Starling, A Scotch Story Chapter
XXIV - Dr Scott and his Servant
THE Corporal was obliged, on family or
on Haldaneite business, we know not which, to return by the "Highilyer"
next morning. As that slow but sure conveyance jolted along the road but
twice a week, he could not, in the circumstances in which he was placed,
remain until its next journey.
On leaving the Manse, he proceeded at
once to the house of Dr. Scott, the well-known doctor of the parish, and
of a district around it limited only by the physical endurance of himself
and of his brown horse, "Bolus." When the Corporal called, the Doctor was
absent on one of his constantly recurring professional rides. Being a
bachelor, his only representative was his old servant Effie, who received
the visitor. She kept the surgery as well as the house, and was as well
known in the parish as her master. Indeed she was suspected by many to
have skill equal to her master's, very likely owing to the powerful
effects produced by her suggestive prescriptions. On learning the absence
of the doctor, the Corporal inquired when he was likely to return.
"Wha!' the worl' can tell that? Whatna
quastion tae speer at me!" exclaimed Effie.
"I meant nae offence," replied the
Corporal; but my freend, Sergeant Mercer."
"I beg yer pardon," interrupted Effie;
"I wasna awar that ye were a freen' o' the Sergeant's, honest man! Sae I
may tell you that the doctor may be here in a minute, or may be no' till
breakfast-time the morn; or he may come at twal', at twa, or Gude kens
whan! But if it's an ordinar' thing ye want for yersel' or Adam, I can
gie't to ye:sic as a scoorin' dose o' sauts or castur-ile, or rubhard
pills, or seena leaf, or even a flee blister; or a few draps o' lodarny
for the grips."
The Corporal listened with all respect,
and said, "I want naething for mysel' or Adam; but Dr. Scott is requested
to veesit him on his return hame, or as soon after as convenient."
"Convenient!" exclaimed Effie; "that's
no' a word kent in Drumsylie for the doctor! He niicht as well ax every
gudewife in the parish if it was convenient for them to hae a son or a
dochtcr at twal' hours i' the day or at twal' at nicht, on a simmer's day
or on a snawy ane; or tae ax whan it was convenient for folk tae burn
their fit, break their leg, or play the mishanter xvi' themsels efter a
fair. Convenient! Keep us a'!! But depen' on't he'll mak' it convenient
tae atten' Mr. Mercer, nicht or mornin' sune or early."
"I'm sorry to trouble him, for I am
sure 'e is unco' bothered and fashed," said the Corporal, politely.
"Fashed!" exclaimed Effie, thankful for
the opportunity of expressing sympathy with her master, and her
indignation at his inconsiderate patients; "naebody kens that but him and
me! Fashed! the man haesna the life o' a streyed dog or cat! There's no' a
lameter teylor wi' his walk fit, nor a bairn wi' a sair wame frae eatin'
ower mony cruds or grosats, nor an auld wife hostin' xvi' a grew o' cauld,
nor a farmer efter makin' ower free wi' black puddins and haggis when a
mairt is kill'tbut a' maun flee tae the doctor, ilka ane yam, yam,
yammerin', as if lie had the poower o' life and death! Puir cratur! I
could maist greet if I wasna sac angry, to wauk him in his first sleep in
a winter's nicht to ride aff on auld Bolusthat's his auld decent horse,
ye kenand for what? Maybe for naething! I assure you he has a taughy
fleece tae scoor in this parish!" Effie stopped, not from want of
illustration, but from want of breath.
"A hard life, a hard life, nae doot,"
remarked the Corporal ; "but it's his duty, and he's paid for 't."
"Him paid for't!" said Effie, "I wad
like tae see the siller; as the watchmaker saidThe Doctor, quo' he,
should let them pay the debt o' natur' if they wadna pay his ain debts
first. He wasna far wrang! But I was forgettin' the Sergeant what's wrang
wi' him? That's a man never fashes the doctor or onybody; and wha pays
what he gets. But ither folk fash the Sergeant I wuss I had the doctorin'
o' some o' them I ken o'! Feggs, I wad doctor them! I wad gie them a
blister or twa o' Spenish flees that they wadna forget in a hurry!but
what's wrang?" she asked, once more halting in her eloquence.
"That's just what we want tae ken,"
replied the Corporal, quietly.
"I'll tell the doctor," said Effie. "I
think ye said yer name was DickCornal Dick?`
"No no! not Comal yet," replied Dick,
smiling, "I'm sorry tae say, my braw woman, but Corporal only."
The epithet "braw" drew down a curtsey
from Effie in reply to his "Gude day; ye'll be sure to send the Doctor."
Dr. Scott, whom Effie represented, was
a man of few words, who never attempted to exain the philosophy, if he
knew it, of his treatment, but prescribed his doses as firmly and
unfeelingly as the gunner loads his cannon. He left his patients to choose
life or death, apparently as if their choice was a matter of indifference
to him: yet nevertheless he possessed a most kind and feeling heart,
revealed not in looks or words, but in deeds of patience and
self-sacrifice, for which, from too many, he got little thanks, and less
pay, as Effie had more than insinuated. Every one in the parish seemed to
have a firm conviction as to the duty of the doctar to visit them, when
unwell( at all hours, and at all distances, by day or night; while 1ieir
duty of consideration for his health was dim, and for his pocket
singularly procrastinating. "I do not grudge," he once said, "to give my
professional aid gratis to the poor and needy, and even to others who
could pay me if they would; nay, I do not grudge in many cases to send a
bag of meal to the family, but I think I am entitled, without being
considered greedy, and without my sending for it, to get my empty bag
The doctor was ever riding to and fro,
his face red with winter's cold and summer's heat, nodding oftener on his
saddle than at his own fire-side, watching all sorts of cases in
farmhouses and lowly cottages, cantering for miles to the anxiety and
discomforts of the sick-room.
All liked the doctor, and trusted him;
though, alas! such men as Dr. Mairherbalists, vendors of wonderful pills
and "saws," bone-setters, and that whole race of ignorant and presuming
quacks, resident or itinerant, could always impose on the credulous, and
dispose of their marvellous cures for such prices as seldom entered honest
The doctor in due time visited Adam.
"What's wrong, Sergeant?" was his
abrupt question; and he immediately proceeded to examine tongue and pulse,
and other signs and symptoms. He then prescribed some simple medicine,
rather gentler than Effie's; and said little, except that he would call
back soon. The case was at last declared to be of a bad type of typhoid
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.