Very early on the morning of 21st July, she had been dozing in a chair, so far advanced in her pregnancy that she could not comfortably fall asleep. The child was kicking and tumbling inside her, as it did whenever she rested. Jessie had come in with his medicine and tried to hold the cup to his chapped lips, tried to rouse him a little, but he pushed it away. His face was so thin now that he looked all unlike himself. Even his nose seemed to have become finer, sharper.
Jean got up, steadying herself on the arm of the chair, and took the cup from Jessie. 'Rab, my dear, you need to take your medicine. It'll do you some good, ease the pain, if you can only try to swallow it.'
She sat on the edge of the bed, stroked his forehead gently, stroked the dark hair shot through with grey. Suddenly she had the strangest feeling, as though this was all unreal, as though there might be some magical place where she could turn back time, make it all different, if only she could get to it, if only she could reach it. There, he would be as she had known him at first: her strong, young lover, her husband, her man.
He woke at the sound of her voice, or perhaps her familiar touch, gazed at her, raised his head and drank a mouthful of the cordial, coughing at the bitter taste of it. He tried to say her name, recognition in his eyes for an instant, reached out his arms to her and then fell back on the bed.
'Oh Jeany,' said Jessie Lewars. 'Oh dear Jeany, I think he's gone.'
She was right.
On this day, 21st July, in 1796, Robert Burns died, probably from acute endocarditis, of which he had all the symptoms.
You can read more about Rab and his dear Jean in my novel The Jewel of which the above is an extract.