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"Papa! papa! there is an accident on the line!" cried Miss Fordyce, running into her father's study, where he sat surrounded with books. "I saw it from the door!"
"Hush!" returned the old man, and listened. "I hear the train going on," he said, after a moment.
"Part of it is come to grief, I am certain," answered his daughter. "I saw something fall."
"Well, my dear?"
"What shall we do?"
"What would you have us do?" rejoined her father, without a movement toward rising. "It is too far off for us to be of any use."
"We ought to go and see."
"I am not fond of such seeing, Alexa, and will not go out of my way for it. The misery I can not avoid is enough for me."
But Alexa was out of the room, and in a moment more was running, in as straight a line as she could keep, across the heath to the low embankment. Andrew caught sight of her running. He could not see the line, but convinced that something was the matter, turned and ran in the same direction.
It was a hard and long run for Alexa, over such ground. Troubled at her father's indifference, she ran the faster--too fast for thinking, but not too fast for the thoughts that came of themselves. What had come to her father? Their house was the nearest! She could not shut out the conviction that, since succeeding to the property, he had been growing less and less neighborly.
She had caught up a bottle of brandy, which impeded her running. Yet she made good speed, her dress gathered high in the other hand. Her long dark hair broken loose and flying in the wind, her assumed dignity forgotten, and only the woman awake, she ran like a deer over the heather, and in little more than a quarter of an hour, though it was a long moor-mile, reached the embankment, flushed and panting.
Some of the carriages had rolled down, and the rails were a wreck. But the engine and half the train had kept on: neither driver nor stoker was hurt, and they were hurrying to fetch help from the next station. At the foot of the bank lay George Crawford insensible, with the guard of the train doing what he could to bring him to consciousness. He was on his back, pale as death, with no motion and scare a sign of life.
Alexa tried to give him brandy, but she was so exhausted, and her hand shook so, that she had to yield the bottle to the guard, and, hale and strong as she was, could but drag herself a little apart before she fainted.
In the meantime, as the train approached the station, the driver, who belonged to the neighborhood, saw the doctor, slackened speed, and set his whistle shrieking wildly. The doctor set spurs to his horse, and came straight over everything to his side.
"You go on," he said, having heard what had happened; "I shall be there sooner than you could take me."
He came first upon Andrew trying to make Miss Fordyce swallow a little of the brandy.
"There's but one gentleman hurt, sir," said the guard. "The other's only a young lady that's run till she's dropped."
"To bring brandy," supplemented Andrew.
The doctor recognized Alexa, and wondered what reception her lather would give his patient, for to Potlurg he must go! Suddenly she came to herself, and sat up, gazing wildly around. "Out of breath, Miss Fordyce; nothing worse!" said the doctor, and she smiled.
He turned to the young man, and did for him what he could without splints or bandages; then, with the help of the guard and Andrew, constructed, from pieces of the broken carriages, a sort of litter on which to carry him to Potlurg.
"Is he dead?" asked Alexa.
"Not a bit of it. He's had a bad blow on the head, though. We must get him somewhere as fast as we can!"
"Do you know him?"
"Not I. But we must take him to your house. I don't know what else to do with him!"
"What else should you want to do with him?"
"I was afraid it might bother the laird."
"You scarcely know my father, Doctor Pratt!"
"It would bother most people to have a wounded man quartered on them for weeks!" returned the doctor. "Poor fellow! A good-looking fellow too!"
A countryman who had been in the next carriage, but had escaped almost unhurt, offering his service, Andrew and he took up the litter gently, and set out walking with care, the doctor on one side, leading his horse, and Miss Fordyce on the other.
It was a strange building to which, after no small anxiety, they drew near; nor did it look the less strange the nearer they came. It was unsheltered by a single tree; and but for a low wall and iron rail on one side, inclosing what had been a garden, but was now a grass-plot, it rose straight out of the heather. From this plot the ground sloped to the valley, and was under careful cultivation. The entrance to it was closed with a gate of wrought iron, of good workmanship, but so wasted with rust that it seemed on the point of vanishing. Here at one time had been the way into the house; but no door, and scarce a window, was now to be seen on this side of the building. It was very old, and consisted of three gables, a great half-round between two of them, and a low tower with a conical roof.
Crawford had begun to recover consciousness, but when he came to himself he was received by acute pain. The least attempt to move was torture, and again he fainted.
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