Chapter Twenty-Nine – Fighting for dear life
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Dr. Donaldson turned to Margaret and Hannah as soon as they had laid John onto the pristine kitchen table. Mary took Hannah’s place at his side to keep hold of the severed vein.
“Ladies, I want you to leave us to do our work. Go and lie down for a rest. You have both been shaken to the core. You, young Mistress, should try to get some sleep, for your baby’s sake. You, Mrs.Thornton, are exhausted. Please, ladies, leave?”
Margaret realised he was right. John’s mother was at the end of her wits as she was standing ramrod straight but pale as a ghost, her hands covered with John’s blood. She gently took Hannah’s arm and guided her out of the kitchen.
“Come, dear Mother, let us take care of one another.”
They climbed the stairs dragging their feet.
As soon as the women had left, Dr. Donaldson took the matter in hand. He seemed to become an entirely different person, cool and businesslike.
“Miss Dixon, you are in charge of the constant supply of hot water, bandages, or whatever we might need or call for. Mr. Higgins, take a pair of scissors and strip him. I want him removed of all his clothes. Mary, you keep the pressure on that vein while I sterilise my instruments.”
The team worked in a steady rhythm for the next three hours.
John was stripped naked and covered with a fresh sheet. Higgins was ordered to sit at his head and check his pulse whenever the doctor asked him to. He also had a bottle of ether and a cotton cloth ready, should John be showing signs to come around. The doctor wanted him absolutely motionless during the operation. Mary acted as assisting nurse when the doctor asked her to swipe away the sweat from his brow or dab up the excess of blood in the wound. She also kept her fingers firmly on the severed vein.
For all those long hours John did not stir. Higgins, who was watching him attentively, was worried by his ashen face, shallow breathing and cold dampness of skin. When finally Dr. Donaldson had the wound stitched and bandaged, he was the one who carefully wrapped John up in a clean sheet and carried him to his bedroom upstairs. From then on, the two women in John’s life who loved him fiercely, took over. They washed the dried blood from his body and dressed him in a clean nightshirt.
Dr. Donaldson came up and checked on John one last time before going home.
“All we can but do now, is wait and pray. He has lost a large amount of blood and he’s not breathing the way he should, it is too shallow. In the next hours to come, he might develop a fever. If so, you must call for me and, in the meantime, try and keep his temperature down by sponging his body with lukewarm water. Keep up your spirits, dear ladies, you are going to need them. I thank God he is young and healthy and may have a chance to overcome this.”
The doctor left together with Higgins who took the knife to Police Sergeant Mason and explained the situation to him. Mason, one of John’s friends, was thoroughly shaken by what he heard.
“Holy smoke, Higgins, this is serious! Thornton stabbed in his own mill? Who could be responsible for this? A disgruntled worker? A business competitor?”
“I don’t know!”, Higgins growled, displeased at the hint of a worker being the culprit. “But I am determined to find out and strangle the bastard with my bare hands!”
Margaret and Hannah established a strict routine in order to keep watch at John’s sickbed both day and night. Between the two of them and Dixon, they indefatigably cared for him. Checking for fever, giving him some drops of lemon water at regular times, praying for him. John, however, was in deep unconsciousness and did not stir for long hours.
There was no way she could get access to John Thornton now, the Spiteful One mused. Margaret Hale Thornton was equally unreachable while she stayed at her husband’s sickbed. Moreover, the old dragon Hannah Thornton and that bitch Dixon were in full attendance almost around the clock! Hell and damnation! She would have to rethink her whole strategy now!