Today's Beautiful Gem: "Birth"-- A passage from `The Citadel' by A.J. Cronin

" `Get me hot water and cold water,' he threw out to the nurse.
`And basins too. Quick! Quick!'
`But, Doctor--' she faltered, her eyes on the pallid body of the
child. `Quick!' he shouted.

Snatching a blanket he laid the child upon it and began the special
method of respiration. The basins arrived, the ewer, the big iron
kettle. Frantically he splashed cold water into one basin; into
the other he mixed water as hot as his hand could bear. Then, like
some crazy juggler, he hurried the child between the two, now
plunging into the icy, now into the steamy bath. Fifteen minutes
passed. Sweat was now running into Andrew's eyes, blinding him.
One of his sleeves hung down, dripping. His breath came pantingly.
But no breath came from the lax body of the child. A desperate
sense of defeat passed on him, a raging hopelessness. He felt the
midwife watching him in stark concentration, while there pressed
back against the wall where she had all the time remained,-- her
hand pressed to her throat, uttering no sound, her eyes burning
upon him,-- was the old woman. He remembered her longing for a
grandchild, as great as had been her daughter's longing for this
child. All dashed away now; futile, beyond remedy...

The floor was now a draggled mess. Stumbling over a sopping towel,
Andrew almost dropped this child, which was now wet and slippery in
his hands, like a strange white fish.

`For mercy's sake, Doctor,' whimpered the midwife. `It's still-
born.' Andrew did not heed her. Beaten, despairing, having laboured
in vain for half an hour, he still persisted in one last effort,
rubbing the child with a rough towel, crushing and releasing the
little chest with both his hands, trying to get breath into that
limp body. And then, as by a miracle, the pigmy chest, which his
hands enclosed, gave a short cunvulsive heave. Another... And
another... Andrew turned giddy. The sense of life, springing
beneath his fingers after all that unavailing striving, was so
exquisite it almost made him faint. He redoubled his efforts
feverishly. The child was gasping now, deeper and deeper. A bubble
of mucus came from one tiny nostril, a joyful iridescent bubble.
The limbs were no longer boneless. The head no longer lay back
spinelessly. The blanched skin was slowly turning pink. Then,
exquistely, came the child's cry.

`Dear Father in Heaven,' the nurse sobbed hysterically, 'It's
come-- it's come alive.'"

Om Santih! Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao