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- GREYFRIARS BOB - 30/35 -
highest type of man and dog, self-sacrifice, and not self-preservation, is the first law. A deserted grave cried to him across the void, the anguish of protecting love urged him on to take perilous chances. Falling upon a narrow shelf of rock, he had bounded off and into a thicket of thorns. Bruised and shaken and bewildered, he lay there for a time and tried to get his bearings.
Bobby knew only that the way was downward. He put out a paw and felt for the edge of the shelf. A thorn bush rooted below tickled his nose. He dropped into that and scrambled out again. Loose earth broke under his struggles and carried him swiftly down to a new level. He slipped in the wet moss of a spring before he heard the tinkle of the water, lost his foothold, and fell against a sharp point of rock. The shadowy spire of a fir-tree looming in a parting of the vapor for an instant, Bobby leaped to the ledge upon which it was rooted.
Foot by foot he went down, with no guidance at all. It is the nature of such long, low, earth dogs to go by leaps and bounds like foxes, calculating distances nicely when they can see, and tearing across the roughest country with the speed of the wild animals they hunt. And where the way is very steep they can scramble up or down any declivity that is at a lesser angle than the perpendicular. Head first they go downward, setting the fore paws forward, the claws clutching around projections and in fissures, the weight hung from the stout hindquarters, the body flattened on the earth.
Thus Bobby crept down steep descents in safety, but his claws were broken in crevices and his feet were torn and pierced by splinters of rock and thorns. Once he went some distance into a cave and had to back up and out again. And then a promising slope shelving under suddenly, where he could not retreat, he leaped, turned over and over in the air, and fell stunned. His heart filled with fear of the unseen before him, the little dog lay for a long time in a clump of whins. He may even have dozed and dreamed, to be awakened with starts by his misery of longing, and once by the far-away barking of a dog. It came up deadened, as if from fathoms below. He stood up and listened, but the sound was not repeated. His lacerated feet burned and throbbed; his bruised muscles had begun to stiffen, so that every movement was a pain.
In these lower levels there was more smoke, that smeared out and thickened the mist. Suddenly a breath of air parted the fog as if it were a torn curtain. Like a shot Bobby went down the crag, leaping from rock to rock, scrambling under thorns and hazel shrubs, dropping over precipitous ledges, until he looked down a sheer fall on which not even a knot of grass could find a foothold. He took the leap instantly, and his thick fleece saved him from broken bones; but when he tried to get up again his body was racked with pain and his hind legs refused to serve him.
Turning swiftly, he snarled and bit, at them in angry disbelief that his good little legs should play false with his stout heart. Then he quite forgot his pain, for there was the sharp ring of iron on an anvil and the dull glow of a forge fire, where a smith was toiling in the early hours of the morning. A clever and resourceful little dog, Bobby made shift to do without legs. Turning on his side, he rolled down the last slope of Castle Rock. Crawling between two buildings and dropping from the terrace on which they stood, he fell into a little street at the west end and above the Grassmarket.
Here the odors were all of the stables. He knew the way, and that it was still downward. The distance he had to go was a matter of a quarter of a mile, or less, and the greater part of it was on the level, through the sunken valley of the Grassmarket. But Bobby had literally to drag himself now; and he had still to pull him self up by his fore paws over the wet and greasy cobblestones of Candlemakers Row. Had not the great leaves of the gate to the kirkyard been left on the latch, he would have had to lie there in the alcove, with his nose under the bars, until morning. But the gate gave way to his push, and so, he dragged himself through it and around the kirk, and stretched himself on Auld Jock's grave.
It was the birds that found him there in the misty dawn. They were used to seeing Bobby scampering about, for the little watchman was awake and busy as early as the feathered dwellers in the kirkyard. But, in what looked to be a wet and furry door-mat left out overnight on the grass, they did not know him at all. The throstles and skylarks were shy of it, thinking it might be alive. The wrens fluffed themselves, scolded it, and told it to get up. The blue titmice flew over it in a flock again and again, with much sweet gossiping, but they did not venture nearer. A redbreast lighted on the rose bush that marked Auld Jock's grave, cocked its head knowingly, and warbled a little song, as much as to say: "If it's alive that will wake it up."
As Bobby did not stir, the robin fluttered down, studied him from all sides, made polite inquiries that were not answered, and concluded that it would be quite safe to take a silver hair for nest lining. Then, startled by the animal warmth or by a faint, breathing movement, it dropped the shining trophy and flew away in a shrill panic. At that, all the birds set up such an excited crying that they waked Tammy.
From the rude loophole of a window that projected from the old Cunzie Neuk, the crippled laddie could see only the shadowy tombs and the long gray wall of the two kirks, through the sunny haze. But he dropped his crutches over, and climbed out onto the vault. Never before had Bobby failed to hear that well-known tap-tap-tapping on the graveled path, nor failed to trot down to meet it with friskings of welcome. But now he lay very still, even when a pair of frail arms tried to lift his dead weight to a heaving breast, and Tammy's cry of woe rang through the kirkyard. In a moment Ailie and Mistress Jeanie were in the wet grass beside them, half a hundred casements flew open, and the piping voices of tenement bairns cried-down:
"Did the bittie doggie come hame?"
Oh yes, the bittie doggie had come hame, indeed, but down such perilous heights as none of them dreamed; and now in what a woeful plight!
Some murmur of the excitement reached an open dormer of the Temple tenements, where Geordie Ross had slept with one ear of the born doctor open. Snatching up a case of first aids to the injured, he ran down the twisting stairs to the Grassmarket, up to the gate, and around the kirk, to find a huddled group of women and children weeping over a limp little bundle of a senseless dog. He thrust a bottle of hartshorn under the black muzzle, and with a start and a moan Bobby came back to consciousness.
"Lay him down flat and stop your havers," ordered the business-like, embryo medicine man. "Bobby's no' dead. Laddie, you're a braw soldier for holding your ain feelings, so just hold the wee dog's head." Then, in the reassuring dialect: "Hoots, Bobby, open the bit mou' noo, an' tak' the medicine like a mannie!" Down the tiny red cavern of a throat Geordie poured a dose that galvanized the small creature into life.
"Noo, then, loup, ye bonny rascal!"
Bobby did his best to jump at Geordie's bidding. He was so glad to be at home and to see all these familiar faces of love that he lifted himself on his fore paws, and his happy heart almost put the power to loup into his hind legs. But when he tried to stand up he cried out with the pains and sank down again, with an apologetic and shamefaced look that was worthy of Auld Jock himself. Geordie sobered on the instant.
"Weel, now, he's been hurt. We'll just have to see what ails the sonsie doggie." He ran his hand down the parting in the thatch to discover if the spine had been injured. When he suddenly pinched the ball of a hind toe Bobby promptly resented it by jerking his head around and looking at him reproachfully. The bairns were indignant, too, but Geordie grinned cheerfully and said: "He's no' paralyzed, at ony rate." He turned as footsteps were heard coming hastily around the kirk.
"A gude morning to you, Mr. Traill. Bobby may have been run over by a cart and got internal injuries, but I'm thinking it's just sprains and bruises from a bad fall. He was in a state of collapse, and his claws are as broken and his toes as torn as if he had come down Castle Rock."
This was such an extravagant surmise that even the anxious landlord smiled. Then he said, drily:
"You're a braw laddie, Geordie, and gudehearted, but you're no' a doctor yet, and, with your leave, I'll have my ain medical man tak' a look at Bobby."
"Ay, I would," Geordie agreed, cordially. "It's worth four shullings to have your mind at ease, man. I'll just go up to the lodge and get a warm bath ready, to tak' the stiffness out of his muscles, and brew a tea from an herb that wee wild creatures know all about and aye hunt for when they're ailing."
Geordie went away gaily, to take disorder and evil smells into Mistress Jeanie's shining kitchen.
No sooner had the medical student gone up to the lodge, and the children had been persuaded to go home to watch the proceedings anxiously from the amphitheater of the tenement windows, than the kirkyard gate was slammed back noisily by a man in a hurry. It was the sergeant who, in the splendor of full uniform, dropped in the wet grass beside Bobby.
"Lush! The sma' dog got hame, an' is still leevin'. Noo, God forgie me--"
"Eh, man, what had you to do with Bobby's misadventure?"
Mr. Traill fixed an accusing eye on the soldier, remembering suddenly his laughing threat to kidnap Bobby. The story came out in a flood of remorseful words, from Bobby's following of the troops so gaily into the Castle to his desperate escape over the precipice.
"Noo," he said, humbly, "gin it wad be ony satisfaction to ye, I'll gang up to the Castle an' put on fatigue dress, no' to disgrace the unifarm o' her Maijesty, an' let ye tak' me oot on the Burghmuir an' gie me a gude lickin'."
Mr. Traill shrugged his shoulders. "Naething would satisfy me, man, but to get behind you and kick you over the Firth into the Kingdom of Fife."
He turned an angry back on the sergeant and helped Geordie lift
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