“How dare you make such a suggestion!”
The state physician doggedly stuck by his position. “I would not make it, sire, it your life were not at stake. There is no other surgeon in the Fatherland who can transplant a pituitary gland but Doctor Lans.”
“You will operate!”
The medico shook his head. “You would die, Leader. My skill is not adequate. And unless the operation takes place at once, you will certainly die.”
The Leader stormed about the apartment. He seemed about to give way to one of the girlish bursts of anger that even the inner state clique feared so much. Surprisingly he capitulated.
“Bring him here!” he ordered.
DOCTOR LANS FACED THE LEADER with inherent dignity, a dignity and presence that three years of “protective custody” had been unable to shake. The pallor and gauntness of the concentration camp lay upon him, but his race was used to oppression. “I see,” he said. “Yes, I see ... I can perform that operation. What are your terms?”
“Terms?” The Leader was aghast. “Terms, you filthy swine? You are being given a chance to redeem in part the sins of your race!”
The surgeon raised his brows. “Do you not think I know that you would not have sent for me had there been any other course available to you? Obviously, my services have become valuable.”
“You’ll do as you are told! You and your kind are lucky to be alive.”
“Nevertheless I shall not operate without my fee.”
“I said you were lucky to be alive--” The tone was an open threat.
Lans spread his hands. “Well--I am an old man...”
The Leader smiled. “True. But I am informed that you have a--a family...”
The surgeon moistened his lips. His Emma--they would hurt his Emma ... and his little Rose. But he must be brave, as Emma would have him be. He was playing for high stakes--for all of them. “They cannot be worse off dead,” he answered firmly, “than they are now.”
It was many hours before the Leader was convinced that Lans could not be budged. He should have known--the surgeon had learned fortitude at his mother’s breast.
“What is your fee?”
“A passport for myself and my family.”
“My personal fortune restored to me--”
“--to be paid in gold before I operate!”
The Leader started to object automatically, then checked himself quickly. Let the presumptuous fool think so! It could be corrected after the operation.
“And the operation to take place in a hospital on foreign soil.”
“I must insist.”
“You do not trust me?”
Lans stared straight back into his eyes without replying. The Leader struck him, hard, across the mouth. The surgeon made no effort to avoid the blow, but took it, with no change of expression.
“YOU ARE WILLING TO GO THROUGH WITH IT, SAMUEL?” The younger man looked at Doctor Lans without fear as he answered,
“I can not guarantee that you will recover. The Leader’s pituitary gland is diseased; when I exchange it for your healthy one your younger one may not be able to stand up under it--that is the chance you take. Besides--a complete transplanting has never been done before.”
“I know it--but I’m out of the concentration camp!”
“Yes. Yes, that is true. And if you do recover, you are free. And I will attend you myself, until you are well enough to travel.”
Samuel smiled. “It will be a positive joy to be sick in a country where there are no concentration camps!”
“Very well, then. Let us commence.”
They returned to the silent, nervous group at the other end of the room. Grimly the money was counted out, every penny that the famous surgeon had laid claim to before the Leader had decided that men of his religion had no need for money. Lans placed half of the gold in a money belt and strapped it around his waist. His wife concealed the other half somewhere about her ample person.