(Miss Minnie Vining, spinster of Boston, is visiting relatives in Richmond, Virginia – and acting as a chaperone for her very much younger cousin, who is being courted by none other than the very raffish Pres Devereaux. On an excursion out into the countryside to look at the summer wildflowers, they are involved in a dreadful carriage accident.)

She couldn’t breathe. All the air was sent from her lungs by the force of that fall over the side of Mr. Devereaux’s Tilbury gig. A constellation of exploding stars blotted out the sky overhead, and Minnie felt herself suspended between not being able to draw a breath and a white-hot agony exploding up to her shoulder and down to her hand, and from her head, which had struck the road with cruel force. Somewhere, a woman was crying out in alarm. She sounded very young, panicky – Minnie felt herself lifted, as limp and powerless as a rag doll in the grip of something. She couldn’t think, only felt – and what she felt was pain, pain and more pain.
“Miss Minnie! Wake up, open your eyes – speak to me!” a voice begged – a somehow familiar voice. A man. Authoritative … and for some curious reason, frantic in concern.
Minnie obeyed the command to open her eyes, although her sight was somewhat baffled by … oh, yes, the brim of her bonnet, now crushed and disarranged, and a flood of something sticky and warm on her face, wetting the collar of her dress. And this was the countenance of … oh, yes – she fished in her dis-jangled memory for a name. Mr. Devereaux, the handsome and raffish adventurer … presently courting the very young Charlotte Edmonds.
Yes. She was supposed to have been their watchful chaperone.
Minnie struggled to recall – yes, an aggravating and contrary man, a whirligig of opinions posed for nothing more than to harass and torment … but he … he was a man … and Minnie fished for knowledge and insight in her present torment.
A man who waged a war on a chessboard and was the most gallant when losing to a mere woman.
“She’s bleeding so awfully!” the younger voice exclaimed in horror – Charlotte; yes, that was Charlotte, daubing ineffectually at Minnie’s forehead with a dainty handkerchief smeared horribly red. Mr. Devereaux replied,
“Her head struck a large rock on the ground, I believe – and it is well known that such injuries always bleed out of all proportion … Miss Minnie, please speak to us!”
“Wha … h’ppened?” Minnie stumbled over the words. It hurt to speak.
“A runaway team, on the road!” Charlotte exclaimed. “The driver could not control them – he had fallen from the wagon, and the wagon struck Mr. Devereaux’s gig … they kept on going! And now the wheel is utterly smashed! What are we to do, Mr. Devereaux? What are we to do, since we are all this way from town? Surely, Cousin Minnie needs a doctor at once!”

“Miss Edmonds, calm yourself, I beg you.” Mr. Devereaux sounded as if he barely maintained control of his emotions, Minnie thought through the pain in her head and shooting up her arm like bolts of white-hot lightning. “Take your shawl and spread it out on the grass over there … good. Miss Minnie – forgive me if this causes you pain…”
“Hurts,” Minnie gasped, but with recovering her breath and voice. “My arm. The left. I … cannot move my fingers without pain … I fell with it under me…”
Mr. Devereaux’s strong fingers palpated Minnie’s arm, and the burst of white-hot lightning intensified, almost to the point of Minnie losing awareness entirely.
“I fear that one of the bones in your arm may be broken, my dear Miss Minnie!” he exclaimed in a whisper. “But I beg you – do not be stoic on my behalf. If you would cry out, or faint … I cannot bear that you would suffer in silence to spare my – our feelings. I would … Yes, Miss Edmonds – is Minnie’s shawl still in the gig? You must fetch it, girl – she must be wrapped closely, against the bodily cold that attends upon sudden injuries such as this. And find me … find me a straight stick, a length or branch sufficiently strong to construct a splint…”
Minnie felt a new warmth on her face as Charlotte bent over her – the girl was crying, and her tears splashed upon her own face. Useless! Minnie’s own intellect raged. Don’t be such a silly-billy, child! Do as Mr. Devereaux has asked, and be quick about it!
Now she felt herself to be lifted – Mr. Devereaux’s strong and steady arms underneath her shoulders and be knees both. He stood, lifting her from the dusty road as easily as she would herself have borne up a small child … He must be very strong, Minnie’s disjointed intellect observed, over the searing pain in her skull, and the white-hot agony in her arm.
Charlotte had gone away. Gone… gone somewhere. Minnie neither knew or cared. When she was aware again, and strictly enjoining her scattered thoughts to obey, she lay on her back, on something rather softer and more yielding than the hard and dusty road. Within her vision, Mr. Devereaux was tearing strips from a handkerchief – a large man’s handkerchief, of a rather more useful size and material than Charlotte’s wispy bit of lace. Or maybe it was a cloth napkin… Minnie’s thoughts went wandering again.
“Cold,” Minnie whispered, for she found herself shivering, in spite of the warmth of the day. Charlotte appeared, her face pale against the bright sky.
“I found your shawl, Cousin Minnie,” she said, sounding as if she were trying to be brave and not succeeding very well at it, as she tucked the folds of it around Minnie. “Mr. Devereaux has unhitched his horse from the gig – the poor thing was frightened to death, nearly – but unharmed. Which is good, as Mr. Devereaux paid a goodly sum for him. Once he has splinted your poor arm … we are going to walk back towards town, with him carrying you and I leading the horse. He says there should be someone along this road with a wagon, once we are closer…”
Minnie tried to thank the child – she still shivered, even when Mr. Devereaux removed his coat and added that to the shawl. He knelt next to her, with a small flask silver in his hand.
“Miss Minnie,” he ventured, with the gravest of expressions on his face. “I am prepared now to splint your arm, but I fear that it will briefly prove to be agonizing in the extreme … if you are not of committed temperance principles, might I persuade you to drink a little of his brandy? It’s for medicinal purposes, after all, and while it will not abolish pain entirely, it will take a little of the edge from it.”
Minnie brought herself to nod in acquiescence; he uncapped the flask and held it to her lips while she sipped. It tasted …warm, warm and fiery. The pain ebbed a little in her head, leaving her feeling a little as if she were floating, floating up into the sky like the little tufts of cotton-white cloud.
“I’m going to bind up your arm now,” Mr. Devereaux warned her. “So that the broken ends of bone will not grind against each other. Ready?”
Minnie nodded acknowledgment and set her teeth as Mr. Devereaux laid gentle fingers on her arm, murmuring instructions to young Charlotte.
Think of the clouds, she commanded herself. Look at the clouds, and think of nothing … no, think of the chess pieces, obedient and passive on the board. There was no pain. Chess pieces felt no pain. Breathe deep, look at the clouds and think of Mr. Devereaux’s marvelous chess pieces.
Oddly enough, this method of mental diversion proved effective; she did not banish the pain of a broken bone so much as she succeeded in setting it aside, in removing it from her immediate attention, although a sharp movement as Mr. Devereaux secured the last knot – perhaps that of the broken bone ends settling into place – nearly broke that adamantine concentration on the floating clouds overhead and figures of ivory. Upon the final knots being tied, securing her arm to a length of scrap wood – was it a broken bit from the Tilbury gig’s hood? She rather thought so – Mr. Devereaux cleared his throat.
“Are you ready, Miss Minnie? We should not have to walk very far before encountering help … this is not a well-traveled road, but in about half a mile, it runs into one…”
“You might take the horse,” Minnie suggested, faintly. “And leaving us, ride ahead and beg for assistance…”
“I will not think of abandoning you, or Miss Edmonds,” Mr. Devereaux insisted. “Not under any circumstances would I leave you alone. No – we return together, no matter how slowly may be our progress! Not another word, Miss Minnie; I will not hear any argument.”
Saying so, he stooped and lifted her into his arms once more, swathed in shawls and coat. Curiously, Minnie found this of considerable comfort. She hurt in every limb and sinew – but Mr. Devereaux would not abandon them all and take the horse. It felt as if she were part-floating, carried in tireless arms, until she floated away entirely into the sky and was aware of nothing more.

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