Inside on a wooden bunk lay a young Indian woman. She had been trying to have her baby for two days. All the old women in the camp had been helping her. The men had moved off up the road to sit in the dark and smoke out of range of the noise she made. She screamed just as Nick and the two Indians followed his father and Uncle George into the shanty.
“Listen to me. What she is going through is called being in labor. The baby wants to be born and she wants it to be born. All her muscles are trying to get the baby born. That is what happening when she screams.”
“Oh, Daddy, can’t you give her something to make her stop screaming?” asked Nick.
“No. I haven’t any anesthetic,” his father said. “But her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important.”
“Those must boil,” he said, and began to scrub his hands in the basin of hot water with a cake of soap he had brought from the camp. Nick watched his father’s hand scrubbing each other with the soap. While his father washed his hands very carefully and thoroughly, he talked.
Later when he started to operate Uncle George and three Indian men held the woman still. She bit Uncle George on the arm and Uncle George said, “Damn squaw bitch!” and the young Indian who had rowed Uncle George over laughed at him.
“Now,” his father said, “there’s some stitches to put in. You can watch this or not, Nick, just as you like. I’m going to sew the incision I made.”
Nick did not watch. His curiosity had been gone for a long time.
He was feeling exalted and talkative as football players are in the dressing room after a game.
“That’s one for the medical journal, George,” he said. “Doing a Caesarian with a jack-knife and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders.”
Uncle George was standing against the wall, looking at his arm.
“Oh, you’re a great man, all right,” he said.
“Ought to have a look at the proud father. They’re usually the worst suffers in these little affairs,” the doctor said. “I must say he took it all pretty quietly.”[…]
The Indian lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear.
“Why did he kill himself, Daddy?”
“I don’t know, Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess.”
“Is dying hard, Daddy?”
“No, I think it’s pretty easy Nick. It all depends.”
They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills […] In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.