The woman—or man—who hesitates in the middle of a busy London street is lost: the cart was upon her before she had moved, the shaft struck her on the shoulder and down she went into the muddy road!
The driver jerked the horse aside, and leapt from his seat, the usual crowd, which seems to spring instantaneously from the very stones, collected and surged round, the usual policeman forced his way through, and Ida was picked up and carried to the pavement.
There was a patch of blood on the side of her head—the dear, small head which had rested on Stafford’s breast so often!—and she was unconscious.
“’Orse struck ’er with ’is ’oof,” said the policeman, sententiously. “’Ere, boy, call a keb. I’ll have your name and address, young man.”
A cab was brought, and Ida, still unconscious, was carried to the London Hospital.
And lay there, in the white, painfully clean, carbolic-smelling ward, attended by the most skillful doctors in England and by the grave and silent nurses, who, notwithstanding their lives of stress and toil, had not lost the capacity for pity and sympathy. Indeed, no one with a heart in her bosom could stand up unmoved and hear the girl moaning and crying in a whisper for “Stafford.”
Day and night the white lips framed the same name—Stafford, Stafford!—as if her soul were in the cry.
When Ida came to she found the sister of the ward and a young nurse bending over her with placid and smiling faces. Why a hospital nurse should under any and every circumstance be invariably cheerful is one of those mysteries worthy to rank with the problem contained in the fact that an undertaker is nearly always of a merry disposition.
Of course Ida asked the usual questions:
“Where am I?” and “How long have I been here?” and the sister told her that she was in the Alexandria ward of the London Hospital, and that she had been there, unconscious, for ten days.
The nurse smiled as if it were the best joke, in a mild way, in the world, and answered Ida’s further questions while she administered beef tea with an air of pride and satisfaction which made her plain and homely face seem angelic to Ida.
“You were knocked down by a cart, you know,” said Nurse Brown. “You weren’t badly injured, that is, no bones were broken, as is very often the case—that girl there in the next bed but two had one arm, one leg, and two ribs broken: mail cart; and that poor woman opposite, got both arms and a collar-bone broken—But I mustn’t harrow you with our bad cases,” she said, quickly, as Ida seemed to wince. “Of course you feel very strange—I suppose this is the first time you have been in a hospital ward?”
“Yes,” replied Ida, glancing round timidly.