Part 1 out of 3
Etext prepared by Dagny, email@example.com
Emma Dudding, firstname.lastname@example.org
and John Bickers, email@example.com
STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS
The Courting of T'nowhead's Bell J. M. Barrie
"The Heather Lintie" S. R. Crockett
A Doctor of the Old School Ian Maclaren
Wandering Willie's Tale Sir Walter Scott
The Glenmutchkin Railway Professor Aytoun
Thrawn Janet R. L. Stevenson
THE COURTING OF T'NOWHEAD'S BELL
J. M. BARRIE
For two years it had been notorious in the square that Sam'l Dickie
was thinking of courting T'nowhead's Bell, and that if Little Sanders
Elshioner (which is the Thrums pronunciation of Alexander Alexander)
went in for her, he might prove a formidable rival. Sam'l was a weaver
in the tenements, and Sanders a coal-carter, whose trade-mark was a
bell on his horse's neck that told when coal was coming. Being
something of a public man, Sanders had not, perhaps, so high a social
position as Sam'l, but he had succeeded his father on the coal-cart,
while the weaver had already tried several trades. It had always been
against Sam'l, too, that once when the kirk was vacant he had advised
the selection of the third minister who preached for it on the ground
that it became expensive to pay a large number of candidates. The
scandal of the thing was hushed up, out of respect for his father, who
was a God-fearing man, but Sam'l was known by it in Lang Tammas's
circle. The coal-carter was called Little Sanders to distinguish him
from his father, who was not much more than half his size. He had
grown up with the name, and its inapplicability now came home to
nobody. Sam'l's mother had been more far-seeing than Sanders's. Her
man had been called Sammy all his life because it was the name he got
as a boy, so when their eldest son was born she spoke of him as Sam'l
while still in the cradle. The neighbours imitated her, and thus the
young man had a better start in life than had been granted to Sammy,
It was Saturday evening--the night in the week when Auld Licht young
men fell in love. Sam'l Dickie, wearing a blue glengarry bonnet with a
red ball on the top, came to the door of the one-story house in the
tenements, and stood there wriggling, for he was in a suit of tweed
for the first time that week, and did not feel at one with them. When
his feeling of being a stranger to himself wore off, he looked up and
down the road, which straggles between houses and gardens, and then,
picking his way over the puddles, crossed to his father's hen-house
and sat down on it. He was now on his way to the square.
Eppie Fargus was sitting on an adjoining dyke knitting stockings, and
Sam'l looked at her for a time.
"Is't yersel', Eppie?" he said at last.
"It's a' that," said Eppie.
"Hoo's a' wi' ye?" asked Sam'l.
"We're juist aff an' on," replied Eppie, cautiously.
There was not much more to say, but as Sam'l sidled off the hen-house
he murmured politely, "Ay, ay." In another minute he would have been
fairly started, but Eppie resumed the conversation.
"Sam'l," she said, with a twinkle in her eye, "ye can tell Lisbeth
Fargus I'll likely be drappin' in on her aboot Mununday or Teisday."
Lisbeth was sister to Eppie, and wife of Tammas McQuhatty, better
known as T'nowhead, which was the name of his farm. She was thus
Sam'l leaned against the hen-house as if all his desire to depart had
"Hoo d' ye kin I'll be at the T'nowhead the nicht?" he asked, grinning
"Ou, I'se warrant ye'll be after Bell," said Eppie.
"Am no sae sure o' that," said Sam'l, trying to leer. He was enjoying
"Am no sure o' that," he repeated, for Eppie seemed lost in stitches.
"Ye'll be speerin' her sune noo, I dinna doot?"
This took Sam'l, who had only been courting Bell for a year or two, a
"Hoo d' ye mean, Eppie?" he asked.
"Maybe ye'll do 't the nicht."
"Na, there's nae hurry," said Sam'l.
"Weel, we're a' coontin' on 't, Sam'l."
"Gae 'wa' wi' ye."
"What for no?"
"Gae 'wa' wi' ye," said Sam'l again.
"Bell's gei an' fond o' ye, Sam'l."
"Ay," said Sam'l.
"But am dootin' ye're a fell billy wi' the lasses."
"Ay, oh, I d'na kin; moderate, moderate," said Sam'l, in high delight.
"I saw ye," said Eppie, speaking with a wire in her mouth, "gaein' on
terr'ble wi' Mysy Haggart at the pump last Saturday."
"We was juist amoosin' oorsel's," said Sam'l.
"It'll be nae amoosement to Mysy," said Eppie, "gin ye brak her heart."
"Losh, Eppie," said Sam'l, "I didna think o' that."
"Ye maun kin weel, Sam'l, 'at there's mony a lass wid jump at ye."
"Ou, weel," said Sam'l, implying that a man must take these things as
"For ye're a dainty chield to look at, Sam'l."
"Do ye think so, Eppie? Ay, ay; oh, I d'na kin am onything by the
"Ye mayna be," said Eppie, "but lasses doesna do to be ower-
Sam'l resented this, and prepared to depart again.
"Ye'll no tell Bell that?" he asked, anxiously.
"Tell her what?"
"Aboot me an' Mysy."
"We'll see hoo ye behave yersel', Sam'l."
"No 'at I care, Eppie; ye can tell her gin ye like. I widna think
twice o' tellin' her mysel'."
"The Lord forgie ye for leein', Sam'l," said Eppie, as he disappeared
down Tammy Tosh's close. Here he came upon Henders Webster.
"Ye're late, Sam'l," said Henders.
"Ou, I was thinkin' ye wid be gaen the length o' T'nowhead the nicht,
an' I saw Sanders Elshioner makkin' 's wy there an 'oor syne."
"Did ye?" cried Sam'l, adding craftily, "but it's naething to me."
"Tod, lad," said Henders, "gin ye dinna buckle to, Sanders'll be
carryin' her off."
Sam'l flung back his head and passed on.
"Sam'l!" cried Henders after him.
"Ay," said Sam'l, wheeling round.
"Gie Bell a kiss frae me."
The full force of this joke struck neither all at once. Sam'l began to
smile at it as he turned down the school-wynd, and it came upon
Henders while he was in his garden feeding his ferret. Then he slapped
his legs gleefully, and explained the conceit to Will'um Byars, who
went into the house and thought it over.
There were twelve or twenty little groups of men in the square, which
was lit by a flare of oil suspended over a cadger's cart. Now and
again a staid young woman passed through the square with a basket on
her arm, and if she had lingered long enough to give them time, some
of the idlers would have addressed her. As it was, they gazed after
her, and then grinned to each other.
"Ay, Sam'l," said two or three young men, as Sam'l joined them beneath
the town clock.
"Ay, Davit," replied Sam'l.
This group was composed of some of the sharpest wits in Thrums, and it
was not to be expected that they would let this opportunity pass.
Perhaps when Sam'l joined them he knew what was in store for him.
"Was ye lookin' for T'nowhead's Bell, Sam'l?" asked one.
"Or mebbe ye was wantin' the minister?" suggested another, the same
who had walked out twice with Chirsty Duff and not married her after
Sam'l could not think of a good reply at the moment, so he laughed
"Ondootedly she's a snod bit crittur," said Davit, archly.
"An' michty clever wi' her fingers," added Jamie Deuchars.
"Man, I've thocht o' makkin' up to Bell mysel'," said Pete Ogle. "Wid
there be ony chance, think ye, Sam'l?"
"I'm thinkin' she widna hae ye for her first, Pete," replied Sam'l, in
one of those happy flashes that come to some men, "but there's nae
sayin' but what she micht tak' ye to finish up wi'."
The unexpectedness of this sally startled every one. Though Sam'l did
not set up for a wit, however, like Davit, it was notorious that he
could say a cutting thing once in a way.
"Did ye ever see Bell reddin' up?" asked Pete, recovering from his
overthrow. He was a man who bore no malice.
"It's a sicht," said Sam'l, solemnly.
"Hoo will that be?" asked Jamie Deuchars.
"It's weel worth yer while," said Pete, "to ging atower to the
T'nowhead an' see. Ye'll mind the closed-in beds i' the kitchen? Ay,
weel, they're a fell spoiled crew, T'nowhead's litlins, an' no that
aisy to manage. Th' ither lasses Lisbeth's haen had a michty trouble
wi' them. When they war i' the middle o' their reddin' up the bairns
wid come tum'lin' aboot the floor, but, sal, I assure ye, Bell didna
fash lang wi' them. Did she, Sam'l?"
"She did not," said Sam'l, dropping into a fine mode of speech to add
emphasis to his remark.
"I'll tell ye what she did," said Pete to the others. "She juist
lifted up the litlins, twa at a time, an' flung them into the coffin-
beds. Syne she snibbit the doors on them, an' keepit them there till
the floor was dry."
"Ay, man, did she so?" said Davit, admiringly.
"I've seen her do 't mysel'," said Sam'l.
"There's no a lassie mak's better bannocks this side o' Fetter Lums,"
"Her mither tocht her that," said Sam'l; "she was a gran' han' at the
bakin', Kitty Ogilvy."
"I've heard say," remarked Jamie, putting it this way so as not to tie
himself down to anything, " 'at Bell's scones is equal to Mag
"So they are," said Sam'l, almost fiercely.
"I kin she's a neat han' at singein' a hen," said Pete.
"An' wi' 't a'," said Davit, "she's a snod, canty bit stocky in her
"If onything, thick in the waist," suggested Jamie.
"I dinna see that," said Sam'l.
"I d'na care for her hair, either," continued Jamie, who was very nice
in his tastes; "something mair yallowchy wid be an improvement."
"A'body kins," growled Sam'l, " 'at black hair's the bonniest."
The others chuckled.
"Puir Sam'l!" Pete said.
Sam'l, not being certain whether this should be received with a smile
or a frown, opened his mouth wide as a kind of compromise. This was
position one with him for thinking things over.
Few Auld Lichts, as I have said, went the length of choosing a
helpmate for themselves. One day a young man's friends would see him
mending the washing-tub of a maiden's mother. They kept the joke until
Saturday night, and then he learned from them what he had been after.
It dazed him for a time, but in a year or so he grew accustomed to the
idea, and they were then married. With a little help he fell in love
just like other people.
Sam'l was going the way of the others, but he found it difficult to
come to the point. He only went courting once a week, and he could
never take up the running at the place where he left off the Saturday
before. Thus he had not, so far, made great headway. His method of
making up to Bell had been to drop in at T'nowhead on Saturday nights
and talk with the farmer about the rinderpest.
The farm kitchen was Bell's testimonial. Its chairs, tables, and
stools were scoured by her to the whiteness of Rob Angus's sawmill
boards, and the muslin blind on the window was starched like a child's
pinafore. Bell was brave, too, as well as energetic. Once Thrums had
been overrun with thieves. It is now thought that there may have been
only one, but he had the wicked cleverness of a gang. Such was his
repute that there were weavers who spoke of locking their doors when
they went from home. He was not very skilful, however, being generally
caught, and when they said they knew he was a robber, he gave them
their things back and went away. If they had given him time there is
no doubt that he would have gone off with his plunder. One night he
went to T'nowhead, and Bell, who slept in the kitchen, was awakened by
the noise. She knew who it would be, so she rose and dressed herself,
and went to look for him with a candle. The thief had not known what
to do when he got in, and as it was very lonely he was glad to see
Bell. She told him he ought to be ashamed of himself, and would not
let him out by the door until he had taken off his boots so as not to
soil the carpet.
On this Saturday evening Sam'l stood his ground in the square, until
by-and-by he found himself alone. There were other groups there still,
but his circle had melted away. They went separately, and no one said
good-night. Each took himself off slowly, backing out of the group
until he was fairly started.
Sam'l looked about him, and then, seeing that the others had gone,
walked round the town-house into the darkness of the brae that leads
down and then up to the farm of T'nowhead.
To get into the good graces of Lisbeth Fargus you had to know her ways
and humour them. Sam'l, who was a student of women, knew this, and so,
instead of pushing the door open and walking in, he went through the
rather ridiculous ceremony of knocking. Sanders Elshioner was also
aware of this weakness of Lisbeth's, but though he often made up his
mind to knock, the absurdity of the thing prevented his doing so when
he reached the door. T'nowhead himself had never got used to his
wife's refined notions, and when any one knocked he always started to
his feet, thinking there must be something wrong.
Lisbeth came to the door, her expansive figure blocking the way in.
"Sam'l," she said.
"Lisbeth," said Sam'l.
He shook hands with the farmer's wife, knowing that she liked it, but
only said, "Ay, Bell," to his sweetheart, "Ay, T'nowhead," to
McQuhatty, and "It's yersel', Sanders," to his rival.
They were all sitting round the fire; T'nowhead, with his feet on the
ribs, wondering why he felt so warm; and Bell darned a stocking, while
Lisbeth kept an eye on a goblet full of potatoes.
"Sit into the fire, Sam'l," said the farmer, not, however, making way
"Na, na," said Sam'l; "I'm to bide nae time." Then he sat into the
fire. His face was turned away from Bell, and when she spoke he
answered her without looking round. Sam'l felt a little anxious.
Sanders Elshioner, who had one leg shorter than the other, but looked
well when sitting, seemed suspiciously at home. He asked Bell
questions out of his own head, which was beyond Sam'l, and once he
said something to her in such a low voice that the others could not
catch it. T'nowhead asked curiously what it was, and Sanders explained
that he had only said, "Ay, Bell, the morn's the Sabbath." There was
nothing startling in this, but Sam'l did not like it. He began to
wonder if he were too late, and had he seen his opportunity would have
told Bell of a nasty rumour that Sanders intended to go over to the
Free Church if they would make him kirk officer.
Sam'l had the good-will of T'nowhead's wife, who liked a polite man.
Sanders did his best, but from want of practice he constantly made
mistakes. To-night, for instance, he wore his hat in the house because
he did not like to put up his hand and take it off. T'nowhead had not
taken his off, either, but that was because he meant to go out by-and-
by and lock the byre door. It was impossible to say which of her
lovers Bell preferred. The proper course with an Auld Licht lassie was
to prefer the man who proposed to her.
"Ye'll bide a wee, an' hae something to eat?" Lisbeth asked Sam'l,
with her eyes on the goblet.
"No, I thank ye," said Sam'l, with true gentility.
"I dinna think it."
"Hoots aye, what's to hender ye?"
"Weel, since ye're sae pressin', I'll bide."
No one asked Sanders to stay. Bell could not, for she was but the
servant, and T'nowhead knew that the kick his wife had given him meant
that he was not to do so, either. Sanders whistled to show that he was
"Ay, then, I'll be stappin' ower the brae," he said at last.
He did not go, however. There was sufficient pride in him to get him
off his chair, but only slowly, for he had to get accustomed to the
notion of going. At intervals of two or three minutes he remarked that
he must now be going. In the same circumstances Sam'l would have acted
similarly. For a Thrums man, it is one of the hardest things in life
to get away from anywhere.
At last Lisbeth saw that something must be done. The potatoes were
burning, and T'nowhead had an invitation on his tongue.
"Yes, I'll hae to be movin'," said Sanders, hopelessly, for the fifth
"Guid-nicht to ye, then, Sanders," said Lisbeth. "Gie the door a
fling-to ahent ye."
Sanders, with a mighty effort, pulled himself together. He looked
boldly at Bell, and then took off his hat carefully. Sam'l saw with
misgivings that there was something in it which was not a
handkerchief. It was a paper bag glittering with gold braid, and
contained such an assortment of sweets as lads bought for their lasses
on the Muckle Friday.
"Hae, Bell," said Sanders, handing the bag to Bell in an offhand way
as if it were but a trifle. Nevertheless he was a little excited, for
he went off without saying good-night.
No one spoke. Bell's face was crimson. T'nowhead fidgeted on his
chair, and Lisbeth looked at Sam'l. The weaver was strangely calm and
collected, though he would have liked to know whether this was a
"Sit in by to the table, Sam'l," said Lisbeth, trying to look as if
things were as they had been before.
She put a saucerful of butter, salt, and pepper near the fire to melt,
for melted butter is the shoeing-horn that helps over a meal of
potatoes. Sam'l, however, saw what the hour required, and, jumping up,
he seized his bonnet.
"Hing the tatties higher up the joist, Lisbeth," he said, with
dignity; "I'se be back in ten meenits."
He hurried out of the house, leaving the others looking at each other.
"What do ye think?" asked Lisbeth.
"I d'na kin," faltered Bell.
"Thae tatties is lang o' comin' to the boil," said T'nowhead.
In some circles a lover who behaved like Sam'l would have been
suspected of intent upon his rival's life, but neither Bell nor
Lisbeth did the weaver that injustice. In a case of this kind it does
not much matter what T'nowhead thought.
The ten minutes had barely passed when Sam'l was back in the farm
kitchen. He was too flurried to knock this time, and, indeed, Lisbeth
did not expect it of him.
"Bell, hae!" he cried, handing his sweetheart a tinsel bag twice the
size of Sanders's gift.
"Losh preserve 's!" exclaimed Lisbeth; "I'se warrant there's a
"There's a' that, Lisbeth--an' mair," said Sam'l, firmly.
"I thank ye, Sam'l," said Bell, feeling an unwonted elation as she
gazed at the two paper bags in her lap.
"Ye're ower-extravegint, Sam'l," Lisbeth said.
"Not at all," said Sam'l; "not at all. But I widna advise ye to eat
thae ither anes, Bell--they're second quality."
Bell drew back a step from Sam'l.
"How do ye kin?" asked the farmer, shortly, for he liked Sanders.
"I speered i' the shop," said Sam'l.
The goblet was placed on a broken plate on the table, with the saucer
beside it, and Sam'l, like the others, helped himself. What he did was
to take potatoes from the pot with his fingers, peel off their coats,
and then dip them into the butter. Lisbeth would have liked to provide
knives and forks, but she knew that beyond a certain point T'nowhead
was master in his own house. As for Sam'l, he felt victory in his
hands, and began to think that he had gone too far.
In the meantime Sanders, little witting that Sam'l had trumped his
trick, was sauntering along the kirk-wynd with his hat on the side of
his head. Fortunately he did not meet the minister.
The courting of T'nowhead's Bell reached its crisis one Sabbath about
a month after the events above recorded. The minister was in great
force that day, but it is no part of mine to tell how he bore himself.
I was there, and am not likely to forget the scene. It was a fateful
Sabbath for T'nowhead's Bell and her swains, and destined to be
remembered for the painful scandal which they perpetrated in their
Bell was not in the kirk. There being an infant of six months in the
house it was a question of either Lisbeth or the lassie's staying at
home with him, and though Lisbeth was unselfish in a general way, she
could not resist the delight of going to church. She had nine children
besides the baby, and, being but a woman, it was the pride of her life
to march them into the T'nowhead pew, so well watched that they dared
not misbehave, and so tightly packed that they could not fall. The
congregation looked at that pew, the mothers enviously, when they sang
"Jerusalem like a city is
Compactly built together."
The first half of the service had been gone through on this particular
Sunday without anything remarkable happening. It was at the end of the
psalm which preceded the sermon that Sanders Elshioner, who sat near
the door, lowered his head until it was no higher than the pews, and
in that attitude, looking almost like a four-footed animal, slipped
out of the church. In their eagerness to be at the sermon many of the
congregation did not notice him, and those who did put the matter by
in their minds for future investigation. Sam'l however, could not take
it so coolly. From his seat in the gallery he saw Sanders disappear,
and his mind misgave him. With the true lover's instinct he understood
it all. Sanders had been struck by the fine turnout in the T'nowhead
pew. Bell was alone at the farm. What an opportunity to work one's way
up to a proposal! T'nowhead was so overrun with children that such a
chance seldom occurred, except on a Sabbath. Sanders, doubtless, was
off to propose, and he, Sam'l, was left behind.
The suspense was terrible. Sam'l and Sanders had both known all along
that Bell would take the first of the two who asked her. Even those
who thought her proud admitted that she was modest. Bitterly the
weaver repented having waited so long. Now it was too late. In ten
minutes Sanders would be at T'nowhead; in an hour all would be over.
Sam'l rose to his feet in a daze. His mother pulled him down by the
coat-tail, and his father shook him, thinking he was walking in his
sleep. He tottered past them, however, hurried up the aisle, which was
so narrow that Dan'l Ross could only reach his seat by walking
sideways, and was gone before the minister could do more than stop in
the middle of a whirl and gape in horror after him.
A number of the congregation felt that day the advantage of sitting in
the loft. What was a mystery to those downstairs was revealed to them.
From the gallery windows they had a fine open view to the south; and
as Sam'l took the common, which was a short cut through a steep
ascent, to T'nowhead, he was never out of their line of vision.
Sanders was not to be seen, but they guessed rightly the reason why.
Thinking he had ample time, he had gone round by the main road to save
his boots--perhaps a little scared by what was coming. Sam'l's design
was to forestall him by taking the shorter path over the burn and up
It was a race for a wife, and several onlookers in the gallery braved
the minister's displeasure to see who won. Those who favoured Sam'l's
suit exultingly saw him leap the stream, while the friends of Sanders
fixed their eyes on the top of the common where it ran into the road.
Sanders must come into sight there, and the one who reached this point
first would get Bell.
As Auld Lichts do not walk abroad on the Sabbath, Sanders would
probably not be delayed. The chances were in his favour. Had it been
any other day in the week Sam'l might have run. So some of the
congregation in the gallery were thinking, when suddenly they saw him
bend low and then take to his heels. He had caught sight of Sanders's
head bobbing over the hedge that separated the road from the common,
and feared that Sanders might see him. The congregation who could
crane their necks sufficiently saw a black object, which they guessed
to be the carter's hat, crawling along the hedge-top. For a moment it
was motionless, and then it shot ahead. The rivals had seen each
other. It was now a hot race. Sam'l dissembling no longer, clattered
up the common, becoming smaller and smaller to the onlookers as he
neared the top. More than one person in the gallery almost rose to
their feet in their excitement. Sam'l had it. No, Sanders was in
front. Then the two figures disappeared from view. They seemed to run
into each other at the top of the brae, and no one could say who was
first. The congregation looked at one another. Some of them perspired.
But the minister held on his course.
Sam'l had just been in time to cut Sanders out. It was the weaver's
saving that Sanders saw this when his rival turned the corner; for
Sam'l was sadly blown. Sanders took in the situation and gave in at
once. The last hundred yards of the distance he covered at his
leisure, and when he arrived at his destination he did not go in. It
was a fine afternoon for the time of year, and he went round to have a
look at the pig, about which T'nowhead was a little sinfully puffed
"Ay," said Sanders, digging his fingers critically into the grunting
animal, "quite so."
"Grumph," said the pig, getting reluctantly to his feet.
"Ou, ay, yes," said Sanders thoughtfully.
Then he sat down on the edge of the sty, and looked long and silently
at an empty bucket. But whether his thoughts were of T'nowhead's Bell,
whom he had lost for ever, or of the food the farmer fed his pig on,
is not known.
"Lord preserve 's! are ye no at the kirk?" cried Bell, nearly dropping
the baby as Sam'l broke into the room.
"Bell!" cried Sam'l.
Then T'nowhead's Bell knew that her hour had come.
"Sam'l," she faltered.
"Will ye hae 's, Bell?" demanded Sam'l, glaring at her sheepishly.
"Ay," answered Bell.
Sam'l fell into a chair.
"Bring 's a drink o' water, Bell," he said. But Bell thought the
occasion required milk, and there was none in the kitchen. She went
out to the byre, still with the baby in her arms, and saw Sanders
Elshioner sitting gloomily on the pigsty.
"Weel, Bell," said Sanders.
"I thocht ye'd been at the kirk, Sanders," said Bell.
Then there was a silence between them.
"Has Sam'l speered ye, Bell?" asked Sanders, stolidly.
"Ay," said Bell again, and this time there was a tear in her eye.
Sanders was little better than an "orra man," and Sam'l was a weaver,
and yet--But it was too late now. Sanders gave the pig a vicious poke
with a stick, and when it had ceased to grunt, Bell was back in the
kitchen. She had forgotten about the milk, however, and Sam'l only got
water after all.
In after-days, when the story of Bell's wooing was told, there were
some who held that the circumstances would have almost justified the
lassie in giving Sam'l the go-by. But these perhaps forgot that her
other lover was in the same predicament as the accepted one--that of
the two, indeed, he was the more to blame, for he set off to T'nowhead
on the Sabbath of his own accord, while Sam'l only ran after him. And
then there is no one to say for certain whether Bell heard of her
suitors' delinquencies until Lisbeth's return from the kirk. Sam'l
could never remember whether he told her, and Bell was not sure
whether, if he did, she took it in. Sanders was greatly in demand for
weeks to tell what he knew of the affair, but though he was twice
asked to tea to the manse among the trees, and subjected thereafter to
ministerial cross-examinations, this is all he told. He remained at
the pigsty until Sam'l left the farm, when he joined him at the top of
the brae, and they went home together.
"It's yersel', Sanders," said Sam'l.
"It is so, Sam'l," said Sanders.
"Very cauld," said Sam'l.
"Blawy," assented Sanders.
After a pause--
"Sam'l," said Sanders.
"I'm hearing ye're to be mairit."
"Weel, Sam'l, she's a snod bit lassie."
"Thank ye," said Sam'l.
"I had ance a kin o' notion o' Bell mysel'," continued Sanders.
"Yes, Sam'l; but I thocht better o' 't."
"Hoo d' ye mean?" asked Sam'l, a little anxiously.
"Weel, Sam'l, mairitch is a terrible responsibeelity."
"It is so," said Sam'l, wincing.
"An' no the thing to tak' up withoot conseederation."
"But it's a blessed and honourable state, Sanders; ye've heard the
minister on 't."
"They say," continued the relentless Sanders, " 'at the minister
doesna get on sair wi' the wife himsel'."
"So they do," cried Sam'l, with a sinking at the heart.
"I've been telt," Sanders went on, " 'at gin ye can get the upper han'
o' the wife for a while at first, there's the mair chance o' a
"Bell's no the lassie," said Sam'l, appealingly, "to thwart her man."
"D' ye think she is, Sanders?"
"Weel, Sam'l, I d'na want to fluster ye, but she's been ower-lang wi'
Lisbeth Fargus no to hae learned her ways. An' a'body kins what a life
T'nowhead has wi' her."
"Guid sake, Sanders, hoo did ye no speak o' this afore?"
"I thocht ye kent o' 't, Sam'l."
They had now reached the square, and the U. P. kirk was coming out.
The Auld Licht kirk would be half an hour yet.
"But, Sanders," said Sam'l, brightening up, "ye was on yer wy to speer
"I was, Sam'l," said Sanders, "and I canna but be thankfu' ye was
ower-quick for 's."
"Gin 't hadna been you," said Sam'l, "I wid never hae thocht o' 't."
"I'm saying naething agin Bell," pursued the other, "but, man, Sam'l,
a body should be mair deleeberate in a thing o' the kind."
"It was michty hurried," said Sam'l wofully.
"It's a serious thing to speer a lassie," said Sanders.
"It's an awfu' thing," said Sam'l.
"But we'll hope for the best," added Sanders, in a hopeless voice.
They were close to the tenements now, and Sam'l looked as if he were
on his way to be hanged.
"Did ye--did ye kiss her, Sam'l?"
"There's was varra little time, Sanders."
"Half an 'oor," said Sanders.
"Was there? Man Sanders, to tell ye the truth, I never thocht o' 't."
Then the soul of Sanders Elshioner was filled with contempt for Sam'l
The scandal blew over. At first it was expected that the minister
would interfere to prevent the union, but beyond intimating from the
pulpit that the souls of Sabbath-breakers were beyond praying for, and
then praying for Sam'l and Sanders at great length, with a word thrown
in for Bell, he let things take their course. Some said it was because
he was always frightened lest his young men should intermarry with
other denominations, but Sanders explained it differently to Sam'l.
"I hav'na a word to say agin' the minister," he said; "they're gran'
prayers; but, Sam'l, he's a mairit man himsel'."
"He's a' the better for that, Sanders, isna he?"
"Do ye no see," asked Sanders, compassionately, " 'at he's trying to
mak' the best o' 't?"
"O Sanders, man!" said Sam'l.
"Cheer up, Sam'l," said Sanders; "it'll sune be ower."
Their having been rival suitors had not interfered with their
friendship. On the contrary, while they had hitherto been mere
acquaintances, they became inseparables as the wedding-day drew near.
It was noticed that they had much to say to each other, and that when
they could not get a room to themselves they wandered about together
in the churchyard. When Sam'l had anything to tell Bell he sent
Sanders to tell it, and Sanders did as he was bid. There was nothing
that he would not have done for Sam'l.
The more obliging Sanders was, however, the sadder Sam'l grew. He
never laughed now on Saturdays, and sometimes his loom was silent half
the day. Sam'l felt that Sanders's was the kindness of a friend for a
It was to be a penny wedding, and Lisbeth Fargus said it was the
delicacy that made Sam'l superintend the fitting up of the barn by
deputy. Once he came to see it in person, but he looked so ill that
Sanders had to see him home. This was on the Thursday afternoon, and
the wedding was fixed for Friday.
"Sanders, Sanders," said Sam'l, in a voice strangely unlike his own,
"it'll a' be ower by this time the morn."
"It will," said Sanders.
"If I had only kent her langer," continued Sam'l.
"It wid hae been safer," said Sanders.
"Did ye see the yallow floor in Bell's bonnet?" asked the accepted
"Ay," said Sanders, reluctantly.
"I'm dootin'--I'm sair dootin' she's but a flichty, light-hearted
crittur after a'."
"I had aye my suspeecions o' 't," said Sanders.
"Ye hae kent her langer than me," said Sam'l.
"Yes," said Sanders, "but there's nae getting' at the heart o' women.
Man Sam'l, they're desperate cunnin'."
"I'm dootin' 't; I'm sair dootin' 't."
"It'll be a warnin' to ye, Sam'l, no to be in sic a hurry i' the
futur'," said Sanders.
"Ye'll be gaein' up to the manse to arrange wi' the minister the
morn's mornin'," continued Sanders, in a subdued voice.
Sam'l looked wistfully at his friend.
"I canna do 't, Sanders," he said; "I canna do 't."
"Ye maun," said Sanders.
"It's aisy to speak," retorted Sam'l, bitterly.
"We have a' oor troubles, Sam'l," said Sanders, soothingly, "an' every
man maun bear his ain burdens. Johnny Davie's wife's dead, an' he's no
"Ay," said Sam'l, "but a death's no a mairitch. We hae haen deaths in
our family too."
"It may a' be for the best," added Sanders, "an' there wid be a michty
talk i' the hale country-side gin ye didna ging to the minister like a
"I maun hae langer to think o' 't," said Sam'l.
"Bell's mairitch is the morn," said Sanders, decisively.
Sam'l glanced up with a wild look in his eyes.
"Sanders!" he cried.
"Ye hae been a guid friend to me, Sanders, in this sair affliction."
"Nothing ava," said Sanders; "doun't mention 'd."
"But, Sanders, ye canna deny but what your rinnin' oot o' the kirk
that awfu' day was at the bottom o' 'd a'."
"It was so," said Sanders, bravely.
"An' ye used to be fond o' Bell, Sanders."
"I dinna deny 't."
"Sanders, laddie," said Sam'l, bending forward and speaking in a
wheedling voice, "I aye thocht it was you she likit."
"I had some sic idea mysel'," said Sanders.
"Sanders, I canna think to pairt twa fowk sae weel suited to ane
anither as you an' Bell."
"Canna ye, Sam'l?"
"She wid mak' ye a guid wife, Sanders. I hae studied her weel, and
she's a thrifty, douce, clever lassie. Sanders, there's no the like o'
her. Mony a time, Sanders, I hae said to mysel', 'There's a lass ony
man micht be prood to tak'.' A'body says the same, Sanders. There's
nae risk ava, man--nane to speak o'. Tak' her, laddie; tak' her,
Sanders; it's a gran' chance, Sanders. She's yours for the speerin'.
I'll gie her up, Sanders."
"Will ye, though?" said Sanders.
"What d' ye think?" asked Sam'l.
"If ye wid rayther," said Sanders, politely.
"There's my han' on 't," said Sam'l. "Bless ye, Sanders; ye've been a
true frien' to me."
Then they shook hands for the first time in their lives, and soon
afterward Sanders struck up the brae to T'nowhead.
Next morning Sanders Elshioner, who had been very busy the night
before, put on his Sabbath clothes and strolled up to the manse.
"But--but where is Sam'l?" asked the minister; "I must see himself."
"It's a new arrangement," said Sanders.
"What do you mean, Sanders?"
"Bell's to marry me," explained Sanders.
"But--but what does Sam'l say?"
"He's willin'," said Sanders.
"She's willin' too. She prefers 't."
"It is unusual," said the minister.
"It's a' richt," said Sanders.
"Well, you know best," said the minister.
"You see the hoose was taen, at ony rate," continued Sanders, "an'
I'll juist ging in til 't instead o' Sam'l."
"An' I cudna think to disappoint the lassie."
"Your sentiments do you credit, Sanders," said the minister; "but I
hope you do not enter upon the blessed state of matrimony without full
consideration of its responsibilities. It is a serious business,
"It's a' that," said Sanders, "but I'm willin' to stan' the risk."
So, as soon as it could be done, Sanders Elshioner took to wife
T'nowhead's Bell, and I remember seeing Sam'l Dickie trying to dance
at the penny wedding.
Years afterward it was said in Thrums that Sam'l had treated Bell
badly, but he was never sure about it himself.
"It was a near thing--a michty near thing," he admitted in the square.
"They say," some other weaver would remark, " 'at it was you Bell
"I d'na kin," Sam'l would reply; "but there's nae doot the lassie was
fell fond o' me; ou, a mere passin' fancy, 's ye micht say."
"THE HEATHER LINTIE"
S. R. CROCKETT
Janet Balchrystie lived in a little cottage at the back of the Long
Wood of Barbrax. She had been a hard-working woman all her days, for
her mother died when she was but young, and she had lived on, keeping
her father's house by the side of the single-track railway-line. Gavin
Balchrystie was a foreman plate-layer on the P.P.R., and with two men
under him, had charge of a section of three miles. He lived just where
that distinguished but impecunious line plunges into a moss-covered
granite wilderness of moor and bog, where there is not more than a
shepherd's hut to the half-dozen miles, and where the passage of a
train is the occasion of commotion among scattered groups of black-
faced sheep. Gavin Balchrystie's three miles of P.P.R. metals gave him
little work, but a good deal of healthy exercise. The black-faced
sheep breaking down the fences and straying on the line side, and the
torrents coming down the granite gullies, foaming white after a water-
spout, and tearing into his embankments, undermining his chairs and
plates, were the only troubles of his life. There was, however, a
little public-house at The Huts, which in the old days of construction
had had the license, and which had lingered alone, license and all,
when its immediate purpose in life had been fulfilled, because there
was nobody but the whaups and the railway officials on the passing
trains to object to its continuance. Now it is cold and blowy on the
west-land moors, and neither whaups nor dark-blue uniforms object to a
little refreshment up there. The mischief was that Gavin Balchrystie
did not, like the guards and engine-drivers, go on with the passing
train. He was always on the spot, and the path through Barbrax Wood to
the Railway Inn was as well trodden as that which led over the bog
moss, where the whaups built, to the great white viaduct of Loch
Merrick, where his three miles of parallel gleaming responsibility
When his wife was but newly dead, and his Janet just a smart elf-
locked lassie running to and from the school, Gavin got too much in
the way of "slippin' doon by." When Janet grew to be woman muckle,
Gavin kept the habit, and Janet hardly knew that it was not the use
and wont of all fathers to sidle down to a contiguous Railway Arms,
and return some hours later with uncertain step, and face pricked out
with bright pin-points of red--the sure mark of the confirmed drinker
of whisky neat.
They were long days in the cottage at the back of Barbrax Long Wood.
The little "but an' ben" was whitewashed till it dazzled the eyes as
you came over the brae to it and found it set against the solemn
depths of dark-green firwood. From early morn, when she saw her father
off, till the dusk of the day, when he would return for his supper,
Janet Balchrystie saw no human being. She heard the muffled roar of
the trains through the deep cutting at the back of the wood, but she
herself was entirely out of sight of the carriagefuls of travellers
whisking past within half a mile of her solitude and meditation.
Janet was what is called a "through-gaun lass," and her work for the
day was often over by eight o'clock in the morning. Janet grew to
womanhood without a sweetheart. She was plain, and she looked plainer
than she was in the dresses which she made for herself by the light of
nature and what she could remember of the current fashions at Merrick
Kirk, to which she went every alternate Sunday. Her father and she
took day about. Wet or shine, she tramped to Merrick Kirk, even when
the rain blattered and the wind raved and bleated alternately among
the pines of the Long Wood of Barbrax. Her father had a simpler way of
spending his day out. He went down to the Railway Inn and drank
"ginger-beer" all day with the landlord. Ginger-beer is an unsteadying
beverage when taken the day by the length. Also the man who drinks it
steadily and quietly never enters on any inheritance of length of
So it came to pass that one night Gavin Balchrystie did not come home
at all--at least, not till he was brought lying comfortably on the
door of a disused third-class carriage, which was now seeing out its
career anchored under the bank at Loch Merrick, where Gavin had used
it as a shelter. The driver of the "six-fifty up" train had seen him
walking soberly along toward The Huts (and the Railway Inn), letting
his long surface-man's hammer fall against the rail-keys occasionally
as he walked. He saw him bend once, as though his keen ear detected a
false ring in a loose length between two plates. This was the last
that was seen of him till the driver of the "nine-thirty-seven down"
express--the "boat-train," as the employees of the P.P.R. call it,
with a touch of respect in their voices--passed Gavin fallen forward
on his face just when he was flying down grade under a full head of
steam. It was duskily clear, with a great lake of crimson light dying
into purple over the hills of midsummer heather. The driver was John
Platt, the Englishman from Crewe, who had been brought from the great
London and Northwestern Railway, locally known as "The Ell-nen-
doubleyou." In these remote railway circles the talk is as exclusively
of matters of the four-foot way as in Crewe or Derby. There is an
inspector of traffic, whose portly presence now graces Carlisle
Station, who left the P.P.R. in these sad days of amalgamation,
because he could not endure to see so many "Sou'west" waggons passing
over the sacred metals of the P.P.R. permanent way. From his youth he
had been trained in a creed of two articles: "To swear by the P.P.R.
through thick and thin, and hate the apple green of the 'Sou'west.' "
It was as much as he could do to put up with the sight of the
abominations; to have to hunt for their trucks when they got astray
was more than mortal could stand, so he fled the land.
So when they stopped the express for Gavin Balchrystie, every man on
the line felt that it was an honour to the dead. John Platt sent a
"gurring" thrill through the train as he put his brakes hard down and
whistled for the guard. He, thinking that the Merrick Viaduct was down
at least, twirled his brake to such purpose that the rear car
progressed along the metals by a series of convulsive bounds. Then
they softly ran back, and there lay Gavin fallen forward on his knees,
as though he had been trying to rise, or had knelt down to pray. Let
him have "the benefit of the doubt" in this world. In the next, if all
tales be true, there is no such thing.
So Janet Balchrystie dwelt alone in the white "but an' ben" at the
back of the Long Wood of Barbrax. The factor gave her notice, but the
laird, who was not accounted by his neighbours to be very wise,
because he did needlessly kind things, told the factor to let the
lassie bide, and delivered to herself with his own handwriting to the
effect that Janet Balchrystie, in consideration of her lonely
condition, was to be allowed the house for her lifetime, a cow's
grass, and thirty pound sterling in the year as a charge on the
estate. He drove down the cow himself, and having stalled it in the
byre, he informed her of the fact over the yard dyke by word of mouth,
for he never could be induced to enter her door. He was accounted to
be "gey an' queer," save by those who had tried making a bargain with
him. But his farmers liked him, knowing him to be an easy man with
those who had been really unfortunate, for he knew to what the year's
crops of each had amounted, to a single chalder and head of nowt.
Deep in her heart Janet Balchrystie cherished a great ambition. When
the earliest blackbird awoke and began to sing, while it was yet gray
twilight, Janet would be up and at her work. She had an ambition to be
a great poet. No less than this would serve her. But not even her
father had known, and no other had any chance of knowing. In the black
leather chest, which had been her mother's, upstairs, there was a
slowly growing pile of manuscript, and the editor of the local paper
received every other week a poem, longer or shorter, for his Poet's
Corner, in an envelope with the New Dalry postmark. He was an obliging
editor, and generally gave the closely written manuscript to the
senior office boy, who had passed the sixth standard, to cut down,
tinker the rhymes, and lope any superfluity of feet. The senior office
boy "just spread himself," as he said, and delighted to do the job in
style. But there was a woman fading into a gray old-maidishness which
had hardly ever been girlhood, who did not at all approve of these
corrections. She endured them because over the signature of "Heather
Bell" it was a joy to see in the rich, close luxury of type her own
poetry, even though it might be a trifle tattered and tossed about by
hands ruthless and alien--those, in fact, of the senior office boy.
Janet walked every other week to the post-office at New Dalry to post
her letters to the editor, but neither the great man nor yet the
senior office boy had any conception that the verses of their
"esteemed correspondent" were written by a woman too early old who
dwelt alone at the back of Barbrax Long Wood.
One day Janet took a sudden but long-meditated journey. She went down
by rail from the little station of The Huts to the large town of Drum,
thirty miles to the east. Here, with the most perfect courage and
dignity of bearing, she interviewed a printer and arranged for the
publication of her poems in their own original form, no longer staled
and clapper-clawed by the pencil of the senior office boy. When the
proof-sheets came to Janet, she had no way of indicating the
corrections but by again writing the whole poem out in a neat print
hand on the edge of the proof, and underscoring the words which were
to be altered. This, when you think of it, is a very good way, when
the happiest part of your life is to be spent in such concrete
pleasures of hope, as Janet's were over the crackly sheets of the
printer of Drum. Finally the book was produced, a small rather
thickish octavo, on sufficiently wretched gray paper which had
suffered from want of thorough washing in the original paper-mill. It
was bound in a peculiarly deadly blue, of a rectified Reckitt tint,
which gave you dazzles in the eye at any distance under ten paces.
Janet had selected this as the most appropriate of colours. She had
also many years ago decided upon the title, so that Reckitt had
printed upon it, back and side, "The Heather Lintie," while inside
there was the acknowledgment of authorship, which Janet felt to be a
solemn duty to the world: "Poems by Janet Balchrystie, Barbrax
Cottage, by New Dalry." First she had thought of withholding her name
and style; but, on the whole, after the most prolonged consideration,
she felt that she was not justified in bringing about such a
controversy as divided Scotland concerning that "Great Unknown" who
wrote the Waverley Novels.
Almost every second or third day Janet trod that long lochside road to
New Dalry for her proof-sheets, and returned them on the morrow
corrected in her own way. Sometimes she got a lift from some farmer or
carter, for she had worn herself with anxiety to the shadow of what
she had once been, and her dry bleached hair became gray and grayer
with the fervour of her devotion to letters.
By April the book was published, and at the end of this month, laid
aside by sickness of the vague kind called locally "a decline," she
took to her bed, rising only to lay a few sticks upon the fire from
her store gathered in the autumn, or to brew herself a cup of tea. She
waited for the tokens of her book's conquests in the great world of
thought and men. She had waited so long for her recognition, and now
it was coming. She felt that it would not be long before she was
recognised as one of the singers of the world. Indeed, had she but
known it, her recognition was already on its way.
In a great city of the north a clever young reporter was cutting open
the leaves of "The Heather Lintie" with a hand almost feverishly
"This is a perfect treasure. This is a find indeed. Here is my chance
ready to my hand."
His paper was making a specialty of "exposures." If there was anything
weak and erring, anything particularly helpless and foolish which
could make no stand for itself, the "Night Hawk" was on the pounce.
Hitherto the junior reporter had never had a "two-column chance." He
had read--it was not much that he /had/ read--Macaulay's too famous
article on "Satan" Montgomery, and, not knowing that Macaulay lived to
regret the spirit of that assault, he felt that if he could bring down
the "Night Hawk" on "The Heather Lintie," his fortune was made. So he
sat down and he wrote, not knowing and not regarding a lonely woman's
heart, to whom his word would be as the word of a God, in the lonely
cottage lying in the lee of the Long Wood of Barbrax.
The junior reporter turned out a triumph of the new journalism. "This
is a book which may be a genuine source of pride to every native of
the ancient province of Galloway," he wrote. "Galloway has been
celebrated for black cattle and for wool, as also for a certain
bucolic belatedness of temperament, but Galloway has never hitherto
produced a poetess. One has arisen in the person of Miss Janet Bal--
something or other. We have not an interpreter at hand, and so cannot
wrestle with the intricacies of the authoress's name, which appears to
be some Galwegian form of Erse or Choctaw. Miss Bal--and so forth--has
a true fount of pathos and humour. In what touching language she
chronicles the death of two young lambs which fell down into one of
the puddles they call rivers down there, and were either drowned or
choked with the dirt:
" 'They were two bonny, bonny lambs,
That played upon the daisied lea,
And loudly mourned their woolly dams
Above the drumly flowing Dee.'
"How touchingly simple!" continued the junior reporter, buckling up
his sleeves to enjoy himself, and feeling himself born to be a
"Mark the local colour, the wool and the dirty water of the Dee--
without doubt a name applied to one of their bigger ditches down
there. Mark also the over-fervency of the touching line,
" 'And loudly mourned their woolly dams,'
"Which, but for the sex of the writer and her evident genius, might be
taken for an expression of a strength hardly permissible even in the
The junior reporter filled his two columns and enjoyed himself in the
doing of it. He concluded with the words: "The authoress will make a
great success. If she will come to the capital, where genius is always
appreciated, she will, without doubt, make her fortune. Nay, if Miss
Bal--but again we cannot proceed for the want of an interpreter--if
Miss B., we say, will only accept a position at Cleary's Waxworks and
give readings from her poetry, or exhibit herself in the act of
pronouncing her own name, she will be a greater draw in this city than
Punch and Judy, or even the latest American advertising evangelist,
who preaches standing on his head."
The junior reporter ceased here from very admiration at his own
cleverness in so exactly hitting the tone of the masters of his craft,
and handed his manuscript in to the editor.
It was the gloaming of a long June day when Rob Affleck, the woodman
over at Barbrax, having been at New Dalry with a cart of wood, left
his horse on the roadside and ran over through Gavin's old short cut,
now seldom used, to Janet's cottage with a paper in a yellow wrapper.
"Leave it on the step, and thank you kindly, Rob," said a weak voice
within; and Rob, anxious about his horse and his bed, did so without
another word. In a moment or two Janet crawled to the door, listened
to make sure that Rob was really gone, opened the door, and protruded
a hand wasted to the hard, flat bone--an arm that ought for years to
have been full of flesh and noble curves.
When Janet got back to bed it was too dark to see anything except the
big printing at the top of the paper.
"Two columns of it!" said Janet, with great thankfulness in her heart,
lifting up her soul to God who had given her the power to sing. She
strained her prematurely old and weary eyes to make out the sense. "A
genuine source of pride to every native of the ancient province," she
"The Lord be praised!" said Janet, in a rapture of devout
thankfulness; "though I never really doubted it," she added, as though
asking pardon for a moment's distrust. "But I tried to write these
poems to the glory of God and not to my own praise, and He will accept
them and keep me humble under the praise of men as well as under their
So clutching the precious paper close to her breast, and letting tears
of thankfulness fall on the article, which, had they fallen on the
head of the junior reporter, would have burned like fire, she
patiently awaited the coming dawn.
"I can wait till the morning now to read the rest," she said.
So hour after hour, with her eyes wide, staring hard at the gray
window-squares, she waited the dawn from the east. About half-past two
there was a stirring and a moaning among the pines, and the roar of
the sudden gust came with the breaking day through the dark arches. In
the whirlwind there came a strange expectancy and tremor into the
heart of the poetess, and she pressed the wet sheet of crumpled paper
closer to her bosom, and turned to face the light. Through the spaces
of the Long Wood of Barbrax there came a shining visitor, the Angel of
the Presence, he who comes but once and stands a moment with a
beckoning finger. Him she followed up through the wood.
They found Janet on the morning of the second day after, with a look
so glad on her face, and so natural an expectation in the unclosed
eye, that Rob Affleck spoke to her and expected an answer. The "Night
Hawk" was clasped to her breast with a hand that they could not
loosen. It went to the grave with her body. The ink had run a little
here and there, where the tears had fallen thickest.
God is more merciful than man.
A DOCTOR OF THE OLD SCHOOL
A GENERAL PRACTITIONER
Drumtochty was accustomed to break every law of health, except
wholesome food and fresh air, and yet had reduced the psalmist's
furthest 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 top-coat 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, half-way to Kildrummie,
that it had been "a bit scrowie," and "scrowie" being as far short of
a "shoor" as a "shoor" fell below "weet."
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's brother so far forgot himself as to "slip awa' " at
sixty, that worthy man was scandalised, 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 of 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 after thae foreign climates."
Drumtochty listened patiently to Hillocks's apologia, but was not
"It's clean havers aboot the muir. Losh keep's, we've a' sleepit oot
and never been a hair the waur.
"A' admit that England micht hae dune the job; it's no canny
stravagin' yon wy frae place tae place, but Drums never complained tae
me as if he hed been nippit in the Sooth."
The parish had, in fact, lost confidence in Drums after his wayward
experiment with a potato-digging machine, which turned out a
lamentable failure, and his premature departure confirmed our vague
impression of his character.
"He's awa' noo," Drumsheugh summed up, after opinion had time to form;
"an' there were waur fouk than Drums, but there's nae doot he wes a
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 Drumtochty:
"Confound ye, Hillocks, what are ye ploiterin' aboot here for in the
weet wi' a face like a boiled beer? Div ye no ken that ye've a tetch
o' the rose (erysipelas), and ocht tae be in the hoose? Gae hame wi'
ye afore a' leave the bit, and send a halflin' for some medicine. Ye
donnerd idiot, are ye ettlin tae follow Drums afore yir time?" And the
medical attendant of Drumtochty continued his invective till Hillocks
started, and still pursued his retreating figure with medical
directions of a simple and practical character:
"A' 'm watchin', an' peety ye if ye pit aff time. Keep yir bed the
mornin', and dinna show yir face in the fields till a' see ye. A'll
gie ye a cry on Monday,--sic an auld fule,--but there's no ane o' them
tae mind anither in the hale pairish."
Hillocks's wife informed the kirkyard that the doctor "gied the
gudeman an awful' clearin'," and that Hillocks "wes keepin' the
hoose," which meant that the patient had tea breakfast, and at that
time was wandering about the farm buildings in an easy undress, with
his head in a plaid.
It was impossible for a doctor to earn even the most modest competence
from a people of such scandalous health, and so MacLure had annexed
neighbouring parishes. His house--little more than a cottage--stood on
the roadside among the pines toward 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 westward 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 eastward toward
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 ride faster, stay longer
in the saddle, and had a firmer grip with his knees than any one I
ever met, and it was all for mercy's sake. When the reapers in
harvest-time saw a figure whirling past in a cloud of dust, or the
family at the foot of Glen Urtach, gathered round the fire on a
winter's night, heard the rattle of a horse's hoofs on the road, or
the shepherds, out after the sheep, traced a black speck moving across
the snow to the upper glen, they knew it was the doctor, and, without
being conscious of it, wished him God-speed.
Before and behind his saddle were strapped the instruments and
medicines the doctor might want, for he never knew what was before
him. There were no specialists in Drumtochty, so this man had to do
everything as best he could, and as quickly. He was chest doctor, and
doctor for every other organ as well; he was accoucheur and surgeon;
he was oculist and aurist; he was dentist and chloroformist, besides
being chemist and druggist. It was often told how he was far up Glen
Urtach when the feeders of the threshing-mill caught young Burnbrae,
and how he only stopped to change horses at his house, and galloped
all the way to Burnbrae, and flung himself off his horse, and
amputated the arm, and saved the lad's life.
"You wud hae thocht that every meenut was an hour," said Jamie Soutar,
who had been at the threshing, "an' a' 'll never forget the puir lad
lyin' as white as deith on the floor o' the loft, wi' his head on a
sheaf, and 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' slipped doon the ladder
as the doctor came skelpin' intae the close, the foam fleein' frae his
" 'Whar is he?' wes a' that passed his lips, an' in five meenuts he
hed him on the feedin' board, and wes at his wark--sic wark, neeburs!
but he did it weel. An' ae thing a' thocht rael thochtfu' o' him: he
first sent aff the laddie's mither tae get a bed ready.
" 'Noo that's feenished, and his constitution 'ill dae the rest,' and
he carried the lad doon the ladder in his airms like a bairn, and laid
him in his bed, and waits aside him till he wes sleepin', and then
says he, 'Burnbrae, yir a gey lad never tae say, "Collie, will ye
lick?" for a' hevna tasted meat for saxteen hoors.'
"It was michty tae see him come intae the yaird that day, neeburs; the
verra look o' him wes victory."
Jamie's cynicism slipped off in the enthusiasm of this reminiscence,
and he expressed the feeling of Drumtochty. No one sent for MacLure
save in great straits, and the sight of him put courage in sinking
hearts. But this was not by the grace of his appearance, or the
advantage of a good bedside manner. A tall, gaunt, loosely made man,
without an ounce of superfluous flesh on his body, his face burned a
dark brick colour by constant exposure to the weather, red hair and
beard turning gray, honest blue eyes that look you ever in the face,
huge hands with wrist-bones like the shank of a ham, and a voice that
hurled his salutations across two fields, he suggested the moor rather
than the drawing-room. But what a clever hand it was in an operation--
as delicate as a woman's! and what a kindly voice it was in the humble
room where the shepherd's wife was weeping by her man's bedside! He
was "ill pitten thegither" to begin with, but many of his physical
defects were the penalties of his work, and endeared him to the Glen.
That ugly scar, that cut into his right eyebrow and gave him such a
sinister expression, was got one night Jess slipped on the ice and
laid him insensible eight miles from home. His limp marked the big
snowstorm in the fifties, when his horse missed the road in Glen
Urtach, and they rolled together in a drift. MacLure escaped with a
broken leg and the fracture of three ribs, but he never walked like
other men again. He could not swing himself into the saddle without
making two attempts and holding Jess's mane. Neither can you "warstle"
through the peat-bogs and snow-drifts for forty winters without a
touch of rheumatism. But they were honourable scars, and for such
risks of life men get the Victoria Cross in other fields. MacLure got
nothing but the secret affection of the Glen, which knew that none had
ever done one tenth as much for it as this ungainly, twisted, battered
figure, and I have seen a Drumtochty face soften at the sight of
MacLure limping to his horse.
Mr. Hopps earned the ill-will of the Glen for ever by criticising the
doctor's dress, but indeed it would have filled any townsman with
amazement. Black he wore once a year, on sacrament Sunday, and, if
possible, at a funeral; top-coat or water-proof 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 gray flannel, and he was uncertain about a collar, but certain as
to a tie,--which he never had, his beard doing instead,--and his hat
was soft felt of four colours and seven different shapes. His point of
distinction in dress was the trousers, and they were the subject of
"Some threep that he's worn thae eedentical pair the last twenty year,
an' a mind masel' him getting' a tear ahint, when he was crossin' oor
palin', an 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 wudna like tae see him withoot
them; it wud be a shock tae confidence. There's no muckle o' the check
left, but ye can aye tell it, and when ye see thae breeks comin' in ye
ken that if human pooer can save yir bairn's life it 'ill be dune."
The confidence of the Glen--and the 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 country-side 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, Dr. MacLure," continued my friend Mrs. Macfadyen,
whose judgment on sermons or anything else was seldom at fault; "an' a
kind-hearted, though o' coorse he hes his faults like us a', an' he
disna tribble the kirk often.
"He aye can tell what's wrong 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 verra ceevil gin ye bring him when there's naethin'
wrang," and Mrs. Macfadyen's face reflected another of Mr. Hopps's
misadventures of which Hillocks held the copyright.
"Hopps's laddie ate grosarts (gooseberries) till they hed to sit up a'
nicht wi' him, an' naethin' wud do but they maum hae the doctor, an'
he writes 'immediately' on a slip o' paper.
"Weel, MacLure had been awa' a' nicht wi' a shepherd's wife Dunleith
wy, and he comes here withoot drawin' bridle, mud up tae the een.
" 'What's adae 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's laddie; he's been eatin'
"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 coomin'
" '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 a 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 was 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 spairin' 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 gud 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 tak's 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 take a pail o' meal an' water.
" 'Fee? A' 'm no wantin' yir fees, man; wi' that boxy ye dinna need a
doctor; na, na, gie yir siller tae some puir body, Maister Hopps,' an'
he was doon the road as hard as he cud lick."
His fees were pretty much what the folk chose to give him, and he
collected them once a year at Kildrummie fair.
"Weel, doctor, what am a' awin' ye for the wife and bairn? Ye 'ill
need three notes for that nicht ye stayed in the hoose an' a' the
"Havers," MacLure would answer, "prices are low, a' 'm hearin'; gie 's
"No, a' 'll no, or the wife 'ill tak' ma ears aff," 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 one hundred
and fifty pounds 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 judgment.
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 vigour and frankness that
an attentive audience of Drumtochty men could hardly contain
Jamie Soutar was selling his pig at the time, and missed the meeting,
but he hastened to condole with Milton, who was complaining everywhere
of the doctor's language.
"Ye did richt tae resist him; it 'ill maybe roose the Glen tae mak' a
stand; he fair hands them in bondage.
"Thirty shillin's for twal' vessits, and him no mair than seeven mile
awa', an' a' 'm telt there werena mair than four at nicht.
"Ye 'ill hae the sympathy o' the Glen, for a'body kens yir as free wi'
yir siller as yir tracts.
"Wes 't 'Beware o' Gude Warks' ye offered him? Man, ye chose it weel,
for he's been colleckin' sae mony thae forty years, a' 'm feared for
"A' 've often thocht oor doctor's little better than the Gude
Samaritan, an' the Pharisees didna think muckle o' his chance aither
in this warld or that which is tae come."
THROUGH THE FLOOD
Dr. MacLure did not lead a solemn procession from the sick-bed to the
dining-room, and give his opinion from the hearth-rug 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 laboured under a perpetual disability of speech; but love was eyes
to him that day, and a mouth.
"Is 't as bad as yir lookin', doctor? Tell 's the truth. Wull Annie no
come through?" and Tammas looked MacLure straight in the face, who
never flinched his duty or said smooth things.
"A' wud gie onythin' tae say Annie has a chance, but a' daurna; a'
doot yir gaein' to lose her, Tammas."
MacLure was in the saddle, and, as he gave his judgment, he laid his
hand on Tammas's shoulder with one of the rare caresses that pass
"It's a sair business, but ye 'ill play the man and no vex Annie; she
'ill dae her best, a' 'll warrant."
"And 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 year, and never was ill.
. . . We've been mairit twal' year last 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
about her till it's ower-late. . . . She didna cuist up to 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 by. . . . 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 without ye, Annie?"
The winter night was falling fast, the snow lay deep upon the ground,
and the merciless north wind moaned through the close as Tammas
wrestled with his sorrow dry-eyed, for tears were denied Drumtochty
men. Neither the doctor nor Jess moved hand or foot, but their hearts
were with their fellow-creature, and at length the doctor made a sign
to Marget Howe, who had come out in search of Tammas, and now stood by
"Dinna mourn tae the brakin' o' yir hert, Tammas," she said, "as if
Annie an' you hed never luved. Neither death nor time can pairt them
that luve; there's naethin' in a' the warld sae strong as luve. If
Annie gaes frae the sicht o' yir een she 'ill come the nearer tae yir
hert. She wants tae see ye, and tae hear ye say that ye 'ill never
forget her nicht nor day till ye meet in the land where there's nae
pairtin'. Oh, a' ken what a' 'm sayin', for it's five year noo sin'
George gied awa', an' he's mair wi me noo than when he was in
Edinboro' and I wes in Drumtochty."
"Thank ye kindly, Marget; thae are gude words an' true, an' ye hev the
richt tae say them; but a' canna dae without seein' Annie comin' tae
meet me in the gloamin', an' gaein' in an' oot the hoose, an' hearin'
her ca' me by ma name; an' a' 'll no can tell her that a' luve her
when there's nae Annie in the hoose.
"Can naethin' be dune, doctor? Ye savit Flora Cammil, and young
Burnbrae, an' yon shepherd's wife Dunleith wy; an' we were a' sae
prood o' ye, an' pleased tae think that ye hed keepit deith frae
anither hame. Can ye no think o' somethin' tae help Annie, and gie her
back her man and bairnies?" and Tammas searched the doctor's face in
the cold, weird light.
"There's nae pooer in heaven or airth like luve," Marget said to me
afterward; "it mak's the weak strong and the dumb tae speak. Oor herts
were as water afore Tammas's words, an' a' saw the doctor shake in his
saddle. A' never kent till that meenut hoo he hed a share in a'body's
grief, an' carried the heaviest wecht o' a' the Glen. A' peetied him
wi' Tammas lookin' at him sae wistfully, as if he hed the keys o' life
an' deith in his hands. But he wes honest, and wudna hold oot a false
houp tae deceive a sore hert or win escape for himsel'."
"Ye needna plead wi' me, Tammas, to dae the best a' can for yir wife.
Man, a' kent her lang afore ye ever luved her; a' brocht her intae the
warld, and a' saw her through the fever when she wes a bit lassikie;
a' closed her mither's een, and it wes me hed tae tell her she wes an
orphan; an' nae man wes better pleased when she got a gude husband,
and a' helpit her wi' her fower bairns. A' 've naither wife nor bairns
o' ma own, an' a' coont a' the fouk o' the Glen ma family. Div ye
think a' wudna save Annie if I cud? If there wes a man in Muirtown 'at
cud dae mair for her, a' 'd have him this verra nicht; but a' the
doctors in Perthshire are helpless for this 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 round ye, couthy an' canty
again; but it's nae tae be, Tammas, it's nae tae be."
"When a' lookit at the doctor's face," Marget said, "a' thocht him the
winsomest man a' ever saw. He wes transfigured that nicht, for a' 'm
judgin' there's nae transfiguration like luve."
"It's God's wull an' maun be borne, but it's a sair wull fur me, an'
a' 'm no ungratefu' tae you, doctor, for a' ye've dune and what ye
said the nicht," and Tammas went back to sit with Annie for the last
Jess picked her way through the deep snow to the main road, with a
skill that came of long experience, and the doctor held converse with
her according to his wont.
"Eh, Jess, wumman, yon wes the hardest wark a' hae tae face, and a'
wud raither hae taen 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 was 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 will buy life after a', an' if Annie
wes a duchess her man wudna lose her; but bein' only a puir cotter's
wife, she maun dee afore the week 's oot.
"Gin we hed him the morn there's little doot she wud be saved, for he
hesna lost mair than five per cent. o' his cases, and they 'ill be
puir toons-craturs, no strappin' women like Annie.
"It's oot o' the question, Jess, sae hurry up, lass, for we've hed a
heavy day. But it wud be the grandest thing that wes ever done in the
Glen in oor time if it could be managed by hook or crook.
"We'll gang and see Drumsheugh, Jess; he's anither man sin' Geordie
Hoo's deith, and he was aye kinder than fouk kent." And the doctor
passed at a gallop through the village, whose lights shone across the
white frost-bound road.
"Come in by, doctor; a' heard ye on the road; ye 'ill hae been at
Tammas Mitchell's; hoo's the gudewife? A' doot she's sober."
"Annie's deein', Drumsheugh, an' Tammas is like tae brak his hert."
"That's no lichtsome, doctor, no lichtsome, ava, for a' dinna ken ony
man in Drumtochty sae bund up in his wife as Tammas, and there's no a
bonnier wumman o' her age crosses oor kirk door than Annie, nor a
cleverer at her work. Man ye 'ill need tae pit yir brains in steep. Is
she clean beyond ye?"
"Beyond me and every ither in the land but ane, and it wud cost a
hundred guineas tae bring him tae Drumtochty."
"Certes, he's no blate; it's a fell chairge for a short day's work;
but hundred or no hundred we 'ill hae him, and no let Annie gang, and
her no half her years."
"Are ye meanin' it, Drumsheugh?" and MacLure turned white below the
"William MacLure," said Drumsheugh, in one of the few confidences that
ever broke the Drumtochty reserve, "a' 'm a lonely man, wi' naebody o'
ma ain blude tae care for me livin', or tae lift me intae ma coffin
when a' 'm deid.
"A' fecht awa' at Muirtown market for an extra pund on a beast, or a
shillin' on the quarter o' barley, an' what's the gude o' 't? Burnbrae
gaes aff tae get a goon for his wife or a buke for his college laddie,
an' Lachlan Campbell 'ill no leave the place noo without a ribbon for
"Ilka man in the Kildrummie train has some bit fairin' in his pooch
for the fouk at hame that he's bocht wi' the siller he won.
"But there's naebody tae be lookin' oot for me, an' comin' doon the
road tae meet me, and daffin' (joking) wi' me aboot their fairin', or
feelin' ma pockets. Ou, ay! A' 've seen it a' at ither hooses, though
they tried tae hide it frae me for fear a' wud lauch at them. Me
lauch, wi' ma cauld, empty hame!
"Yir the only man kens, Weelum, that I aince luved the noblest wumman
in the Glen or onywhere, an' a' luve her still, but wi' anither luve
"She hed given her hert 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 what 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 brightness in
oor ain hames, is tae keep the licht frae gaein' oot in anither hoose.
Write the telegram, man, and Sandy 'ill send it aff frae Kildrummie
this verra nicht, and ye 'ill hae yir man the morn."
"Yir the man a' coonted ye, Drumsheugh, but ye 'ill grant me a favour.
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 top-
coat 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
"It's a'richt in here, for the wind disna get at the snow; 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 our
worst job 'ill be crossin' the Tochty.
"Ye see, the bridge hes been shakin' wi' this winter's flood, and we
daurna venture on it, sae we hev tae ford, and the snaw's been meltin'
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
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 dog-cart began to quiver,
and it seemed as if it were to be carried away. Sir George was as
brave as most men, but he had never forded a Highland river in flood,
and the mass of black water racing past beneath, before, behind him,
affected his imagination and shook his nerves. He rose from his seat
and ordered MacLure to turn back, declaring that he would be condemned
utterly and eternally if he allowed himself to be drowned for any
"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 leaned forward in his seat, a
rein in each hand, and his eyes fixed on Hillocks, who was now
standing up to the waist in the water, shouting directions and
cheering on horse and driver:
"Haud tae the richt, doctor; there's a hole yonder. Keep oot o' 't for
ony sake. That's it; yir daein' fine. Steady, man, steady. Yir at the
deepest; sit heavy in yir seats. Up the channel noo, and ye 'ill be
oot o' the swirl. Weel dune, Jess! Weel dune, auld mare! Mak' straicht
for me, doctor, an' a' 'll gie ye the road oot. Ma word, ye've dune
yir best, baith o' ye, this mornin'," cried Hillocks, splashing up to
the dog-cart, now in the shallows.
"Sall, it wes titch an' go for a meenut in the middle; a Hielan' ford