Greyfriar's Bobby/Chapter VI
Sleep alone goes far to revive a little dog, and fasting sharpens the wits. Bobby was so tired that he slept soundly, but so hungry that he woke early, and instantly alert to his situation. It was so very early of a dark winter morning that not even the sparrows were out foraging in the kirkyard for dry seeds. The drum and bugle had not been sounded from the Castle when the milk and dustman's carts began to clatter over the frozen streets. With the first hint of dawn stout fishwives, who had tramped all the way in from the piers of Newhaven with heavily laden creels on their heads, were lustily crying their "caller herrin'." Soon fagot men began to call up the courts of tenements, where fuel was bought by the scant bundle: "Are ye cauld?"
Many a human waif in the tall buildings about the lower end of Greyfriars kirkyard was cold, even in bed, but, in his thick underjacket of fleece, Bobby was as warm as a plate of breakfast toast. With a vigorous shaking he broke and scattered the crust of snow that burdened his shaggy thatch. Then he lay down on the grave again, with his nose on his paws. Urgent matters occupied the little dog's mind. To deal with these affairs he had the long head of the canniest Scot, wide and high between the ears, and a muzzle as determined as a little steel trap. Small and forlorn as he was, courage, resource and purpose marked him.
As soon as the door of the caretaker's lodge opened he would have to creep under the fallen slab again. To lie in such a cramped position, hour after hour, day after day, was enough to break the spirit of any warm blooded creature that lives. It was an exquisite form of torture not long to be endured. And to get his single meal a day at Mr. Traill's place Bobby had to watch for the chance opening of the wicket to slip in and out like a thief. The furtive life is not only perilous, it outrages every feeling of an honest dog. It is hard for him to live at all without the approval and the cordial consent of men. The human order hostile, he quickly loses his self-respect and drops to the pariah class. Already wee Bobby had the look of the neglected. His pretty coat was dirty and unkempt. In his run across country, leaves, twigs and burrs had become entangled in his long hair, and his legs and underparts were caked with mire.
Instinctively any dog struggles to escape the fate of the outcast. By every art he possesses he ingratiates himself with men. One that has his usefulness in the human scheme of things often is able to make his own terms with life, to win the niche of his choice. Bobby's one talent that was of practical value to society was his hunting instinct for every small animal that burrows and prowls and takes toll of men's labor. In Greyfriars kirkyard was work to be done that he could do. For quite three centuries rats and mice had multiplied in this old sanctuary garden from which cats were chased and dogs excluded. Every breeze that blew carried challenges to Bobby's offended nose. Now, in the crisp gray dawn, a big rat came out into the open and darted here and there over the powdering of dry snow that frosted the kirkyard.
A leap, as if released from a spring, and Bobby captured it. A snap of his long muzzle, a jerk of his stoutly set head, and the victim hung limp from his grip. And he followed another deeply seated instinct when he carried the slain to Auld Jock's grave. Trophies of the chase were always to be laid at the feet of the master.
"Gude dog! eh, but ye're a bonny wee fechter!" Auld Jock had always said after such an exploit; and Bobby had been petted and praised until he nearly wagged his crested tail off with happiness and pride. Then he had been given some choice tidbit of food as a reward for his prowess. The farmer of Cauldbrae had on such occasions admitted that Bobby might be of use about barn and dairy, and Mr. Traill had commended his capture of prowlers in the dining-room. But Bobby was "ower young" and had not been "put to the vermin" as a definite business in life. He caught a rat, now and then, as he chased rabbits, merely as a diversion. When he had caught this one he lay down again. But after a time he got up deliberately and trotted down to the encircling line of old courtyarded tombs. There were nooks and crannies between and behind these along the wall into which the caretaker could not penetrate with sickle, rake and spade, that formed sheltered runways for rodents.
A long, low, weasel-like dog that could flatten himself on the ground, Bobby squeezed between railings and pedestals, scrambled over fallen fragments of sculptured urns, trumpets, angels' wings, altars, skull and cross-bones, and Latin inscribed scrolls. He went on his stomach under holly and laurel shrubs, burdocks, thistles, and tangled, dead vines. Here and there he lay in such rubbish as motionless as the effigies careen on marble biers. With the growing light grew the heap of the slain on Auld Jock's grave.
Having done his best, Bobby lay down again, worse in appearance than before, but with a stouter heart. He did not stir, although the shadows fled, the sepulchers stood up around the field of snow, and slabs and shafts camped in ranks on the slope. Smoke began to curl up from high, clustered chimney-pots; shutters were opened, and scantily clad women had hurried errands on decaying gallery and reeling stairway. Suddenly the Castle turrets were gilded with pale sunshine, and all the little cells in the tall, old houses hummed and buzzed and clacked with life. The University bell called scattered students to morning prayers. Pinched and elfish faces of children appeared at the windows overlooking the kirkyard. The sparrows had instant news of that, and the little winged beggars fluttered up to the lintels of certain deep-set casements, where ill-fed bairns scattered breakfasts of crumbs.
Bobby watched all this without a movement. He shivered when the lodge door was heard to open and shut and heavy footsteps crunched on the gravel and snow around the church. "Juist fair silly" on his quaking legs he stood up, head and tail drooped. But he held his ground bravely, and when the caretaker sighted him he trotted to meet the man, lifted himself on his hind legs, his short, shagged fore paws on his breast, begging attention and indulgence. Then he sprawled across the great boots, asking pardon for the liberty he was taking. At last, all in a flash, he darted back to the grave, sniffed at it, and stood again, head up, plumy tail crested, all excitement, as much as to say:
"Come awa' ower, man, an' leuk at the brave sicht."
If he could have barked, his meaning would have carried more convincingly, but he "hauded 'is gab" loyally. And, alas, the caretaker was not to be beguiled. Mr. Traill had told him Bobby had been sent back to the hill farm, but here he was, "perseestent" little rascal, and making some sort of bid for the man's favor. Mr. Brown took his pipe out of his mouth in surprised exasperation, and glowered at the dog.
"Gang awa' oot wi' ye!"
But Bobby was back again coaxing undauntedly, abasing himself before the angry man, insisting that he had something of interest to show. The caretaker was literally badgered and cajoled into following him. One glance at the formidable heap of the slain, and Mr. Brown dropped to a seat on the slab.
"Preserve us a'!"
He stared from the little dog to his victims, turned them over with his stout stick and counted them, and stared again. Bobby fixed his pleading eyes on the man and stood at strained attention while fate hung in the balance.
"Guile wark! Guile wark! A braw doggie, an' an unco' fechter. Losh! but ye're a deil o' a bit dog!"
All this was said in a tone of astonished comment, so non-committal of feeling that Bobby's tail began to twitch in the stress of his anxiety. When the caretaker spoke again, after a long, puzzled frowning, it was to express a very human bewilderment and irritation.
"Noo, what am I gangin' to do wi' ye?"
Ah, that was encouraging! A moment before, he had ordered Bobby out in no uncertain tone. After another moment he referred the question to a higher court.
"Jeanie, woman, come awa' oot a meenit, wull ye?"
A hasty pattering of carpet-slippered feet on the creaking snow, around the kirk, and there was the neatest little apple-cheeked peasant woman in Scotland, "snod" from her smooth, frosted hair, spotless linen mutch and lawn kerchief, to her white, lamb's wool stockings.
"Here's the bit dog I was tellin' ye aboot; an' see for yersel' what he's done noo."
"The wee beastie couldna do a' that! It's as muckle as his ain wecht in fou' vermin!" she cried.
"Ay, he did. Thae terriers are sperity, by the ordinar'. Ane o' them, let into the corn exchange a murky nicht, killed saxty in ten meenits, an' had to be dragged awa' by the tail. Noo, what I am gangin' to do wi' the takin' bit I dinna ken."
It is very certain that simple Mistress Jean Brown had never heard of Mr. Dick's advice to Miss Betsy Trotwood on the occasion when young David Copperfield presented himself, travel-stained and weary, before his good aunt. But out of her experience of wholesome living she brought forth the same wise opinion.
"I'd gie him a gude washin' first of a', Jamie. He leuks like some puir, gaen-aboot dog." And she drew her short, blue-stuff gown back from Bobby's grateful attentions.
Mr. Brown slapped his corduroy-breeked knee and nodded his grizzled head. "Richt ye are. It's maist michty, noo, I wadna think o' that. When I was leevin' as an under gairdener wi' a laird i' Argyleshire I was aye aboot the kennels wi' the gillies. That was lang syne. The sma' terrier dogs were aye washed i' claes tubs wi' warm water an' soap. Come awa', Bobby."
The caretaker got up stiffly, for such snell weather was apt to give him twinges in his joints. In him a youthful enthusiasm for dogs had suddenly revived. Besides, although he would have denied it, he was relieved at having the main issue, as to what was to be done with this four-footed trespasser, side-tracked for a time. Bobby followed him to the lodge at an eager trot, and he dutifully hopped into the bath that was set on the rear doorstep. Mr. Brown scrubbed him vigorously, and Bobby splashed and swam and churned the soapy water to foam. He scrambled out at once, when told to do so, and submitted to being dried with a big, tow-linen towel. This was all a delightful novelty to Bobby. Heretofore he had gone into any convenient tam or burn to swim, and then dried himself by rolling on the heather and running before the wind. Now he was bundled up ignominiously in an old flannel petticoat, carried across a sanded kitchen floor and laid on a warm hearth.
"Doon wi' ye!" was the gruff order. Bobby turned around and around on the hearth, like some little wild dog making a bed in the jungle, before he obeyed. He kept very still during the reading of a chapter and the singing of a Psalm, as he had been taught to do at the farm by many a reminder from Auld Jock's boot. And he kept away from the breakfast-table, although the walls of his stomach were collapsed as flat as the sides of an empty pocket.
It was such a clean, shining little kitchen, with the scoured deal table, chairs and cupboard, and the firelight from the grate winked so on pewter mugs, copper kettle, willow-patterned plates and diamond panes, that Bobby blinked too. Flowers bloomed in pots on the casement sills, and a little brown skylark sang, fluttering as if it would soar, in a gilded cage. After the morning meal Mr. Brown lighted his pipe and put on his bonnet to go out again, when he bethought him that Bobby might be needing something to eat.
"What'll ye gie 'im, Jeanie? At the laird's, noo, the terriers were aye fed wi' bits o' livers an' cheese an' moor fowls' eggs, an' sic-like, fried."
"Havers, Jamie, it's no' releegious to feed a dog better than puir bairns. He'll do fair weel wi' table-scraps."
She set down a plate with a spoonful of porridge on it, a cold potato, some bread crusts, and the leavings of a broiled caller herrin'. It was a generous breakfast for so small a dog, but Bobby had been without food for quite forty hours, and had done an amazing amount of work in the meantime. When he had eaten all of it, he was still hungry. As a polite hint, he polished the empty plate with his pink tongue and looked up expectantly; but the best-intentioned people, if they have had little to do with dogs, cannot read such signs.
"Ye needna lick the posies aff," the wifie said, good humoredly, as she picked the plate up to wash it. She thought to put down a tin basin of water. Bobby lapped a' it so eagerly, yet so daintily, that she added: "He's a weel-broucht-up tyke, Jamie."
"He is so. Noo, we'll see hoo weel he can leuk." In a shamefaced way he fetched from a tool-box a long-forgotten, strong little currycomb, such as is used on shaggy Shetland ponies. With that he proceeded to give Bobby such a grooming as he had never had before. It was a painful operation, for his thatch was a stubborn mat of crisp waves and knotty tangles to his plumy tail and down to his feathered toes. He braced himself and took the punishment without a whimper, and when it was done he stood cascaded with dark-silver ripples nearly to the floor.
"The bonny wee!" cried Mistress Jeanie. "I canna tak' ma twa een aff o' 'im."
"Ay, he's bonny by the ordinar'. It wad be grand, noo, gin the meenister'd fancy 'im an' tak' 'im into the manse."
The wifie considered this ruefully. "Jamie, I was wishin' ye didna hae to--"
But what she wished he did not have to do, Mr. Brown did not stop to hear. He suddenly clapped his bonnet on his head and went out. He had an urgent errand on High Street, to buy grass and flower seeds and tools that would certainly be needed in April. It took him an hour or more of shrewd looking about for the best bargains, in a swarm of little barnacle and cellar shops, to spend a few of the kirk's shillings. When he found himself, to his disgust, looking at a nail studded collar for a little dog he called himself a "doited auld fule," and tramped back across the bridge.
At the kirkyard gate he stopped and read the notice through twice: "No dogs permitted." That was as plain as "Thou shalt not." To the pious caretaker and trained servant it was the eleventh commandment. He shook his head, sighed, and went in to dinner. Bobby was not in the house, and the master of it avoided inquiring for him. He also avoided the wifie's wistful eye, and he busied himself inside the two kirks all the afternoon.
Because he was in the kirks, and the beautiful memorial windows of stained glass were not for the purpose of looking out, he did not see a dramatic incident that occurred in the kirkyard after three o'clock in the afternoon. The prelude to it really began with the report of the timegun at one. Bobby had insisted upon being let out of the lodge kitchen, and had spent the morning near Auld Jock's grave and in nosing about neighboring slabs and thorn bushes. When the time-gun boomed he trotted to the gate quite openly and waited there inside the wicket.
In such nipping weather there were no visitors to the kirkyard and the gate was not opened. The music bells ran the gamut of old Scotch airs and ceased, while he sat there and waited patiently. Once a man stopped to look at the little dog, and Bobby promptly jumped on the wicket, plainly begging to have it unlatched. But the passer-by decided that some lady had left her pet behind, and would return for him. So he patted the attractive little Highlander on the head and went on about his business.
Discouraged by the unpromising outlook for dinner that day, Bobby went slowly back to the grave. Twice afterward he made hopeful pilgrimages to the gate. For diversion he fell noiselessly upon a prowling cat and chased it out of the kirkyard. At last he sat upon the table-tomb. He had escaped notice from the tenements all the morning because the view from most of the windows was blocked by washings, hung out and dripping, then freezing and clapping against the old tombs. It was half-past three o'clock when a tiny, wizened face popped out of one of the rude little windows in the decayed Cunzie Neuk at the bottom of Candlemakers Row. Crippled Tammy Barr called out in shrill excitement
"Ailie! O-o-oh, Ailie Lindsey, there's the wee doggie!"
"Whaur?" The lassie's elfin face looked out from a low, rear window of the Candlemakers' Guildhall at the top of the Row.
"On the stane by the kirk wa'."
"I see 'im noo. Isna he bonny? I wish Bobby could bide i' the kirkyaird, but they wadna let 'im. Tammy, gin ye tak' 'im up to Maister Traill, he'll gie ye the shullin'!"
"I couldna tak' 'im by ma lane," was the pathetic confession. "Wad ye gang wi' me, Ailie? Ye could drap ower an' catch 'im, an' I could come by the gate. Faither made me some grand crutches frae an' auld chair back."
Tears suddenly drowned the lassie's blue eyes and ran down her pinched little cheeks. "Nae, I couldna gang. I haena ony shoon to ma feet."
"It's no' so cauld. Gin I had twa guile feet I could gang the bit way wi'oot shoon."
"I ken it isna so cauld," Ailie admitted, "but for a lassie it's no' respectable to gang to a grand place barefeeted."
That was undeniable, and the eager children fell silent and tearful. But oh, necessity is the mother of makeshifts among the poor! Suddenly Ailie cried: "Bide a meenit, Tammy," and vanished. Presently she was back, with the difficulty overcome. "Grannie says I can wear her shoon. She doesna wear 'em i' the hoose, ava."
"I'll gie ye a saxpence, Ailie," offered Tammy.
The sordid bargain shocked no feeling of these tenement bairns nor marred their pleasure in the adventure. Presently there was a tap-tap-tapping of crutches on the heavy gallery that fronted the Cunzie Neuk, and on the stairs that descended from it to the steep and curving row. The lassie draped a fragment of an old plaid deftly over her thinly clad shoulders, climbed through the window, to the pediment of the classic tomb that blocked it, and dropped into the kirkyard. To her surprise Bobby was there at her feet, frantically wagging his tail, and he raced her to the gate. She caught him on the steps of the dining room, and held his wriggling little body fast until Tammy came up.
It was a tumultuous little group that burst in upon the astonished landlord: barking fluff of an excited dog, flying lassie in clattering big shoes, and wee, tapping Tammy. They literally fell upon him when he was engaged in counting out his money.
"Whaur did you find him?" asked Mr. Traill in bewilderment.
Six-year-old Ailie slipped a shy finger into her mouth, and looked to the very much more mature five-year old crippled laddie to answer
"He was i' the kirkyaird."
"Sittin' upon a stane by 'is ainsel'," added Ailie.
"An' no' hidin', ava. It was juist like he was leevin' there."
"An' syne, when I drapped oot o' the window he louped at me so bonny, an' I couldna keep up wi' 'im to the gate."
Wonder of wonders! It was plain that Bobby had made his way back from the hill farm and, from his appearance and manner, as well as from this account, it was equally clear that some happy change in his fortunes had taken place. He sat up on his haunches listening with interest and lolling his tongue! And that was a thing the bereft little dog had not done since his master died. In the first pause in the talk he rose and begged for his dinner.
"Noo, what am I to pay? It took ane, twa, three o' ye to fetch ane sma' dog. A saxpence for the laddie, a saxpence for the lassie, an' a bit meal for Bobby."
While he was putting the plate down under the settle Mr. Traill heard an amazed whisper "He's gien the doggie a chuckie bane." The landlord switched the plate from under Bobby's protesting little muzzle and turned to catch the hungry look on the faces of the children. Chicken, indeed, for a little dog, before these ill-fed bairns! Mr. Traill had a brilliant thought.
"Preserve me! I didna think to eat ma ain dinner. I hae so muckle to eat I canna eat it by ma lane."
The idea of having too much to eat was so preposterously funny that Tammy doubled up with laughter and nearly tumbled over his crutches. Mr. Traill set him upright again.
"Did ye ever gang on a picnic, bairnies?" And what was a picnic? Tammy ventured the opinion that it might be some kind of a cart for lame laddies to ride in.
"A picnic is when ye gang gypsying in the summer," Mr. Traill explained. "Ye walk to a bonny green brae, an' sit doon under a hawthorntree a' covered wi' posies, by a babblin' burn, an' ye eat oot o' yer ain hands. An' syne ye hear a throstle or a redbreast sing an' a saucy blackbird whustle."
"Could ye tak' a dog?" asked Tammy.
"Ye could that, mannie. It's no' a picnic wi'oot a sonsie doggie to rin on the brae wi' ye."
"Oh!" Ailie's blue eyes slowly widened in her pallid little face. "But ye couldna hae a picnic i' the snawy weather."
"Ay, ye could. It's the bonniest of a' when ye're no' expectin' it. I aye keep a picnic hidden i' the ingleneuk aboon." He suddenly swung Tammy up on his shoulder, and calling, gaily, "Come awa'," went out the door, through another beside it, and up a flight of stairs to the dining-room above. A fire burned there in the grate, the tables were covered with linen, and there were blooming flowers in pots in the front windows. Patrons from the University, and the well-to-do streets and squares to the south and east, made of this upper room a sort of club in the evenings. At four o'clock in the afternoon there were no guests.
"Noo," said Mr. Traill, when his overcome little guests were seated at a table in the inglenook. "A picnic is whaur ye hae onything ye fancy to eat; gude things ye wullna be haein' ilka day, ye mind." He rang a call-bell, and a grinning waiter laddie popped up so quickly the lassie caught her breath.
"Eneugh broo for aince," said Tammy.
"Porridge that isna burned," suggested Ailie. Such pitiful poverty of the imagination!
"Nae, it's bread, an' butter, an' strawberry jam, an' tea wi' cream an' sugar, an' cauld chuckie at a snawy picnic," announced Mr. Traill. And there it was, served very quickly and silently, after some manner of magic. Bobby had to stand on the fourth chair to eat his dinner, and when he had despatched it he sat up and viewed the little party with the liveliest interest and happiness.
"Tammy," Ailie said, when her shyness had worn off, "it's like the grand tales ye mak' up i' yer heid."
"Preserve me! Does the wee mannie mak' up stories?"
"It's juist fulish things, aboot haein' mair to eat, an' a sonsie doggie to play wi', an' twa gude legs to tak' me aboot. I think 'em oot at nicht when I canna sleep."
"Eh, laddie, do ye noo?" Mr. Traill suddenly had a terrible "cauld in 'is heid," that made his eyes water. "Hoo auld are ye?"
"Five, gangin' on sax."
"Losh! I thoucht ye war fifty, gangin' on saxty." Laughter saved the day from overmoist emotions. And presently Mr. Traill was able to say in a business-like tone:
"We'll hae to tak' ye to the infirmary. An' if they canna mak' yer legs ower ye'll get a pair o' braw crutches that are the niest thing to gude legs. An' syne we'll see if there's no' a place in Heriot's for a sma' laddie that mak's up bonny tales o' his ain in the murky auld Cunzie Neuk."
Now the gay little feast was eaten, and early dark was coming on. If Mr. Traill had entertained the hope that Bobby had recovered from his grief and might remain with him, he was disappointed. The little dog began to be restless. He ran to the door and back; he begged, and he scratched on the panel. And then he yelped! As soon as the door was opened he shot out of it, tumbled down the stairway and waited at the foot impatiently for the lower door to be unlatched. Ailie's thin, swift legs were left behind when Bobby dashed to the kirkyard.
Tammy followed at a surprising pace on his rude crutches, and Mr. Traill brought up the rear. If the children could not smuggle the frantic little dog inside, the landlord meant to put him over the wicket and, if necessary, to have it out with the caretaker, and then to go before the kirk minister and officers with his plea. He was still concealed by the buildings, from the alcoved gate, when he heard Mr. Brown's gruff voice taking the frightened bairns to task.
"Gie me the dog; an' dinna ye tak' him oot ony mair wi'oot spierin' me."
The children fled. Peeping around the angle of the Book Hunter's Stall, Mr. Traill saw the caretaker lift Bobby over the wicket to his arms, and start with him toward the lodge. He was perishing with curiosity about this astonishing change of front on the part of Mr. Brown, but it was a delicate situation in which it seemed best not to meddle. He went slowly back to the restaurant, begrudging Bobby to the luckier caretaker.
His envy was premature. Mr. Brown set Bobby inside the lodge kitchen and announced briefly to his wife: "The bit dog wull sleep i' the hoose the nicht." And he went about some business at the upper end of the kirkyard. When he came in an hour later Bobby was gone.
"I couldna keep 'im in, Jamie. He didna blatter, but he greeted so sair to be let oot, an syne he scratched a' the paint aff the door."
Mr. Brown glowered at her in exasperation. "Woman, they'll hae me up afore kirk sessions for brakin' the rules, an' syne they'll turn us a' oot i' the cauld warld togither."
He slammed the door and stormed angrily around the kirk. It was still light enough to see the little creature on the snowy mound and, indeed, Bobby got up and wagged his tail in friendly greeting. At that all the bluster went out of the man, and he began to argue the matter with the dog.
"Come awa', Bobby. Ye canna be leevin' i' the kirkyaird."
Bobby was of a different opinion. He turned around and around, thoughtfully, several times, then sat up on the grave. Entirely willing to spend a social hour with his new friend, he fixed his eyes hospitably upon him. Mr. Brown dropped to the slab, lighted his pipe, and smoked for a time, to compose his agitated mind. By and by he got up briskly and stooped to lift the little dog. At that Bobby dug his claws in the clods and resisted with all his muscular body and determined mind. He clung to the grave so desperately, and looked up so piteously, that the caretaker surrendered. And there was snod Mistress Jeanie, forgetting her spotless gown and kneeling in the snow.
"Puir Bobby, puir wee Bobby!" she cried, and her tears fell on the little tousled head. The caretaker strode abruptly away and waited for the wifie in the shadow of the auld kirk. Bobby lifted his muzzle and licked the caressing hand. Then he curled himself up comfortably on the mound and went to sleep.