seemed to me a fitting day for William MacLure’s funeral, rather than
summer time, with its flowrs and golden corn. He had not been a soft man,
nor had he lived an easy life, and now he was to be laid to rest amid the
austere majesty of winter, yet in the shining of the sun. Jamie Soutar,
with whom I toiled across the Glen, did not think with me, but was gravely
"Nae doot it’s a graund
sicht, the like o’t is no gien tae us twice in a generation, an’ nae king
wes ever carried tae his tomb in sic a cathedral.
"But it’s the fouk a’m
conseederin’, an’ hoo they’ll win through; it’s hard eneuch for them ‘at’s
on the road, an’ it’s clean impossible for the lave.
"They ‘ill dae their best,
every man o’ them, ye may depend on that, an’ hed it been open weather
there wudna hev been six able-bodied men missin’.
"A’ wes mad at them,
because they never said onything when he wes leevin’, but they felt for a’
that what he hed dune, an’, a’ think, he kent it afore he deed.
"He hed juist ae faut, tae
ma thinkin’, for a’ never jidged the waur o’ him for his titch of rochness—guid
trees hae gnarled bark—but he thotched ower little o’ himsel’.
"Noo; gin a’ hed asked him
boo mony fouk wud come tae his beerial, he wud hae said, ‘They ‘ill be
Drumsheugh an’ yersel’, an’ may be twa or three neeburs besides the
minister,’ an’ the fact is that nae man in oor time wud hae sic a githerin’
if it werena for the storm.
said Jamie, who had been counting heads all morning, "there’s six
shepherds in Glen Urtach—they’re shut up fast; an’ there micht hae been a
gude half dizen frae Dunleith wy, an’ a’m telt there’s nae road; an’
there’s the heich Glen, nae man cud cross the muir the day, an’ it’s aucht
mile round;" and Jamie proceeded to review the Glen in every detail of
age, driftiness of road and strength of body, till we arrived at the
doctor’s cottage, when he had settled on a reduction of fifty through
stress of weather.
Drumsheugh was acknowledged
as chief mourner by the Glen, and received us at the gate with a labored
attempt at everyday manners.
"Ye’ve hed heavy traivellin’,
a’ doot, an’ ye ‘ill be cauld. It’s hard weather for the sheep an’ a’m
thinkin’ this ill be a feeding storm.
"There wes nae use trying
tae dig oot the front door yestreen, for it wud hae been drifted up again
before morning. We’ve cleared awa the snow at the back for the prayer; ye
‘ill get in at the kitchen door.
"There’s a puckle Dunleith
"Wha?" cried Jamie in an
"Dunleith men," said
"Div ye mean they’re here,
whar are they ?"
themsels at the fire, an’ no withoot need; ane of them gied ower the head
in a drift, and his neeburs hed tae pu’ him oot.
"It took them a gude fower
oors tae get across, an’ it wes coorse wark; they likit him weel doon that
wy, an’, Jamie, man"—here Drumsheugh’s voice changed its note, and his
public manner disappeared— "what div ye think o’ this? every man o’ them
has on his blacks." .
"It’s mair than cud be
expeckit" said Jamie; "but whar dae yon men come frae, Drumsheugh?"
Two men in plaids were
descending the hill behind the doctor’s cottage, taking three feet at a
stride, and carrying long staffs in their hands.
"They’re Glen Urtach men,
Jamie, for ane o’ them wes at Kildrummie fair wi’ sheep, but hoo they’ve
wun doon passes me."
"It canna be, Drumsheugh,"
said Jamie greatly excited. "Glen Urtach’s steikit up wi’ sna like a
"Ye’re no surely frae the
Glen, lads?" as the men leaped the dyke and crossed to the back door, the
snow falling from their plaids as they walked.
that an’ nae mistak, but a’ thocht we wud be lickit ae place, eh, Charlie?
a’m no sae weel acquant wi’ the hill on this side, an’ there wes some
kittle (hazardous) drifts."
"It wes grand o’ ye tae mak
the attempt," said Drumsheugh, "an’ a’m gled ye’re safe."
"He cam through as bad
himsel’ tae help ma wife," was Charlie’s reply.
"They’re three mair Urtach
shepherds ‘ill come in by sune; they’re frae Upper Urtach an’ we saw them
fording the river; ma certes it took them a’ their time, for it wes up tae
their waists and rinnin’ like a mill lade, but they jined hands and cam
ower fine." And the Urtach men went in to the fire.
The Glen began to arrive in
twos and threes, and Jamie, from a point of vantage at the gate, and under
an appearance of utter indifference, checked his roll till even he was
MacLure ‘ill hae the beerial he deserves in spite o’ sna and drifts; it
passes a’ tae see hoo they’ve githered frae far an’ near.
"A’m thinkin’ ye can
colleck them for the minister noo, Drumsheugh A’body’s here except the
heich Glen, an’ we mauna luke for them."
"Dinna be sae sure o’ that,
Jamie. Yon’s terrible like them on the road, wi’ Whinnie at their head;"
and so it was, twelve in all, only old Adam Ross absent, detained by
force, being eighty-two years of age.
"It wud hae been temptin’
Providence tae cross the muir," Whinnie explained, "and it’s a fell stap
roond; a’ doot we’re laist."
"See, Jamie," said
Drumsheugh, as he went to the house, "gin there be ony antern body in
sicht afore we begin; we maun mak allooances the day wi’ twa feet o’ sna
on the grund, tae say naethin’ o’ drifts."
"There’s something at the
turnin’, an’ it’s no fouk; it’s a machine o’ some kind or ither—maybe a
bread cart that’s focht its wy up."
it’s no that; there’s twa horses, ane afore the ither; if it’s no a
dogcairt wi’ twa men in the front; they ‘ill be comin’ tae the beerial."
"What wud ye sae, Jamie,"
Hillocks suggested, "but it micht be some o’ thae Muirtown doctors? they
were awfu’ chief wi’ MacLure."
"It’s nae Muirtown
doctors," cried Jamie, in great exultation, "nor ony ither doctors. A’ ken
thae horses, and wha’s ahind them. Quick, man, Hillocks, stop the fouk,
and tell Drumsheugh tae come oot, for Lord Kilspindie hes come up frae
Jamie himself slipped
behind, and did not wish to be seen.
"It’s the respeck he’s
gettin’ the day frae high an’ low," was Jamie’s husky apology; "tae think
o’ them fetchin’ their wy doon frae Glen Urtach, and toiling roond frae
the heich Glen, an’ his Lordship driving through the drifts a’ the road
frae Muirtown, juist tae honour Weelum MacLure’s beerial.
"It’s nae ceremony the day,
ye may lippen tae it; it’s the hert brocht the fouk, an’ ye can see it in
their faces; ilka man hes his ain reason, an’ he’s thinkin’ on’t though
he’s speakin’ o’ naethin’ but the storm; he’s mindin’ the day Weelum pued
him out frae the jaws o’ death, or the nicht he savit the gude wife in her
oor o’ tribble.
"That’s why they pit on
their blacks this mornin’ afore it wes licht, and wrastled through the sna
drifts at risk o’ life. Drumtochty fouk canna say muckle, it’s an awfu’
peety, and they ‘ill dae their best tae show naethin’, but a’ can read it
a’ in their een.
"But wae’s me "—and Jamie
broke down utterly behind a fir tree, so tender a thing is a cynic’s
heart— "that fouk ‘ill tak a man’s best wark a’ his days without a word
an’ no dae him honour till he dees. Oh, if they hed only githered like
this juist aince when he wes livin’, an’ lat him see he hedna laboured in
vain. His reward has come ower late".
Jamie’s vain regret, the castle trap, bearing the marks of a wild passage
in the snow-covered wheels, a broken shaft tied with rope, a twisted lamp,
and the panting horses, pulled up between two rows of farmers, and
Drumsheugh received his lordship with evident emotion.
"Ma lord . . . . we never
thocht o’ this. . . . an’ sic a road."
"How are you, Drumsheugh?
and how are you all this wintry day? That’s how I’m half an hour late; it
took us four hours’ stiff work for sixteen miles, mostly in the drifts, of
"It wes gude o’ yir
lordship, tae mak sic an effort, an’ the hale Glen wull be gratefu’ tae
ye, for ony kindness tae him is kindness tae us."
"You make too much of it,
Drumsheugh," and the clear, firm voice was heard of all; "it would have
taken more than a few snow drifts to keep me from showing my respect to
William MacLure’s memory."
When all had gathered in a
half circle before the kitchen door, Lord Kilspindie came out—every man
noticed he had left his overcoat, and was in black, like the Glen—and took
a place in the middle with Drumsheugh and Burnbrae, his two chief tenants,
on the right and left, and as the minister appeared every man bared his
The doctor looked on the
company—a hundred men such as for strength and gravity you could hardly
have matched in Scotland—standing out in picturesque relief against the
white background, and he said:
"It’s a bitter day,
friends, and some of you are old; perhaps it might be wise to cover your
heads before I begin to pray."
Lord Kilspindie, standing
erect and grey-headed between the two old men, replied:
"We thank you, Dr.
Davidson, for your thoughtfulness; but he endured many a storm in our
service, and we are not afraid of a few minutes’ cold at his funeral."
A look flashed round the
stern faces, and was reflected from the minister, who seemed to stand
His prayer, we noticed with
critical appreciation, was composed for the occasion, and the first part
was a thanksgiving to God for the life work of our doctor, wherein each
clause was a reference to his services and sacrifices. No one moved or
said Amen—it had been strange with us—but when every man had heard the
gratitude of his dumb heart offered to heaven, there was a great sigh.
After which the minister
prayed that we might have grace to live as this man had done from youth to
old age, not for himself but for others, and that we might be followed to
our grave by somewhat of "that love wherewith we mourn this day Thy
servant departed." Again the same sigh, and the minister said Amen.
"wricht" stood in the doorway without speaking, and four stalwart men came
forward. They were the volunteers that would lift the coffin and carry it
for the first stage. One was Tammas, Annie Mitchell’s man; and another was
Saunders Baxter, for whose life MacLure had his great fight with death;
and the third was the Glen Urtach shepherd for whose wife’s sake MacLure
suffered a broken leg and three fractured ribs in a drift; and the fourth,
a Dunleith man, had his own reasons of remembrance.
"He’s far lichter than ye
wud expeck for sae big a man—there wesna muckle left o’ him, ye see—but
the road is heavy, and a’il change ye aifter the first half mile."
"Ye needna tribble yersel,
wricht," said the man from Glen Urtach; "the’ll be nae change in the
cairryin’ the day," and Tammas was thankful some one had saved him
Surely no funeral is like
unto that of a doctor for pathos, and a peculiar sadness fell on that
company as his body was carried out who for nearly half a century had been
their help in sickness, and had beaten back death time after time from
their door. Death after all was victor, for the man that had saved them
had not been able to save himself.
As the coffin
passed the stable door a horse neighed within, and every man looked at his
neighbour. It was his old mare crying to her master.
Jamie slipped into the
stable, and went up into the stall.
"Puir lass, ye’re no gaen’
wi’ him the day, an’ ye ‘ill never see him again; ye’ve hed yir last ride
thegither, an’ ye were true tae the end."
After the funeral
Drumsheugh came himself for Jess, and took her to his farm. Saunders made
a bed for her with soft, dry straw, and prepared for her supper such
things as horses love. Jess would neither take food nor rest, but moved
uneasily in her stall, and seemed to be waiting for some one that never
came. No man knows what a horse or a dog understands and feels, for God
hath not given them our speech. If any footstep was heard in the
courtyard, she began to neigh, and was always looking round as the door
opened. But nothing would tempt her to eat, and in the night-time
Drumsheugh heard her crying as if she expected to be taken out for some
sudden journey. The Kildrummie veterinary came to see her, and said that
nothing could be done when it happened after this fashion with an old
"A’ve seen it aince afore,"
he said. "Gin she were a Christian instead o’ a horse, ye micht say she
wes dying o’ a broken hert."
He recommended that she
should be shot to end her misery, but no man could be found in the Glen to
do the deed and Jess relieved them of the trouble. When Drumsheugh went to
the stable on Monday morning, a week after Dr. MacLure fell on sleep, Jess
was resting at last, but her eyes were open and her face turned to the
wes a’ the wife he hed," said Jamie, as he rejoined the procession, "an’
they luved ane anither weel."
The black thread wound
itself along the whiteness of the Glen, the coffin first, with his
lordship and Drumsheugh behind, and the others as they pleased, but in
closer ranks than usual, because the snow on either side was deep, and
because this was not as other funerals. They could see the women standing
at the door of every house on the hillside, and weeping, for each family
had some good reason in forty years to remember MacLure. When Bell Baxter
saw Saunders alive, and the coffin of the doctor that saved him on her
man’s shoulder, she bowed her head on the dyke, and the bairns in the
villago made such a wail for him they loved that the men nearly disgraced
"A’m gled we’re through
that, at ony rate," said Hillocks; "he wes awfu’ taen up wi’ the bairns,
conseederin’ he hed nane o’ his ain."
There was only one drift on
the road between his cottage and the kirkyard, and it had been cut early
Before daybreak Saunders
had roused the lads in the bothy, and they had set to work by the light of
lanterns with such good will that, when Drumsheugh came down to engineer a
circuit for the funeral, there was a fair passage, with walls of snow
twelve feet high on either side.
Saunders," he said, "this wes a kind thocht, and rael weel dune."
But Saunders’ only reply
"Mony a time he’s hed tae
gang round; he micht as weel hae an open road for his last traivel."
When the coffin was laid
down at the mouth of the grave, the only blackness in the white kirkyard,
Tammas Mitchell did the most beautiful thing in all his life. He knelt
down and carefully wiped off the snow the wind had blown upon the coffin,
and which had covered the name, and when he had done this he disappeared
behind the others, so that Drumsheugh could hardly find him to take a
cord. For these were the eight that buried Dr. MacLure—Lord Kilspindie at
the head as landlord and Drumsheugh at his feet as his friend; the two
ministers of the parish came first on the right and left; then Burnbrae
and Hillocks of the farmers, and Saunders and Tammas for the plowmen. So
the Glen he loved laid him to rest.
When the bedrel had
finished his work and the turf had been spread, Lord Kilspindie spoke:
"Friends of Drumtochty, it
would not be right that we should part in silence and no man say what is
in every heart. We have buried the remains of one that served this Glen
with a devotion that has known no reserve, and a kindliness that never
failed, for more than forty years. I have seen many brave men in my day,
but no man in the trenches of Sebastopol carried himself more knightly
than William MacLure. You will never have heard from his lips what I may
tell you to-day, that my father secured for him a valuable post in his
younger days, and he preferred to work among his own people; and I wished
to do many things for him when he was old, but he would have nothing for
himself. He will never be forgotten while one of us lives, and I pray that
all doctors everywhere may share his spirit. If it be your pleasure, I
shall erect a cross above his grave, and shall ask my old friend and
companion Dr. Davidson, your minister, to choose the text to be
"We thank you, Lord
Kilspindie," said the doctor, "for your presence with us in our sorrow and
your tribute to the memory of William MacLure, and I choose this for his
"’Greater love hath no man
than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’"
Milton was, at that time,
held in the bonds of a very bitter theology, and his indignation was
stirred by this unqualified eulogium.
"No doubt Dr. MacLure hed
mony natural virtues, an’ he did his wark weel, but it wes a peety he
didna mak mair profession o’ releegion."
"When William MacLure
appears before the Judge, Milton," said Lachlan Campbell, who that day
spoke his last words in public, and they were in defence of charity, "He
will not be asking him about his professions, for the doctor’s judgment
hass been ready long ago; and it iss a good judgment, and you and I will
be happy men if we get the like of it.
"It is written in the
Gospel, but it iss William MacLure that will not be expecting it."
"What is’t Lachlan?" asked
Jamie Soutar eagerly.
The old man, now very
feeble, stood in the middle of the road, and his face, once so hard, was
softened into a winsom tenderness.
"’Come ye blessed of My
Father. . . .I was sick and ye visited Me.’"