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back. When he saw me, James ( for his name was James Noble) made a curt and grotesque "boo," and said, "Maister John, this is the mistress; she's got trouble in her breest,—some kind o' an income we're thinkin'."
By this time I saw the woman's face; she was sitting on a sack filled with straw, her husband's plaid round her, and his big-coat, with its large white metal buttons, over her feet.
I never saw a more unforgetable face,— pale, serious, lonely,* delicate, sweet, without being at all what we call fine. She looked sixty, and had on a mutch, white as snow, with its black ribbon; her silvery, smooth hair setting off her dark-gray eyes,—eyes such as one sees only twice or thrice in a lifetime, full of suffering, full also of the overcoming of it: her eyebrows black and delicate, and her mouth firm, patient, and contented, which few mouths ever are.
As I have said, I never saw a more beautiful countenance, or one more subdued to settled quiet. "Ailie," said James, "this is Maister John, the young doctor; Rab's freend, ye ken. We often speak aboot you, doctor." She smiled, and made a movement, but said nothing; and prepared to come down, putting her plaid aside and rising. Had Solomon, in all his glory, been handing down the Queen of Sheba at his palace gate, he could not have done it more daintily, more tenderly, more like a gentleman, than did James the Howgate carrier, when he lifted down Ailie his wife. The contrast of his small, swarthy, weather-beaten, keen, worldly face to hers— pale, subdued, and beautiful—was something wonderful. Rab looked on concerned and puzzled, but ready for anything that might turn up,—were it to strangle the nurse, the porter, or even me. Ailie and he seemed to be great friends.
"As I was sayin', she's got a kind o' trouble in her breest, doctor; wull ye tak' a look at it?" We walked into the consulting-room, all four; Rab grim and comic, willing to be happy and confidential if cause could be shown, willing also to be the reverse, on the same terms. Ailie sat down, undid her open gown and her lawn handkerchief round her neck, and without a word showed me her right breast. I looked at and examined it carefully,—she and James watching me, and Rab eyeing al l three. What could I say? there it was, that had once been so soft, so shapely, so white, so gracious and bountiful, so "full of all blessed conditions,"—hard
* It is not easy giving this look by one word; It wu expressive of her being so much of lu-r life alone.
as a stone, a centre of horrid pain, making that pale face, with its gray, lucid, reasonable eyes, and its sweet, resolved mouth, express the full measure of suffering overcome. Why was that gentle, modest, sweet woman, clean and lovable, condemned by God to bear such a burden?
I got her away to bed. "May Rab and me bide?" said James. "You may ; and Rab, if he will behave himself." "I'se warrant he's do that, doctor"; and in slank the faithful beast. I wish you could have seen him. There are no such dogs now. He belonged to a lost tribe. As I have said, he was brindled and gray like Rubislaw granite; his hair short, hard, and close, like a lion's; his body thickset, like a little bull,—a sort of compressed Hercules of a dog. He must have been ninety pounds' weight, at the least; he had a large blunt head; his muzzle black as night, his mouth blacker than any night, a tooth or two—being all he had—gleaming out of his jaws of darkness. His head was scarred with the records of old wounds, a sort of series of fields of battle all over it; one eye out, one ear cropped as close as was Archbishop Leighton's father's; the remaining eye had the power of two; and above it, and in constant communication with it, was a tattered rag of an ear, which was forever unfurling itself, like an old flag; and then that bud of a tail, about one inch long, if it could in any sense be said to be long, being as broad as long,—the mobility, the instantaneousness of that bud were very funny and surprising, and its expressive twinklings and winkings, the intercommunications between the eye, the ear, and it, were of the oddest and swiftest.
Rab had the dignity and simplicity of great size; and having fought his way all along the road to absolute supremacy, he was as mighty in his own line as Julius Caesar or the Duke of Wellington, and had the gravity* of all great fighters.
You must have often observed the likeness of certain men to certain animals, and of certain dogs to men. Now, I never looked at Rab without thinking of the great Baptist preacher, Andrew Fuller. + The same large, heavy, menacing, combative, sombre, honest
* A Highland game-keeper, when asked why a certain terrier, of singular pluck, was so much more solemn than the other dogs, said," 0, sir, life's full o' sairiousnesu to him,—he just never can get enuff o' fechtin'.''
f Fuller was, in early life, when a farmer lad at Soh&m, famous as a boxer; not quarrelsome, but not without "the stem delight" a man of strength and courage feels in their exercise. Dr. Charles Stewart, of T>unearn, whose rare gifts and graces as a physician, a divine, a countenance, the same deep inevitable eye, the same lock,—as of thunder asleep, but ready,—neither a dog nor a man to be trifled with.
Next day, my master, the surgeon, examined Ailie. There was no doubt it must kill her, and soon. It could be removed—it might never return—it would give her speedy relief —she should have it done. She courtesied, looked at James, and said, " When?" "Tomorrow," said the kind surgeon,—a man of few words. She and James and Rab and I retired. I noticed that he and she spoke little, but seemed to anticipate everything in each other. The following day, at noon, the students came in, hurrying up the great stair. At the first landing-place, on a small, wellknown blackboard, was a bit of paper fastened by wafers, and many remains of old wafers hcsido it. On the paper were the words,— "An operation to-day. J. B. Clerk."
Up ran the youths, eager to secure good places: in they crowded, full of interest and talk. "What's the case?" "Which side is it?"
Don't think them heartless; they are neither better nor worse than you or I; they get over their professional horrors, and into their proper work,—and in them pity, as an emotion, ending in itself or at best in tears and a long-drawn breath, lessens, while pity as a motive is quickened, and gains power and purpose. It is well for poor human nature that it is so.
The operating theatre is crowded; much talk and fun, and all the cordiality and stir of youth. The surgeon with his staff of assistants is there. In comes Ailie; one look at her quiets and abates the eager students. That beautiful old woman is too much for them; they sit down, and are dumb, and gaze at her. These rough boys feel the power of her presence. She walks in quickly, but without haste; dressed in her mutch, her neckerchief, her white dimity short-gown, her black bombazine petticoat, showing her white worsted stockings and her carpetshoes. Behind her was James with Rab. James sat down in the distance, and took that huge and noble head between his knees. Rab
scholar, and a gentleman live only in the memory of thoeo few who knew and surrive him, liked to tell how Mr. Fuller used to say, that when he was in the pulpit, and saw a buirdly man come along the passage, he would instinctively draw himself up, measure his imaginary antagonist, and forecast how he would deal with him, his hands meanwhile condensing into fists, and tending to "square." lie must have been a hard hitter if he boxed as he preached,—what "The Fancy" would call "an ugly customer."
looked perplexed and dangerous; forever cocking his ear and dropping it as fast.
Ailie stepped up on a seat, and laid herself on the table, as her friend the surgeon told her; arranged herself, gave a rapid look at James, shut her eyes, rested herself on me, and took my hand. The operation was at once begun; it was necessarily slow; and chloroform—one of God's best gifts to his suffering children—was then unknown. The surgeon did his work. The pale face showed its pain, but was still and silent. Rab's soul was working within him; he saw that something strange was going on,—blood flowing from his mistress, and she suffering; his ragged ear was up, and importunate; he growled, and gave now and then a sharp, impatient yelp; he would have liked to have done something to that man. But James had him firm, and gave him a glotcer from time to time, and an intimation of a possible kick; —all the better for James, it kept his eye and his mind off Ailie.
It is over: she is dressed, steps gently and decently down from the table, looks for James; then turning to the surgeon and the students, she courtesies,—and in a low, clear voice, begs their pardon if she has behaved ill. The students—all of Ub—wept like children; the surgeon happed her up carefully, —and, resting on James and me, Ailie went to her room, Rab following. We put her to bed. James took off his heavy shoes, crammed with tackets, heel-capt and toe-capt, and put them carefully under the table, saying, "Maister John, I'm for nane o' yer strange nurse bodies for Ailie. I'll be her nurse, and I'll gang about on my stockin' soles as canny as pussy." And so he did; and handy and clever, and swift and tender as any woman, was that horny-handed, snell, peremptory little man. Everything she got he gave her: he seldom slept; and often I saw his small shrewd eyes out of the darkness, fixed on her. As before, they spoke little.
Rab behaved well, never moving, showing us how meek and gentle he could be, and occasionally in his sleep, letting us know that he was demolishing some adversary. H» took a walk with me every day, generally to the Candlemaker Row; but he was sombre and mild; declined doing battle, though some fit cases offered, and indeed submitted to sundry indignities; and was always very ready to turn, and came faster back, and trotted up the stair with much lightness, and went straight to that door.
Jess, the mare, had been sent, with her weather-worn cart, to Howgate, and had doubtless her own dim and placid meditations and confusions, on the absence of her master and Rab, and her unnatural freedom from the road and her cart.
For some days Ailie did well. The wound healed "by the first intention"; for, as James said, "Oor Ailie's skin's ower clean to beil." The students came in quiet and anxious, and surrounded her bed. She said she liked to see their young, honest faces. The surgeon dressed her, and spoke to her in his own short, kind way, pitying her through his eyes, Rab and James outside the circle,— Rab being now reconciled, and even cordial, and having made up his mind that as yet nobody required worrying, but, as you may suppose, temper paraiut.
So far well: but, four days after the operation, my patient had a sudden and long shivering, a "groosin'," as she called it. I saw her soon after; her eyes were too bright, her cheek colored; she was restless, and ashamed of being so; the balance was lost; mischief had begun. On looking at the wound, a blush of red told the secret: her pulse was rapid, her breathing anxious and quick, she wasn't herself, as she said, and was vexed at her restlessness. We tried what we could. James did everything, was everywhere; never in the way, never out of it; Rab subsided under the table into a dark place, and was motionless, all but his eye, which followed everyone. Ailie got worse; began to wander in her mind, gently; was more demonstrative in her ways to James, rapid in her questions, and sharp at times. He was vexed, and said, "She was never that way afore ; no never." For a time she knew her head was wrong, and was always asking our pardon,—the dear, gentle old woman : then delirium set in strong, without pause. Her brain gave way, and then came that terrible spectacle,—
"The intellectual power, through words and things, Went sounding on its dim and perilous way '';
she sang bits of old songs and Psalms, stopping suddenly, mingling the Psalms of David and the diviner words of his Son and Lord with homely odds and ends and scraps of ballads.
Nothing more touching, or in a sense more strangely beautiful, did I ever witness. Her tremulous, rapid, affectionate, eager Scotch voice,—the swift, aimless, bewildered mind, the bafBed utterance, the bright and perilous eye ; some wild words, some household cares, something for James, the names of the dead, Rab called rapidly and in a "fremyt" voice, and he starting up surprised, and slinking off as if he were to blame somehow, or had been
dreaming he heard; many eager questions and beseechings which James and I could make nothing of, and on which she seemed to set her all, and then sink back unumlerstood. It was very sad, but better than many things that are not called sad. James hovered about, put out and miserable, but active and exact as ever; read to her, when there was a lull, short bits from the Psalms, prose and metre, chanting the latter in his own rude and serious way, showing great knowledge of the fit words, bearing up like a man, and doating over her as his "ain Ailie." "Ailie, ma woman!" "Ma ain bonnie wee dawtie t"
The end was drawing on : the golden bowl was breaking; the silver cord was fast being loosed,—that animula blandula, vagula, hosfies, eomesgue, was about to flee. The body and the soul—companions for sixty years— were being sundered, and taking leave. She was walking alone through the valley of that shadow into which one day we must all enter,—and yet she was not alone, for we know whose rod and staff were comforting her.
One night she had fallen quiet, and, as we hoped, asleep ; her eyes were shut. We put down the gas, and sat watching her. Suddenly she sat up in bed, and taking a bedgown which was lying on it rolled up, she held it eagerly to her breast,—to the right side. We could see her eyes bright with a surprising tenderness and joy, bending over this bundle of clothes. She held it as a woman holds her sucking child; opening out her nightgown impatiently, and holding it close, and brooding over it, and murmuring foolish little words, as over one whom his mother comforteth, and who sucks and is satisfied. It was pitiful and strange to see her wasted dying look, keen and yet vague, —her immense love.
"Preserve me I" groaned James, giving way. And then she rocked back and forward, as if to make it sleep, hushing it, and wasting on it her infinite fondness. "Wae's me, doctor; I declare she's thinkin' it's that bairn." "What bairn?" "The only bairn we ever had; our wee Mysie, and she's in the Kingdom, forty years and mair." It was plainly true: the pain in the breast, telling its urgent story to a bewildered, ruined brain, was misread and mistaken; it suggested to her the uneasiness of a breast full of milk, and then the child; and so again once more they were together, and she had her ain wee Mysie in her bosom.
This was the close. She sank rapidly: the delirium left her; but, as she whispered, she was "clean silly;" it was the lightening before the final darkness. After having for some time Iain still, her eyes shut, she said, "James I" He came close to her, and lifting up her calm, clear, beautiful eyes, she gave him a long look, turned to me kindly but shortly, looked for Rab but could not see him, then turned to her husband again, as if she would never leave off looking, shut her eyes, and composed herself. She lay for some time breathing quick, and passed away so gently, that when we thought she was gone, James, in his old-fashioned way, held the mirror to her face. After a long pause, one small spot of dimness was breathed out; it vanished away, and never returned, leaving the blank clear darkness of the mirror without a stain. "What is our life? It is even a vapor, which appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
Rab all this time had been full awake and motionless; he came forward beside us: Ailie's hand, which James had held, was hanging down; it was soaked with his tears; Rab licked it all over carefully, looked at her, and returned to his place under the table.
James and I sat, I don't know how long, but for some time, — saying nothing: he started up abruptly, and with some noise went to the table, and putting his right fore and middle fingers each into a shoe, pulled them out, and put them on, breaking one of the leather latchets, and muttering in anger, "I never did the like o' that afore!"
I believe he never did; nor after either. "Rab!" he said roughly, and pointing with his thumb to the bottom of the bed. Rab leapt up, and settled himself; his head and eye to the dead face. "Maister John, ye '11 wait for me," said the carrier; and disappeared in the darkness, thundering down stairs in his heavy shoes. I ran to a front window; there he was, already round the house, a"nd out at the gate, fleeing like a shadow.
I was afraid about him, and yet not afraid; so I sat down beside Rab, and being wearied, fell asleep. I woke from a sudden noise outside. It was November, and there had been a heavy fall of snow. Rab was in statu quo; he heard the noise too, and plainly knew it, but never moved. I looked out; and there, at the gate, in the dim morning—for the sun was not up—was Jess and the cart,—a cloud of steam rising from the old mare. I did not see James; he was already at the door, and came up the stairs, and met me. It was less than three hours since he left, and he must have posted out—who knows how ?— to Howgate, full nine miles off, yoked Jess, and driven her astonished into town. He had an armful of blankets, and was streaming
with perspiration. He nodded to me, spread out on the floor two pairs of clean old blankets having at their corners, "A. G., 1794," in large letters in red worsted. These were the initials of Alison Grseme, and James may have looked in at her from without,—himself unseen but not unthought of,—when he was "wat, wat, and weary," and after having walked many a mile over the hills, may have seen her sitting, while "a' the lave were sleepin' ;" and by the firelight working her name on the blankets, for her ain James's bed.
He motioned Rab down, and taking his wife in his arms, laid her in the blankets, and happed her carefully and firmly up, leaving the face uncovered; and then lifting her, he nodded again sharply to me, and with a resolved but utterly miserable face strode along the passage and down stairs, followed by Rab. I followed with a light; but he didn't need it. I went out, holding stupidly the candle in my hand in the calm frosty air; we were soon at the gate. I could have helped him, but I saw he was not to be meddled with, and he was strong, and did not need it. He laid her down as tenderly, as safely, as he had lifted her out ten days before,—as tenderly as when he had her first in his arms when she was only "A. G.,"—sorted her, leaving that beautiful sealed face open to the heavens; and then taking Jess by the head, he moved away. He did not notice me, neither did Rab, who presided behind the cart. I stood till they passed through the long shadow of the College, and turned up Nicolson Street. I heard the solitary cart sound through the streets, and die away and come again; and I returned, thinking of that company going up Libberton Brae, then along Roslin Muir, the morning light touching the Pentlands and making them like on-looking ghosts; then down the hill through Auchindinny woods, past " haunted Woodhouselee;" and as daybreak came sweeping up the bleak Lammermuirs, and fell on his own door, the company would stop, and James would take the key, and lift Ailie up again, laying her on her own bed, and, having put Jess up, would return with Rab and shut the door.
James buried his wife, with his neighbors mourning, Rab inspecting the solemnity from a distance. It was snow, and that black ragged hole would look strange in the midst of the swelling spotless cushion of white. James looked after everything; then rather suddenly fell ill, and took to bed; was insensible when the doctor came, and soon died. A sort of low fever was prevailing in the village, and his want of sleep, his exhaustion, and his misery made him apt to take it. The grave was not difficult to re-open. A fresh fall of snow had again made all things white and smooth; Rab once more looked on, and slunk home to the stable.
And what of Rab? I asked for him next week at the new carrier who got the goodwill of James's business, and was now master of Jess and her cart. "How's Rab?" He put me off, and said rather rudely, "What's your business wi' the dowg?" I was not to be so put off. "Where's Rab?" He, getting confused and red, and intermeddling with his hair, said, "'Deed, sir, Rab's deid." "Dead! what did he die of?" "Weel, sir," said he, getting redder, "he didna exactly dee; he was killed. I had to brain him wi' a rack-pin; there was nae doin' wi' him. He lay in the treviss wi' the mear, and wadna come oot. I tempit him wi' kail and meat, but he wad tak naething, and keepit me frae feedin' the beast, and he was aye gur gurrin', and grup gruppin' me by the legs. I was laith to make awa wi' the.auld dowg, his like wasnaatween this and Thoruhill—but, 'deed, sir, I could do naething else." I believed him. Fit end for Rab, quick and complete. His teeth and his friends gone, why should he keep the peace, and be civil?
Jons Brown, M. D.
THE BALLAD OF BOUILLABAISSE.
A street there la la Paris famous,
For which no rhyme our language yields,
The New Street of the Little Fields;
But still in comfortable case—
To eat a bowl of Bouillabaisse.
This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is—
A sort of soup, or broth, or brew
That Greenwich never could outdo;
Soles, onions, garlic, roach, and dace;
In that one dish of Bouillabaisse.
Iodeed a rich and savory stew 't is;
And true philosophers, methinks,
Should love good victuals and good drinks.
Might gladly, sure, his lot embrace,
Which served him up a Bouillabaisse.
I wonder if the house still there Is?
Yes, here the lamp is as before; The smiling, red-cheeked ecaillere la
Still opening oysters at the door.
I recollect his droll grimace;
And hoped you liked your Bouillabaisse.
We enter; nothing's changed or older.
"How's Monsieur Terre, waiter, pray?" The waiter stares and shrugs his shoulder;—
"Monsieur is dead this many a day." "It is the lot of saint and sinner,
So honest Terre's run his race!" "What will Monsieur require for dinner?"
"Say, do you still cook Bouillabaisse?"
"Oh, oui, Monsieur," the waiter's answer;
"Quel vin Monsieur desire-t-il?" "Tell me a good one." "That I can, sir;
The Chambertin with yellow seal." "So Terre's gono," I say, and sink in
My old accustomed comer-place; "He's done with feasting and with drinking.
With Burgundy and Bouillabaisse."
My old accustomed corner here is—
The table still is in the nook;
This well-known chair since last I took.
I'd scarce a beard upon my face, And now a grizzled, grim old fogy
I sit and wait for Bouillabaisse.
Where are you, old companions trusty
Of early days, here met to dine? Come, waiter! quick, a flagon crusty—
111 pledge them in the good old wine. The kind old voices and old faces
My memory can quick retrace; Around the board they take their places.
And share the wine and Bouillabaisse.
There's Jack has made a wondrous marriage;
There's laughing Tom is laughing yet; There's brave Augustus drives his carriage;
There's poor old Fred in the Gazette; On James's head the grass is growing:
Good Lord I the world has wagged apaea Since here we set the claret flowing
And drank, and ate the Bouillabaisse.
Ah me I how quick the days are flitting!
I mind me of a time that's gone.
In this same place—but not alone.
A dear, dear face looked fondly up.