MacRae held his hand over Steve’s heart, over his mouth to feel if he breathed. Then he got Steve’s body between his legs to hold him from slipping away, and bracing himself against the sodden lurch of the wreck, began to take off his clothes.
Between Sun and Sun
Walking when he could, crawling on hands and knees when his legs buckled under him, MacRae left a blood-sprinkled trail over grass and moss and fallen leaves. He lived over and over that few minutes which had seemed so long, in which he had been battered against broken rocks, in which he had clawed over weedy ledges armored with barnacles that cut like knives, hauling Steve Ferrara’s body with him so that it should not become the plaything of the tides. MacRae was no stranger to death. He had seen it in many terrible forms. He had heard the whistle of the invisible scythe that cuts men down. He knew that Steve was dead when he dragged him at last out of the surf, up where nothing but high-flung drops of spray could reach him. He left him there on a mossy ledge, knowing that he could do nothing more for Steve Ferrara and that he must do something for himself. So he came at last to the end of that path which led to his own house and crept and stumbled up the steps into the deeper darkness of those hushed, lonely rooms.
MacRae knew he had suffered no vital hurt, no broken bones. But he had been fearfully buffeted among those sea-drenched rocks, bruised from head to foot, shocked by successive blows. He had spent his strength to keep the sea from claiming Steve. He had been unmercifully slashed by the barnacles. He was weak from loss of blood, and he was bleeding yet, in oozy streams,—face, hands, shoulders, knees, wherever those lance-edged shells had raked his flesh.
He was sick and dizzy. But he could still think and act. He felt his way to matches on a kitchen shelf, staggered into his bedroom, lit a lamp. Out of a dresser drawer he took clean white cloth, out of another carbolic acid. He got himself a basin of water.
He sat down on the edge of his bed. As he tore the first strip of linen things began to swim before his eyes. He sagged back on a pillow. The room and the lamp and all that was near him blended in a misty swirl. He had the extraordinary sensation of floating lightly in space that was quiet and profoundly dark—and still he was cloudily aware of footsteps ringing hollow on the bare floor of the other room.
He became aware—as if no interval had elapsed—of being moved, of hands touching him, of a stinging sensation of pain which he understood to be the smarting of the cuts in his flesh. But time must have gone winging by, he knew, as his senses grew clearer. He was stripped of his sodden, bloody undershirt and overalls, partly covered by his blanket. He could feel bandages on his legs, on one badly slashed arm.