Alfred Clarke lay between life and death. Miller's knife-thrust, although it had made a
deep and dangerous wound, had not pierced any vital part; the amount of blood lost
made Alfred's condition precarious. Indeed, he would not have lived through that first
day but for a wonderful vitality. Col. Zane's wife, to whom had been consigned the
delicate task of dressing the wound, shook her head when she first saw the direction of
the cut. She found on a closer examination that the knife-blade had been deflected by a
rib, and had just missed the lungs. The wound was bathed, sewed up, and bandaged,
and the greatest precaution taken to prevent the sufferer from loosening the linen. Every
day when Mrs. Zane returned from the bedside of the young man she would be met at
the door by Betty, who, in that time of suspense, had lost her bloom, and whose pale
face showed the effects of sleepless nights.
"Betty, would you mind going over to the Fort and relieving Mrs. Martin an hour or two?"
said Mrs. Zane one day as she came home, looking worn and weary. "We are both tired
to death, and Nell Metzar was unable to come. Clarke is unconscious, and will not know
you, besides he is sleeping now."
Betty hurried over to Capt. Boggs' cabin, next the blockhouse, where Alfred lay, and
with a palpitating heart and a trepidation wholly out of keeping with the brave front she
managed to assume, she knocked gently on the door.
"Ah, Betty, 'tis you, bless your heart," said a matronly little woman who opened the door.
"Come right in. He is sleeping now, poor fellow, and it's the first real sleep he has had.
He has been raving crazy forty-eight hours."
"Mrs. Martin, what shall I do?" whispered Betty.
"Oh, just watch him, my dear," answered the elder woman.
"If you need me send one of the lads up to the house for me. I shall return as soon as I
can. Keep the flies away--they are bothersome--and bathe his head every little while. If
he wakes and tries to sit up, as he does sometimes, hold him back. He is as weak as a
cat. If he raves, soothe him by talking to him. I must go now, dearie."
Betty was left alone in the little room. Though she had taken a seat near the bed where
Alfred lay, she had not dared to look at him. Presently conquering her emotion, Betty
turned her gaze on the bed. Alfred was lying easily on his back, and notwithstanding the
warmth of the day he was covered with a quilt. The light from the window shone on his
face. How deathly white it was! There was not a vestige of color in it; the brow looked
like chiseled marble; dark shadows underlined the eyes, and the whole face was
expressive of weariness and pain.