Cottagers of Glenburnie Chapter X.
Containing a Useful Prescription
gane!' said the farmer, as he opened the cottage
door. 'It is just as I kent it wa'd be. They enticed
him wi' drink ! and then, when his senses war gane,
they listet him.'
'And sal I never see him mair!' cried his wife.
'Will ye no try to get him aff? Maun my bairn gang
wi' the loons and vagabonds, and do at their bidding
what he ne'er wad do at ours? Oh ! it will break my
'Na,' says the farmer, '1 canna' think o' it! I maun
try. Gang, Rob, and saddle the mare. I canna' ride
lang at a time for this rheumatic; but whan it comes
I'll light and walk. It is a fine night, and I may
be there lang before the break of day. Oh, Mrs Mason
! little do our bairns think o' the sorrow they
bring upon our hearts !'
'1 hope,' said Mrs Mason, 'all your children now
present will take warning, and learn to submit
themselves betimes to the duty of obedience; and
that you will both enforce that duty, as you are
enjoined by God to do it. Take comfort, then, and
assure yourself that this event may turn out in the
end to be a blessing.'
The farmer said he trusted in God that it might be
so ; and having provided himself with what money he
thought necessary, he, with a heavy heart, departed.
On the following day many of the neighbours came to
inquire for Mrs MacClarty; and on hearing that the
farmer had gone alone, they all expressed a
good-natured concern, saying, that he might have
been sure there was not a man in the place who would
not willingly have gone with him, had he mentioned
his intention. By noon-time he was expected back,
but eight in the evening came, and still there was
no appearance of his return. Mrs Mason now became
truly uneasy, and was doubly distressed as Mrs
MacClarty seemed to depend on her for comfort. She
proposed asking some of the neighbours to set off on
horseback for intelligence, and sent to several; but
they all declined the expedition as unnecessary,
assuring her that the farmer must have gone on to
the head-quarters of the recruiting party, which
were at a town about twelve miles from that in which
the fair had been held. This assurance tended, in
some degree, to lessen their alarm. They went to
bed; but after passing a watchful and sleepless
night, arose to fresh anxiety; for the first thing
they heard was, that a man had passed through
Glenburnie, who had seen Sandy at -with the
recruiting party the night before, and that the
farmer had not been there. Jamie Bruce, who had
brought the first account of Sandy from the fair,
now offered to go in search of the old man, for
whose fate all had, from this intelligence, become
anxious. He had scarcely been gone an hour, when Meg
came running in from the door, where she had been
idling all the morning, and exclaimed that her
father was coming down the loan in a cart!
Mrs MacClarty, starting up at the news, flew out to
meet her husband. Her cousin followed in great
agitation, and soon perceived that the poor man was
too ill to reach the house without assistance.
Friendly assistance was at hand, for the cart was
already surrounded by the neighbours; but all were
so anxious to have their curiosity gratified,
relative to the cause, that not one thought of
offering a hand until their questions had been
answered. Mrs Mason at length, by her remonstrances,
restored silence, and got the people to help the
poor sufferer to his bed ; on which he was no sooner
laid, than his wife flew to give him a dram of
whisky, which she had been taught to consider as the
only cordial for fatigue. But Mrs Mason observing
how very feverish he appeared, begged her to desist,
and at the same time hastened the preparation of a
dish of tea, which having prevailed on him to
swallow, she addressed the people who crowded round
his bed, entreating they would leave him to the
repose of which he stood so much in need. This was
not a matter so easily to be accomplished; for so
eager were they all engaged in conversation, that,
among so many louder tongues, her voice had little
chance of being heard.
'Hech me !' cried one, ' I never heard o' sic a
thing i' my life !'
'I have gane to the Lammas fair these thretty
years,' said another, an' ne'er heard tell o' ony
body being robbet, in a' my days.'
'But I mind o' just sic anither thing happenin' to
auld John Robson, when he came frae the fair o'
Glasgow, ae night,' said the shoemaker.
'Glasgow !' exclaimed two or three of the women, '
Glasgow, by a' accounts, is an unco place for
wickedness ; but then wha can wonder, whar there's
sae mony factories.'
'There is muckle gude as weel as ill in't, Janet,'
returned the shoemaker.
Mrs Mason, perceiving the dispute likely to grow
warm, again entreated them to remember how much
their poor neighbour stood in need of sleep. Her
efforts to establish quietness were all exerted in
vain. No sooner did one set of people go away, than
another set poured in, all in their inquiries
equally friendly, equally loud, and equally
loquacious; unfortunately, discovering that the poor
man was still awake, the most forward teased him
with questions. From his replies it appeared that as
he had reached within half-a-mile of the town, he
was met at a lonely part of the road by two men,
habited like sailors, who, as he afterwards learned,
had been seen begging at the fair, where to excite
compassion they had pretended to be lame. He was
then leading his horse, which they seized by the
bridle, and rudely demanded money to drink. He gave
them a sixpence; but they said it was not enough,
and with many imprecations demanded more. While he
hesitated they knocked him down, and beat him
dreadfully with their sticks. They then took from
him the old pocket-book, in which he had put the
notes intended for his son's release, and left him
senseless on the ground. A little before daybreak he
so far recovered as to be able to raise himself ;
and looking round for his mare, perceiving her
grazing by the road-side, at no great distance. With
much pain and great difficulty he reached the town,
and went to the public-house to which he had been
directed as the quarters of the Serjeant; but on
arriving there had the mortification to find that
the Serjeant and his recruits had set off at
midnight for the headquarters, and that,
consequently, all hopes of obtaining his son's
dismissal were at an end.
He was, however, advised to send in pursuit of the
robbers \ and having obtained a warrant, lent his
mare to the constable, who promised that he should
have his money before night; but night came on, and
neither constable nor mare returned. He felt
himself, in the meantime, grow worse and worse; and
as soon as day appeared resolved to return home. Ill
as he was able to walk, he had, by resting every
second step, got forward to the entrance of the Glen
; where, finding that his strength entirely failed
him, he took refuge in the first cottage; and,
anxious to get to his own home, procured a cart, in
which he proceeded as has been related.
He was now very ill indeed ; the pain in his head
and limbs becoming every minute more violent, while
the increased flushing in his face gave evident
proof of the fever that burned in every vein.
The only precaution which the good people, who came
to see him, appeared now to think necessary, was
carefully to shut the door, which usually stood open
; and as a large fire was burning in the grate,
exactly opposite to his bed, the effect was little
short of suffocation. Mrs Mason perceived this, and
endeavoured to remedy it, but in vain. The prejudice
against fresh air appeared to be universal. Neither
could she get any creature to understand how much
harm the din of so many voices was likely to
occasion. Mrs MacClarty, who, from being accustomed
to speak to her children in an exalted pitch, in
order to enforce attention, had herself contracted a
habit of speaking loud, was quite insensible to the
noise that now buzzed in the ear of her sick
husband; and would on no ac count run the risk of
offending any of her neighbours by refusing them
admittance to his bedside.
The fever in consequence increased. Mrs Mason seeing
that it was likely to be attended with danger
proposed sending for the doctor; but Mrs MacClarty
acceded to the general opinion that it would be time
eneugh to send when he became worse.
'But if you wait until he becomes worse,' said Mrs
Mason, ' it may then be too late. A fever may be
stopped in the beginning, which, if permitted to go
on for a couple of days, it may be impossible to
cure. We at present are ignorant of the nature of
the fever with which your husband is attacked, and
may therefore administer what is improper. I have no
notion of drugs doing much good in any case; but
what I want to have advice for is to be put upon the
proper way of managing his disorder. You are, by the
advice of your neighbours, giving him a variety of
things, which, for aught you know, may all have
opposite properties ; and though they may each have
done good in some instances, may all be equally
unfit in the present. Take my advice, at least until
you send for a doctor, to give him nothing but
plenty of cooling drink.'
'Na, na,' returned Mrs MacClarty, ' I ha' nae sic
little regard for my gudeman as to gie him naething
but water and sour milk whey, as ye wad hae me. What
has done gude to ithers may do gude to him ; and I'm
mista'en if auld John Smith hae na as mickle skeel
as ony doctor amang them.'
Auld John Smith just then arrived, and, after
talking a great deal of nonsense about the nature of
the disorder, took out his rusty lancet, and bled
the patient in the arm, at the same time
recommending a poultice of herbs to be applied to
his head, and another of the came kind to his
stomach ; desiring, above all things, that he might
be kept warm, and get nothing cold to drink.
Poor Mrs Mason was greatly shocked to see the life
of a father of a family thus sported with by an
ignorant and presuming blockhead ; but found that
her opinions were looked upon with the eye of
jealous prejudice ; and that while she continued the
advocate of fresh air and cooling beverage, she must
lay her account to meet with opposition. In spite of
auld John Smith's infallible remedies, the farmer
became evidently worse. When he was past all hope
the doctor was sent for; who, on seeing him, and
inquiring into the mode of treatment he had
received, solemnly declared that if they had
intended to kill him they could not have fallen on a
method more effectual. He did not think it probable
that he would live above three days; but said the
only chance he had was in removing him from that
close box in which he was shut up, and admitting as
much air as possible into the apartment. After
giving some further directions concerning the
patient, he warned them of the infectious nature of
the disease, and mentioned the necessity of taking
every precaution against spreading so fatal a
disorder. Without listening to what was said in
reply, he mounted his horse, and was out of sight in
No sooner did the fatal sentence which the doctor
had pronounced reach the ears of the unhappy wife
than she gave way to utter despair. The neighbours,
who had been watching for the doctor's departure,
poured in to comfort her; but Mrs Mason, resolving
to make a vigorous exertion in behalf of the poor
man's life, represented, in strong terms, the
necessity of an immediate compliance with the
doctor's directions, and proposed that all should go
home but those who could lend assistance in removing
him to her room; where, as she had now got the
window to open, he would at once have air and quiet.
To this proposition a violent opposition was made by
all the good people assembled; in which Mrs
MacClarty loudly joined, declaring, ' she wa'd never
see her gudeman turn'd out o' his ain gude warm bed
into a cauld room. She cou'dna bear the thoughts o'
onything so cruel.'
'Is it not more cruel,' said Mrs Mason, ' to let him
remain here, to be stifled to death by the bad air
which now surrounds him, and which no one can
breathe in safety? By removing him, he has at least
a chance of his recovery; here he can have none.'
'If it's the wull o' God that he's to dee,' said
Peter Macglashon, who was the oracle of the parish,
' it's a' ane whar ye tak him; ye canna hinder the
wull o' God.'
'It is not only the will of God, but the command of
God, that we should use the means,' said Mrs Mason.
' We should do our utmost, and then look up to God
for His blessing, and for resignation to His will.
When we do not make use of the reason He has
bestowed upon us, we are at once guilty of
disobedience and presumption.'
'That's no soond doctrine,'said Peter; 'It's the law
'No,' returned Mr Mason, ' its the law of faith, to
which we show our obedience by works. If, contrary
to the command of God, we run upon our own
destruction, or permit the destruction of a fellow
creature, we do not show faith but contempt. Every
one of you here present, who comes to lend
assistance to the family, is performing an act of
charity and benevolence, such as God has commanded
us to perform to each other; but whoever comes
without that intention, and knowing that he can be
of no use, puts his life to needless risk ; and, by
tempting Providence, commits an act of sin.'
'Say ye sae,' said limping Jacob, the precentor,
rising from the seat he had taken by the bedside. '
Ye speak wi' authority, I maun confess ; but how can
ye prove the danger ?'
'It is easily proved,' replied Mrs Mason. ' You know
that God has ordained that life should be preserved
by food taken into the stomach, and air breathed
into the lungs. If poison is put into our food we
all know the consequence. Now, it has been clearly
proved that poisonous air is equally fatal to life
as poisoned food. By the breath of persons in fever,
and other infectious diseases, the air is thus
poisoned, and hence arises the necessity of
admitting a current of air to carry off the
'But, madam,' said a pale-faced man, ' if that were
true, the air that gaed out wad poison a' the toon.
What say ye to that ?'
'I say,' returned Mrs Mason, ' that if you were to
take an ounce or two of arsenic, and put it into
that dram glass full of water, you would run the
immediate risk of your life by swallowing it; but
that if you were to dissolve the same quantity in
yonder tub with ten gallons of water, the risk would
be diminished; and that if you were to put it in the
river, all the people of Glenburnie might drink of
the water without injury. The bad air which
surrounds our poor friend in that close place is the
arsenic in a glass of water; it cannot be breathed
with impunity. Had he been placed as I at first
recommended, the greater quantity of air would have
diminished the danger; but let us still do what is
in our power to remedy the evil.'
'I never heard better sense in my life,' said the
pale-faced man ; ' if either me or my wife can do
you any good we shall stay and help you; if no, we
shall gang hame and remember you in our prayers. I
shall never forget what you have now told us as long
as I live.'
'I have nae faith in't, said Peter Macglashon ;'
it's a' dead works ; and if I werna' sae sick, I wad
gi' her a screed o' doctrine j but I kenna' what
ails me, I'm unco far frae weel.'
Peter then went off, and all the rest of the people,
one by one, followed his example. In a short time
the pale-faced stranger returned, and, addressing
himself to Mrs Mason, said, ' that though he was but
a stranger in Glenburnie, yet as he was the farmer's
nearest neighbour, he thought it his duty to offer
his services to the utmost, in the present situation
of the family; and that though he was now convinced
of the danger, he would willingly encounter it, to
be of use. He had,' he said, ' lately suffered much
from sickness himself, and, therefore, he knew how
to feel for those that suffered.' There was
something in this man's manner that greatly pleased
Mrs Mason, and she frankly accepted his kind offer,
pointing out where his assistance might be
essentially useful to Mrs MacClarty, who, oppressed
with fatigue, had, by her persuasion, gone to take a
little rest. While she was speaking to him the
minister of the parish came in. He had but just
returned from a long journey, the only one he had
taken for many years, and though much tired, no
sooner heard that he had been sent for in his
absence to visit a sick parishioner, than he
instantly proceeded to administer comfort to the
distressed. Learning from Mrs Mason the state of
insensibility to which the sick man was now reduced,
he desired his children to be called, in order that
they might benefit by the impression which such
serious acts of devotion are calculated to make; and
when they were assembled, he, with solemn fervency,
supplicated the God of all mercy and consolation in
behalf of the sufferer and his afflicted family.
While he spoke, tears flowed from the eyes of the
most insensible; and Mrs Mason was not without hope
that the spirit of obedience, which he prayed might
henceforth fill the hearts of the children, would be
seen in its effects; and that, sensible of the
misery which self-will and obstinacy had produced,
they would learn to reverence their Creator, by
keeping the passions which opposed His law under due
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