Imágenes de páginas

thinks that, with the exception of some parts of old Paris, Europe does not contain a more interesting place than old Edinburgh.

An inquisitive visitor who passes along the now squalid, but once important, thoroughfare of the Cowgate, towards the Grass Market, will be sure to have his eye attracted by a quaint and slightly decayed building, dating from the sixteenth century, and ornamented with a spire in the centre. Over the entrance is an inscription, "HE THAT HATH PITIE VPON THE POOR LENDETH UNTO THE LORD, AND THE LORD WILL RECOMPENSE HIM THAT HE HETH GIVEN." In addition to the motto from the Book of Proverbs, may be noticed the arms of the Guild of Hammermen, keeping company with the crest of the founder of what was in old time an hospital, Michael Macquhan. The chapel and the buildings attached, now standing in the very worst part of the Cowgate, have long, long since parted with their "praying men" and monkish associations, and are now the chief dispensary of the Edinburgh Medical Mission.

The premises pointed out will amply repay inspection, in consequence of their being a curious and well preserved relic of pre-Reformation times. In the coloured window of the chapel are seen the arms of the founder of the house, with those of Mary of Guise. In the centre of the room, beneath what is now the pulpit, with its marvellously carved high-backed chair, is the identical table on which the corpse of Argyll was laid after execution on the last day of June, 1685. Within this same building, so little altered by time since the most stirring days of Scottish history, John Craig, the contemporary and assistant of Knox, preached in Latin after his return from exile. Here too, tradition says, the first General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was convened.

This hospital had much in common with the ordinary monastery, was established in the sixteenth century, and was intended for the "Sustentation of several poor men who should continually there put forth their prayers to almighty God." When once founded, "the Crosse House" had its endowments from time to time augmented by pious donors, whose supplementary gifts to the charity of Michael Macquhan are carefully chronicled in the panelling of the chapel. The ancient table, antique chair, the now rusty sword, formerly used on state occasions, and all the other furniture of this Magdalen Hospital, seem to bid us linger and learn what they can tell us of the past; but perhaps a still more interesting object is the tomb of Dame Macquhan, the founder's wife, which bears the inscription:-" Here lyes ane honorabil woman, Janet Rhynd, ye spous of umquhil Micel Makquhan, burges of Edinburgh, founder of yis place, and decessit ye iiid day of December, A.D. 1553." Such is the home of a mission which seeks to relieve suffering in its severest form, and to teach the ignorant the way of salvation. Let us follow its agents to their work, and see in what their labours consist.

To see the Medical Mission in actual operation, we repair to the Cowgate on a week-day at two p.m., when the patients congregate in an apartment used on Sabbath evenings for the Ragged School. If we enter the room now that service has just begun, we shall find a motley group of characters, each having some bodily affliction, or acting as the messenger of others whose weakness prevents personal attendance, or

lending assistance to those too weak to reach the place alone. The middle-aged man with wasted cheeks and deep sepulchral cough, sits by the side of ailing youth or the dame whose addiction to whiskey has occasioned her being injured in a nocturnal brawl. The distressed mother sits there, keeping close to her afflicted child—both looking worthy objects for the advice and medicine here bestowed. The room is well filled, and the congregation, though a small one, presents an uncommon picture of patient and impatient suffering. These people have bodies to be healed; but while giving them the best service they are able, those in office never forget that they are Christian teachers, as well as medical practitioners. Happily, our friends know their art and understand their opportunities. They know that persons benefited physically are almost certain to open their hearts to receive religious teaching. Moreover, many in the room are Romanists, who would certainly shun these precincts were no advice or medicine forthcoming. Better rot and die in squalid ignorance than be raised to respectability at the expense of imbibing Protestant teaching! So think some of the savagely bigoted teachers of these poor Irish-teachers who also say that there is less sin incurred in shooting a man than in eating meat on Friday! Still the people come, and for the sake of the good Samaritan's oil and wine listen to exhortation about the need of all sinners coming to have their souls healed at the hands of the Great Physician. A low and ignorant Romanist may risk little when he abuses a mere evangelist; he will hesitate ere he molests the medical missionary. The kindness of the Christian surgeon is of too precious a kind to be lightly valued.

The service being over, the presiding surgeon and his assistant retreat into the consulting room, a sanctum into whose precincts the patients are admitted singly, the signal to each in turn being the ringing of a table-bell. It will be as well to sit awhile and watch the examining and advising business as it progresses; for by so doing, we shall learn more about the needs, and the sins, too, of a povertystricken district, and of blessings springing from the working of a noble society, than could be done by any other means. We will take a place at the table, in the meantime keeping our friend company who has the large ledger and his pen ready to note anything about old cases, and to enter others. The superintendent, who has been favouring us with a few words of explanation, is now in readiness also-seated in an arm chair of some dignity, as becomes a medical oracle who respects his office. Ring the bell.

The bell rings, and the door is opened slowly as by a reverent hand, and forthwith there enters a middle-aged man wearing a rather woe-begone expression on his countenance. The occasion of his concern is no secret, his chest is faulty and his frame is shaken by that racking cough! He may not have been indifferent while listening a few minutes ago to what was spoken about the healing power of the Physician of souls; but the man's intensity of desire to be benefited medically is absolutely painful to behold! How minutely and carefully he answers enquiries! How his eyes are strained to catch a favourable opinion in the physician's face! Does pain hinder his sleeping at nights? Oh yes, yes; but not so badly as it did; no, no, it is not

quite so bad as it was. A few words in an undertone are spoken to our near neighbour, the clerk with the ledger, and the patient receives an order for the dispensary. He seems to leave the room with far less gloom than he brought in. A doctor's kind words are as valuable as medicine. One might almost believe that a dose of good spirits had been surreptitiously administered to this lately depressed invalid. A good beginning. Ring the bell.

The bell rings. This time the door opens to admit a stout slatternly woman of the unmistakable Cowgate type. To look at her casually you might be tempted to believe the last spark of womanliness had long since been extinguished in her heart. What leaden-looking eyes! What bleared and sottish features! Her face carries traces of recent physical suffering; but hopelessly degraded as she appears at first sight, a second and more charitable inspection shows that there lingers in her mind a genuine feminine shyness. She is averse to being too communicative on the origin of her ailment. Something has happened of which she is ashamed. She complains of soreness and of a sharp pain in the left side from which she has suffered since Saturday evening. The doctor has his suspicions of the cause; but anon, the woman's wincing and long-drawn sighs show that the examining hand has found a fractured rib!

"Had you been drinking?" enquires the gentleman.

"A wee bit, I had," replies the woman in self-accusing tones, such as we are glad to hear.

Here follow a few words on the evils and dangers attending the dissolute and drink-abandoned life so common to the Cowgate. Then the poor victim departs with an order on the dispensary, and an aching side, which, it is hoped, will testify more forcibly than verbal arguments against the evils of whiskey. Ring the bell.

The bell rings, and ushers in a mother and daughter. The woman, a middle-aged body, shows a mother's anxiety written on her face for the young thing who keeps close to her natural protector with that shyness common to childhood in the presence of a doctor. The poor little patient is debarred from society and excluded from school on account of being afflicted with skin disease over the head of an extremely rare type. The sight presented is a spectacle sufficiently disgusting to the mere visitor; but it is sure to possess extraordinary attractions for the medical gentlemen present because of its rarity. The casual visitor may turn away his head, or hold his hat before his eyes to spare quavering nerves; the others gather round, bend over, observe and criticise the symptoms with a keen interest and readiness becoming men whose art is healing, and who must gather knowledge as they go along. We are given to understand that it is an exceedingly interesting case-a most rare and perfect example! Non-medical as we are, we cordially concur in these opinions, though unable to share our companions' curiosity. Indeed, we are somewhat relieved to hear the superintendent say, Put on your hat, my dear," to the afflicted maiden, who looks as though she could not quite comprehend why she should excite so much apparent admiration. An order for admission to the infirmary, is, in this case, indispensable. In the meantime, the heavy-hearted mother walks away with some gratitude warming

[ocr errors]

her heart for the helping hand of the Medical Mission. But enough. Ring the bell.

The bell rings, and we have before us a young man whose constitution has been shaken by adverse influences. He looks as though he had been a subject of dissipation, but we cannot be certain, and may not judge. He may be reduced by misfortune; he may be even now repenting of past errors. We can only yield him our sympathy, and take notice of that same painful eagerness to be benefited observable in others who have passed before us. He takes an order to the dispensary, and again the bell rings its peremptory summons, while our superintendent rises from his consulting chair to welcome a brother surgeon who has just entered.

A short, dark-featured, sharp-eyed Irishwoman walks from the inner room, her principal costume consisting of an old snuff-coloured gown and a dirty night-cap. In a room hard by, this woman has a bedridden mother, who lies not only in extreme weakness, but endures much pain. The daughter has come for medicine and advice, and complains a little of her mother's restlessness. Look now in her face, and read.-what? If her features speak at all, do they not say, "Ah, it is a heavy cross when an active body has to nurse and work for a worn-out old relative."

Perhaps the young man at our elbow is reading something of this sort in the woman's face, for he glances up from his great ledger, and remarks drily,

"You are not kind to her.”

What is that the gentleman is saying? Not kind to a poor bedridden mother? The little Irishwoman's dark eyes sparkle with an indignation we are as gratified to see, as we were pleased to discover a few minutes ago some embers of shame in this woman's broken-ribbed neighbour. There is at least a remnant of humanity left when eyes cau speak like that, and flash an unwelcome insinuation back in your teeth, even though they are speaking falsely. The transgressor who is subject to shame is still sensible of the presence of evil. This woman, for example, winces under rebuke, and knows she has done wrong; so that notwithstanding the whiskey and every-day depravity of this sinabounding Cowgate, she has not lapsed into evil beyond reclamation. Some part of the better nature of woman is still preserved intact.

"Thin nobody's kind to her if I aint," she says with a ringing emphasis which we are afraid does not impart truth to her words, much as she would like to demonstrate that she has been wrongfully accused.

Stout denial, however, is of no avail. The phlegmatic gentleman at the great ledger is inexorable. His heart is steeled to resist the feminine art and copious vocabulary of the dark-eyed little Irishwoman. He actually repeats the offensive words slowly and emphatically, and does so too with a nonchalance which must be quite surprising to the patient;

"Ah, you are not kind to her!"

"Thin nobody's kind to her, if I ain't."

We shall not follow the dialogue that ensued. We can only hope the rebuke will tell for good; and that the unfortunate invalid, who is

lying day after day, lonely and weary, in the close dingy room yonder, will gain a little extra attention and enjoy a little more of a daughter's tenderness.

In the meantime the bell rings, rings again, and then again, and at each summons the door opens to admit from the inner room a subject of affliction, or a victim of transgression, to whom the helping hand of the Medical Mission is held out for the purpose of comforting and instructing in the way of salvation, and if possible of healing. We have only seen a small portion of one afternoon's work. The work goes on from day to day, from the beginning of the year to the close. Every day at two p.m. an afflicted and poverty-stricken congregation assembles at the dispensary to be spoken to about the healing power of the gospel, and then to be called into the audience-chamber by the tongue of the table-bell. Better than all, perhaps, the students who are trained by the kind of work we have described, take up their abode at foreign stations, while others fill their places. Such are the operations of the Edinburgh Medical Mission, a society which merits the sympathy and support of the church at large.

This Christian agency extends its influence beyond the dispensary, and the daily religious service. Thousands of visits are paid annually to the sick and to poor women, while medical skill and medicine are freely given. Great at all times, the blessings dispensed appear even more manifest when a direful epidemic sweeps over the city, as happened during the earlier months of last year. In those sad days, had it not been for such an agency as this we are told" Many would have sunk from sheer exhaustion for want of necessary food; many homes (if homes such wretched abodes can be called), with one, two, three, or four of the inmates stricken down with the pestilence, were destitute of every comfort—a bundle of straw on the floor for a bed, an old coarse sack for a blanket, no ventilation, no fire, and no food, no accommodation for the sufferers in the already over-crowded hospital, and with no help but what we were able to bestow-our Medical Mission, in these circumstances, proved a real blessing to very many."

Though the great value of medical missions as evangelizing agencies has long been acknowledged, the Edinburgh Society has been enabled only very gradually to widen the basis of its operations. It is now about fifteen years since possession was taken of the present dispensarythe extinct Magdalen Hospital-and since entering the Cowgate, the influence of the society for good has perhaps become more perceptible. The premises, however, were used as a common dispensary for some time previously to 1858 by a philanthropic physician who adopted this method of assisting the poor. The young men who were then in course of training for foreign service sought to improve their experience and confer some benefit by seconding the good doctor's endeavours. This friendly co-operation continued awhile, although "dear old 39,” as its friends call the chapel, was territory still quite independent of the mission committee. At length a change occurred, and the coveted station passed into the hands of its present managers, to become henceforth a part of their every-day machinery. It is now an actice centre of Christian work, as well as a valued house of relief for the poorest of the city where the best medical advice can be had for the asking.

« AnteriorContinuar »