"We twa hae run aboot the
And pu'd the gowans fine,
But we've wandered mony a weary fit
Sin' auld lang syne."
"THERE is nothing so
strange in life as living!" That we must live when we do not want to, and
cannot when we do! Our cherished plans are as naught in the eyes of the
Master; just while we are pluming ourselves in anticipation of much
pleasure and profit resulting from a well-laid plan, He draws a line clear
across the face of it, and we must begin anew. It is hard to see our work
defaced: to have to begin at the beginning, on a new sheet, this time
fearful of the result. Yet, as we work on, and on, the work is easier, the
lines are truer, firmer, and the design is purer: it is not so much of the
earth, earthy: until many plans have been destroyed, and many new ones
made, and thought is given to the character of each, as well as to the
symmetry; then, and then only, will the Master say "Well done." We look
backward and see how crude the work of our apprentice days was; we have
climbed, step by step; we are nearer the Master.
As Margaret lay and
thought, when it was all she could do, for the doctor had forbidden her to
knit—which was the only thing she could do lying in bed—many strange
fancies flitted through her brain. With all of Jamie's and Jean's enforced
cheerfulness she realized that her condition was a serious one. She looked
around on her household gods and felt that the time was short until they—
those treasures that she had gathered and cared for—would have passed by
right into other keeping. More than ever she felt that the lassie whose
tottering steps she had guided should be her heir. Jean, in spite of her
independence, would some day marry and awa', then none but Phemie should
reign here as she (Margaret) had done. Her first plan had gone "aglee,"
but she began over again, this time with less thinking of self. Now, in
"her mind's eye," she could see Phemie tripping through the house, adding
deft, dainty touches, as Margaret knew Jean could, if she would let
her—which she wouldn't—and Douglas happy, and contented to stay in the
home she had helped build for him. For herself there was now no thought of
earth, save a grassy mound on which the dews of heaven would fall; and
yonder, a seat, if might be, at the foot of the Lord's table.
"Jean, lass," said Jamie, a
few days after the doctor had spoken to him of the necessity for more than
ordinary surgical skill in the treatment of Margaret's injuries; "th'
doctor wull hae 's tak' your mither awa' till ither doctors."
"I'll ha' been waitin' for
you to say 't, faither," said Jean, in a hushed voice; "I'll kenned she's
been waur than she'll telt us o'."
"Th' doctor says 'at th'
ither doctors 'll ken mair than him, an' will hae better ways o' workin',
an' can dae 'r gude," said Jamie; "but I'll no ken hoo we're tae get 'r
awa' an' whatever t' dae wi' th' fairm 'n th' beasties; she'll no' hae
things gang wrang, 'n we'll daurna cross 'r."
"Did you think tae gang wi'
'er yer lane, faither?" asked Jean.
"Na, na, lass," said Jamie
in affright. "Ye'll nae leave 's; I'll couldna care her alane; she'd weary
for a lassie's hauns 'round her."
"I'll no' leave you,
faither, whiles ye'll need me," answered Jean.
"Ye're aye a comfort t' me,
Jeanie, lass," Jamie replied, stroking her hair, "'n noo ye'll hae tae tak'
your mither's place 'n tell me hoo we'll can get a' things best dune; I'll
no' ken when we's tae gang, 'r where, 'r hoo lang we'll be tae bide 'till
th' doctor has his say."
"Wad ye no' like Douglas
tae coom hame, faither?" asked Jean.
"Ay, lass, I'll thocht on
't, but I'm maist feared till ask him, feart he'll say na," said Jamie.
Then Jean told him of
Margaret's well arranged plan, so sadly broken in on. There were tears in
Jamie's eyes when she ended.
"Puir lassie," he said,
"she'll left th' heather for me; she'll could hae had ither lads an' bided
at hame; gin I'll could gie 'r my ain life, I'd dae it wullin'."
"Gin th' docthers can help
'r wi' 's, faither, happen we'll tak' her ower th' sea yet," Jean said, in
cheery tones of comfort, though her own heart was like lead.
A few days later the doctor
said: "Can you fix a sleigh comfortable enough to drive by easy stages to
"I'll can fix th' sleigh so
there'll be no' much joltin'," answered Jamie, "aiblins 'twould tak' a
week; could she staun th' trip?"
"She had a wonderful
constitution to begin with, which is greatly in her favor," replied the
doctor; "with the care that you will know how to give her, she can make
the trip without additional injury. I have written Dr. Powell, and expect
to hear from him next week; then, if you can get affairs here in shape to
leave, you might go in two weeks."
"We'll gang whenever you
say't Marget can be moved, doctor," answered Jamie, "gin we'll hae t'
leave th' hoose 'n byre tae care itsel'."
The doctor broke the news
"Jamie and I are talking of
treating you to a trip to Montreal, Mrs. McAlpin, as soon as those bones
are knit so there will be no danger of their shaking apart again. Would
you like to go on a junketing tour?"
"Gin 's faither 'll write
for th' lad till coom hame, I'll gang, gin ye'll think I'se better,"
It was easy, after all.
Jamie wrote Douglas, but as letters did not travel by steam in Ontario in
forty-three, the two weeks were up before Douglas answered—as he did—in
Margaret knew his step, and
forgetting, in her joy, that the hand of affliction had been laid on her,
she started to rise and meet him; but, almost as soon as the effort was
made, her head was on the pillow again, and she was compressing her lips
to keep from an expression of pain. Highland women are not, as a rule,
demonstrative, but this was what official correspondence termed an
"extraordinary" occasion. Douglas realized now, as he never had before,
how deeply his mother loved him, and that a certain unreasoning jealousy,
born of this love, was the ruling cause in the deed that had blighted his
Margaret did not say, as
many mothers would have done:
"Forgive me, lad, I have
caused you sorrow. I see everything clearer now, and will do what I can to
In fact, she carefully
avoided any reference to the past, but of the present and the future she
chatted gaily, thus very much relieving Douglas' mind as to her condition.
"Did yer faither write ye
'at the're tae gie me a trip tae Montreal, that I'll haena seen sin' the
day I'll cam thro', juist aff the 'Commerce'," she said, in as
light-hearted a tone as though the proposed trip was purely a pleasure
Douglas could not so easily
recover himself. The year and a half, in which we have wholly lost sight
of him, had worked far greater changes with him than with any one of the
other three; with them, only the "to be expected" had happened. To Rob
self-reliant young manhood, to the girls added grace and dignity, had
come. Douglas had aged; there was a reserve and gentle dignity in his
manner which compelled even Margaret's respect. The lad she sent away was
gone forever: had she seen him buried she could not have realized this
more keenly. But the mild, grave, seemingly middle-aged man who had come
in his place endeared himself to her in the few days that elapsed between
his coming and her departure for Montreal.
He knew just how to arrange
for her comfort and safety during the trip that was either to help her or
to assure her that her work here was finished.
Jamie, too, was somewhat in
awe of this man who had come back in place of his lad, and deferred to him
in every arrangement.
"If we'll could ony hae a
kiver tae pit awa' oop ower her heid, like thae gipsy lads," Jamie said;
"do ye no' think, Douglas, we'll could fashion ane?"
"I'll gang doon 'n spier at
William Rutherford," replied Douglas; "gin he'll could mak' me soom hoops,
I'll soomway think I'll could fix a bonnie wee hoosie, 'n sae warm she'll
ne'er ken she's awa' frae hame."
William Rutherford stared
at him, when he entered the shop and extended his hand.
"'N wha's this?" he said,
"it'll seem I's ought tae mind ye?"
"It'll be a puir welcome
hame, William, wi' naebody till mind ane; mony a stoot ash I'll hae helpit
"Gude save 's, it's Douglas
McAlpin! gie 's yer haun, Douglas, lad,—'r happen I suld say mon; fegs,
I's hairdly believe ye yet."
"Sae lang a time awa' 'ill
be makin' a differ'," replied Douglas.
"Ay, it'll hae mad' a
differ', aiblins th' time 's no' sae muckle lang either, 'n ye're aulder
noo 'n yer faither," grunted William Rutherford; "ye were a bonnie lad, wi'
a skin like a lassie's, yer hair in gowden rings, an' yer een sae bright;
noo, th' rosies hae left yer cheeks, 'n th' gowd's faded frae yer hair.
Oh! aiblins lads hae tae grow oop men, no' wumman bodies. What'll ye hae
me dae for ye th' day?"
"Ye'll ken we're till tak'
mither till Montreal; I'll want a braw kiver mad' ower th' sleigh, sae
she'll no' feel th' cauld blasts," replied Douglas.
"Mon, 't wad tak' a month
till mak' 't richt," answered William.
"It would no'," Douglas
said; "I'll ken whaur th's soom ribs o' a tent, gin Captain McMillan 'll
sell them tae me; 'n the's piles o' gude, stoot tent-claith doon 't th'
auld store in a muckle box; faither helpit William Pitt pack't awa' himsel';
I'll bring th' sleigh doon aifter dine 'n thegither we'll mak' 't."
"You can have the sticks,
and right welcome, Douglas," said Captain McMillan; "your father paid for
them in many ways long ago, and your mother was always a good neighbour. I
will come down and see how you are getting the sleigh fixed."
Col. Taylor had charge of
the unused implements, etc., and was very glad to exchange so many pounds
of tent-cloth for an adequate sum in currency. Douglas then went to a
blacksmith's shop and had wire coiled into five springs. Early in the
afternoon they began construction, everything having been gathered at
William Rutherford's. The springs were fastened firmly to the bottom of
the sleigh, on these a home-made mattrass was to be spread; the corner was
made with the back end loose, to be raised or lowered at pleasure;
blankets were tacked up inside the tent cloth, caught every few inches as
comforters are tacked. On one side the two centre ribs were sawn in two
and fastened again with a leather hinge, and the canvas loose— fastened,
when closed, with buttons—this for convenience in lifting the patient in
and out. When completed you could not fancy a cosier carryall for a winter
The whole town gathered to
"Gadsooks, sir!" Doctor
Thorn said; "I never saw a finer ambulance. If ever I see service again
you shall command an emergency corps."
Rev. William Bell commended
it. "It is an exceedingly well contrived cairriage for an eenvalid." Mr.
Bell was an especial friend of the young men, and they all held him in
When Douglas drove away up
the Dine with it next day, the town was pretty well represented in the
street on which William Rutherford's shop was built, and when he was out
of sight a few who were not needed at home remained in the shop to
exchange opinions on matters of importance.