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Wilson's Border Tales
The Doctor's Story


"In your history, sir, of Venturesome Jamie, which you are unable to finish, you mentioned the rivalry that existed between him and me, for the affections o’ bonny Katie Alison. James was a noble fellow. I am not ashamed that I had such a rival. In our youth I esteemed him while I hated him. But, sir, I do not remember the time when Katie Alison was not as a dream in my heart—when did I not tremble at her touch. Even when we pulled the gowans and the cowslips together, though there had been twenty present, it was for Katie that I pulled mine. When we plaited the rushes I did it for her. She preferred me to Jamie, and I knew it. When I left your school, and when I proceeded to India, 1 did not forget her. But, as you said, men go there to make money—so did I. My friends laughed at my boyish fancy— they endeavoured to make me ashamed of it. I became smitten with the eastern disease of fortune-making, and, though I did not forget her, I neglected her. But, sir, to drop this; I was not twenty-one when I arrived in Bombay; nor had I been long there till I was appointed physician to several Parsee families of great wealth. With but little effort, fortune opened before me. I performed a few surgical operations of considerable difficulty with success. In several desperate cases I effected cures, and my name was spread not only through the city, but throughout the island, The riches I went to seek I found. But even then, sir, my heart would turn to your school, and to the happy hours I had spent by the side of bonny Katie Alison.

However, it would be of no interest to enter into the details of my monotonous life. I shall dwell only upon one incident, which is, of all others, the most remarkable that ever occurred to me, and which took place about six years after my arrival in India. I was in my carriage, and accompanying the remains of a patient to the burial ground—for you know that doctors cannot cure, when Death is determined to have its way. The burial ground lies about three miles from Bombay, across an extensive and beautiful plain, and the road to it is by a sort of an avenue, lined and shaded on each side by cocoa-nut trees, which spread their branches over the path, and distil their cooling juice into the cups which the Hindoos have placed around them to receive it. You can form but a faint conception of the clear azure of an Indian sky, and never had I seen it more beautiful than on the day to which I refer, though some of the weather prophets about Bombay were predicting a storm.

We were about the middle of the avenue I have described, when we overtook the funeral of an officer who had held a commission in a corps of Sepoys. The coffin was carried upon the shoulders of four soldiers; before it marched the Sepoys, and, behind it, seated in a palanquin, borne by four Hindoos, came the widow of the deceased. A large black veil thrown over her head, almost enveloped her person. Her head was bent upon her bosom, and she seemed to weep bitterly. We followed behind them to the burial-place; but, before the service was half concluded, the heavens overcast, and a storm, such as I had never witnessed, burst over our heads, and hurled its fury upon the graves. The rain poured down in a fierce and impetuous torrent—but you know not, in this country, what a torrent of rain is. The thunder seemed tearing heaven in twain. It rolled, reverbed, and pealed, and rattled with its tremendous voice over the graves of the dead, as though it were the outbursting of eternity—the first blast of the archangel’s trumpet—announcing the coming judgment! The incessant lightnings flashed through the air, like spirits winged with flame, and awakening the dead.

The Sepoys fled in terror, and hastened to the city, to escape the terrible fury of the storm. Even those who had accompanied my friend’s body fled with them, before the earth was covered over the dead that they had followed to the grave. But still, by the side of the officer’s grave, and unmindful of the storm, stood his poor widow. She refused to leave the spot till the last sod was placed upon her husband’s bosom. My heart bled for her. Within three yards from her, stood a veteran English sergeant, who, with the Hindoos, that bore her palanquin, were all that remained in the burial-place.

Common humanity prompted me to offer her a place in my carriage back to the city. I inquired of the sergeant who the deceased was. He informed me that he was a young Scotch officer—that his marriage had offended his friends—that they had denounced him in consequence—that he had enlisted—and that the officers of the regiment which he had first joined had procured him an ensigncy in a corps of Sepoys, but that he had died, leaving the young widow who wept over his grave, a stranger in a strange land. "And," added the sergeant, "a braver fellow never set foot upon the ground."

When the last sod had been placed upon the grave, I approached the young widow. I respectfully offered to convey her and the sergeant to the city in my carriage, as the violence of the storm increased.

At my voice, she started—she uttered a suppressed scream—she raised her head—she withdrew her handkerchief from her eyes!—I beheld her features!—and, gracious Heaven!— whom, sir!—whom—whom did I see, but my own Katie Alison!"

"Doctor!—Doctor!" exclaimed the old dominie, starting from his seat, "what do I hear?"

"I cannot describe to you," continued the other, "the tumultuous joy, combined with agony, the indescribable feelings of that moment. We stood—we gasped—we gazed upon each other; neither of us spoke. I took her hand—I led her to the carriage—I conveyed her to the city."

"And, O doctor, what then?" inquired the dominie.

"Why, sir," said the doctor, "many days passed—many words were spoken—mutual tears were shed for Jamie Johnstone—and bonny Katie Alison, the lassie of my first love, became my wife, and is the mother of my children. She will be here in a few days, and will see her old dominie."


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