I was faint and sick and dizzy,
From my shattered, bleeding hand,
And it seemed as if the jolting
Gave me more than I could stand.
Once I reeled, and would have fallen,
If you hadn’t held me there;
Put your dear arm tight around me,
Whispered, “Billy, don’t you care.”
Then you headed straight for water,
Threw the lines, dismounted first,
Smoothed the grass down for my pillow,
While the hosses quenched their thirst.
Then you bathed my throbbing forehead,—
Love and healing in the touch,—
Sayin’, “Billy, pardner, listen:
That there shootin’ wasn’t much!”
From your skirt you tore a piece out,
Dressed my wounds so neat and quick,
That I felt the Lord had sent you
Just to soothe and heal the sick.
Bringing back a hat of water,
Through the dim light and the rain,
Thought I saw your face turn paler,
Like you felt a twinge o’ pain;
But as you knelt down beside me
I could hear you humming low
Some mysterious song, stopped short by,
“Billy, man, we sure must go!”
And the sun turned loose his glory,
Through the tempest-riven sky,
Till it touched us like a blessing
From the Father there on high.
I am standing by her dug-out;
Open swings the sagging door,
Every grassblade speaks of Nancy;
But she’s gone, to come no more,
For her father and her mother,
And her brothers, late last night,
Loaded up their prairie schooner,
And vamoosed the ranch, ’fore light.
There’s the bed poles and the stove hole;
Not a thing is left for me,
As a keepsake of my Nancy,
Anywhere that I can see.
What! a paper, pinned up yonder,
Kind o’ folded like a note!
It has writin’, sure as blazes!
It is somethin’ Nancy wrote.
“My dere billy, you will wunder
Why I ever rote you this;
I am sorry I am leevin
Daddie needs me in his biz.
I don’t reely like this quiet
Kind of sober farmer life;
I like something allus doin,
But for this, I’d be your wife.
I got two of old Jim’s bullets,
Didn’t like to let you know,
Cause the one that you was luggin’
Seemed to fret and hurt you so.
Daddie cut them out that evenin;
I don’t mind a little such,
But, dere billy, don’t you worry,
Old Jim’s shootin wasn’t much.”
Since that girl went off and left me,
I can’t plan just what to do.
Saw Tom Frothingham this mornin’,
He says Johnson’s gone off, too.
My old mother used to tell me,
When I lagged at any task,
“Keep on working, do no shirking,
You will bring the thing to pass.”
That advice has been my motto:
Everything that I’ve begun,
I’ve stayed with it, sick or weary,
Till the job was squarely done.
But this case is kind o’ different;
Though I ain’t the kind that grieves,
How you goin’ to work that motto
When the job gets up and leaves?