SOON after I had obtained
my diploma, and was dubbed M.D., an opening for a medical practitioner
occurred in the pleasant village of St Dunstan, situated on the beautiful
banks of the Tweed. Knowing well that I might be forestalled by a day's
delay, I bundled up my testimonials and letters of recommendation, and
departed at once for the scene of action. The shadows of a calm October
evening were drooping over the Eildon Hills, and the Tweed was murmuring
peacefully along its winding course, when I entered the principal street
of the village, and took up my quarters at the inn. After refreshing
myself with such entertainment as the house afforded, I called in the
landlord, told him the object of my visit, and inquired if any other
medical gentlemen had yet made their appearance. Mine host was a canny,
cautious Scotsman, and manifested due deliberation in a matter of so much
moment. Me surveyed me quietly for a short time, and did not reply until
he seemed satisfied with his scrutiny.
"Na, sir." he said at
length; "ye're the first that's come to the toun yet, and a' the folk are
wearying for anither doctor. Ye see, we canna tell what may happen. The
shoemaker's wife took unco onweel last nicht, and, frail as he is himsel,
puir man, he had to gang a' the way to Melrose for medical advice. Ye look
young like, sir; hae ye been in ony place afore?"
"No," I replied; "it is not
very long since I passed."
"Ay, weel, that's no sae
gude; we rather like a skeely man here. Dr Sommerville had a great deal o'
experience, and we were a' sorry when he left for Glasgow."
"I am glad that the good
people of St Dunstan liked their last doctor so well," I rejoined,
somewhat nettled at the plain-spokenness of the worthy landlord of the
Cross-Keys. "But although my youth may be against me," I continued, "here
are some testimonials which I hope may prove satisfactory, and I have
several letters of recommendation besides to gentlemen in the village and
The landlord was a person
whom I saw that it was necessary to gain over. He was vastly pleased when
I recognised his importance by producing my testimonials for his
inspection. It was amusing to observe the gravity and dignity with which
he adjusted his spectacles across the bridge of his nose, and proceeded to
carefully inspect the documents. At intervals as he read he gave such
running comments as "gude —"very glide"— "excellent"—"capital sir,
capital!" I was glad to see the barometer rising so rapidly. After mine
host had finished the perusal of the papers, he shook me heartily by the
and, and said, "You're the very man we want, sir; ye hae first-rate
So far, so good. It was a
great tiling to have gained the confidence and goodwill of one important
personage, and I felt desirous to make further conquests that evening.
"Do you think I might
venture to call to-night upon any of the parties in the village to whom I
have letters of recommendation?" I inquired.
"Surely, surely," responded
the landlord; "the sooner the better. Just read me ower their names, sir,
and I'll tak ye round to their houses. We hae a better chance o' gettin'
them in at nicht than through the day."
Accompanied by the lord of
the Cross-Keys, I accordingly visited the leading inhabitants of the
village, and made wha! an expectant member of Parliament would consider a
very satisfactory canvass. I was received with much courtesy and civility;
and the minister of the parish, to whom I had a letter of introduction
from a brother clergyman in Edinburgh, paid me the most flattering
attentions, and pressed me to take up my abode immediately at St Dunstan.
The ladies, married and unmarried, with whom I entered into conversation,
were all unanimous in expressing their desire that I should remain in
their midst. Indeed, I have observed that the female sex invariably take
the greatest interest in the settlement of ministers and doctors. I could
easily understand why the unmarried ladies should prefer a single
gentleman like myself; but I could not comprehend at the time why their
mothers seemed to lake so much interest in a newly-fledged M.D. It struck
me that the landlord of the inn must have committed a great mistake in
describing Dr Sommerville as the favourite of all classes.
From many of the people
upon whom we called I received kind invitations to spend the night in
their houses, and I could have slept in a dozen different beds if I had
felt so inclined; but I preferred returning to the Cross-Keys, that, like
the Apostle, I might be bur densome to none. It is a piece of worldly
prudence to give as little trouble as possible to strangers; and medical
practitioners, of all men in the world, require to be wary in their ways,
and circumspect in their actions.
On our return to the inn,
the landlord appeared to regard my settlement in St Dunstan as a
"Ye've got on grandly the
nicht, Dr Wilson," he said, dropping the "sir" when he considered me
almost installed in office. "Ye've carried everything afore ye—I never saw
the like o't. Ye hae got the promise o' practice frae the hale lot o'
them— that's to say, when they need the attendance o' a medical man; and,
'od doctor, but the womenkind are aften complainin'."
"Well, Mr Barlas," I said
(such was the landlord's name), "I have experienced much kindness and
civility, and in the course of a few hours I have far outstripped my
expectations. If I only succeed as well with the ladies and gentlemen in
the neighbourhood, I will not hesitate for a moment in settling down in
the midst of you."
"There's nae danger o'
that, doctor. What's sauce or senna for the goose is sauce or senna for
the gander. I've seen aften eneuch that the grit folk are no sae ill to
please as the sma'. If ye get ower the Laird,—an' I think ye've as gude a
chance as ony ither body,—ye needna fear muckle for the rest."
"And who is the Laird, Mr
Barlas?" I asked.
"Oh, just the Laird, ye
ken—Laird Ramsay o' the Haugh; ye'll surely hae heard o' him afore you cam
"Ramsay," I said;
"Ramsay—oh, yes,—I have a letter of introduction to a gentleman of that
name from a professor in Edinburgh. Does he rule the roast in this
"I'll tell you aboot him i*
the noo; but wait a wee, doctor, till I bring ye something warm."
I did not disapprove of the
medicine proposed by the host of the Cross-Keys of St Dunstan, as I was
anxious to know as much as possible about the place and people; and the
influence of hot punch in making even silent persons communicative is
quite proverbial. Mr Barlas, after a brief absence, returned to the snug
little parlour, bearing his own private blue bottle, capable, I should
think, of holding a good half-gallon of Islay or Glenlivet; and we were
soon sitting comfortably, with steaming tumblers before us, beside a
"This is something social
like, noo, doctor," said the composed and considerate landlord. "Ye were
wantin' to hear aboot the Laird. Weel, I'll tell ye what sort o' a being
he is, that ye may be on your guard when ye gang to the Haugh the morn.
Laird Ramsay has mair gear, doctor, than ony half-dozen o' his neighbours
for mony miles roond, and he's a queer character wi'd a'. He's unco
auld-fashioned for a man in his station, an' speaks muckle sic like as ye
hear me speakin' i' the noo. He gets the name o' haudin' a gude grip o'
his siller; but I've nae reason to compleen, as he spends freely eneuch
when he comes to the Cross-Keys, no forgettin' the servant-lass and the
ostler; an' I ken for a fac' that he slips a canny shillin' noo and again
into the loofs o the puir folk o' St Dunstan. He's unco douce and
proud,—ye micht maist say saucy,—until ye get the richt side o' him, an'
then he's the best o' freends; an' nane better than the Laird at a twa-handed
"And how do you get to the
right side of him, Mr Barlas?" I interjected.
"That's the very thing I
was gaun to tell ye, doctor. Lay on the butter weel. Butter him on baith
sides, an' then ye easy get to the richt side. Praise his land, his craps,
his nowte, his house, his garden, his Glenlivet, his everything; but tak
care what ye say o' his dochter to his face."
"The Laird has got a
daughter, then, it seems?"
"Ay, that he has, an' a
comely quean she is ; but he'll be a clever man wha can rin awa wi' her
frae the Haugh. The Laird just dotes upon her, an' he wouldna pairt wi'
her for love or siller. If she has a sweetheart, I'm thinkin' he'll need
to sook his thoomb, an' bide a wee."
In answer to my inquiries
the landlord informed me that Miss Jessie Ramsay was the Laird's only
daughter, and that her mother had been dead for several years. His
information and anecdotes regarding the eccentric character of the
old-fashioned proprietor of the Haugh, excited my curiosity so much that I
resolved to pay him an early visit on the following day. After sitting for
an hour or two, during which time Mr Barlas became more and more
loquacious, I seized the first favourable opportunity to propose an
adjournment, and receiving the reluctant assent of mine host, I retired to
rest, and slept soundly in spite of all the crowing cocks of St Dunstan.
In the rooming the tidings
were through the whole village that a new doctor had come, and several
people became suddenly unwell, for the express purpose, I presume, of
testing my skill. Three urgent cases I found to be ordinary headache, and,
fearing lest my trip to the Haugh might be delayed for two weeks, I hired
the best hack the Cross-Keys could afford, and made off for the domicile
of the eccentric Laird. The owner of the hack was very anxious to
accompany me, but I preferred making the excursion alone. The weather was
mild and delightful; the trees seemed lovelier in decay than in the
fulness of summer life; and the Tweed flowed and murmured softly as the
waters of Siloah. Half-an-hour's riding brought me to the Haugh—an ancient
edifice embosomed among trees. In the prime of its youth it would
doubtless be considered a splendid mansion ; but in its old age it had an
ungainly appearance, although not altogether destitute of a certain
picturesque air. After disposing of my hack to a little Jack-of-all-work
urchin, who was looking about for some work to do, or meditating mischief,
I knocked at the door, and was ushered, by an old serving-woman, into a
quaint apartment, crammed with antique furniture. The mantelpiece
absolutely groaned under its load of ornaments, while a great spreading
plume of peacock's feathers waved triumphantly over all. This must be the
Laird's fancy, I thought, and not the taste of Miss Jessie. Several
pictures illustrative of fox-hunting, and two portraits, adorned the
walls. None of them could be considered as belonging to any particular
school, or as masterpieces in art. On the window-blinds a besieging force
was represented as assaulting a not very formidable castle.
While I sat amusing myself
with the oddities of the apartment, the door opened, and the Laird
entered. He was a gray-haired, ruddy-faced, shrewd-looking man of fifty or
thereabouts. I was rather taken with his dress. He wore a blue coat of
antique cut, knee breeches, long brown gaiters with metal buttons, and his
vest was beautified with perpendicular yellow stripes. There was an air of
dignity about him when he entered as though he were conscious that he was
Laird of the Haugh, and that I had come to consult him about some
important business. Being a Justice of the Peace, as I afterwards learned,
he probably wished to impress a stranger with a sense of his official
greatness. I did not know very well whether to address him as Mr Ramsay or
the "Laird;" but he relieved me of the difficulty by saying in broad
Scotch, "This is a grand day, sir; hae ye ridden far?"
"No," I replied, "only from
"Just that—just that," said
the Laird, with a peculiar tone. "I thocht as much when I met the callant
Ieadin' awa the Cross-Key's charger,—puir beast!"
I handed the Laird the
letter of introduction which I had received from one of the medical
professors in Edinburgh-He read it very slowly, as though he were spelling
and weighing every word, and he had perused it twice from beginning to end
before he rose and welcomed me to the Haugh.
"He's a clever man, that
professor," quoth Laird Ramsay; "an' he speaks o' ye, doctor, in a
flattering way; but the proof o' the puddin' is the preein' o't, ye ken.
Ye've shown some spunk in comin' sae quick to St Dunstan; but ye're young
eneuch to be on your ain coat-tail yet."
"We must begin somewhere
and sometime, Mr Ramsay," I rejoined.
"Ye're richt there,"
answered the Laird; and then added with a chuckle, "but patients dinna
like to be made victims o'. However, we'll think aboot that. Ye'll be none
the worse o' something to eat and drink, I'm thinkin'; an' to tell the
truth, I want to weet my ain whistle."
So saying, the Laird o' the
Haugh rose and rang the bell, and told the old serving-woman, the
handmaiden of the household, to bid Jessie speak to him. In a short time
Jessie, a tall, handsome, hearty, fresh-coloured, black-haired beauty,
came tripping into the room. The Laird was not very ceremonious so far as
the matter of introduction was concerned, but Jessie was one of those
frank girls who can introduce themselves, and make you feel perfectly at
home at once. The father and daughter were evidently strongly attached to
"Bring us some wine first,
like a gude lass," said the Laird, "an' then we'll tak something mair
substantial when ye're ready."
Jessie, like a dutiful
daughter, placed the decanters and glasses on the table. There was an
elxsticity in her step, a grace in her every motion, and an irresistible
charm in her frank and affectionate smile. The Laird did not seem
altogether to relish the manner in which my eyes involuntarily followed
her movements; and remembering what mine host of the Cross-Keys had told
me on the previous night, I resolved to be as circumspect as possible,
both in look and word. The laird o' the Haugh pledged the young doctor,
and the young doctor pledged the Laird. Meanwhile, Jessie had disappeared
to look after the substantials. A glass or two of his capital wine warmed
Laird Ramsay into a fine conversational mood. and we got on famously
together. After dinner, when the punch was produced. our intimacy
increased, and I began to love the eccentric Laird for the sake of his
beautiful and accomplished daughter. I discovered that he had a hearty
relish for humorous stories and anecdotes, and I plied him with them in
thick succession, until the fountain of laughter ran over in tears. I was
determined to take the old gentleman by storm, and Miss Jessie, with quick
feminine instinct, appeared to be more than half aware of my object.
However, I carefully abstained from exciting his suspicion by conversing
directly with Jessie, even when he appeared to be in the most genial and
The evening was pretty far
advanced when I left his hospitable board. "Mind, you're to be the doctor
o' St Dunstan," he said, as I mounted the Cross-Key's charger. "We'll hae
nae-body but yoursel, an' ye mun be sure an' come back soon again to the
Haugh." I rode home to mine inn fully resolved to locate myself in the
village, and firmly persuaded that if I had not captivated the Laird's
daughter, I had at least conquered the Laird himself.
"Weel, doctor, is it a'
richt wi' the Laird?" inquired Mr Barlas when I returned to the
"Yes," I rejoined, "it's
Laird Ramsay is now my
warmest and staunchest supporter, and a most companionable old gentleman
"I never heard the like o'
that," said the landlord, lifting up his eyebrows in astonishment. "'Od,
doctor, ye're jist like that auld Roman reiver, Caesar, wha gaed aboot
seein' and conquerin'. Ye hae a clear coast noo, when ye hae gotten the
gudewill o' the Laird and the minister. An' what think ye o' the dochter?
Isna she a comely lass, Miss Ramsay?"
"She is, indeed, Mr Barlas,"
I replied. "The young lady seems to do her best to make her father feel
happy and comfortable, and I have no doubt that many ' braw wooers' will
frequently find their way to the Haugh."
"Na, doctor, na. As I
tell't ye afore, the Laird is unco fond o' Miss Jessie, an' I dinna
believe he would pairt wi' her to the best man i' the kintra-side. But ye
hae sic an uncommon power o' comin' roond folk that I wouldna wonner to
see ye tryin't yersel."
"Stranger things have
happened, Mr Barlas," I rejoined. "Meantime, my mind is made up to settle
down in St Dunstan. I like the place and the people, the Eiklon Hills, the
Tweed, and Laird Ramsay."
"No to speak o' his dochter,"
interjected mine host with a knowing look.
"But where," I continued,
"am I to take up my quarters?"
"Ye needna put yersel in a
peck o' troubles aboot that, doctor. There's Dr Sommerville's cottage just
waitin' for ye alang the road a bit. It's a commodious hoose, wi' trees
roond it an' a bonny garden at the back, slopin' to the south. Dr
Sommerville was fond o' flowers, an' I never saw a pleasanter place than
it was in simmer. But the fac' is, ye'll hae to tak it, doctor, because
there's no anither hoose to let in the hale toun."
"Such being the case, Mr
Barlas, there is no choice, and the matter is settled."
"Just that—just that,"
responded the worthy landlord, and then added, with an eye to business,
"Ye can mak the Cross-Keys yer home till ye get the cottage a' painted an'
furnished to your mind."
"So be it, Mr Barlas; and
now that the house is settled, what about a housekeeper? Was Dr
"Married? of course, he was
married, an' had lots o' weans to the bargain. But just try yer hand wi'
Miss Ramsay. I would like grand to see ye at that game, doctor."
"Nonsense," I rejoined. "I
do not want to steal the Laird's ewe-lamb, and break with him at the very
commencement of my course. Is there no quiet, decent, honest body about St
Dunstan who would make a good and active housekeeper?"
"They're a* honest an'
decent the-gither, except it be twa or three o' the canglin' mugger folk
wha mend auld pans and break ane anither's heads-Let me see—stop a wee—ou,
ay—I have ye noo, doctor; there's Mrs Johnston—a clean, thrifty, tidy
woman o' forty or thereabouts ; she'll fit ye to a T, an' keep yer hoose
like a new leek. Her gudeman was an elder; but he look an inward trouble
aboot a year syne, an' a' the skill o' Doctor Sommerville couldna keep his
life in when his time was come. I'll speak to Mrs Johnston the morn, so ye
can keep yer mind easy aboot a housekeeper."
"We're getting on famously,
Mr Barlas. The house and housekeeper are both disposed of. What next?"
"What next, doctor? The
next thing, I'm thinkin', 'ill be a horse. Folk will be sendin' for ye
post-haste to gang sax or seven miles awa, an' ye canna get on without a
beast. Are ye onything skeely in horseflesh?"
"No," I replied, "not
particularly. I would require to purchase a horse by proxy."
This reply appeared to give
mine host considerable satisfaction. After a brief pause he said, "Weel,
doctor, what think ye o' the beastie that took ye to the Haugh the day?
It's fine an' canny, an' free frae a' kind o' pranks. It would never fling
ye aff an' break your banes when ye were gaun to mend ither folk's bodies.
It'll no cost ye muckle siller, and ye'll get a capital bargain wi' the
I could not help smiling
when the landlord detailed the excellent qualities of the Rosinante of the
Cross-Keys— the superb steed which excited the compassion of Laird Ramsay.
"It is an admirable animal,
Mr Barlas," I replied, always careful to avoid giving offence; "but the
truth is, there is a friend of mine in Edinburgh who is great in horses,
and who would never forgive me if I did not permit him to make the
selection and the purchase."
"Vera weel, doctor — vera
well," rejoined the landlord, professing contentment, although apparently
somewhat chagrined. "Ye may get a stronger and mair speerity beast; but,
tak my word for't, ye'll no get ane to answer yer purpose better. It's an
cxtraordinar' sensible animal, an' kens a' the roads aboot the kintra-side.
In the darkest winter nicht ye micht fling the bridle on its neck, and it
would bring ye hame to St Dunstan safe an' soond. Ye can tak anither
thocht about it, doctor, an' I mun awa an' gie the beast its supper."
A few weeks after the above
confab with the sagacious landlord of the Cross-Keys, I was quietly
domiciled in Oak-bank Cottage, on the outskirts of St Dunstan, and had
commenced the routine work of a medical practitioner. Mrs Johnston was
duly installed as housekeeper; and a capital riding-horse, which Mr Barlas
was compelled to allow "micht do," arrived from the metropolis. I liked my
cottage very much. It stood apart from the public road, and was quiet and
secluded rows of poplar trees surrounded the green, and flower pots in
front, and a tall beechen-hedge girdled on all sides the sloping garden in
the rear. The high banks of the Tweed, adorned with many-tinted foliage,
swept along close at hand, and the strong deep gush of that noble river
was borne abroad on every swell of wind. Oakbank Cottage was, in my
estimation, the sweetest residence in and around St Dunstan; and as I,
like my predecessor, was fond of floriculture, I resolved to make the
place look like a little paradise when the spring and summer months came
round again. I was not long in getting into a good practice. There was not
much opposition from other gentlemen in the district, and many miles I
rode both by night and by day. It always vexed the heart of my worthy
housekeeper, Mrs Johnston, when a special messenger called me away to a
distance after nightfall, and there was no end to the instructions she
gave me—M.D. though I was—about the best means of preventing sore throats
and rheumatisms. Mrs Johnston had never listened to the learned
prelections of medical professors at any of our universities;
nevertheless, like many other sensible and sedate women, in her own sphere
of life, she had managed to pick up no inconsiderable amount of sound
I was soon on the best of
terms with all the people of the village, for it will generally be found
that while a clergyman has admirers and detractors among his own hearers,
a doctor who is gifted with a modicum of amiability can easily make
himself a favourite with all classes. Of course, when any person dies, the
friends of the deceased will not unfre-quently declaim against the
imperfection of the medical treatment; but grumblings such as these are
natural and pardonable, and fail to shake the general esteem in which the
practitioner is held. The minister of the parish was a frequent visitor at
Oakbank, and in order to strengthen our good fellowship, I became a member
of his congregation. He was an upright and honest-hearted man, although
somewhat too polemical for my taste. I used to think that he was in the
habit of airing his argumentative speeches in my presence before he
delivered himself of them at Presbytery meetings.
None of the people in the
district seemed better satisfied than Laird Ramsay o' the Haugh that I had
located myself in St Dunstan. He called one day at Oakbank, soon after my
settlement, just as I was preparing to set out on a rural ride. The Laird
was attired in the ordinary dress which he wore at the Haugh. The brown
hat, the blue antique coat, the knee-breeches, the long gaiters, and the
yellow-striped vest, seemed to form a part of his eccentric character.
"Gude day t'ye, Dr Wilson—gude
day," said the Laird, as he shook me by the hand. "What way hae ye been
sae lang in comin' ower my way? I'm wearyin' sair to get anither firlot o'
yon queer humoursome stories oot o' ye. Can ye come ower to the Haugh the
morn, and tak a bit check o' dinner wi' some freends that I'm just on the
road to inveet to meet you, doctor?"
"It will afford me much
pleasure, Mr Ramsay."
"That's richt—that's richt.
Gie a' yer patients a double dram o' medicine the day, an' that'll save ye
trouble the morn. I'll no deteen ye langer i' the noo, since I see ye're
for takin' the road. Man, doctor, that's a capital horse ye've gotten.
I'll try ye a steeplechase some day, auld as I am."
Next day I did not forget
to mount my horse, which I had christened Prince Charlie, and ride over to
the Haugh. It was more the desire to meet again the handsome and
black-haired Jessie, than the expectation of a good dinner,— in which the
laird was said to excel, that made me keep my appointment with scrupulous
care, although two or three of my distant patients thereby missed an
expected visit. I found a goodly company assembled in the Laird's
old-fashioned mansion. Several neighbouring lairds with their wives were
present, my excellent friend the minister of the parish, and some of the
"chief men" of St Dunstan. A few young ladies graced the company; but it
struck me as something singular that I was the only young gentleman who
had been honoured with an invitation. Does the Laird really think, I asked
myself, that he will keep away the dangerous disease of love from his
charming daughter's heart by excluding chivalrous youths from his
dinner-table? What intense selfishness there may be in the warmest
paternal affection ! Nor was selfishness altogether absent from my own
heart. I began to feel a kind of secret satisfaction that the coast was
clear, and that undivided attentions could be given and received. Jessie
was all smiles, grace, and beauty; and before dinner was finished, I was
more than charmed—I was bewitched with her manners and conversation. When
the ladies retired from table I endeavoured, as on the former occasion, to
keep the Laird o' the Haugh in good humour, being now determined, for a
particular reason, to rise rather than fall in his estimation. When the
minister introduced polemics I flung out a shower of puns; when oxen
became the topic I spiced the talk with some racy stories. The ruse
succeeded. Between the strong waters and the stories, Laird Ramsay was
elevated into a hilarious region, and he would have forgiven his worst
enemy on the spot. He was not aware that I was playing with him and upon
him for a purpose. When my stock was getting exhausted I started the
minister on his everlasting expedition to Rome, and managed, at the
commencement of his narrative, to escape from table unperceived. I was not
particularly anxious to "join the ladies;" but I was excessively desirous
to have, if possible, some private conversation with Jessie Ramsay. There
could be no denying the fact that I—the young medical practitioner of St
Dunstan— had fallen in love, how or why it boots not to inquire, with the
beautiful daughter of the Laird o' the Haugh. I felt it through every vein
of my body, and every fibre of my heart, and I fondly imagined from sundry
stealthy glances and sweet suggestive smiles that the dear creature had
perceived and reciprocated my attachment. The golden silence of love is
the highest eloquence, and the most entrancing song. As good luck and
favouring fortune would have it, I had no sooner left the dining-hall than
the object of my adoration came tripping down stairs alone. In looking
over the drawing-room window a rich flower from her lustrous hair had
fallen to the ground, and the lovely creature was now hastening to secure
the lost treasure. Here was an opportunity little anticipated, but long
remembered. It was impossible that I could be so ungallant as allow her to
search for the fallen flower by herself, and we therefore went out into
the open air together. There was no moon, but the stars were shining full
and brilliant in the firmament. Tall holly bushes and other shrubs
surrounded the house within the outer circle of trees. The only two sounds
I distinctly heard were the beating of my heart, and the humming sound of
the minister's voice as he narrated the incidents of his pilgrimage to the
Eternal City. I blessed the good man for his unconscious kindness in
granting me this opportunity. Jessie and I proceeded to the place where
the flower was supposed to be. I saw it at once, and she saw it at once;
but both of us pretended that we had not seen it, and so the sweet search
continued. Need I describe, O amiable reader!
how in searching and
stooping I felt the touch of her ringleted hair, the warmth of her breath,
the delicate softness of her cheek, and imbibed the honey-balm of her
lips? At last the flower was found,—I blessed it unaware, —and, under the
starlight, replaced it on that lovely head from which it had not been
untimely plucked, but had most opportunely fallen.
We returned to the house
undiscovered. The Laird, I knew, was in that pleased and placid state when
he could have listened for many hours to the Man of the Moon describing
the incidents of his celestial travels and the wonders he had seen from
his specular tower. I parted with Jessie at the foot of the staircase,
pressed her soft warm hand, and re-entered the room which I had rather
unceremoniously left. The minister had got upon the Pope, and all the
symptoms of "tired nature" were apparent on the faces of most of the
listeners. They had the look of a congregation when the thirteenth "head"
is being propounded with due deliberation from the pulpit. The Laird had
not seen me depart, but he saw me enter. He evidently placed in me the
most implicit reliance, and there was no suspicion in his look.
"Hae ye been snuffin' the
caller air, doctor?" he inquired.
I answered in the
affirmative with a look of perfect innocence, and then the Laird added,
wishing apparently to cut short the minister's harangue, "Ay, weel, let's
join the leddies noo."
After that evening I was a
frequent and welcome visitor at the Haugh. Prince Charlie soon knew the
way to his own stall in the Laird's stables. Some golden opportunities
occurred when the Laird was absent for interviews and conversations with
Jessie. We plighted our mutual troth, and were devoted to each other heart
and soul. The one grand difficulty in the way of our happiness was the
removal of the Laird's scruples with regard to the marriage of his
daughter. At last, when jogging leisurely homeward to Oakbank one evening,
I hit upon a scheme which ultimately resulted in complete success, and
gave me possession of the being whom I loved dearer than life.
A wealthy and winsome widow
lady resided in the neighbourhood of St Dunstan, and the project entered
my brain to make her believe that Laird Ramsay had some notions of her,
and also to make him believe that she had a warm side of her heart to him.
If I could only get the Laird to marry the widow, I knew that Jessie would
soon thereafter be mine. The Laird was open to flattery; he was fond of
what Mr Barlas called "butter;" and I did not despair of being able to
make him renew his youth. Tact was required in such a delicate
undertaking, and I resolved to do my spiriting gently. I began with the
Laird first one evening when he was in his mellow after-dinner state. I
praised the graces and winsome ways of Mrs Mackinlay, and drew from the
Laird the confession that he thought her a "very gude and sociablelike
leddy." I then tried a few dexterous passes before hinting that she had a
warm side to the Laird o' the Haugh.
"Ye dinna mean to say that
Mrs Mackinlay is castin' a sheep's e'e at me, do ye, doctor?"
"I can assure you, Mr
Ramsay," I rejoined, "that she speaks of you always with great respect,
and seems to wonder why you do not honour her with a visit occasionally."
"Ay, doctor, it's queer
what way I never thocht o' that. She's a sensible leddy after a', Mrs
Mackinlay. I think I could do worse than look ower at her hoose some o'
"It's the very thing you
ought to do, Mr Ramsay," I replied. "You will find her company highly
entertaining. She has an accumulated fund of stories and anecdotes."
"Has she, doctor?—has she?
Weel, I'll gang; but what would Jessie say, I wunner?"
I had now put the Laird on
the right scent, and I tried my best also with Mrs Mackinlay. I made her
aware of the Laird's intended visit, and hinted tenderly its probable
object. After a lengthened conversation, in which I exercised all the
ingenuity I possessed, I left her with the impression on my mind that
Laird Ramsay's addresses when he called would be met half-way. The meeting
did take place—it was followed by another and another—and the upshot of
the matter was that the eccentric Laird and the wealthy widow were duly
wedded, to the astonishment of the whole district. I allowed six months of
their wedded bliss to slip past before I asked the Laird's consent to have
Jessie removed from the Haugh to Oakbank. A sort of dim suspicion of the
whole affair seemed to cross the Laird's mind when I addressed him. A
pawky twinkle lit up his eye as he replied, "Ah, ye rogue!—tak her, an' my
blessin' alang wi' her. Ye ken whaur to look for a gude wife, an' I
daursav ye'Il no mak the warst o' gudemen. Thus I won the Laird's
daughter, and the paradise of Oakbank, in the village of St Dunstan, was
complete in happiness.