Gewd Dr. MacLure

Again from "Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush" (Ian Maclaren)

"A month syne there wesna a stronger man in the Glen than Saunders,
an' noo he wes juist a bundle o' skin and bone, that naither saw nor
heard, nor moved nor felt, that kent naethin' that was dune tae him.

"Hillocks, a' wudna hae wished ony man tae hev seen Saunders--for it
wull never pass frae before ma een as long as a' live--but a' wish
a' the Glen hed stude by MacLure kneelin' on the floor wi' his
sleeves up tae his oxters and waitin' on Saunders.

"Yon big man wes as pitifu' an' gentle as a wumman, and when he laid
the puir fallow in his bed again, he happit him ower as a mither dis
her bairn."

Thrice it was done, Drumsheugh ever bringing up colder water from
the spring, and twice MacLure was silent; but after the third time
there was a gleam in his eye.

"We're haudin' oor ain; we're no bein' maistered, at ony rate; mair
a' canna say for three oors.

"We 'ill no need the water again, Drumsheugh; gae oot and tak a
breath o' air; a'm on gaird masel."

It was the hour before daybreak, and Drumsheugh wandered through
fields he had trodden since childhood. The cattle lay sleeping in
the pastures; their shadowy forms, with a patch of whiteness here
and there, having a weird suggestion of death. He heard the burn
running over the stones; fifty years ago he had made a dam that
lasted till winter. The hooting of an owl made him start; one had
frightened him as a boy so that he ran home to his mother--she died
thirty years ago. The smell of ripe corn filled the air; it would
soon be cut and garnered. He could see the dim outlines of his
house, all dark and cold; no one he loved was beneath the roof. The
lighted window in Saunders' cottage told where a man hung between
life and death, but love was in that home. The futility of life
arose before this lonely man, and overcame his heart with an
indescribable sadness. What a vanity was all human labour, what a
mystery all human life.

But while he stood, a subtle change came over the night, and the air
trembled round him as if one had whispered. Drumsheugh lifted his
head and looked eastwards. A faint grey stole over the distant
horizon, and suddenly a cloud reddened before his eyes. The sun was
not in sight, but was rising, and sending forerunners before his
face. The cattle began to stir, a blackbird burst into song, and
before Drumsheugh crossed the threshold of Saunders' house, the
first ray of the sun had broken on a peak of the Grampians.

MacLure left the bedside, and as the light of the candle fell on the
doctor's face, Drumsheugh could see that it was going well with

"He's nae waur; an' it's half six noo; it's ower sune tae say mair,
but a'm houpin' for the best. Sit doon and take a sleep, for ye're
needin' 't, Drumsheugh, an', man, ye hae worked for it"

As he dozed off, the last thing Drumsheugh saw was the doctor
sitting erect in his chair, a clenched fist resting on the bed, and
his eyes already bright with the vision of victory.

He awoke with a start to find the room flooded with the morning
sunshine, and every trace of last night's work removed.

The doctor was bending over the bed, and speaking to Saunders.

"It's me, Saunders, Doctor MacLure, ye ken; dinna try tae speak or
move; juist let this drap milk slip ower--ye 'ill be needin' yir
breakfast, lad--and gang tae sleep again."

Five minutes, and Saunders had fallen into a deep, healthy sleep,
all tossing and moaning come to an end. Then MacLure stepped softly
across the floor, picked up his coat and waistcoat, and went out at
the door.

Drumsheugh arose and followed him without a word. They passed
through the little garden, sparkling with dew, and beside the byre,
where Hawkie rattled her chain, impatient for Bell's coming, and by
Saunders' little strip of corn ready for the scythe, till they
reached an open field. There they came to a halt, and Doctor MacLure
for once allowed himself to go.

His coat he flung east and his waistcoat west, as far as he could hurl
them, and it was plain he would have shouted had he been a complete
mile from Saunders' room. Any less distance was useless for adequate
expression. He struck Drumsheugh a mighty blow that well-nigh levelled
that substantial man in the dust, and then the doctor of Drumtochty
issued his bulletin.

"Saunders wesna tae live through the nicht, but he's livin' this
meenut, an' like to live.

"He's got by the warst clean and fair, and wi' him that's as good as

"It' ill be a graund waukenin' for Bell; she 'ill no be a weedow
yet, nor the bairnies fatherless.

"There's nae use glowerin' at me, Drumsheugh, for a body's daft at a
time, an' a' canna contain masel, and a'm no gaein' tae try."

Then it dawned upon Drumsheugh that the doctor was attempting the
Highland fling.


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