“You must not do that,” the girl insisted. I noticed now that she kept her back to the wreck, her eyes averted. “The weight of the traveling-bag must be agony. Let me support the valise until we get back a few yards. Then you must lie down until we can get it cut off.”
“Will it have to be cut off?” I asked as calmly as possible. There were red-hot stabs of agony clear to my neck, but we were moving slowly away from the track.
“Yes,” she replied, with dumfounding coolness. “If I had a knife I could do it myself. You might sit here and lean against this fence.”
By that time my returning faculties had realized that she was going to cut off the satchel, not the arm. The dizziness was leaving and I was gradually becoming myself.
“If you pull, it might come,” I suggested. “And with that weight gone, I think I will cease to be five feet eleven inches of baby.”
She tried gently to loosen the handle, but it would not move, and at last, with great drops of cold perspiration over me, I had to give up.
“I’m afraid I can’t stand it,” I said. “But there’s a knife somewhere around these clothes, and if I can find it, perhaps you can cut the leather.”
As I gave her the knife she turned it over, examining it with a peculiar expression, bewilderment rather than surprise. But she said nothing. She set to work deftly, and in a few minutes the bag dropped free.
“That’s better,” I declared, sitting up. “Now, if you can pin my sleeve to my coat, it will support the arm so we can get away from here.”
“The pin might give,” she objected, “and the jerk would be terrible.” She looked around, puzzled; then she got up, coming back in a minute with a draggled, partly scorched sheet. This she tore into a large square, and after she had folded it, she slipped it under the broken arm and tied it securely at the back of my neck.
The relief was immediate, and, picking up the sealskin bag, I walked slowly beside her, away from the track.
The first act was over: the curtain fallen. The scene was “struck.”
THE HALCYON BREAKFAST
We were still dazed, I think, for we wandered like two troubled children, our one idea at first to get as far away as we could from the horror behind us. We were both bareheaded, grimy, pallid through the grit. Now and then we met little groups of country folk hurrying to the track: they stared at us curiously, and some wished to question us. But we hurried past them; we had put the wreck behind us. That way lay madness.
Only once the girl turned and looked behind her. The wreck was hidden, but the smoke cloud hung heavy and dense. For the first time I remembered that my companion had not been alone on the train.
“It is quiet here,” I suggested. “If you will sit down on the bank I will go back and make some inquiries. I’ve been criminally thoughtless. Your traveling companion—”