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Action Front Boyd Cable

A Fragment

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The frown cleared for an instant and the eloquent eyes appeared to smile, as indeed the lad might well have smiled at the thought that anyone could "hurt" such a bundle of pain. But although it appeared quite evident that Ruthven did not want morphia, the doctor in his wisdom decreed otherwise, and the jolting journey down the rough shell-torn road, and the longer but smoother journey in the sweetly-sprung motor ambulance, were accomplished in sleep.

When he wakened again to consciousness he lay for some time looking about him, moving only his eyes and very slowly his head. He took in the canvas walls and roof of the big hospital marquee, the scarlet-blanketed beds, the flitting figures of a couple of silent-footed Sisters, the screens about two of the beds; the little clump of figures, doctor, orderlies, and Sister, stooped over another bed. Presently he caught the eye of a Sister as she passed swiftly the foot of his bed, and she, seeing the appealing look, the barely perceptible upward twitch of his head that was all he could do to beckon, stopped and turned, and moved quickly to his side. She smoothed the pillow about his head and the sheets across his shoulders, and spoke softly.

"I wonder if there is anything you want?" she said. "You can't tell me, can you? just close your eyes a minute if there is anything I can do. Shut them for yes--keep them open for no."

The eyes closed instantly, opened, and stared upward at her.

"Is it the pain?" she said. "Is it very dreadful?"

The eyes held steady and unflickering upon hers. She knew well that there they did not speak truth, and that the pain must indeed be very dreadful.

"We can stop the pain, you know," she said "Is that what you want?"

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The steady unwinking eyes answered "No" again, and to add emphasis to it the bandaged head shook slowly from side to side on the pillow.

The Sister was puzzled; she could find out what he wanted, of course, she was confident of that; but it might take some time and many questions, and time just then was something that she or no one else in the big clearing hospital could find enough of for the work in their hands. Even then urgent work was calling her; so she left him, promising to come again as soon as she could.

She spoke to the doctor, and presently he came back with her to the bedside. "It's marvelous," he said in a low tone to the Sister, "that he has held on to life so long."

Private Ruthven's wounds had been dressed there on arrival, before he woke out of the morphia sleep, and the doctor had seen and knew.

"There is nothing we can do for him," he said, "except morphia again, to ease him out of his pain."

But again the boy, his brow wrinkling with the effort, attempted with his bandaged hand to stay the needle in the doctor's fingers.

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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