The Choice

by Eugene Guillaume

Black Mask | Sept. 1920 | Vol. 1, No. 6

His wife or new baby … which will he choose?

He hesitatingly walked up the broad stone steps. He was not yet used to the silent dignity of the hospital atmosphere.

Inside he took off his soft hat, crushed it in his hand, and instinctively softened his footfalls as he stepped to the information desk.


The girl silently plugged in the switchboard. A question, an answer:

“Corridor B, room 8. They are waiting for you,” she said.

Softly, almost on tiptoe, he walked down the long corridor, passing a nurse in the light blue, white trimmed, uniform distinctive of the hospital, turned to the right, and lightly tapped at a door on which the figure “8” appeared.

A nurse opened the door, looked at him, turned and beckoned to someone in the room.

A physician, young, alert, came to the door, glanced at him a moment, came out and closed the door behind him.

The man before him nervously moistened his lips.

The physician looked at him keenly. The man’s eyes returned the look questioningly.

“The time’s almost here,” said the physician. “It’s serious—the mother, or the baby. I’ve told her. She says to speak to you.”

A lightning expression passed over the man’s face. The physician’s boring gaze noted, but did not fathom it.

“May I see her?”

“Yes—but only for a minute.” The physician turned and opened the door. The man advanced haltingly in the semi-darkness to the bedside.

“John!” and two weak arms reached up and clasped him around the neck.

“The doctor says—” her voice choked “the doctor says,” she whispered in weak tones in his ear, “that it is baby— or me.”

A flash of pain winced her face, and she paused as it took her breath.

In a moment:

“I told him I’d leave it to you,” she whispered as it passed.

“My brave girl! My brave girl! I want you—of course I want you,” he answered, low voiced, but vibrant.

A look of ineffable joy came over her face.

“He wants me!” she said feebly, bright-eyed, joy-flushed, to the physician standing at the bedside. “He’s come back at last—and he wants me!”

A spasm of pain convulsed her.

The physician leaned over quickly, and turned to the table of instruments at his side.pThe nurse gently took the man’s arm and led him to the door. Even in her pain the woman’s eyes lovingly followed him.

The door closed. A moment passed. It opened again, and the man’s head appeared inside.

“Doctor!” he whispered softly.

The physician turned, looked, walked to the door. The man beckoned silently, and the physician went outside, closing the door quietly behind him.

“Well?” he questioned.

“Save the baby,” the man replied.

The physician stared at him … turned and re-entered the room.

~ The End ~

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