today, Charlie,” Pearson said. “Got a full schedule. How about tomorrow?”
   Dornberger consulted his own appointment list. “I’m crowded tomorrow myself. Let’s make it the day after. How about around ten in the morning? I’ll come to your office.”
   “That’ll be all right. Unless you want to tell me now—on the phone.” Pearson’s voice sounded curious.
   “No, Joe,” Dornberger said, “I’d rather come and see you.”
   In Pathology Pearson answered, “All right, Charlie. See you then. So long.” Impatiently he motioned the telephone away and Bannister replaced it.
   To Alexander, Pearson said, “That’s all fixed. Your wife can be admitted to this hospital when she comes to term. Because you’re an employee you’ll get a twenty per cent discount on your bill.”
   Alexander was beaming. McNeil thought: Yes, go ahead; enjoy it, my friend. This is one of the old man’s good moments. But make no mistake—there’ll be others, and those you won’t enjoy at all.
   “I’ll only be a moment.” In his office Dornberger smiled at the student nurse who had come in while he was talking with Pearson. He motioned her to the chair alongside his desk.
   “Thank you, Doctor.” Vivian Loburton had brought a patient’s chart that Dornberger had asked to see. Ordinarily physicians didn’t get this kind of service; they would have to walk to the ward and look at the chart there. But Dornberger was a favorite with the nurses; they were always doing little things for him, and when he had phoned a few minutes ago the staff nurse had sent Vivian off promptly.
   “I like to do one thing at a time when I can.” Dornberger was writing in pencil now, noting on the card the new facts Joe Pearson had given him. Later, when he had more information from the patient, he would erase the pencil notes and complete the card in ink. Still writing, he asked the girl, “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
   “Fairly new, Doctor,” Vivian said. “This is my fourth month in nursing school.”
   He noticed she had a soft voice with a lilt. Pretty too. He wondered if she had slept yet with any of the interns or residents. Or had things changed since his own student years? He occasionally suspected that interns and residents nowadays were getting more conservative than they used to be. A pity. If true, they were missing a good deal. Aloud he said, “That was Dr. Pearson, our pathologist. Have you met him yet?”
   “Yes,” Vivian said. “Our class went to an autopsy.”
   “Oh dear. How did you . . .” He was going to say “like it” but changed it to, “How did you find it?”
   Vivian considered. “At first it was rather a shock. Afterward I didn’t mind too much though.”
   He nodded sympathetically. He had finished writing now and put the card away. This had been a quieter day than usual; it was a luxury to be able to clean up one piece of work before going on to another. He held out his hand for the chart. “Thank you.” He added, “I’ll only be a moment with this, if you’d like to wait.”
   “All right, Doctor.” Vivian decided a few more minutes’ respite from the rush of ward work would be welcome. She settled back in the chair. It was cool in here with the air conditioning. There was no such luxury in the nurses’ home.
   Vivian watched Dr. Dornberger as he studied the chart. He was probably about the same age as Dr. Pearson, she thought, but certainly a lot different to look at. While the pathologist was round-faced and heavy-jowled, Dr. Dornberger was lean and angular. In other ways, too, his appearance was a contrast, with the thatch of white hair carefully combed and parted. She noticed his hands were manicured, his white hospital jacket pressed and spotless.
   Dornberger handed back the chart. “Thank you,” he said. “It was good of you to bring it.” He has a sparkle to him, Vivian thought. She had heard he was much beloved by his women patients. There was little need to wonder why.
   “We’ll be seeing each other, I expect.” Dornberger had risen and opened the door courteously. “Good luck in your studies.”
   “Good-by, Doctor.” She went out, leaving a trace of fragrance behind her, Dornberger thought. Not for the first time the contact with someone youthful left him wondering about himself. He returned to the swivel chair and leaned back meditatively. Almost absently he took out his pipe and began to fill it.
   He had been in medicine now for almost thirty-two years; in a week or two he would being his thirty-third. They had been full years and rewarding ones. Financially he had no problems. His own four children were married, and he and his wife could live comfortably on the careful investments he had made. But would he be content to retire and rusticate? That was the rub.
   In all his years in medicine Charles Dornberger had prided himself in keeping up to date. He had made up his mind long ago that no young newcomer was going to surpass him, either in technique or knowledge. As a result he had read avidly and still continued to do so. He subscribed to many of the medical journals which he read thoroughly and occasionally contributed articles himself. He was a regular attender at medical conventions and conscientiously took in most of the business sessions. Early in his career, long before the present boundary lines were drawn in medicine, he had foreseen the need for specialization. His own choice had been obstetrics and gynecology. It was a choice he had never regretted, and he often felt it had helped him to keep young in mind.
   Because of this by the mid-thirties, when American specialty boards were coming into being, Dornberger was already established in his own field. As a result, under the so-called “grandfather” clause, he had been given Board certification without examination. It was something he had always been proud of. If anything, it had made him keener still to remain up to date.
   And yet he had never resented younger men. When he had felt them to be good and conscientious, he had gone out of his way to offer help and advice. He admired and respected O’Donnell. He considered the youthful chief of surgery one of the best things that had ever happened to Three Counties. His own morale had risen with O’Donnell’s changes and progress in the hospital.
   He had made many friends, some among his own immediate colleagues, others in unlikely places. Joe Pearson might be called one of the unlikely ones. Professionally the two men looked at a lot of things in different ways. Dornberger knew, for example, that Joe did not read much these days. He suspected that in a few areas of knowledge the elderly pathologist had slipped behind the times, and, administratively, there was the problem which yesterday’s meeting had revealed. And yet, over the years, the bond between the two men had grown strong. To his own surprise sometimes he had found himself siding with Pearson at medical conferences and defending him occasionally when Pathology was criticized in private.
   Dornberger’s interjection ten days ago at the mortality conference had been much like that. He supposed other people recognized the alliance between himself and Joe. What was it Gil Bartlett had said? “You’re a friend of his; and besides he doesn’t have a vendetta with obstetricians.” Until this moment he had forgotten the remark, but he realized now it had had an edge of bitterness and he was sorry about that. Bartlett was a good physician, and Dornberger made a mental note to be especially cordial next time they met.
   But there was still his own problem. To quit or not to quit? And if he did quit, when? Just lately, despite his carefully guarded physical fitness, he had found himself tiring. And although he had spent a lifetime answering night calls, lately they had seemed harder to take. Yesterday at lunch he had heard Kersh, the dermatologist, telling a new intern, “You should join us in the skin game, son. Haven’t been called out at night in fifteen years.” Dornberger had laughed with the rest but harbored a little secret envy.
   One thing he was sure of though. He would not hang on if he found himself weakening. Right now he knew he was as good as ever. His mind was clear, his hands steady and eyes sharp. He always watched himself carefully because he knew that at the first sign of failing he would not hesitate. He would clear his desk and go. He had seen too many others try to stay the course too long. That would never be for him.
   But as for the present, well, maybe he would let things go another three months, then think it over.
   By this time he had packed the tobacco tightly in his pipe and now he reached for a folder of matches. He was about to strike one when the telephone rang. Putting down pipe and matches, he answered it. “Dr. Dornberger speaking.”
   It was one of his patients. She had begun labor pains an hour ago. Now her membranes had ruptured and she had discharged water. She was a young girl in her early twenties, and it would be her first baby. She sounded breathless, as if nervous but trying not to be.
   As he had so many times before, Dornberger gave his instructions quietly. “Is your husband at home?”
   “Yes, Doctor.”
   “Then get your things together and have him drive you to the hospital. I’ll see you after you’ve arrived.”
   “Very well, Doctor.”
   “Tell your husband to drive carefully and stop at all the red lights. We’ve plenty of time. You’ll see.”
   He could sense, even over the phone, that he had helped her to relax. It was something he did often, and he considered it as much a part of his job as any course of treatment. Nevertheless he felt his own senses quickening. A new case always had that effect. Logically, he thought, he should have lost the feeling long ago. As you grew older in medicine you were supposed to become impervious, mechanical and unsentimental. It had never worked that way for him, though—perhaps because, even now, he was doing what he loved to do most.
   He reached for his pipe, then changed his mind and picked up the telephone again. He must let Obstetrics know that his patient was coming in.


   “I’m not even sure that defeating polio was a good or necessary thing.”
   The speaker was Eustace Swayne—founder of a department-store empire, millionaire philanthropist, and member of the board of directors of Three Counties Hospital. The background was the shadowed, oak-paneled library of Swayne’s aging but imposing mansion, set alone in fifty acres of parkland and near the eastern fringes of Burlington.
   “Come now, you can’t be serious,” Orden Brown said lightly. The hospital-board chairman smiled at the two women in the room—his own wife, Amelia, and Swayne’s daughter, Denise Quantz.
   Kent O’Donnell sipped the cognac which a soft-footed manservant had brought him and leaned back in the deep leather chair he had chosen on entering this room with the others after dinner. It occurred to him that the scene they made was almost medieval. He glanced around the softly lighted room, his eyes ranging over tiers of leather-bound books rising to the high-timbered ceiling, the dark and heavy oaken furniture, the cavernous fireplace laid with great logs—not burning now, this warm July evening, but ready to blaze to life at the touch of a servant’s torch; and, across from O’Donnell, Eustace Swayne, seated kinglike in a straight-backed, stuffed wing chair, the other four—almost as courtiers—formed in a semicircle, facing the old tycoon.
   “I am serious.” Swayne put down his brandy glass and leaned forward to make his point. “Oh, I admit—show me a child in leg braces and I’ll cringe with the rest and reach for my checkbook. But I’m talking of the grand design. The fact is—and I challenge anyone to deny it—we’re busily engaged in weakening the human race.”
   It was a familiar argument. O’Donnell said courteously, “Would you suggest that we should stop medical research, freeze our knowledge and techniques, not try to conquer any more diseases?”
   “You couldn’t do it,” Swayne said. “You couldn’t do it any more than you could have stopped the Gadarene swine jumping off their cliff.”
   O’Donnell laughed. “I’m not sure I like the analogy. But if that is so, then why the argument?”
   “Why?” Swayne banged a fist on the arm of his chair. “Because you can still deplore something, even though there’s nothing you can do to force a change.”
   “I see.” O’Donnell was not sure he wanted to get deeper into this discussion. Besides, it might not help relations with Swayne, either for himself or Orden Brown, which was really why they had come here. He glanced around at the others in the room. Amelia Brown, whom he had come to know well through his visits to the chairman’s home, caught his eye and smiled. As a wife who kept herself posted on all her husband’s activities, she was well informed about hospital politics.
   Swayne’s married daughter, Denise Quantz, was sitting forward, listening intently.
   At dinner O’Donnell had several times found his eyes traveling, almost involuntarily, in Mrs. Quantz’s direction. He had found it difficult to reconcile her as the daughter of the rugged, hard-bitten man who sat at the table’s head. At seventy-eight Eustace Swayne still exhibited much of the toughness he had learned in the competitive maelstrom of large-scale retail merchandising. At times he took advantage of his age to toss out barbed remarks to his guests, though O’Donnell suspected that most times their host was merely angling for an argument. O’Donnell had found himself thinking: The old boy still likes a fight, even if it’s only in words. In the same way he had an instinct now that Swayne was overstating his feelings about medicine, though perhaps in this case merely for the sake of being ornery. Watching the old man covertly, O’Donnell had suspected gout and rheumatism might be factors here.
   But, in contrast, Denise Quantz was gentle and softly spoken. She had a trick of taking the edge from a remark of her father’s by adding a word or two to what he had said. She was beautiful too, O’Donnell thought, with the rare mature loveliness which sometimes comes to a woman at forty. He gathered that she was visiting Eustace Swayne and came to Burlington fairly frequently. Probably this was to keep an eye on her father; he knew that Swayne’s own wife had died many years before. It was evident from conversation, though, that most of the time Denise Quantz lived in New York. There were a couple of references made to children, but a husband was not mentioned. He gained the impression that she was either separated or divorced. Mentally O’Donnell found himself comparing Denise Quantz with Lucy Grainger. There was a world of difference, he thought, between the two women: Lucy with her professional career, at ease in the environment of medicine and the hospital, able to meet someone like himself on ground familiar to them both; and Denise Quantz, a woman of leisure and independence, a figure in society no doubt, and yet—he had the feeling—someone who would make a home a place of warmth and serenity. O’Donnell wondered which kind of woman was better for a man: one who was close to his working life, or someone separate and detached, with other interests beyond the daily round.
   His thoughts were interrupted by Denise. Leaning toward him, she said, “Surely you’re not going to give up so easily, Dr. O’Donnell. Please don’t let my father get away with that.”
   The old man snorted. “There’s nothing to get away with. It’s a perfectly clear situation. For years the natural balance of nature kept populations in check. When the birth rate became too great there were famines to offset it.”
   Orden Brown put in, “But surely some of that was political. It wasn’t always a force of nature.”
   “I’ll grant you that in some cases.” Eustace Swayne waved his hand airily. “But there was nothing political in the elimination of the weak.”
   “Do you mean the weak or the unfortunate?” Very well, O’Donnell thought, if you want an argument I’ll give you one.
   “I mean what I say—the weak.” The old man’s voice had a sharper tone, but O’Donnell sensed he was enjoying this. “When there was a plague or an epidemic, it was the weak who were wiped out and the strong survived. Other illnesses did the same thing; there was a level maintained—nature’s level. And because of this it was the strong who perpetuated themselves. They were the ones who sired the next generation.”
   “Do you really think, Eustace, that mankind is so degenerate now?” Amelia Brown had asked the question, and O’Donnell saw she was smiling. She knows that Swayne’s enjoying this, he thought.
   “We’re moving toward degeneracy,” the old man answered her, “at least in the Western world. We’re preserving the cripples, the weaklings, and the disease-ridden. We’re accumulating burdens on society, non-producers—the unfit, unable to contribute anything to the common good. Tell me—what purpose does a sanatorium or a home for incurables serve? I tell you, medicine today is preserving people who should be allowed to die. But we’re helping them to live, then letting them spawn and multiply, passing along their uselessness to their children and their children’s children.”
   O’Donnell reminded him, “The relationship between disease and heredity is far from clear.”
   “Strength is of the mind as well as the body,” Eustace Swayne snapped back. “Don’t children inherit the mental characteristics of their parents—and their weaknesses?”
   “Not all of the time.” This was between the old tycoon and O’Donnell now. The others sat back, listening.
   “But a lot of the time they do. Well, don’t they?”
   O’Donnell smiled. “There’s some evidence that way, yes.”
   Swayne snorted. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve so many mental hospitals. And patients in them. And people running to psychiatrists.”
   “It could also be that we’re more aware of mental health.”
   Swayne mimicked him. “It could also be that we’re breeding people who are weak, weak, weak!”
   The old man had almost shouted the last words. Now a bout of coughing seized him. I’d better go easily, O’Donnell thought. He probably has high blood pressure.
   Just as if O’Donnell had spoken, Eustace Swayne glared across at him. The old man took a sip of brandy. Then, almost malevolently, he said, “Don’t try to spare me, my young medical friend. I can handle all your arguments and more.”
   O’Donnell decided he would go on but more moderately. He said, quietly and reasonably, “I think there’s one thing you’re overlooking, Mr. Swayne. You say that illness and disease are nature’s levelers. But many of these things haven’t come to us in the natural course of nature. They’re the result of man’s own environment, conditions he’s created himself. Bad sanitation, lack of hygiene, slums, air pollution—those aren’t natural things; they’re man’s creation.”
   “They’re part of evolution and evolution is a part of nature. It all adds up to the balancing process.”
   Admiringly O’Donnell thought: You can’t shake the old son of a gun easily. But he saw the chink in the other’s argument. He said, “If you’re right, then medicine is a part of the balancing process too.”
   Swayne snapped back, “How do you reason that?”
   “Because medicine is a part of evolution.” Despite his good resolution O’Donnell felt his voice grow more intense. “Because every change of environment that man has had produced its problems for medicine to face and to try to solve. We never solve them entirely. Medicine is always a little behind, and as fast as we meet one problem there’s a new one appearing ahead.”
   “But they’re problems of medicine, not nature.” Swayne’s eyes had a malicious gleam. “If nature were left alone it would settle its problems before they arose—by natural selection of the fittest.”
   “You’re wrong and I’ll tell you why.” O’Donnell had ceased to care about the effect of his words. He felt only that this was something he had to express, to himself as well as to the others. “Medicine has only one real problem. It’s always been the same; it always will. It’s the problem of individual human survival.” He paused. “And survival is the oldest law of nature.”
   “Bravo!” Impulsively Amelia Brown clapped her palms together. But O’Donnell had not quite finished.
   “That’s why we fought polio, Mr. Swayne, and the black plague, and smallpox, and typhus, and syphilis. It’s why we’re still fighting cancer and tuberculosis and all the rest. It’s the reason we have those places you talked about—the sanatoria, the homes for incurables. It’s why we preserve people—all the people we can, the weak as well as the strong. Because it adds up to one thing—survival. It’s the standard of medicine, the only one we can possibly have.”
   For a moment he expected Swayne to lash back as he had before. But the old man was silent. Then he looked over at his daughter. “Pour Dr. O’Donnell some more brandy, Denise.”
   O’Donnell held out his glass as she approached with the decanter. There was a soft rustle to her dress, and as she leaned toward him he caught a faint, tantalizing waft of perfume. For a moment he had an absurd, boyish impulse to reach out and touch her soft dark hair. As he checked it she moved over to her father.
   Replenishing the old man’s glass, she asked, “If you really feel the way you say, Father, what are you doing on a hospital board?”
   Eustace Swayne chuckled. “Mostly I’m there because Orden and some others are hoping I won’t change my will.” He looked over at Orden Brown. “They reckon there can’t be long to wait in any case.”
   “You’re doing your friends an injustice, Eustace,” Brown said. His tone contained the right mixture of banter and seriousness.
   “And you’re a liar.” The old man was enjoying himself again. He said, “You asked a question, Denise. Well, I’ll answer it. I’m on the hospital board because I’m a practical man. The world’s the way it is and I can’t change it, even though I see what’s wrong. But what someone like me can be is a balancing force. Oh, I know what some of you think—that I’m just an obstructionist.”
   Orden Brown interjected quickly, “Has anyone ever said that?”
   “You don’t have to.” Swayne shot a half-amused, malicious glance at the board chairman. “But every activity needs a brake on it somewhere. That’s what I’ve been—a brake, a steadying force. And when I’m gone perhaps you and your friends will find you need another.”
   “You’re talking nonsense, Eustace. And you’re doing your own motives an injustice.” Orden Brown had evidently decided to be equally direct. He went on, “You’ve done as many good things in Burlington as any man I know.”
   The old man seemed to shrink back into his chair. He grumbled, “How do any of us really know our own motives?” Then, looking up, “I suppose you’ll expect a big donation from me for this new extension.”
   Orden Brown said smoothly, “Frankly, we hope you’ll see fit to make your usual generous contribution.”
   Softly, unexpectedly, Eustace Swayne said, “I suppose a quarter of a million dollars would be acceptable.”
   O’Donnell heard Orden Brown’s quickly indrawn breath. Such a gift would be munificent—far more than they had expected, even in their most sanguine moments.
   Brown said, “I can’t pretend, Eustace. Frankly, I’m overwhelmed.”
   “No need to be.” The old man paused, twirling the stem of his brandy glass. “I haven’t decided yet, though I’ve been considering it. I’ll tell you in a week or two.” Abruptly he turned to O’Donnell. “Do you play chess?”
   O’Donnell shook his head. “Not since I was in college.”
   “Dr. Pearson and I play a lot of chess.” He was looking at O’Donnell directly. “You know Joe Pearson, of course.”
   “Yes. Very well.”
   “I’ve known Dr. Pearson for many years,” Swayne said, “in Three Counties Hospital and out of it.” The words were slow and deliberate. Did they have an undertone of warning? It was hard to be sure.
   Swayne went on, “In my opinion Dr. Pearson is one of the best-qualified men on the hospital staff. I hope that he stays in charge of his department for many years to come. I respect his ability and his judgment—completely.”
   Well, there it is, O’Donnell thought—out in the open and in plain words: an ultimatum to the chairman of the hospital board and the president of the medical board. In as many words Eustace Swayne had said: If you want my quarter million dollars, hands off Joe Pearson!
   Later Orden Brown, Amelia, and O’Donnell—seated together in the front seat of the Browns’ Lincoln convertible—had driven back across town. They had been silent at first, then Amelia said, “Do you really think—a quarter of a million?”
   Her husband answered, “He’s quite capable of giving it—if he feels inclined.”
   O’Donnell asked, “I take it you received the message?”
   “Yes.” Brown said it calmly, without embellishment and without seeking to pursue the subject. O’Donnell thought: Thank you for that. He knew this had to be his problem, not the chairman’s.
   They dropped him at the entrance to his apartment hotel. As they said good night Amelia added, “Oh, by the way, Kent, Denise is separated but not divorced. I think there’s a problem there, though we’ve never discussed it. She has two children in high school. And she’s thirty-nine.”
   Orden Brown asked her, “Why are you telling him all that?”
   Amelia smiled. “Because he wanted to know.” She touched her husband’s arm. “You could never be a woman, dear. Not even with surgery.”
   Watching the Lincoln move away, O’Donnell wondered how she had known. Perhaps she had overheard him and Denise Quantz saying good night. He had said politely that he hoped he would see her again. She had answered, “I live in New York with my children. Why don’t you call me next time you’re there?” Now O’Donnell wondered if, after all, he might take in that surgeons’ congress in New York next month which a week ago he had decided not to attend.
   Abruptly his mind switched to Lucy Grainger and, irrationally, he had a momentary sense of disloyalty. He had gone from the sidewalk to the building entrance when his thoughts were broken by a voice saying, “Good night, Dr. O’Donnell.”
   He looked around and recognized one of the surgical residents, Seddons. There was a pretty brunette with him, and her face seemed familiar. Probably one of the student nurses, he thought; she appeared about the age. He smiled at them both and said “Good night.” Then, using his passkey, he went through the glass doors into the elevator.
   Vivian said, “He looked worried.”
   Seddons answered cheerfully, “I doubt it, bright eyes. When you get to where he is, most of the worrying is behind you.”
   The theater was over and now they were walking back to Three Counties. It had been a good road show—a broad, noisy musical—at which they had both laughed a good deal and held hands, and a couple of times Mike had draped his arm around the back of Vivian’s seat, allowing it to fall lightly, his fingers exploring her shoulders, and she had made no move to object.
   Over dinner before the show they had talked of themselves. Vivian had questioned Mike about his intentions to practice surgery, and he had asked her why she had become a student nurse.
   “I’m not sure I can explain, Mike,” she had said, “except that nursing was something I always wanted to do as far back as I can remember.” She had told him that her parents at first had opposed the idea, then, on learning how strongly she felt, had given way. “I guess it’s really that I wanted to do something for myself, and nursing was what appealed to me most.”
   Seddons had asked her, “Do you still feel that way?”
   “Yes, I do,” she had said. “Oh, now and then—when you’re tired sometimes, and you’ve seen some of the things in the hospital, and you’re thinking about home—you wonder if it’s worth it, if there aren’t easier things to do; but I guess that happens to everybody. Most of the time, though, I’m quite sure.” She had smiled, then said, “I’m a very determined person, Mike, and I’ve made up my mind to be a nurse.”
   Yes, he had thought, you are determined; I can believe that. Glancing at Vivian covertly while she talked, he could sense an inner strength—a toughness of character behind what seemed at first a facade of gentle femininity. Once more, as he had a day or two ago, Mike Seddons had felt his interest quicken, but again he warned himself: No involvements! Remember, anything you feel is basically biological!
   It was close to midnight now, but Vivian had signed the late book and there was no problem about hurrying in. Some of the older nurses, who had done their training under spartan regimes, felt the students were allowed too much freedom nowadays. But in practice it was seldom abused.
   Mike touched her arm. “Let’s go through the park.”
   Vivian laughed. “That’s an old line I’ve heard before.” But she offered no resistance as he steered her to a gateway and into the park beyond. In the darkness she could make out a line of poplars on either side, and the grass was soft underfoot.
   “I’ve a whole collection of old lines. It’s one of my specialties.” He reached down and took her hand. “Do you want to hear more?”
   “Like what, for example?” Despite her self-assurance her voice held the slightest of tremors.
   “Like this.” Mike stopped and took both her shoulders, turning her to face him. Then he kissed her fully on the lips.
   Vivian felt her heart beat faster, but not so much that her mind could not weigh the situation. Should she stop at once or let this go on? She was well aware that if she took no action now, later it might not be so easy.
   Vivian already knew that she liked Mike Seddons and believed she could come to like him a good deal more. He was physically attractive and they were both young. She felt the stirrings of desire within her. They were kissing again and she returned the pressure of his lips. The tip of his tongue came lightly into her mouth; she met it with her own and the contact set up a delicious tingling. Mike tightened his arms around her, and through the thin summer dress she felt his thighs pressing tighter. His hands were moving, caressing her back. The right dropped lower; it passed lightly over the back of her skirt, then more heavily, each caress pulling her closer to him. Against her own body she felt a bulkiness. It stirred, intoxicatingly, heavenly. She knew clearly, as if with a second mind, that if she were going to, this was the moment to break away. Just a moment longer, she thought; just a moment longer!
   Then suddenly it seemed as if this were an intermission, a release from other things around. Closing her eyes she savored the seconds of warmth and tenderness; these past months there had been so few. So many times since coming to Three Counties she had had to use control and self-discipline, her emotions pent up and tears unshed. When you were young, inexperienced, and a little frightened, sometimes it was hard to do. There had been so many things—the shocks of ward duty, pain, disease, death, the autopsy—and yet no safety valve to release the pressures building up inside. A nurse, even a student nurse, had to see so much of suffering and give so much in care and sympathy. Was it wrong, then, to grasp a moment of tenderness for herself? For an instant, with Mike holding her, she felt the same solace and relief as when, years before, she had run as a little girl into her mother’s arms. Mike had released her a little now and was holding her slightly away. He said, “You’re beautiful.” Impulsively she buried her face in his shoulder. Then he put a hand under her chin and their lips were together again. She felt the same hand drop and, from outside her dress, move lightly over her breasts. From every part of her body the desire to love and be loved welled up, madly, uncontrollably.
   His hand was at the neckline of her dress. It was made to open at the front, and a hook and eye secured the top. He was fumbling for it. She struggled. Breathlessly, “No, Mike! Please! No!” She failed even to convince herself. Her arms were around him tightly. He had the dress open a little way now and she felt his hand move, then gasped at the contact as it cupped her own young, soft flesh. He took the nipple gently between his fingers, and a shudder of ecstasy moved through her in a sensual wave. Now she knew that it was too late to stop. She wanted, craved him desperately. Her lips to his ear, she murmured, “Yes, oh yes.”
   “Darling, darling Vivian.” He was equally excited; she could tell from his whispered, breathless voice.
   Womanlike, a moment’s common sense came through. “Not here, Mike. There are people.”
   “Let’s go through the trees.” He took her hand and they moved closely together. She felt a trembling excitement, a wondering curiosity to know what it would be like. She dismissed any consequence; it seemed unimportant. And Mike was a doctor; he would know how to be careful.
   They had reached a small clearing surrounded by trees and shrubs. Mike kissed her again, and passionately she returned his kisses, her tongue darting and fighting his. So this is where it’s to be, she thought. The real thing. Vivian was not a virgin; she had ceased to be while in high school, and there had been another incident in her first year of college, but neither experience had been satisfactory. She knew this would be. “Hurry, Mike, please hurry.” She felt her own excitement transmit itself to him.
   “Over here, darling,” he said, and they moved toward the far side of the clearing.
   Suddenly she felt a searing pain. It was so intense at first she could not be sure where it was. Then she knew it was her left knee. Involuntarily she cried out.
   “What is it? Vivian, what is it?” Mike turned to her. She could see he was puzzled, not knowing what to make of it. She thought: He probably thinks it’s a trick. Girls do this sort of thing to get out of these situations.
   The first sharpness of pain had subsided a little. But it still returned in waves. She said, “Mike, I’m afraid it’s my knee. Is there a seat somewhere?” She flinched again.
   “Vivian,” he said, “you don’t have to put on an act. If you want to go back to the hospital, just say so and I’ll take you.”
   “Please believe me, Mike.” She took his arm. “It is my knee. It hurts me terribly. I have to sit down.”
   “This way.” She could tell he was still skeptical, but he guided her back through the trees. There was a park bench nearby, and they made for it.
   When she had rested, Vivian said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t do that on purpose.”
   He said doubtfully, “Are you sure?”
   She reached for his hand. “Mike—in there; I wanted to, as much as you. Then this.” Again the pain.
   He said, “I’m sorry, Vivian. I thought . . .”
   She said, “I know what you thought. But it wasn’t that. Honestly.”
   “All right. Tell me what’s wrong.” He was the doctor now. Back in there he had forgotten.
   “It’s my knee. All of a sudden—the sharpest pain.”
   “Let me see.” He was down in front of her. “Which one?”
   She lifted her skirt and indicated the left knee. He felt it carefully, his hands moving lightly. For the moment Mike Seddons dismissed the thought that this was a girl to whom, a few minutes earlier, he had been about to make love. His behavior now was professional, analytical. As he had been trained to do, his mind went methodically over the possibilities. He found Vivian’s nylons impeded his sense of touch.
   “Roll down your stocking, Vivian.” She did so, and his probing fingers moved over the knee again. Watching him, she thought: He’s good; he’ll be a fine doctor; people will come to him for help and he’ll be kind and do the utmost that he can. She found herself wondering what it would be like—the two of them together always. As a nurse there would be so much she could do to help him and to understand his work. She told herself: This is ridiculous; we scarcely know each other. Then, momentarily, the pain returned and she winced.
   Mike asked, “Has this happened before?”
   For a moment the absurdity of the situation struck her and she giggled.
   “What is it, Vivian?” Mike sounded puzzled.
   “I was just thinking. A minute or two ago . . . And now here you are, just like in a doctor’s office.”
   “Listen, kid.” He was serious. “Has this happened before?”
   She said, “Just once. It wasn’t as bad as this though.”
   “How long ago?”
   She thought. “About a month.”
   “Have you seen anybody about it?” He was all professional now.
   “No. Should I have?”
   Noncommittally he said, “Maybe.” Then he added, “You will tomorrow anyway. I think Dr. Grainger would be the best one.”
   “Mike, is something wrong?” Now she felt an undercurrent of alarm.
   “Probably not,” he reassured her. “But there’s a small lump there that shouldn’t be. Lucy Grainger will give us the word though. I’ll talk with her in the morning. Now we have to get you home.”
   The earlier mood was gone. It could not be recaptured, not tonight anyway, and both of them knew it.
   Mike helped her up. As his arm went around her, he had a sudden feeling of wanting to help and protect her. He asked, “Do you think you can walk?”
   Vivian told him, “Yes. The pain’s gone now.”
   “We’ll just go to the gate,” he said; “we can get a taxi there.” Then because she looked glum he added cheerfully, “That patient was a cheap skate. He didn’t send any cab fare.”


   “Give me the details.”
   Hunched over the binocular microscope, Dr. Joseph Pearson half grunted the words to Roger McNeil.
   The pathology resident looked at his folder of notes. “Case was a forty-year-old man, admitted for appendicitis.” McNeil was seated opposite Pearson at the desk of the pathology office.
   Pearson took out the slide he had been studying and substituted another. He asked, “What did the tissue look like at gross?”
   McNeil, who had made the gross examination when the removed appendix came down from the operating room, said, “Grossly it looked normal enough to me.”
   “Hm.” Pearson moved the slide around. Then he said, “Wait a minute; here’s something.” After a pause he slipped the second slide out and selected a third. Now he said, “Here it is—an acute appendicitis. It was just beginning in this section. Who was the surgeon?”
   McNeil answered, “Dr. Bartlett.”
   Pearson nodded. “He got it good and early. Take a look.” He made way at the microscope for McNeil.
   Working with the resident, as the hospital’s teaching program required him to, Pearson was endeavoring to catch up on the pathology department’s surgical reports.
   Despite his best efforts, though, both men knew they were seriously in arrears with work. The slides being studied now had been sectioned from a patient’s appendix removed several weeks earlier. The patient had long since been discharged, and in this case the report would merely confirm or deny the surgeon’s original diagnosis. In this instance Gil Bartlett had been entirely right, in fact, creditably so, since he had caught the disease in its early stages and before the patient could have had much distress.
   “Next.” Pearson moved back to the microscope as McNeil returned to the other side of the desk.
   The resident pushed over a slide folder and, as Pearson opened it, McNeil consulted a fresh set of notes. As they worked Bannister entered the room quietly. With a glance at the other two he passed behind them and began to file papers into a cabinet.
   “This is a current one,” McNeil said. “It came down five days ago. They’re waiting to hear what we say.”
   “You’d better give me any like this first,” Pearson said sourly, “otherwise there’ll be more bleating from upstairs.”
   McNeil was on the point of saying that several weeks ago he had suggested changing their procedure in just that way, but Pearson had insisted on reviewing all specimens in the order they came into the department. However, the resident checked himself. Why bother? he thought. He told Pearson, “It’s a fifty-six-year-old woman. The specimen is a skin lesion—superficially a mole. Question is: Is it a malignant melanoma?”
   Pearson put in the first slide and moved it around. Then he nipped over the highest-powered lens and adjusted the binocular eyepiece. “It could be.” He took the second slide, then two more. After that he sat back thoughtfully. “On the other hand it could be a blue nevus. Let’s see what you think.”
   McNeil moved in. This one, he knew, was important. A malignant melanoma was a tumor that was viciously malignant. Its cells could spread rapidly and murderously in the body. If diagnosed as such from the small portion already removed, it would mean immediate major surgery for the woman patient. But a blue nevus tumor was entirely harmless. It could stay where it was in the body, doing no harm, for the rest of the woman’s life.