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 heart!'
'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 a minute.
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 of works.'
'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 infection.'
'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 subjection.
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.'