The roof fell in. A great crash and a spouting fire of flame. An eternity, and then he emerged like one of the three prophets from the fiery furnace. Only he was not a Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego. He was not fashioned from providential asbestos. He was vulnerable. They carried him to a near-by house. His head had been wonderfully smashed by the falling roof. His eyebrows and hair were left behind in the smother of flame. He was fire-licked from toe to heel. He was raving. But the child was safe. And that wreck and that rescue went down in history.
For weeks Garrison was in the hospital. It was very like the rehearsal of a past performance. He was completely out of his head. It was all very like the months he put in at Bellevue in the long ago, before he had experienced the hunger-cancer and compromised with honesty.
And again there came nights when doctors shook their heads and nurses looked grave; nights when it was understood that before another dawn had come creeping through the windows little Billy Garrison would have crossed the Big Divide; nights when the shibboleths of a dead-and-gone life were even fluttering on his lips; nights when names but not identities fought with one another for existence; fought for birth, for supremacy, and “Sue” always won; nights when he sat up in bed as he had sat up in Bellevue long ago, and with tense hands and blazing eyes fought out victory on the stretch. Horrible, horrible nights; surcharged with the frenzy and unreality of a nightmare.
And one of his audience who seldom left the narrow cot was a man who had come to look for a friend among the wreck victims; come and found him not. He had chanced to pass Garrison’s cot. And he had remained.
Came a night at last when stamina and hope and grit won the long, long fight. The crisis was turned. The demons, defeated, who had been fighting among themselves for the possession of Garrison’s mind, reluctantly gave it back to him. And, moreover, they gave it back—intact. The part they had stolen that night in the Hoffman House was replaced.
This restoration the doctors subsequently called by a very learned and mysterious name. They gave an esoteric explanation redounding greatly to the credit of the general medical and surgical world. It was something to the effect that the initial blow Garrison had received had forced a piece of bone against the brain in such a manner as to defy mere man’s surgery. This had caused the lapse of memory.
Then had come the second blow that night of the wreck. Where man had failed, nature had stepped in and operated successfully. Her methods had been crude, but effective. The unscientific blow on the head had restored the dislodged bone to its proper place. The medical world was highly pleased over this manifestation of nature’s surgical skill, and appeared to think that she had operated under its direction. And nature never denied it.