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Action Front Boyd Cable

A Fragment

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"I'm sure," said the Sister, "he doesn't want the morphia; he told me so, didn't you?" appealing to the boy.

The eyes shut and gripped tight in an emphatic answer, and the Sister explained their code.

"Listen!" she said gently. "The doctor will only give you enough to make you sleep for two or three hours, and then I shall have time to come and talk to you. Will that do!"

The unmoving eyes answered "No" again, and the doctor stood up.

"If he can bear it, Sister," he said, "we may as well leave him. I can't understand it, though. I know how those wounds must hurt."

They left him then, and he lay for another couple of hours, his eyes set on the canvas roof above his head, dropped for an instant to any passing figure, lifting again to their fixed position. The eyes and the mute appeal in them haunted the Sister, and half a dozen times, as she moved about the beds, she flitted over to him, just to drop a word that she had not forgotten and she was coming presently.

"You want me to talk to you, don't you?" she said. "There is something you want me to find out?"

"Yes--yes--yes," said the quickly flickering eyelids.

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The Sister read the label that was tied to him when he was brought in. She asked questions round the ward of those who were able to answer them, and sent an orderly to make inquiries in the other tents. He came back presently and reported the finding of another man who belonged to Ruthven's regiment and who knew him. So presently, when she was relieved from duty--the first relief for thirty-six solid hours of physical stress and heart-tearing strain--she went straight to the other tent and questioned the man who knew Private Ruthven. He had a hopelessly shattered arm, but appeared mightily content and amazingly cheerful. He knew Wally, he said, was in the same platoon with him; didn't know much about him except that he was a very decent sort; no, knew nothing about his people or his home, although he remembered--yes, there was a girl. Wally had shown him her photograph once, "and a real ripper she is too." Didn't know if Wally was engaged to her, or anything more about her, and certainly not her name.

The Sister went back to Wally. His wrinkled brow cleared at the sight of her, but she could see that the eyes were sunk more deeply in his head, that they were dulled, no doubt with his suffering.

"I'm going to ask you a lot of questions," she said, "and you'll just close your eyes again if I speak of what you want to tell me. You do want to tell me something, don't you?"

To her surprise, the "Yes" was not signaled back to her. She was puzzled a moment. "You want to ask me something?" she said.

"Yes," the eyelids flicked back.

"Is it about a girl?" she asked. ("No.")

"Is it about money of any sort?" ("No.")

"Is it about your mother, or your people, or your home? Is it about yourself?"

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Action Front
Boyd Cable

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