Jane and Dozia were chafing Shirley’s hands. At the approach of the litter they stood waiting to lift with gentle hands the prostrate girl. It seemed so strangely pathetic: the big country girl in that gay riding habit, the glaring red coat such a contrast now to the helpless wearer. Her little velvet jockey cap still held on with its chin strap, and the new chamois gloves hiding her untamed hands were so strikingly new!
Few words were spoken as the rescuers met. Miss Rutledge gave quiet orders and these were carried out with intelligent care. Finally Shirley was on the canvas stretcher, and Jane was holding a restorative close to her nostrils.
“There, dear. It’s all done and you won’t move another bit now to hurt your head. See how steadily the girls carry you?”
Dozia held one hand opposite Jane’s side and the older students moved, over the uncertain hill, tense and powerful against a possible jolt or jarring movement of the patient. Once down on the path the task was less difficult, and as the corps turned back to take the path from the gateway into the grounds again, Shirley’s horse, standing by the post, whinnied after them. No one spoke, but Shirley put a gloved hand over her strained eyes, and it was plain she feared even the sound of the faithful animal’s call to her.
At the infirmary Dr. Pawley was waiting, and quickly as they reached the big white room the students were dismissed, while he and his nurse took charge.
“Judy,” Jane gulped, but before they could reach a secluded spot her tense nerves gave way.
“Judy! Judy!” she cried. “Why didn’t we try to save her from those reckless strangers? Why didn’t we beg her to give up the company of Dolorez Vincez?”
“But we did, Janie. We tried every possible way,” consoled Judith. “This accident could happen to anyone—to a skilled rider as well as to a beginner. Besides—she will be all right. See how quickly she became fully conscious!”
“But to think—” Jane’s words were lost in choking sobs, and for the first time Judith saw what genuine grief could do to sunny little Jane Allen.
Wisely her companion allowed the storm to beat itself out. That sort of hysteria is always best spent unchecked, and Judith Stearns merely stroked the red gold head that had buried itself in her lap, while the shoulders pulsed and throbbed under Jane’s continuous sobbing. At last she raised her head and smiled piteously.
“I feel better,” she said. “It’s awful to have that sort of thing clutch at one’s throat. Now my weakness has passed, let us see if there is anything wanted. Hereafter I shall not trust dad’s scholarship girl to strangers’ handling.” And she meant every word she said.
Quickly the news of the accident spread, and gust as quickly came the keen suspense and wave of suppressed excitement. Rumors were whispered: first that the victim was in danger of death, next that her injuries were not serious, until even the most sensational among the many pupils realized the importance of withholding their opinions.