A Doctor of the Old School
by Ian Mclaren
I. A GENERAL
II. THROUGH THE
III. A FIGHT
IV. THE DOCTOR'S
V. THE MOURNING
OF THE GLEN.
It is with great good will that I write this short preface to the
edition of “A Doctor of the Old School” (which has been illustrated by
Mr. Gordon after an admirable and understanding fashion) because there
are two things that I should like to say to my readers, being also my
One, is to answer a question that has been often and fairly asked.
Was there ever any doctor so self-forgetful and so utterly Christian as
William MacLure? To which I am proud to reply, on my conscience: Not
one man, but many in Scotland and in the South country. I will dare
prophecy also across the sea.
It has been one man's good fortune to know four country doctors, not
one of whom was without his faults—Weelum was not perfect—but who,
each one, might have sat for my hero. Three are now resting from their
labors, and the fourth, if he ever should see these lines, would never
Then I desire to thank my readers, and chiefly the medical
profession for the reception given to the Doctor of Drumtochty.
For many years I have desired to pay some tribute to a class whose
service to the community was known to every countryman, but after the
tale had gone forth my heart failed. For it might have been despised
for the little grace of letters in the style and because of the outward
roughness of the man. But neither his biographer nor his circumstances
have been able to obscure MacLure who has himself won all honest
hearts, and received afresh the recognition of his more distinguished
brethren. From all parts of the English-speaking world letters have
come in commendation of Weelum MacLure, and many were from doctors who
had received new courage. It is surely more honor than a new writer
could ever have deserved to receive the approbation of a profession
whose charity puts us all to shame.
May I take this first opportunity to declare how deeply my heart has
been touched by the favor shown to a simple book by the American
people, and to express my hope that one day it may be given me to see
you face to face.
IAN MACLAREN. Liverpool, Oct. 4, 1895.
I. 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 “weet.”
[Illustration: SANDY STEWART “NAPPED” STONES]
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 regretting 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
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' apology, but was not
“It's clean havers about 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 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
“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 was
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 medical advice.
“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.
[Illustration: “THE GUDEWIFE IS KEEPIN' UP A DING-DONG"]
“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 are o' them tae
mind anither in the hale pairish.”
Hillocks' wife informed the kirkyaird that the doctor “gied the
gudeman an awfu' clear-in',” 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
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 snow 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 be 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 gey lad never tae say 'Collie, will yelick?' 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.”
[Illustration: “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 color 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 the gither” 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 honorable scars, and for such risks of life men get the
Victoria Cross in other fields.
[Illustration: “FOR SUCH RISKS OF LIFE MEN GET THE VICTORIA CROSS IN
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 colors and seven different shapes. His point of
distinction in dress was the trousers, and they were the subject of
“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 aff.
“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
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 tae
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.
Macfayden, 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 sharp meisture on the skin.”
“But he's no veera ceevil gin ye bring him when there's naethin'
wrang,” and Mrs. Macfayden'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 cen.
“'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
“'It's nane o' us, doctor; it's Hopps' laddie; he's been eatin' ower
[Illustration: “HOPPS' LADDIE ATE GROSARTS"]
“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.
“Well, 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
L150. 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 MacLure 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 vigor and frankness that
an attentive audience of Drumtochty men could hardly contain
themselves. 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 hands 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 choose it
weel, for he's been colleckin' sae mony thae forty years, a'm feared
“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.”
II. 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 was troubled.
He was a dull man, Tammas, who could not read the meaning of a sign,
and labored 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
[Illustration: A' DOOT YIR GAEIN' TAE LOSE HER, TAMMAS.”]
“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 it's 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?”
[Illustration: “THE BONNIEST, SNODDEST, KINDLIEST LASS IN THE GLEN"
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
“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 sichot' 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 saying', 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 was 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 seem' 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 on 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 was 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 tribble.
“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 was 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 time.
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 would 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.
[Illustration: “IT'S OOT O' THE QUESTION, JESS, SAE HURRY UP"]
“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 our 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'll hae him, an' no let Annie gang, and her
no half her years.”
“Are ye meanin' it, Drumsheugh?” and MacLure turned white below the
tan. “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 pound 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 without a ribbon for
“Ilka man in the Klldrummie train has some bit fairin' 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 about 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
“She had 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 names, is tae keep the licht frae gaein' oot in anither hoose.
Write the telegram, man, and Sandy 'ill send it aff frae Kildrummie
this verra nicht, and ye 'ill hae yir man the morn.”
[Illustration: “THE EAST HAD COME TO MEET THE WEST"]
“Yir the man a' coonted ye, Drumsheugh, but ye 'ill grant me ae
favor. Ye 'ill lat me pay the half, bit by bit—a' ken yir wullin' tae
dae't a'—but a' haena mony pleasures, 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 dog
cart—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 journey.
“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 shaken 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 river.”
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 opposite
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.
[Illustration: “THEY PASSED THROUGH THE SHALLOW WATER WITHOUT
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 minute's
“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 the
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
“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
“Haud tae the richt, doctor; there's a hole yonder. Keep oot o't for
[Illustration: “A HEAP OF SPEECHLESS MISERY BY THE KITCHEN FIRE.”]
That's 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 onything ye 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 whining.
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.
[Illustration: “MA AIN DEAR MAN"]
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
gud 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 i'll see Annie juist for a meenut, but ye maunna say a
word.” 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
“No, no,” said the great man. “Mrs. Macfayden 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.
[Illustration: “I'M PROUD TO HAVE MET YOU"]
As the train began to move, a voice from the first called so that
all the station heard. “Give's another shake of your hand, MacLure; I'm
proud to have met you; you are an honor to our profession. Mind the
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 thar, 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 honor tae oor profession.'
“Hillocks, a' wudna hae missed it for twenty notes,” said James
Soutar, cynic-in-ordinary to the parish of Drumtochty.
III. 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
“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 to
“Dinna greet like that, Bell wumman, sae lang as Saunders is still
living'; 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 trying tae save a man's life.”
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.
[Illustration: “GAVE WAY UTTERLY"]
“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 awe thraun an' ill tae drive, an' he's as like as no tae
gang his own gait.
“A'm no meanin' tae reflect on sae clever a man, but he didna ken
the seetuation. He can read fevers like a buik, 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 had 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
“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'll 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
ither-wise 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
[Illustration: “BELL LEANT OVER THE BED"]
“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 hev.
“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 muscle.
“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
“'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 carryin'.'“
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 fever.
“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 moralize, 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, 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.”
[Illustration: “A CLENCHED FIST RESTING ON THE BED"]
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 the
door. 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
the 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 on 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.”
“THE DOCTOR WAS ATTEMPTING THE HIGHLAND FLING”
Drumtochty did not laugh. Drumtochty looked as if it could have done
quite otherwise for joy.
“A' wud hae made a third gin a bed 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 scandalized,” 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.”
[Illustration: “I'VE A COLD IN MY HEAD, TO-NIGHT"]
“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
“'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 neighbor'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 had recognized 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 neighbors
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.”
IV. 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.
Macfayden 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 would be
lauchin' like a gude are, 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 Gallio.
“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
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, neeburs.
“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'll 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 it 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 whiskey, 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.
MacLure had been slowly taking in the situation, and at last he
unburdened himself one night to Jamie.
“What ails the fouk, think ye? for they're aye lecturin' me noo tae
tak care o' the weet and tae wrap masel up, an' there's no a week but
they're sendin' bit presents tae the house, till a'm fair ashamed.”
“Oo, a'll explain that in a meenut,” answered Jamie, “for a' ken the
Glen weel. Ye see they're juist try in' the Scripture plan o' heapin'
coals o' fire on yer head.
[Illustration: “TOLD DRUMSHEUGH THAT THE DOCTOR WAS NOT ABLE TO
“Here ye've been negleckin' the fouk in seeckness an' lettin' them
dee afore their freends' eyes withoot a fecht, an' refusin' tae gang
tae a puir wumman in her tribble, an' frichtenin' the bairns—no, a'm
no dune—and scourgin' us wi' fees, and livin' yersel' on the fat o'
“Ye've been carryin' on this trade ever sin yir father dee'd, and
the Glen didna notis. But ma word, they've fund ye oot at laist, an'
they're gaein' tae mak ye suffer for a' yir ill usage. Div ye
understand noo?” said Jamie, savagely.
For a while MacLure was silent, and then he only said:
“It's little a' did for the puir bodies; but ye hev a gude hert,
Jamie, a rael good hert.”
It was a bitter December Sabbath, and the fathers were settling the
affairs of the parish ankle deep in snow, when MacLure's old
housekeeper told Drumsheugh that the doctor was not able to rise, and
wished to see him in the afternoon. “Ay, ay,” said Hillocks, shaking
his head, and that day Drumsheugh omitted four pews with the ladle,
while Jamie was so vicious on the way home that none could endure him.
Janet had lit a fire in the unused grate, and hung a plaid by the
window to break the power of the cruel north wind, but the bare room
with its half-a-dozen bits of furniture and a worn strip of carpet, and
the outlook upon the snow drifted up to the second pane of the window
and the black firs laden with their icy burden, sent a chill to
The doctor had weakened sadly, and could hardly lift his head, but
his face lit up at the sight of his visitor, and the big hand, which
was now quite refined in its whiteness, came out from the bed-clothes
with the old warm grip.
[Illustration: “WITH THE OLD WARM GRIP"]
“Come in by, man, and sit doon; it's an awfu' day tae bring ye sae
far, but a' kent ye wudna grudge the traivel.
“A' wesna sure till last nicht, an' then a' felt it wudna be lang,
an' a' took a wearyin' this mornin' tae see ye.
“We've been friends sin' we were laddies at the auld school in the
firs, an' a' wud like ye tae be wi' me at the end. Ye 'ill stay the
nicht, Paitrick, for auld lang syne.”
Drumsheugh was much shaken, and the sound of the Christian name,
which he had not heard since his mother's death, gave him a “grue"
(shiver), as if one had spoken from the other world.
“It's maist awfu' tae hear ye speakin' aboot deein', Weelum; a'
canna bear it. We 'ill hae the Muirtown doctor up, an' ye 'ill be aboot
again in nae time.
“Ye hevna ony sair tribble; ye're juist trachled wi' hard wark an'
needin' a rest. Dinna say ye're gaein' tae leave us, Weelum; we canna
dae withoot ye in Drumtochty;” and Drumsheugh looked wistfully for some
word of hope.
“Na, na, Paitrick, naethin' can be dune, an' it's ower late tae send
for ony doctor. There's a knock that canna be mista'en, an' a' heard it
last night. A've focht deith for ither fouk mair than forty year, but
ma ain time hes come at laist.
“A've nae tribble worth mentionin'—a bit titch o' bronchitis—an'
a've hed a graund constitution; but a'm fair worn oot, Paitrick; that's
ma complaint, an' its past curin'.”
Drumsheugh went over to the fireplace, and for a while did nothing
but break up the smouldering peats, whose smoke powerfully affected his
nose and eyes.
[Illustration: “DRUMSHEUGH LOOKED WISTFULLY"]
“When ye're ready, Paitrick, there's twa or three little trokes a'
wud like ye tae look aifter, an' a'll tell ye aboot them as lang's ma
“A' didna keep buiks, as ye ken, for a' aye hed a guid memory, so
naebody 'ill be harried for money aifter ma deith, and ye 'ill hae nae
accoonts tae collect.
“But the fouk are honest in Drumtochty, and they 'ill be offerin' ye
siller, an' a'll gie ye ma mind aboot it. Gin it be a puir body, tell
her tae keep it and get a bit plaidie wi' the money, and she 'ill maybe
think o' her auld doctor at a time. Gin it be a bien (well-to-do) man,
tak half of what he offers, for a Drumtochty man wud scorn to be mean
in sic circumstances; and if onybody needs a doctor an' canna pay for
him, see he's no left tae dee when a'm oot o' the road.”
“Nae fear o' that as lang as a'm livin', Weelum; that hundred's
still tae the fore, ye ken, an' a'll tak care it's weel spent.
“Yon wes the best job we ever did thegither, an' dookin' Saunders,
ye 'ill no forget that nicht, Weelum”—a gleam came into the doctor's
eyes—“tae say neathin' o' the Highlan' fling.”
The remembrance of that great victory came upon Drumsheugh, and
tried his fortitude.
“What 'ill become o's when ye're no here tae gie a hand in time o'
need? we 'ill tak ill wi' a stranger that disna ken ane o's frae
“It's a' for the best, Paitrick, an' ye 'ill see that in a whilie.
A've kent fine that ma day wes ower, an' that ye sud hae a younger man.
“A' did what a' cud tae keep up wi' the new medicine, but a' hed
little time for readin', an' nane for traivellin'.
“A'm the last o' the auld schule, an' a' ken as weel as onybody thet
a' wesna sae dainty an' fine-mannered as the town doctors. Ye took me
as a' wes, an' naebody ever cuist up tae me that a' wes a plain man.
Na, na; ye've been rael kind an' conseederate a' thae years.”
“Weelum, gin ye cairry on sic nonsense ony langer,” interrupted
Drumsheugh, huskily, “a'll leave the hoose; a' canna stand it.”
“It's the truth, Paitrick, but we 'ill gae on wi' our wark, far a'm
“Gie Janet ony sticks of furniture she needs tae furnish a hoose,
and sell a' thing else tae pay the wricht (undertaker) an' bedrel
(grave-digger). If the new doctor be a young laddie and no verra rich,
ye micht let him hae the buiks an' instruments; it 'ill aye be a help.
“But a' wudna like ye tae sell Jess, for she's been a faithfu'
servant, an' a freend tae. There's a note or twa in that drawer a'
savit, an' if ye kent ony man that wud gie her a bite o' grass and a
sta' in his stable till she followed her maister—'
“Confoond ye, Weelum,” broke out Drumsheugh; “its doonricht cruel o'
ye to speak like this tae me. Whar wud Jess gang but tae Drumsheugh?
she 'ill hae her run o' heck an' manger sae lang as she lives; the Glen
wudna like tae see anither man on Jess, and nae man 'ill ever touch the
“Dinna mind me, Paitrick, for a” expeckit this; but ye ken we're no
verra gleg wi' oor tongues in Drumtochty, an' dinna tell a' that's in
“Weel, that's a' that a' mind, an' the rest a' leave tae yersel'.
A've neither kith nor kin tae bury me, sae you an' the neeburs 'ill
need tae lat me doon; but gin Tammas Mitchell or Saunders be stannin'
near and lookin' as if they wud like a cord, gie't tae them, Paitrick.
They're baith dour chiels, and haena muckle tae say, but Tammas hes a
graund hert, and there's waur fouk in the Glen than Saunders.
“A'm gettin' drowsy, an' a'll no be able tae follow ye sune, a'
doot; wud ye read a bit tae me afore a' fa' ower?
“Ye 'ill find ma mither's Bible on the drawers' heid, but ye 'ill
need tae come close tae the bed, for a'm no hearin' or seein' sae weel
as a' wes when ye cam.”
Drumsheugh put on his spectacles and searched for a comfortable
Scripture, while the light of the lamp fell on his shaking hands and
the doctor's face where the shadow was now settling.
“Ma mither aye wantit this read tae her when she wes sober” (weak),
and Drumsheugh began, “In My Father's house are many mansions,” but
MacLure stopped him.
“It's a bonnie word, an' yir mither wes a sanct; but it's no for the
like o' me. It's ower gude; a' daurna tak it.
“Shut the buik an' let it open itsel, an' ye 'ill get a bit a've
been readin' every nicht the laist month.”
Then Drumsheugh found the Parable wherein the Master tells us what
God thinks of a Pharisee and of a penitent sinner, till he came to the
words: “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much
as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be
merciful to me a sinner.”
“That micht hae been written for me, Paitrick, or ony ither auld
sinner that hes feenished his life, an' hes naethin' tae say for
“It wesna easy for me tae get tae kirk, but a' cud hae managed wi' a
stretch, an' a' used langidge a' sudna, an' a' micht hae been gentler,
and not been so short in the temper. A' see't a' noo.
“It's ower late tae mend, but ye 'ill maybe juist say to the fouk
that I wes sorry, an' a'm houpin' that the Almichty 'ill hae mercy on
“Cud ye ... pit up a bit prayer, Paitrick?”
“A' haena the words,” said Drumsheugh in great distress; “wud ye
like's tae send for the minister?”
“It's no the time for that noo, an' a' wud rather hae yersel'—juist
what's in yir heart, Paitrick: the Almichty 'ill ken the lave (rest)
So Drumsheugh knelt and prayed with many pauses.
“Almichty God ... dinna be hard on Weelum MacLure, for he's no been
hard wi' onybody in Drumtochty.... Be kind tae him as he's been tae us
a' for forty year.... We're a' sinners afore Thee.... Forgive him what
he's dune wrang, an' dinna cuist it up tae him.... Mind the fouk he's
helpit .... the wee-men an' bairnies.... an' gie him a welcome hame,
for he's sair needin't after a' his wark.... Amen.”
“Thank ye, Paitrick, and gude nicht tae ye. Ma ain true freend,
gie's yir hand, for a'll maybe no ken ye again.
“Noo a'll say ma mither's prayer and hae a sleep, but ye 'ill no
leave me till a' is ower.”
Then he repeated as he had done every night of his life:
“This night I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
He was sleeping quietly when the wind drove the snow against the
window with a sudden “swish;” and he instantly awoke, so to say, in his
sleep. Some one needed him.
“Are ye frae Glen Urtach?” and an unheard voice seemed to have
“Worse is she, an' suffering awfu'; that's no lichtsome; ye did
richt tae come.
“The front door's drifted up; gang roond tae the back, an' ye 'ill
get intae the kitchen; a'll be ready in a meenut.
“Gie's a hand wi' the lantern when a'm saidling Jess, an' ye needna
come on till daylicht; a' ken the road.”
Then he was away in his sleep on some errand of mercy, and
struggling through the storm. “It's a coorse nicht, Jess, an' heavy
traivellin'; can ye see afore ye, lass? for a'm clean confused wi' the
snaw; bide a wee till a' find the diveesion o' the roads; it's aboot
here back or forrit.
“Steady, lass, steady, dinna plunge; i'ts a drift we're in, but
ye're no sinkin'; ... up noo; ... there ye are on the road again.
“Eh, it's deep the nicht, an' hard on us baith, but there's a puir
wumman micht dee if we didna warstle through; ... that's it; ye ken
fine what a'm sayin.'
“We 'ill hae tae leave the road here, an' tak tae the muir. Sandie
'ill no can leave the wife alane tae meet us; ... feel for yersel"
lass, and keep oot o' the holes.
“Yon's the hoose black in the snaw. Sandie! man, ye frichtened us;
a' didna see ye ahint the dyke; hoos the wife?”
After a while he began again:
“Ye're fair dune, Jess, and so a' am masel'; we're baith gettin'
auld, an' dinna tak sae weel wi' the nicht wark.
“We 'ill sune be hame noo; this is the black wood, and it's no lang
aifter that; we're ready for oor beds, Jess.... ay, ye like a clap at a
time; mony a mile we've gaed hegither.
“Yon's the licht in the kitchen window; nae wonder ye're nickering
(neighing).... it's been a stiff journey; a'm tired, lass.... a'm tired
tae deith,” and the voice died into silence.
Drumsheugh held his friend's hand, which now and again tightened in
his, and as he watched, a change came over the face on the pillow
beside him. The lines of weariness disappeared, as if God's hand had
passed over it; and peace began to gather round the closed eyes.
The doctor has forgotten the toil of later years, and has gone back
to his boyhood.
[Illustration: “SHE'S CARRYIN' A LIGHT IN HER HAND"]
“The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want,” he repeated, till he came
to the last verse, and then he hesitated.
“Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me.
“Follow me ... and ... and ... what's next? Mither said I wes tae
haed ready when she cam.
“'A'll come afore ye gang tae sleep, Wullie, but ye 'ill no get yir
kiss unless ye can feenish the psalm.'
“And ... in God's house ... for evermore my ... hoo dis it rin? a
canna mind the next word ... my, my—
“It's ower dark noo tae read it, an' mither 'ill sune be comin.”
Drumsheugh, in an agony, whispered into his ear, “'My
“That's it, that's it a' noo; wha said it?
“And in God's house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
“A'm ready noo, an' a'll get ma kiss when mither comes; a' wish she
wud come, for a'm tired an' wantin' tae sleep.
“Yon's her step ... an' she's carryin' a licht in her hand; a' see
it through the door.
“Mither! a' kent ye wudna forget yir laddie for ye promised tae
come, and a've feenished ma psalm.
“And in God's house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
“Gie me the kiss, mither, for a've been waitin' for ye, an' a'll
sune be asleep.”
The grey morning light fell on Drumsheugh, still holding his
friend's cold hand, and staring at a hearth where the fire had died
down into white ashes; but the peace on the doctor's face was of one
who rested from his labours.
V. THE MOURNING OF THE GLEN.
Dr. MacLure was buried during the great snowstorm which is still
spoken of, and will remain the standard of snowfall in Drumtochty for
the century. The snow was deep on the Monday, and the men that gave
notice of his funeral had hard work to reach the doctor's distant
patients. On Tuesday morning it began to fall again in heavy, fleecy
flakes, and continued till Thursday, and then on Thursday the north
wind rose and swept the snow into the hollows of the roads that went to
the upland farms, and built it into a huge bank at the mouth of Glen
Urtach, and laid it across our main roads in drifts of every size and
the most lovely shapes, and filled up crevices in the hills to the
depth of fifty feet.
On Friday morning the wind had sunk to passing gusts that powdered
your coat with white, and the sun was shining on one of those winter
landscapes no townsman can imagine and no countryman ever forgets. The
Glen, from end to end and side to side, was clothed in a glistering
mantle white as no fuller on earth could white it, that flung its
skirts over the clumps of trees and scattered farmhouses, and was only
divided where the Tochty ran with black, swollen stream. The great moor
rose and fell in swelling billows of snow that arched themselves over
the burns, running deep in the mossy ground, and hid the black peat
bogs with a thin, treacherous crust.
Beyond, the hills northwards and westwards stood high in white
majesty, save where the black crags of Glen Urtach broke the line, and,
above our lower Grampians, we caught glimpses of the distant peaks that
lifted their heads in holiness unto God.
It seemed to me a fitting day for William MacLure's funeral, rather
than summer time, with its flowers and golden corn. He had not been a
soft man, nor had he lived an easy life, and now he was to be laid to
rest amid the austere majesty of winter, yet in the shining of the sun.
Jamie Soutar, with whom I toiled across the Glen, did not think with
me, but was gravely concerned.
“Nae doot it's a graund sicht; the like o't is no gien tae us twice
in a generation, an' nae king wes ever carried tae his tomb in sic a
“But it's the fouk a'm conseederin', an' hoo they'll win through;
it's hard eneuch for them 'at's on the road, an' it's clean impossible
for the lave.
[Illustration: “TOILED ACROSS THE GLEN"]
“They 'ill dae their best, every man o' them, ye may depend on that,
an' hed it been open weather there wudna hev been six able-bodied men
“A' wes mad at them, because they never said onything when he wes
leevin', but they felt for a' that what he hed dune, an', a' think, he
kent it afore he deed.
“He hed juist ae faut, tae ma thinkin', for a' never jidged the waur
o' him for his titch of rochness—guid trees hae gnarled bark—but he
thotched ower little o' himsel'.
“Noo, gin a' hed asked him hoo mony fouk wud come tae his beerial,
he wud hae said, 'They 'ill be Drumsheugh an' yersel', an' may be twa
or three neeburs besides the minister,' an' the fact is that nae man in
oor time wud hae sic a githerin' if it werena for the storm.
“Ye see,” said Jamie, who had been counting heads all morning,
“there's six shepherds in Glen Urtaeh—they're shut up fast; an' there
micht hae been a gude half dizen frae Dunleith wy, an' a'm telt there's
nae road; an' there's the heich Glen, nae man cud cross the muir the
day, an' it's aucht mile round;” and Jamie proceeded to review the Glen
in every detail of age, driftiness of road and strength of body, till
we arrived at the doctor's cottage, when he had settled on a reduction
of fifty through stress of weather.
[Illustration: “ANE OF THEM GIED OWER THE HEAD IN A DRIFT, AND HIS
NEEBURS HAD TAE PU' HIM OOT,']
Drumsheugh was acknowledged as chief mourner by the Glen, and
received us at the gate with a labored attempt at everyday manners.
“Ye've hed heavy traivellin', a' doot, an' ye 'ill be cauld. It's
hard weather for the sheep an' a'm thinkin' this 'ill be a feeding
“There wes nae use trying tae dig oot the front door yestreen, for
it wud hae been drifted up again before morning. We've cleared awa the
snow at the back for the prayer; ye 'ill get in at the kitchen door.
“There's a puckle Dunleith men——-”
“Wha?” cried Jamie in an instant.
“Dunleith men,” said Drumsheugh.
“Div ye mean they're here, whar are they?”
“Drying themsels at the fire, an' no withoot need; ane of them gied
ower the head in a drift, and his neeburs hed tae pu' him oot.
“It took them a gude fower oors tae get across, an' it wes coorse
wark; they likit him weel doon that wy, an', Jamie, man”—here
Drumsheugh's voice changed its note, and his public manner
disappeared—“what div ye think o' this? every man o' them has on his
“It's mair than cud be expeckit” said Jamie; “but whar dae yon men
come frae, Drumsheugh?”
Two men in plaids were descending the hill behind the doctor's
cottage, taking three feet at a stride, and carrying long staffs in
“They're Glen Urtach men, Jamie, for are o' them wes at Kildrummie
fair wi' sheep, but hoo they've wun doon passes me.”
“It canna be, Drumsheugh,” said Jamie, greatly excited. “Glen
Urtach's steikit up wi' sna like a locked door.
[Illustration: “TWO MEN IN PLAIDS WERE DESCENDING THE HILL"]
“Ye're no surely frae the Glen, lads?” as the men leaped the dyke
and crossed to the back door, the snow falling from their plaids as
“We're that an' nae mistak, but a' thocht we wud be lickit ae place,
eh, Charlie? a'm no sae weel acquant wi' the hill on this side, an'
there wes some kittle (hazardous) drifts.”
“It wes grand o' ye tae mak the attempt,” said Drumsheugh, “an' a'm
gled ye're safe.”
“He cam through as bad himsel' tae help ma wife,” was Charlie's
“They're three mair Urtach shepherds 'ill come in by sune; they're
frae Upper Urtach an' we saw them fording the river; ma certes it took
them a' their time, for it wes up tae their waists and rinnin' like a
mill lade, but they jined hands and cam ower fine.” And the Urtach men
went in to the fire. The Glen began to arrive in twos and threes, and
Jamie, from a point of vantage at the gate, and under an appearance of
utter indifference, checked his roll till even he was satisfied.
“Weelum MacLure 'ill hae the beerial he deserves in spite o' sna and
drifts; it passes a' tae see hoo they've githered frae far an' near.
“A'm thinkin' ye can colleck them for the minister noo, Drumsheugh.
A'body's here except the heich Glen, an' we mauna luke for them.”
“Dinna be sae sure o' that, Jamie. Yon's terrible like them on the
road, wi' Whinnie at their head;” and so it was, twelve in all, only
old Adam Ross absent, detained by force, being eighty-two years of age.
“It wud hae been temptin' Providence tae cross the muir,” Whinnie
explained, “and it's a fell stap roond; a' doot we're laist.”
“See, Jamie,” said Drumsheugh, as he went to the house, “gin there
be ony antern body in sicht afore we begin; we maun mak allooances the
day wi' twa feet o' sna on the grund, tae say naethin' o' drifts.”
“There's something at the turnin', an' it's no fouk; it's a machine
o' some kind or ither—maybe a bread cart that's focht its wy up.”
“Na, it's no that; there's twa horses, are afore the ither; if it's
no a dogcairt wi' twa men in the front; they 'ill be comin' tae the
beerial.” “What wud ye sae, Jamie,” Hillocks suggested, “but it micht
be some o' thae Muirtown doctors? they were awfu' chief wi' MacLure.”
“It's nae Muirtown doctors,” cried Jamie, in great exultation, “nor
ony ither doctors. A' ken thae horses, and wha's ahind them. Quick,
man, Hillocks, stop the fouk, and tell Drumsheugh tae come oot, for
Lord Kilspindie hes come up frae Muirtown Castle.”
Jamie himself slipped behind, and did not wish to be seen.
“It's the respeck he's gettin' the day frae high an' low,” was
Jamie's husky apology; “tae think o' them fetchin' their wy doon frae
Glen Urtach, and toiling roond frae the heich Glen, an' his Lordship
driving through the drifts a' the road frae Muirtown, juist tae honour
Weelum MacLure's beerial.
[Illustration: “TWA HORSES, ANE AFORE THE ITHER"]
“It's nae ceremony the day, ye may lippen tae it; it's the hert
brocht the fouk, an' ye can see it in their faces; ilka man hes his ain
reason, an' he's thinkin' on't though he's speakin' o' naethin' but the
storm; he's mindin' the day Weelum pued him out frae the jaws o' death,
or the nicht he savit the gude wife in her oor o' tribble.
“That's why they pit on their blacks this mornin' afore it wes
licht, and wrastled through the sna drifts at risk o' life. Drumtochty
fouk canna say muckle, it's an awfu' peety, and they 'ill dae their
best tae show naethin', but a' can read it a' in their een.
“But wae's me”—and Jamie broke down utterly behind a fir tree, so
tender a thing is a cynic's heart—“that fouk 'ill tak a man's best
wark a' his days without a word an' no dae him honour till he dees. Oh,
if they hed only githered like this juist aince when he wes livin', an'
lat him see he hedna laboured in vain. His reward has come ower late”.
During Jamie's vain regret, the castle trap, bearing the marks of a
wild passage in the snow-covered wheels, a broken shaft tied with rope,
a twisted lamp, and the panting horses, pulled up between two rows of
farmers, and Drumsheugh received his lordship with evident emotion.
“Ma lord ... we never thocht o' this ... an' sic a road.”
“How are you, Drumsheugh? and how are you all this wintry day?
That's how I'm half an hour late; it took us four hours' stiff work for
sixteen miles, mostly in the drifts, of course.”
“It wes gude o' yir lordship, tae mak sic an effort, an' the hale
Glen wull be gratefu' tae ye, for ony kindness tae him is kindness tae
[Illustration: HE HAD LEFT HIS OVERCOAT AND WAS IN BLACK]
“You make too much of it, Drumsheugh,” and the clear, firm voice was
heard of all; “it would have taken more than a few snow drifts to keep
me from showing my respect to William MacLure's memory.” When all had
gathered in a half circle before the kitchen door, Lord Kilspindie came
out—every man noticed he had left his overcoat, and was in black, like
the Glen—and took a place in the middle with Drumsheugh and Burnbrae,
his two chief tenants, on the right and left, and as the minister
appeared every man bared his head.
The doctor looked on the company—a hundred men such as for strength
and gravity you could hardly have matched in Scotland—standing out in
picturesque relief against the white background, and he said:
“It's a bitter day, friends, and some of you are old; perhaps it
might be wise to cover your heads before I begin to pray.”
Lord Kilspindie, standing erect and grey-headed between the two old
“We thank you, Dr. Davidson, for your thoughtfulness; but he endured
many a storm in our service, and we are not afraid of a few minutes'
cold at his funeral.”
A look flashed round the stern faces, and was reflected from the
minister, who seemed to stand higher.
His prayer, we noticed with critical appreciation, was composed for
the occasion, and the first part was a thanksgiving to God for the life
work of our doctor, wherein each clause was a reference to his services
and sacrifices. No one moved or said Amen—it had been strange with
us—but when every man had heard the gratitude of his dumb heart
offered to heaven, there was a great sigh.
After which the minister prayed that we might have grace to live as
this man had done from youth to old age, not for himself, but for
others, and that we might be followed to our grave by somewhat of “that
love wherewith we mourn this day Thy servant departed.” Again the same
sigh, and the minister said Amen. The “wricht” stood in the doorway
without speaking, and four stalwart men came forward. They were the
volunteers that would lift the coffin and carry it for the first stage.
One was Tammas, Annie Mitchell's man; and another was Saunders Baxter,
for whose life MacLure had his great fight with death; and the third
was the Glen Urtach shepherd for whose wife's sake MacLure suffered a
broken leg and three fractured ribs in a drift; and the fourth, a
Dunleith man, had his own reasons of remembrance.
“He's far lichter than ye wud expeck for sae big a man—there wesna
muckle left o' him, ye see—but the road is heavy, and a'il change ye
aifter the first half mile.”
“Ye needna tribble yersel, wricht,” said the man from Glen Urtach;
“the'll be nae change in the cairryin' the day,” and Tammas was
thankful some one had saved him speaking.
Surely no funeral is like unto that of a doctor for pathos, and a
peculiar sadness fell on that company as his body was carried out who
for nearly half a century had been their help in sickness, and had
beaten back death time after time from their door. Death after all was
victor, for the man that had saved them had not been able to save
As the coffin passed the stable door a horse nieghed within, and
every man looked at his neighbour. It was his old mare crying to her
Jamie slipped into the stable, and went up into the stall.
“Puir lass, ye're no gaen' wi' him the day, an' ye 'ill never see
him again; ye've hed yir last ride thegither, an' ye were true tae the
[Illustration: “DEATH AFTER ALL WAS VICTOR"]
After the funeral Drumsheugh came himself for Jess, and took her to
his farm. Saunders made a bed for her with soft, dry straw, and
prepared for her supper such things as horses love. Jess would neither
take food nor rest, but moved uneasily in her stall, and seemed to be
waiting for some one that never came. No man knows what a horse or a
dog understands and feels, for God hath not given them our speech. If
any footstep was heard in the courtyard, she began to neigh, and was
always looking round as the door opened. But nothing would tempt her to
eat, and in the night- time Drumsheugh heard her crying as if she
expected to be taken out for some sudden journey. The Kildrummie
veterinary came to see her, and said that nothing could be done when it
happened after this fashion with an old horse.
“A've seen it aince afore,” he said. “Gin she were a Christian
instead o' a horse, ye micht say she wes dying o' a broken hert.”
He recommended that she should be shot to end her misery, but no man
could be found in the Glen to do the deed and Jess relieved them of the
trouble. When Drumsheugh went to the stable on Monday morning, a week
after Dr. MacLure fell on sleep, Jess was resting at last, but her eyes
were open and her face turned to the door.
“She wes a' the wife he hed,” said Jamie, as he rejoined the
procession, “an' they luved ane anither weel.”
The black thread wound itself along the whiteness of the Glen, the
coffin first, with his lordship and Drumsheugh behind, and the others
as they pleased, but in closer ranks than usual, because the snow on
either side was deep, and because this was not as other funerals. They
could see the women standing at the door of every house on the
hillside, and weeping, for each family had some good reason in forty
years to remember MacLure. When Bell Baxter saw Saunders alive, and the
coffin of the doctor that saved him on her man's shoulder, she bowed
her head on the dyke, and the bairns in the village made such a wail
for him they loved that the men nearly disgraced themselves.
“A'm gled we're through that, at ony rate,” said Hillocks; “he wes
awfu' taen up wi' the bairns, conseederin' he hed nane o' his ain.”
There was only one drift on the road between his cottage and the
kirkyard, and it had been cut early that morning. Before daybreak
Saunders had roused the lads in the bothy, and they had set to work by
the light of lanterns with such good will that, when Drumsheugh came
down to engineer a circuit for the funeral, there was a fair passage,
with walls of snow twelve feet high on either side.
“Man, Saunders,” he said, “this wes a kind thocht, and rael weel
But Saunders' only reply was this: “Mony a time he's hed tae gang
round; he micht as weel hae an open road for his last traivel.”
[Illustration: “STANDING AT THE DOOR"]
When the coffin was laid down at the mouth of the grave, the only
blackness in the white kirkyard, Tammas Mitchell did the most beautiful
thing in all his life. He knelt down and carefully wiped off the snow
the wind had blown upon the coffin, and which had covered the name, and
when he had done this he disappeared behind the others, so that
Drumsheugh could hardly find him to take a cord. For these were the
eight that buried Dr. MacLure—Lord Kilspindie at the head as landlord
and Drumsheugh at his feet as his friend; the two ministers of the
parish came first on the right and left; then Burnbrae and Hillocks of
the farmers, and Saunders and Tammas for the plowmen. So the Glen he
loved laid him to rest.
When the bedrel had finished his work and the turf had been spread,
Lord Kilspindie spoke:
“Friends of Drumtochty, it would not be right that we should part in
silence and no man say what is in every heart. We have buried the
remains of one that served this Glen with a devotion that has known no
reserve, and a kindliness that never failed, for more than forty years.
I have seen many brave men in my day, but no man in the trenches of
Sebastopol carried himself more knightly than William MacLure. You will
never have heard from his lips what I may tell you to-day, that my
father secured for him a valuable post in his younger days, and he
preferred to work among his own people; and I wished to do many things
for him when he was old, but he would have nothing for himself. He will
never be forgotten while one of us lives, and I pray that all doctors
everywhere may share his spirit. If it be your pleasure, I shall erect
a cross above his grave, and shall ask my old friend and companion Dr.
Davidson, your minister, to choose the text to be inscribed.”
“We thank you, Lord Kilspindie,” said the doctor, “for your presence
with us in our sorrow and your tribute to the memory of William
MacLure, and I choose this for his text:
“'Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.'“
Milton was, at that time, held in the bonds of a very bitter
theology, and his indignation was stirred by this unqualified eulogium.
“No doubt Dr. MacLure hed mony natural virtues, an' he did his wark
weel, but it wes a peety he didna mak mair profession o' releegion.”
“When William MacLure appears before the Judge, Milton,” said
Lachlan Campbell, who that day spoke his last words in public, and they
were in defence of charity, “He will not be asking him about his
professions, for the doctor's judgment hass been ready long ago; and it
iss a good judgment, and you and I will be happy men if we get the like
“It is written in the Gospel, but it iss William MacLure that will
not be expecting it.”
“What is't Lachlan?” asked Jamie Soutar eagerly.
The old man, now very feeble, stood in the middle of the road, and
his face, once so hard, was softened into a winsome tenderness.
“'Come, ye blessed of My Father
... I was sick and ye visited Me.'“
[Illustration: GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS, THAT A MAN LAY
DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS.]