“Zounds! the old man dying! Yes, I’ll go directly,” said the watchman, moving off. He had been on the beat twenty years, and felt an individual interest in all those whose property and lives he guarded. Then May, thankful for his promptness, remembered to have heard that ice applications to the head were good in cases like this, and rushing back into the yard, she groped her way to the rain-barrel, and stooping over, seized the jagged edges of the ice, which she had broken that very day, and tearing it away from the sides, hastened back, and up to the chamber of death, with her prize in her bleeding hands. Stripping a case from a pillow, she threw in the ice—pounded it with the tongs—shook it together, and lifting up her uncle’s insensible head, laid the icy pillow under it, and gathered the ends over his forehead, as well as she could. Then she chafed his hands, exclaiming all the time, “Merciful Jesus, pity him! Merciful Jesus, help me, and strengthen me!” But his breathing became more and more difficult, and his limbs began to be agitated with horrible convulsions. A sudden thought suggested itself. She untied her silk apron, tore off the strings—ripped up the sleeve of Mr. Stillinghast’s shirt, and wound the ribbon tightly around his arm above the elbow; and while waiting for the vein to swell, she took a small penknife from her pocket, and opened the blade—it was thin, keen, and pointed. She had found it among her father’s papers years ago, and kept it about her to scrape the points of her ivory knitting-needles. In another moment, invoking the aid of Heaven, she had made an incision in the vein. A few black drops of blood trickled down—then more; then fast and faster flowed the dark stream over her dress, on the floor, for she could not move—her strength was ebbing away. Presently the brain of the stricken man, relieved of the pressure on it, began to resume its functions; the spasms and convulsions ceased, and a low moan escaped his lips. At that moment the watchman, accompanied by a physician, entered the room, and May remembered nothing more.
When May recovered, she looked around her with an alarmed and bewildered feeling. The darkened, tossed-up room; the stranger watching beside her; the pale, silent form on the bed, so motionless that the bed-clothes had settled around it like a winding-sheet, were all so much like the continuation of a dreadful dream, that she shuddered, and lifted herself up on her elbow.
“You are better?” inquired a kind voice.
“Have I been ill?” she asked.
“Not ill, exactly,” replied the doctor; “you fainted just as I came in with the watchman to your assistance.” Then she remembered it all.
“How is my uncle now, sir?” said May, sitting up, and with a modest blush gathering up the masses of dark hair which had fallen from her comb.