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The Martyres of Blantyre
Chapter V. Dr. John Bowie, Medical Missionary


The son of a much-respected citizen of Edinburgh (Mr. Henry Bowie, long secretary of the Philosophical Institution), Dr. Bowie was as truly a representative of the city as Henry Henderson was of the country, for all his life till he went to Africa he had been accustomed to a city life. Born in 1858, he was an only son, but had three sisters, two of whom (Mrs. D. C. Scott and Mrs. Henderson), along with himself, have given their lives to Africa. His first step on the ladder was taken when, as a little boy of five, he went with his two sisters to a lady’s school at Wardie, taught by a Miss Baird, a relative of General Baird of Indian celebrity. Who that saw the quiet, shy little fellow in those days would have dreamed that a time would come when that boy would step aside from a place in the foremost rank of his profession that he might, Christ-like, spend and be spent for the redemption of Africa; and that one day men would hold their breath as they read how, away in that far-off land, he died for others, with the courage of a hero, the spirit of a martyr, and the devotion of a saint?

When he outgrew this school he passed through the High School of Edinburgh, and subsequently went to business, obtaining an appointment in an office in Leith. It is said of him as a boy that among strangers he was quiet and retiring, and no one who saw him thus would have fancied that he had any fun in him at all. But see him at home romping with his sisters and he was very different. There he was full of fun,—an inveterate tease to them, keeping them always lively, and it was no wonder that they were devoted to him and all their lives were proud of Jack. On leaving school they had sent him to business, but his heart was elsewhere, and he had other dreams of life. One day he came home, and, to his father’s surprise, announced that he had passed the medical preliminary examination, and begged that he might be allowed to become a medical student. His father, seeing how his heart was set on it, wisely acceded to his request, and he went to college, where he worked very hard and with great success.

In the glimpses we get of him at this time we can trace a blending of qualities that afterwards made him what he was in Africa. He was at once the simple, light-hearted, child-like boy and the earnest and enthusiastic student. A friend and playmate of those days writes:—“He worked very hard, and was most interested and enthusiastic in his work. When he got any new medicine we had all to try it, and Harriet and I were often unwillingly made subjects for his experiments. I remember once, when he was studying the eye, we were made to stand with a full glare of light shining into our eyes while he examined them through an ophthalmoscope. On another occasion I remember we three were alone one evening, and Jack was chasing us round the table trying to pour tea down our throats much against our wills. We had both jumped on chairs to be out of his reach, when the door suddenly opened and one of his fel-low-students was ushered in! We all felt decidedly caught, and I do think Jack was a little bit ashamed.” The youth who had called for Bowie the student had found Jack the boy. But even in those days, with all their fun and frolic, there was something about him that made his companions feel that Jack Bowie was very true, very reliable,—a fellow they could trust. How diligently and faithfully he worked at college is shown by the places he took in his classes. He was one of the first students of his time. Not every medical student can carry home a gold medal for Physiology, another for Natural History, and a third for the Practice of Medicine, besides numerous other honours. By force of his own ability and diligence he was opening out a career for himself. For a short time he acted as class-assistant to the Professor of Physiology in Edinburgh University, and then he proceeded to Vienna for further study, specially in connection with diseases of the ear and throat. Thereafter, when duly qualified, and with experience enriched by a considerable hospital practice, he went to London to join his brother-in-law, Dr. Potter (now the editor of the Hospital), in a large and lucrative practice. From the time he began practice it seemed almost as if the sense of responsibility deepened visibly upon him. In his unremitting devotion to his patients he seemed to carry about with him the burden of anxious cases, and a grave look often shadowed his bright brown eyes. He was an immense favourite with his patients. His quiet, thoughtful, kindly manner inspired confidence, and they trusted him implicitly. In the words of one of them, “his fine eyes looked at one in such a true, friendly, earnest way, that one felt sure this grave doctor would do all he could.” In 1886 he married Miss Sara Hankey, daughter of a retired Indian officer, and in a pretty, bright London home they settled happily together. It was a time of sunshine for them—a growing practice, a good income, bright prospects, numerous friends, a happy home. It was in the midst of this sunshine that the call of God came.

During a visit of Mr. and Mrs. D. Clement Scott to this country Dr. Bowie was brought much into contact with the idea of Africa’s need, and he began to realise it. The wail of her woes sounded in his ear, and it went to his heart. It seemed to him that there was a splendid field there for medical mission work, and yet medical work seemed to have been rather neglected in all the African Missions. The thought of what such a one as he might do there, with his gift of healing consecrated to God, took hold of him. He thought of the hollowness, the unreality, the hypocrisy of life as he could see it in the great city around him, and a purpose, God-begotten and God-cherished, began to grow in his soul. In many an earnest talk with his like-minded wife it was fostered. We cannot trace the stages of its growth—we would not if we could—but we can understand how deep, how real, was the conviction that grew up within him that God was calling him to go himself; and we can praise God for the day when he saw his way clearly, and was able to write the Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Foreign Mission Committee that he was prepared to give up all and go as a medical missionary to Africa, if the Committee would accept him. We can hardly realise what that sentence meant to him when he wrote it. He was no blind enthusiast, carried away by a dream. He knew quite well what he was doing and what it meant. He had counted the cost. The comforts of home, a devoted circle of friends, professional ambition, and the certainty, humanly speaking, of wealth and position—all were his, and deliberately, unostentatiously, devoutly, in penning that sentence he laid them all as a sacrifice on the altar of God. Oh, how small one feels in the presence of such noble self-sacrifice as that! Who of us is worthy to unloose the latchet of its shoes?

And how did the Church accept such a gift, offered at such a cost ? It grates upon one’s feelings to have to record the Committee’s reply, that for want of funds they daren’t say that they would accept even such an offer as that! But they would ask the Church; and it is something to be able to tell that within a fortnight the Church replied by subscribing the £2600 required to provide for the cost of his journey out and his modest salary for five years, and Dr. Bowie was told that his noble offer of service for Africa was accepted. There was something very characteristic in his reply. He thanked the Committee for accepting him! And he added, “Should it be that I go to Africa, I trust the Church will have no reason to regret her choice.” Assuredly she has not, and it is some comfort to-day to know that never for one moment did he regret it either.

I cannot lead you through the experiences of the next two months—busy, trying months for him and his young wife; the breaking up of the pretty home, the parting with the things that had made it so homelike, the preparations for their African life, the hurried “good-byes” to friends. Only those who have gone through it can know what tear-and-wear these mean to a human heart, and how much of it can be compressed into two short months. But all was accomplished, and they sailed from London on the 14th April 1887.

They were just leaving the shores of England he wrote Dr. M'Murtrie, the Foreign Mission Convener, a brief note which showed the current of his thoughts as he went. “There are a number of engineers on board,” lie said, “going out to Delagoa Bay to lay a railroad. Perhaps in a few years others may be going out to lay one to Blantyre! I hope,” he continues, “that by the time I see you again I may have done some useful work for the Church and for Africa.” Thus, when the Hawarden Castle steamed out into the open sea and the dark night, Jack Bowie on her deck, full of hope and purpose, went forth with God.

Of the voyage out and the journey up the river we have an account from his own pen. Writing of it he says;—“Of our voyage from London to the Cape little can be said, except that it was like other voyages.” After describing Cape Town and Natal, he continues:— “At last we reached our seaport, Quilimane, where we arrived on a Sunday afternoon just as the bells were ringing for church. Sara (his wife) certainly was very glad to be finished with the sea and ships. All the way up the coast Sara appeared on deck as we came into port, and disappeared as we left port! We were five or six days at Quilimane getting our boxes safely through the Custom House. Quilimane is a very dull little place, only interesting as being a fair (fair in the sense of just) specimen of a Portuguese settlement. It must once have been a place of some little importance, or some inhabitant of it must once have had some energy, for it contains a church built of stones brought all the way from Portugal. The place is Portuguese, and therefore all the business is done by French, Germans, Dutch, Scotch, and East Indians. There is not, so far as I am aware, a single Portuguese house of business except the Custom House.

“From Quilimane we had to go up the Kwa-Kwa for about eighty miles. This river is in the rainy season a tributary of the Zambezi, but in the dry season there is a mile or two of dry land between them. We went up in a small, open boat like a good-sized ordinary pleasure-boat, with a small box or hut in the centre, where we lived. Our crew consisted of eight black ‘boys’ or men and a headman called a ‘capitan.’ This man was supposed to speak and understand English, but of course didn’t, so we had considerable difficulty and amusement in making ourselves understood. The journey was really ‘roughing it.’ For provision for five days we had only some bread, four chickens (about the size of pigeons), some coffee, one-pound tin of salt beef, and some water. Then we had to be all day and all night in our little rabbit-hutch, into which we could just manage to get our two deck-chairs (which, luckily, were comfortable ones), and in these we had to recline all day and sleep all night. Only one of us could get off the chair at a time, and then the unfortunate individual had to kneel on the floor to avoid lifting the roof off. The floor consisted of about eight inches interval between the two chairs. However, we just made a picnic of the thing and enjoyed ourselves. We thought had we been at home such a time would have been considered a delightful adventure, so we just made home there— and really the river is very picturesque at some parts. For the first day or day and a half the water is very dirty, the banks very muddy, and little to be seen save now and again a crocodile lazily basking in the sun; but after a time the banks become well clothed with vegetation, the water gets clear, and every few miles the stream widens out into a small lake perhaps one or two hundred yards wide, on the shores of which one notices truly tropical vegetation—cocoa-nut palms, Palmyra palms, &c. These little lakes are very beautiful, and when the men come to them they put on a spurt and make the boat jump through the water, the men singing cheerily and not unmusically the while. The mode of progression is somewhat peculiar. The men all sit facing the bow of the boat. Each man has a paddle of wood shaped somewhat like a tennis-racquet, and about the same size. His left hand he places on the end of the handle, while his right grasps the paddle close to the blade; then lifting the paddle vertically and bending forward, he plunges it into the water and pulls it towards him. They try to keep time with the plunge, so that the eight sound as one good plunge.

“On the third day we met a canoe coming down with a letter from Bella (Mrs. Scott), telling us of the death of Mrs. M‘Ilwain. This was a great blow, and quite took away all further interest in our journey. The fourth evening we arrived at the end of our Kwa-Kwa journey, and got out of our boat (for the first time since getting in), and crossed to Vicentis, a few huts on the Zambezi, where David, Bella (Mr. and Mrs. Scott), and party were. Here we had to wait five days before the new steamer came and was ready to take us on board. It was a somewhat strange sensation to find ourselves walking out by moonlight, looking down from the high bank on the Zambezi, flowing smoothly past us—strange that it was so little strange! People leave home expecting to come upon marvels, and we are surprised to find that the world is very much alike all round. You might have imagined yourself back two thousand years and looking down upon the Thames from a cluster of huts called London! Our arrival at Vicentis to a small extent helped to lessen the saddening effect of poor Mrs. McIlwain’s death. We lived in veritable grass huts, dined in a shed, and otherwise rusticated. The women portion ransacked the Company’s store (the African Lakes Company have a station at Vicentis) to find wherewith to produce more savoury meals than the poor starved fowl or nkuku could afford. In this way they had plenty to do. At last the steamer was ready,—at least everything was ready except that some injector-pipes had to be brazed, and now they found they had no borax wherewith to melt the brass. A trifle this, one would think, but really a serious matter on the Zambezi, many miles from a borax-shop. Portunately, Sara had brought some borax, which she had intended for a different use, viz., to make my white shirts beautiful, and by much searching we came upon it, and handed it over to braze the pipes. At last everything was ready and everybody on board, and off we went, nobody sorry to leave Vicentis. We had one day and a half on the Zambezi, then branched off into the Shire, up which we journeyed for seven days, a large portion of the time being spent stuck fast upon sand-banks. It was the first trip of the steamer, and she drew more water than was anticipated, and the river in many parts is very shallow, and—what was worse—nobody seemed to know the channel, so we just went dodging about playing at blind-man's-buff, the channel being the object of search. An hour or so up from Vicentis we landed at Shupanga, and visited Mrs. Livingstone’s and Mrs. MeIlwain’s graves. The large baobab-tree under which Dr. Livingstone buried his wife had fallen, its foundations eaten away by white-ants. They had eaten their way about five feet up the inside of the tree, and a high wind coming, it snapped in two. It is not dead, however, and is sprouting again in its fallen position. The whole journey was most picturesque. After entering the Shir£ we had hills on our right all the way up, the country between the banks and the hills being finely wooded. Of African monsters, we saw many dozens of hippos, a number of crocodiles, eight or ten elephants, many eagles, and some antelopes.

“We arrived at Katunga’s (our landing-place for Blantyre) about four in the afternoon, and at 9.30 next morning started to walk the twenty-nine miles from there to Blantyre, and after undreamt-of labour we reached Blantyre about 8 p.m. the same night. A walk of twenty-nine miles all uphill under an African sun is a labour more enjoyed retrospectively than prospectively. It is something to have accomplished.” Thus the party reached Blantyre, and soon they got settled down to life there. What a changed world that was in which the London doctor now found himself! Everything was changed—life, surroundings, patients, circumstances, appliances—everything except the doctor himself. He was here, in dark Africa, the same quiet, kindly, earnest, attentive, methodical doctor he had been among his London patients. Very soon he became a central feature in the community, and gradually the whole life of the place, native and European alike, became aglow with devotion to him, the key to it all being his own perfect unselfishness in his care for others. Bobert Cleland afterwards wrote of him :— “ What a splendid man Dr. Bowie is! I could trust my life to him in any circumstances. It is beautiful to see him treat the natives who come to his dispensary every morning with their complaints and sores as kindly and attentively as he would the best lady or gentleman in his practice at home.” And what Cleland wrote everybody felt. He had at once settled down to regular methodical work, and very hard work it was. He was a diligent student, regularly devoting several hours a day to study; not only keeping himself abreast of the latest medical science, but keeping up his reading in Greek and German, as well as the current literature of the day. How he did it all, especially in that climate, was a marvel, for no doctor ever devoted himself more assiduously to his patients, whether black or white. A little girl in a London hospital once amused the nurses by giving as a message for the doctor:—“Please, I want the doctor to come and sit down and talk to me.” They laughed at her. It was so absurd! Yet that was exactly what Dr. Bowie seemed somehow to find time to do for his patients. One who owed much to his care and skill says:—“He just sat down to talk to you, and he found out in no time what your tastes were and what you cared about. He was a splendid conversationalist, and could talk on any subject. Then he brought you books, which were just of the kind to interest you. He was a perfect circulating library in himself, and his books and his talks and his care over you did as much for you as his drugs.” No wonder that the doctor was a man greatly beloved. And yet, with all this, he found time to have leisure which he could spend with the boys, to their great delight and unspeakable good. If you had dropped into his diningroom of an evening, you would probably have found him with a great gathering of boys clustering round him, talking with them, playing with them in their simple native games, making friends with them—all the while winning their young hearts for God. How they lovecl those evenings! and how they loved the doctor! and how he loved them! “You cannot help getting very fond of the natives,” he wrote, “and you cannot help feeling that they are veritably your brother and sister. They are very, very human.” He had a dispensary, which was largely attended, but it was not long till he found that an hospital of some sort was a necessity if some of his cases were to be treated successfully at all. With considerable difficulty he got it, and you and I might have smiled at it if we had visited it. Here is his own description of it:—

“We have now got the hospital ready and open. It is a very poor place for what we understand by an hospital, being merely a long mud house of three rooms, with mud floors, and neither beds nor bedding. There are two windows and one door to each room, but in the present rather cold weather these are, in the patients’ eyes, a most distinct disadvantage, as the wind blows through the many chinks with anything but pleasing sound to the scantily clothed inmates. However, this is but the first step towards an African St. Bartholomew’s, and in Africa before all places one has to ‘ hasten slowly.’ In addition to this mud hospital, we have two other houses in Blantyre entirely devoted to patients. When a sick person comes here to stay he does not come alone. With him comes his mother to cook for him and drive away the flies from his couch. With the mother come the father and brother, uncles and cousins, who cut wood for the fire, smoke, sympathise, and gossip with the sick man and his visitors. Most of these attendants sleep in the same room as the patients, and this very soon fills up a small hospital. It would be very difficult to prevent these people coming and staying, even if we wished to do so, which at present we do not, as we have not yet got an hospital staff to attend to the many needs of the inmates. The question of food is rather a troublesome one, and I think we will soon have to get a regular hospital kitchen and cooks. At present any food except the ordinary native food (which the relatives, if there are any, provide) has to come from our own tables, and our own house-boys have decided and very proper objections to all the soup being portioned to these sick people, and all the fowls to those. We are exceedingly anxious to encourage sick people to come and stay here, as it is by far the best, and indeed the only really good, method of treatment. We are succeeding in our endeavour beyond our hope, and — what is serious—sometimes beyond our means.

“The first patient in our new hospital was a Mandala boy. A gun which he was loading went off and shattered his hand terribly. We had to amputate half his hand,’ but hope to save a useful thumb and forefinger. He is just a boy, perhaps eighteen years old. For the first two or three days he did nothing but sit rocking himself to and fro, crying for his mother. Now his mother has come, and he is happy.”

I wish I could take you round and show you some of his cases. A curious variety you would find them —wounds, bites, burns, sores, besides diseases of all kinds. One case which he had very early on his hands — before he got his hospital — had a peculiar interest at the time, and has a still more pathetic interest now. At the very time when all Europe was thrilled with interest as the most eminent surgeons performed tracheotomy on the Emperor of Germany, Dr. Bowie was performing the same operation on a poor black African woman at Blantyre, and watching with no less solicitude the results of the operation. She had all but died from a cancerous growth in the throat, when the doctor said that if this were tried she might probably live for a year or so longer, and both she and her friends were willing that it should be done — no small tribute to their confidence in the doctor, for the African sorely dreads the knife. With deft and skilful hand the operation was performed and the tube inserted. Soon strength returned, and for twelve months the poor old woman went about breathing through the tube, a marvel to herself and to every one else. But a year soon sped, the numbered months came to an end, and we find the doctor writing:—

“I very much fear our old tracheotomy patient will not live long. It is now just about a year since the operation was performed, and until the last fortnight or three weeks the old woman was very comfortable and well, and able to go about and find for herself. . . . Hut now she is unable to do anything—even to walk. She lies day and night on a mat in the old store, with all her worldly goods arranged around her. These consist of, first and foremost, her fire, which out here is very often a distinct possession. . . . Around the fire are placed her other goods, a native earthenware pot full of water, with, floating on the top of it, her drinking-cup, a small hollowed-out gourd, and a small basket in which she keeps the food she is unable to eat.

“To a casual observer our old patient would appear a most wretched, dirty, ugly creature. She is old, shrivelled, and wrinkled, her face deformed by the once ornamental scars, her upper lip huge and pendulous, and more disfigured by the hole in which, before her operation, she carried a large jpelele ring. In addition she has a cataract in her left eye, and when she looks up to you the greyish-green colour of the pupil gives her almost an uncanny look. And yet beneath all this there is a fine human being, and even her face becomes noble to those who have watched her in her long illness. She has struggled bravely on, never complaining, and always most grateful for any attention paid her. Now, poor woman! she is very weak and tired, and has quite lost heart. The other morning, when Nacho and I were down cleaning her tracheotomy tube (this has, of course, to be done daily), she managed to whisper to me, ‘ Come to me in the forenoon; I want to say something to you.’ I asked, ‘ Can’t you say it now?’    ‘Too many people,’ she said. There were two or three other patients close by. We came back again at the time she wanted, and the old woman whispered to me, ‘ I am very tired; will you give me some medicine to make me die?’ It is very sad to see her lying patiently serving her time, especially as nothing can be done to ease her in any way. She has plenty of food, stewed fowls, brandy, milk, and eggs, but she cannot manage to eat much. Her swallowing is very difficult, I fear from extension of the cancer.”

This was the way he thought of his patients. So I might take you to many a one to whom he was as an angel of mercy sent from God,—to many a one who, humanly speaking, owed his or her life to the skill and devotion of the brave young doctor during the three years and a half in which he was permitted to serve Africa.

And did he ever regret the change to all this from his London practice? Let him answer for himself. Writing to a relative, he says:—

“Do I regret leaving my cosy house in London, and my comfortable, well-fed patients, to take to a Central African house and unclothed, poorly fed blacks? To which I make answer in Scotch fashion by putting another question, ‘Does a slave regret getting his freedom and yearn for his chains once more?’ If he does, then he is not free; he is still a slave in all but name. What has my change brought me? I don’t know how much; but it has taught me that ‘our America is here, or nowhere;’ that one can do God’s work anywhere, provided one has the eye to see and the heart to feel—anywhere, I had almost said, better than in a comfortable London practice! ”

Oh, how worthless the old had become after he had tasted the joy of the new!

But I must hasten on, and I hardly know how to tell the story of the last days of that noble life. A terrible visitation of influenza had swept over the Mission both in Blantyre itself and in the villages around; natives and Europeans alike were stricken, and more than twenty deaths resulted within a radius of four or five miles. Every one of the Mission staff with one exception was laid down, and very heavy work fell to the doctor. By day in the Mission itself the natives lay on their mats spread on the grass in the open air under the trees, and as he walked through them, stooping to minister to them one by one, he felt, he said, like one walking over a field of battle. The strain upon him, both of fatigue and anxiety, was very great, for he carried the burden of all these patients on his heart, and was unremitting in his attention to them. By-and-by he was himself seized with influenza, and had a very sharp attack. It pulled him down greatly, and he never got up his strength again. In a letter written home when he was just recovering he said:—“We are all needing rest and change,—the very things we cannot get.”

It was just on the back of this that there came the awful ten clays. One day Mrs. Henderson’s little child was ailing, and Dr. Bowie was asked to come and see him. When he came, he found the little fellow in his bath crowing merrily. He laughed and said, “There’s not much the matter with you, old boy.” But a little later he came back to examiue him. In the course of the examination he looked into the child’s mouth, and in a moment there was a change. At the sight which he saw there, a shadow deepened on the doctor’s grave face,— a shadow that never lifted, a look that never passed away till the time came when for himself, too, as well as for the child, that day broke when all shadows flee away. Diphtheria was what he saw —and of a very malignant type. All the weary hours of that night he sat by his patient. Hour after hour passed, and the little sufferer grew worse till his sufferings became dreadful to see. By midnight the doctor saw that tracheotomy would be necessary to give even a chance for life, and he determined to perform it whenever daylight came. Oh, how the hearts of these weary watchers wished for the day! Dawn came at last, and the operation was performed. The membrane was far down in the throat, and with terrible determination the doctor sucked the tube again and yet again. The instant sense of relief and the child’s grateful, restful look were touching to behold. But to the doctor? Ah ! to him this was the breathing of death. Well did he know what it meant. None knew better than he the risk he was running. It was not the first time he had taken his life in his hand thus. More than once before he had done the same both for black patient and white. He wasn’t the man to consider himself, or to calculate what risk he ran if he could save a life. He did now just what he had done when the call came to give himself to Africa at the first. He fearlessly did the duty God gave him to do, and left the result with God. The relief which the operation brought was great, but only temporary. The membrane was too far down, and only for twelve short hours was the little life prolonged. At five o’clock the next afternoon the child died. Hardly was the funeral over, the next morning, when Mrs. Henderson lay down, worn out with fatigue and grief. Next day (Friday) the doctor knew that she had diphtheria. and the next he had it himself. Can you think of the consternation which strikes a household here when diphtheria comes to it? What must it have been to the Blantyre household there! But in the midst of the excitement and dread, one man is calm, deliberate, cool. It is Dr. Bowie. From his bed he gives orders to send men away to Mount Milanje (four days’ journey) for Dr. W. A. Scott; to send others to Domasi (sixty miles) for Dr. Henry Scott. Then he gives all needed directions as to what should be done by everybody. Regularly from time to time he sent to hear how his sister was, and when he heard that she was worse he rose from his bed and went to see her and do for her whatever could be done.

Sunday came,—and what a Sunday it must have been in that little stricken community! Mrs. Henderson was much worse, and the doctor’s strength was greatly reduced, but again he made them help him across from his house to the Manse, that he might see her; and so the weary hours dragged on. Monday morning came, but its daylight brought no cheer. Her sufferings had now become terrible, and again iu tracheotomy alone lay the one hope of life. Dr. Harry Scott had arrived from Domasi at four o’clock that morning. He was drenched and weary with his walk of more than sixty miles in fearful rain, which made the journey through the long grass, across the swollen streams and over Mount Ndirande, almost impossible, but he was brave and ready. He had never, however, performed that operation, and in this case there were complications, making it more than usually difficult even for the most experienced surgeon, and Dr. Bowie would not allow him to do it. Bracing himself for the effort, he made them carry him from his own dying-bed to the bedside of his dying sister, and there, with clear head and firm hand, he performed the operation with all his own skill and care, giving immediate aud immense relief. It seems so easy to tell all this, but so hard to realise it. We read many a wondrous story of hero and martyr, but surely seldom have we seen anything finer and nobler than the dying surgeon, careless of life, stepping forth to fight death on his own ground. For an hour or two a gleam of hope shone through the cloud, and it almost seemed as if the daring deed were to be rewarded by victory on that desperate field. But the hope was short-lived, for in the afternoon a change for the worse came. After the operation the doctor had been compelled to go home to bed, but by six o'clock she had grown much worse, and sent a message begging him to come to her. Though faint and ill he went at once, and from that time he watched beside her till the end came. She was quite conscious, and knew that she was dying, but she could not speak. They brought her a slate, and she wrote on it dying messages to loved ones far away. Very lovingly “Jack” took them from her one by one as they were rubbed from the slate to make room for others. With a tenderness which those who were present will never forget, he spoke in her dying ear beautiful words of comfort for the darkness of the valley through which he well knew they were both passing. And all the time he never once thought of himself; his whole anxiety was for her.

What a picture of life and love it is that presents itself to us as we look into that African home! We see the brother and the sisters,—those children that long ago played together in the old Edinburgh home,—and we see what God and life and grace have made them. What courage,—what affection,— what Christian confidence,—what triumph over the fear of death ! Oh ! think of it, Reader, and learn to look reverently on the little children that are playing in the homes of to-day as you wonder what that life may be to which God is calling them.

With Tuesday morning the struggle was over. Poor Harriet passed from her sufferings to her rest, and brave Jack went back to that bed from which, three short days after, he was to follow her home. She had left her messages for home with him, but not to the earthly but to the heavenly home did he carry them. He had been growing steadily worse, and at one time it seemed as if they would have to operate on him too, but the membrane did not extend downwards so as to implicate his breathing, and it was not necessary. His strength, however, rapidly gave way, and on Friday morning the brave doctor, whose short life in Africa had been one record of devoted service, passed away.

If ever a man’s life breathed the spirit of Christ, his had done it; and if ever a man died a martyr’s brave death, he did. The whole community had been unspeakably distressed before, but when the tidings were told that the beloved doctor was no more, all felt as if their cup of sorrow was full. The news that Dr. Bowie was ill had spread like wildfire through the native villages around, and when word followed that he was dead, a feeling almost of dismay spread through the community. They laid him to sleep in that little Blantyre cemetery, the very dust of which is dear to so many whose eyes have never seen it. The natives had come and asked—touching request!—that they might be allowed to dig his grave. Never had there been in that quiet spot such a gathering as assembled there to lay him to his rest, and there was not, we are told, a dry eye in the mourning crowd. Yet around that grave they sang. With trembling voices, choked by many a sob, they sang his own favourite hymn :—

“Thou to whom the sick and dying
Ever came, nor came in vain,
Still with healing word replying
To the wearied cry of pain,
Hear us, Jesus, as we meet,
Suppliants at Thy mercy-seat.”

I shall not attempt to characterise such a life or to estimate its noble work. We bow before it in admiration and awe. Better that we should quietly still our hearts to listen while God Himself speaks to us from it. Like the box of ointment broken whose odour filled the house, such lives poured out fill the land with fragrance and are for the healing of its life.

Of the sorrow in his home I shall not speak, or of the young wife who went forth so bravely, returning to her native land a widow, with her little child orphaned so early. The devoted affection with which the European community outside the Mission regarded him was shown by an immediate request for permission to place in the beautiful new church a series of stained-glass windows in memory of their beloved physician, to whom they owed so much, and whom they had loved so well.

Very deep and solemn, too, was the impression which his death made on the native mind, and tokens are not a wanting already that God used that martyr death to perfect and ripen seeds which he had sown during his life. “Except a corn of seed fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”


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