Greyfriar's Bobby/Chapter V
Word had been left at all the inns and carting offices about both markets for the tenant of Cauldbrae farm to call at Mr. Traill's place for Bobby. The man appeared Wednesday afternoon, driving a big Clydesdale horse to a stout farm cart. The low-ceiled dining-room suddenly shrank about the big-boned, long legged hill man. The fact embarrassed him, as did also a voice cultivated out of all proportion to town houses, by shouting to dogs and shepherds on windy shoulders of the Pentlands.
"Hae ye got the dog wi' ye?"
Mr. Train pointed to Bobby, deep in a blissful, after dinner nap under the settle.
The farmer breathed a sigh of relief, sat at a table, and ate a frugal meal of bread and cheese. As roughly dressed as Auld Jock, in a metal-buttoned greatcoat of hodden gray, a woolen bonnet, and the shepherd's twofold plaid, he was a different species of human being altogether. A long, lean, sinewy man of early middle age, he had a smooth-shaven, bony jaw, far-seeing gray eyes under furzy brows, and a shock of auburn hair. When he spoke, it was to give bits out of his own experience.
"Thae terriers are usefu' eneugh on an ordinar' fairm an' i' the toon to keep awa' the vermin, but I wadna gie a twa-penny-bit for ane o' them on a sheep-fairm. There's a wee lassie at Cauldbrae wha wants Bobby for a pet. It wasna richt for Auld Jock to win 'im awa' frae the bairn."
Mr. Traill's hand was lifted in rebuke. "Speak nae ill, man; Auld Jock's dead."
The farmer's ruddy face blanched and he dropped his knife. "He's no' buried so sane?"
"Ay, he's buried four days since in Greyfriars kirkyard, and Bobby has slept every night on the auld man's grave."
"I'll juist tak' a leuk at the grave, moil, gin ye'll hae an ee on the dog."
Mr. Traill cautioned him not to let the caretaker know that Bobby had continued to sleep in the kirkyard, after having been put out twice. The farmer was back in ten minutes, with a canny face that defied reading. He lighted his short Dublin pipe and smoked it out before he spoke again.
"It's ower grand for a puir auld shepherd body to be buried i' Greyfriars."
"No' so grand as heaven, I'm thinking." Mr. Traill's response was dry.
"Ay, an' we're a' coontin' on gangin' there; but it's a prood thing to hae yer banes put awa' in Greyfriars, ance ye're through wi' 'em!"
"Nae doubt the gude auld man would rather be alive on the Pentland braes than dead in Greyfriars."
"Ay," the farmer admitted. "He was fair fond o' the hills, an' no' likin' the toon. An', moil, he was a wonder wi' the lambs. He'd gang wi' a collie ower miles o' country in roarin' weather, an' he'd aye fetch the lost sheep hame. The auld moil was nane so weel furnished i' the heid, but bairnies and beasts were unco' fond o' 'im. It wasna his fau't that Bobby was aye at his heels. The lassie wad 'a' been after'im, gin 'er mither had permeeted it."
Mr. Traill asked him why he had let so valuable a man go, and the farmer replied at once that he was getting old and could no longer do the winter work. To any but a Scotchman brought up near the sheep country this would have sounded hard, but Mr. Traill knew that the farmers on the wild, tipped-up moors were themselves hard pressed to meet rent and taxes. To keep a shepherd incapacitated by age and liable to lose a flock in a snow-storm, was to invite ruin. And presently the man showed, unwittingly, how sweet a kernel the heart may lie under the shell of sordid necessity.
"I didna ken the auld man was fair ill or he micht hae bided at the fairm an' tak'n 'is ain time to dee at 'is ease."
As Bobby unrolled and stretched to an awakening, the farmer got up, took him unaware and thrust him into a covered basket. He had no intention of letting the little creature give him the slip again. Bobby howled at the indignity, and struggled and tore at the stout wickerwork. It went to Mr. Traill's heart to hear him, and to see the gallant little dog so defenseless. He talked to him through the latticed cover all the way out to the cart, telling him Auld Jock meant for him to go home. At that beloved name, Bobby dropped to the bottom of the basket and cried in such a heartbroken way that tears stood in the landlord's eyes, and even the farmer confessed to a sudden "cauld in 'is heid."
"I'd gie 'im to ye, mon, gin it wasna that the bit lassie wad greet her bonny een oot gin I didna fetch 'im hame. Nae boot the bit tyke wad 'a' deed gin ye hadna fed 'im."
"Eh, man, he'll no' bide with me, or I'd be bargaining for him. And he'll no' be permitted to live in the kirkyard. I know naething in this life more pitiful than a masterless, hameless dog." And then, to delay the moment of parting with Bobby, who stopped crying and began to lick his hand in frantic appeal through a hole in the basket, Mr. Traill asked how Bobby came by his name.
"It was a leddy o' the neeborhood o' Swanston. She cam' drivin' by Cauldbrae i' her bit cart wi' shaggy Shetlands to it an' stapped at the dairy for a drink o' buttermilk frae the kirn. Syne she saw the sonsie puppy loupin' at Auld Jock's heels, bonny as a poodle, but mair knowin'. The leddy gied me a poond note for 'im. I put 'im up on the seat, an' she said that noo she had a smart Hieland groom to match 'er Hieland steeds, an' she flicked the ponies wi' 'er whup. Syne the bit dog was on the airth an' flyin' awa' doon the road like the deil was after 'im. An' the leddy lauched an' lauched, an' went awa' wi'oot 'im. At the fut o' the brae she was still lauchin', an' she ca'ed back: 'Gie 'im the name o' Bobby, gude mon. He's left the plow-tail an's aff to Edinburgh to mak' his fame an' fortune.' I didna ken what the leddy meant."
"Man, she meant he was like Bobby Burns."
Here was a literary flavor that gave added attraction to a man who sat at the feet of the Scottish muses. The landlord sighed as he went back to the doorway, and he stood there listening to the clatter of the cart and rough-shod horse and to the mournful howling of the little dog, until the sounds died away in Forest Road.
Mr. Traill would have been surprised to know, perhaps, that the confines of the city were scarcely passed before Bobby stopped protesting and grieving and settled down patiently to more profitable work. A human being thus kidnapped and carried away would have been quite helpless. But Bobby fitted his mop of a black muzzle into the largest hole of his wicker prison, and set his useful little nose to gathering news of his whereabouts.
If it should happen to a dog in this day to be taken from Ye Olde Greyfriars Dining-Rooms and carried southward out of Edinburgh there would be two miles or more of city and suburban streets to be traversed before coming to the open country. But a half century or more ago one could stand at the upper gate of Greyfriars kirkyard or Heriot's Hospital grounds and look down a slope dotted with semi-rustic houses, a village or two and water-mills, and then cultivated farms, all the way to a stone-bridged burn and a toll-bar at the bottom of the valley. This hillside was the ancient Burghmuir where King James of old gathered a great host of Scots to march and fight and perish on Flodden Field.
Bobby had not gone this way homeward before, and was puzzled by the smell of prosperous little shops, and by the park-like odors from college campuses to the east, and from the well-kept residence park of George Square. But when the cart rattled across Lauriston Place he picked up the familiar scents of milk and wool from the cattle and sheep market, and then of cottage dooryards, of turned furrows and of farmsteads.
The earth wears ever a threefold garment of beauty. The human person usually manages to miss nearly everything but the appearance of things. A few of us are so fortunate as to have ears attuned to the harmonies woven on the wind by trees and birds and water; but the tricky weft of odors that lies closest of all, enfolding the very bosom of the earth, escapes us. A little dog, traveling with his nose low, lives in another stratum of the world, and experiences other pleasures than his master. He has excitements that he does his best to share, and that send him flying in pursuit of phantom clues.
From the top of the Burghmuir it was easy going to Bobby. The snow had gone off in a thaw, releasing a multitude of autumnal aromas. There was a smell of birch and beech buds sealed up in gum, of berries clotted on the rowan-trees, and of balsam and spice from plantations of Highland firs and larches. The babbling water of the burn was scented with the dead bracken of glens down which it foamed. Even the leafless hedges had their woody odors, and stone dykes their musty smell of decaying mosses and lichens.
Bobby knew the pause at the toll-bar in the valley, and the mixed odors of many passing horses and men, there. He knew the smells of poultry and cheese at a dairy-farm; of hunting dogs and riding-leathers at a sportsman's trysting inn, and of grist and polluted water at a mill. And after passing the hilltop toll-bar of Fairmilehead, dipping across a narrow valley and rounding the base of a sentinel peak, many tame odors were left behind. At the buildings of the large, scattered farms there were smells of sheep, and dogs and barn yards. But, for the most part, after the road began to climb over a high shoulder of the range, there was just one wild tang of heather and gorse and fern, tingling with salt air from the German Ocean.
When they reached Cauldbrae farm, high up on the slope, it was entirely dark. Lights in the small, deep-set windows gave the outlines of a low, steep-roofed, stone farm-house. Out of the darkness a little wind blown figure of a lassie fled down the brae to meet the cart, and an eager little voice, as clear as a hill-bird's piping, cried out:
"Hae ye got ma ain Bobby, faither?"
"Ay, lassie, I fetched 'im hame," the farmer roared back, in his big voice.
Then the cart was stopped for the wee maid to scramble up over a wheel, and there were sweet little sounds of kissing and muffled little cuddlings under the warm plaid. When these soft endearments had been attended to there was time for another yearning.
"May I haud wee Bobby, faither?"
"Nae, lassie, a bonny bit bairnie couldna haud 'im in 'er sma' airms. Bobby's a' for gangin' awa' to leev in a grand kirkyaird wi' Auld Jock."
A little gasp, and a wee sob, and an awed question: "Is gude Auld Jock deid, daddy?"
Bobby heard it and answered with a mournful howl. The lassie snuggled closer to the warm, beating heart, hid her eyes in the rough plaid, and cried for Auld Jock and for the grieving little dog.
"Niest to faither an' mither an' big brither Wattie I lo'e Auld Jock an' Bobby." The bairnie's voice was smothered in the plaidie. Because it was dark and none were by to see, the reticent Scot could overflow in tender speech. His arm tightened around this one little ewe lamb of the human fold on cold slope farm. He comforted the child by telling her how they would mak' it up to Bobby, and how very soon a wee dog forgets the keenest sorrow and is happy again.
The sheep-dogs charged the cart with as deafening a clamor of welcome as if a home-coming had never happened before, and raced the horse across the level. The kitchen door flared open, a sudden beacon to shepherds scattered afar on these upland billows of heath. In a moment the basket was in the house, the door snecked, and Bobby released on the hearth.
It was a beautiful, dark old kitchen, with a homely fire of peat that glowed up to smoke-stained rafters. Soon it was full of shepherds, come in to a supper of brose, cheese, milk and bannocks. Sheep-dogs sprawled and dozed on the hearth, so that the gude wife complained of their being underfoot. But she left them undisturbed and stepped over them, for, tired as they were, they would have to go out again to drive the sheep into the fold.
Humiliated by being brought home a prisoner, and grieving for the forsaken grave in Greyfriars, Bobby crept away to a corner bench, on which Auld Jock had always sat in humble self-effacement. He lay down under it, and the little four year-old lassie sat on the floor close beside him, understanding, and sorry with him. Her rough brother Wattie teased her about wanting her supper there on one plate with Bobby.
"I wadna gang daft aboot a bit dog, Elsie."
"Leave the bairn by 'er lane," commanded the farmer. The mither patted the child's bright head, and wiped the tears from the bluebell eyes. And there was a little sobbing confidence poured into a sympathetic ear.
Bobby refused to eat at first, but by and by he thought better of it. A little dog that has his life to live and his work to do must have fuel to drive the throbbing engine of his tiny heart. So Bobby very sensibly ate a good supper in the lassie's company and, grateful for that and for her sympathy, submitted to her shy petting. But after the shepherds and dogs were gone and the farmer had come in again from an overseeing look about the place the little dog got up, trotted to the door, and lay down by it. The lassie followed him. With two small, plump hands she pushed Bobby's silver veil back, held his muzzle and looked into his sad, brown eyes.
"Oh, mither, mither, Bobby's greetin'," she cried.
"Nae, bonny wee, a sma' dog canna greet."
"Ay, he's greetin' sair!" A sudden, sweet little sound was dropped on Bobby's head.
"Ye shouldna kiss the bit dog, bairnie. He isna like a human body."
"Ay, a wee kiss is gude for 'im. Faither, he greets so I canna thole it." The child fled to comforting arms in the inglenook and cried herself to sleep. The gude wife knitted, and the gude mon smoked by the pleasant fire. The only sound in the room was the ticking of the wag at the wa' clock, for burning peat makes no noise at all, only a pungent whiff in the nostrils, the memory of which gives a Scotch laddie abroad a fit of hamesickness. Bobby lay very still and watchful by the door. The farmer served his astonishing news in dramatic bits.
"Auld Jock's deid." Bobby stirred at that, and flattened out on the floor.
"Ay, the lassie told that, an' I wad hae kenned it by the dog. He is greetin' by the ordinar'."
"An' he's buried i' the kirkyaird o' auld Greyfriars." Ah, that fetched her! The gude wife dropped her knitting and stared at him.
"There's a gairdener, like at the country-hooses o' the gentry, leevin' in a bit lodge by the gate. He has naethin' to do, ava, but lock the gate at nicht, put the dogs oot, an' mak' the posies bloom i' the simmer. Ay, it's a bonny place."
"It's ower grand for Auld Jock."
"Ye may weel say that. His bit grave isna so far frae the martyrs' monument." When the grandeur of that had sunk in he went on to other incredibilities.
Presently he began to chuckle. "There's a bit notice on the gate that nae dogs are admittet, but Bobby's sleepit on Auld Jock's grave ane--twa--three--fower nichts, an' the gairdener doesna ken it, ava. He's a canny beastie."
"Ay, he is. Folk wull be comin' frae miles aroond juist to leuk at thesperity bit. Ilka body aboot kens Auld Jock. It'll be maist michty news to tell at the kirk on the Sabbath, that he's buried i' Greyfriars."
Through all this talk Bobby had lain quietly by the door, in the expectation that it would be unlatched. Impatient of delay, he began to whimper and to scratch on the panel. The lassie opened her blue eyes at that, scrambled down, and ran to him. Instantly Bobby was up, tugging at her short little gown and begging to be let out. When she clasped her chubby arms around his neck and tried to comfort him he struggled free and set up a dreadful howling.
"Hoots, Bobby, stap yer havers!" shouted the farmer.
"Eh, lassie, he'll deave us a'. We'll juist hae to put 'im i' the byre wi' the coos for the nicht," cried the distracted mither.
"I want Bobby i' the bed wi' me. I'll cuddle 'im an' lo'e 'im till he staps greetin'."
"Nae, bonny wee, he wullna stap." The farmer picked the child up on one arm, gripped the dog under the other, and the gude wife went before with a lantern, across the dark farmyard to the cow-barn. When the stout door was unlatched there was a smell of warm animals, of milk, and cured hay, and the sound of full, contented breathings that should have brought a sense of companionship to a grieving little creature.
"Bobby wullna be lanely here wi' the coos, bairnie, an' i' the morn ye can tak' a bit rope an' haud it in a wee hand so he canna brak awa', an' syne, in a day or twa, he'll be forgettin' Auld Jock. Ay, ye'll hae grand times wi' the sonsie doggie, rinnin' an' loupin' on the braes."
This argument was so convincing and so attractive that the little maid dried her tears, kissed Bobby on the head again, and made a bed of heather for him in a corner. But as they were leaving the byre fresh doubts assailed her.
"He'll gang awa' gin ye dinna tie 'im snug the nicht, faither."
"Sic a fulish bairn! Wi' fower wa's aroond 'im, an' a roof to 'is heid, an' a floor to 'is fut, hoo could a sma' dog mak' a way oot?"
It was a foolish notion, bred of fond anxiety, and so, reassured, the child went happily back to the house and to rosy sleep in her little closet bed.
Ah! here was a warm place in a cold world for Bobby. A soft-hearted little mistress and merry playmate was here, generous food, and human society of a kind that was very much to a little farm dog's liking. Here was freedom--wide moors to delight his scampering legs, adventures with rabbits, foxes, hares and moor-fowl, and great spaces where no one's ears would be offended by his loudest, longest barking. Besides, Auld Jock had said, with his last breath, "Gang--awa'--hame--laddie!" It is not to be supposed Bobby had forgotten that, since he remembered and obeyed every other order of that beloved voice. But there, self-interest, love of liberty, and the instinct of obedience, even, sank into the abysses of the little creature's mind. Up to the top rose the overmastering necessity of guarding the bit of sacred earth that covered his master.
The byre was no sooner locked than Bobby began, in the pitch darkness, to explore the walls. The single promise of escape that was offered was an inch-wide crack under the door, where the flooring stopped short and exposed a strip of earth. That would have appalled any but a desperate little dog. The crack was so small as to admit but one paw, at first, and the earth was packed as hard as wood by generations of trampling cattle.
There he began to dig. He came of a breed of dogs used by farmers and hunters to dig small, burrowing animals out of holes, a breed whose courage and persistence know no limit. He dug patiently, steadily, hour after hour, enlarging the hole by inches. Now and then he had to stop to rest. When he was able to use both forepaws he made encouraging progress; but when he had to reach under the door, quite the length of his stretched legs, and drag every bit of earth back into the byre, the task must have been impossible to any little creature not urged by utter misery. But Skye terriers have been known to labor with such fury that they have perished of their own exertions. Bobby's nose sniffed liberty long before he could squeeze his weasel-like body through the tunnel. His back bruised and strained by the struggle through a hole too small, he stood, trembling with exhaustion, in the windy dawn.
An opening door, a barking sheep-dog, the shuffle of the moving flock, were signs that the farm day was beginning, although all the stars had not faded out of the sky. A little flying shadow, Bobby slipped out of the cow-yard, past the farm-house, and literally tumbled down the brae. From one level to another he dropped, several hundred feet in a very few minutes, and from the clear air of the breezy hilltop to a nether world that was buried fathoms deep in a sea-fog as white as milk.
Hidden in a deep fold of the spreading skirts of the range, and some distance from the road, lay a pool, made by damming a burn, and used, in the shearing season, for washing sheep. Surrounded by brushy woods, and very damp and dark, at other seasons it was deserted. Bobby found this secluded place with his nose, curled up under a hazel thicket and fell sound asleep. And while he slept, a nipping wind from the far, northern Highlands swooped down on the mist and sent it flying out to sea. The Lowlands cleared like magic. From the high point where Bobby lay the road could be seen to fall, by short rises and long descents, all the way to Edinburgh. From its crested ridge and flanking hills the city trailed a dusky banner of smoke out over the fishing fleet in the Firth.
A little dog cannot see such distant views. Bobby could only read and follow the guide-posts of odors along the way. He had begun the ascent to the toll-bar when he heard the clatter of a cart and the pounding of hoofs behind him. He did not wait to learn if this was the Cauldbrae farmer in pursuit. Certain knowledge on that point was only to be gained at his peril. He sprang into the shelter of a stone wall, scrambled over it, worked his way along it a short distance, and disappeared into a brambly path that skirted a burn in a woody dell.
Immediately the little dog was lost in an unexplored country. The narrow glen was musical with springs, and the low growth was undercut with a maze of rabbit runs, very distracting to a dog of a hunting breed. Bobby knew, by much journeying with Auld Jock, that running water is a natural highway. Sheep drift along the lowest level until they find an outlet down some declivity, or up some foaming steep, to new pastures.
But never before had Bobby found, above such a rustic brook, a many chimneyed and gabled house of stone, set in a walled garden and swathed in trees. Today, many would cross wide seas to look upon Swanston cottage, in whose odorous old garden a whey-faced, wistful-eyed laddie dreamed so many brave and laughing dreams. It was only a farm-house then, fallen from a more romantic history, and it had no attraction for Bobby. He merely sniffed at dead vines of clematis, sleeping briar bushes, and very live, bright hedges of holly, rounded a corner of its wall, and ran into a group of lusty children romping on the brae, below the very prettiest, thatch roofed and hill-sheltered hamlet within many a mile of Edinboro' town. The bairns were lunching from grimy, mittened hands, gypsy fashion, life being far too short and playtime too brief for formal meals. Seeing them eating, Bobby suddenly discovered that he was hungry. He rose before a well-provided laddie and politely begged for a share of his meal.
Such an excited shouting of admiration and calling on mithers to come and see the bonny wee dog was never before heard on Swanston village green. Doors flew open and bareheaded women ran out. Then the babies had to be brought, and the' old grandfaithers and grandmithers. Everybody oh-ed and ah-ed and clapped hands, and doubled up with laughter, for, a tempting bit held playfully just out of reach, Bobby rose, again and again, jumped for it, and chased a teasing laddie. Then he bethought him to roll over and over, and to go through other winsome little tricks, as Auld Jock had taught him to do, to win the reward. All this had one quite unexpected result. A shrewd-eyed woman pounced upon Bobby and captured him.
"He's no' an ordinar' dog. Some leddy has lost her pet. I'll juist shut 'im up, an' syne she'll pay a shullin' or twa to get 'im again."
With a twist and a leap Bobby was gone. He scrambled straight up the steep, thorn-clad wall of the glen, where no laddie could follow, and was over the crest. It was a narrow escape, made by terrific effort. His little heart pounding with exhaustion and alarm, he hid under a whin bush to get his breath and strength. The sheltered dell was windless, but here a stiff breeze blew. Suddenly shifting a point, the wind brought to the little dog's nose a whiff of the acrid coal smoke of Edinburgh three miles away.
Straight as an arrow he ran across country, over roadway and wall, plowed fields and rippling burns. He scrambled under hedges and dashed across farmsteads and cottage gardens. As he neared the city the hour bells aided him, for the Skye terrier is keen of hearing. It was growing dark when he climbed up the last bank and gained Lauriston Place. There he picked up the odors of milk and wool, and the damp smell of the kirkyard.
Now for something comforting to put into his famished little body. A night and a day of exhausting work, of anxiety and grief, had used up the last ounce of fuel. Bobby raced down Forest Road and turned the slight angle into Greyfriars Place. The lamp lighter's progress toward the bridge was marked by the double row of lamps that bloomed, one after one, on the dusk. The little dog had come to the steps of Mr. Traill's place, and lifted himself to scratch on the door, when the bugle began to blow. He dropped with the first note and dashed to the kirkyard gate.
None too soon! Mr. Brown was setting the little wicket gate inside, against the wall. In the instant his back was turned, Bobby slipped through. After nightfall, when the caretaker had made his rounds, he came out from under the fallen table-tomb of Mistress Jean Grant.
Lights appeared at the rear windows of the tenements, and families sat at supper. It was snell weather again, the sky dark with threat of snow, and the windows were all closed. But with a sharp bark beneath the lowest of them Bobby could have made his presence and his wants known. He watched the people eating, sitting wistfully about on his haunches here and there, but remaining silent. By and by there were sounds of crying babies, of crockery being washed, and the ringing of church bells far and near. Then the lights were extinguished, and huge bulks of shadow, of tenements and kirk, engulfed the kirkyard.
When Bobby lay down on Auld Jock's grave, pellets of frozen snow were falling and the air had hardened toward frost.