Greyfriar's Bobby/Chapter IX
When Ailie wanted to get up unusually early in the morning she made use of Tammy for an alarm-clock. A crippled laddie who must "mak' 'is leevin' wi' 'is heid" can waste no moment of daylight, and in the ancient buildings around Greyfriars the maximum of daylight was to be had only by those able and willing to climb to the gables. Tammy, having to live on the lowest, darkest floor of all, used the kirkyard for a study, by special indulgence of the caretaker, whenever the weather permitted.
From a window he dropped his books and his crutches over the wall. Then, by clasping his arms around a broken shaft that blocked the casement, he swung himself out, and scrambled down into an enclosed vault yard. There he kept hidden Mistress Jeanie's milking stool for a seat; and a table-tomb served as well, for the laddie to do his sums upon, as it had for the tearful signing of the Covenant more than two hundred years before. Bobby, as host, greeted Tammy with cordial friskings and waggings, saw him settled to his tasks, and then went briskly about his own interrupted business of searching out marauders. Many a spring dawn the quiet little boy and the swift and silent little dog had the shadowy garden all to themselves, and it was for them the song-thrushes and skylarks gave their choicest concerts.
On that mid-April morning, when the rising sun gilded the Castle turrets and flashed back from the many beautiful windows of Heriot's Hospital, Tammy bundled his books under the table-tomb of Mistress Jean Grant, went over to the rear of the Guildhall at the top of the Row, and threw a handful of gravel up to Ailie's window. Because of a grandmither, Ailie, too, dwelt on a low level. Her eager little face, lighted by sleep-dazzled blue eyes, popped out with the surprising suddenness of the manikins in a Punch-and-Judy show.
"In juist ane meenit, Tammy," she whispered, "no' to wauken the grandmither." It was in so very short a minute that the lassie climbed out onto the classic pediment of a tomb and dropped into the kirkyard that her toilet was uncompleted. Tammy buttoned her washed-out cotton gown at the back, and she sat on a slab to lace her shoes. If the fun of giving Bobby his bath was to be enjoyed to the full there must be no unnecessary delay. This consideration led Tammy to observe:
"Ye're no' needin' to comb yer hair, Ailie. It leuks bonny eneugh."
In truth, Ailie was one of those fortunate lassies whose crinkly, gold-brown mop really looked best when in some disorder; and of that advantage the little maid was well aware.
"I ken a' that, Tammy. I aye gie it a lick or twa wi' a comb the nicht afore. Ca' the wee doggie."
Bobby fully understood that he was wanted for some serious purpose, but it was a fresh morning of dew and he, apparently, was in the highest of spirits. So he gave Ailie a chase over the sparkling grass and under the showery shrubbery. When he dropped at last on Auld Jock's grave Tammy captured him. The little dog could always be caught there, in a caressable state of exhaustion or meditation, for, sooner or later, he returned to the spot from every bit of work or play. No one would have known it for a place of burial at all. Mr. Brown knew it only by the rose bush at its head and by Bobby's haunting it, for the mound had sunk to the general level of the terrace on which it lay, and spreading crocuses poked their purple and gold noses through the crisp spring turf. But for the wee, guardian dog the man who lay beneath had long lost what little identity he had ever possessed.
Now, as the three lay there, the lassie as flushed and damp as some water-nymph, Bobby panting and submitting to a petting, Tammy took the little dog's muzzle between his thin hands, parted the veil, and looked into the soft brown eyes.
"Leak, Ailie, Bobby's wantin' somethin', an' is juist haudin' 'imsel'."
It was true. For all his gaiety in play and his energy at work Bobby's eyes had ever a patient, wistful look, not unlike the crippled laddie's. Ah, who can say that it did not require as much courage and gallant bravado on the part of that small, bereft creature to enable him to live at all, as it did for Tammy to face his handicapped life and "no' to remember 'is bad legs"?
In the bath on the rear steps of the lodge Bobby swam and splashed, and scattered foam with his excited tail. He would not stand still to be groomed, but wriggled and twisted and leaped upon the children, putting his shaggy wet paws roguishly in their faces. But he stood there at last, after the jolliest romp, in which the old kirkyard rang with laughter, and oh! so bonny, in his rippling coat of dark silver. No sooner was he released than he dashed around the kirk and back again, bringing his latest bone in his mouth. To his scratching on the stone sill, for he had been taught not to scratch on the panel, the door was opened by snod and smiling Mistress Jeanie, who invited these slum bairns into such a cozy, spotless kitchen as was not possible in the tenements. Mr. Brown sat by the hearth, bundled in blue and white blankets of wonderfully blocked country weaving. Bobby put his fore paws on the caretaker's chair and laid his precious bone in the man's lap.
"Eh, ye takin' bit rascal; loup!" Bobby jumped to the patted knee, turned around and around on the soft bed that invited him, licked the beaming old face to show his sympathy and friendliness, and jumped down again. Mr. Brown sighed because Bobby steadily but amiably refused to be anybody's lap-dog. The caretaker turned to the admiring children.
"Ilka morn he fetches 'is bit bane up, thinkin' it a braw giftie for an ill man. An' syne he veesits me twa times i' the day, juist bidin' a wee on the hearthstane, lollin' 'is tongue an' waggin' 'is tail, cheerfu'-like. Bobby has mair gude sense in 'is heid than mony a man wha comes ben the hoose, wi' a lang face, to let me ken I'm gangin' to dee. Gin I keep snug an' canny it wullna gang to the heart. Jeanie, woman, fetch ma fife, wull ye?"
Then there were strange doings in the kirkyard lodge. James Brown "wasna gangin' to dee" before his time came, at any rate. In his youth, as under-gardener on a Highland estate, he had learned to play the piccolo flute, and lately he had revived the pastoral art of piping just because it went so well with Bobby's delighted legs. To the sonsie air of "Bonnie Dundee" Bobby hopped and stepped and louped, and he turned about on his hind feet, his shagged fore paws drooped on his breast as daintily as the hands in the portraits of early Victorian ladies. The fire burned cheerily in the polished grate, and winked on every shining thing in the room; primroses bloomed in the diamond-paned casement; the skylark fluttered up and sang in its cage; the fife whistled as gaily as a blackbird, and the little dog danced with a comic clumsiness that made them all double up with laughter. The place was so full of brightness, and of kind and merry hearts, that there was room for nothing else. Not one of them dreamed that the shadow of the law was even then over this useful and lovable little dog's head.
A glance at the wag-at-the-wa' clock reminded Ailie that Mr. Traill might be waiting for Bobby.
Curious about the mystery, the children took the little dog down to the gate, happily. They were sobered, however, when Mr. Traill appeared, looking very grand in his Sabbath clothes. He inspected Bobby all over with anxious scrutiny, and gave each of the bairns a threepenny-bit, but he had no blithe greeting for them. Much preoccupied, he went off at once, with the animated little muff of a dog at his heels. In truth, Mr. Traill was thinking about how he might best plead Bobby's cause with the Lord Provost. The note that was handed him, on leaving the Burgh court the day before, had read:
"Meet me at the Regent's Tomb in St. Giles at eight o'clock in the morning, and bring the wee Highlander with you.-- Glenormiston."
On the first reading the landlord's spirits had risen, out of all proportion to the cause, owing to his previous depression. But, after all, the appointment had no official character, since the Regent's Tomb in St. Giles had long been a sort of town pump for the retailing of gossip and for the transaction of trifling affairs of all sorts. The fate of this little dog was a small matter, indeed, and so it might be thought fitting, by the powers that be, that it should be decided at the Regent's Tomb rather than in the Burgh court.
To the children, who watched from the kirkyard gate until Mr. Traill and Bobby were hidden by the buildings on the bridge, it was no' canny. The busy landlord lived mostly in shirt-sleeves and big white apron, ready to lend a hand in the rush hours, and he never was known to put on his black coat and tall hat on a week-day, except to attend a funeral. However, there was the day's work to be done. Tammy had a lesson still to get, and returned to the kirkyard, and Ailie ran up to the dining-rooms. On the step she collided with a red headed, freckle-faced young man who asked for Mr. Traill.
"He isna here." The shy lassie was made almost speechless by recognizing, in this neat, well-spoken clerk, an old Heriot boy, once as poor as herself.
"Do you wark for him, lassie? Weel, do you know how he cam' out in the Burgh court about the bit dog?"
There was only one "bit dog" in the world to Ailie. Wild eyed with alarm at mention of the Burgh court, in connection with that beloved little pet, she stammered: "It's--it's--no' a coort he gaed to. Maister Traill's tak'n Bobby awa' to a braw kirk."
Sandy nodded his head. "Ay, that would be the police office in St. Giles. Lassie, tell Mr. Traill I sent the Lord Provost, and if he's needing a witness to ca' on Sandy McGregor. "
Ailie stared after him with frightened eyes. Into her mind flashed that ominous remark of the policeman two days before: "I didna ken ye had a dog, John?" She overtook Sandy in front of the sheriff's court on the bridge.
"What--what hae the police to do wi' bittie dogs?"
"If a dog has nae master to pay for his license the police can tak' him up and put him out o' the way."
"Hoo muckle siller are they wantin'?"
"Seven shullings. Gude day, lassie; I'm fair late." Sandy was not really alarmed about Bobby since the resourceful Mr. Traill had taken up his cause, and he had no idea of the panic of grief and fright that overwhelmed this forlorn child.
Seven shullings! It was an enormous sum to the tenement bairn, whose half-blind grandmither knitted and knitted in a dimly lighted room, and hoarded halfpennies and farthings to save herself from pauper burial. Seven shullings would pay a month's rent for any one of the crowded rooms in which a family lived. Ailie herself, an untrained lassie who scarcely knew the use of a toasting-fork, was overpaid by generous Mr. Traill at sixpence a day. Seven shullings to permit one little dog to live! It did not occur to Ailie that this was a sum Mr. Traill could easily pay. No' onybody at all had seven shullings all at once! But, oh! everybody had pennies and halfpennies and farthings, and she and Tammy together had a sixpence.
Darting back to the gate, to catch the laddie before he could be off to school, she ran straight into the policeman, who stood with his hand on the wicket. He eyed her sharply.
"Eh, lassie, I was gangin' to spier at the lodge, gin there's a bit dog leevin' i' the kirkyaird."
"I--I--dinna ken." Her voice was unmanageable. She had left to her only the tenement-bred instinct of concealment of any and all facts from an officer of the law.
"Ye dinna ken! Maister Traill said i' the coort a' the bairns aboot kenned the dog. Was he leein'?"
The question stung her into angry admission. "He wadna be leein'. But--but--the bittie--dog--isna here noo."
"Syne, whaur is he? Oot wi' it!"
"I--dinna--ken!" She cowered in abject fear against the wall. She could not know that this officer was suffering a bad attack of shame for his shabby part in the affair. Satisfied that the little dog really did live in the kirkyard, he turned back to the bridge. When Tammy came out presently he found Ailie crumpled up in a limp little heap in the gateway alcove. In a moment the tale of Bobby's peril was told. The laddie dropped his books and his crutches on the pavement, and his head in his helpless arms, and cried. He had small faith in Ailie's suddenly conceived plan to collect the seven shullings among the dwellers in the tenements.
"Do ye ken hoo muckle siller seven shullin's wad be? It's auchty-fower pennies, a hundred an' saxty-aucht ha'pennies an'-- an'--I canna think hoo mony farthings."
"I dinna care a bittie bit. There's mair folk aroond the kirkyaird than there's farthings i' twa, three times seven shullin's. An' maist ilka body kens Bobby. An' we hae a saxpence atween us noo."
"Maister Brown wad gie us anither saxpence gin he had ane," Tammy suggested, wistfully.
"Nae, he's fair ill. Gin he doesna keep canny it wull gang to 'is heart. He'd be aff 'is heid, aboot Bobby. Oh, Tammy, Maister Traill gaed to gie 'im up! He was wearin' a' 'is gude claes an' a lang face, to gang to Bobby's buryin'."
This dreadful thought spurred them to instant action. By way of mutual encouragement they went together through the sculptured doorway, that bore the arms of the ancient guild of the candlemakers on the lintel, and into the carting office on the front.
"Do ye ken Greyfriars Bobby?" Tammy asked, timidly, of the man in charge.
He glowered at the laddie and shook his head. "Havers, mannie; there's no' onybody named for an auld buryin' groond."
The children fled. There was no use at all in wasting time on folk who did not know Bobby, for it would take too long to explain him. But, alas, they soon discovered that "maist ilka body" did not know the little dog, as they had so confidently supposed. He was sure to be known only in the rooms at the rear that overlooked the kirkyard, and, as one went upward, his identity became less and less distinct. He was such a wee, wee, canny terrier, and so many of the windows had their views constantly shut out by washings. Around the inner courts, where unkempt women brought every sort of work out to the light on the galleries and mended worthless rags, gossiped, and nursed their babies on the stairs, Bobby had sometimes been heard of, but almost never seen. Children often knew him where their elders did not. By the time Ailie and Tammy had worked swiftly down to the bottom of the Row other children began to follow them, moved by the peril of the little dog to sympathy and eager sacrifice.
"Bide a wee, Ailie!" cried one, running to overtake the lassie. "Here's a penny. I was gangin' for milk for the porridge. We can do wi'oot the day."
And there was the money for the broth bone, and the farthing that would have filled the gude-man's evening pipe, and the ha'penny for the grandmither's tea. It was the world-over story of the poor helping the poor. The progress of Ailie and Tammy through the tenements was like that of the piper through Hamelin. The children gathered and gathered, and followed at their heels, until a curiously quiet mob of threescore or more crouched in the court of the old hall of the Knights of St. John, in the Grassmarket, to count the many copper coins in Tammy's woolen bonnet.
"Five shullin's, ninepence, an' a ha'penny," Tammy announced. And then, after calculation on his fingers, "It'll tak' a shullin' an' twapenny ha'penny mair."
There was a gasping breath of bitter disappointment, and one wee laddie wailed for lost Bobby. At that Ailie dashed the tears from her own eyes and sprang up, spurred to desperate effort. She would storm the all but hopeless attic chambers. Up the twisting turnpike stairs on the outer wall she ran, to where the swallows wheeled about the cornices, and she could hear the iron cross of the Knights Templars creak above the gable. Then, all the way along a dark passage, at one door after another, she knocked, and cried,
"Do ye ken Greyfriars Bobby?"
At some of the doors there was no answer. At others students stared out at the bairn, not in the least comprehending this wild crying. Tears of anger and despair flooded the little maid's blue eyes when she beat on the last door of the row with her doubled fist.
"Do ye ken Greyfriars Bobby? The police are gangin' to mak' 'im be deid--" As the door was flung open she broke into stormy weeping.
"Hey, lassie. I know the dog. What fashes you?"
There stood a tall student, a wet towel about his head, and, behind him, the rafters of the dormer-lighted closet were as thickly hung with bunches of dried herbs from the Botanical Garden as any auld witch wife's kitchen.
"Oh, are ye kennin' 'im? Isna he bonny an' sonsie? Gie me the shullin' an' twapenny ha' penny we're needin', so the police wullna put 'im awa'."
"Losh! It's a license you're wanting? I wish I had as many shullings as I've had gude times with Bobby, and naething to pay for his braw company."
For this was Geordie Ross, going through the Medical College with the help of Heriot's fund that, large as it was, was never quite enough for all the poor and ambitious youths of Edinburgh. And so, although provided for in all necessary ways, his pockets were nearly as empty as of old. He could spare a sixpence if he made his dinner on a potato and a smoked herring. That he was very willing to do, once he had heard the tale, and he went with Ailie to the lodgings of other students, and demanded their siller with no explanation at all.
"Give the lassie what you can spare, man, or I'll have to give you a licking," was his gay and convincing argument, from door to door, until the needed amount was made up. Ailie fled recklessly down the stairs, and cried triumphantly to the upward-looking, silent crowd that had grown and grown around Tammy, like some host of children crusaders.
While Ailie and Tammy were collecting the price of his ransom Bobby was exploring the intricately cut-up interior of old St. Giles, sniffing at the rifts in flimsily plastered partitions that the Lord Provost pointed out to Mr. Traill. Rats were in those crumbling walls. If there had been a hole big enough to admit him, the plucky little dog would have gone in after them. Forbidden to enlarge one, Bobby could only poke his indignant muzzle into apertures, and brace himself as for a fray. And, at the very smell of him, there were such squeakings and scamperings in hidden runways as to be almost beyond a terrier's endurance. The Lord Provost watched him with an approving eye.
"When these partitions are tak'n down Bobby would be vera useful in ridding our noble old cathedral of vermin. But that will not be in this wee Highlander's day nor, I fear, in mine." About the speech of this Peebles man, who had risen from poverty to distinction, learning, wealth, and many varieties of usefulness, there was still an engaging burr. And his manner was so simple that he put the humblest at his ease.
There had been no formality about the meeting at all. Glenormiston was standing in a rear doorway of the cathedral near the Regent's Tomb, looking out into the sunny square of Parliament Close, when Mr. Traill and Bobby appeared. Near seventy, at that time, a backward sweep of white hair and a downward flow of square-cut, white beard framed a boldly featured face and left a generous mouth uncovered.
"Gude morning, Mr. Traill. So that is the famous dog that has stood sentinel for more than eight years. He should be tak'n up to the Castle and shown to young soldiers who grumble at twenty-four hours' guard duty. How do you do, sir!" The great man, whom the Queen knighted later, and whom the University he was too poor to attend as a lad honored with a degree, stooped from the Regent's Tomb and shook Bobby's lifted paw with grave courtesy. Then, leaving the little dog to entertain himself, he turned easily to his own most absorbing interest of the moment.
"Do you happen to care for Edinburgh antiquities, Mr. Traill? Reformation piety made sad havoc of art everywhere. Man, come here!"
Down into the lime dust the Lord Provost and the landlord went, in their good black clothes, for a glimpse of a bit of sculpturing on a tomb that had been walled in to make a passage. A loose brick removed, behind and above it, the sun flashed through fragments of emerald and ruby glass of a saint's robe, in a bricked up window. Such buried and forgotten treasure, Glenormiston explained, filled the entire south transept. In the High Kirk, that then filled the eastern end of the cathedral, they went up a cheap wooden stairway, to the pew-filled gallery that was built into the old choir, and sat down. Mr. Traill's eyes sparkled. Glenormiston was a man after his own heart, and they were getting along famously; but, oh! it began to seem more and more unlikely that a Lord Provost, who was concerned about such braw things as the restoration of the old cathedral and letting the sun into the ancient tenements, should be much interested in a small, masterless dog.
"Man, auld John Knox will turn over in his bit grave in Parliament Close if you put a 'kist o' whustles' in St. Giles." Mr. Traill laughed.
"I admit I might have stopped short of the organ but for the courageous example of Doctor Lee in Greyfriars. It was from him that I had a quite extravagant account of this wee, leal Highlander a few years ago. I have aye meant to go to see him; but I'm a busy man and the matter passed out of mind. Mr. Traill, I'm your sadly needed witness: I heard you from the doorway of the court-room, and I sent up a note confirming your story and asking, as a courtesy, that the case be turned over to me for some exceptional disposal. Would you mind telling another man the tale that so moved Doctor Lee? I've aye had a fondness for the human document."
So there, above the pulpit of the High Kirk of St. Giles, the tale was told again, so strangely did this little dog's life come to be linked with the highest and lowest, the proudest and humblest in the Scottish capital. Now, at mention of Auld Jock, Bobby put his shagged paws up inquiringly on the edge of the pew, so that Mr. Traill lifted him. He lay down flat between the two men, with his nose on his paws, and his little tousled head under the Lord Provost's hand.
Auld Jock lived again in that recital. Glenormiston, coming from the country of the Ettrick shepherd, knew such lonely figures, and the pathos of old age and waning powers that drove them in to the poor quarters of towns. There was pictured the stormy night and the simple old man who sought food and shelter, with the devoted little dog that "wasna 'is ain." Sick unto death he was, and full of ignorant prejudices and fears that needed wise handling. And there was the well-meaning landlord's blunder, humbly confessed, and the obscure and tragic result of it, in a foul and swarming rookery "juist aff the Coogate."
"Man, it was Bobby that told me of his master's condition. He begged me to help Auld Jock, and what did I do but let my fule tongue wag about doctors. I nae more than turned my back than the auld body was awa' to his meeserable death. It has aye eased my conscience a bit to feed the dog."
"That's not the only reason why you have fed him." There was a twinkle in the Lord Provost's eye, and Mr. Traill blushed.
"Weel, I'll admit to you that I'm fair fulish about Bobby. Man, I've courted that sma' terrier for eight and a half years. He's as polite and friendly as the deil, but he'll have naething to do with me or with onybody. I wonder the intelligent bit doesn't bite me for the ill turn I did his master."
Then there was the story of Bobby's devotion to Auld Jock's memory to be told--the days when he faced starvation rather than desert that grave, the days when he lay cramped under the fallen table-tomb, and his repeated, dramatic escapes from the Pentland farm. His never broken silence in the kirkyard was only to be explained by the unforgotten orders of his dead master. His intelligent effort to make himself useful to the caretaker had won indulgence. His ready obedience, good temper, high spirits and friendliness had made him the special pet of the tenement children and the Heriot laddies. At the very last Mr. Traill repeated the talk he had had with the non-commissioned officer from the Castle, and confessed his own fear of some forlorn end for Bobby. It was true he was nobody's dog; and he was fascinated by soldiers and military music, and so, perhaps--
"I'll no' be reconciled to parting--Eh, man, that's what Auld Jock himsel' said when he was telling me that the bit dog must be returned to the sheep-farm: 'It wull be sair partin'.'" Tears stood in the unashamed landlord's eyes.
Glenormiston was pulling Bobby's silkily fringed ears thoughtfully. Through all this talk about his dead master the little dog had not stirred. For the second time that day Bobby's veil was pushed back, first by the most unfortunate laddie in the decaying tenements about Greyfriars, and now by the Lord Provost of the ancient royal burgh and capital of Scotland. And both made the same discovery. Deep-brown pools of love, young Bobby's eyes had dwelt upon Auld Jock. Pools of sad memories they were now, looking out wistfully and patiently upon a masterless world.
"Are you thinking he would be reconciled to be anywhere away from that grave? Look, man!"
"Lord forgive me! I aye thought the wee doggie happy enough."
After a moment the two men went down the gallery stairs in silence. Bobby dropped from the bench and fell into a subdued trot at their heels. As they left the cathedral by the door that led into High Street Glenormiston remarked, with a mysterious smile:
"I'm thinking Edinburgh can do better by wee Bobby than to banish him to the Castle. But wait a bit, man. A kirk is not the place for settling a small dog's affairs."
The Lord Provost led the way westward along the cathedral's front. On High Street, St. Giles had three doorways. The middle door then gave admittance to the police office; the western opened into the Little Kirk, popularly known as Haddo's Hole. It was into this bare, whitewashed chapel that Glenormiston turned to get some restoration drawings he had left on the pulpit. He was explaining them to Mr. Traill when he was interrupted by a murmur and a shuffle, as of many voices and feet, and an odd tap-tap-tapping in the vestibule.
Of all the doorways on the north and south fronts of St. Giles the one to the Little Kirk was nearest the end of George IV Bridge. Confused by the vast size and imposing architecture of the old cathedral, these slum children, in search of the police office, went no farther, but ventured timidly into the open vestibule of Haddo's Hole. Any doubts they might have had about this being the right place were soon dispelled. Bobby heard them and darted out to investigate. And suddenly they were all inside, overwrought Ailie on the floor, clasping the little dog and crying hysterically.
"Bobby's no' deid! Bobby's no' deid! Oh, Maister Traill, ye wullna hae to gie 'im up to the police! Tammy's got the seven shullin's in 'is bonnet!"
And there was small Tammy, crutches dropped and pouring that offering of love and mercy out at the foot of an altar in old St. Giles. Such an astonishing pile of copper coins it was, that it looked to the landlord like the loot of some shopkeeper's change drawer.
"Eh, puir laddie, whaur did ye get it a' noo?" he asked, gravely.
Tammy was very self-possessed and proud. "The bairnies aroond the kirkyaird gie'd it to pay the police no' to mak' Bobby be deid."
Mr. Traill flashed a glance at Glenormiston. It was a look at once of triumph and of humility over the Herculean deed of these disinherited children. But the Lord Provost was gazing at that crowd of pale bairns, products of the Old Town's ancient slums, and feeling, in his own person, the civic shame of it. And he was thinking, thinking, that he must hasten that other project nearest his heart, of knocking holes in solid rows of foul cliffs, in the Cowgate, on High Street, and around Greyfriars. It was an incredible thing that such a flower of affection should have bloomed so sweetly in such sunless cells. And it was a new gospel, at that time, that a dog or a horse or a bird might have its mission in this world of making people kinder and happier.
They were all down on the floor, in the space before the altar, unwashed, uncombed, unconscious of the dirty rags that scarce covered them; quite happy and self-forgetful in the charming friskings and friendly lollings of the well-fed, carefully groomed, beautiful little dog. Ailie, still so excited that she forgot to be shy, put Bobby through his pretty tricks. He rolled over and over, he jumped, he danced to Tammy's whistling of "Bonnie Dundee," he walked on his hind legs and louped at a bonnet, he begged, he lifted his short shagged paw and shook hands. Then he sniffed at the heap of coins, looked up inquiringly at Mr. Traill, and, concluding that here was some property to be guarded, stood by the "siller" as stanchly as a soldier. It was just pure pleasure to watch him.
Very suddenly the Lord Provost changed his mind. A sacred kirk was the very best place of all to settle this little dog's affairs. The offering of these children could not be refused. It should lie there, below the altar, and be consecrated to some other blessed work; and he would do now and here what he had meant to do elsewhere and in a quite different way. He lifted Bobby to the pulpit so that all might see him, and he spoke so that all might understand.
"Are ye kennin' what it is to gie the freedom o' the toon to grand folk?"
"It's--it's when the bonny Queen comes an' ye gie her the keys to the burgh gates that are no' here ony mair." Tammy, being in Heriot's, was a laddie of learning.
"Weel done, laddie. Lang syne there was a wa' aroond Edinburgh wi' gates in it." Oh yes, all these bairnies knew that, and the fragment of it that was still to be seen outside and above the Grassmarket, with its sentry tower by the old west port. "Gin a fey king or ither grand veesitor cam', the Laird Provost an' the maigestrates gied 'im the keys so he could gang in an' oot at 'is pleesure. The wa's are a' doon noo, an' the gates no' here ony mair, but we hae the keys, an' we mak' a show o' gien' 'em to veesitors wha are vera grand or wise or gude, or juist usefu' by the ordinar'."
"Maister Gladstane," said Tammy.
"Ay, we honor the Queen's meenisters; an' Miss Nightingale, wha nursed the soldiers i' the war; an' Leddy Burdett-Coutts, wha gies a' her siller an' a' her heart to puir folk an' is aye kind to horses and dogs an' singin' birdies; an' we gie the keys to heroes o' the war wha are brave an' faithfu'. An' noo, there's a wee bit beastie. He's weel-behavin', an' isna makin' a blatterin' i' an auld kirkyaird. He aye minds what he's bidden to do. He's cheerfu' an' busy, keepin' the proolin' pussies an' vermin frae the sma' birdies i' the nests. He mak's friends o' ilka body, an' he's faithfu'. For a deid man he lo'ed he's gaun hungry; an' he hasna forgotten 'im or left 'im by 'is lane at nicht for mair years than some o' ye are auld. An' gin ye find 'im lyin' canny, an' ye tak' a keek into 'is bonny brown een, ye can see he's aye greetin'. An' so, ye didna ken why, but ye a' lo'ed the lanely wee--"
"Bobby!" It was an excited breath of a word from the wide-eyed bairns.
"Bobby! Havers! A bittie dog wadna ken what to do wi' keys."
But Glenormiston was smiling, and these sharp witted slum bairns exchanged knowing glances. "Whaur's that sma'--?" He dived into this pocket and that, making a great pretense of searching, until he found a narrow band of new leather, with holes in one end and a stout buckle on the other, and riveted fast in the middle of it was a shining brass plate. Tammy read the inscription aloud:
- GREYFRIARS BOBBY
- FROM THE LORD PROVOST
- 1867 Licensed
The wonderful collar was passed from hand to hand in awed silence. The children stared and stared at this white-haired and bearded man, who "wasna grand ava," but who talked to them as simply and kindly as a grandfaither. He went right on talking to them in his homely way to put them at their ease, telling them that nobody at all, not even the bonny Queen, could be more than kind and well-behaving and faithful to duty. Wee Bobby was all that, and so "Gin dizzens an' dizzens o' bairns war kennin' 'im, an' wad fetch seven shullin's i' their ha'pennies to a kirk, they could buy the richt for the braw doggie to be leevin', the care o' them a', i' the auld kirkyaird o' Greyfriars. An' he maun hae the collar so the police wull ken 'im an' no' ever tak' 'im up for a puir, gaen-aboot dog."
The children quite understood the responsibility they assumed, and their eyes shone with pride at the feeling that, if more fortunate friends failed, this little creature must never be allowed to go hungry. And when he came to die--oh, in a very, very few years, for they must remember that "a doggie isna as lang-leevin' as folk"--they must not forget that Bobby would not be permitted to be buried in the kirkyard.
"We'll gie 'im a grand buryin'," said Tammy. "We'll find a green brae by a babblin' burn aneath a snawy hawthorn, whaur the throstle sings an' the blackbird whustles." For the crippled laddie had never forgotten Mr. Traill's description of a proper picnic, and that must, indeed, be a wee dog's heaven.
"Ay, that wull do fair weel." The collar had come back to him by this time, and the Lord Provost buckled it securely about Bobby's neck.