Betty Gordon at Mountain Camp/Chapter 19

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"Poor Hunchie!" murmured Ida Bellethorne. "I hope it wasn't because he was surprised to see me that he fell."

"His surprise did not make that timber slippery with ice," said Betty, looking up. "Oh! Here's a lady!"

A comfortable looking woman with a shawl over her head was hurrying from the kitchen door of the Candace farmhouse.

"What has happened to that poor man? He's been battered and kicked about so much, it would seem, there ain't much can happen to him that he hasn't already suffered.

"Ah! Poor fellow!" she added, stooping over the senseless Hunchie. "What a deal of trouble some folks seem bound to have. And not another man on the place!"

She stood up again and stared at the three girls. Her broad, florid face was all creased with trouble now, but Betty thought she must ordinarily be a very cheerful woman indeed.

"They've gone chasing the young stock that broke away. Dear me! what is going to happen to this poor fellow? Bill and the rest may be gone for hours, and there's bones broke here, that's sure."

"Where's a doctor?" asked Bobby eagerly.

"Eleven miles away, my dear, if he's an inch. Dr. Pevy is the only man for a broken bone in these woods. Poor Hunchie!"

"Can't we get him into his bed?" asked Betty. "He'll freeze here."

"You're right," replied the woman, who afterward told them she was Mrs. Candace. "Yes, we'll take him into the house and put him into a good bed. Can you girls lift him?"

They could and did. And without too much effort the three transported the injured man, who was but a light weight, across the yard, into the house, and to a room which Mrs. Candace showed them. He began to groan and mutter before they managed to get him on the bed.

There was an old woman who helped Mrs. Candace in the house, and the two removed Hunchie's outer garments and made him as comfortable as possible while the girls waited in much excitement in the sitting room.

"He saw one of you girls and knows you," said Mrs. Candace, coming out of the bedroom. "But he talks about that mare, Ida Bellethorne."

"This is Ida Bellethorne," said Betty, pointing to the English girl.

"I declare! I thought Hunchie was out of his head. How comes you are named after that horse, girl?"

Ida explained her connection with the black mare and with Hunchie.

"You'd better go in and talk to him. Maybe it will ease his pain. But that shin bone is sticking right through the flesh of his leg. It's awful! And he's in terrible pain. If Bill don't come back soon——"

"Isn't there any man on the place?" asked Betty, interrupting.

"None but them with Bill hunting the young stock."

"And the boys—our friends—have gone with them," explained Betty. "Somebody must get the surgeon."

"How are we going to do it? The telephone wires are down," explained Mrs. Candace. "And there ain't a horse properly shod for traveling on this ice. I fear some of that young stock will break their legs."

"We saw them skating all over the road," said Bobby. "But how gay and excited they were!"

"A ridin' horse would have to go at a foot pace," explained Mrs. Candace, "unless it was sharpened. I don't know——"

Ida had gone into the bedroom to speak with the injured man. She looked out at this juncture and excitedly beckoned to Betty. Betty ran in to find the crooked little man looking even more crooked and pitiful than ever under the blankets. He was groaning and the perspiration stood on his forehead. That he was in exceeding pain there could be no doubt.

"He says Ida Bellethorne is sharpened," gasped Ida.

"Oh! You mean she is fixed to travel on ice or frozen ground?"

"I 'ad to lead 'er up 'ere from the station, Miss. 'Ain't I saw you before, Miss?" said Hunchie, staring at Betty. "At Mr. Bolter's?"

"Yes, yes!" cried Betty. "Can the mare travel on this hard snow?"

"Yes, ma'am. I didn't draw the calks for I exercised 'er each d'y, I did. I didn't want 'er to fall. An' now I falled myself!"

The two girls looked at each other significantly. Ida was easily led out of the room. Betty put the question to her.

"That's just it, Betty," said the English girl, almost in tears. "I never learned to ride. I never did ride. My nurse was afraid to let me learn when I was little, and although I love horses, I only know how to drive them. It's like a sailor never having learned to swim."

Betty beat her hands together in excitement. "Never mind! Never mind!" she cried. "I can ride. I can ride any horse. I am not afraid of your Ida Bellethorne. And none of the boys or men is here. I'll go for the doctor."

"I don't know if it is best for you to," groaned Ida.

"Call Mrs. Candace." They were in the kitchen, and Ida ran to summon the farm woman while Betty got into her coat. Mrs. Candace came, hurrying.

"What is this I hear?" she demanded. "I couldn't let you ride that horse. You will be thrown or something."

"No I shan't, Mrs. Candace. I can ride. And Hunchie says the mare is sharpened."

"So she is. I had forgotten," the woman admitted thoughtfully.

"And the poor fellow suffers so. Some lasting harm may be done if we don't get a surgeon quickly. Where does Dr. Pevy live?" demanded Betty urgently.

The fact that the injured hostler was really in great pain and possibly in some danger, caused Mrs. Candace finally to agree to the girl's demand. Betty ran out with Ida to get the mare and saddle her. Betty was not dressed properly for such a venture as this; but she wore warm undergarments and stout shoes.

The black mare was so gentle with all her spirit and fire that Betty did not feel any fear. She and Ida led the beautiful creature out upon the barn floor and found saddle and bridle for her. In ten minutes Betty was astride the mare and Ida led her out of the stable.

Mrs. Candace had already given Betty clear directions regarding the way to Dr. Pevy's; but she now stood on the door-stone and called repetitions of these directions after her.

Bobby waved her fur piece and shouted encouragement too. But Ida Bellethorne ran into the house to attend the injured Hunchie and did not watch Betty and the black mare out of sight as the others did.