Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/170

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He took off his everlasting cuffs and used my handkerchief to polish the lamp-chimney. I looked about me.

This never had been a "spring-house." There was a broad, rough shelf along one wall, where the surgeon's kit now lay. In the middle of the floor stood a table of pine boards and trestles. There was a window, at the end of the room, closed with a sliding shutter instead of a sash. Below this stood a camp cot. Narrow strips of mosquito screening were tacked here and there over obvious cracks. The lamp hung on a low wooden bracket at one corner of the table.

John was barely conscious. We carefully laid him on the boards and ripped away the rags of his calico shirt.

"Will you operate, Doctor?" Agard ceremoniously invited me.

Operate!—There in the dark.

"No, Doctor, the patient is yours," I replied with due formality. "I shall, of course, be pleased to assist you as required."

I saturated'a wad of gauze with chloroform and applied it. The instruments, such as they were, were laid out in order, and I stood by. An intravenous injection was prepared in case of need—a large veterinary syringe which Agard filled accurately before starting to work.

The traumatism of the case may be passed over. It was inordinately gross; the pericardium itself was exposed and doubly punctured.

Agard, however, was not fazed for an instant. He methodically sutured the still oozing pectoral veins, cleared away bone fragments and pulmonary tissue, and went ahead extracting BB shot as daintily as if he expected a pink-tea convalescence. I merely changed sponges—sponges—as fast as I could roll them, and I made an absorbent dressing as big as a hat. The heat, odour, and gas soon became very bad, since the doctor objected to the door being opened—on account of the army of insects, if nothing else.

What was the use of it all? I speculated. Mere make-believe; the slayer’s life was triply forfeit. Yet Agard worked on, ant-like, always searching out the obstruction. He was grotesquely impeded: he had no tools, no light, no technique—nothing but intuition; but he exposed the left lateral aspect