The House of the Four Winds

The House of the Four Winds

by John Buchan
     
 

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Great events, says the philosophic historian, spring only from
great causes, though the immediate occasion may be small; but I
think his law must have exceptions. Of the not inconsiderable
events which I am about to chronicle, the occasion was trivial, and
I find it hard to detect the majestic agency behind them. What
world-force, for example,

Overview

Great events, says the philosophic historian, spring only from
great causes, though the immediate occasion may be small; but I
think his law must have exceptions. Of the not inconsiderable
events which I am about to chronicle, the occasion was trivial, and
I find it hard to detect the majestic agency behind them. What
world-force, for example, ordained that Mr Dickson McCunn should
slip into the Tod's Hole in his little salmon-river on a bleak
night in April; and, without changing his clothes, should
thereafter make a tour of inspection of his young lambs? His
action was the proximate cause of this tale, but I can see no
profounder explanation of it than the inherent perversity of man.

The performance had immediate consequences for Mr McCunn. He awoke
next morning with a stiff neck, an aching left shoulder, and a pain
in the small of his back--he who never in his life before had had a
touch of rheumatism. A vigorous rubbing with embrocation failed to
relieve him, and, since he was accustomed to robust health, he
found it intolerable to hobble about with a thing like a toothache
in several parts of his body. Dr Murdoch was sent for from
Auchenlochan, and for a fortnight Mr McCunn had to endure mustard
plasters and mustard baths, to swallow various medicines, and to
submit to a rigorous diet. The pains declined, but he found
himself to his disgust in a low state of general health, easily
tired, liable to sudden cramps, and with a poor appetite for his
meals. After three weeks of this condition he lost his temper.
Summer was beginning, and he reflected that, being now sixty-three
years of age, he had only a limited number of summers left to him.
His gorge rose at the thought of dragging his wing through the
coming delectable months--long-lighted June, the hot July noons
with the corncrakes busy in the hay, the days on August hills, red
with heather and musical with bees. He curbed his distaste for
medical science, and departed to Edinburgh to consult a specialist.

That specialist gave him a purifying time. He tested his blood and
his blood pressure, kneaded every part of his frame, and for the
better part of a week kept him under observation. At the end he
professed himself clear in the general but perplexed in the
particular.

"You've never been ill in your life?" he said. "Well, that is just
your trouble. You're an uncommonly strong man--heart, lungs,
circulation, digestion, all in first-class order. But it stands to
reason that you must have secreted poisons in your body, and you
have never got them out. The best prescription for a fit old age
is a bad illness in middle life, or, better still, a major
operation. It drains off some of the middle-age humours. Well,
you haven't had that luck, so you've been a powder magazine with
some nasty explosives waiting for the spark. Your tom-fool
escapade in the Stinchar provided the spark, and here you are--a
healthy man mysteriously gone sick. You've got to be pretty
careful, Mr McCunn. It depends on how you behave in the next few
months whether you will be able to fish for salmon on your
eightieth birthday, or be doddering round with two sticks and a
shawl on your seventieth."

Mr McCunn was scared, penitent and utterly docile. He professed
himself ready for the extremest measures, including the drawing of
every tooth in his head.

The specialist smiled. "I don't recommend anything so drastic.
What you want first of all is an exact diagnosis. I can assess
your general condition, but I can't put my finger on the precise
mischief. That needs a technique which we haven't developed
sufficiently in this country. Next, you must have treatment, but
treatment is a comparatively simple affair if you first get the
right diagnosis. So I am going to send you to Germany."

Mr McCunn wailed. Banishment from his beloved Blaweary was a
bitter pill.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013761773
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/14/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
226 KB

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