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- GREYFRIARS BOB - 2/35 -
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 ye hame."
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 market-place.
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 companionship.
"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
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