The Breaking Point
When he finished medical college Dick Livingstone had found, like other men,
that the two paths of ambition and duty were parallel and did not meet. Along one
lay his desire to focus all his energy in one direction, to follow disease into the
laboratory instead of the sick room, and there to fight its unsung battles. And win.
He felt that he would win.
Along the other lay David.
It was not until he had completed his course and had come home that he had
realized that David was growing old. Even then he might have felt that, by the
time David was compelled to relinquish his hold on his practice, he himself would
be sufficiently established in his specialty to take over the support of the
household. But here there was interposed a new element, one he had not
counted on. David was fiercely jealous of his practice; the thought that it might
pass into new and alien hands was bitter to him. To hand it down to his adopted
son was one thing; to pass it over to "some young whipper-snapper" was
Nor were David's motives selfish or unworthy. His patients were his friends. He
had a sense of responsibility to them, and very little faith in the new modern
methods. He thought there was a great deal of tomfoolery about them, and he
viewed the gradual loss of faith in drugs with alarm. When Dick wore rubber
gloves during their first obstetric case together he snorted.
"I've delivered about half the population of this town," he said, "and slapped 'em
to make 'em breathe with my own bare hands. And I'm still here and so are they."
For by that time Dick had made his decision. He could not abandon David. For
him then and hereafter the routine of a general practice in a suburban town, the
long hours, the varied responsibilities, the feeling he had sometimes that by
doing many things passably he was doing none of them well. But for
compensation he had old David's content and greater leisure, and Lucy Crosby's
gratitude and love.
Now and then he chafed a little when he read some article in a medical journal by
one of his fellow enthusiasts, or when, in France, he saw men younger than
himself obtaining an experience in their several specialties that would enable
them to reach wide fields at home. But mostly he was content, or at least
resigned. He was building up the Livingstone practice, and his one anxiety was
lest the time should come when more patients asked for Doctor Dick than for
Doctor David. He did not want David hurt.
After ten years the strangeness of his situation had ceased to be strange. Always
he meant some time to go back to Norada, and there to clear up certain things,