"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
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!"
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."