Chapter XII. Dr. Hoffman.
 

The girls and boys crowded around her with frightened faces. "Is she killed?" they asked each other in terrified tones.

"It's all my fault," said Dick Albright, nearly beside himself; "I should have known better than to let her go. She didn't think of the danger, but I did, and I should have prevented her. Was there ever such a fool as I?"

Gladys and Migwan were kneeling beside Sahwah and opening her coat. "She is not dead," said Gladys, feeling her pulse. "We must get her home. She is possibly only stunned." Sahwah moved slightly and groaned, but she did not open her eyes. A passing automobile was hailed and she was carried to it as carefully as possible and taken home.

"A slight concussion of the brain," said the hastily summoned doctor, after he had made his examination, "and a fractured hip. The hip can be fixed all right, but the concussion may be worse than it looks. That is an ugly contusion on her head." The next few days were anxious ones in the Brewster home. Sahwah gave no sign of returning consciousness, and her fever rose steadily. Mrs. Brewster felt her hair turning gray with the suspense, and the Winnebagos could neither eat nor sleep. Poor Dick was frantic, yet he dared not show himself at the house for fear every one would point an accusing finger at him as the one responsible for the misfortune.

But Sahwah, true to her usual habit of always doing the unexpected thing, progressed along just the opposite lines from those prophesied by the physician. After a few days her fever abated and the danger from the concussion was over. Sahwah's head had demonstrated itself to be of a superior solidness of construction. But the hip, which at first had not given them a moment's uneasiness, steadfastly refused to mend. Dr. Benson looked puzzled; then grave. The splintered end of that hip bone began to be a nightmare to him. He called in another doctor for consultation. The new doctor set it in a different way, nearly killing Sahwah with the pain, although she struggled valiantly to be brave and bear it in silence. Nyoda never forgot that tortured smile with which Sahwah greeted her when she came in after the process was over. A week or two passed and the bones still made no effort to knit. Another consulting physician was called in; a prominent surgeon. He ordered Sahwah removed to the hospital, where he made half a dozen X-ray pictures of her hip. The joint was so badly inflamed and swollen that it was impossible to tell just where the trouble lay. Sahwah fumed and fretted with impatience at having to stay in bed so long. Surgeon after surgeon examined the fracture and shook their heads.

At last a long consultation was held, at the close of which Mr. and Mrs. Brewster were called into the council of physicians. "We have discovered," said Dr. Lord, a man high up in the profession who was considered the final authority, "that the ball joint of your daughter's hip has been fractured in such a way that it can never heal. There is one inevitable result of this condition, and that is tuberculosis of the bone. If not arrested this will in time communicate itself to the bones of the upper part of the body and terminate fatally. There is only one way to prevent this outcome and that is amputation of the limb before the disease gets a hold on the system."

"You mean, cut her leg off?" asked Mrs. Brewster faintly.

"Yes," said Dr. Lord shortly. He was a man of few words.

Sahwah was stunned when she heard the verdict of the surgeons. She knew little about disease and it seemed wildly impossible to her that this limb of hers which had been so strong and supple a month ago would become an agent of death if not amputated. She was in an agony of mind. Never to swim again! Never to run and jump and slide and skate and dance! Always to go about on crutches! Before the prospect of being crippled for life her active nature shrank in unutterable horror. Death seemed preferable to her. She buried her face in the pillow in such anguish that the watchers by the bedside could not stand by and see it. After a day of acute mental suffering her old-time courage began to rear its head and she made up her mind that if this terrible thing had to be done she might as well go through with it as bravely as possible. She resigned herself to her fate and urged her parents to give their consent to the operation. Poor Mrs. Brewster was nearly out of her mind with worry over the affair.

"When will you do it?" asked Sahwah, struggling to keep her voice steady.

"In about a week," said Dr. Lord, "when you get a little stronger."

Nyoda went home heartsick from the hospital that day. Sahwah had asked her to write to Dr. Hoffman, her old friend in camp, and tell him the news. With a shaking hand she wrote the letter. "Poor old Dr. Hoffman," she said to herself, "how badly he will feel when he hears that Sahwah is hurt and he can do nothing to help her."

Sahwah had never dreamed how many friends she had until this misfortune overcame her. Boys and girls, as well as old people and little children, horrified at the calamity, came by the dozen to offer cheer and comfort. Her room was filled to overflowing with flowers. Even "old Fuzzytop," whom Sahwah had tormented nearly to death, came to offer his sympathy and present a potted tulip. Stiff and precise Miss Muggins came to say how she missed her from the Latin class. Aunt Phoebe forgave all the jokes she had made at her expense and sent over a crocheted dressing jacket made of fleecy wool.

"Don't feel so badly, Nyoda dear," she said one day as Nyoda sat beside her in the depths of despair. The usual jolly teacher had now no cheery word to offer. The prospect of the gay dancing Sahwah on crutches for the remainder of her life was an appalling tragedy. "I can act out 'The Little Tin Soldier' quite realistically--then," went on Sahwah, her mind already at work to find the humor of the situation. But Nyoda sat staring miserably at the flowers on the dresser.

"Telegram for Miss Brewster," said the nurse, appearing in the doorway.

"A telegram for me?" asked Sahwah curiously, stretching out her hand for the envelope. She tore it open eagerly and read, "Don't operate until I come. Dr. Hoffman." "He's coming!" cried Sahwah. "Dr. Hoffman is coming! He said if I ever broke a bone again he would come and set it! Poor Doctor, how disappointed he'll be when he finds he can't 'set it'!"

Dr. Hoffman arrived the next day.

"Vell, vell, Missis Sahvah," he said anxiously as he saw her lying so ominously still on the bed, "you haf not been trying to push somevon across de top of Lake Erie, haf you?" Sahwah smiled faintly. A ray of sunlight seemed to have entered the room with the doctor, also a gust of wind. He had thrown his hat right into a bouquet of flowers and his hair stood on end and his tie was askew with the haste he had made in getting to the hospital from the train. "Now about this hip, yes?" he said in a businesslike tone. Without any ceremony he brushed the nurse aside and unwrapped the bandages. "Ach so," he said, feeling of the joint with a practised hand, "you did a good job, Missis Sahvah. You make out of your bone a splinter. But vot is dis I hear about operating?" he suddenly exclaimed. "De very idea! Don't you let dem amputate your leg off! Such fool doctors! It's a vonder dey did not cut your head off to cure de bump!" His voice rose to a regular roar. Dr. Lord, coming in at that moment, stopped in astonishment at the sight of this strange doctor standing over his patient. "For vy did you want to amputate her leg off?" shouted Dr. Hoffman at him, dancing up and down in front of him and shaking his finger under his nose. "It is no more diseased dan yours is. And you call yourself a surgeon doctor! Bah! You go out and play in de sunshine and let me take care of dis hip."

"Who the dickens are you?" asked Dr. Lord, looking at him as though he thought he were an escaped lunatic.

"Dis is who I am," replied Dr. Hoffman, handing him a card. "I vas in eighteen-ninety-five by de Staatsklinick in Berlin." Dr. Lord fell back respectfully.

"I know someting about dot Missis Sahvah's bones," went on Dr. Hoffman, "and I know dey vill knit if you gif dem a chance. If all goes vell she vill valk again in t'ree months."

"I'd like to see you do it," said Dr. Lord.

"Patience, my friend," said Dr. Hoffman, "first ve make a little plaster cast." When Mrs. Brewster came in the afternoon she found a strange doctor in command and Dr. Lord and the nurses obeying his orders as if hypnotized. When she went home that night, hope had come to life again in her heart, where it had been dead for more than a week. Dr. Hoffman spent the afternoon having X-ray photographs of the joint made, and sat up all night trying to figure out how those bones could be set so they would knit and still not leave the joint stiff. By morning he had the solution.

The next day--the day the limb was to have been amputated--an operation of a very different nature took place. Dr. Hoffman, looking more like a pastry cook in his operating clothes than anything else, bustled around the operating room keeping the nurses and assisting physicians on the jump.

"Who's the Dutchman that's doing the bossing?" asked a pert young interne of one of the doctors.

"Shut up," answered the doctor addressed, "that's Hoffman, of the Staatsklinick in Berlin, and the Royal College of Vienna. He was Professor of Anatomy in the Staatsklinick '95-'96, don't you remember?" he said, turning to one of the other doctors. "He's a wizard at bonesetting. He performed that operation on Count Esterhazy's youngest son that kept him from being a cripple." The younger doctor looked at Dr. Hoffman with a sudden respect. The case in question was a famous one in surgical annals.

Dr. Lord, angry as he was at Dr. Hoffman's arraignment of him before the nurses and visitors, was yet a big enough man to realize that he had a chance to learn something from this sarcastic intruder who had so unceremoniously taken his case out of his hands, and swallowing his wrath, asked permission to witness the operation. "Ach, yes, to be sure," said Dr. Hoffman, with his old geniality. "You must not mind that I vas so cross yesterday," he went on, "it vas because I vas so impatient ven I hear you vanted to amputate dot girl's leg off. But I forget," he said magnanimously, "you do not know how to set de badly splintered bones so dey vill knit, as I do. Bring all de doctors in you vant to, and all de nurses too. Ve vill haf a Klinick."

Thus it was that the large operating room of the hospital was crowded to the very edge of the "sterile field" with eager medical men, glad of the chance to watch Dr. Hoffman at work. "Who is that young girl in here?" asked Dr. Lord impatiently, as the anaesthetic was about to be administered.

"Some friend of the patient," explained the head nurse. "Hoffman let her in himself." The young girl in question was Medmangi. Dr. Hoffman knew all about her ambition to become a doctor and allowed her to come into the operating room. So she began her career by witnessing one of the most inspired operations of a widely famed surgeon.

When Sahwah came out of the ether she felt as if she were held in a vise. "What's the matter?" she asked dreamily. "I feel so stiff and queer."

"It's the cast they put you in," answered her mother.

Sahwah moved her arms carefully to see if they were in working order yet. Lightly she touched the hard substance that surrounded her hip bone. "They didn't cut it off, did they?" she asked in sudden terror. She could not tell by the feeling whether she had two legs or one.

Dr. Hoffman, coming in in time to hear the question, snorted violently. "Don't talk such nonsense, Missis Sahvah," he said, waving his hands emphatically. "Dot limb is still vere it belongs, and vill be as good as ever ven de cast comes off."

The watchers around the bed that day wore very different expressions from what they had worn all week. Just since yesterday despair had given way to hope and hope to assurance. Her mother and father and Nyoda hovered over the bed with radiant faces, and the Winnebagos, after seeing Sahwah's favorable condition with their own eyes, retired to Gladys's barn to celebrate. The rules of the hospital forbade the amount of noise they felt they must make. Dick Albright smiled his first smile that day since the night of the accident.