"I know. All this doesn't influence me, Edwardes."

"Wait a moment. We had a system in the operating-room as perfect as I

could devise it. I never finished an operation without having my first

assistant verify the clip and sponge count. But that first case died

because a sponge had been left in the operating field. You know how those

things go; you can't always see them, and one goes by the count, after

reasonable caution. Then I lost another case in the same way--a free case.

"As well as I could tell, the precautions had not been relaxed. I was doing

from four to six cases a day. After the second one I almost went crazy. I

made up my mind, if there was ever another, I'd give up and go away."


"There was another?"

"Not for several months. When the last case died, a free case again, I

performed my own autopsy. I allowed only my first assistant in the room.

He was almost as frenzied as I was. It was the same thing again. When I

told him I was going away, he offered to take the blame himself, to say he

had closed the incision. He tried to make me think he was responsible. I


"It's incredible."

"Exactly; but it's true. The last patient was a laborer. He left a

family. I've sent them money from time to time. I used to sit and think

about the children he left, and what would become of them. The ironic part

of it was that, for all that had happened, I was busier all the time. Men

were sending me cases from all over the country. It was either stay and

keep on working, with that chance, or--quit. I quit." "But if you had

stayed, and taken extra precautions--"

"We'd taken every precaution we knew."

Neither of the men spoke for a time. K. stood, his tall figure outlined

against the window. Far off, in the children's ward, children were

laughing; from near by a very young baby wailed a thin cry of protest

against life; a bell rang constantly. K.'s mind was busy with the

past--with the day he decided to give up and go away, with the months of

wandering and homelessness, with the night he had come upon the Street and

had seen Sidney on the doorstep of the little house.

"That's the worst, is it?" Max Wilson demanded at last.

"That's enough."

"It's extremely significant. You had an enemy somewhere--on your staff,

probably. This profession of ours is a big one, but you know its

jealousies. Let a man get his shoulders above the crowd, and the pack is

after him." He laughed a little. "Mixed figure, but you know what I


Most Popular