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Coal Dusters – Chapter LIV
Lillian lost track of time while the recuse workers brought the men from the lower faces up. Other than some cuts, scrapes and broken arms none of the injures were that serious.
Clancy Sinclair from Level 8 had a couple of broken ribs. She assisted Dr. Drummond as he wrapped a bandage around Clancy’s rib cage.
“Nothing we can do to set your ribs Mr. Sinclair.” The doctor explained. “This is just to hold them in place while they knit properly. At your age they’ll be fine quickly.”
“No sweet hugging for me.” Clancy winked at Lillian.
“I should hope not.” Birk said from behind them.
“I thought you went home?” Lillian said.
“I did, but there was nothing for me there with all the worry. I couldn’t rest wondering. I can’t do anything to help.” He held up his bandaged hands. “But I had to be here. How is he Dr Drummond.”
“He’ll be fine in a week or so.”
“I … when you went up that shaft I was afraid that was the last I’d see of you or anyone.” Clancy tried to sit up.
Lillian teared up thinking of Steven trapped under tons of coal.
“I promised I’d get you out of there.” Birk went over to off a shoulder to help Clancy stand.
“We’re even now.” Clancy said.
“You saved my life this time. I saved your life before.”
“That gas build up.” Clancy said.
“Is it okay if he walks.” Birk asked.
“Yes. His legs are fine. Best thing for him to move around.” Dr. Drummond said.
Lillian came over to help as well. She remembered seeing Steven looking so brave in his Draeger suit as part of the rescue team at the gas build up. Was the the first time she realized he was more than bravado?
While Clancy was standing Dr. Drummond pressed along his back and spine.
“How does that feel.” He asked. “You can feel my touch?”
“Yes.” Clancy was unsteady as he took a few steps.
“There doesn’t appear to be any nerve damage.”
“I can take him home?” Birk asked.
“I’ve only checked him for visible injures.” Dr. Drummond said. “He could have internal damage. Promise that if there’s blood in your spit or such you get over to the hospital in Sydney as fast as you can.”
“If’n the roads don’t kill me.” Clancy winced as he tried to laugh. Oh! My ribs are some sore.”
“To bad they aren’t half as hard as your head.” Birk said.
“Don’t make me laugh.” Clancy bent over in pain holding his ribs at the same time.
“Ma’ll keep an eye out on both us.” Birk said. “You look after the ones as is really hurt. Thank you Miss McTavish.”
“Lead on McDuff.” Clancy put his arm over Birk’s shoulder.
Lillian watched them disappear into the dark. Dear God, let Steven’s injures be as gentle as these, she prayed, so he can continue to play a role in the men’s lives. Thank you.
Lillian was dozing on one of the infirmary cots when a shout woke her.
“They are bringing up the men from level nine now.”
The rescuers had spent the past few hours clearing the debris away so they had access to the final level. The first body they brought up was completely shrouded which meant it was dead.
“Is it?” she asked Dr, Drummond as he lifted the cover off the face of corpse.
“Nope. It’s Red Mac.”
“There’s another coming up.” One of the rescuers said. “In bad shape.”
The next was Steven strapped to the stretcher hoist. His face was uncovered so Lillian knew he was alive. She took his hand and squeezed it. His eyes flickered briefly as they looked at her. She wiped the dirt off his face as best she could.
Dr. Drummond gently undid the straps that held Steven to the gurney.
“He’s lost a lot blood.” Drummond said as he did his preliminary check. He lifted back the blankets that covered Steven’s torso and quickly dropped them.
“Lillian, perhaps you should wait outside while I check him completely.”
He nodded to one of the orderlies to accompany her.
Steven grip on her hand tightened.
“No. Lillian stay.” Steven said hoarsely. “I ….”
“I’ll stay Dr Drummond. You know, I saw worse after the power plant attack.”
“Yes.” Dr. Drummond nodded. “Please look away, if you can.”
Lillian kept her eyes on Steven’s while the doctor lifted the blankets away from Steven’s torso. She could smell the blood, the muck of the coal mine. Steven’s grip on her hand loosened and tightened.
“Okay.” Dr. Drummond said once he’d finished his examination
“How does it look?” Steven asked. “Hope it isn’t as bad as it feels.”
“Steven, both your legs have been crushed. I doubt if I could save them even if I had the best of equipment. We’ll do what we can to staunch the bleeding but you have lost a lot of blood already.”
“I see.” Steven sighed. “Lillian will have to be brave for both of us. That is if she’ll still have me.” He smiled faintly.
“Of course I do Steven.” Lillian said.
“We’ll have to work fast.” Dr. Drummond said. “Bring him into the operating area.”
Steven released Lillian’s hand and he was taken into the infirmary.
“Lillian, I’d rather you wait here while I do what I can. I have to tell you there is little hope he’ll survive even if I can stop the bleeding. His legs will have to be amputated.”
“My God!” Lillian leaned heavily against the wall.
“I’ve given him something for the pain.”
“He’s asking for Miss McTavish.” One of the orderlies came out the room.
She followed him into the room.
“Lillian,” Steven tapped his jacket over his heart. “In here. Take … out.”
Dr. Drummond nodded his approval.
Lillian slid her hand into his inside pocket as gently as she could. The cool of Steven’s body chilled her. She pulled out a thin packed wrapped in canvas.
“My good luck.” Steven said. “Open.”
She unfold the canvas and inside was their wedding licence. There was also a manila envelope.
“Read later. Please.” He struggled to sit up.
“Yes. You must rest.” She put hand on his forehead to keep him in place.
“Not yet. No rest for the wicked.” He laughed. “Is Father McTavish here?”
“No, but Father Dunlop is. Yes.” Lillian said. “But you won’t need him for unction, yet. Will he, Dr Drummond? He’ll pull through. Won’t he?”
“There’s a good chance.”
“Bring Dunlop here.” Steven said. “Is Clara here?”
“She was but she went to Mrs. Franklin’s to rest.” Lillian tried not to cry.
The orderly returned shortly with the priest.
“Father Dunlop I have a service for you to perform.” Steven said.
The priest opened his kit and took out the oil for final unction.
“No! No!” Steven whispered. “Give him the license. We are to be married.”
“Married!” Father Dunlop took the license from Lillian.
“Dr. Drummond and his orderly can be witnesses.” Steven said.
“I …. I’m not prepared to … the ceremony …”
“It doesn’t have to be the whole service Father. Do the legal part. You can do that can’t you?”
“Yes, I suppose I can.” The priest flipped though his handbook of rituals. “Here we are.”
“Steve McTavish and Lillian McTavish, have you come here to enter into marriage without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly?” He read from the book.
“Yes.” They replied in unison.
“Are you prepared, as you follow the path of marriage, to love and honour each other for as long as you both shall live?
“Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”
“Yes.” they both replied
“Steven, do you take Lillian to be your wife? Do you promise to be faithful to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love her and to honour her all the days of your life?”
“Lillian, do you take Steven to be your husband? Do you promise to be faithful to him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love him and to honour him all the days of your life?
“The rings?” Dunlop asked.
“Here.” Steven tugged at a piece of ribbon around his neck.
Lillian pulled it out and their wedding rings were suspended on it.
“It pays to be prepared.” Steven smiled.
The priest said a blessing over the wedding rings. They placed the rings on each other’s fingers.
“I now pronounce you man and wife.”
There was brief silence.
“You may kiss the bride.” The priest said.
There was some applause as Lillian bent to kiss Steven. As their lips met his body shuddered and his head fell limply to one side.
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