Chapter Twenty-Eight – From the depths I cry to Thee, oh Lord, hear my pleas for mercy
Higgins slowly pushed open the office door and lifted his lantern. He drew in a sharp breath when he saw John, collapsed on top of his books, a dark puddle at his feet. The irony smell of blood made him retreat into the hall. He needed to break the news gently to the pregnant Margaret.
“Miss Dixon,” he said quietly, “would you please go and call for Dr. Donaldson?”
That was all he said but the tone of his voice was enough to make Dixon turn on her heels and run like hell. Margaret gave a small shriek and pushed past Nicholas who was too late to stop her.
Her heart lurched when she saw her husband and realised he was wounded and bleeding!
“John! Oh my God, John!”
“Margaret, don’t touch him, for Heaven’s sake!”, Nicholas shouted. By now a shaking Hannah took Margaret by the arm.
“He’s right, Margaret. There’s … oh God!”, she gasped as she fully understood what it was she was seeing, “He’s been stabbed, Margaret!” Hannah’s voice broke suddenly and she gave a tiny whale . Margaret held on to her as her mother-in-law was swaying in horror.
Both women stood there clinging to each other, watching Higgins go to John and feel at his neck.
“He’s still breathing!”, he said in huge relief, “but we must not move him. The knife is still in the wound and displacing him could …”
Margaret suddenly knew with absolute certainty that John was balancing on the brink of death at this very moment. She let go of Hannah and went at his side. With uttermost care, she placed a hand on his cheek.
“Dear Lord,” she breathed, “he is so cold …”
She quickly took off her shawl and draped it over John’s shoulders, then grasped his hand and cradled it between her own.
“John … please, don’t die … don’t leave us, my love … hold on …”
Deep down in her body something was shifting … oh God! a flutter, so tiny that it felt like a caress … like a ripple of breeze over a field of corn … and she knew what it had been. Their baby had just moved! With tears running down her cheeks, Margaret placed John’s hand on her stomach and begged her child to move again against his father’s hand.
“John, my love … we all love you so much … we need you, John, me and the baby and mother, please, don’t leave us …”
Then she was praying. Begging, pleading, ordering God to let John live! He must let John live!
Dr. Donaldson burst into the office and instantly sank to his knees at John’s side.
“I need more light over here!”, he shouted. “Quickly!”
Hannah who had been standing there without moving, paralysed by the sight of her beloved son bleeding to death, shook herself into action and began lightening several lanterns. She placed two of them on the floor under John’s desk.
“Mrs. Thornton, come here, sit on your knees beside him! Come, give me your hand.”
Hannah obeyed and felt how the doctor guided her hand towards John’s stomach, low and on the right side. With a shock she came upon the knife sticking out of his body but she didn’t flinch.
“Now, Ma’am, I am going to put your fingers around the severed vein and then you must squeeze it hard while I remove the knife. Keep the pressure up! Mr. Higgins?”
“Find me a board or something so I can have him transported to the house. Miss Dixon?”
“I need large quantities of hot water, boiled for several minutes. Also I need you to clear a table in the kitchen and spread a clean sheet over it. Furthermore I want bandages, medicinal alcohol and laudanum. You’ll find all these in the infirmary. Send someone for Miss Mary, she can give me a hand.”
Margaret heard all this and began hoping again. Dear Dr. Donaldson! If anybody could save John, he was the one. She kept talking to John and pressed his hand against her stomach. Her baby moved again, all of a sudden, right there against John’ hand! She whispered to him, tears running down her cheeks.
“John, the baby moved! Did you feel it, love? That was for you, solely for you! Our baby is reaching out to you, John, don’t let go of it! Feel it, John! Feel!”
John was desperately trying to move closer to the bright light at the end of the narrowing tunnel when he saw the figure of his father fading into the distance. Alarm swept through him and he screamed. “Father, no! Please, father, please don’t leave me? Father! Father!”
It was all for naught! His father was gone and he was alone in this dark, narrow corridor. Bereft, alone, left behind, just like when his father took his own life.
“John … please, John, don’t leave us? Come back to us, John?”
Again someone was calling his name but the sound came from the other side, the dark one, and he didn’t want to go there. But they were calling him, pulling at him, begging him to come back …
“Doctor, he’s shivering so violently! What must I do?”
At Margaret’s alarmed cry Dr. Donaldson, who knew all too well John was in severe shock from the massive loss of blood and therefore trembling, answered calmly. “Don’t pay attention to it, Mrs. Thornton. Just stay where you are and keep calling his name.”
The doctor then turned to Hannah. “Now, Ma’am, you know what to do. I will pull the knife out and you must hold the pressure onto that vein. Mr. Higgins and I will then place Mr. Thornton on the board. You must not, under any circumstances, release your hold of that vein, do you understand?”
Hannah nodded. She was trembling herself now, while she had her fingers tightened on the severed vein in her son’s lower body. The men then did what they had to. Nicholas and the doctor had to lift the heavy desk over her head and out of the way so that the doctor was given a clear sight in order to retrieve the knife. When he did that, albeit ever so slowly, John gave a groan of pain which cut through Hannah’s heart like a blade. Margaret felt John’s body shudder in shock! Oh, why was it taking so long to get him out of here?
“Good,” Dr. Donaldson said, “he’s responding! Now, Mr. Higgins, you take him under the arms. I will lift his feet. Gently, steady, try not moving him too abruptly, gently now …”
Between the two of them they managed to lay down John on the office door which had been heaved from its hinges by Nicholas. Hannah kept her fingers firmly on the damaged vein while they transported John towards the house. Margaret held his hand in hers.
The Spiteful One stamped her foot in frustration. This was too soon! They had found Thornton way too soon! He could not already have bled to death! She would have to start all over again and how would she do that now that Thornton was in the house. His wife and mother would stand guard over him like lionesses! She needed to let off for now and leave this place. Someone might discover that she was not where she was supposed to be!