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“The End of worldly life awaits us all:
We were just getting up from breakfast the Monday morning after our return to New York when the doorbell rang and our old friend Kenneth Adams came in, pale and agitated.
“What's the matter, Ken ?” asked Helen. “Did your cook spoil the coffee ?”
"No," he replied nervously. “We haven't any cook -but that's not my trouble. Lucy's got appendicitis -at least that is what young Hopkins says, and I haven't any reason to doubt his word. He says she ought to be operated on immediately.”
“What a shame!" said Helen. "Still, she'll be ever so much better without it. Of course the operation isn't pleasant, but once her appendix is out"
“Yes, but who's going to take it out?" demanded Kenneth.
"What's the matter with McCook ?” I inquired, with callous levity. "He's supposed to be our best local excavator, isn't he?"
“McCook? He's been in Paris for two years and a half !”
"Oh, yes, I remember," I admitted. “So he has. How about Furness ?-he's one of the 'Big Four.'”
"Furness sailed with the Fordyce Unit last spring. He's on the firing-line."
“Well, Jameson then. One is about as good as another."
“Jameson's gone, too." "Farley ?”
"Farley's down in Washington-he's a major, I believe--helping on some advisory medical board."
“By George !” I ejaculated with more sympathy. "Some medical exodus-what?”
“I'm at my wits' end !” declared Adams. "All the big operators have gone away. I've called up hospital after hospital, doctor's office after doctor's office, and they all tell me the same thing—Dr. So-andSo has been away since June or July in 1914-or whatever the fact is.”
"But what's the matter with Freylingheusen ?” I queried. “I saw him at the theatre the other night.”
“Freylingheusen ? retorted Adams bitterly. “Why, he's a thousand years old! Appendicitis wasn't even invented when he went to the medical school. I wouldn't trust him to cut up cat meat, let alone my wife. I tell you I'm up against it!”
“But the hospitals can't be absolutely denuded," I insisted. “Surely you can get some one
“Some one-yes. But would you want just some '
one to operate on Helen here? The hospital staffs have been just about cut in half, and the fellows that are left are the young ones nobody ever heard of.'
Hi wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“I don't know what to do!” he groaned. “Hopkins keeps assuring me that the operation is a perfectly simple one and that nobody thinks anything of it at all these days. 'Only five per cent mortality,' he says. Think of telling me that. “Mortality'-nice word to have a surgeon chuck at you! He suggests I should engage a Hebrew friend of his named Oppenheimsounds like a novelist !-but I have an idea that he really wants to do the operation himself.”
"Well, why don't you let him?"
“Why—he's too young for one thing. He's all right as a sort of general practitioner
“How old is he?" Adams hesitated.
“I-don't-know,” he answered slowly. “Come to think of it, he must be well over forty."
“Well,” I retorted. “If he's ever going to be old enough to operate I should think he would be now. Why don't you let him ?”
My friend waved a frenzied hand.
"I wouldn't let him touch Lucy with a ten-foot pole. I won't have an inexperienced man slashing up my wife. I want the biggest surgeon there is and he'd be none too good. There must be some one -even in another city.”
Helen had arisen and had been standing looking out into the sunlit yard of the day-school in our rear. Now she turned and laid her hand on Kenneth's
"Listen, Kenneth !” she admonished him. “I know exactly how you feel and I'm awfully sorry about Lucy—but things aren't as bad as they seem just at this moment. We've been away and haven't kept in touch, but perhaps we can understand all the better. Now, from what you say it would appear that most of the well-known surgeons have gone away--to France, or Washington, or medical reserve officers' camps. However, the hospitals are still manned and equipped. The big men all have to die off some time. There are always others just as good—or practically so-to fill their places. I've heard both Oppenheim and Hopkins very well spoken of. Why don't you try one of them?"
But Kenneth shook his head gloomily.
"No," he retorted. "Nobody but the biggest man in the business is going to operate on my wife! I thought maybe I'd overlooked some one and that you might be able to suggest a name. But I'll have to try elsewhere. There must be some crackerjack surgeon who hasn't gone."
"What do you suppose other people will do ?” I asked rather impatiently.
"I don't know what they'll do,” he declared wildly. “What's that to me? That's an entirely different matter, isn't it?” He got up, removed his hat from the table where he had laid it, and took a step toward the door without offering to shake hands. “There must be some one!” he kept repeating.
"Try Oppenheim," urged Helen.
“A fellow I never heard of !” he almost shouted. “I'd rather have Hopkins !"
He turned and hurried out into the front hall, mumbling to himself. The door slammed and I saw his shadow fall across the window.
"Poor Kenneth !” sighed Helen. "I don't blame him for being nervous about Lucy, but, really, don't you think there is a touch of egotism about his insistence upon his surgical rights? It isn't as if there were no surgeons capable of taking out Lucy's appendix. And, honestly, her appendix isn't any more valuable than anybody's else.”
"Of course it isn't!" I answered. “The luxury, or at any rate the comfort, most of us have enjoyed in America has given us an artificial sense of our own physical importance. Because we want things for ourselves they have got to be better than what are quite good enough for other people, who are used to getting in line and taking what is handed out to them. We