A country doctor sets out to help a patient in the middle of a windy night. Whom does he meet on the way? And, what does he learn?
He threw back the covers and sat up on his bed, his feet feeling along the cold floor for his house slippers, the telephone ringing insistently, a little distance away.
He turned on the light and walked to the phone, and took down the receiver.
“This is Doctor Benson,” he said.
The November wind was bringing sounds of winter as it blew around the little white house. The doctor got into his clothes. He went to the table and stared a moment at his watch, his spirit complaining at the job ahead of him.
Two o’clock. His mind also complained at the horrible hour and he wondered why children had to be born at such improper times. He took up two small handbags, the short pill bag, as the people of the town knew it, and the long obstetrical case, the baby bag they called it.
Doctor Benson stopped a moment to light and, then put the pack of cigarettes in his overcoat pocket. The wind felt like a surgeon’s knife at his face as he opened
the door and ran, bending low, around the driveway to the garage.
His car started with difficulty, coughed half a dozen times as he drove down the driveway but then began to run more smoothly as he turned down Grass Street and on to the deserted highway.
Mrs. Ott Sorley, who Doctor Benson was on his way to visit, already had almost a dozen children, but it seemed to the doctor that never once had she had a baby in good weather, nor in daylight. And while Doctor Benson was a country doctor, he was still a young man and couldn’t find the pleasure that his father, the old Doc Benson had found in seeing Ott, the father, always two or three babies behind in payment of his baby bills.
It was a long ride to the Sorley farm and the sight of a man walking alone along the country road, as seen just ahead by the lights of the car, was a welcome relief to the doctor. He slowed down and looked at the man walking along with difficulty against the wind, a little package under his arm.
Coming alongside, Doctor Benson stopped and invited the man to ride. The man got in.
“Are you going far?” asked the doctor.
“I’m going all the way to Detroit,” said the man, a rather thin man with small black eyes filled with tears from the wind. “Could you give me a cigarette?”
Doctor Benson unbuttoned his coat, then remembered the cigarettes in the outer pocket of his overcoat. He took out the packet and gave it to the rider who then looked in his own pockets for a match. When the cigarette was lighted, the man held the packet a moment, then asked, “Do you mind, mister, if I take another cigarette for later?”. The rider shook the packet to remove another cigarette without waiting for the doctor to answer. Doctor Benson felt a hand touch his pocket.
“I’ll put them back in your pocket,” the little fellow said. Doctor Benson put his hand down quickly to receive the cigarettes and was a little irritated to find them already in his pocket.
A few minutes later, Doctor Benson said, “So you’re going to Detroit?”
“I am going out to look for work in one of the automobile plants”
“Are you a mechanic?” asked the doctor.
“More or less, I’ve been driving a truck since the war ended. But I lost my job about a month ago.”
“Were you in the army during the war?”
“Yeah, I was in the ambulance section. Right up at the front. Drove an ambulance for four years.”
“Is that so?” said Doctor Benson. “I’m a doctor myself. Doctor Benson is my name.”
“I thought this car smelled like pills,” the man laughed. Then he added, more seriously, “My name is Evans.”
They rode along silently for a few minutes and the rider moved himself in his seat and placed his package on the floor. As the man leaned over, Doctor Benson caught his first good look at the small, catlike face.
The doctor also noticed the long deep scar on the man’s cheek, bright and red-looking as though it were of recent origin. He thought of Mrs. Ott Sorly and reached for his watch. His fingers went deep into his pocket before he realized that his watch was not there.
Doctor Benson moved his hand very slowly and very carefully below the seat until he felt the leather holster, in which he always carried with him, his automatic pistol.
He drew out the pistol slowly and held it in the darkness at his side. Doctor Benson stopped the car quickly and pushed the nose of his gun into Evans’ side.
The rider jumped with fear and put up his hands quickly “My God, mister,” he whispered “I thought you…”
Doctor Benson pushed the pistol still deeper into the man’s side and repeated coldly, “Put that watch in my pocket before I let this gun go off.”
Evans put his hand in his own vest pocket and later, with trembling hands, tried to put the watch into the doctor’s pocket. With his free hand, Doctor Benson pushed the watch down into his pocket. He opened the door and forced the man out of the car.
“I’m out here tonight, probably to save a woman’s life, but I took time out to try to help you,” he said to the man angrily.
Doctor Benson started the car quickly and the wind closed the door with a loud noise. He put the pistol back into the leather holster under the seat and hurried on.
The drive up the mountain to the Sorley farm was less difficult than he had feared and Ott Sorley had sent one of his older boys down the road with a lantern to help him across the old wooden bridge that led up to the little farm house.
Mrs. Sorley’s many previous experiences with bringing children into the world apparently helped her greatly because she delivered this child with little difficulty and there was no need on Doctor Benson’s part for the instruments in the long bag.
After it was all over, however, Doctor Benson took a cigarette and sat down to smoke.
“A fellow I picked up in my car on my way up here tonight tried to rob me,” he said to Ott, feeling a little proud. “He took my watch. But when I pushed my 0.45 pistol into his side, he decided to give it to me back.”
Ott smiled wide at such an exciting story coming from young Doctor Benson.
“Well, I’m glad he gave it back to you,” Ott said, “Because if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have any idea what time the child was born. What time would you say it happened. Doc?”
Doctor Benson took the watch from his pocket.
“The baby was delivered about thirty minutes ago, and right now it’s ……” He walked over to the lamp on the table.
He stared strangely at the watch in his hand. The crystal was cracked, the top was broken, he turned the watch over and held it closer to the lamp. He studied the worn inscription there.
“To Private T. Evans, Ambulance Section, whose personal bravery preserved our lives the night of Nov. 3, 1943 near the Italian front. Nurses Nesbitt, Jones and Wingate.”