He heard her draw her breath sharply and make some exclamation as his bare back turned to the light.
“This chap has been to the wars, eh, Miss Gower?” he heard the man say. “Those are machine-gun marks, I should say—close range, too. I saw plenty of that after the Argonne.”
“Such scars. How could a man live with holes like that through his body?” Betty said. “He was in the air force.”
“Some Hun got in a burst of fire on him, sometime, then,” the man commented. “Didn’t get him, either, or he wouldn’t be here. Why, two or three bullet holes like that would only put a fellow out for a few weeks. Look at him,” he tapped MacRae’s back with a forefinger. “Shoulders and chest and arms like a champion middle weight ready to go twenty rounds. And you can bet all your pin money, Miss Gower, that this man’s heart and lungs and nerves are away above par or he would never have got his wings. Takes a lot to down those fellows. Looks in bad shape now, doesn’t he? All cut and bruised and exhausted. But he’ll be walking about day after to-morrow. A little stiff and sore, but otherwise well enough.”
“I wish he’d open his eyes and speak,” Betty said. “How can you tell? He may be injured internally.”
The man chuckled. He did not cease work as he talked. He was using a damp cloth, with a pungent medicated smell. Dual odors familiar to every man who has ever been in hospital assailed MacRae’s nostrils. Wherever that damp cloth touched a cut it burned. MacRae listened drowsily. He had not the strength or the wish to do anything else.
“Heart action’s normal. Respiration and temperature, ditto,” he heard above him. “Unconsciousness is merely natural reaction from shock, nerve strain, loss of blood. You can guess what sort of fight he must have made in those breakers. If you were a sawbones, Miss Gower, you wouldn’t be uneasy. I’ll stake my professional reputation on his injuries being superficial. Quite enough to knock a man out, I grant. But a physique of this sort can stand a tremendous amount of strain without serious effect. Hand me that adhesive, will you, please?”
There was an air of unreality about the whole proceeding in MacRae’s mind. He wondered if he would presently wake up in his bunk opposite Steve and find that he had been dreaming. Yet those voices, and the hands that shifted him tenderly, and the pyjama coat that was slipped on him at last, were not the stuff of dreams. No, the lights of the Arrow, the smash of the collision, the tumbling seas which had flung him against the rocks, the dead weight of Steve’s body in his bleeding arms, were not illusions.