"He wes that carefu’ o’
himsel an’ lazy that if it hedna been for the siller, a’ve often thocht,
Milton, he wud never hae dune a handstroke o’ wark in the Glen.
"What scunnered me wes the
wy the bairns were ta’en in wi’ him. Man, a’ve seen him tak a wee laddie
on his knee that his ain mither cudna quiet, an’ lilt ‘Sing a song o’
saxpence’ till the bit mannie would be lauchin’ like a gude ane, an’ pooin’
the doctor’s beard.
"As for the weemen, he fair
cuist a glamour ower them; they’re daein’ naethin’ noo but speak aboot
this body and the ither he cured an’ hoo he aye hed a couthy word for sick
fouk. Weemen hae nae discernment, Milton; tae hear them speak ye wud think
MacLure hed been a releegious man like yersel, although, as ye said, he
wes little mair than a Gallio.
"Bell Baxter was haverin’
awa in the shop tae sic an extent aboot the wy MacLure brocht roond
Saunders when he hed the fever that a’ gied oot at the door, a’ wes that
disgusted, an’ a’m telt when Tammas Mitchell heard the news in the smiddy
he wes juist on the greeting.
"The smith said that he wes
thinkin’ o’ Annie’s tribble, but ony wy a’ ca’ it rael bairnly. It’s no
like Drumtochty; ye’re setting an example, Milton, wi’ yir composure. But
a’ mind ye took the doctor’s meesure as sune as ye cam intae the pairish."
It is the penalty of a
cynic that he must have some relief for his secret grief, and Milton began
to weary of life in Jamie’s hands during those days.
Drumtochty was not
observant in the matter of health, but they had grown sensitive about Dr.
MacLure, and remarked in the kirkyard all summer that he was failing.
"He wes aye spare," said
Hillocks, "an’ he’s been sair twisted for the laist twenty year, but a’
never mind him booed till the year. An’ he’s gaein’ intae sma’ buke
(bulk), an’ a’ dinna like that, neeburs.
"The Glen wudna dae weel
withoot Weelum MacLure, an’ he’s no as young as he wes. Man, Drumsheugh,
ye micht wile him aff tae the saut water atween the neeps and the hairst.
He’s been workin’ forty year for a holiday, an’ it’s aboot due."
Drumsheugh was full of
tact, and met MacLure quite by accident on the road.
"Saunders ‘ll no need me
till the shearing begins," he explained to the doctor, "an’ a’m gaein’ tae
Brochty for a turn o’ the hot baths; they’re fine for the rheumatics.
"Wull ye no come wi’ me for
auld lang syne? it’s lonesome for a solitary man, an’ it wud dae ye gude."
"Na, na, Drumsheugh," said
MacLure, who understood perfectly, "a’ve dune a’ thae years withoot a
break, an’ a’m laith (unwilling) tae be takin’ holidays at the tail end.
"A’ll no be mony months wi’
ye a’ thegither noo, an’ a’m wanting tae spend a’ the time a’ hev in the
Glen. Ye see yersel that a’ll sune be getting ma lang rest, an’ a’ll no
deny that a’m wearyin’ for it."
autumn passed into winter, the Glen noticed that the doctor’s hair had
turned grey, and that his manner had lost all its roughness. A feeling of
secret gratitude filled their hearts, and they united in a conspiracy of
attention. Annie Mitchell knitted a huge comforter in red and white, which
the doctor wore in misery for one whole day, out of respect for Annie, and
then hung it in his sitting-room as a wall ornament. Hillocks used to
intercept him with hot drinks, and one drifting day compelled him to
shelter till the storm abated. Flora Campbell brought a wonderful compound
of honey and whiskey, much tasted in Auchindarroch, for his cough, and the
mother of young Burnbrae filled his cupboard with black jam, as a healing
measure. Jamie Soutar seemed to have an endless series of jobs in the
doctor’s direction, and looked in "juist tae rest himsel" in the kitchen.
MacLure had been slowly
taking in the situation, and at last he unburdened himself one night to
"What ails the fouk, think
ye? for they’re aye lecturin’ me noo tae tak care o’ the weet and tae wrap
masel up, an’ there’s no a week but they’re sendin’ bit presents tae the
house, till a’m fair ashamed."
"Oo, a’ll explain that in a
meenut," answered Jamie, "for a’ ken the Glen weel. Ye see they’re juist
tryin’ the Scripture plan o’ heapin’ coals o’ fire on yer head.
"Here ye’ve been negleckin’
the fouk in seeckness an’ lettin’ them dee afore their freends’ eyes
withoot a fecht, an’ refusin’ tae gang tae a puir wumman in her tribble,
an’ frichtenin’ the bairns—no, a’m no dune—and scourgin’ us wi’ fees, and
livin’ yersel’ on the fat o’ the land.
"Ye’ve been carryin’ on
this trade ever sin yir father dee’d, and the Glen didna notis. But ma
word, they’ve fund ye oot at laist, an’ they’re gaein’ tae mak ye suffer
for a’ yir ill usage. Div ye understand noo?" said Jamie, savagely.
For a while MacLure was
silent, and then he only said:
"It’s little a’ did for the
puir bodies; but ye hev a gude hert, Jamie, a rael good hert."
was a bitter December Sabbath, and the fathers were settling the affairs
of the parish ankle deep in snow, when MacLure’s old housekeeper told
Drumsheugh that the doctor was not able to rise, and wished to see him in
"Ay, ay," said Hillocks,
shaking his head, and that day Drumsheugh omitted four pews with the
ladle, while Jamie was so vicious on the way home that none could endure
Janet had lit a fire in the
unused grate, and hung a plaid by the window to break the power of the
cruel north wind, but the bare room with its half-a-dozen bits of
furniture and a worn strip of carpet, and the outlook upon the snow
drifted up to the second pane of the window and the black firs laden with
their icy burden, sent a chill to Drumsheugh’s heart.
The doctor had weakened
sadly, and could hardly lift his head, but his face lit up at the sight of
his visitor, and the big hand, which was now quite refined in its
whiteness, came out from the bed-clothes with the old warm grip.
"Come in by, man, and sit
doon; it’s an awfu’ day tae bring ye sae far, but a’ kent ye wudna grudge
"A’ wesna sure till last
nicht, an’ then a’ felt it wudna be lang, an’ a’ took a wearyin’ this
mornin’ tae see ye.
been friends sin’ we were laddies at the auld school in the firs, an’ a’
wud like ye tae be wi’ me at the end. Ye ‘ill stay the nicht, Paitrick,
for auld lang syne."
Drumsheugh was much shaken,
and the sound of the Christian name, which he had not heard since his
mother’s death, gave him a "grue" (shiver), as if one had spoken from the
"It’s maist awfu’ tae hear
ye speakin’ aboot deein’, Weelum; a’ canna bear it. We ‘ill hae the
Muirtown doctor up, an’ ye ‘ill be aboot again in nae time.
"Ye hevna ony sair tribble;
ye’re juist trachled wi’ hard wark an’ needin’ a rest. Dinna say ye’re
gaein’ tae leave us, Weelum; we canna dae without ye in Drumtochty;" and
Drumsheugh looked wistfully for some word of hope.
"Na, na, Paitrick, naethin’
can be dune, an’ it’s ower late tae send for ony doctor. There’s a’ knock
that canna be mista’en, an’ a’ heard it last night. A’ve focht deith for
ither fouk mair than forty year, but ma ain time hes come at laist.
nae tribble worth mentionin’—a bit titch o’ bronchitis—an’ a’ve hed a
graund constitution; but a’m fair worn oot, Paitrick; that’s ma complaint,
an’ it’s past curin’."
Drumsheugh went over to the
fireplace, and for a while did nothing but break up the smouldering peats,
whose smoke powerfully affected his nose and eyes.
"When ye’re ready, Paitrick,
there’s twa or three little trokes a’ wud like ye tae look aifter, an’
a’ll tell ye aboot them as lang’s ma head’s clear.
"A’ didna keep buiks, as ye
ken, for a’ aye hed a guid memory, so naebody ‘ill be harried for money
aifter ma deith, and ye ‘ill hae nae accoonts tae collect.
"But the fouk are honest in
Drumtochty, and they ‘ill be offerin’ ye siller, an’ a’ll gie ye ma mind
aboot it. Gin it be a puir body, tell her tae keep it and get a big
plaidie wi’ the money, and she ‘ill maybe think o’ her auld doctor at a
time. Gin it be a bien (well-to-do) man, tak half of what he offers, for a
Drumtochty man wud scorn to be mean in sic circumstances; and if onybody
needs a doctor an’ canna pay for him, see he’s no left tae dee when a’m
oot o’ the road."
"Nae fear o’ that as lang
as a’m livin’, Weelum; that hundred’s still tae the fore, ye ken, an’ a’ll
tak care it’s weel spent.
"Yon wes the best job we
ever did thegither, an’ dookin’ Saunders, ye ‘ill no forget that nicht,
Weelum"—a gleam came into the doctor’s eyes—" tae say neathin’ o’ the
The remembrance of that
great victory came upon Drumsheugh, and tried his fortitude.
"What ‘ill become o’s when
ye’re no here tae gie a hand in time o’ need? we ‘ill tak ill wi’ a
stranger that disnä ken ane o’s frae anither."
"It’s a’ for the best,
Paitrick, an’ ye ‘ill see that in a whilie. A’ve kent fine that ma day wes
ower, an’ that ye sud hae a younger man.
"A’ did what a’ cud tae
keep up wi’ the new medicine, but a’ hed little time for readin’, an’ nane
"A’m the last o’ the auld
schule, an’ a’ ken as weel as onybody thet a’ wesna sae dainty an’
fine-mannered as the town doctors. Ye took me as a’ wes, an’ naebody ever
cuist up tae me that a’ wes a plain man. Na, na; ye’ve been rael kind an’
conseederate a’ thae years."
"Weelum, gin ye cairry on
sic nonsense ony langer," interrupted Drumsheugh, huskily, "a’ll leave the
hoose; a’ canna stand it."
"It’s the truth, Paitrick,
but we ‘ill gae on wi’ our wark, far a’m failin’ fast.
"Gie Janet ony sticks of
furniture she needs tae furnish a hoose, and sell a’ thing else tae pay
the wricht (undertaker) an’ bedrel (gravedigger). If the new doctor be a
young laddie and no verra rich, ye micht let him hae the buiks an’
instruments; it ‘ill aye be a help.
"But a’ wudna like
ye tae sell Jess, for she’s been a faithfu’ servant, an’ a freend tae.
There’s a note or twa in that drawer a’ savit, an’ if ye kent ony man that
wud gie her a bite o’ grass and a sta’ in his stable till she followed her
"Confoond ye, Weelum,"
broke out Drumsheugh; "its doonricht cruel o’ ye to speak like this tae
me. Whar wud Jess gang but tae Drumsheugh? she ‘ill hae her run o’ heck
an’ manger sae lang as she lives; the Glen wudna like tae see anither man
on Jess, and nae man ‘ill ever touch the auld mare."
"Dinna mind me, Paitrick,
for a’ expeckit this; but ye ken we’re no verra gleg wi’ oor tongues in
Drumtochty, an’ dinna tell a’ that’s in oor hearts.
"Wee1, that’s a’ that a’
mind, an’ the rest a’ leave tae yersel’. A’ve neither kith nor kin tae
bury me, sae you an’ the neeburs ‘ill need tae lat me doon; but gin Tammas
Mitchell or Saunders be stannin’ near and lookin’ as if they wud like a
cord, gie’t tae them, Paitrick. They’re baith dour chiels, and haena
muckle tae say, but Tammas hes a graund hert, and there’s waur fouk in the
Glen than Saunders.
"A’m gettin’ drowsy, an’
a’ll no be able tae follow ye sune, a’ doot; wud ye read a bit tae me
afore a’ fa’ ower?
"Ye ‘ill find ma mither’s
Bible on the drawers’ heid, but ye ‘ill need tae come close tae ‘the bed,
for a’m no hearin’ or seein’ sae weel as a’ wes when ye cam."
Drumsheugh put on his
spectacles and searched for a comfortable Scripture, while the light of
the lamp fell on his shaking hands and the doctor’s face where the shadow
was now settling.
"Ma mither aye wantit this
read tae her when she wes sober "(weak), and Drumsheugh began, "In My
Father’s house are many mansions," but MacLure stopped him.
"It’s a bonnie word, an’
yir mither wes a sanct; but it’s no for the like o’ me. It’s ower gude; a’
daurna tak it.
"Shut the buik an’ let it
open itsel, an’ ye ‘ill get bit a’ve been readin’ every nicht the laist
Then Drumsheugh found the
Parable wherein the Master tells us what God thinks of a Pharisee and of a
penitent sinner, till he came to the words: "And the publican, standing
afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven, but smote upon
his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner."
"That micht hae been
written for me, Paitrick, or ony ither auld sinner that hes feenished his
life, an’ hes naethin’ tae say for himsel’.
"It wesna easy for me tae
get tae kirk, but a’ cud hae managed wi’ a stretch, an’ a’ used langidge
a’ sudna, an’ a’ micht hae been gentler, and not been so short in the
temper. A’ see’t a’ noo.
"It’s ower late tae mend,
but ye ‘ill maybe juist say to the fouk that I wes sorry, an’ a’m houpin’
that the Almichty ‘ill hae mercy on me.
"Cud ye. . . pit up a bit
"A’ haena the words," said
Drumsheugh in great distress; "wud ye like’s tae send for the minister?"
"It’s no the time for that
noo, an’ a’ wud rather hae yersel’—juist what’s in yir heart, Paitrick:
the Almichty ‘ill ken the lave (rest) Himsel’."
So Drumsheugh knelt and
prayed with many pauses.
Then he repeated as he had
done every night of his life:
"This night I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take."
He was sleeping quietly
when the wind drove the snow against the window with a sudden "swish;" and
he instantly awoke, so to say, in his sleep. Some one needed him.
"Are ye frae Glen Urtach?"
and an unheard voice seemed to have answered him.
"Worse is she, an’
suffering awfu’; that’s no lichtsome; ye did richt tae come.
"The front door’s drifted
up; gang roond tae the back, an’ ye ‘ill get intae the kitchen; a’ll be
ready in a meenut.
"Gie’s a hand wi’ the
lantern when a’m saidling Jess, an’ ye needna come on till daylicht: a’
ken the road."
Then he was away in his
sleep on some errand of mercy, and struggling through the storm.
"It’s a coorse nicht, Jess,
an’ heavy traivelin’; can ye see afore ye, lass? for a’m clean confused wi’
the snaw; bide a wee till a’ find the diveesion o’ the roads; it’s aboot
here back or forrit.
"Steady, lass, steady,
dinna plunge; i’ts a drift we’re in, but ye’re no sinkin’; . . . up noo; .
. . there ye are on the road again.
"Eh, it’s deep the nicht,
an’ hard on us baith, but there’s a puir wumman micht dee if we didna
warstle through; . . . that’s it; ye ken fine what a’m sayin.’
"We ‘ill hae tae leave the
road here, an’ tak tae the muir. Sandie ‘ill no can leave the wife alane
tae meet us; . . feel for yersel’ lass, and keep oot o’ the holes.
"Yon’s the hoose black in
the snaw. Sandie! man, ye frichtened us; a’ didna see ye ahint the dyke;
hoos the wife?"
After a while he began
"Ye’re fair dune, Jess, and
so a’ am masel’; we’re baith getting’ auld, an’ dinna tak sae weel wi’ the
"We ‘ill sune be hame noo;
this is the black wood, and it’s no lang aifter that; we’re ready for oor
beds, Jess;. . . .ay, ye like a clap at a time; mony a mile we’ve gaed
"Yon’s the licht in the
kitchen window; nae wonder ye’re nickering (neighing);. . . .it’s been a
stiff journey; a’m tired, lass. . . .a’m tired tae deith," and the voice
died into silence.
Drumsheugh held his
friend’s hand, which now and again tightened in his, and as he watched, a
change came over the face on the pillow beside him. The lines of weariness
disappeared, as if God’s hand had passed over it; and peace began to
gather round the closed eyes.
The doctor has forgotten
the toil of later years and has gone back to his boyhood.
"The Lord’s my Shepherd,
I’ll not want,"
he repeated till he came to
the last verse, and then he hesitated.
"Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me.
me. . . .and. . . .and. . . .what’s next? Mither said I wes tae haed ready
when she cam.
"A’ll come afore ye gang
tae sleep, Wullie, but ye ‘ill no get yir kiss unless ye can feenish the
"And. . . .in God’s house.
. . .for evermore my. . . .hoo dis it rin? a canna mind the next word. . .
"It’s ower dark noo tae
read it, an’ mither ‘ill sune be comin’."
Drumsheugh, in an agony,
whispered into his ear, "’My dwelling-place,’ Weelum."
"That’s it, that’s it a’
noo; wha said it?
"And in God’s house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
"A’m ready noo, an’ a’ll
get ma kiss when mither comes; a’ wish she wud come, for a’m tired an’
wantin’ tae sleep.
"Yon’s her step. . . .an’
she’s carryin’ a licht in her hand; a’ see it through the door.
"Mither! A’ kent ye wudna
forget yir laddie for ye promised tae come, and a’ve feenished ma psalm.
"And in God’s house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.
"Gie me the kiss, mither,
for a’ve been waitin’ for ye, an’ a’ll sune be asleep."
The grey morning light fell
on Drumsheugh, still holding his friend’s cold hand, and staring at a
hearth where the fire had died down into white ashes; but the peace on the
doctor’s face was of one who rested from his labours.