Nellie knew that she had never felt pain like this before in her life. Not even the pain of childbirth could rival it. Of Percival's pale face tinged with sweat as he bent over her, of the frightened cries of six-year-old twins Jennifer and Benjamin, she was not aware at all. The only thing that existed for her at this moment was the pain.
Percival and another man had placed her on a board of some sort and were carrying her.
"Can you hear me, Nellie?" Percival's voice sounded as if it were coming from far away. She tried to speak, but all she could manage was a weak grunt.
"You're going to be all right, sweetheart. We're taking you to the hospital, and they're going to take good care of you."
Nellie tried her best to hang onto Percival's words, but they were fading as the world spun around and around, faster and faster.
When Nellie regained consciousness, she was lying on her back on a very soft surface. The air was cool and smelled of cleaning solution. The pain in her legs was now a dull throb. She opened her eyes, and Percival's face came into focus.
"What happened?" she asked.
"Your legs were crushed, Nellie. A wagon wheel ran over them. You've just had an operation to set them so that they will heal properly. You're going to be here in the hospital for a while." What Percival didn't tell her was that infection was a real threat, and that if it set in, amputation was a real possibility, and that even if the bones in her legs did heal, there was still no guarantee that she would ever walk on them again.
"Jenny and Benny..." Nellie's first thought was of her children.
"They're fine. Dan and Sarah are taking care of them." Dan was Percival's cousin, and Sarah was his wife.
"I want to see them." Nellie began to cry.
"I know, sweetheart," Percival said gently. "You'll see them again soon, I promise. Right now you need to rest." He tenderly stroked her forehead, and she closed her eyes and was asleep within moments. As she slept, Percival wondered how in the world he was going to manage alone with two children if Nellie died, and how he was going to manage with two children and a crippled wife if she lived.