The big, husky plainsmen undressed him with the tenderness of women, and did their best with the help of Aunt Becky, to take care of his wounds temporarily. After these had been dressed Phyllis and the old colored woman took charge of the nursing and dismissed all the men but Yeager.
It would be many hours before Doctor Brown arrived, and it took no critical eyes to see that this man was stricken low. All the supple strength and gay virility were out of him. Three of the bullets had torn through him. In her heavy heart the girl believed he was going to die. While Yeager was out of the room she knelt down by the bedside, unashamed, and asked for his life as she had never prayed for anything before.
By this time his fever was high and he was wandering in his head. The wild look of delirium was in his eyes, and faint weak snatches of irrelevant speech on his lips. His moans stabbed her heart. There was nothing she could do for him but watch and wait and pray. But what little was to be done in the way of keeping his hot head cool with wet towels her own hands did jealously. Jim and Aunt Becky waited on her while she waited on the sick man.
About midnight the doctor rode up. All day and most of the night before he had been in the saddle. Cuffs had found him across the divide, nearly forty miles away, working over a boy who had been bitten by a rattlesnake. But he brought into the sick room with him that manner of cheerful confidence which radiates hope. You could never have guessed that he was very tired, nor, after the first few minutes, did he know it himself. He lost himself in his case, flinging himself into the breach to turn the tide of what had been a losing battle.
YEAGER RIDES TO NOCHES
Jim Yeager had not watched through the long day and night with Phyllis without discovering how deeply her feelings were engaged. His unobtrusive readiness and his constant hopefulness had been to her a tower of strength during the quiet, dreadful hours before the doctor came.
Once, during the night, she had followed him into the dark hall when he went out to get some fresh cold water, and had broken down completely.
“Is he—is he going to die?” she besought of him, bursting into tears for the first time.
Jim patted her shoulder awkwardly. “Now, don’t you, Phyl. You got to buck up and help pull him through. Course he’s shot up a heap, but then a man like him can stand a lot of lead in his body. There aren’t any of these wounds in a vital place. Chief trouble is he’s lost so much blood. That’s where his clean outdoor life comes in to help build him up. I’ll bet Doc Brown pulls him through.”
“Are you just saying that, Jim, or do you really think so?”
“I’m saying it, and I think it. There’s a whole lot in gaming a thing out. What we’ve got to do is to think he’s going to make it. Once we give up, it will be all off.”