Part 1 out of 4
by Eleanor Atkinson
When the time-gun boomed from Edinburgh Castle, Bobby gave a
startled yelp. He was only a little country dog--the very
youngest and smallest and shaggiest of Skye terriers-bred on a
heathery slope of the Pentland hills, where the loudest sound was
the bark of a collie or the tinkle of a sheep-bell. That morning
he had come to the weekly market with Auld Jock, a farm laborer,
and the Grassmarket of the Scottish capital lay in the narrow
valley at the southern base of Castle Crag. Two hundred feet
above it the time-gun was mounted in the half-moon battery on an
overhanging, crescent-shaped ledge of rock. In any part of the
city the report of the one-o'clock gun was sufficiently alarming,
but in the Grassmarket it was an earth-rending explosion directly
overhead. It needed to be heard but once there to be registered
on even a little dog's brain. Bobby had heard it many times, and
he never failed to yelp a sharp protest at the outrage to his
ears; but, as the gunshot was always followed by a certain happy
event, it started in his active little mind a train of pleasant
In Bobby's day of youth, and that was in 1858, when Queen
Victoria was a happy wife and mother, with all her bairns about
her knees in Windsor or Balmoral, the Grassmarket of Edinburgh
was still a bit of the Middle Ages, as picturesquely decaying and
Gothic as German Nuremberg. Beside the classic corn exchange, it
had no modern buildings. North and south, along its greatest
length, the sunken quadrangle was faced by tall, old,
timber-fronted houses of stone, plastered like swallows' nests to
the rocky slopes behind them.
Across the eastern end, where the valley suddenly narrowed to the
ravine-like street of the Cowgate, the market was spanned by the
lofty, crowded arches of George IV Bridge. This high-hung,
viaduct thoroughfare, that carried a double line of buildings
within its parapet, leaped the gorge, from the tall, old, Gothic
rookeries on High Street ridge, just below the Castle esplanade.
It cleared the roofs of the tallest, oldest houses that swarmed
up the steep banks from the Cowgate, and ran on, by easy descent,
to the main gateway of Greyfriars kirkyard at the lower top of
the southern rise.
Greyfriars' two kirks formed together, under one continuous roof,
a long, low, buttressed building without tower or spire. The new
kirk was of Queen Anne's day, but the old kirk was built before
ever the Pilgrims set sail for America. It had been but one of
several sacred buildings, set in a monastery garden that sloped
pleasantly to the open valley of the Grassmarket, and looked up
the Castle heights unhindered. In Bobby's day this garden had
shrunk to a long, narrow, high-piled burying-ground, that
extended from the rear of the line of buildings that fronted on
the market, up the slope, across the hilltop, and to where the
land began to fall away again, down the Burghmuir. From the
Grassmarket, kirk and kirkyard lay hidden behind and above the
crumbling grandeur of noble halls and mansions that had fallen to
the grimiest tenements of Edinburgh's slums. From the end of the
bridge approach there was a glimpse of massive walls, of pointed
windows, and of monumental tombs through a double-leafed gate of
wrought iron, that was alcoved and wedged in between the ancient
guildhall of the candlemakers and a row of prosperous little
shops in Greyfriars Place.
A rock-rimmed quarry pit, in the very heart of Old Edinburgh, the
Grassmarket was a place of historic echoes. The yelp of a little
dog there would scarce seem worthy of record. More in harmony
with its stirring history was the report of the time-gun. At one
o'clock every day, there was a puff of smoke high up in the blue
or gray or squally sky, then a deafening crash and a back fire
fusillade of echoes. The oldest frequenter of the market never
got used to it. On Wednesday, as the shot broke across the babel
of shrill bargaining, every man in the place jumped, and not one
was quicker of recovery than wee Bobby. Instantly ashamed, as an
intelligent little dog who knew the import of the gun should be,
Bobby denied his alarm in a tiny pink yawn of boredom. Then he
went briskly about his urgent business of finding Auld Jock.
The market was closed. In five minutes the great open space was
as empty of living men as Greyfriars kirkyard on a week-day.
Drovers and hostlers disappeared at once into the cheap and noisy
entertainment of the White Hart Inn that fronted the market and
set its squalid back against Castle Rock. Farmers rapidly
deserted it for the clean country. Dwellers in the tenements
darted up wynds and blind closes, climbed twisting turnpike
stairs to windy roosts under the gables, or they scuttled through
noble doors into foul courts and hallways. Beggars and
pickpockets swarmed under the arches of the bridge, to swell the
evil smelling human river that flowed at the dark and slimy
bottom of the Cowgate.
A chill November wind tore at the creaking iron cross of the
Knights of St. John, on the highest gable of the Temple
tenements, that turned its decaying back on the kirkyard of the
Greyfriars. Low clouds were tangled and torn on the Castle
battlements. A few horses stood about, munching oats from
feed-boxes. Flocks of sparrows fluttered down from timbered
galleries and rocky ledges to feast on scattered grain. Swallows
wheeled in wide, descending spirals from mud villages under the
cornices to catch flies. Rats scurried out of holes and gleaned
in the deserted corn exchange. And 'round and 'round the empty
market-place raced the frantic little terrier in search of Auld
Bobby knew, as well as any man, that it was the dinner hour. With
the time-gun it was Auld Jock's custom to go up to a snug little
restaurant; that was patronized chiefly by the decent poor small
shopkeepers, clerks, tenant farmers, and medical students living
in cheap lodgings--in Greyfriars Place. There, in Ye Olde
Greyfriars Dining-Rooms, owned by Mr. John Traill, and four doors
beyond the kirkyard gate, was a cozy little inglenook that Auld
Jock and Bobby had come to look upon as their own. At its back,
above a recessed oaken settle and a table, a tiny paned window
looked up and over a retaining wall into the ancient place of the
The view of the heaped-up and crowded mounds and thickets of old
slabs and throughstones, girt all about by time-stained monuments
and vaults, and shut in on the north and east by the backs of
shops and lofty slum tenements, could not be said to be cheerful.
It suited Auld Jock, however, for what mind he had was of a
melancholy turn. From his place on the floor, between his
master's hob-nailed boots, Bobby could not see the kirkyard, but
it would not, in any case, have depressed his spirits. He did not
know the face of death and, a merry little ruffian of a terrier,
he was ready for any adventure.
On the stone gate pillar was a notice in plain English that no
dogs were permitted in Greyfriars. As well as if he could read,
Bobby knew that the kirkyard was forbidden ground. He had learned
that by bitter experience. Once, when the little wicket gate that
held the two tall leaves ajar by day, chanced to be open, he had
joyously chased a cat across the graves and over the western wall
onto the broad green lawn of Heriot's Hospital.
There the little dog's escapade bred other mischief, for Heriot's
Hospital was not a hospital at all, in the modern English sense
of being a refuge for the sick. Built and christened in a day
when a Stuart king reigned in Holyrood Palace, and French was
spoken in the Scottish court, Heriot's was a splendid pile of a
charity school, all towers and battlements, and cheerful color,
and countless beautiful windows. Endowed by a beruffed and
doubleted goldsmith, "Jinglin' Geordie" Heriot, who had "nae
brave laddie o' his ain," it was devoted to the care and
education of "puir orphan an' faderless boys." There it had stood
for more than two centuries, in a spacious park, like the
country-seat of a Lowland laird, but hemmed in by sordid markets
and swarming slums. The region round about furnished an unfailing
supply of "puir orphan an' faderless boys" who were as
light-hearted and irresponsible as Bobby.
Hundreds of the Heriot laddies were out in the noon recess,
playing cricket and leap-frog, when Bobby chased that unlucky cat
over the kirkyard wall. He could go no farther himself, but the
laddies took up the pursuit, yelling like Highland clans of old
in a foray across the border. The unholy din disturbed the sacred
peace of the kirkyard. Bobby dashed back, barking furiously, in
pure exuberance of spirits. He tumbled gaily over grassy
hummocks, frisked saucily around terrifying old mausoleums,
wriggled under the most enticing of low-set table tombs and
sprawled, exhausted, but still happy and noisy, at Auld Jock's
It was a scandalous thing to happen in any kirkyard! The angry
caretaker was instantly out of his little stone lodge by the gate
and taking Auld Jock sharply to task for Bobby's misbehavior.
The pious old shepherd, shocked him self and publicly disgraced,
stood, bonnet in hand, humbly apologetic. Seeing that his master
was getting the worst of it, Bobby rushed into the fray, an
animated little muff of pluck and fury, and nipped the
caretaker's shins. There was a howl of pain, and a "maist michty"
word that made the ancient tombs stand aghast. Master and dog
were hustled outside the gate and into a rabble of jeering slum
What a to-do about a miserable cat! To Bobby there was no logic
at all in the denouement to this swift, exciting drama. But he
understood Auld Jock's shame and displeasure perfectly.
Good-tempered as he was gay and clever, the little dog took his
punishment meekly, and he remembered it. Thereafter, he passed
the kirk yard gate decorously. If he saw a cat that needed
harrying he merely licked his little red chops--the outward sign
of a desperate self-control. And, a true sport, he bore no malice
toward the caretaker.
During that first summer of his life Bobby learned many things.
He learned that he might chase rabbits, squirrels and moor-fowl,
and sea-gulls and whaups that came up to feed in plowed fields.
Rats and mice around byre and dairy were legitimate prey; but he
learned that he must not annoy sheep and sheep-dogs, nor cattle,
horses and chickens. And he discovered that, unless he hung close
to Auld Jock's heels, his freedom was in danger from a wee lassie
who adored him. He was no lady's lap-dog. From the bairnie's soft
cosseting he aye fled to Auld Jock and the rough hospitality of
the sheep fold. Being exact opposites in temperaments, but alike
in tastes, Bobby and Auld Jock were inseparable. In the quiet
corner of Mr. Traill's crowded dining-room they spent the one
idle hour of the week together, happily. Bobby had the leavings
of a herring or haddie, for a rough little Skye will eat anything
from smoked fish to moor-fowl eggs, and he had the tidbit of a
farthing bone to worry at his leisure. Auld Jock smoked his cutty
pipe, gazed at the fire or into the kirk-yard, and meditated on
nothing in particular.
In some strange way that no dog could understand, Bobby had been
separated from Auld Jock that November morning. The tenant of
Cauldbrae farm had driven the cart in, himself, and that was
unusual. Immediately he had driven out again, leaving Auld Jock
behind, and that was quite outside Bobby's brief experience of
life. Beguiled to the lofty and coveted driver's seat where, with
lolling tongue, he could view this interesting world between the
horse's ears, Bobby had been spirited out of the city and carried
all the way down and up to the hilltop toll-bar of Fairmilehead.
It could not occur to his loyal little heart that this treachery
was planned nor, stanch little democrat that he was, that the
farmer was really his owner, and that he could not follow a
humbler master of his own choosing. He might have been carried to
the distant farm, and shut safely in the byre with the cows for
the night, but for an incautious remark of the farmer. With the
first scent of the native heather the horse quickened his pace,
and, at sight of the purple slopes of the Pentlands looming
homeward, a fond thought at the back of the man's mind very
naturally took shape in speech.
"Eh, Bobby; the wee lassie wull be at the tap o' the brae to race
Bobby pricked his drop ears. Within a narrow limit, and
concerning familiar things, the understanding of human speech by
these intelligent little terriers is very truly remarkable. At
mention of the wee lassie he looked behind for his rough old
friend and unfailing refuge. Auld Jock's absence discovered,
Bobby promptly dropped from the seat of honor and from the cart
tail, sniffed the smoke of Edinboro' town and faced right about.
To the farmer's peremptory call he returned the spicy repartee of
a cheerful bark. It was as much as to say:
"Dinna fash yersel'! I ken what I'm aboot."
After an hour's hard run back over the dipping and rising country
road and a long quarter circuit of the city, Bobby found the
high-walled, winding way into the west end of the Grassmarket. To
a human being afoot there was a shorter cut, but the little dog
could only retrace the familiar route of the farm carts. It was a
notable feat for a small creature whose tufted legs were not more
than six inches in length, whose thatch of long hair almost swept
the roadway and caught at every burr and bramble, and who was
still so young that his nose could not be said to be educated.
In the market-place he ran here and there through the crowd,
hopefully investigating narrow closes that were mere rifts in
precipices of buildings; nosing outside stairs, doorways,
stables, bridge arches, standing carts, and even hob-nailed
boots. He yelped at the crash of the gun, but it was another
matter altogether that set his little heart to palpitating with
alarm. It was the dinner-hour, and where was Auld Jock?
Ah! A happy thought: his master had gone to dinner!
A human friend would have resented the idea of such base
desertion and sulked. But in a little dog's heart of trust there
is no room for suspicion. The thought simply lent wings to
Bobby's tired feet. As the market-place emptied he chased at the
heels of laggards, up the crescent-shaped rise of Candlemakers
Row, and straight on to the familiar dining-rooms. Through the
forest of table and chair and human legs he made his way to the
back, to find a soldier from the Castle, in smart red coat and
polished boots, lounging in Auld Jock's inglenook.
Bobby stood stock still for a shocked instant. Then he howled
dismally and bolted for the door. Mr. John Traill, the
smooth-shaven, hatchet-faced proprietor, standing midway in
shirtsleeves and white apron, caught the flying terrier between
his legs and gave him a friendly clap on the side.
"Did you come by your ainsel' with a farthing in your silky-purse
ear to buy a bone, Bobby? Whaur's Auld Jock?"
A fear may be crowded back into the mind and stoutly denied so
long as it is not named. At the good landlord's very natural
question "Whaur's Auld Jock?" there was the shape of the little
dog's fear that he had lost his master. With a whimpering cry he
struggled free. Out of the door he went, like a shot. He tumbled
down the steep curve and doubled on his tracks around the
At his onslaught, the sparrows rose like brown leaves on a gust
of wind, and drifted down again. A cold mist veiled the Castle
heights. From the stone crown of the ancient Cathedral of St.
Giles, on High Street, floated the melody of "The Bluebells of
Scotland." No day was too bleak for bell-ringer McLeod to climb
the shaking ladder in the windy tower and play the music bells
during the hour that Edinburgh dined. Bobby forgot to dine that
day, first in his distracted search, and then in his joy of
finding his master.
For, all at once, in the very strangest place, in the very
strangest way, Bobby came upon Auld Jock. A rat scurrying out
from a foul and narrow passage that gave to the rear of the
White Hart Inn, pointed the little dog to a nook hitherto
undiscovered by his curious nose. Hidden away between the noisy
tavern and the grim, island crag was the old cock-fighting pit of
a ruder day. There, in a broken-down carrier's cart, abandoned
among the nameless abominations of publichouse refuse, Auld Jock
lay huddled in his greatcoat of hodden gray and his shepherd's
plaid. On a bundle of clothing tied in a tartan kerchief for a
pillow, he lay very still and breathing heavily.
Bobby barked as if he would burst his lungs. He barked so long,
so loud, and so furiously, running 'round and 'round the cart and
under it and yelping at every turn, that a slatternly scullery
maid opened a door and angrily bade him "no' to deave folk wi'
'is blatterin'." Auld Jock she did not see at all in the murky
pit or, if she saw him, thought him some drunken foreign sailor
from Leith harbor. When she went in, she slammed the door and
lighted the gas.
Whether from some instinct of protection of his helpless master
in that foul and hostile place, or because barking had proved to
be of no use Bobby sat back on his haunches and considered this
strange, disquieting thing. It was not like Auld Jock to sleep in
the daytime, or so soundly, at any time, that barking would not
awaken him. A clever and resourceful dog, Bobby crouched back
against the farthest wall, took a running leap to the top of the
low boots, dug his claws into the stout, home knitted stockings,
and scrambled up over Auld Jock's legs into the cart. In an
instant he poked his little black mop of a wet muzzle into his
master's face and barked once, sharply, in his ear.
To Bobby's delight Auld Jock sat up and blinked his eyes. The old
eyes were brighter, the grizzled face redder than was natural,
but such matters were quite outside of the little dog's ken. It
was a dazed moment before the man remembered that Bobby should
not be there. He frowned down at the excited little creature, who
was wagging satisfaction from his nose-tip to the end of his
crested tail, in a puzzled effort to remember why.
"Eh, Bobby!" His tone was one of vague reproof. "Nae doot ye're
fair satisfied wi' yer ainsel'."
Bobby's feathered tail drooped, but it still quivered, all ready
to wag again at the slightest encouragement. Auld Jock stared at
him stupidly, his dizzy head in his hands. A very tired, very
draggled little dog, Bobby dropped beside his master, panting,
subdued by the reproach, but happy. His soft eyes, veiled by the
silvery fringe that fell from his high forehead, were deep brown
pools of affection. Auld Jock forgot, by and by, that Bobby
should not be there, and felt only the comfort of his
"Weel, Bobby," he began again, uncertainly. And then, because his
Scotch peasant reticence had been quite broken down by Bobby's
shameless devotion, so that he told the little dog many things
that he cannily concealed from human kind, he confided the
strange weakness and dizziness in the head that had overtaken
him: "Auld Jock is juist fair silly the day, bonny wee laddie."
Down came a shaking, hot old hand in a rough caress, and up a
gallant young tail to wave like a banner. All was right with the
little dog's world again. But it was plain, even to Bobby, that
something had gone wrong with Auld Jock. It was the man who wore
the air of a culprit. A Scotch laborer does not lightly confess
to feeling "fair silly," nor sleep away the busy hours of
daylight. The old man was puzzled and humiliated by this
discreditable thing. A human friend would have understood his
plight, led the fevered man out of that bleak and fetid
cul-de-sac, tucked him into a warm bed, comforted him with a hot
drink, and then gone swiftly for skilled help. Bobby knew only
that his master had unusual need of love.
Very, very early a dog learns that life is not as simple a matter
to his master as it is to himself. There are times when he reads
trouble, that he cannot help or understand, in the man's eye and
voice. Then he can only look his love and loyalty, wistfully, as
if he felt his own shortcoming in the matter of speech. And if
the trouble is so great that the master forgets to eat his
dinner; forgets, also, the needs of his faithful little friend,
it is the dog's dear privilege to bear neglect and hunger without
complaint. Therefore, when Auld Jock lay down again and sank,
almost at once, into sodden sleep, Bobby snuggled in the hollow
of his master's arm and nuzzled his nose in his master's neck.
While the bells played "There Grows a Bonny Briarbush in Our Kale
Yard," Auld Jock and Bobby slept. They slept while the tavern
emptied itself of noisy guests and clattering crockery was
washed at the dingy, gas-lighted windows that overlooked the
cockpit. They slept while the cold fell with the falling day and
the mist was whipped into driving rain. Almost a cave, between
shelving rock and house wall, a gust of wind still found its way
in now and then. At a splash of rain Auld Jock stirred uneasily
in his sleep. Bobby merely sniffed the freshened air with
pleasure and curled himself up for an other nap.
No rain could wet Bobby. Under his rough outer coat, that was
parted along the back as neatly as the thatch along a cottage
ridge-pole, was a dense, woolly fleece that defied wind and rain,
snow and sleet to penetrate. He could not know that nature had
not been as generous in protecting his master against the
weather. Although of a subarctic breed, fitted to live
shelterless if need be, and to earn his living by native wit,
Bobby had the beauty, the grace, and the charming manners of a
lady's pet. In a litter of prick-eared, wire-haired puppies Bobby
was a "sport."
It is said that some of the ships of the Spanish Armada,
with French poodles in the officers' cabins, were blown far north
and west, and broken up on the icy coasts of The Hebrides and
Skye. Some such crossing of his far-away ancestry, it would
seem, had given a greater length and a crisp wave to Bobby's
outer coat, dropped and silkily fringed his ears, and powdered
his useful, slate-gray color with silver frost. But he had the
hardiness and intelligence of the sturdier breed, and the
instinct of devotion to the working master. So he had turned from
a soft-hearted bit lassie of a mistress, and the cozy chimney
corner of the farm-house kitchen, and linked his fortunes with
this forlorn old laborer.
A grizzled, gnarled little man was Auld Jock, of tough fiber, but
worn out at last by fifty winters as a shepherd on the bleak
hills of Midlothian and Fife, and a dozen more in the low stables
and storm-buffeted garrets of Edinburgh. He had come into the
world unnoted in a shepherd's lonely cot. With little wit of mind
or skill of hand he had been a common tool, used by this master
and that for the roughest tasks, when needed, put aside, passed
on, and dropped out of mind. Nothing ever belonged to the man but
his scant earnings. Wifeless, cotless, bairnless, he had slept,
since early boyhood, under strange roofs, eaten the bread of the
hireling, and sat dumb at other men's firesides. If he had
another name it had been forgotten. In youth he was Jock; in age,
In his sixty-third summer there was a belated blooming in Auld
Jock's soul. Out of some miraculous caprice Bobby lavished on him
a riotous affection. Then up out of the man's subconscious memory
came words learned from the lips of a long-forgotten mother. They
were words not meant for little dogs at all, but for sweetheart,
wife and bairn. Auld Jock used them cautiously, fearing to be
overheard, for the matter was a subject of wonder and rough jest
at the farm. He used them when Bobby followed him at the
plow-tail or scampered over the heather with him behind the
flocks. He used them on the market-day journeyings, and on summer
nights, when the sea wind came sweetly from the broad Firth and
the two slept, like vagabonds, on a haycock under the stars. The
purest pleasure Auld Jock ever knew was the taking of a bright
farthing from his pocket to pay for Bobby's delectable bone in
Mr. Traill's place.
Given what was due him that morning and dismissed for the season
to find such work as he could in the city, Auld Jock did not
question the farmer's right to take Bobby "back hame." Besides,
what could he do with the noisy little rascal in an Edinburgh
lodging? But, duller of wit than usual, feeling very old and
lonely, and shaky on his legs, and dizzy in his head, Auld Jock
parted with Bobby and with his courage, together. With the
instinct of the dumb animal that suffers, he stumbled into the
foul nook and fell, almost at once, into a heavy sleep. Out of
that Bobby roused him but briefly.
Long before his master awoke, Bobby finished his series of
refreshing little naps, sat up, yawned, stretched his short,
shaggy legs, sniffed at Auld Jock experimentally, and trotted
around the bed of the cart on a tour of investigation. This
proving to be of small interest and no profit, he lay down again
beside his master, nose on paws, and waited Auld Jock's pleasure
patiently. A sweep of drenching rain brought the old man suddenly
to his feet and stumbling into the market place. The alert little
dog tumbled about him, barking ecstatically. The fever was gone
and Auld Jock's head quite clear; but in its place was a
weakness, an aching of the limbs, a weight on the chest, and a
Although the bell of St. Giles was just striking the hour of
five, it was already entirely dark. A lamp-lighter, with ladder
and torch, was setting a double line of gas jets to flaring along
the lofty parapets of the bridge. If the Grassmarket was a quarry
pit by day, on a night of storm it was the. bottom of a
reservoir. The height of the walls was marked by a luminous crown
from many lights above the Castle head, and by a student's dim
candle, here and there, at a garret window. The huge bulk of the
bridge cast a shadow, velvet black, across the eastern half of
Had not Bobby gone before and barked, and run back, again and
again, and jumped up on Auld Jock's legs, the man might never
have won his way across the drowned place, in the inky blackness
and against the slanted blast of icy rain. When he gained the
foot of Candlemakers Row, a crescent of tall, old houses that
curved upward around the lower end of Greyfriars kirkyard, water
poured upon him from the heavy timbered gallery of the Cunzie
Neuk, once the royal mint. The carting office that occupied the
street floor was closed, or Auld Jock would have sought shelter
there. He struggled up the rise, made slippery by rain and grime.
Then, as the street turned southward in its easy curve, there was
some shelter from the house walls. But Auld Jock was quite
exhausted and incapable of caring for himself. In the ancient
guildhall of the candlemakers, at the top of the Row, was another
carting office and Harrow Inn, a resort of country carriers. The
man would have gone in there where he was quite unknown or,
indeed, he might even have lain down in the bleak court that gave
access to the tenements above, but for Bobby's persistent and
cheerful barking, begging and nipping.
"Maister, maister!" he said, as plainly as a little dog could
speak, "dinna bide here. It's juist a stap or two to food an'
fire in' the cozy auld ingleneuk."
And then, the level. roadway won at last, there was the railing
of the bridge-approach to cling to, on the one hand, and the
upright bars of the kirkyard gate on the other. By the help of
these and the urging of wee Bobby, Auld Jock came the short,
steep way up out of the market, to the row of lighted shops in
With the wind at the back and above the housetops, Mr. Traill
stood bare-headed in a dry haven of peace in his doorway,
firelight behind him, and welcome in his shrewd gray eyes. If
Auld Jock had shown any intention of going by, it is not
impossible that the landlord of Ye Olde Greyfriars Dining-Rooms
might have dragged him in bodily. The storm had driven all his
customers home. For an hour there had not been a soul in the
place to speak to, and it was so entirely necessary for John
Traill to hear his own voice that he had been known, in such
straits, to talk to himself. Auld Jock was not an inspiring
auditor, but a deal better than naething ; and, if he proved
hopeless, entertainment was to be found in Bobby. So Mr. Traill
bustled in before his guests, poked the open fire into leaping
flames, and heaped it up skillfully at the back with fresh coals.
The good landlord turned from his hospitable task to find Auld
Jock streaming and shaking on the hearth.
"Man, but you're wet!" he exclaimed. He hustled the 'old shepherd
out of his dripping plaid and greatcoat and spread them to the
blaze. Auld Jock found a dry, knitted Tam-o'-Shanter bonnet in
his little bundle and set it on his head. It was a moment or two
before he could speak without the humiliating betrayal of
"Ay, it's a misty nicht," he admitted, with caution.
"Misty! Man, it's raining like all the seven deils were abroad."
Having delivered himself of this violent opinion, Mr. Traill fell
into his usual philosophic vein. "I have sma' patience with the
Scotch way of making little of everything. If Noah had been a
Lowland Scot he'd 'a' said the deluge was juist fair wet."'
He laughed at his own wit, his thin-featured face and keen gray
eyes lighting up to a kindliness that his brusque speech denied
in vain. He had a fluency of good English at command that he
would. have thought ostentatious to use in speaking with a simple
Auld Jock stared at Mr. Traill and pondered the matter. By and by
he asked: "Wasna the deluge fair wet?"
The landlord sighed but, brought to book like that, admitted that
it was. Conversation flagged, however, while he busied himself
with toasting a smoked herring, and dragging roasted potatoes
from the little iron oven that was fitted into the brickwork of
the fireplace beside the grate.
Bobby was attending to his own entertainment. The familiar place
wore a new and enchanting aspect, and needed instant exploration.
By day it was fitted with tables, picketed by chairs and all
manner of boots. Noisy and crowded, a little dog that wandered
about there was liable to be trodden upon. On that night of storm
it was a vast, bright place, so silent one could hear the ticking
of the wag-at-the-wa' clock, the crisp crackling of the flames,
and the snapping of the coals. The uncovered deal tables were set
back in a double line along one wall, with the chairs piled on
top, leaving a wide passage of freshly scrubbed and sanded oaken
floor from the door to the fireplace. Firelight danced on the
dark old wainscoting and high, carved overmantel, winked on rows
of drinking mugs and metal covers over cold meats on the buffet,
and even picked out the gilt titles on the backs of a shelf of
books in Mr. Traill's private corner behind the bar.
Bobby shook himself on the hearth to free his rain-coat of
surplus water. To the landlord's dry "We're no' needing a shower
in the house. Lie down, Bobby," he wagged his tail politely, as a
sign that he heard. But, as Auld Jock did not repeat the order,
he ignored it and scampered busily about the room, leaving little
trails of wet behind him.
This grill-room of Traill's place was more like the parlor of a
country inn, or a farm-house kitchen if there had been a built-in
bed or two, than a restaurant in the city. There, a humble man
might see his herring toasted, his bannocks baked on the
oven-top, or his tea brewed to his liking. On such a night as
this the landlord would pull the settle out of the inglenook to
the set before the solitary guest a small table, and keep the
kettle on the hob.
"Spread yoursel' on both sides o' the fire, man. There'll be nane
to keep us company, I'm thinking. Ilka man that has a roof o' his
ain will be wearing it for a bonnet the nicht."
As there was no answer to this, the skilled conversational angler
dropped a bit of bait that the wariest man must rise to.
"That's a vera intelligent bit dog, Auld Jock. He was here with
the time-gun spiering for you. When he didna find you he greeted
like a bairn."
Auld Jock, huddled in the corner of the settle, so near the fire
that his jacket smoked, took so long a time to find an answer
that Mr. Traill looked at him keenly as he set the wooden plate
and pewter mug on the table.
"Man, you're vera ill," he cried, sharply. In truth he was
shocked and self-accusing because he had not observed Auld Jock's
"I'm no' so awfu' ill," came back in irritated denial, as if he
had been accused of some misbehavior.
"Weel, it's no' a dry herrin' ye'll hae in my shop the nicht.
It's a hot mutton broo wi' porridge in it, an' bits o' meat to
tak' the cauld oot o' yer auld banes."
And there, the plate was whisked away, and the cover lifted from
a bubbling pot, and the kettle was over the fire for the brewing
of tea. At a peremptory order the soaked boots and stockings were
off, and dry socks found in the kerchief bundle. Auld Jock was
used to taking orders from his superiors, and offered no
resistance to being hustled after this manner into warmth and
good cheer. Besides, who could have withstood that flood of
homely speech on which the good landlord came right down to the
old shepherd's humble level? Such warm feeling was established
that Mr. Traill quite forgot his usual caution and certain
well-known prejudices of old country bodies.
"Noo," he said cheerfully, as he set the hot broth on the table,
"ye maun juist hae a doctor."
A doctor is the last resort of the unlettered poor. The very
threat of one to the Scotch peasant of a half-century ago was a
sentence of death. Auld Jock blanched, and he shook so that he
dropped his spoon. Mr. Traill hastened to undo the mischief.
"It's no' a doctor ye'll be needing, ava, but a bit dose o'
physic an' a bed in the infirmary a day or twa."
"I wullna gang to the infairmary. It's juist for puir toon bodies
that are aye ailin' an' deein'." Fright and resentment lent the
silent old man an astonishing eloquence for the moment. "Ye wadna
gang to the infairmary yer ainsel', an' tak' charity."
"Would I no'? I would go if I so much as cut my sma' finger; and
I would let a student laddie bind it up for me."
"Weel, ye're a saft ane," said Auld Jock.
It was a terrible word--"saft!" John Traill flushed darkly, and
relapsed into discouraged silence. Deep down in his heart he knew
that a regiment of soldiers from the Castle could not take him
alive, a free patient, into the infirmary.
But what was one to do but "lee," right heartily, for the good of
this very sick, very poor, homeless old man on a night of
pitiless storm? That he had "lee'd" to no purpose and got a
"saft" name for it was a blow to his pride.
Hearing the clatter of fork and spoon, Bobby trotted from behind
the bar and saved the day of discomfiture. Time for dinner,
indeed! Up he came on his hind legs and politely begged his
master for food. It was the prettiest thing he could do, and the
landlord delighted in him.
"Gie 'im a penny plate o' the gude broo," said Auld Jock, and he
took the copper coin from his pocket to pay for it. He forgot his
own meal in watching the hungry little creature eat. Warmed
and softened by Mr. Traill's kindness, and by the heartening
food, Auld Jock betrayed a thought that had rankled in the depths
of his mind all day.
"Bobby isna ma ain dog." His voice was dull and unhappy.
Ah, here was misery deeper than any physical ill! The penny was
his, a senseless thing; but, poor, old, sick, hameless and
kinless, the little dog that loved and followed him "wasna his
ain." To hide the huskiness in his own voice Mr. Traill relapsed
into broad, burry Scotch.
"Dinna fash yersel', man. The wee beastie is maist michty fond o'
ye, an' ilka dog aye chooses 'is ain maister."
Auld Jock shook his head and gave a brief account of Bobby's
perversity. On the very next market-day the little dog must be
restored to the tenant of Cauldbrae farm and, if necessary, tied
in the cart. It was unlikely, young as he was, that he would try
to find his way back, all the way from near the top of the
Pentlands. In a day or two he would forget Auld Jock.
"I canna say it wullna be sair partin'--" And then, seeing the
sympathy in the landlord's eye and fearing a disgraceful
breakdown, Auld Jock checked his self betrayal. During the talk
Bobby stood listening. At the abrupt ending, he put his shagged
paws up on Auld Jock's knee, wistfully inquiring about this
emotional matter. Then he dropped soberly, and slunk away under
his master's chair.
"Ay, he kens we're talkin' aboot 'im."
"He's a knowing bit dog. Have you attended to his sairous
"Nae, he's ower young."
"Young is aye the time to teach a dog or a bairn that life is no'
all play. Man, you should put a sma' terrier at the vermin an'
mak' him usefu'."
"It's eneugh, gin he's gude company for the wee lassie wha's fair
fond o' 'im," Auld Jock answered, briefly. This was a strange
sentiment from the work-broken old man who, for himself, would
have held ornamental idleness sinful. He finished his supper in
brooding silence. At last he broke out in a peevish irritation
that only made his grief at parting with Bobby more apparent to
an understanding man like Mr. Traill.
"I dinna ken what to do wi' 'im i' an Edinburgh lodgin' the
nicht. The auld wifie I lodge wi' is dour by the ordinar', an'
wadna bide 'is blatterin'. I couldna get 'im past 'er auld een,
an' thae terriers are aye barkin' aboot naethin' ava."
Mr. Traill's eyes sparkled at recollection of an apt literary
story to which Dr. John Brown had given currency. Like many
Edinburgh shopkeepers, Mr. Traill was a man of superior education
and an omnivorous reader. And he had many customers from the
near-by University to give him a fund of stories of Scotch
writers and other worthies.
"You have a double plaid, man?"
"Ay. Ilka shepherd's got a twa-fold plaidie." It seemed a foolish
question to Auld Jock, but Mr. Traill went on blithely.
"There's a pocket in the plaid--ane end left open at the side to
mak' a pouch? Nae doubt you've carried mony a thing in that
'Nae, no' so mony. Juist the new-born lambs."
"Weel, Sir Walter had a shepherd's plaid, and there was a bit
lassie he was vera fond of Syne, when he had been at the writing
a' the day, and was aff his heid like, with too mony thoughts,
he'd go across the town and fetch the bairnie to keep him
company. She was a weel-born lassie, sax or seven years auld, and
sma' of her age, but no' half as sma' as Bobby, I'm thinking." He
stopped to let this significant comparison sink into Auld Jock's
mind. "The lassie had nae liking for the unmannerly wind and snaw
of Edinburgh. So Sir Walter just happed her in the pouch of his
plaid, and tumbled her out, snug as a lamb and nane the wiser, in
the big room wha's walls were lined with books."
Auld Jock betrayed not a glimmer of intelligence as to the
personal bearing of the story, but he showed polite interest. "I
ken naethin' aboot Sir Walter or ony o' the grand folk." Mr.
Traill sighed, cleared the table in silence, and mended the fire.
It was ill having no one to talk to but a simple old body who
couldn't put two and two together and make four.
The landlord lighted his pipe meditatively, and he lighted his
cruisey lamp for reading. Auld Jock was dry and warm again; oh,
very, very warm, so that he presently fell into a doze. The
dining-room was so compassed on all sides but the front by
neighboring house and kirkyard wall and by the floors above, that
only a murmur of the storm penetrated it. It was so quiet,
indeed, that a tiny, scratching sound in a distant corner was
heard distinctly. A streak of dark silver, as of animated
mercury, Bobby flashed past. A scuffle, a squeak, and he was back
again, dropping a big rat at the landlord's feet and, wagging his
tail with pride.
"Weel done, Bobby! There's a bite and a bone for you here ony
time o' day you call for it. Ay, a sensible bit dog will attend
to his ain education and mak' himsel' usefu'."
Mr. Traill felt a sudden access of warm liking for the attractive
little scrap of knowingness and pluck. He patted the tousled
head, but Bobby backed away. He had no mind to be caressed by any
man beside his master. After a moment the landlord took "Guy
Mannering" down from the book-shelf. Knowing his "Waverley" by
heart, he turned at once to the passages about Dandie Dinmont and
his terriers--Mustard and Pepper and other spicy wee rascals.
"Ay, terriers are sonsie, leal dogs. Auld Jock will have ane true
mourner at his funeral. I would no' mind if--"
On impulse he got up and dropped a couple of hard Scotch buns,
very good dog-biscuit, indeed, into the pocket of Auld Jock's
greatcoat for Bobby. The old man might not be able to be out the
morn. With the thought in his mind that some one should keep a
friendly eye on the man, he mended the fire with such an
unnecessary clattering of the tongs that Auld Jock started from
his sleep with a cry.
"Whaur is it you have your lodging, Jock?" the landlord asked,
sharply, for the man looked so dazed that his understanding was
not to be reached easily. He got the indefinite information that
it was at the top of one of the tall, old tenements "juist aff
"A lang climb for an auld man," John Traill said,
compassionately; then, optimistic as usual, "but it's a lang
climb or a foul smell, in the poor quarters of Edinburgh."
"Ay. It's weel aboon the fou' smell." With some comforting
thought that he did not confide to Mr. Traill but that ironed
lines out of his old face, Auld Jock went to sleep again. Well,
the landlord reflected, he could remain there by the fire until
the closing hour or later, if need be, and by that time the storm
might ease a bit, so that he could get to his lodging without
For an hour the place was silent, except for the falling clinkers
from the grate, the rustling of book-leaves, and the plumping of
rain on the windows, when the wind shifted a point. Lost in the
romance, Mr. Traill took no note of the passing time or of his
quiet guests until he felt a little tug at his trouser-leg.
"Eh, laddie?" he questioned. Up the little dog rose in the
begging attitude. Then, with a sharp bark, he dashed back to his
Something was very wrong, indeed. Auld Jock had sunk down in his
seat. His arms hung helplessly over the end and back of the
settle, and his legs were sprawled limply before him. The bonnet
that he always wore, outdoors and in, had fallen from his scant,
gray locks, and his head had dropped forward on his chest. His
breathing was labored, and he muttered in his sleep.
In a moment Mr. Traill was inside his own greatcoat, storm boots
and bonnet. At the door he turned back. The shop was unguarded.
Although Greyfriars Place lay on the hilltop, with the sanctuary
of the kirkyard behind it, and the University at no great
distance in front, it was but a step up from the thief-infested
gorge of the Cowgate. The landlord locked his moneydrawer, pushed
his easy-chair against it, and roused Auld Jock so far as to move
him over from the settle. The chief responsibility he laid on the
anxious little dog, that watched his every movement.
"Lie down, Bobby, and mind Auld Jock. And you're no' a gude dog
if you canna bark to waken the dead in the kirkyard, if ony
strange body comes about."
"Whaur are ye gangin'?" cried Auld Jock. He was wide awake, with
burning, suspicious eyes fixed on his host.
"Sit you down, man, with your back to my siller. I'm going for a
doctor." The noise of the storm, as he opened the door, prevented
his hearing the frightened protest:
The rain had turned to sleet, and Mr. Traill had trouble in
keeping his feet. He looked first into the famous Book Hunter's
Stall next door, on the chance of finding a medical student. The
place was open, but it had no customers. He went on to the
bridge, but there the sheriff's court, the Martyr's church, the
society halls and all the smart shops were closed, their dark
fronts lighted fitfully by flaring gas-lamps. The bitter night
had driven all Edinburgh to private cover.
From the rear came a clear whistle. Some Heriot laddie who,
being not entirely a "puir orphan," but only "faderless" and,
therefore, living outside the school with his mother, had been
kept after nightfall because of ill-prepared lessons or
misbehavior. Mr. Traill turned, passed his own door, and went on
southward into Forest Road, that skirted the long arm of the
From the Burghmuir, all the way to the Grassmarket and the
Cowgate, was downhill. So, with arms winged, and stout legs
spread wide and braced, Geordie Ross was sliding gaily homeward,
his knitted tippet a gallant pennant behind. Here was a Mercury
for an urgent errand.
"Laddie, do you know whaur's a doctor who can be had for a
shulling or two for a poor auld country body in my shop?"
"Is he so awfu' ill?" Geordie asked with the morbid curiosity of
"He's a' that. He's aff his heid. Run, laddie, and dinna be
standing there wagging your fule tongue for naething."
Geordie was off with speed across the bridge to High Street. Mr.
Traill struggled back to his shop, against wind and treacherous
ice, thinking what kind of a bed might be contrived for the sick
man for the night. In the morning the daft auld body could be
hurried, willy-nilly, to a bed in the infirmary. As for wee Bobby
he wouldn't mind if--
And there he ran into his own wide-flung door. A gale blew
through the hastily deserted place. Ashes were scattered about
the hearth, and the cruisey lamp flared in the gusts. Auld Jock
and Bobby were gone.
Although dismayed and self-accusing for having frightened Auld
Jock into taking flight by his incautious talk of a doctor, not
for an instant did the landlord of Greyfriars Dining-Rooms
entertain the idea of following him. The old man had only to
cross the street and drop down the incline between the bridge
approach and the ancient Chapel of St. Magdalen to be lost in the
deepest, most densely peopled, and blackest gorge in Christendom.
Well knowing that he was safe from pursuit, Auld Jock chuckled as
he gained the last low level. Fever lent him a brief strength,
and the cold damp was grateful to his hot skin. None were abroad
in the Cowgate; and that was lucky for, in this black hole of
Edinburgh, even so old and poor a man was liable to be set upon
by thieves, on the chance of a few shillings or pence.
Used as he was to following flocks up treacherous braes and
through drifted glens, and surefooted as a collie, Auld Jock had
to pick his way carefully over the slimy, ice-glazed cobble
stones of the Cowgate. He could see nothing. The scattered
gas-lamps, blurred by the wet, only made a timbered gallery or
stone stairs stand out here and there or lighted up a Gothic
gargoyle to a fantastic grin. The street lay so deep and narrow
that sleet and wind wasted little time in finding it out, but
roared and rattled among the gables, dormers and chimney-stacks
overhead. Happy in finding his master himself again, and sniffing
fresh adventure, Bobby tumbled noisily about Auld Jock's feet
until reproved. And here was strange going. Ancient and warring
smells confused and insulted the little country dog's nose. After
a few inquiring and protesting barks Bobby fell into a subdued
trot at Auld Jock's heels.
To this shepherd in exile the romance of Old Edinburgh was a
sealed book. It was, indeed, difficult for the most imaginative
to believe that the Cowgate was once a lovely, wooded ravine,
with a rustic burn babbling over pebbles at its bottom, and along
the brook a straggling path worn smooth by cattle on their driven
way to the Grassmarket. Then, when the Scottish nobility was
crowded out of the piled-up mansions, on the sloping ridge of
High Street that ran the mile from the Castle to Holyrood Palace,
splendor camped in the Cowgate, in villas set in fair gardens,
and separated by hedge-rows in which birds nested.
In time this ravine, too, became overbuilt. Houses tumbled down
both slopes to the winding cattle path, and the burn was arched
over to make a thoroughfare. Laterally, the buildings were
crowded together, until the upper floors were pushed out on
timber brackets for light and air. Galleries, stairs and jutting
windows were added to outer walls, and the mansions climbed,
story above story, until the Cowgate was an undercut canon,
such as is worn through rock by the rivers of western America.
Lairds and leddies, powdered, jeweled and satin-shod, were borne
in sedan chairs down ten flights of stone stairs and through
torch-lit courts and tunnel streets, to routs in Castle or Palace
and to tourneys in the Grassmarket.
From its low situation the Cowgate came in the course of time to
smell to heaven, and out of it was a sudden exodus of grand folk
to the northern hills. The lowest level was given over at once to
the poor and to small trade. The wynds and closes that climbed
the southern slope were eagerly possessed by divines, lawyers and
literary men because of their nearness to the University. Long
before Bobby's day the well-to-do had fled from the Cowgate wynds
to the hilltop streets and open squares about the colleges. A few
decent working-men remained in the decaying houses, some of which
were at least three centuries old. But there swarmed in upon, and
submerged them, thousands of criminals, beggars, and the
miserably poor and degraded of many nationalities. Businesses
that fatten on misfortune--the saloon, pawn, old clothes and
cheap food shops-lined the squalid Cowgate. Palaces were cut up
into honeycombs of tall tenements. Every stair was a crowded
highway; every passage a place of deposit for filth; almost every
room sheltered a half famished family, in darkness and ancient
dirt. Grand and great, pious and wise, decent, wretched and
terrible folk, of every sort, had preceded Auld Jock to his
lodging in a steep and narrow wynd, and nine gusty flights up
under a beautiful, old Gothic gable.
A wrought-iron lantern hanging in an arched opening, lighted the
entrance to the wynd. With a hand outstretched to either wall,
Auld Jock felt his way up. Another lantern marked a sculptured
doorway that gave to the foul court of the tenement. No sky could
be seen above the open well of the court, and the carved, oaken
banister of the stairs had to be felt for and clung to by one so
short of breath. On the seventh landing, from the exertion of the
long climb, Auld Jock was shaken into helplessness, and his heart
set to pounding, by a violent fit of coughing. Overhead a shutter
was slammed back, and an angry voice bade him stop "deaving
The last two flights ascended within the walls. The old man
stumbled into the pitch-black, stifling passage and sat down on
the lowest step to rest. On the landing above he must encounter
the auld wifie of a landlady, rousing her, it might be, and none
too good-tempered, from sleep. Unaware that he added to his
master's difficulties, Bobby leaped upon him and licked the
beloved face that he could not see.
"Eh, laddie, I dinna ken what to do wi' ye. We maun juist hae to
sleep oot." It did not occur to Auld Jock that he could abandon
the little dog. And then there drifted across his memory a bit of
Mr. Traill's talk that, at the time, had seemed to no purpose:
"Sir Walter happed the wee lassie in the pocket of his plaid--"
He slapped his knee in silent triumph. In the dark he found the
broad, open end of the plaid, and the rough, excited head of the
"A hap, an' a stap, an' a loup, an' in ye gang. Loup in, laddie."
Bobby jumped into the pocket and turned 'round and 'round. His
little muzzle opened for a delighted bark at this original play,
but Auld Jock checked him.
"Cuddle doon noo, an' lie canny as pussy." With a deft turn he
brought the weighted end of the plaid up under his arm so there
would be no betraying drag. "We'll pu' the wool ower the auld
wifie's een," he chuckled.
He mounted the stairs almost blithely, and knocked on one of the
three narrow doors that opened on the two-by-eight landing. It
was opened a few inches, on a chain, and a sordid old face,
framed in straggling gray locks and a dirty mutch cap, peered
suspiciously at him through the crevice.
Auld Jock had his money in hand--a shilling and a sixpence--to
pay for a week's lodging. He had slept in this place for several
winters, and the old woman knew him well, but she held his coins
to the candle and bit them with her teeth to test them. Without a
word of greeting she shoved the key to the sleeping-closet he had
always fancied, through the crack in the door, and pointed to a
jug of water at the foot of the attic stairs. On the proffer of a
halfpenny she gave him a tallow candle, lighted it at her own and
fitted it into the neck of a beer bottle.
"Ye hae a cauld." she said at last, with some hostility. "Gin ye
wauken yer neebors yell juist hae to fecht it oot wi' 'em."
"Ay, I ken a' that," Auld Jock answered. He smothered a cough in
his chest with such effort that it threw him into a perspiration.
In some way, with the jug of water and the lighted candle in his
hands and the hidden terrier under one arm, the old man mounted
the eighteen-inch wide, walled-in attic stairs and unlocked the
first of a number of narrow doors on the passage at the top.
"Weel aboon the fou' smell," indeed; "weel worth the lang climb!"
Around the loose frames of two wee southward-looking dormer
windows, that jutted from the slope of the gable, came a gush of
rain-washed air. Auld Jock tumbled Bobby, warm and happy and
"nane the wiser," out into the cold cell of a room that was oh,
so very, very different from the high, warm, richly colored
library of Sir Walter! This garret closet in the slums of
Edinburgh was all of cut stone, except for the worn, oaken floor,
a flimsy, modern door, and a thin, board partition on one side
through which a "neebor" could be heard snoring. Filling all of
the outer wall between the peephole, leaded windows and running-
up to the slope of the ceiling, was a great fireplace of native
white freestone, carved into fluted columns, foliated capitals,
and a flat pediment of purest classic lines. The ballroom of a
noble of Queen Mary's day had been cut up into numerous small
sleeping closets, many of them windowless, and were let to the
chance lodger at threepence the night. Here, where generations of
dancing toes had been warmed, the chimney vent was bricked up,
and a boxed-in shelf fitted, to serve for a bed, a seat and a
table, for such as had neither time nor heart for dancing. For
the romantic history and the beauty of it, Auld Jock had no mind
at all. But, ah! he had other joy often missed by the more
"Be canny, Bobby," he cautioned again.
The sagacious little dog understood, and pattered about the place
silently. Exhausting it in a moment, and very plainly puzzled and
bored, he sat on his haunches, yawned wide, and looked up
inquiringly to his master. Auld Jock set the jug and the candle
on the floor and slipped off his boots. He had no wish to "wauken
'is neebors." With nervous haste he threw back one of the windows
on its hinges, reached across the wide stone ledge and brought
in-wonder of wonders, in such a place a tiny earthen pot of
"Is it no' a bonny posie?" he whispered to Bobby. With this
cherished bit of the country that he had left behind him the
April before in his hands, he sat down in the fireplace bed and
lifted Bobby beside him. He sniffed at the red tuft of
purple bloom fondly, and his old face blossomed into smiles. It
was the secret thought of this, and of the hillward outlook from
the little windows, that had ironed the lines from his face in
Mr. Traill's dining-room. Bobby sniffed at the starved plant,
too, and wagged his tail with pleasure, for a dog's keenest
memories are recorded by the nose.
Overhead, loose tiles and finials rattled in the find, that was
dying away in fitful gusts; but Auld Jock heard nothing. In fancy
he was away on the braes, in the shy sun and wild wet of April
weather. Shepherds were shouting, sheepdogs barking, ewes
bleating, and a wee puppy, still unnamed, scampering at his heels
in the swift, dramatic days of lambing time. And so, presently,
when the forlorn hope of the little pot had been restored to the
ledge, master and dog were in tune with the open country, and
began a romp such as they often had indulged in behind the byre
on a quiet, Sabbath afternoon.
They had learned to play there like two well-brought-up
children, in pantomime, so as not to scandalize pious
countryfolk. Now, in obedience to a gesture, a nod, a lifted
eyebrow, Bobby went through all his pretty tricks, and showed how
far his serious education had progressed.. He rolled over and
over, begged, vaulted the low hurdle of his master's arm, and
played "deid." He scampered madly over imaginary pastures; ran,
straight as a string, along a stone wall; scrambled under a
thorny hedge; chased rabbits, and dug foxes out of holes; swam a
burn, flushed feeding curlews, and "froze" beside a rat-hole.
When the excitement was at its height and the little dog was
bursting with exuberance, Auld Jock forgot his caution. Holding
his bonnet just out of reach, he cried aloud:
Bobby jumped for the bonnet, missed it, jumped again and
barked-the high-pitched, penetrating yelp of the terrier.
Instantly their little house of joy tumbled about their ears.
There was a pounding on the thin partition wall, an oath and a
shout "Whaur's the deil o' a dog?" Bobby flew at the insulting
clamor, but Auld Jock dragged him back roughly. In a voice made
harsh by fear for his little pet, he commanded:
"Haud yer gab or they'll hae ye oot."
Bobby dropped like a shot, cringing at Auld Jock's feet. The most
sensitive of four-footed creatures in the world, the Skye terrier
is utterly abased by a rebuke from his master. The whole garret
was soon in an uproar of vile accusation and shrill denial that
spread from cell to cell.
Auld Jock glowered down at Bobby with frightened eyes. In the
winters he had lodged there he had lived unmolested only because
he had managed to escape notice. Timid old country body that he
was, he could not "fecht it oot" with the thieves and beggars and
drunkards of the Cowgate. By and by the brawling died down. In
the double row of little dens this one alone was silent, and the
offending dog was not located.
But when the danger was past, Auld Jock's heart was pounding in
his chest. His legs gave way under him, when he got up to fetch
the candle from near the door and set it on a projecting brick
in the fireplace. By its light he began to read in a small pocket
Bible the Psalm that had always fascinated him because he had
never been able to understand it.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."
So far it was plain and comforting. "He maketh me to lie down in
green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters."
Nae, the pastures were brown, or purple and yellow with heather
and gorse. Rocks cropped out everywhere, and the peaty tarps were
mostly bleak and frozen. The broad Firth was ever ebbing and
flowing with the restless sea, and the burns bickering down the
glens. The minister of the little hill kirk had said once that in
England the pastures were green and the lakes still and bright;
but that was a fey, foreign country to which Auld Jock had no
desire to go. He wondered, wistfully, if he would feel at home in
God's heaven, and if there would be room in that lush silence for
a noisy little dog, as there was on the rough Pentland braes. And
there his thoughts came back to this cold prison cell in which he
could not defend the right of his one faithful little friend to
live. He stooped and lifted Bobby into the bed. Humble, and eager
to be forgiven for an offense he could not understand, the loving
little creature leaped to Auld Jock's arms and lavished frantic
endearments upon him.
Lying so together in the dark, man and dog fell into a sleep that
was broken by Auld Jock's fitful coughing and the abuse of his
neighbors. It was not until the wind had long died to a muffled
murmur at the casements, and every other lodger was out, that
Auld Jock slept soundly. He awoke late to find Bobby waiting
patiently on the floor and the bare cell flooded with white
glory. That could mean but one thing. He stumbled dizzily to his
feet and threw a sash aback. Over the huddle of high housetops,
the University towers and the scattered suburbs beyond, he looked
away to the snow-clad slopes of the Pentlands, running up to
heaven and shining under the pale winter sunshine.
"The snaw! Eh, Bobby, but it's a bonny sicht to auld een!" he
cried, with the simple delight of a child. He stooped to lift
Bobby to the wonder of it, when the world suddenly went black and
roaring around in his head. Staggering back he crumpled up in a
pitiful heap on the floor.
Bobby licked his master's face and hands, and then sat quietly
down beside him. So many strange, uncanny things had happened
within the last twenty-four hours that the little dog was rapidly
outgrowing his irresponsible puppyhood. After a long time Auld
Jock opened his eyes and sat up. Bobby put his paws on his
master's knees in anxious sympathy. Before the man had got his
wits about him the time-gun boomed from the Castle.
Panic-stricken that he should have slept in his bed so late, and
then lain senseless on the floor for he knew not how long, Auld
Jock got up and struggled into his greatcoat, bonnet and plaid.
In feeling for his woolen mittens he discovered the buns that Mr.
Trail had dropped into his pocket for Bobby.
The old man stared and stared at them in piteous dismay. Mr.
Traill had believed him to be so ill that he "wouldna be oot the
morn." It was a staggering thought.
The bells of St. Giles broke into "Over the Hills and Far Away."
The melody came to Auld Jock clearly, unbroken by echoes, for the
garret was on a level with the cathedral's crown on High Street.
It brought to him again a vision of the Midlothian slopes, but it
reminded Bobby that it was dinner-time. He told Auld Jock so by
running to the door and back and begging him, by every pretty
wile at his command, to go. The old man got to his feet and then
fell back, pale and shaken, his heart hammering again. Bobby ate
the bun soberly and then sat up against Auld Jock's feet, that
dangled helplessly from the bed. The bells died away from the
man's ears before they had ceased playing. Both the church and
the University bells struck the hour of two then three then four.
Daylight had begun to fail when Auld Jock stirred, sat up, and
did a strange thing: taking from his pocket a leather bag-purse
that was closed by a draw-string, he counted the few crowns and
shillings in it and the many smaller silver and copper coins.
"There's eneugh," he said. There was enough, by careful spending,
to pay for food and lodging for a few weeks, to save himself from
the charity of the infirmary. By this act he admitted the
humiliating and fearful fact that he was very ill. The precious
little hoard must be hidden from the chance prowler. He looked
for a loose brick in the fireplace, but before he found one, he
forgot all about it, and absent-mindedly heaped the coins in a
little pile on the open Bible at the back of the bed.
For a long time Auld Jock sat there with his head in his hands
before he again slipped back to his pillow. Darkness stole into
the quiet room. The lodgers returned to their dens one after one,
tramping or slipping or hobbling up the stairs and along the
passage. Bobby bristled and froze, on guard, when a stealthy
hand tried the latch. Then there were sounds of fighting, of
crying women, and the long, low wailing of-wretched children. The
evening drum and bugle were heard from the Castle, and hour
after hour was struck from the clock of St. Giles while Bobby
watched beside his master.
All night Auld Jock was "aff 'is heid." When he muttered in his
sleep or cried out in the delirium of fever, the little dog put
his paws upon the bed-rail. He scratched on it and begged to be
lifted to where he could comfort his master, for the shelf was
set too high for him to climb into the bed. Unable to get his
master's attention, he licked the hot hand that hung over the
side. Auld Jock lay still at last, not coughing any more, but
breathing rapid, shallow breaths. Just at dawn he turned his head
and gazed in bewilderment at the alert and troubled little
creature that was instantly upon the rail. After a long time he
recognized the dog and patted the shaggy little head. Feeling
around the bed, he found the other bun and dropped it on the
floor. Presently he said, between strangled breaths:
After that it was suddenly very still in the brightening room.
Bobby gazed and gazed at his master--one long, heartbroken look,
then dropped to all fours and stood trembling. Without another
look he stretched himself upon the hearthstone below the bed.
Morning and evening footsteps went down and came up on the
stairs. Throughout the day--the babel of crowded tenement strife;
the crying of fishwives and fagot-venders in the court; the
striking of the hours; the boom of the time gun and sweet clamor
of music bells; the failing of the light and the soaring note of
the bugle--he watched motionless beside his master.
Very late at night shuffling footsteps came up the stairs. The
"auld wifie" kept a sharp eye on the comings and goings of her
lodgers. It was "no' canny" that this old man, with a cauld in
his chest, had gone up full two days before and had not come down
again. To bitter complaints of his coughing and of his strange
talking to himself she gave scant attention, but foul play was
done often enough in these dens to make her uneasy. She had no
desire to have the Burgh police coming about and interfering with
her business. She knocked sharply on the door and called:
Bobby trotted over to the door and stood looking at it. In such a
strait he would naturally have welcomed the visitor, scratching
on the panel, and crying to any human body without to come in and
see what had befallen his master. But Auld Jock had bade him
"haud 'is gab" there, as in Greyfriars kirkyard. So he held to
loyal silence, although the knocking and shaking of the latch was
insistent and the lodgers were astir. The voice of the old woman
was shrill with alarm.
"Auld Jock, can ye no' wauken?" And, after a moment, in which the
unlatched casement window within could be heard creaking on its
hinges in the chill breeze, there was a hushed and frightened
"Are ye deid?"
The footsteps fled down the stairs, and Bobby was left to watch
through the long hours of darkness.
Very early in the morning the flimsy door was quietly forced by
authority. The first man who entered--an officer of the Crown
from the sheriff's court on the bridge--took off his hat to the
majesty that dominated that bare cell. The Cowgate region
presented many a startling contrast, but such a one as this must
seldom have been seen. The classic fireplace, and the motionless
figure and peaceful face of the pious old shepherd within it, had
the dignity and beauty of some monumental tomb and carved effigy
in old Greyfriars kirkyard. Only less strange was the contrast
between the marks of poverty and toil on the dead man and the
dainty grace of the little fluff of a dog that mourned him.
No such men as these--officers of her Majesty the Queen, Burgh
policemen, and learned doctors from the Royal Infirmary--had ever
been aware of Auld Jock, living. Dead, and no' needing them any
more, they stood guard over him, and inquired sternly as to the
manner in which he had died. There was a hysterical breath of
relief from the crowd of lodgers and tenants when the little pile
of coins was found on the Bible. There had been no foul play.
Auld Jock had died of heart failure, from pneumonia and wornout
"There's eneugh," a Burgh policeman said when the money was
counted. He meant much the same thing Auld Jock himself had
meant. There was enough to save him from the last indignity a
life of useful labor can thrust upon the honest poor--pauper
burial. But when inquiries were made for the name and the friends
of this old man there appeared to be only "Auld Jock" to enter
into the record, and a little dog to follow the body to the
grave. It was a Bible reader who chanced to come in from the
Medical Mission in the Cowgate who thought to look in the
fly-leaf of Auld Jock's Bible.
"His name is John Gray."
He laid the worn little book on Auld Jock's breast and crossed
the work-scarred hands upon it. "It's something by the ordinar'
to find a gude auld country body in such a foul place." He
stooped and patted Bobby, and noted the bun, untouched, upon the
floor. Turning to a wild elf of a barefooted child in the crowd
he spoke to her. "Would you share your gude brose with the bit
She darted down the stairs, and presently returned with her own
scanty bowl of breakfast porridge. Bobby refused the food, but he
looked at her so mournfully that the first tears of pity her
unchildlike eyes had ever shed welled up. She put out her hand
timidly and stroked him.
It was just before the report of the time-gun that two policemen
cleared the stairs, shrouded Auld Jock in his own greatcoat and
plaid, and carried him down to the court. There they laid him in
a plain box of white deal that stood on the pavement, closed it,
and went away down the wynd on a necessary errand. The Bible-
reader sat on an empty beer keg to guard the box, and Bobby
climbed on the top and stretched himself above his master. The
court was a well, more than a hundred feet deep What sky might
have been visible above it was hidden by tier above tier of
dingy, tattered washings. The stairway filled again, and throngs
of outcasts of every sort went about their squalid businesses,
with only a curious glance or so at the pathetic group.
Presently the policemen returned from the Cowgate with a motley
assortment of pallbearers. There was a good-tempered Irish
laborer from a near-by brewery; a decayed gentleman, unsteady of
gait and blear-eyed, in greasy frock-coat and broken hat; a
flashily dressed bartender who found the task distasteful; a
stout, bent-backed fagot-carrier; a drunken fisherman from New
Haven, suddenly sobered by this uncanny duty, and a furtive,
gaol-bleached thief who feared a trap and tried to escape.
Tailed by scuffling gamins, the strange little procession moved
quickly down the wynd and turned into the roaring Cowgate. The
policemen went before to force a passage through the press.
The Bible-reader followed the box, and Bobby, head and tail down,
trotted unnoticed, beneath it. The humble funeral train passed
under a bridge arch into the empty Grassmarket, and went up
Candlemakers Row to the kirkyard gate. Such as Auld Jock, now, by
unnumbered thousands, were coming to lie among the grand and
great, laird and leddy, poet and prophet, persecutor and martyr,
in the piled-up, historic burying-ground of old Greyfriars.
By a gesture the caretaker directed the bearers to the right,
past the church, and on down the crowded slope to the north, that
was circled about by the backs of the tenements in the
Grassmarket and Candlemakers Row. The box was lowered at once,
and the pall-bearers hastily departed to delayed dinners. The
policemen had urgent duties elsewhere. Only the Bible reader
remained to see the grave partly filled in, and to try to
persuade Bobby to go away with him. But the little dog
resisted with such piteous struggles that the man put him down
again. The grave digger leaned on his spade for a bit of
"Many a dog gangs daft an' greets like a human body when his
maister dees. They're aye put oot, a time or twa, an' they gang
to folic that ken them, an' syne they tak' to ithers. Dinna fash
yersel' aboot 'im. He wullna greet lang."
Since Bobby would not go, there was nothing to do but leave him
there; but it was with many a backward look and disturbing doubt
that the good man turned away. The grave-digger finished his task
cheerfully, shouldered his tools, and left the kirkyard. The
early dark was coming on when the caretaker, in making his last
rounds, found the little terrier flattened out on the new-made
"Gang awa' oot!" he ordered. Bobby looked up pleadingly and
trembled, but he made no motion to obey. James Brown was not an
unfeeling man, and he was but doing his duty. From an impulse of
pity for this bonny wee bit of loyalty and grief he picked Bobby
up, carried him all the way to the gate and set him over the
wicket on the pavement.
"Gang awa' hame, noo, " he said, kindly. "A kirkya'rd isna a
place for a bit dog to be leevin'."
Bobby lay where he had been dropped until the caretaker was out
of sight. Then, finding the aperture under the gate too small for
him to squeeze through, he tried, in his ancestral way, to
enlarge it by digging. He scratched and scratched at the
unyielding stone until his little claws were broken and his
toes bleeding, before he stopped and lay down with his nose under
Just before the closing hour a carriage stopped at the
kirkyard gate. A black-robed lady, carrying flowers, hurried
through the wicket. Bobby slipped in behind her and disappeared.
After nightfall, when the lamps were lighted on the bridge, when
Mr. Traill had come out to stand idly in his doorway, looking for
some one to talk to, and James Brown had locked the kirkyard yard
gate for the night and gone into his little stone lodge to
supper, Bobby came out of hiding and stretched himself prone
across Auld Jock's grave.
Fifteen minutes after the report of the time-gun on Monday, when
the bells were playing their merriest and the dining-rooms were
busiest, Mr. Traill felt such a tiny tug at his trouser-leg that
it was repeated before he gave it attention. In the press of
hungry guests Bobby had little more than room to rise in his
pretty, begging attitude. The landlord was so relieved to see him
again, after five conscience stricken days, that he stooped to
clap the little dog on the side and to greet him with jocose
"Gude dog to fetch Auld Jock--"
With a faint and piteous cry that was heard by no one but Mr.
Traill, Bobby toppled over on the floor. It was a limp little
bundle that the landlord picked up from under foot and held on
his arm a moment, while he looked around for the dog's master.
Shocked at not seeing Auld Jock, by a kind of inspiration he
carried the little dog to the inglenook and laid him down under
the familiar settle. Bobby was little more than breathing, but he
opened his silkily veiled brown eyes and licked the friendly hand
that had done this refinement of kindness. It took Mr. Traill
more than a moment to realize the nature of the trouble. A dog
with so thick a fleece of wool, under so crisply waving an outer
coat as Bobby's, may perish for lack of food and show no outward
sign of emaciation.
"The sonsie, wee--why, he's all but starved!"
Pale with pity, Mr. Traill snatched a plate of broth from the
hands of a gaping waiter laddie, set it under Bobby's nose, and
watched him begin to lap the warm liquid eagerly. In the busy
place the incident passed unnoticed. With his usual, brisk
decision Mr. Traill turned the backs of a couple of chairs over
against the nearest table, to signify that the corner was
reserved, and he went about his duties with unwonted silence. As
the crowd thinned he returned to the inglenook to find Bobby
asleep, not curled up in a tousled ball, as such a little dog
should be, but stretched on his side and breathing irregularly.
If Bobby was in such straits, how must it be with Auld Jock? This
was the fifth day since the sick old man had fled into the storm.
With new disquiet Mr. Traill remembered a matter that had annoyed
him in the morning, and that he had been inclined to charge to
mischievous Heriot boys. Low down on the outside of his freshly
varnished entrance door were many scratches that Bobby could have
made. He may have come for food on the Sabbath day when the place
After an hour Bobby woke long enough to eat a generous plate of
that delectable and highly nourishing Scotch dish known as
haggis. He fell asleep again in an easier attitude that relieved
the tension on the landlord's feelings. Confident that the
devoted little dog would lead him straight to his master, Mr.
Traill closed the door securely, that he might not escape
unnoticed, and arranged his own worldly affairs so he could leave
them to hirelings on the instant. In the idle time between dinner
and supper he sat down by the fire, lighted his pipe, repented
his unruly tongue, and waited. As the short day darkened to its
close the sunset bugle was blown in the Castle. At the first
note, Bobby crept from under the settle, a little unsteady on his
legs as yet, wagged his tail for thanks, and trotted to the door.
Mr. Traill had no trouble at all in keeping the little dog in
sight to the kirkyard gate, for in the dusk his coat shone
silvery white. Indeed, by a backward look now and then, Bobby
seemed to invite the man to follow, and waited at the
gate, with some impatience, for him to come up. Help was needed
there. By rising and tugging at Mr. Traill's clothing and then
jumping on the wicket Bobby plainly begged to have it opened. He
made no noise, neither barking nor whimpering, and that was very
strange for a dog of the terrier breed; but each instant of delay
he became more insistent, and even frantic, to have the gate
unlatched. Mr. Traill refused to believe what Bobby's behavior
indicated, and reproved him in the broad Scotch to which the
country dog was used.
"Nae, Bobby; be a gude dog. Gang doon to the Coogate noo, an'
find Auld Jock."
Uttering no cry at all, Bobby gave the man such a woebegone look
and dropped to the pavement, with his long muzzle as far under
the wicket as he could thrust it, that the truth shot home to Mr.
Traill's understanding. He opened the gate. Bobby slipped through
and stood just inside a moment, and looking back as if he
expected his human friend to follow. Then, very suddenly, as the
door of the lodge opened and the caretaker came out, Bobby
disappeared in the shadow of the church.
A big-boned, slow-moving man of the best country house-gardener
type, serviceably dressed in corduroy, wool bonnet, and ribbed
stockings, James Brown collided with the small and wiry landlord,
to his own very great embarrassment.
"Eh, Maister Traill, ye gied me a turn. It's no' canny to be
proolin' aboot the kirkyaird i' the gloamin'."
"Whaur did the bit dog go, man?" demanded the peremptory
"Dog? There's no' ony dog i' the kirkyaird. It isna permeetted.
Gin it's a pussy ye're needin', noo--"
But Mr. Traill brushed this irrelevant pleasantry aside.
"Ay, there's a dog. I let him in my ainsel'."
The caretaker exploded with wrath: "Syne I'll hae the law on ye.
Can ye no' read, man?"
"Tut, tut, Jeemes Brown. Don't stand there arguing. It's a gude
and necessary regulation, but it's no' the law o' the land. I
turned the dog in to settle a matter with my ain conscience, and
John Knox would have done the same thing in the bonny face o'
Queen Mary. What it is, is nae beesiness of yours. The dog was a
sma' young terrier of the Highland breed, but with a drop to his
ears and a crinkle in his frosty coat--no' just an ordinar' dog.
I know him weel. He came to my place to be fed, near dead of
hunger, then led me here. If his master lies in this kirkyard,
I'll tak' the bit dog awa' with me."
Mr. Traill's astonishing fluency always carried all walls of
resistance before it with men of slower wit and speech. Only a
superior man could brush time-honored rules aside so curtly and
stand on his human rights so surely. James Brown pulled his
bonnet off deferentially, scratched his shock head and shifted
his pipe. Finally he admitted:
"Weel, there was a bit tyke i' the kirkyaird twa days syne. I put
'im oot, an' haena seen 'im aboot ony main" He offered, however,
to show the new-made mound on which he had found the dog. Leading
the way past the church, he went on down the terraced slope,
prolonging the walk with conversation, for the guardianship of an
old churchyard offers very little such lively company as John
"I mind, noo, it was some puir body frae the Coogate, wi' no' ony
mourners but the sma' terrier aneath the coffin. I let 'im pass,
no' to mak' a disturbance at a buryin'. The deal box was fetched
up by the police, an' carried by sic a crew o' gaol-birds as wad
mak' ye turn ower in yer ain God's hole. But he paid for his
buryin' wi' his ain siller, an' noo lies as canny as the
nobeelity. Nae boot here's the place, Maister Traill; an' ye can
see for yer ainsel' there's no' any dog."
"Ay, that would be Auld Jock and Bobby would no' be leaving him,"
insisted the landlord, stubbornly. He stood looking down at the
rough mound of frozen clods heaped in a little space of trampled
"Jeemes Brown," Mr. Trail said, at last, "the man wha lies here
was a decent, pious auld country body, and I drove him to his
meeserable death in the Cowgate."
"Man, ye dinna ken what ye're sayin'!" was the shocked response.
"Do I no'? I'm canny, by the ordinar', but my fule tongue will
get me into trouble with the magistrates one of these days. It
aye wags at both ends, and is no' tied in the middle."
Then, stanch Calvinist that he was, and never dreaming that he
was indulging in the sinful pleasure of confession, Mr. Traill
poured out the story of Auld Jock's plight and of his own.
shortcomings. It was a bitter, upbraiding thing that he, an
uncommonly capable man, had meant so well by a humble old body,
and done so ill. And he had failed again when he tried to undo
the mischief. The very next morning he had gone down into the
perilous Cowgate, and inquired in every place where it might be
possible for such a timid old shepherd to be known. But there! As
well look for a burr thistle in a bin of oats, as look for a
human atom in the Cowgate and the wynds "juist aff."
"Weel, noo, ye couldna hae dune aething wi' the auld body, ava,
gin he wouldna gang to the infairmary." The caretaker was trying
to console the self-accusing man.
"Could I no'? Ye dinna ken me as weel as ye micht." The disgusted
landlord tumbled into broad Scotch. "Gie me to do it ance mair,
an' I'd chairge Auld Jock wi' thievin' ma siller, wi' a wink o'
the ee at the police to mak' them ken I was leein'; an' syne
they'd hae hustled 'im aff, willy-nilly, to a snug bed."
The energetic little man looked so entirely capable of any daring
deed that he fired the caretaker into enthusiastic search for
Bobby. It was not entirely dark, for the sky was studded with
stars, snow lay in broad patches on the slope, and all about the
lower end of the kirkyard supper candles burned at every rear
window of the tall tenements.
The two men searched among the near-by slabs and table-tombs and
scattered thorn bushes. They circled the monument to all the
martyrs who had died heroically, in the Grassmarket and
elsewhere, for their faith. They hunted in the deep shadows of
the buttresses along the side of the auld kirk and among the
pillars of the octagonal portico to the new. At the rear of the
long, low building, that was clumsily partitioned across for two
pulpits, stood the ornate tomb of "Bluidy" McKenzie. But Bobby
had not committed himself to the mercy of the hanging judge, nor
yet to the care of the doughty minister, who, from the pulpit of
Greyfriars auld kirk, had flung the blood and tear stained
Covenant in the teeth of persecution.
The search was continued past the modest Scott family burial plot
and on to the west wall. There was a broad outlook over Heriot's
Hospital grounds, a smooth and shining expanse of unsullied snow
about the early Elizabethan pile of buildings. Returning, they
skirted the lowest wall below the tenements, for in the circling
line of courtyarded vaults, where the "nobeelity" of Scotland lay
haughtily apart under timestained marbles, were many shadowy
nooks in which so small a dog could stow himself away. Skulking
cats were flushed there, and sent flying over aristocratic bones,
but there was no trace of Bobby.
The second tier of windows of the tenements was level with the
kirkyard wall, and several times Mr. Traill called up to a
lighted casement where a family sat at a scant supper
"Have you seen a bit dog, man?"
There was much cordial interest in his quest, windows opening and
faces staring into the dusk; but not until near the top of the
Row was a clue gained. Then, at the query, an unkempt, illclad
lassie slipped from her stool and leaned out over the pediment of
a tomb. She had seen a "wee, wee doggie jinkin' amang the
stanes." It was on the Sabbath evening, when the well-dressed
folk had gone home from the afternoon services. She was eating
her porridge at the window, "by her lane," when he "keeked up at
her so knowing, and begged so bonny," that she balanced her bit
bowl on a lath, and pushed it over on the kirkyard wall. As she
finished the story the big, blue eyes of the little maid, who
doubtless had herself known what it was to be hungry, filled with
"The wee tyke couldna loup up to it, an' a deil o' a pussy got it
a'. He was so bonny, like a leddy's pet, an' syne he fell ower on
the snaw an' creepit awa'. He didna cry oot, but he was a' but
deid wi' hunger." At the memory of it soft-hearted Ailie Lindsey
sobbed on her mother's shoulder.
The tale was retold from one excited window to another, all the
way around and all the way up to the gables, so quickly could
some incident of human interest make a social gathering in the
populous tenements. Most of all, the children seized upon the
touching story. Eager and pinched little faces peered wistfully
into the melancholy kirkyard.
"Is he yer ain dog?" crippled Tammy Barr piped out, in his thin
treble. "Gin I had a bonny wee dog I'd gie 'im ma ain brose, an'
cuddle 'im, an' he couldna gang awa'."
"Nae, laddie, he's no' my dog. His master lies buried here, and
the leal Highlander mourns for him." With keener appreciation of
its pathos, Mr. Traill recalled that this was what Auld Jock had
said: "Bobby isna ma ain dog." And he was conscious of wishing
that Bobby was his own, with his unpurchasable love and a loyalty
to face starvation. As he mounted the turfed terraces he thought
to call back:
"If you see him again, lassie, call him 'Bobby,' and fetch him up
to Greyfriars Dining-Rooms. I have a bright siller shulling, with
the Queen's bonny face on it, to give the bairn that finds
There was excited comment on this. He must, indeed, be an
attractive dog to be worth a shilling. The children generously
shared plans for capturing Bobby. But presently the windows were
closed, and supper was resumed. The caretaker was irritable.
"Noo, ye'll hae them a' oot swarmin' ower the kirkyaird. There's
nae coontin' the bairns o' the neeborhood, an' nane o' them are
so weel broucht up as they micht be."
Mr. Traill commented upon this philosophically: "A bairn is like
a dog in mony ways. Tak' a stick to one or the other and he'll
misbehave. The children here are poor and neglected, but they're
no' vicious like the awfu' imps of the Cowgate, wha'd steal from
their blind grandmithers. Get on the gude side of the bairns,
man, and you'll live easier and die happier."
It seemed useless to search the much longer arm of the kirkyard
that ran southward behind the shops of Greyfriars Place and
Forest Road. If Bobby was in the enclosure at all he would not be
far from Auld Jock's grave. Nearest the new-made mound were two
very old and dark table-tombs. The farther one lay horizontally,
on its upright "through stanes," some distance above the earth.
The supports of the other had fallen, and the table lay on their
thickness within six inches of the ground. Mr. Traill and the
caretaker sat upon this slab, which testified to the piety and
worth of one Mistress Jean Grant, who had died "lang syne."
Encroached upon, as it was, by unlovely life, Greyfriars kirkyard
was yet a place of solitude and peace. The building had the
dignity that only old age can give. It had lost its tower by an
explosion of gunpowder stored there in war time, and its walls
and many of the ancient tombs bore the marks of fire and shot.
Within the last decade some of the Gothic openings had been
filled with beautiful memorial windows. Despite the horrors and
absurdities and mutilation of much of the funeral sculpturing,
the kirkyard had a sad distinction, such as became its fame as
Scotland's Westminster. And, there was one heavenward outlook and
heavenly view. Over the tallest decaying tenement one could look
up to the Castle of dreams on the crag, and drop the glance all
the way down the pinnacled crest of High Street, to the dark and
deserted Palace of Holyrood. After nightfall the turreted heights
wore a luminous crown, and the steep ridge up to it twinkled with
myriad lights. After a time the caretaker offered a
"The dog maun hae left the kirkyaird. Thae terriers are aye
barkin'. It'd be maist michty noo, gin he'd be so lang i' the
kirkyaird, an' no' mak' a blatterin'."
As a man of superior knowledge Mr. Traill found pleasure in
upsetting this theory. "The Highland breed are no' like ordinar'
terriers. Noisy enough to deave one, by nature, give a bit Skye
a reason and he'll lie a' the day under a whin bush on the brae,
as canny as a fox. You gave Bobby a reason for hiding here by
turning him out. And Auld Jock was a vera releegious man. It
would no' be surprising if he taught Bobby to hold his tongue in
"Man, he did that vera thing." James Brown brought his fist down
on his knee; for suddenly he identified Bobby as the snappy
little ruffian that had chased the cat and bitten his shins, and
Auld Jock as the scandalized shepherd who had rebuked the dog so
bitterly. He related the incident with gusto.
"The auld man cried oot on the misbehavin' tyke to haud 'is gab.
Syne, ye ne'er saw the bit dog's like for a bairn that'd haen a
lickin'. He'd 'a' gaen into a pit, gin there'd been ane, an' pu'd
it in ahind 'im. I turned 'em baith oot, an' told 'em no' to come
back. Eh, man, it's fearsome hoo ilka body comes to a kirkyaird,
toes afore 'im, in a long box."
Mr. Brown was sobered by this grim thought and then, in his turn,
he confessed a slip to this tolerant man of the world. "The wee
deil o' a sperity dog nipped me so I let oot an aith."
"Ay, that's Bobby. He would no' be afraid of onything with hide
or hair on it. Man, the Skye terriers go into dens of foxes and
wildcats, and worry bulls till they tak' to their heels. And
Bobby's sagacious by the ordinar'." He thought intently for a
moment, and then spoke naturally, and much as Auld Jock himself
might have spoken to the dog.
"Whaur are ye, Bobby? Come awa' oot, laddie!"
Instantly the little dog stood before him like some conjured
ghost. He had slipped from under the slab on which they were
sitting. It lay so near the ground, and in such a mat of dead
grass, that it had not occurred to them to look for him there. He
came up to Mr. Traill confidently, submitted to having his head
patted, and looked pleadingly at the caretaker. Then, thinking he
had permission to do so, he lay down on the mound. James Brown
dropped his pipe.
"It's maist michty!" he said.
Mr. Traill got to his feet briskly. "I'll just tak' the dog with
me, Mr. Brown. On marketday I'll find the farmer that owns him
and send him hame. As you say, a kirkyard's nae place for a dog
to be living neglected. Come awa', Bobby."
Bobby looked up, but, as he made no motion to obey, Mr. Traill
stooped and lifted him.
From sheer surprise at this unexpected move the little dog lay
still a moment on the man's arm. Then, with a lithe twist of his
muscular body and a spring, he was on the ground, trembling,
reproachful for the breach of faith, but braced for resistance.
"Eh, you're no' going?" Mr. Traill put his hands in his pockets,
looked down at Bobby admiringly, and sighed. "There's a dog after
my ain heart, and he'll have naething to do with me. He has a
mind of his ain. I'll just have to be leaving him here the two
days, Mr. Brown."
"Ye wullna leave 'im! Ye'll tak' 'im wi' ye, or I'll hae to put
'im oot. Man, I couldna haud the place gin I brak the rules."
"You--will--no'--put--the--wee--dog--out!" Mr. Traill shook a
emphatic finger under the big man's nose.
"Why wull I no'?"
"Because, man, you have a vera soft heart, and you canna deny
it." It was with a genial, confident smile that Mr. Traill made
this terrible accusation.
"Ma heart's no' so saft as to permit a bit dog to scandalize the
"He's been here two days, you no' knowing it, and he has
scandalized neither the dead nor the living. He's as leal as ony
Covenanter here, and better conducted than mony a laird. He's no
the quarrelsome kind, but, man, for a principle he'd fight like
auld Clootie." Here the landlord's heat gave way to pure
enjoyment of the situation. "Eh, I'd like to see you put him out.
It would be another Flodden Field."
The angry caretaker shrugged his broad shoulders.
"Ye can see it, gin ye stand by, in juist one meenit. Fecht as he
may, it wull soon be ower."
Mr. Traill laughed easily, and ventured the opinion that Mr.
Brown's bark was worse than his bite. As he went through the
gateway he could not resist calling back a challenge: "I daur you
to do it."
Mr. Brown locked the gate, went sulkily into the lodge, lighted
his cutty pipe, and smoked it furiously. He read a Psalm with
deliberation, poked up an already bright fire, and glowered at
his placid gude wife. It was not to be borne--to be defied by a
ten-inch-high terrier, and dared, by a man a third under his own
weight, to do his duty. After an hour or so he worked himself up
to the point of going out and slamming the door.
At eight o'clock Mr. Traill found Bobby on the pavement outside
the locked gate. He was not sorry that the fortunes of unequal
battle had thrown the faithful little dog on his hospitality.
Bobby begged piteously to be put inside, but he seemed to
understand at last that the gate was too high for Mr. Traill to
drop him over. He followed the landlord up to the restaurant
willingly. He may have thought this champion had another solution
of the difficulty, for when he saw the man settle comfortably in
a chair he refused to lie on the hearth. He ran to the door and
back, and begged and whined to be let out. For a long time he
stood dejectedly. He was not sullen, for he ate a light supper
and thanked his host with much polite wagging, and he even
allowed himself to be petted. Suddenly he thought of something,
trotted briskly off to a corner and crouched there.
Mr. Traill watched the attractive little creature with interest
and growing affection. Very likely he indulged in a day-dream
that, perhaps, the tenant of Cauldbrae farm could be induced to
part with Bobby for a consideration, and that he himself could
win the dog to transfer his love from a cold grave to a warm
With a spring the rat was captured. A jerk of the long head and
there was proof of Bobby's prowess to lay at his good friend's
feet. Made much of, and in a position to ask fresh favors, the
little dog was off to the door with cheerful, staccato barks. His
reasoning was as plain as print: "I hae done ye a service, noo
tak' me back to the kirkyaird."
Mr. Traill talked to him as he might have reasoned with a bright
bairn. Bobby listened patiently, but remained of the same mind.
At last he moved away, disappointed in this human person,
discouraged, but undefeated in his purpose. He lay down by the
door. Mr. Traill watched him, for if any chance late comer opened
the door the masterless little dog would be out into the perils
of the street. Bobby knew what doors were for and, very likely,
expected. some such release. He waited a long time patiently.
Then he began to run back and forth. He put his paws upon Mr.
Traill and whimpered and cried. Finally he howled.
It was a dreadful, dismal, heartbroken howl that echoed back from
the walls. He howled continuously, until the landlord, quite
distracted, and-concerned about the peace of his neighbors,
thrust Bobby into the dark scullery at the rear, and bade him
stop his noise. For fully ten minutes the dog was quiet. He was
probably engaged in exploring his new quarters to find an outlet.
Then he began to howl again. It was truly astonishing that so
small a dog could make so large a noise.
A battle was on between the endurance of the man and the
persistence of the terrier. Mr. Traill was speculating on which
was likely to be victor in the contest, when the front door was
opened and the proprietor of the Book Hunter's Stall put in a
bare, bald head and the abstracted face of the book-worm that is
"Have you tak'n to a dog at your time o' life, Mr. Traill?"
"Ay, man, and it would be all right if the bit dog would just
tak' to me."
This pleasantry annoyed a good man who had small sense of humor,
and he remarked testily "The barkin' disturbs my customers so
they canna read." The place was a resort for student laddies who
had to be saving of candles.
"That's no' right," the landlord admitted, sympathetically.
"'Reading mak'th a full man.' Eh, what a deeference to the warld
if Robbie Burns had aye preferred a book to a bottle." The
bookseller refused to be beguiled from his just cause of
complaint into the flowery meads of literary reminiscences and
"You'll stop that dog's cleaving noise, Mr. Traill, or I'll
appeal to the Burgh police."
The landlord returned a bland and child-like smile. "You'd be
weel within your legal rights to do it, neebor."
The door was shut with such a business-like click that the
became serious. Bobby's vocal powers, however, gave no signs of
diminishing. Mr. Traill quieted the dog for a few moments by
letting him into the outer room, but the swiftness and energy
with which he renewed his attacks on the door and on the man's
will showed plainly that the truce was only temporary. He did
not know what he meant to do except that he certainly had no
intention of abandoning the little dog. To gain time he put on
his hat and coat, picked Bobby up, and opened the door. The
thought occurred to him to try the gate at the upper end of the
kirkyard or, that failing, to get into Heriot's Hospital grounds
and put Bobby over the wall. As he opened the door, however, he
heard Geordie Ross's whistle around the bend in Forest Road.
"Hey, laddie!" he called. "Come awa' in a meenit." When the
sturdy boy was inside and the door safely shut, he began in his
most guileless and persuasive tone: "Would you like to earn a
"Ay, I would. Gie it to me i' pennies an' ha'pennies, Maister
Traill. It seems mair, an' mak's a braw jinglin' in a pocket."
The price was paid and the tale told. The quick championship of
the boy was engaged for the gallant dog, and Geordie's eyes
sparkled at the prospect of dark adventure. Bobby was on the
floor listening, ears and eyes, brambly muzzle and feathered tail
alert. He listened with his whole, small, excited body, and hung
on the answer to the momentous question.
"Is there no' a way to smuggle the bit dog into the kirkyard?"
It appeared that nothing was easier, "aince ye ken hoo." Did Mr.
Traill know of the internal highway through the old Cunzie Neuk
at the bottom of the Row? One went up the stairs on the front to
the low, timbered gallery, then through a passage as black as
"Bluidy" McKenzie's heart. At the end of that, one came to a
peep-hole of a window, set out on wooden brackets, that hung
right over the kirkyard wall. From that window Bobby could be
dropped on a certain noble vault, from which he could jump to the
"Twa meenits' wark, stout hearts, sleekit footstaps, an' the
fearsome deed is done," declared twelve-year-old Geordie, whose