The darkness had fallen quickly, as it did this time of year. Wind lanced under Helen’s petticoats, raising goose bumps on her thighs. She increased her already brisk pace until she almost trotted, an uncomfortable feat in her high shoes. If not for the cold, she would have gone barefoot.
As she passed the damaged church at the edge of town, she felt marginally safer. She saw a few other pedestrians on the street and she slacked her pace so that she would not draw attention. After all, nothing was actually wrong. But her cheeks flamed red not merely from the cold. She cast a quick glance behind to make sure nobody followed.
What kind of animals did those Hawleys employ? It was one thing to flirt, but the way the hired hands had leered made her feel like a side of beef. Oh, they were thoroughly disgusting! She did not care how her patient might rant, she swore she would deliver no more messages to the Hawley farm.
Helen entered the Watson house through the rear door and stood near the wood stove to thaw. Several seconds passed before she heard thumping through the ceiling. She flew to the stairs and launched herself up them two by two. When she raced through the doorway into Mr. Watson’s bedroom, she was not ready for the sight before her.
Madge perched on Watson’s chest, dropping her weight onto him and letting out a terrified little sigh between compressions. She turned her panicked face to the doorway, and almost laughed with relief at seeing Helen. “Oh, please, Helen. I’m so scared.”
“Keep doing what you’re doing.” Helen stepped up to the edge of the bed and leaned over. She pulled Watson’s head back and elevated his mouth. “Okay, stop.” Then she clamped his nostrils shut and covered his mouth with her own. Just as Watson had instructed, she blew into the old man. Again. Then without looking up, she said to Madge, “Now you go.”
When Madge had finished, Helen again blew hard into the old man’s lungs. They went on like this for several minutes until Helen said, “Stop.” She placed her ear against her patient’s chest. What was that? She held her breath to hear. Yes. She heard something.
She knelt at the side of the bed and examined Watson’s face. She licked one of her fingers and placed it under his nose. Yes, he was breathing. By himself.
“When did this happen, Madge?”
“Right after you left. He called. I been doing this ever since.”
Helen had never seen the younger woman’s face so pale. “You did well. You saved his life.”
Madge got off the bed and threw herself into the nurse’s arms, burying her face in the taller woman’s coat. “I was so scared, Helen. I don’t ever want to do that again.”
“It’s okay, Madgie. You go make us some tea and I’ll watch him. You did real fine.”
After the maid left, Helen removed her coat and draped it across the chair under the window. Then she sat on the edge of the bed and picked up Watson’s hand to monitor his pulse. His flesh felt as cold as her own.