Flora Lyndsay - or, Passages in an Eventful Life
by Susan Moodie
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse

"Strange!" she thought, as she sat muffled up in her cloak, a silent spectatress of his manoeuvres, "that such a mean, dishonest wretch as this, should be empowered to act the petty tyrant, and pass judgment on the integrity of others, who is so destitute of the principles of common honesty himself!"

She certainly forgot, during her mental colloquy, the wisdom concealed beneath the homely adage, "Set a thief to catch a thief!" and the profound knowledge of the world hidden in that brief, pithy sentence.

The provoking business of inspection (for so it seemed to the Captain—to judge by his flushed cheek and frowning brow,) was at length over; the officers withdrew, and were succeeded by the doctor, who was appointed to inspect the health of the crew and passengers, before the ship sailed.

Doctor MacAdie was a lively, little, red haired man, with high cheek-bones, and a large Roman nose out of all proportion to the size of his diminutive body, but perfectly harmonising with his wide, sensible-looking mouth. His sharp, clear blue eyes, seemed to have crept as close to his nose as they possibly could, in the vain hope of glancing over the high, ridgy barrier it formed between them, which gave to their owner a peculiarly acute, penetrating expression,—a glance which appeared to look you through and through; yet, though extremely grotesque, it was a benevolent, pleasing face, full of blunt kindness and ready wit.

The Doctor's snuff-box seemed part and parcel of himself; for the quaint, old-fashioned horn repository, which contained the pungent powder, real Scotch, never left his hand during his professional dialogue with Mrs. Lyndsay.

He shook his head, as his keen eyes read sickness of mind and body in her weary and care-worn face. "Ye are ill, my gude leddy," said he in broad Scotch; "in nae condition to undertak' sic a lang voyage."

Mrs. Lyndsay answered frankly and truly, that she had been indisposed during the past week, and her recovery was so recent, that she felt much better in health than her looks warranted.

The Doctor examined her tongue, felt her pulse, and still shook his head doubtingly. "Feverish—rapid pulse—bad tongue—just out o' yer bed, from attack near akin to cholera. I tell ye that ye are mair fit to go to bed again, under the dochtor's care, than to attempt crossing the Atlantic in a close crib like this."

"The fresh sea air will soon restore me to health," said Flora. "You know, Doctor, that we cannot command circumstances, and have things exactly as we could wish;" and she checked the sigh which rose to her lips, as she recalled to mind her dear, comfortable cottage at ——, and glanced round the narrow cabin, and its miserable accommodations.

The Doctor regarded her with eyes full of compassion. He certainly guessed her thoughts, and seemed as well acquainted with complaints of the mind as with bodily ailments.

"Weel, weel, I ha'e my ain doubts as to your fitness for sic a voyage in your weak state; but I'll e'en jist let ye pass. Are you married or single?"


"An' the gudeman?——"

"Is on deck with the captain. He will be here presently."

"Ha'e ye ony bairns?"

Flora pointed, with a feeling of maternal pride, to the little Josey, who was sleeping upon Hannah's knees,—a lovely picture of healthy, happy infancy.

"Ay, she's bonnie," cried the kind Doctor, taking one of the tiny alabaster fingers of the babe in his red, rough hand. "Sma' need o' a dochter in her case. An' wha's this woman?" touching Hannah's shoulder with his forefinger.

"My nurse-girl."

"A married woman?"

"No, Sir."

"She shu'd be, I'm jist thinkin'; it will not be lang before she's a mither," muttered the little man. Then, turning quickly to Flora, he said, "I wull speak to the medical man on board, an' tell him to tak' partic'lar care o' you during the voyage. What's his name?"

"There is no such person. The vessel is too small to incur such an expensive addition to the comfort of her passengers. The captain told me that he was his own doctor."

"How many passengers does he tak' out?"

"Seventy-two in the steerage, five in the cabin, besides his crew, eight in number."

"Eighty-five human beings, an' no medical man on board! 'Tis jest a' disgrace to the owners, and shu'd be reported. In case o' cholera, or ony other epeedemic brakin' out amang ye, wha wu'd become o' ye a'?"

"We must trust in God. The great Physician of souls will not be forgetful of our bodily infirmities."

"True, true, young leddy; cling close to Him. Ye ha' muckle need o' His care. An' dinna trust your life to the dochtering o' a sullen ignoramus like the captain,—an obstinate, self-willed brute, that, right or wrang, will ha' his ain way. Dinna tak' ony medicine frae him."

Flora was amused at the idea of calling in a one-eyed Esculapius like the jolly captain. The absurdity of the thing made her laugh heartily.

"It's nae laughing matter," said the little doctor, whose professional dignity was evidently wounded by her mistimed mirth.

"Hout! dinna' I ken the man for the last ten years or mair. Thae medicine kist he prizes mair than his sole remaining e'e, an' fancies himsel a dochtor fitting a king. Ye canna' please him mair than by gie'n' him a job. The last voyage he made in this verra brig, he administered in his ignorance, a hale pint o' castor oil in ain dose to a lad on board, which took the puir fallow aff his legs completely. Anither specimen o' his medical skill was gie'n are o' his crew, a heapen spun-fu' o' calomel, which he mistook for magnesia. I varilie believe that he canna' spell weel eneugh to read the directions in the buik. An' is it to sic a dunderheid that the lives of eighty-five human beings are to be entrusted?"

Flora was highly entertained by this account of the Captain's skill; while the doctor, who loved to hear himself talk, continued in a more impressive and confidential tone—

"Now, dinna be sae ill-advised as to be takin' pheesic a' the time, young leddy. If ye wu'd keep yersel in health, persuade the Captain to gie ye the charge o' yon kist o' poisons, an' tak' the first opportunity to drap the key by accident overboord. By sae doin' ye may be the savin' o' your ain life, an' the lives of a' the humanities on boord the brig Anne."

Flora was fond of a little amateur doctoring. To part with the medicine-chest, she considered, would be a great sin, and she was already secretly longing to overhaul its contents.

A few well-established remedies, promptly administered in simple cases of illness, and followed by the recovery of the patients, had made her imagine herself quite a genius in the healing art; and she rejected the homely little Doctor's last piece of advice as an eccentric whim, arising either from ignorance of his profession, or from disappointment in not having been appointed surgeon to the brig.

Dr. MacAdie was neither deficient in skill nor talent. He was a poor man, of poor parentage, who had worked hard to obtain his present position, and provide a comfortable home for his father and mother in their old age. His practice was entirely confined to the humble walks of life, and he was glad to obtain a few additional meals for a large family by inspecting the health of emigrants preparatory to their voyage.

In this case, his certificate of health was very satisfactory; and he told the Captain that he had seldom seen a heartier, healthier set o' decent bodies in sic a sma' vessel, and hepathetically entreated him not to tamper with their constitutions, by giving them dangerous drugs whose chemical properties he did not understand, declaring emphatically, "That nature was the best phesician after all." The Captain considered this gratuitous piece of advice as an insult, for he very gruffly bade Doctor MacAdie "Take care of his own patients; he wanted none of his impertinent interference."

The little Doctor drew up his shoulders with an air of profound contempt; then taking a monstrous pinch of snuff, in the most sneezable manner, from his old-fashioned box, he shook Mrs. Lyndsay kindly by the hand, and wishing her and her gudeman a prosperous voyage, vanished up the companion-ladder.

Old Boreas shook his fist after his retreating figure. "You d——d, insignificant, snuffy little coxcomb! I'm a d——d sight better doctor than you are. If the Government sends you again, poking your long nose among my people, I'll make a surgical case for you to examine at home at your leisure, I will."

In order to divert his ill-humour, Flora inquired at what hour the ship sailed?

"She must wait for that which never yet waited for mortal man—wind and tide. It will be midnight before we get under weigh."

Boreas always spoke in short sentences. He was a man of few words, rough, ready, and eccentrically blunt. Had his talents been proportioned to his obstinacy of will, he might have ruled over large communities, instead of acting the petty tyrant on the deck of his small craft. Right or wrong, he never gave up his opinion to any one. He certainly did not belong to the "Ay, Sir—very true, Sir"—school of individuals, who would resign their own souls to agree with their superiors in rank or power. If there was a being on earth that he despised more than another, it was a sneak. On one occasion, when a steerage passenger, in order to curry favour, was prostrating himself before him after this fashion, assuring the Captain, "That his thoughts coincided exactly with his own," he burst out in a towering passion, "D—— you Sir! haven't you got an opinion of your own? I don't want such a sneaking puppy as you to think my thoughts, and echo my words. I should despise myself, if I thought it possible that we could agree on any subject."

If really convinced that he was wrong, he would show it by a slight diminution of his ferocious stubbornness; but would never acknowledge it in words. If he gained even a doubtful advantage over an adversary, he rubbed his hands, clapped his knees, and chuckled and growled out his satisfaction, in a manner peculiarly his own. He was only tolerable as a companion after taking his third glass of brandy-and-water; and as he commenced these humanizing doses by daybreak in the morning, repeating them at stated intervals during the four-and-twenty hours, by noon he became sociable and entertaining; and would descend from his anti-meridian dignity, and condescend to laugh and chat in a dry humorous style, which, if it lacked refinement, was highly amusing.

Though an inveterate imbiber of alcohol, he was never positively drunk during the whole voyage. The evil spirits seemed to make no impression upon the iron fibres of his stubborn brain and heart. He judged his morality by the toughness of his constitution, and congratulated himself on being a sober man, while he complained of his second mate, and stigmatised him as a drunken, worthless fellow, because one glass of punch made him intoxicated. This is by no means an uncommon thing both at home and abroad; and men condemn others more for want of strength of head, than strength of heart.



* * * * *

Transcriber's Note:

Variations in spelling, use of hyphenated words, and in dialect have been retained as they appear in the original book. Changes have been made as follows:

Page 16 ropes fr you changed to ropes for you

Page 17 grey esey sparkled changed to grey eyes sparkled

Page 65 added double closing quotation mark to Busy at work, too?"

Page 92 real Havanna changed to real Havana

Page 95 one of these days.' changed to one of these days."

Page 96 and getting none, changed to and getting none.

Page 104 and by some mismagement changed to by some mismanagement

Page 140 very plausibly changed to very plausible

Page 146 added double closing quotation mark to heart-breaking regret."

Page 148 stumblingblocks changed to stumbling blocks

Page 150 Then sideling changed to Then sidling

Page 153 deep vexation changed to deep vexation.

Page 156 Bad beginings changed to Bad beginnings

Page 169 handsome young quaker changed to handsome young Quaker

Page 177 carolled high in air changed to carolled high in the air

Page 193 rest of his journey, changed to rest of his journey.

Page 214 it annoyed her " changed to it annoyed her."

Page 232 my Mammy say?' changed to my Mammy say?"

Page 240 browze and gambol changed to browse and gambol

Page 240 and when the arrived changed to and when they arrived

Page 246 added double closing quotation mark after not have seen this."

Page 261 removed double closing quotation mark after half-pennyworth of taste.

Page 267 added double closing quotation mark after dimensions of the fire."

Page 271 said Flora coaxingly., changed to said Flora coaxingly.

Page 271 added double closing quotation mark after an' boil an' roast!"

Page 288 and in a few miuutes changed to and in a few minutes

Page 291 Doctor Mac Adie changed to Doctor MacAdie


Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse