The violent grinding of brakes suddenly applied, and the harsh creaking of skidding wheels gradually died away as the big car came to a stop. Eddie quickly picked himself up from the dusty pavement where he had been thrown, and looked around wildly.
Agnes! Where was his little sister he had been holding by the hand when they had started to cross the street? The next moment he saw her under the big car that had run them down, her eyes closed.
With one bound the boy was under the car, trying to lift the child.
“You’d better not try, son,” said a man gently. “Someone has gone to telephone for an ambulance.”
“She’s not… dead, is she, Mister?” Eddie begged in a husky voice.
The man stooped and felt the limp little pulse. “No, my boy,” he said slowly.
A policeman came up, dispersed the collecting crowd, and carried the unconscious girl into a nearby drug store. Eddie’s folded coat made a pillow for her head until the ambulance arrived. He was permitted to ride in the conveyance with her to the hospital. Something about the sturdy, shabbily dressed boy, who could not be more than ten years old, and his devotion to his little sister, strangely touched the hearts of the hardened hospital apprentices.
“We must operate at once,” said the surgeon after a brief preliminary examination. “She has been injured internally, and has lost a great deal of blood.” He turned to Eddie who, inarticulate with grief, stood dumbly by. “Where do you live?”
Eddie told him that their father was dead, and that his mother did day work—he did not know where.
“We can’t wait to find her,” said the surgeon, “Because by that time it might be too late.”
Eddie waited in the sitting-room while the surgeons worked over Agnes. After what seemed an eternity a nurse sought him out.
“Eddie,” she said kindly, “Your sister is very bad, and the doctor wants to make a transfusion. Do you know what that is?” Eddie shook his head. “She has lost so much blood she cannot live unless someone gives her his. Will you do it for her?”
Eddie’s wan face grew paler, and he gripped the knobs of the chair so hard that his knuckles became white. For a moment he hesitated; then gulping back his tears, he nodded his head and stood up.
“That’s a good lad,” said the nurse.
She patted his head, and led the way to the elevator which whisked them to the operating room—a very clean but evil- smelling room, with pale green walls and innumerable shiny instruments in glass cases. No one spoke to Eddie except the
nurse who directed him in a low voice how to prepare for the ordeal. The boy bit his quivering lip and silently obeyed.
“Are you ready?” asked a man swathed in white from head to foot, turning from the table over which he had been bending. For the first time Eddie noticed who it was lying there so still. Little Agnes! And he was going to make her well.
He stepped forward quickly.
Two hours later the surgeon looked up with a smile into the faces of the young interns and nurses who were engrossed in watching the great man’s work.
“Fine,” he said, “I think she’ll pull through.”
After the transfusion Eddie had been told to lie quietly on a cot in the corner of the room. In the excitement of the delicate operation he had been entirely forgotten.
“It was wonderful, Doctor!” exclaimed one of the young interns. “A miracle!” Nothing, he felt in his enthusiastic recognition of the marvels of surgery, could be greater than the miracles of science.
“I am well satisfied,” said the surgeon with conscious pride.
There was a tug at the sleeve, but he did not notice. In a little while there was another tug—this time more peremptory— and the great surgeon glanced down to see a ragged, pale faced boy looking steadily up into his face.
“Say, Doctor,” Eddie said, “When do I die?”
The interns laughed and the great surgeon smiled. “Why, what do you mean, my boy?” he asked kindly.
“I thought… when they took a guy’s blood… he died,” muttered Eddie.
The smiles faded from the lips of doctors and nurses, and the young intern who had thought there was nothing greater than the miracle of science, caught his breath suddenly.
Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life! This ragged lad had climbed to the very height of nobility and sacrifice, and showed them a glimpse of the greatest miracle of all—a selfless love! But Eddie must never know this. The lesson was too poignantly beautiful to be wasted. The great surgeon motioned the others for silence. “I think after all you will get well, Eddie,” he said gruffly. “You and little Agnes.”