THROUGH THE FLOOD.
Doctor MacLure did not lead a solemn procession from the sick bed to the dining-room, and give his opinion from the hearthrug with an air of wisdom bordering on the supernatural, because neither the Drumtochty houses nor his manners were on that large scale. He was accustomed to deliver himself in the yard, and to conclude his directions with one foot in the stirrup; but when he left the room where the life of Annie Mitchell was ebbing slowly away, our doctor said not one word, and at the sight of his face her husband's heart was troubled.
He was a dull man, Tammas, who could not read the meaning of a sign, and labored under a perpetual disability of speech; but love was eyes to him that day, and a mouth.
"Is't as bad as yir lookin', doctor? tell's the truth; wull Annie no come through?" and Tammas looked MacLure straight in the face, who never flinched his duty or said smooth things.
"A' wud gie onything tae say Annie hes a chance, but a' daurna; a' doot yir gaein' tae lose her, Tammas."
MacLure was in the saddle, and as he gave his judgment, he laid his hand on Tammas's shoulder with one of the rare caresses that pass between men.
"It's a sair business, but ye 'ill play the man and no vex Annie; she 'ill dae her best, a'll warrant."
"An' a'll dae mine," and Tammas gave MacLure's hand a grip that would have crushed the bones of a weakling. Drumtochty felt in such moments the brotherliness of this rough-looking man, and loved him.
Tammas hid his face in Jess's mane, who looked round with sorrow in her beautiful eyes, for she had seen many tragedies, and in this silent sympathy the stricken man drank his cup, drop by drop.
"A' wesna prepared for this, for a' aye thocht she wud live the langest.... She's younger than me by ten years, and never wes ill.... We've been mairit twal year laist Martinmas, but it's juist like a year the day... A' wes never worthy o' her, the bonniest, snoddest (neatest), kindliest lass in the Glen.... A' never cud mak oot hoo she ever lookit at me, 'at hesna hed ae word tae say aboot her till it's ower late.... She didna cuist up tae me that a' wesna worthy o' her, no her, but aye she said, 'Yir ma ain gudeman, and nane cud be kinder tae me.' ... An' a' wes minded tae be kind, but a' see noo mony little trokes a' micht hae dune for her, and noo the time is bye.... Naebody kens hoo patient she wes wi' me, and aye made the best o 'me, an' never pit me tae shame afore the fouk.... An' we never hed ae cross word, no ane in twal year.... We were mair nor man and wife, we were sweethearts a' the time.... Oh, ma bonnie lass, what 'ill the bairnies an' me dae withoot ye, Annie?"
The winter night was falling fast, the snow lay deep upon the ground, and the merciless north wind moaned through the close as Tammas wrestled with his sorrow dry-eyed, for tears were denied Drumtochty men. Neither the doctor nor Jess moved hand or foot, but their hearts were with their fellow creature, and at length the doctor made a sign to Marget Howe, who had come out in search of Tammas, and now stood by his side....