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Doc entered and examined both women again. He sat next to Maude and offered his support. Granny came back with poultices for Cassie head and ribs.
"We could use some ice for the welling." She said.
"I have already called for some to be brought from town, as soon as they could get someone to open the ice house."
Ellie returned. "Doc there is a telephone call for you." He left. "The men are going to search the area for Victoria's father. They will backtrack from the clearing. I took it upon myself to tell them not to hurt him. I can not guarantee they will obey my orders. They are all very angry about the attack."
"Thank you Ellie. I did not think about how the men would react."
"Yeah well, given the circumstances that is understandable, Maude. But like I said, they may not follow my orders."
"They are all good men Ellie. I trust them to do the right thing." Maude stated.
Ellie remained silent. Maude had not seen the looks on their faces when they had learned that both women had been beaten and violated.
Victoria was the first to wake up. She screamed and started to flail her arms as she fought off the demons . Ellie took her arms and talked softly to her. Victoria quieted and opened her eyes. She looked at the people in the room. When she saw Cassie's battered and bandaged face, she started to cry as every detail of the attack came back to her. Maude left Cassie's side as she went to Victoria's She gathered the younger women into her arms and held her while she cried. It took a long time before the sobs subsided. Maude wiped Victoria's eyes.
"I'm sorry." She murmured.
"You have nothing to apologize for, Victoria." Maude told her.
"Yes I do. It is all my fault."
"It is." She said again. "Mrs. Jones will Cassie be all right?"
Maude took a deep breath, cleared her throat before she answered. "They beat her up rather badly. She has a couple broken ribs."
"Why are her eyes bandaged?"
"She took a lot of bad hits to the side of her head. There is swelling and a very large bruise. There could um, be some damage to her eyes." She whispered.
"Oh God." She cried. "My fault all my fault."
"Victoria, you listen to me. This is not your fault. The only blame here is on that foul man, on Rebecca and I am sorry to say, your father. Not you or Cassie. Neither of you did anything wrong."
"But I did. If I had stayed there and married him, Cassie would not have been hurt."
"You did not. You followed your heart and left to find your destiny. You had no choice, but to leave. You could have tried to fight you heart, but from what you have told me about Corrigan you would have condemned yourself to a life of Hell and suffered for the rest of your life."
"Cassie would have been safe then. She would not have been hurt."
"Child," Granny spoke softly, "You could not fight both your heart and your destiny. Those are two very strong forces. Not even Cassie, who is the strongest woman I know, in here," She touched her head, "And in here, " she touched her heart, "could fight that combination."
There was silence as she digested that information. In the silence another voice was added.
"Listen to them Victoria." Cassie said as they realized she was awake.
"How long? Did you? How much?" Maude sputtered.
"Long enough, yes and everything. Cassie said. "Take the bandages off." She ordered.
"Cassie, I do not think that is a good idea." Maude told her. "Doc said..."
"TAKE THE DAMN BANDAGES OFF." Cassie yelled and immediately regretted the sound. "Please I need to know." She finished softly.
"All right, Cassie. Please let me get Doc. He needs to be the one to do this."
"Fine. Just hurry." Maude nodded to Ellie who nodded and left the room. She returned a shirt time later with Doc.
"I heard you were awake and causing trouble." Doc said as he entered the room. He smiled at Victoria. "As your doctor, I have to advise against taking those bandages off." Doc stated but continued, "but, as your friend I understand your need to know. I will remove the bandages but you must keep your eyes closed until I tell you to open them. Understand?"
"Damn it Doc, I understand. Just do it. Please."
Cassie felt for Victoria's hand and held it tightly.
"Before I start, close those drapes so that it is not so bright in here." Doc ordered. Cassie heard the sound of the drapes being closed and the sound of a match being struck. The smell of sulfur filled the air and heard the glass globe removed from the lamp and replaced. Doc undid the knot that held the bandages in place, then unwound the cloth. He stopped when he got to the last layer. "Remember keep your eyes closed." She nodded. Doc took her hand and placed it over her eyes. Only then did he remove the last layer of bandages. "Now leave your hand there and slowly open your eyes." No one dared make a sound. "What do you see?"
In the silence that followed, no one moved or spoke. They held their breaths as they waited for Cassie's answer.
"Nothing." Cassie answered. "It's all dark."
"Now remove you hand." They waited. "Any change?"
"Yes it is still dark, just not as dark." Cassie took a deep breath. "Granny said there would be darkness."
"I know, Cassie. This is very important. Dark as in black?"
"No, it is not black."
"That is good."
"GOOD." She yelled "I AM BLIND. HOW THE HELL IS THAT GOOD?" The pain in her head intensified. Victoria cried silently at her side.
"Yes good. While you have a disruption in your sight, you are not blind."
"What the Hell is the difference, Doc?"
"What you have is, I firmly believe, is a temporary condition. You have a great deal of swelling here." He touched the side of her head. "That is putting pressure on the nerves that control eyesight. When the swelling goes down, your sight will return. Have you ever talked to someone who is blind?"
"I have. One of the professors in Medical school, lost his sight and he had us all do a little experiment. We all had to wear a blindfold an entire day and night. The one thing I noticed was that although my world was dark, it was not black. That is what he saw all the time. Black, not anything else but black. By you saying all you see is dark, one that does lighten and not a constant black, gives me hope that this is temporary."
"Are you sure?"
"I am a simple country doctor, and not an eye specialist, but yes, I do believe your sight will return. I can get someone here to look at you if you want. There is one in Albany. I will call him if you want a second opinion."
"I trust you Doc and will take your word for it."
"You took some nasty hits, it will take time for the swelling to go down. Granny has a poultice for your head and I have some ice coming. Both will help reduce the swelling and should restore your sight."
"Should? Does that mean there is a chance that it will not return?"
Doc cursed softly. "Cassie, I will not lie to you. There is a chance. A very small chance that your sight will not return. How about you think positively. It would make me feel better if I called in the specialist. I know it is a relatively new idea, but I have heard a lot of good things about him. He has several new ways of treating problems with the eyes."
"You do what you want to Doc." Cassie sighed. Would you all please leave. I want to be alone."
"Cassie you really should not..."
"Mama please. Everyone please leave. I need to be alone. I have to think."
"All right Cassie." Doc stated. "Try not to move around too much. You have a couple broken ribs."
Cassie felt Victoria leave her side and heard the sounds of their footsteps as they left the room. She could not see Granny motion for Victoria to stay. The final sound she heard was the door closing.
To be continued...
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