Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush
Part 3 out of 4
"'Haud on,' I says, 'till ye come tae a cross street, and dinna gang
doon it, and when ye see anither pass it, but whup roond the third,
and yir nose 'ill bring ye tae the Strand.'
"He was a shachlin bit cratur, and he lookit up at me.
"'Where were you born, officer?' in his clippit English tongue.
"'Drumtochty,' a' said, 'an' we hev juist ae man as sma' as you in
the hale Glen.'
"He gied awa' lauchin' like tae split his sides, an' the fac' is
there's no ane o' them asks me a question but he lauchs. They're a
licht-headed fouk, and no sair educat. But we maunna boast; they
hevna hed oor advantages."
The minister made a brave effort to assert himself.
"Is there anything I can do?" but the figure simply waved its hand
"A'm comin' tae that, but a' thocht ye wud be wantin' ma opeenion o'
"Weel, ye see, the first thing a' did, of coorse, after settlin'
doon, was tae gae roond the kirks and hear what kin' o' ministers
they hae up here. A've been in saxteen kirks the last three months,
an' a' wud hae been in mair had it no bin for ma oors.
"Ay, ay, a' ken ye 'ill be wantin' ma judgment," interpreting a movement
in the chair, "an' ye 'ill hae it. Some wes puir stuff--plenty o' water
and little meal--and some wesna sae bad for England. But ye 'ill be
pleased to know," here the figure relaxed and beamed on the anxious
minister, "that a'm rael weel satisfied wi' yersel', and a'm thinkin'
o' sittin' under ye.
"Man," were Drumtochty's last words, "a' wish Elspeth Macfadyen cud
hear ye, her 'at prees (tastes) the sermons in oor Glen; a' believe
she wud pass ye, an' if ye got a certeeficat frae Elspeth, ye wud be
a prood man."
Drumtochty read widely--Soutar was soaked in Carlyle, and Marget
Howe knew her "In Memoriam" by heart--but our intellectual life
centred on the weekly sermon. Men thought about Sabbath as they
followed the plough in our caller air, and braced themselves for an
effort at the giving out of the text. The hearer had his snuff and
selected his attitude, and from that moment to the close he never
moved nor took his eyes off the preacher. There was a tradition that
one of the Disruption fathers had preached in the Free Kirk for one
hour and fifty minutes on the bulwarks of Zion, and had left the
impression that he was only playing round the outskirts of his
subject. No preacher with anything to say could complain of
Drumtochty, for he got a patient, honest, critical hearing from
beginning to end. If a preacher were slightly equipped, the audience
may have been trying. Well-meaning evangelists who came with what
they called "a simple Gospel address," and were accustomed to have
their warmer passages punctuated with rounds of spiritual applause
in the shape of smiles and nods, lost heart in face of that judicial
front, and afterwards described Drumtochty in the religious papers
as "dead." It was as well that these good men walked in a vain show,
for, as a matter of fact, their hearers were painfully alive.
"Whar did yon wakely body come frae, Burnbrae? it wes licht wark the
day. There wes nae thocht worth mentionin', and onything he hed wes
eked oot by repeetition. Tae sae naethin' o' bairnly stories."
"He lives aboot England, a'm telt, an' dis a feck o' gude in his ain
place. He hesna muckle in his head, a'll alloo that, Netherton, but
he's an earnest bit cratur."
"Ou ay, and fu' o' self-conceit. Did ye hear hoo often he said 'I'?
a' got as far as saxty-three, and then a' lost coont. But a' keepit
'dear,' it cam tae the hundred neat.
"'Weel?' a' says tae Elspeth Macfadyen. A' kent she wud hae his
"'Gruel, Netherton, juist gruel, and eneuch tae scunner (disgust) ye
It was the birthright of every native of the parish to be a critic, and
certain were allowed to be experts in special departments--Lachlan
Campbell in doctrine and Jamie Soutar in logic--but as an old round
practitioner Mrs. Macfadyen had a solitary reputation. It rested on
a long series of unreversed judgments, with felicitous strokes of
description that passed into the literary capital of the Glen. One
felt it was genius, and could only note contributing circumstances--an
eye that took in the preacher from the crown of his head to the sole
of his foot; an almost uncannie insight into character; the instinct
to seize on every scrap of evidence; a memory that was simply an
automatic register; an unfailing sense of fitness; and an absolute
impartiality regarding subject.
It goes without saying that Mrs. Macfadyen did not take nervous
little notes during the sermon--all writing on Sabbath, in kirk or
outside, was strictly forbidden in Drumtochty--or mark her Bible, or
practise any other profane device of feeble-minded hearers. It did
not matter how elaborate or how incoherent a sermon might be, it
could not confuse our critic.
When John Peddie of Muirtown, who always approached two hours, and
usually had to leave out the last head, took time at the Drumtochty
Fast, and gave, at full length, his famous discourse on the total
depravity of the human race, from the text, "Arise, shine, for thy
light is come," it may be admitted that the Glen wavered in its
confidence. Human nature has limitations, and failure would have
been no discredit to Elspeth.
"They were sayin' at the Presbytery," Burnbrae reported, "that it
hes mair than seeventy heads, coontin' pints, of coorse, and a' can
weel believe it. Na, na, it's no tae be expeckit that Elspeth cud
gie them a' aifter ae hearin'."
Jamie Souter looked in to set his mind at rest, and Elspeth went at
once to work.
"Sit doon, Jamie, for it canna be dune in a meenut."
It took twenty-three minutes exactly, for Jamie watched the clock.
"That's the laist, makin' seeventy-four, and ye may depend on every
ane but that fourth pint under the sixth head. Whether it wes the
'beginnin' o' faith' or 'the origin,' a' canna be sure, for he
cleared his throat at the time."
Peter Bruce stood helpless at the Junction next Friday--Drumtochty
was celebrating Elspeth--and the achievement established her for
Probationers who preached in the vacancy had heard rumours, and
tried to identify their judge, with the disconcerting result that
they addressed their floweriest passages to Mistress Stirton, who
was the stupidest woman in the Free Kirk, and had once stuck in the
"chief end of man." They never suspected the sonsy motherly woman,
two pews behind Donald Menzies, with her face of demure interest and
general air of country simplicity. It was as well for the
probationers that they had not caught the glint of those black beady
"It's curious," Mrs. Macfadyen remarked to me one day, "hoo the
pulpit fashions change, juist like weemen's bonnets.
"Noo a' mind when auld Doctor Ferintosh, him 'at wrote 'Judas
Iscariot the first Residuary,' would stand twa meenutes facing the
fouk, and no sit doon till he hed his snuff.
"But thae young birkies gie oot 'at they see naebody comin' in, an'
cover their face wi' ae hand sae solemn, that if ye didna catch them
keekin' through their fingers tae see what like the kirk is, ye wud
think they were prayin'."
"There's not much escapes you," I dared to say, and although the
excellent woman was not accessible to gross flattery, she seemed
"A'm thankfu' that a' can see withoot lookin'; an' a'll wager nae
man ever read his sermon in Drumtochty Kirk, an' a' didna find him
oot. Noo, there's the new minister o' Netheraird, he writes his
sermon on ae side o' ten sheets o' paper, an' he's that carried awa'
at the end o' ilka page that he disna ken what he's daein', an' the
sleeve o' his goon slips the sheet across tae the ither side o' the
"But Doctor Ferintosh wes cleverer, sall it near beat me tae detect
him," and Elspeth paused to enjoy the pulpit ruse. "It cam tae me
sudden ae Sacrament Monday, hoo dis he aye turn up twal texts,
naither mair nor less, and that set me thinkin'. Then a' noticed
that he left the Bible open at the place till anither text was due,
an' I wunnered a'd been sae slow. It wes this wy: he askit the
beadle for a gless o' water in the vestry, and slippit his sermon in
atween the leaves in sae mony bits. A've wished for a gallery at a
time, but there's mair credit in findin' it oot below--ay, an'
pleesure tae; a' never wearied in kirk in ma life."
Mrs. Macfadyen did not appreciate prodigal quotations of Scriptures,
and had her suspicions of this practice.
"Tak the minister o' Pitscourie noo; he's fair fozzy wi' trokin' in
his gairden an' feedin' pigs, and hesna studied a sermon for thirty
"Sae what dis he dae, think ye? He havers for a whilie on the errors
o' the day, and syne he says, 'That's what man says, but what says
the Apostle Paul? We shall see what the Apostle Paul says.' He puts
on his glasses, and turns up the passage, and reads maybe ten
verses, and then he's aff on the jundy (trot) again. When a man hes
naethin' tae say he's aye lang, and a've seen him gie half an oor o'
passages, and anither half oor o' havers.
"'He's a Bible preacher, at any rate,' says Burnbrae tae me laist
Fast, for, honest man, he hes aye some gude word for a body.
"'It's ae thing,' I said to him, 'tae feed a calf wi' milk, and
anither tae gie it the empty cogie tae lick.'
"It's curious, but a've noticed that when a Moderate gets lazy he
preaches auld sermons, but a Free Kirk minister taks tae abusin' his
neeburs and readin' screeds o' the Bible.
"But Maister Pittendreigh hes twa sermons, at ony rate," and Elspeth
tasted the sweets of memory with such keen relish that I begged for
"Well, ye see he's terrible prood o' his feenishes, and this is ane
"'Heaven, ma brethren, will be far grander than the hoose o' ony
earthly potentate, for there ye will no longer eat the flesh of
bulls nor drink the blood o' goats, but we shall sook the juicy pear
and scoop the loocious meelon. Amen.'
"He hes nae mair sense o' humour than an owl, and a' aye haud that a
man withoot humour sudna be allowed intae a poopit.
"A' hear that they have nae examination in humour at the college;
it's an awfu' want, for it wud keep oot mony a dreich body.
"But the meelon's naethin' tae the goat, that cowed a'thing, at the
"If Jeems wes aboot a' daurna mention 't: he canna behave himsel'
tae this day gin he hears 'it, though ye ken he's a douce man as
"It wes anither feenish, and it ran this wy:
"'Noo, ma freends, a' wull no be keepin' ye ony longer, and ye 'ill
a' gae hame tae yir ain hooses and mind yir ain business. And as
sune as ye get hame ilka man 'ill gae tae his closet and shut the
door, and stand for five meenutes, and ask himsel' this solemn
question, "Am I a goat?" Amen.'
"The amen near upset me masel', and a' hed tae dunge Jeems wi' ma
"He said no a word on the wy back, but a' saw it wes barmin' in him,
and he gied oot sudden aifter his dinner as if he had been ta'en
"A' cam' on him in the byre, rowing in the strae like a bairn, and
every ither row he took he wud say, 'Am I a goat?'
"It wes na cannie for a man o' his wecht, besides bein' a married
man and a kirk member, and a' gied him a hearin'.
"He sobered doon, and a' never saw him dae the like since. But he
hesna forgot, na, na; a've seen a look come ower Jeems' face in
kirk, and a've been feared."
When the Free Kirk quarrelled in their vacancy over two
probationers, Mrs. Macfadyen summed them up with such excellent
judgment that they were thrown over and peace restored.
"There's some o' thae Muirtown drapers can busk oot their windows
that ye canna pass withoot lookin'; there's bits o' blue and bits o'
red, and a ribbon here an' a lace yonder.
"It's a bonnie show and denty, an' no wunner the lassies stan' and
"But gae intae the shop, and peety me, there's next tae naethin';
it's a' in the window.
"Noo, that's Maister Popinjay, as neat an' fikey a little mannie as
ever a' saw in a black goon.
"His bit sermon wes six poems--five a' hed heard afore--four
anecdotes--three aboot himsel' and ain aboot a lord--twa burnies, ae
floo'r gairden, and a snowstorm, wi' the text thirteen times and
'beloved' twal; that was a'; a takin' window, and Netherton's
lassies cudna sleep thinkin' o' him.
"There's ither shopmen in Muirtown that fair scunner ye wi' their
windows--they're that ill set out--and inside there's sic a wrale o'
stuff that the man canna get what ye want; he's clean smoored wi'
his ain goods.
"It's a graund shop for the auld fouk that hae plenty o' time and
can turn ower the things by the 'oor. Ye 'ill no get a young body
inside the door.
"That's Maister Auchtermuchty; he hes mair material than he kens hoo
tae handle, and naebody, hearin' him, can mak head or tail o' his
"Ye get a rive at the Covenants ae meenute, and a mouthfu' o'
justification the next. Yir nae suner wi' the Patriarchs than yir
whuppit aff tae the Apostles.
"It's rich feedin', nae doot, but sair mixed, an' no verra tasty."
So the old and young compromised, and chose Carmichael.
Elspeth was candid enough on occasion, but she was not indiscreet.
She could convey her mind delicately if need be, and was a mistress
of subtle suggestion.
When Netherton's nephew preached the missionary sermon--he was a
stout young man with a volcanic voice--Mrs. Macfadyen could not
shirk her duty, but she gave her judgment with care.
"He's a fine lad, and 'ill be sure to get a kirk; he's been weel
brocht up, and comes o' decent fouk.
"His doctrine soonds richt, and he 'ill no gang aff the track. Ye
canna ca' him bashfu', and he's sure to be heard."
Her audience still waited, and not in vain.
"But the Lord hes nae pleesure in the legs o' a man," and every one
felt that the last word had been said on Netherton's nephew.
THE COLLAPSE OF MRS. MACFADYEN
Carmichael used to lament bitterly that he had lost his Gaelic, and
laboured plans of compensation for our Celts, who were understood to
worship in English at an immense reduction of profit. One spring he
intercepted a Highland minister, who was returning from his winter's
raid on Glasgow with great spoil, and arranged an evening service,
which might carry Lachlan Campbell back to the golden days of
Auchindarroch. Mr. Dugald Mactavish was himself much impressed with
the opportunity of refreshing his exiled brethren, speaking freely
on the Saturday of the Lowlands as Babylon, and the duty of
gathering the outcasts of Israel into one. He was weaned with
difficulty from Gaelic, and only consented to preach in the "other
language" on condition that he should not be restricted in time. His
soul had been much hampered in West End churches, where he had to
appeal for his new stove under the first head, lest he should go
empty away, and it was natural for one escaping from such bondage to
put a generous interpretation on Carmichael's concession. So Maister
Dugald continued unto the setting of the sun. His discourse was so
rich and varied that Peddie of Muirtown on original sin was not to
be compared with it in breadth of treatment, and Mrs. Macfadyen
confessed frankly that she gave up in despair before the preacher
had fairly entered on his second hour. Besides the encounter of the
preacher with Mr. Urijah Hopps, which carried the Glen by storm, and
kept the name of Mactavish green with us for a generation.
Rumours of this monumental pulpit effort, with its stirring
circumstances, passed from end to end of the Glen during the week,
and Peter himself recognised that it was an occasion at the Junction
"Ye may as weel shut aff the steam, Jeems," Peter explained to our
engine-driver, "an' gie them ten meenuts. It's been by ordinar' at
Drumtochty Free Kirk laist Sabbath nicht, and Drumsheugh 'ill no
move till he hears the end o't."
And as soon as the Muirtown train had removed all strangers, that
worthy man opened the campaign.
"What kin' o' collieshangie (disturbance) is this ye've been
carryin' on, Hillocks? it's doonricht aggravatin' that ye're no
content pesterin' oor life oot wi' that English body in the
kirkyaird, but ye maist needs set him up tae arglebargle wi' a
stranger minister at the Free Kirk. They say that the puir man cud
hardly get a word in atween you and yir lodger. Burnbrae here is
threatenin' ye wi' the Sherra, and a' dinna wonder.
"It's nae lauchin' maitter, a' can tell ye, Drumsheugh; a've never
been sae black affrontit a' ma life. Burnbrae kens as weel as ye dae
that a' wasna tae blame.
"Ye 'ill better clear yersel at ony rate, Hillocks, for some o' the
neeburs threep (insist) 'at it wes you, and some that it wes yir
freend, an' there's ithers declare ye ran in compt (company) like
twa dogs worrying sheep; it wes a bonnie like pliskie (escapade)
onywy, and hardly fit for an Auld Kirk elder"--a sally much enjoyed
by the audience, who knew that, after Whinnie, Hillocks was the
doucest man in Drumtochty.
"Weel, ye see it wes this wy," began Hillocks, with the air of a man
on his trial for fire raising. "Hopps fund oot that a Hielandman wes
tae preach in the Free Kirk, and naethin' wud sateesfy him but that
we maun gae. A' micht hae jaloused (suspected) it wesna the sermon
the wratch wantit, for he hed the impidence tae complain that the
Doctor was tedious Sabbath a fortnicht when he gied us 'Ruth,'
though I never minded 'Ruth' gae aff sae sweet a' the times a've
"Gin a' hed imagined what the ettercap (captious creature) wes
aifter a' wud hae seen ma feet in the fire afore they carried me tae
the Free Kirk that nicht.
"Says he tae me on the road, 'A'm told the minister will be in his
"'He 'ill be in his goon and bands,' says I, 'if that's what ye
mean,' for the head o' him is fu' o' maggots, and nae man can tell
what he wull be at next.
"'Mister Soutar said that he would wear his kilt, and that it would
be an interesting spectacle.'
"'Jamie's been drawing yir leg (befooling you),' says I. 'Man,
there's naebody wears a kilt forbye gemkeepers and tourist bodies.
Ye 'ill better come awa hame,' and sall, if a' hed kent what wes tae
happen, a' wud hae taken him aff below ma oxter.
"It's no richt tae mak me responsible, for a' tried tae wile him awa
tae the back o' the kirk whar naebody cud see him, but he's that
thrawn and upsettin', if he didna gae tae the verra front seat afore
"'I want a good position,' says he; 'I'll see everything here;' sae
a' left him an' gied tae Elspeth Macfadyen's seat.
"'He's anxious tae hear,' she said, 'an' a'm thinkin' he 'ill get
mair than he expecks. A' wish it wes weel ower masel, Hillocks; it
'ill be an awfu' nicht.'
"Thae Hielandmen dinna pit aff time wi' the preleeminaries, but they
were lang eneuch tae let onybody see what kin' o' man Mactavish wes.
"A gruesome carle, neeburs, wi' his hair hangin' roond his face like
a warlock and his een blazin' oot o' his head like fire; the sicht
o' him is sure tae sober Hopps, thinks I.
"But no, there's some fouk 'ill tak nae warnin'; there he was,
sittin' in front o' Mactavish with his thumbs in his airm holes, and
a watch gaird spread richt across him, and ae leg cocked over the
ither, the verra eemage of a bantam cock fleein' in the face o'
Drumtochty had never moved during this history, and now they drew
closer round Hillocks, on whom the mantle of speech had for once
"Mactavish lookit at the body aince, and he lookit again juist tae
gie him fair notis, and then he broke oot in face o' the hale
"'There's nothing in all the world so deceptive as sin, for outside
it's like a bonnie summer day, and inside it's as black as hell.
"'Now here iss this fat little man sittin' before me with his suit
o' blue clothes so bonnie and dainty, and a watch guard as thick as
my finger on his wame, smilin' an' smirkin', and real well contented
with himself, but if he wass opened up what a sight it would be for
men and angels. Oh yes, yes, it would be a fearsome sicht, and no
man here would be able to look.'
"A' tell ye, neeburs, ye micht hae heard a pin fa' tae the ground,
and ma heart was thumping in ma briest; a' wudna come thro' the like
o' yon again for half the pleenishin' o' Hillocks."
There was not a sound at the junction save the steam escaping from
the engine, and Hillocks resumed:
"But the worst's comin'. Hopps jumps up and faces Mactavish--a'll no
deny there is some spunk in the body.
"'What right have you to speak like that to me? do you know who I
"He hed better been quiet, for he wes nae match for yon Hielandman.
"Mactavish glowered at him for maybe a meenut till the puir cratur
fell back intae his seat.
"'Man,' says Mactavish, 'I do not know who you are, and I do not
know what you are, and I shall not be asking who you are, and I am
not caring though you be MacCallummore himsel'. You are just a
Parable, oh yes, just a Parable.
"'But if ye be convicted of secret sin ye may go out, and if there
be anybody else whose sins have been laid bare he may go out too,
and if nobody wants to go out, then I will be going on with the
sermon, oh yes, for it will not do to be spending all our time on
"As sure as a'm stannin' here ye cudna see Hopps inside his claithes
when Mactavish wes dune wi' him."
When the train started Hillocks received the compliments of the
third with much modesty, and added piquant details regarding the
utter confusion of our sermon taster.
"'Did ye follow?' a' speirit o' Elspeth afore a' went tae pit Hopps
"'Cud a' follow a bumbee?' was the only word a' got frae her; a' saw
she was beaten for aince and wes rael mad."
"I'st true Elspeth scuffled wi' her feet at the laist head and gar'd
"A'll neither deny nor affirm, Drumsheugh; but there's nae doot when
the mune began tae shine aboot nine, and Mactavish started aff on
the Devil, somebody scrapit aside me. It wesna Jeems; he daurna for
his life; and it wesna me. A'll no say but it micht be Elspeth, but
she wes sair provokit. Aifter haddin' her ain twenty years tae be
maistered by a Hielandman."
It was simply a duty of friendship to look in and express one's
sympathy with Mrs. Macfadyen in this professional disaster. I found
her quite willing to go over the circumstances, which were
unexampled in her experience, and may indeed be considered a
contribution to history.
"A' wudna hae minded," explained Elspeth, settling down to
narrative, "hoo mony heads he gied oot, no tho' he hed titched the
hundred. A've cause tae be gratefu' for a guid memory, and a've kept
it in fine fettle wi' sermons. My wy is tae place ilka head at the
end o' a shelf and a' the pints aifter it in order like the plates
there," and Mrs. Macfadyen pointed with honest pride to her wall of
crockery, "and when the minister is at an illustration or makin' an
appeal a' aye rin ower the rack tae see that a've a' the pints in
their places. Maister Mactavish cud ne'er hae got the wheephand o'
me wi' his diveesions; he's no fit to haud the can'le tae John
Peddie. Na, na, a' wesna feared o' that when a' examined yon man
gieing oot the Psalm, but a' didna like his een.
"'He's ravelled,' a' said tae masel, 'without beginning or end; we
'ill hae a nicht o't,' and sae we hed."
I preserved a sympathetic silence till Mrs. Macfadyen felt herself
able to proceed.
"It's easy eneuch, ye see, for an auld hand tae manage ae set o'
heads gin they come tae ten or a hundred, but it's another business
when a man hes different sets in ae sermon. Noo hoo mony sets div ye
think that man hed afore he wes dune?"
It was vain for a mere layman to cope with the possibilities of Mr.
"Fower, as a'm a leevin' woman, and that's no a'; he didna feenish
wi' ae set an' begin wi' the next, but if he didna mix them a'
thegither. Fower set o' heads a' in a tangle; noo ye hae some kin'
o' idea o' what a' hed tae face." And Mrs. Macfadyen paused that I
might take in the situation.
When I expressed my conviction that even the most experienced hearer
was helpless in such circumstances, Elspeth rallied, and gave me to
understand that she had saved some fragments from the wreckage.
"A'll juist tell ye the hale hypothic, for sic a discoorse ye may
never hear a' the days o' yir life.
"Ye ken thae Hielandmen tak their texts for the maist pairt frae the
Auld Testament, and this was it mair or less, 'The trumpet shall be
blown, and they shall come from Assyria and the land o' Egypt,' and
he began by explainin' that there were twa classes in Drumtochty,
those who were born and bred in the parish, which were oursels, and
them 'at hed tae stay here owin' tae the mysterious dispensations o'
Providence, which wes Lachlan Campbell.
"Noo this roosed ma suspicions, for it's against reason for a man
tae be dividing intae classes till the end o' his sermon. Tak my
word, it's no chancy when a minister begins at the tail o' his
subject: he'll wind a queer pirn afore he's dune.
"Weel, he gaed up and he gaed doon, and he aye said, 'Oh yes, yes,'
juist like the thrashing mill at Drumsheugh scraiking and girling
till it's fairly aff, an' by-and-by oot he comes wi' his heads.
"'There are fower trumpets,' says he. 'First, a leeteral trumpet;
second, a heestorical trumpet; third, a metaphorical trumpet;
fourth, a speeritual trumpet.'
"'I've got ye,' a' said tae masel, and settled doon to hear him on
the first head, for fear he micht hae pints; but wull ye believe me,
he barely mentioned leeteral till he was aff tae speeritual, and
then back tae heestorical, an' in five meenuts he had the hale fower
trumpets blawing thegither.
"It wes maist exasperatin', and a' saw Jeems watchin' me--but that's
"'There be many trumpets,' says he, 'oh yes, an' it wes a good
trumpet Zaccheus heard,' and afore a' knew where a' wes he hed
startit again wi' fower new heads, as if he had never said trumpet.
"'A big tree' he cries, 'an' a little man, oh yes, an' this is what
we will be doin'.
"'First. We shall go up the tree wi' Zaccheus.
"'Second. We shall sit in the branches wi' Zaccheus.
"'Third. We shall come down from the tree wi' Zaccheus; and if time
"'Fourth. We shall be going home wi' the publican.'"
It seemed only just to pay a tribute at this point to the wonderful
presence of mind Mrs. Macfadyen had shown amid unparalleled
"Hoot awa," she responded; the meenut ony heads cam a' knew ma
grund: but the times atween I wes fairly lost.
"A'll no deny," and our critic turned aside to general reflections,
"that Mactavish said mony bonnie and affeckin' things frae time tae
time, like the glimpses o' the hills ye get when the mist rolls awa,
and he cam nearer the hert than the feck o' oor preachers; but
certes yon confusion is mair than us low country fouk cud stand.
"Juist when he wes speakin' aboot Zaccheus as nice as ye please--though
whether he was up the tree or doon the tree a' cudna for the life o' me
tell--he stops sudden and looks at us ower the top o' his spectacles,
which is terrible impressive, and near dis instead o' speakin.'
"We will now come to the third head of this discoorse.
"'The trumpet shall be blown, for,' says he, in a kin' o' whisper,
'there's a hint o' oppeesition here,' an' a' tell ye honestly a'
lost hert a'thegither, for here he wes back again amang the
trumpets, and a'll gie ma aith he never sae much as mentioned that
"It's an awfu' peety that some men dinna ken when tae stop; they
micht see frae the poopit; if a' saw the tears comin' tae the
women's een, or the men glowering like wild cats for fear they sud
brak doon, a'd say Amen as quick as Pittendreigh aifter his goat.
"What possessed Maister Dugald, as Lachlan ca'd him, a'd dinna ken,
but aboot half nine--an' he begood at six--he sat oot upon the
trumpets again, an' when he cudna get a haud o' them, he says:
"'It will be getting dark' (the mune was fairly oot), 'an' it is
time we were considering our last head.
"'We will now study Satan in all his offices and characteristics.'"
"A' see they've been telling ye what happened," and confusion
covered Mrs. Macfadyen's ingenuous countenance.
"Weel, as sure's deith a' cudna help it, tae be sittin' on peens for
mair than twa oors tryin' tae get a grup o' a man's heads, an' him
tae play hide-and-seek wi' ye, an' then tae begin on Satan at nine
o'clock is mair nor flesh and bluid cud endure.
"A' acknowledge a' scrapit, but a' houp tae gudeness a'll never be
tempted like yon again.
"It's a judgment on me for ma pride, an' Jeems said that tae me, for
a' boastit a' cudna be beat, but anither oor o' Mactavish wud hae
driven me dottle (silly)."
Then I understood that Mrs. Macfadyen had been humbled in the dust.
A DOCTOR OF THE OLD SCHOOL
A GENERAL PRACTITIONER
Drumtochty was accustomed to break every law of health, except
wholesome food and fresh air, and yet had reduced the Psalmist's
farthest limit to an average life-rate. Our men made no difference
in their clothes for summer or winter, Drumsheugh and one or two of
the larger farmers condescending to a topcoat on Sabbath, as a
penalty of their position, and without regard to temperature. They
wore their blacks at a funeral, refusing to cover them with
anything, out of respect to the deceased, and standing longest in
the kirkyard when the north wind was blowing across a hundred miles
of snow. If the rain was pouring at the Junction, then Drumtochty
stood two minutes longer through sheer native dourness till each man
had a cascade from the tail of his coat, and hazarded the
suggestion, halfway to Kildrummie, that it had been "a bit scrowie,"
a "scrowie" being as far short of a "shoor" as a "shoor" fell below
This sustained defiance of the elements provoked occasional
judgments in the shape of a "hoast" (cough), and the head of the
house was then exhorted by his women folk to "change his feet" if he
had happened to walk through a burn on his way home, and was
pestered generally with sanitary precautions. It is right to add
that the gudeman treated such advice with contempt, regarding it as
suitable for the effeminacy of towns, but not seriously intended for
Drumtochty. Sandy Stewart "napped" stones on the road in his shirt
sleeves, wet or fair, summer and winter, till he was persuaded to
retire from active duty at eighty-five, and he spent ten years more
in regetting his hastiness and criticising his successor. The
ordinary course of life, with fine air and contented minds, was to
do a full share of work till seventy, and then to look after "orra"
jobs well into the eighties, and to "slip awa" within sight of
ninety. Persons above ninety were understood to be acquitting
themselves with credit, and assumed airs of authority, brushing
aside the opinions of seventy as immature, and confirming their
conclusions with illustrations drawn from the end of last century.
When Hillocks' brother so far forgot himself as to "slip awa" at
sixty, that worthy man was scandalized, and offered laboured
explanations at the "beerial."
"It's an awfu' business ony wy ye look at it, an' a sair trial tae
us a'. A' never heard tell o' sic a thing in oor family afore, an'
it's no easy accoontin' for't.
"The gudewife was sayin' he wes never the same sin' a weet nicht he
lost himsel on the muir and slept below a bush; but that's neither
here nor there. A'm thinkin' he sappit his constitution thae twa
years he wes grieve aboot England. That wes thirty years syne, but
ye're never the same aifter thae foreign climates."
Drumtochty listened patiently to Hillocks' apologia, but was not
"It's clean havers aboot the muir. Losh keep's, we've a' sleepit oot
and never been a hair the waur.
"A' admit that England micht hae dune the job; it's no cannie
stravagin' yon wy frae place tae place, but Drums never complained
tae me as if he hed been nippit in the Sooth."
The parish had, in fact, lost confidence in Drums after his wayward
experiment with a potato-digging machine, which turned out a
lamentable failure, and his premature departure confirmed our vague
impression of his character.
"He's awa noo," Drumsheugh summed up, after opinion had time to
form; "an' there were waur fouk than Drums, but there's nae doot he
wes a wee flichty."
When illness had the audacity to attack a Drumtochty man, it was
described as a "whup," and was treated by the men with a fine
negligence. Hillocks was sitting in the Post Office one afternoon
when I looked in for my letters, and the right side of his face was
blazing red. His subject of discourse was the prospects of the
turnip "breer," but he casually explained that he was waiting for
"The gudewife is keepin' up a ding-dong frae mornin' till nicht
aboot ma face, and a'm fair deaved (deafened), so a'm watchin' for
MacLure tae get a bottle as he comes wast; yon's him noo."
The doctor made his diagnosis from horseback on sight, and stated
the result with that admirable clearness which endeared him to
"Confoond ye, Hillocks, what are ye ploiterin' aboot here for in the
weet wi' a face like a boiled beet? Div ye no ken that ye've a titch
o' the rose (erysipelas), and ocht tae be in the hoose? Gae hame wi'
ye afore a' leave the bit, and send a haflin for some medicine. Ye
donnerd idiot, are ye ettlin tae follow Drums afore yir time?" And
the medical attendant of Drumtochty continued his invective till
Hillocks started, and still pursued his retreating figure with
medical directions of a simple and practical character.
"A'm watchin', an' peety ye if ye pit aff time. Keep yir bed the
mornin', and dinna show yir face in the fields till a' see ye. A'll
gie ye a cry on Monday--sic an auld fule--but there's no ane o' them
tae mind anither in the hale pairish."
Hillocks' wife informed the kirkyaird that the doctor "gied the
gudeman an awfu' clearin'," and that Hillocks "wes keepin' the
hoose," which meant that the patient had tea breakfast, and at that
time was wandering about the farm buildings in an easy undress with
his head in a plaid.
It was impossible for a doctor to earn even the most modest
competence from a people of such scandalous health, and so MacLure
had annexed neighbouring parishes. His house--little more than a
cottage--stood on the roadside among the pines towards the head of
our Glen, and from this base of operations he dominated the wild
glen that broke the wall of the Grampians above Drumtochty--where
the snows drifts were twelve feet deep in winter, and the only way
of passage at times was the channel of the river--and the moorland
district westwards till he came to the Dunleith sphere of influence,
where there were four doctors and a hydropathic. Drumtochty in its
length, which was eight miles, and its breadth, which was four, lay
in his hand; besides a glen behind, unknown to the world, which in
the night time he visited at the risk of life, for the way thereto
was across the big moor with its peat holes and treacherous bogs.
And he held the land eastwards towards Muirtown so far as Geordie,
the Drumtochty post, travelled every day, and could carry word that
the doctor was wanted. He did his best for the need of every man,
woman, and child in this wild, straggling district, year in, year
out, in the snow and in the heat, in the dark and in the light,
without rest, and without holiday for forty years.
One horse could not do the work of this man, but we liked best to
see him on his old white mare, who died the week after her master,
and the passing of the two did our hearts good. It was not that he
rode beautifully, for he broke every canon of art, flying with his
arms, stooping till he seemed to be speaking into Jess's ears, and
rising in the saddle beyond all necessity. But he could rise faster,
stay longer in the saddle, and had a firmer grip with his knees than
any one I ever met, and it was all for mercy's sake. When the
reapers in harvest time saw a figure whirling past in a cloud of
dust, or the family at the foot of Glen Urtach, gathered round the
fire on a winter's night, heard the rattle of a horse's hoofs on the
road, or the shepherds, out after the sheep, traced a black speck
moving across the snow to the upper glen, they knew it was the
doctor, and, without being conscious of it, wished him God speed.
Before and behind his saddle were strapped the instruments and
medicines the doctor might want, for he never knew what was before
him. There were no specialists in Drumtochty, so this man had to do
everything as best he could, and as quickly. He was chest doctor and
doctor for every other organ as well; he was accoucheur and surgeon;
he was oculist and aurist; he was dentist and chloroformist, besides
being chemist and druggist. It was often told how he was far up Glen
Urtach when the feeders of the threshing mill caught young Burnbrae,
and how he only stopped to change horses at his house, and galloped
all the way to Burnbrae, and flung himself off his horse and
amputated the arm, and saved the lad's life.
"You wud hae thocht that every meenut was an hour," said Jamie
Soutar, who had been at the threshing, "an' a'll never forget the
puir lad lying as white as deith on the floor o' the loft, wi' his
head on a sheaf, an' Burnbrae haudin' the bandage ticht an' prayin'
a' the while, and the mither greetin' in the corner.
"'Will he never come?' she cries, an' a' heard the soond o' the
horse's feet on the road a mile awa in the frosty air.
"'The Lord be praised!' said Burnbrae, and a' slippit doon the
ladder as the doctor came skelpin' intae the close, the foam fleein'
frae his horse's mooth.
"'Whar is he?' wes a' that passed his lips, an' in five meenuts he
hed him on the feedin' board, and wes at his wark--sic wark,
neeburs--but he did it weel. An' ae thing a' thocht rael thochtfu'
o' him: he first sent aff the laddie's mither tae get a bed ready.
"'Noo that's feenished, and his constitution 'ill dae the rest,' and
he carried the lad doon the ladder in his airms like a bairn, and
laid him in his bed, and waits aside him till he wes sleepin', and
then says he: 'Burnbrae, yir a gey lad never tae say "Collie, will
ye lick?" for a' hevna tasted meat for saxteen hoors.'
"It was michty tae see him come intae the yaird that day, neeburs;
the verra look o' him wes victory."
Jamie's cynicism slipped off in the enthusiasm of this reminiscence,
and he expressed the feeling of Drumtochty. No one sent for MacLure
save in great straits, and the sight of him put courage in sinking
hearts. But this was not by the grace of his appearance, or the
advantage of a good bedside manner. A tall, gaunt, loosely made man,
without an ounce of superfluous flesh on his body, his face burned a
dark brick colour by constant exposure to the weather, red hair and
beard turning grey, honest blue eyes that look you ever in the face,
huge hands with wrist bones like the shank of a ham, and a voice
that hurled his salutations across two fields, he suggested the moor
rather than the drawing-room. But what a clever hand it was in an
operation, as delicate as a woman's, and what a kindly voice it was
in the humble room where the shepherd's wife was weeping by her
man's bedside. He was "ill pitten thegither" to begin with, but many
of his physical defects were the penalties of his work, and endeared
him to the Glen. That ugly scar that cut into his right eyebrow and
gave him such a sinister expression, was got one night Jess slipped
on the ice and laid him insensible eight miles from home. His limp
marked the big snowstorm in the fifties, when his horse missed the
road in Glen Urtach, and they rolled together in a drift. MacLure
escaped with a broken leg and the fracture of three ribs, but he
never walked like other men again. He could not swing himself into
the saddle without making two attempts and holding Jess's mane.
Neither can you "warstle" through the peat bogs and snow drifts for
forty winters without a touch of rheumatism. But they were
honourable scars, and for such risks of life men get the Victoria
Cross in other fields. MacLure got nothing but the secret affection
of the Glen, which knew that none had ever done one-tenth as much
for it as this ungainly, twisted, battered figure, and I have seen a
Drumtochty face soften at the sight of MacLure limping to his horse.
Mr. Hopps earned the ill-will of the Glen for ever by criticising
the doctor's dress, but indeed it would have filled any townsman
with amazement. Black he wore once a year, on Sacrament Sunday, and,
if possible, at a funeral; topcoat or waterproof never. His jacket
and waistcoat were rough homespun of Glen Urtach wool, which threw
off the wet like a duck's back, and below he was clad in shepherd's
tartan trousers, which disappeared into unpolished riding boots. His
shirt was grey flannel, and he was uncertain about a collar, but
certain as to a tie which he never had, his beard doing instead, and
his hat was soft felt of four colours and seven different shapes.
His point of distinction in dress was the trousers, and they were
the subject of unending speculation.
"Some threep that he's worn thae eedentical pair the last twenty
year, an' a' mind masel him gettin' a tear ahint, when he was
crossin' oor palin', and the mend's still veesible.
"Ithers declare 'at he's got a wab o' claith, and hes a new pair
made in Muirtown aince in the twa year maybe, and keeps them in the
garden till the new look wears aft.
"For ma ain pairt," Soutar used to declare, "a' canna mak up my
mind, but there's ae thing sure, the Glen wud not like tae see him
withoot them: it wud be a shock tae confidence. There's no muckle o'
the check left, but ye can aye tell it, and when ye see thae breeks
comin' in ye ken that if human pooer can save yir bairn's life it
'ill be dune."
The confidence of the Glen--and tributary states--was unbounded, and
rested partly on long experience of the doctor's resources, and
partly on his hereditary connection.
"His father was here afore him," Mrs. Macfadyen used to explain;
"atween them they've hed the countyside for weel on tae a century;
if MacLure disna understand oor constitution, wha dis, a' wud like
For Drumtochty had its own constitution and a special throat
disease, as became a parish which was quite self-contained between
the woods and the hills, and not dependent on the lowlands either
for its diseases or its doctors.
"He's a skilly man, Doctor MacLure," continued my friend Mrs.
Macfadyen, whose judgment on sermons or anything else was seldom at
fault; "an' a kind-hearted, though o' coorse he hes his faults like
us a', an' he disna tribble the Kirk often.
"He aye can tell what's wrang wi' a body, an' maistly he can put ye
richt, and there's nae new-fangled wys wi' him: a blister for the
ootside an' Epsom salts for the inside dis his wark, an' they say
there's no an herb on the hills he disna ken.
"If we're tae dee, we're tae dee; an' if we're tae live, we're tae
live," concluded Elspeth, with sound Calvinistic logic; "but a'll
say this for the doctor, that whether yir tae live or dee, he can
aye keep up a shairp meisture on the skin.
"But he's no verra ceevil gin ye bring him when there's naethin'
wrang," and Mrs. Macfadyen's face reflected another of Mr. Hopps'
misadventures of which Hillocks held the copyright.
"Hopps' laddie ate grosarts (gooseberries) till they hed to sit up
a' nicht wi' him, an' naethin' wud do but they maun hae the doctor,
an' he writes 'immediately' on a slip o' paper.
"Weel, MacLure had been awa a' nicht wi' a shepherd's wife Dunleith
wy, and he comes here withoot drawin' bridle, mud up tae the een.
"'What's a dae here, Hillocks?" he cries; 'it's no an accident,
is't?' and when he got aff his horse he cud hardly stand wi'
stiffness and tire.
"'It's nane o' us, doctor; it's Hopps' laddie; he's been eatin' ower
"If he didna turn on me like a tiger.
"'Div ye mean tae say--'
"'Weesht, weesht,' an' I tried tae quiet him, for Hopps wes comin'
"'Well, doctor,' begins he, as brisk as a magpie, 'you're here at
last; there's no hurry with you Scotchmen. My boy has been sick all
night, and I've never had one wink of sleep. You might have come a
little quicker, that's all I've got to say.'
"'We've mair tae dae in Drumtochty than attend tae every bairn that
hes a sair stomach,' and a' saw MacLure wes roosed.
"'I'm astonished to hear you speak. Our doctor at home always says
to Mrs. 'Opps, "Look on me as a family friend, Mrs. 'Opps, and send
for me though it be only a headache."'
"'He'd be mair sparin' o' his offers if he hed four and twenty mile
tae look aifter. There's naethin' wrang wi' yir laddie but greed.
Gie him a gude dose o' castor oil and stop his meat for a day, an'
he 'ill be a' richt the morn.'
"'He 'ill not take castor oil, doctor. We have given up those
"'Whatna kind o' medicines hae ye noo in the Sooth?'
"'Well, you see, Dr. MacLure, we're homoeopathists, and I've my
little chest here, 'and oot Hopps comes wi' his boxy.
"'Let's see't,' an' MacLure sits doon and taks oot the bit bottles,
and he reads the names wi' a lauch every time.
"'Belladonna; did ye ever hear the like? Aconite; it cowes a'. Nux
Vomica. What next? Weel, ma mannie,' he says tae Hopps, 'it's a fine
ploy, and ye 'ill better gang on wi' the Nux till it's dune, and gie
him ony ither o' the sweeties he fancies.
"'Noo, Hillocks, a' maun be aff tae see Drumsheugh's grieve, for
he's doon wi' the fever, and it's tae be a teuch fecht. A' hinna
time tae wait for dinner; gie me some cheese an' cake in ma haund,
and Jess 'ill tak a pail o' meal an' water.
"'Fee; a'm no wantin' yir fees, man; wi' that boxy ye dinna need a
doctor; na, na, gie yir siller tae some puir body, Maister Hopps,'
an' he was doon the road as hard as he cud lick."
His fees were pretty much what the folk chose to give him, and he
collected them once a year at Kildrummie fair.
"Weel, doctor, what am a' awin' ye for the wife and bairn? Ye 'ill
need three notes for that nicht ye stayed in the hoose an' a' the
"Havers," MacLure would answer, "prices are low, a'm hearing; gie's
"No, a'll no, or the wife 'ill tak ma ears off," and it was settled
for two pounds.
Lord Kilspindie gave him a free house and fields, and one way or
other, Drumsheugh told me, the doctor might get in about £150 a
year, out of which he had to pay his old housekeeper's wages and a
boy's, and keep two horses, besides the cost of instruments and
books, which he bought through a friend in Edinburgh with much
There was only one man who ever complained of the doctor's charges,
and that was the new farmer of Milton, who was so good that he was
above both churches, and held a meeting in his barn. (It was Milton
the Glen supposed at first to be a Mormon, but I can't go into that
now.) He offered McLure a pound less than he asked, and two tracts,
whereupon MacLure expressed his opinion of Milton, both from a
theological and social standpoint, with such vigour and frankness
that an attentive audience of Drumtochty men could hardly contain
Jamie Soutar was selling his pig at the time, and missed the
meeting, but he hastened to condole with Milton, who was complaining
everywhere of the doctor's language.
"Ye did richt tae resist him; it 'ill maybe roose the Glen tae mak a
stand; he fair hauds them in bondage.
"Thirty shillings for twal veesits, and him no mair than seeven mile
awa, an' a'm telt there werena mair than four at nicht.
"Ye 'ill hae the sympathy o' the Glen, for a' body kens yir as free
wi' yir siller as yir tracts.
"Wes't 'Beware o' gude warks' ye offered him? Man, ye chose it weel,
for he's been colleckin' sae mony thae forty years, a'm feared for
"A've often thocht oor doctor's little better than the Gude
Samaritan, an' the Pharisees didna think muckle o' his chance aither
in this warld or that which is tae come."
THROUGH THE FLOOD
Doctor MacLure did not lead a solemn procession from the sick bed to
the dining-room, and give his opinion from the hearthrug with an air
of wisdom bordering on the supernatural, because neither the
Drumtochty houses nor his manners were on that large scale. He was
accustomed to deliver himself in the yard, and to conclude his
directions with one foot in the stirrup; but when he left the room
where the life of Annie Mitchell was ebbing slowly away, our doctor
said not one word, and at the sight of his face her husband's heart
He was a dull man, Tammas, who could not read the meaning of a sign,
and laboured under a perpetual disability of speech; but love was
eyes to him that day, and a mouth.
"Is't as bad as yir lookin', doctor? tell's the truth; wull Annie no
come through?" and Tammas looked MacLure straight in the face, who
never flinched his duty or said smooth things.
"A' wud gie onything tae say Annie hes a chance, but a' daurna; a'
doot yir gaein' tae lose her, Tammas."
MacLure was in the saddle, and as he gave his judgment, he laid his
hand on Tammas's shoulder with one of the rare caresses that pass
"It's a sair business, but ye 'ill play the man and no vex Annie;
she 'ill dae her best, a'll warrant."
"An' a'll dae mine," and Tammas gave MacLure's hand a grip that
would have crushed the bones of a weakling. Drumtochty felt in such
moments the brotherliness of this rough-looking man, and loved him.
Tammas hid his face in Jess's mane, who looked round with sorrow in
her beautiful eyes, for she had seen many tragedies, and in this
silent sympathy the stricken man drank his cup, drop by drop.
"A' wesna prepared for this, for a' aye thocht she wud live the
langest.... She's younger than me by ten years, and never wes
ill.... We've been mairit twal year laist Martinmas, but its juist
like a year the day.... A' wes never worthy o' her, the bonniest,
snoddest (neatest), kindliest lass in the Glen.... A' never cud mak
oot hoo she ever lookit at me, 'at hesna hed ae word tae say aboot
her till it's ower late.... She didna cuist up tae me that a' wesna
worthy o' her, no her, but aye she said, 'Yir ma ain gudeman, and
nane cud be kinder tae me.'... An' a' wes minded tae be kind, but a'
see noo mony little trokes a' micht hae dune for her, and noo the
time is bye.... Naebody kens hoo patient she wes wi' me, and aye
made the best o' me, an' never pit me tae shame afore the fouk....
An' we never hed ae cross word, no ane in twal year.... We were mair
nor man and wife, we were sweethearts a' the time.... Oh, ma bonnie
lass, what 'ill the bairnies an' me dae withoot ye, Annie?"
The winter night was falling fast, the snow lay deep upon the
ground, and the merciless north wind moaned through the close as
Tammas wrestled with his sorrow dry-eyed, for tears were denied
Drumtochty men. Neither the doctor nor Jess moved hand or foot, but
their hearts were with their fellow creature, and at length the
doctor made a sign to Marget Howe, who had come out in search of
Tammas, and now stood by his side.
"Dinna mourn tae the brakin' o' yir hert, Tammas," she said, "as if
Annie an' you hed never luved. Neither death nor time can pairt them
that luve; there's naethin' in a' the warld sae strong as luve. If
Annie gaes frae the sicht o' yir een she 'ill come the nearer tae
yir hert. She wants tae see ye, and tae hear ye say that ye 'ill
never forget her nicht nor day till ye meet in the land where
there's nae pairtin'. Oh, a' ken what a'm sayin', for it's five year
noo sin George gied awa, an' he's mair wi' me noo than when he wes
in Edinboro' and I wes in Drumtochty."
"Thank ye kindly, Marget; thae are gude words and true, an' ye hev
the richt tae say them; but a' canna dae without seein' Annie comin'
tae meet me in the gloamin', an' gaein' in an' oot the hoose, an'
hearin' her ca' me by ma name, an' a'll no can tell her that a' luve
her when there's nae Annie in the hoose.
"Can naethin' be dune, doctor? Ye savit Flora Cammil, and young
Burnbrae, an' yon shepherd's wife Dunleith wy, an' we were a sae
prood o' ye, an' pleased tae think that ye hed keepit deith frae
anither hame. Can ye no think o' somethin' tae help Annie, and gie
her back tae her man and bairnies?" and Tammas searched the doctor's
face in the cold, weird light.
"There's nae pooer in heaven or airth like luve," Marget said to me
afterwards; "it maks the weak strong and the dumb tae speak. Oor
herts were as water afore Tammas's words, an' a' saw the doctor
shake in his saddle. A' never kent till that meenut hoo he hed a
share in a'body's grief, an' carried the heaviest wecht o' a' the
Glen. A' peetied him wi' Tammas lookin' at him sae wistfully, as if
he hed the keys o' life an' deith in his hands. But he wes honest,
and wudna hold oot a false houp tae deceive a sore hert or win
escape for himsel'."
"Ye needna plead wi' me, Tammas, to dae the best a' can for yir
wife. Man, a' kent her lang afore ye ever luved her; a' brocht her
intae the warld, and a' saw her through the fever when she wes a bit
lassikie; a' closed her mither's een, and it wes me hed tae tell her
she wes an orphan, an' nae man wes better pleased when she got a
gude husband, and a' helpit her wi' her fower bairns. A've naither
wife nor bairns o' ma own, an' a coont a' the fouk o' the Glen ma
family. Div ye think a' wudna save Annie if I cud? If there wes a
man in Muirtown 'at cud dae mair for her, a'd have him this verra
nicht, but a' the doctors in Perthshire are helpless for this
"Tammas, ma puir fallow, if it could avail, a' tell ye a' wud lay
doon this auld worn-oot ruckle o' a body o' mine juist tae see ye
baith sittin' at the fireside, an' the bairns roond ye, couthy an'
canty again; but it's no tae be, Tammas, it's no tae be."
"When a' lookit at the doctor's face," Marget said, "a' thocht him
the winsomest man a' ever saw. He wes transfigured that nicht, for
a'm judging there's nae transfiguration like luve."
"It's God's wull an' maun be borne, but it's a sair wull for me, an'
a'm no ungratefu' tae you, doctor, for a' ye've dune and what ye
said the nicht," and Tammas went back to sit with Annie for the last
Jess picked her way through the deep snow to the main road, with a
skill that came of long experience, and the doctor held converse
with her according to his wont.
"Eh, Jess wumman, yon wes the hardest wark a' hae tae face, and a'
wud raither hae ta'en ma chance o' anither row in a Glen Urtach
drift than tell Tammas Mitchell his wife wes deein'.
"A' said she cudna be cured, and it wes true, for there's juist ae
man in the land fit for't, and they micht as weel try tae get the
mune oot o' heaven. Sae a' said naethin' tae vex Tammas's hert, for
it's heavy eneuch withoot regrets.
"But it's hard, Jess, that money wull buy life after a', an' if
Annie wes a duchess her man wudna lose her; but bein' only a puir
cottar's wife, she maun dee afore the week's oot.
"Gin we hed him the morn there's little doot she wud be saved, for
he hesna lost mair than five per cent, o' his cases, and they 'ill
be puir toon's craturs, no strappin' women like Annie.
"It's oot o' the question, Jess, sae hurry up, lass, for we've hed a
heavy day. But it wud be the grandest thing that was ever dune in
the Glen in oor time if it could be managed by hook or crook.
"We 'ill gang and see Drumsheugh, Jess; he's anither man sin'
Geordie Hoo's deith, and he wes aye kinder than fouk kent;" and the
doctor passed at a gallop through the village, whose lights shone
across the white frost-bound road.
"Come in by, doctor; a' heard ye on the road; ye 'ill hae been at
Tammas Mitchell's; hoo's the gudewife? a' doot she's sober."
"Annie's deein', Drumsheugh, an' Tammas is like tae brak his hert."
"That's no lichtsome, doctor, no lichtsome ava, for a' dinna ken ony
man in Drumtochty sae bund up in his wife as Tammas, and there's no
a bonnier wumman o' her age crosses oor kirk door than Annie, nor a
cleverer at her wark. Man, ye 'ill need tae pit yir brains in steep.
Is she clean beyond ye?"
"Beyond me and every ither in the land but ane, and it wud cost a
hundred guineas tae bring him tae Drumtochty."
"Certes, he's no blate; it's a fell chairge for a short day's work;
but hundred or no hundred we 'ill hae him, an' no let Annie gang,
and her no half her years."
"Are ye meanin' it, Drumsheugh?" and MacLure turned white below the
"William MacLure," said Drumsheugh, in one of the few confidences
that ever broke the Drumtochty reserve, "a'm a lonely man, wi'
naebody o' ma ain blude tae care for me livin', or tae lift me intae
ma coffin when a'm deid.
"A' fecht awa at Muirtown market for an extra pund on a beast, or a
shillin' on the quarter o' barley, an' what's the gude o't? Burnbrae
gaes aff tae get a goon for his wife or a buke for his college
laddie, an' Lachlan Campbell 'ill no leave the place noo withoot a
ribbon for Flora.
"Ilka man in the Kildrummie train has some bit fairin' in his pooch
for the fouk at hame that he's bocht wi' the siller he won.
"But there's naebody tae be lookin' oot for me, an' comin' doon the
road tae meet me, and daffin' (joking) wi' me aboot their fairing,
or feeling ma pockets. Ou ay, a've seen it a' at ither hooses,
though they tried tae hide it frae me for fear a' wud lauch at them.
Me lauch, wi' ma cauld, empty hame!
"Yir the only man kens, Weelum, that I aince luved the noblest
wumman in the glen or onywhere, an' a' luve her still, but wi'
anither luve noo.
"She hed given her heart tae anither, or a've thocht a' micht hae
won her, though nae man be worthy o' sic a gift. Ma hert turned tae
bitterness, but that passed awa beside the brier bush whar George
Hoo lay yon sad simmer time. Some day a'll tell ye ma story, Weelum,
for you an' me are auld freends, and will be till we dee."
MacLure felt beneath the table for Drumsheugh's hand, but neither
man looked at the other.
"Weel, a' we can dae noo, Weelum, gin we haena mickle brichtness in
oor ain hames, is tae keep the licht frae gaein' oot in anither
hoose. Write the telegram, man, and Sandy 'ill send it aff frae
Kildrurnmie this verra nicht, and ye 'ill hae yir man the morn."
"Yir the man a' coonted ye, Drumsheugh, but ye 'ill grant me ae
favour. Ye 'ill lat me pay the half, bit by bit--a' ken yir wullin'
tae dae't a',--but a' haena mony pleesures, an' a' wud like tae hae
ma ain share in savin' Annie's life."
Next morning a figure received Sir George on the Kildrummie
platform, whom that famous surgeon took for a gillie, but who
introduced himself as "MacLure of Drumtochty." It seemed as if the
East had come to meet the West when these two stood together, the
one in travelling furs, handsome and distinguished, with his strong,
cultured face and carriage of authority, a characteristic type of
his profession; and the other more marvellously dressed than ever,
for Drumsheugh's topcoat had been forced upon him for the occasion,
his face and neck one redness with the bitter cold; rough and
ungainly, yet not without some signs of power in his eye and voice,
the most heroic type of his noble profession. MacLure compassed the
precious arrival with observances till he was securely seated in
Drumsheugh's dogcart--a vehicle that lent itself to history--with
two full-sized plaids added to his equipment--Drumsheugh and
Hillocks had both been requisitioned--and MacLure wrapped another
plaid round a leather case, which was placed below the seat with
such reverence as might be given to the Queen's regalia. Peter
attended their departure full of interest, and as soon as they were
in the fir woods MacLure explained that it would be an eventful
"It's a' richt in here, for the wind disna get at the snaw, but the
drifts are deep in the Glen, and th'ill be some engineerin' afore we
get tae oor destination."
Four times they left the road and took their way over fields, twice
they forced a passage through a slap in a dyke, thrice they used
gaps in the paling which MacLure had made on his downward journey.
"A' seleckit the road this mornin', an' a' ken the depth tae an
inch; we 'ill get through this steadin' here tae the main road, but
oor worst job 'ill be crossin' the Tochty.
"Ye see the bridge hes been shakin' wi' this winter's flood, and we
daurna venture on it, sae we hev tae ford, and the snaw's been
melting up Urtach way. There's nae doot the water's gey big, and
it's threatenin' tae rise, but we 'ill win through wi' a warstle.
"It micht be safer tae lift the instruments oot o' reach o' the
water; wud ye mind haddin' them on yir knee till we're ower, an'
keep firm in yir seat in case we come on a stane in the bed o' the
By this time they had come to the edge, and it was not a cheering
sight. The Tochty had spread out over the meadows, and while they
waited they could see it cover another two inches on the trunk of a
tree. There are summer floods, when the water is brown and flecked
with foam, but this was a winter flood, which is black and sullen,
and runs in the centre with a strong, fierce, silent current. Upon
the op posite side Hillocks stood to give directions by word and
hand, as the ford was on his land, and none knew the Tochty better
in all its ways.
They passed through the shallow water without mishap, save when the
wheel struck a hidden stone or fell suddenly into a rut; but when
they neared the body of the river MacLure halted, to give Jess a
"It 'ill tak ye a' yir time, lass, an' a' wud raither be on yir
back; but ye never failed me yet, and a wumman's life is hangin' on
With the first plunge into the bed of the stream the water rose to
the axles, and then it crept up to the shafts, so that the surgeon
could feel it lapping in about his feet, while the dogcart began to
quiver, and it seemed as if it were to be carried away. Sir George
was as brave as most men, but he had never forded a Highland river
in flood, and the mass of black water racing past beneath, before,
behind him, affected his imagination and shook his nerves. He rose
from his seat and ordered MacLure to turn back, declaring that he
would be condemned utterly and eternally if he allowed himself to be
drowned for any person.
"Sit doon," thundered MacLure; "condemned ye will be suner or later
gin ye shirk yir duty, but through the water ye gang the day."
Both men spoke much more strongly and shortly, but this is what they
intended to say, and it was MacLure that prevailed.
Jess trailed her feet along the ground with cunning art, and held
her shoulder against the stream; MacLure leant forward in his seat,
a rein in each hand, and his eyes fixed on Hillocks, who was now
standing up to the waist in the water, shouting directions and
cheering on horse and driver.
"Haud tae the richt, doctor; there's a hole yonder. Keep oot o't for
ony sake. That's it; yir daein' fine. Steady, man, steady. Yir at
the deepest; sit heavy in yir seats. Up the channel noo, and ye 'll
be oot o' the swirl. Weel dune, Jess, weel dune, auld mare! Mak
straicht for me, doctor, an' a'll gie ye the road oot. Ma word,
ye've dune yir best, baith o' ye this mornin'," cried Hillocks,
splashing up to the dogcart, now in the shallows.
"Sall, it wes titch an' go for a meenut in the middle; a Hielan'
ford is a kittle (hazardous) road in the snaw time, but ye're safe
"Gude luck tae ye up at Westerton, sir; nane but a richt-hearted man
wud hae riskit the Tochty in flood. Ye're boond tae succeed aifter
sic a graund beginning" for it had spread already that a famous
surgeon had come to do his best for Annie, Tammas Mitchell's wife.
Two hours later MacLure came out from Annie's room and laid hold of
Tammas, a heap of speechless misery by the kitchen fire, and carried
him off to the barn, and spread some corn on the threshing floor and
thrust a flail into his hands.
"Noo we've tae begin, an' we 'ill no be dune for an' oor, and ye've
tae lay on withoot stoppin' till a' come for ye, an' a'll shut the
door tae haud in the noise, an' keep yir dog beside ye, for there
maunna be a cheep aboot the hoose for Annie's sake."
"A'll dae onythingye want me, but if--if--"
"A'll come for ye, Tammas, gin there be danger; but what are ye
feared for wi' the Queen's ain surgeon here?"
Fifty minutes did the flail rise and fall, save twice, when Tammas
crept to the door and listened, the dog lifting his head and
It seemed twelve hours instead of one when the door swung back, and
MacLure filled the doorway, preceded by a great burst of light, for
the sun had arisen on the snow.
His face was as tidings of great joy, and Elspeth told me that there
was nothing like it to be seen that afternoon for glory, save the
sun itself in the heavens.
"A' never saw the marrow o't, Tammas, an' a'll never see the like
again; it's a' ower, man, withoot a hitch frae beginnin' tae end,
and she's fa'in' asleep as fine as ye like."
"Dis he think Annie ... 'ill live?"
"Of coorse he dis, and be aboot the hoose inside a month; that's the
gude o' bein' a clean-bluided, weel-livin'--"
"Preserve ye, man, what's wrang wi' ye? it's a mercy a' keppit ye,
or we wud hev hed anither job for Sir George.
"Ye're a' richt noo; sit doon on the strae. A'll come back in a
whilie, an' ye 'ill see Annie juist for a meenut, but ye maunna say
Marget took him in and let him kneel by Annie's bedside.
He said nothing then or afterwards, for speech came only once in his
lifetime to Tammas, but Annie whispered, "Ma ain dear man."
When the doctor placed the precious bag beside Sir George in our
solitary first next morning, he laid a cheque beside it and was
about to leave.
"No, no," said the great man. "Mrs. Macfadyen and I were on the
gossip last night, and I know the whole story about you and your
"You have some right to call me a coward, but I'll never let you
count me a mean, miserly rascal," and the cheque with Drumsheugh's
painful writing fell in fifty pieces on the floor.
As the train began to move, a voice from the first called so that
all in the station heard.
"Give's another shake of your hand, MacLure; I'm proud to have met
you; you are an honour to our profession. Mind the antiseptic
It was market day, but only Jamie Soutar and Hillocks had ventured
"Did ye hear yon, Hillocks? hoo dae ye feel? A'll no deny a'm
Halfway to the Junction Hillocks had recovered, and began to grasp
"Tell's what he said. A' wud like to hae it exact for Drumsheugh."
"Thae's the eedentical words, an' they're true; there's no a man in
Drumtochty disna ken that, except ane."
"An' wha's that, Jamie?"
"It's Weelum MacLure himsel. Man, a've often girned that he sud
fecht awa for us a', and maybe dee before he kent that he hed
githered mair luve than ony man in the Glen.
"'A'm prood tae hae met ye', says Sir George, an' him the greatest
doctor in the land. 'Yir an honour tae oor profession.'
"Hillocks, a' wudna hae missed it for twenty notes," said James
Soutar, cynic-in-ordinary to the parish of Drumtochty.
A FIGHT WITH DEATH
When Drumsheugh's grieve was brought to the gates of death by fever,
caught, as was supposed, on an adventurous visit to Glasgow, the
London doctor at Lord Kilspindie's shooting lodge looked in on his
way from the moor, and declared it impossible for Saunders to live
through the night.
"I give him six hours, more or less; it is only a question of time,"
said the oracle, buttoning his gloves and getting into the brake;
"tell your parish doctor that I was sorry not to have met him."
Bell heard this verdict from behind the door, and gave way utterly,
but Drumsheugh declined to accept it as final, and devoted himself
"Dinna greet like that, Bell wumman, sae lang as Saunders is still
livin'; a'll never give up houp, for ma pairt, till oor ain man says
"A' the doctors in the land dinna ken as muckle aboot us as Weelum
MacLure, an' he's ill tae beat when he's tryin' tae save a man's
MacLure, on his coming, would say nothing, either weal or woe, till
he had examined Saunders. Suddenly his face turned into iron before
their eyes, and he looked like one encountering a merciless foe. For
there was a feud between MacLure and a certain mighty power which
had lasted for forty years in Drumtochty.
"The London doctor said that Saunders wud sough awa afore mornin',
did he? Weel, he's an authority on fevers an' sic like diseases, an
ought tae ken.
"It's may be presumptous o' me tae differ frae him, and it wudna be
verra respectfu' o' Saunders tae live aifter this opeenion. But
Saunders wes aye thraun an' ill tae drive, an' he's as like as no
tae gang his ain gait.
"A'm no meanin' tae reflect on sae clever a man, but he didna ken
the seetuation. He can read fevers like a bulk, but he never cam
across sic a thing as the Drumtochty constitution a' his days.
"Ye see, when onybody gets as low as puir Saunders here, it's juist
a hand to hand wrastle atween the fever and his constitution, an' of
coorse, if he hed been a shilpit, stuntit, feckless effeegy o' a
cratur, fed on tea an' made dishes and pushioned wi' bad air,
Saunders wud hae nae chance; he wes boond tae gae oot like the snuff
o' a candle.
"But Saunders hes been fillin' his lungs for five and thirty year
wi' strong Drumtochty air, an' eatin' naethin' but kirny aitmeal,
and drinkin' naethin' but fresh milk frae the coo, an' followin' the
ploo through the new-turned, sweet-smellin' earth, an' swingin' the
scythe in haytime and harvest, till the legs an' airms o' him were
iron, an' his chest wes like the cuttin' o' an oak tree.
"He's a waesome sicht the nicht, but Saunders wes a buirdly man
aince, and wull never lat his life be taken lichtly frae him. Na,
na, he hesna sinned against Nature, and Nature 'ill stand by him noo
in his oor o' distress.
"A' daurna say yea, Bell, muckle as a' wud like, for this is an evil
disease, cunnin' an' treacherous as the deevil himsel', but a' winna
say nay, sae keep yir hert frae despair.
"It wull be a sair fecht, but it 'ill be settled one wy or anither
by sax o'clock the morn's morn. Nae man can prophecee hoo it 'ill
end, but ae thing is certain, a'll no see deith tak a Drumtochty man
afore his time if a' can help it.
"Noo, Bell ma wumman, yir near deid wi' tire, an' nae wonder. Ye've
dune a' ye cud for yir man, an' ye 'ill lippen (trust) him the nicht
tae Drumsheugh an' me; we 'ill no fail him or you.
"Lie doon an' rest, an' if it be the wull o' the Almichty a'll
wauken ye in the mornin' tae see a livin' conscious man, an' if it
be itherwise a'll come for ye the suner, Bell," and the big red hand
went out to the anxious wife. "A' gie ye ma word."
Bell leant over the bed, and at the sight of Saunders' face a
superstitious dread seized her.
"See, doctor, the shadow of deith is on him that never lifts. A've
seen it afore, on ma father an' mither. A' canna leave him, a' canna
"It's hoverin', Bell, but it hesna fallen; please God it never wull.
Gang but and get some sleep, for it's time we were at oor work.
"The doctors in the toons hae nurses an' a' kinds o' handy
apparatus," said MacLure to Drumsheugh when Bell had gone, "but you
an' me 'ill need tae be nurse the nicht, an' use sic things as we
"It 'ill be a lang nicht and anxious wark, but a' wud raither hae
ye, auld freend, wi' me than ony man in the Glen. Ye're no feared
tae gie a hand?"
"Me feared? No likely. Man, Saunders cam tae me a haflin, and hes
been on Drumsheugh for twenty years, an' though he be a dour chiel,
he's a faithfu' servant as ever lived. It's waesome tae see him
lyin' there moanin' like some dumb animal frae mornin' tae nicht,
an' no able tae answer his ain wife when she speaks.
"Div ye think, Weelum, he hes a chance?"
"That he hes, at ony rate, and it 'ill no be your blame or mine if
he hesna mair."
While he was speaking, MacLure took off his coat and waistcoat and
hung them on the back of the door. Then he rolled up the sleeves of
his shirt and laid bare two arms that were nothing but bone and
"It gar'd ma very blood rin faster tae the end of ma fingers juist
tae look at him," Drumsheugh expatiated afterwards to Hillocks, "for
a' saw noo that there was tae be a stand-up fecht atween him an'
deith for Saunders, and when a' thocht o' Bell an' her bairns, a'
kent wha wud win.
"'Aff wi' yir coat, Drumsheugh,' said MacLure; 'ye 'ill need tae
bend yir back the nicht; gither a' the pails in the hoose and fill
them at the spring, an' a'll come doon tae help ye wi' the
It was a wonderful ascent up the steep pathway from the spring to
the cottage on its little knoll, the two men in single file,
bareheaded, silent, solemn, each with a pail of water in either
hand, MacLure limping painfully in front, Drumsheugh blowing behind;
and when they laid down their burden in the sick room, where the
bits of furniture had been put to a side and a large tub held the
centre, Drumsheugh looked curiously at the doctor.
"No, a'm no daft; ye needna be feared; but yir tae get yir first
lesson in medicine the nicht, an' if we win the battle ye can set up
for yersel in the Glen.
"There's twa dangers--that Saunders' strength fails, an' that the
force o' the fever grows; and we have juist twa weapons.
"Yon milk on the drawers' head an' the bottle of whisky is tae keep
up the strength, and this cool caller water is tae keep doon the
"We 'ill cast oot the fever by the virtue o' the earth an' the
"Div ye mean tae pit Saunders in the tub?"
"Ye hiv it noo, Drumsheugh, and that's hoo a' need yir help."
"Man, Hillocks," Drumsheugh used to moralise, as often as he
remembered that critical night, "it wes humblin' tae see hoo low
sickness can bring a pooerfu' man, an' ocht tae keep us frae pride.
"A month syne there wesna a stronger man in the Glen than Saunders,
an' noo he wes juist a bundle o' skin and bone, that naither saw nor
heard, nor moved nor felt, that kent naethin' that was dune tae him.
"Hillocks, a' wudna hae wished ony man tae hev seen Saunders--for it
wull never pass frae before ma een as long as a' live--but a' wish
a' the Glen hed stude by MacLure kneelin' on the floor wi' his
sleeves up tae his oxters and waitin' on Saunders.
"Yon big man wes as pitifu' an' gentle as a wumman, and when he laid
the puir fallow in his bed again, he happit him ower as a mither dis
Thrice it was done, Drumsheugh ever bringing up colder water from
the spring, and twice MacLure was silent; but after the third time
there was a gleam in his eye.
"We're haudin' oor ain; we're no bein' maistered, at ony rate; mair
a' canna say for three oors.
"We 'ill no need the water again, Drumsheugh; gae oot and tak a
breath o' air; a'm on gaird masel."
It was the hour before daybreak, and Drumsheugh wandered through
fields he had trodden since childhood. The cattle lay sleeping in
the pastures; their shadowy forms, with a patch of whiteness here
and there, having a weird suggestion of death. He heard the burn
running over the stones; fifty years ago he had made a dam that
lasted till winter. The hooting of an owl made him start; one had
frightened him as a boy so that he ran home to his mother--she died
thirty years ago. The smell of ripe corn filled the air; it would
soon be cut and garnered. He could see the dim outlines of his
house, all dark and cold; no one he loved was beneath the roof. The
lighted window in Saunders' cottage told where a man hung between
life and death, but love was in that home. The futility of life
arose before this lonely man, and overcame his heart with an
indescribable sadness. What a vanity was all human labour, what a
mystery all human life.
But while he stood, a subtle change came over the night, and the air
trembled round him as if one had whispered. Drumsheugh lifted his
head and looked eastwards. A faint grey stole over the distant
horizon, and suddenly a cloud reddened before his eyes. The sun was
not in sight, but was rising, and sending forerunners before his
face. The cattle began to stir, a blackbird burst into song, and
before Drumsheugh crossed the threshold of Saunders' house, the
first ray of the sun had broken on a peak of the Grampians.
MacLure left the bedside, and as the light of the candle fell on the
doctor's face, Drumsheugh could see that it was going well with
"He's nae waur; an' it's half six noo; it's ower sune tae say mair,
but a'm houpin' for the best. Sit doon and take a sleep, for ye're
needin' 't, Drumsheugh, an', man, ye hae worked for it"
As he dozed off, the last thing Drumsheugh saw was the doctor
sitting erect in his chair, a clenched fist resting on the bed, and
his eyes already bright with the vision of victory.
He awoke with a start to find the room flooded with the morning
sunshine, and every trace of last night's work removed.
The doctor was bending over the bed, and speaking to Saunders.
"It's me, Saunders, Doctor MacLure, ye ken; dinna try tae speak or
move; juist let this drap milk slip ower--ye 'ill be needin' yir
breakfast, lad--and gang tae sleep again."
Five minutes, and Saunders had fallen into a deep, healthy sleep,
all tossing and moaning come to an end. Then MacLure stepped softly
across the floor, picked up his coat and waistcoat, and went out at
Drumsheugh arose and followed him without a word. They passed
through the little garden, sparkling with dew, and beside the byre,
where Hawkie rattled her chain, impatient for Bell's coming, and by
Saunders' little strip of corn ready for the scythe, till they
reached an open field. There they came to a halt, and Doctor MacLure
for once allowed himself to go.
His coat he flung east and his waistcoat west, as far as he could hurl
them, and it was plain he would have shouted had he been a complete
mile from Saunders' room. Any less distance was useless for adequate
expression. He struck Drumsheugh a mighty blow that well-nigh levelled
that substantial man in the dust, and then the doctor of Drumtochty
issued his bulletin.
"Saunders wesna tae live through the nicht, but he's livin' this
meenut, an' like to live.
"He's got by the warst clean and fair, and wi' him that's as good as
"It' ill be a graund waukenin' for Bell; she 'ill no be a weedow
yet, nor the bairnies fatherless.
"There's nae use glowerin' at me, Drumsheugh, for a body's daft at a
time, an' a' canna contain masel, and a'm no gaein' tae try."
Then it dawned upon Drumsheugh that the doctor was attempting the
"He's ill made tae begin wi'," Drumsheugh explained in the kirkyard
next Sabbath, "and ye ken he's been terrible mishannelled by
accidents, sae ye may think what like it wes, but, as sure as deith,
o' a' the Hielan' flings a' ever saw yon wes the bonniest.
"A' hevna shaken ma ain legs for thirty years, but a' confess tae a
turn masel. Ye may lauch an' ye like, neeburs, but the thocht o'
Bell an' the news that wes waitin' her got the better o' me."
Drumtochty did not laugh. Drumtochty looked as if it could have done
quite otherwise for joy.
"A' wud hae made a third gin a' hed been there," announced Hillocks,
"Come on, Drumsheugh," said Jamie Soutar, "gie's the end o't; it wes
a michty mornin'."
"'We're twa auld fules,' says MacLure tae me, and he gaithers up his
claithes. 'It wud set us better tae be tellin' Bell.'
"She wes sleepin' on the top o' her bed wrapped in a plaid, fair
worn oot wi' three weeks' nursin' o' Saunders, but at the first
touch she was oot upon the floor.
"'Is Saunders deein', doctor?' she cries. 'Ye promised tae wauken
me; dinna tell me it's a' ower.'
"'There's nae deein' aboot him, Bell; ye're no tae lose yir man this
time, sae far as a' can see. Come ben an' jidge for yersel'.
"Bell lookit at Saunders, and the tears of joy fell on the bed like
"'The shadow's lifted,' she said; 'he's come back frae the mooth o'
"'A' prayed last nicht that the Lord wud leave Saunders till the
laddies cud dae for themselves, an' thae words came intae ma mind,
"Weepin' may endure for a nicht, but joy cometh in the mornin'."
"'The Lord heard ma prayer, and joy hes come in the mornin', an' she
gripped the doctor's hand.
"'Ye've been the instrument, Doctor MacLure. Ye wudna gie him up,
and ye did what nae ither cud for him, an' a've ma man the day, and
the bairns hae their father.'
"An' afore MacLure kent what she was daein', Bell lifted his hand to
her lips an' kissed it."
"Did she, though?" cried Jamie. "Wha wud hae thocht there wes as
muckle spunk in Bell?"
"MacLure, of coorse, was clean scandalised," continued Drumsheugh,
"an' pooed awa his hand as if it hed been burned.
"Nae man can thole that kind o' fraikin', and a' never heard o' sic
a thing in the parish, but we maun excuse Bell, neeburs; it wes an
occasion by ordinar," and Drumsheugh made Bell's apology to
Drumtochty for such an excess of feeling.
"A' see naethin' tae excuse," insisted Jamie, who was in great
fettle that Sabbath; "the doctor hes never been burdened wi' fees,
and a'm judgin' he coonted a wumman's gratitude that he saved frae
weedowhood the best he ever got."
"A' gaed up tae the Manse last nicht," concluded Drumsheugh, "and
telt the minister hoo the doctor focht aucht oors for Saunders'
life, an' won, and ye never saw a man sae carried. He walkit up and
doon the room a' the time, and every other meenut he blew his nose
like a trumpet.
"'I've a cold in my head to-night, Drumsheugh,' says he; 'never mind
"A've hed the same masel in sic circumstances; they come on sudden,"
"A' wager there 'ill be a new bit in the laist prayer the day, an'
somethin' worth hearin'."
And the fathers went into kirk in great expectation.
"We beseech Thee for such as be sick, that Thy hand may be on them
for good, and that Thou wouldst restore them again to health and
strength," was the familiar petition of every Sabbath.
The congregation waited in a silence that might be heard, and were
not disappointed that morning, for the minister continued:
"Especially we tender Thee hearty thanks that Thou didst spare Thy
servant who was brought down into the dust of death, and hast given
him back to his wife and children, and unto that end didst
wonderfully bless the skill of him who goes out and in amongst us,
the beloved physician of this parish and adjacent districts."
"Didna a' tell ye, neeburs?" said Jamie, as they stood at the
kirkyard gate before dispersing; "there's no a man in the coonty cud
hae dune it better. 'Beloved physician,' an' his 'skill,' tae, an'
bringing in 'adjacent districts'; that's Glen Urtach; it wes
handsome, and the doctor earned it, ay, every word.
"It's an awfu' peety he didna hear yon; but dear knows whar he is
the day, maist likely up--"
Jamie stopped suddenly at the sound of a horse's feet, and there,
coming down the avenue of beech trees that made a long vista from
the kirk gate, they saw the doctor and Jess.
One thought flashed through the minds of the fathers of the
It ought to be done as he passed, and it would be done if it were
not Sabbath. Of course it was out of the question on Sabbath.
The doctor is now distinctly visible, riding after his fashion.
There was never such a chance, if it were only Saturday; and each
man reads his own regret in his neighbour's face.
The doctor is nearing them rapidly; they can imagine the shepherd's
Sabbath or no Sabbath, the Glen cannot let him pass without some
tribute of their pride.
Jess has recognised friends, and the doctor is drawing rein.
"It hes tae be dune," said Jamie desperately, "say what ye like."
Then they all looked towards him, and Jamie led.
"Hurrah," swinging his Sabbath hat in the air, "hurrah," and once
more, "hurrah," Whinnie Knowe, Drumsheugh, and Hillocks joining
lustily, but Tammas Mitchell carrying all before him, for he had
found at last an expression for his feelings that rendered speech
It was a solitary experience for horse and rider, and Jess bolted
without delay. But the sound followed and surrounded them, and as
they passed the corner of the kirkyard, a figure waved his college
cap over the wall and gave a cheer on his own account.
"God bless you, doctor, and well done."
"If it isna the minister," cried Drumsheugh, "in his goon an' bans;
tae think o' that; but a' respeck him for it."
Then Drumtochty became self-conscious, and went home in confusion of
face and unbroken silence, except Jamie Soutar, who faced his
neighbours at the parting of the ways without shame.
"A' wud dae it a' ower again if a' hed the chance; he got naethin'
but his due."
It was two miles before Jess composed her mind, and the doctor and
she could discuss it quietly together.
"A' can hardly believe ma ears, Jess, an' the Sabbath tae; their
verra jidgment hes gane frae the fouk o' Drumtochty.
"They've heard about Saunders, a'm thinkin', wumman, and they're
pleased we brocht him roond; he's fairly on the mend, ye ken, noo.
"A' never expeckit the like o' this, though, and it wes juist a wee
thingie mair than a' cud hae stude.
"Ye hev yir share in't tae, lass; we've hed mony a hard nicht and
day thegither, an' yon wes oor reward. No mony men in this warld
'ill ever get a better, for it cam frae the hert o' honest fouk."
THE DOCTOR'S LAST JOURNEY
Drumtochty had a vivid recollection of the winter when Dr. MacLure
was laid up for two months with a broken leg, and the Glen was
dependent on the dubious ministrations of the Kildrummie doctor.
Mrs. Macfadyen also pretended to recall a "whup" of some kind or
other he had in the fifties, but this was considered to be rather a
pyrotechnic display of Elspeth's superior memory than a serious
statement of fact. MacLure could not have ridden through the snow of
forty winters without suffering, yet no one ever heard him complain,
and he never pled illness to any messenger by night or day.
"It took me," said Jamie Soutar to Milton afterwards, "the feck o'
ten meenuts tae howk him an' Jess oot ae snawy nicht when Drums
turned bad sudden, and if he didna try to excuse himself for no
hearing me at aince wi' some story aboot juist comin' in frae Glen
Urtach, and no bein' in his bed for the laist twa nichts.
"He wes that carefu' o' himsel an' lazy that if it hedna been for
the siller, a've often thocht, Milton, he wud never hae dune a
handstroke o' wark in the Glen.
"What scunnered me wes the wy the bairns were ta'en in wi' him. Man,
a've seen him tak a wee laddie on his knee that his ain mither cudna
quiet, an' lilt 'Sing a song o' saxpence' till the bit mannie wud be
lauchin' like a gude ane, an' pooin' the doctor's beard.
"As for the weemen, he fair cuist a glamour ower them; they're
daein' naethin' noo but speak aboot this body and the ither he
cured, an' hoo he aye hed a couthy word for sick fouk. Weemen hae
nae discernment, Milton; tae hear them speak ye wud think MacLure
hed been a releegious man like yersel, although, as ye said, he wes
little mair than a Gallic.
"Bell Baxter was haverin' awa in the shop tae sic an extent aboot
the wy MacLure brocht roond Saunders when he hed the fever that a'
gied oot at the door, a wes that disgusted, an' a'm telt when Tammas
Mitchell heard the news in the smiddy he wes juist on the greeting.
"The smith said that he wes thinkin' o' Annie's tribble, but ony wy
a' ca' it rael bairnly. It's no like Drumtochty; ye're setting an
example, Milton, wi' yir composure. But a' mind ye took the doctor's
meesure as sune as ye cam intae the pairish."
It is the penalty of a cynic that he must have some relief for his
secret grief, and Milton began to weary of life in Jamie's hands
during those days.
Drumtochty was not observant in the matter of health, but they had
grown sensitive about Dr. MacLure, and remarked in the kirkyard all
summer that he was failing.
"He wes aye spare," said Hillocks, "an' he's been sair twisted for
the laist twenty year, but a' never mind him booed till the year.
An' he's gaein' intae sma' buke (bulk), an' a' dinna like that,
"The Glen wudna dae weel withoot Weelum MacLure, an' he's no as
young as he wes. Man, Drumsheugh, ye micht wile him aff tae the saut
water atween the neeps and the hairst. He's been workin' forty year
for a holiday, an' it's aboot due."
Drumsheugh was full of tact, and met MacLure quite by accident on
"Saunders 'ill no need me till the shearing begins," he explained to
the doctor, "an' a'm gaein' tae Brochty for a turn o' the hot baths;
they're fine for the rheumatics.
"Wull ye no come wi' me for auld lang syne? it's lonesome for a
solitary man, an' it wud dae ye gude."
"Na, na, Drumsheugh," said MacLure, who understood perfectly, "a've
dune a' thae years withoot a break, an' a'm laith (unwilling) tae be
takin' holidays at the tail end.
"A'll no be mony months wi' ye a' thegither noo, an' a'm wanting tae
spend a' the time a' hev in the Glen. Ye see yersel that a'll sune
be getting ma lang rest, an' a'll no deny that a'm wearyin' for it."
As autumn passed into winter, the Glen noticed that the doctor's
hair had turned grey, and that his manner had lost all its
roughness. A feeling of secret gratitude filled their hearts, and
they united in a conspiracy of attention. Annie Mitchell knitted a
huge comforter in red and white, which the doctor wore in misery for
one whole day, out of respect for Annie, and then hung in his
sitting-room as a wall ornament. Hillocks used to intercept him with
hot drinks, and one drifting day compelled him to shelter till the
storm abated. Flora Campbell brought a wonderful compound of honey
and whisky, much tasted in Auchindarroch, for his cough, and the
mother of young Burnbrae filled his cupboard with black jam, as a
healing measure. Jamie Soutar seemed to have an endless series of
jobs in the doctor's direction, and looked in "juist tae rest
himsel" in the kitchen.
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