THE music of bagpipe, fife and drum brought them all out of
Haddo’s Hole into High Street. It was the hour of the morning drill, and the
soldiers were marching out of the Castle. From the front of St. Giles, that
jutted into the steep thoroughfare, they could look up to where the street
widened to the esplanade on Castle Hill. Rank after rank of scarlet coats,
swinging kilts and sporrans, and plumed bonnets appeared. The sun flashed
back from rifle barrels and bayonets and from countless bright buttons.
A number of the older laddies ran up the climbing street. Mr. Traill called
Bobby back and, with a last grip of Glenormiston’s hand, set off across the
bridge. To the landlord the world seemed a brave place to be living in, the
fabric of earth and sky and human society to be woven of kindness. Having
urgent business of buying supplies in the markets at Broughton and Lauriston,
Mr. Traill put Bobby inside the kirkyard gate and hurried away to get into
his everyday clothing. After dinner, or tea, he promised himself the
pleasure of an hour at the lodge, to tell Mr. Brown the wonderful news, and
to show him Bobby’s braw collar.
When, finally, he was left alone, Bobby trotted around the kirk, to assure
himself that Auld Jock’s grave was unmolested. There he turned on his back,
squirmed and rocked on the crocuses, and tugged at the unaccustomed collar.
His inverted struggles, low growlings and furry contortions set the wrens to
scolding and the redbreasts to making nervous inquiries. Much nest-building,
tuneful courtship, and masculine blustering was going on, and there was
little police duty for Bobby. After a time he sat up on the table-tomb,
pensively. With Mr. Brown confined to the lodge, and Mistress Jeanie in
close attendance upon him there, the kirkyard was a lonely place for a
sociable little dog; and a soft, spring day given over to brooding beside a
beloved grave, was quite too heart-breaking a thing to contemplate. Just for
cheerful occupation Bobby had another tussle with the collar. He pulled it
so far under his thatch that no one could have guessed that he had a collar
on at all, when he suddenly righted himself and scampered away to the gate.
The music grew louder and came nearer. The first of the route-marching that
the Castle garrison practised on occasional, bright spring mornings was
always a delightful surprise to the small boys and dogs of Edinburgh.
Usually the soldiers went down High Street and out to Porto-bello on the
sea. But a regiment of tough and wiry Highlanders often took, by preference,
the mounting road to the Pentlands to get a whiff of heather in their
On they came, band playing, colors flying, feet moving in unison with a
march, across the viaduct bridge into Greyfriars Place. Bobby was up on the
wicket, his small, energetic body quivering with excitement from his muzzle
to his tail. If Mr. Traill had been there he would surely have caught the
infection, thrown care to this sweet April breeze for once, and taken the
wee terrier for a run on the Pentland braes. The temptation was going by
when a preoccupied lady, with a sheaf of Easter lilies on her sable arm,
opened the wicket. Her ample Victorian skirts swept right over the little
dog, and when he emerged there was the gate slightly ajar. Widening the
aperture with nose and paws, Bobby was off, skirmishing at large on the rear
and flanks of the troops, down the Burghmuir.
It may never have happened, in the years since Auld Jock died and the farmer
of Cauldbrae gave up trying to keep him on the hills, that Bobby had gone so
far back on this once familiar road; and he may not have recognized it at
first, for the highways around Edinburgh were everywhere much alike. This
one alone began to climb again. Up, up it toiled, for two weary miles, to
the hilltop toll-bar of Fairmilehead, and there the sounds and smells that
made it different from other roads began.
Five miles out of the city the halt was called and the soldiers flung
themselves on the slope. Many experiences of route-marching had taught Bobby
that there was an interval of rest before the return, so, with his nose to
the ground, he started up the brae on a pilgrimage to old shrines. Just as
in his puppyhood days, at Auld Jock’s heels, there was much shouting of men,
barking of collies, and bleating of sheep all the way up. Once he had to
leave the road until a driven flock had passed. Behind the sheep walked an
old laborer in hodden-gray, woolen bonnet, and shepherd’s twa-fold plaid,
with a lamb in the pouch of it. Bobby trembled at the apparition, sniffed at
the hob-nailed boots, and then, with drooped head and tail, trotted on up
Men and dogs were all out on the billowy pastures, and the farm-house of
Cauldbrae lay on the level terrace, seemingly deserted and steeped in
memories. A few moments before, a tall lassie had come out to listen to the
military music. A couple of hundred feet below, the coats of the soldiers
looked to her like poppies scattered on the heather. At the top of the brae
the wind was blowing a cold gale, so the maidie went up again, and around to
a bit of tangled garden on the sheltered side of the house. The “wee lassie
Elsie” was still a bairn in short skirts and braids, who lavished her soft
heart, as yet, on briar bushes and daisies.
Bobby made a tour of the sheepfold, the cow-yard and byre, and he lingered
behind the byre, where Auld Jock had played with him on Sabbath afternoons.
He inspected the dairy, and the poultry-house where hens were sitting on
their nests. By and by he trotted around the house and came upon the lassie,
busily clearing winter rubbish from her posie bed. A dog changes very little
in appearance, but in eight and a half years a child grows into a different
person altogether. Bobby barked politely to let this strange lassie know
that he was there. In the next instant he knew her, for she whirled about
and, in a kind of glad wonder, cried out:
“Oh, Bobby! hae ye come hame? Mither; here’s ma ain wee Bobby!” For she had
never given up the hope that this adored little pet would some day return to
"Havers, lassie, ye’re aye seem' Bobby i’ ilka Hielan’ terrier, an* there’s
mony o’ them aboot.’’
The gude-wife looked from an attic window in the steep gable, and then
hurried down. “Weel, noo, ye’re richt, Elsie. He wad be cornin’ wi’ the
regiment frae the Castle. Bittie doggies an' laddies are fair daft aboot the
soldiers. Ay, he’s bonny, an' weel cared for, by the ordinar’. I wonder gin
he’s still leevin’ i’ the grand auld kirkyaird.”
Wary of her remembered endearments, Bobby kept a safe distance from the
maidie, but he sat up and lolled his tongue, quite willing to pay her a
friendly visit. From that she came to a wrong conclusion: “Sin’ he cam’ o’
his ain accord he’s like to bide.” Her eyes were blue stars.
“I wadna be coontin’ on that, lassie. An' I wadna sneck a door on ’im
anither time. Gin he wanted to get oot he’d dig aneath a floor o’ stane.
Leuk at that, noo! The bonny wee is greetin’ for Auld Jock.”
It was true, for, on entering the kitchen, Bobby went straight to the bench
in the comer and lay down flat under it. Elsie sat beside him, just as she
had done of old. Her eyes overflowed so in sympathy that the mother was
quite distract? This would not do at all.
“Lassie, are ye no’ rememberin' Bobby's fair fond o' moor-hens’ eggs fried
wi’ bits o' cheese? He wullna be gettin’ thae things; an’ it wad be maist
michty, noo, gin ye couldna win the bittie dog awa’ frae the reekie auld
toon. Gang oot wi’ ’im an’ rin on the brae an’ bid ’im find the nests aneath
In a moment they were out on the heather, and it seemed, indeed, as if Bobby
might be won. He frisked and barked at Elsie’s heels, chased rabbits and
flushed the grouse; and when he ran into a peat-darkened tarn, rimmed with
moss, he had such a cold and splashy swim as quite to give a little dog a
distaste for warm, soapy water in a claes tub. He shook and ran himself dry,
and he raced the laughing child until they both dropped panting on the
wind-rippled heath. Then he hunted on the ground under the gorse for those
nests that had a dozen or more eggs in them. He took just one from each in
his mouth, as Auld Jock had taught him to do. On the kitchen hearth he ate
the savory meal with much satisfaction and polite waggings. But when the
bugle sounded from below to form ranks, he pricked his drop ears and started
for the door.
Before he knew what had happened he was inside the poultry-house. In another
instant he was digging frantically in the soft earth under the door. When
the lassie lay down across the crack he stopped digging, in consternation.
His sense of smell told him what it was that shut out the strip of light;
and a bairn’s soft body is not a proper object of attack for a little dog,
no matter how desperate the emergency. There was no time to be lost, for the
drums began to beat the march. Having to get out very quickly, Bobby did a
forbidden thing: swiftly and noisily he dashed around the dark place, and
there arose such wild squawkings and rushings of wings as to bring the gude-wife
out of the house in alarm.
“Lassie, I canna hae the bittie dog in wi' the broodin’ chuckies!”
She flung the door wide. Bobby shot through, and into Elsie’s outstretched
arms. She held to him desperately, while he twisted and struggled and
strained away; and presently something shining worked into view, through the
disordered thatch about his neck. The mother had come to the help of the
child, and it was she who read the inscription on the brazen plate aloud.
"Preserve us a'! Lassie, he’s been tak’n by the Laird Provost an' gien the
name o* the auld kirkyaird. He's an ower grand doggie. Ma puif baimie, dinna
greet so sair!” For the little girl suddenly released the wee Highlander and
sobbed on her mother’s shoulder.
“He isna ma ain Bobby ony mair!” She “couldna thole” to watch him as he
tumbled down the brae.
On the outward march, among the many dogs and laddies that had followed the
soldiers, Bobby escaped notice. But most of these had gone adventuring in
Swanston Dell, to return to the city by the gorge of Leith Water. Now,
traveling three miles to the soldiers’ one, scampering in wide circles over
the fields, swimming bums, scrambling under hedges, chasing whaups into
piping cries, barking and louping in pure exuberance of spirits, many eyes
looked upon him admiringly, and discontented mouths turned upward at the
corners. It is not the least of a little dog’s missions in life to
communicate his own irresponsible gaiety to men.
If the return had been over George IV. Bridge Bobby would, no doubt, have
dropped behind at Mr. Traill’s or at the kirkyard. But on the Burghmuir the
troops swung eastward until they rounded Arthur's Seat and met the cavalry
drilling before the barracks at Piershill. Such pretty manaeuvering of horse
and foot took place below Holyrood Palace as quite to enrapture a terrier.
When the infantry marched up the Canongate and High Street, the mounted men
following and the bands playing at full blast, the ancient thoroughfare was
quickly lined with cheering crowds, and faces looked down from ten tiers of
windows on a beautiful spectacle. Bobby did not know when the
bridge-approach was passed; and then, on Castle Hill, he was in an unknown
region. There the street widened to the great square of the esplanade. The
cavalry wheeled and dashed down High Street, but the infantry marched on and
up, over the sounding drawbridge that spanned a dry moat of the Middle Ages,
and through a deep-arched gateway of masonry.
The outer gate to the Castle was wider than the opening into many an
Edinburgh wynd; but Bobby stopped, uncertain as to where this narrow
roadway, that curved upward to the right, might lead. It was not a dark
fissure in a cliff of houses, but was bounded on the outer side by a
loopholed wall, and on the inner by a rocky ledge of ascending levels.
Wherever the shelf was of sufficient breadth a battery of cannon was
mounted, and such a flood of light fell from above and flashed on polished
steel and brass as *o make the little dog blink in bewilderment.
And he whirled like a rotary sweeper in the dusty road and yelped when the
time-gun, in the halfmoon battery at the left of the gate and behind him,
crashed and shook the massive rock.
He barked and barked, and dashed toward the insulting clamor. The dauntless
little dog and his spirited protest were so out of proportion to the huge
offense that the guard laughed, and other soldiers ran out of the
guard-houses that flanked the gate. They would have put the noisy terrier
out at once, but Bobby was off, up the curving roadway into the Castle. The
music had ceased, and the soldiers had disappeared over the rise. Through
other dark arches of masonry he ran. On the crest were two ways to
choose—the roadway on around and past the barracks, and a flight of steps
cut steeply in the living rock of the ledge, and leading up to the King’s
Bastion, Bobby took the stairs at a few bounds.
On the summit there was nothing at all beside a tiny, ancient stone chapel
with a Norman arched and sculptured doorway, and guarding it an enormous
burst cannon. But these ruins were the crown jewels of the
fortifications—their origins lost in legends—and so they were cared for with
peculiar reverence. Sergeant Scott of the Royal Engineers himself, in
fatigue-dress, was down on his knees before St. Margaret’s oratory, pulling
from a crevice in the foundations a knot of grass that was at its insidious
work of time and change. As Bobby dashed up to the citadel, still barking,
the man jumped to his feet. Then he slapped his thigh and laughed. Catching
the animated little bundle of protest the sergeant set him up for inspection
on the shattered breeching of Mons Meg.
“Losh! The sma’ dog cam’ by 'is ainser! He could no’ resist the braw soldier
laddies. ‘He’s a dog o’ discreemination,’ eh? Gin he bides a wee, noo, it
wull tak’ the conceit oot o' the innkeeper.”
He turned to gather up his tools, for the first dinner bugle was blowing.
Bobby knew by the gun that it was the dinner-hour, but he had been fed at
the farm and was not hungry. He might as well see a bit more of life. He sat
upon the cannon, not in the least impressed by the honor, and lolled his
In Edinburgh Castle there was nothing to alarm a little dog. A dozen or more
large buildings, in three or four groups, and representing many periods of
architecture, lay to the south and west on the lowest terraces, and about
them were generous parked spaces. Into the largest of the buildings, a long,
four-storied barracks, the soldiers had vanished. And now, at the blowing of
a second bugle, half a hundred order* lies hurried down from a modern
cook-house, near the summit, with cans of soup and meat and potatoes. The
sergeant followed one of these into a room on the front of the barracks. In
their serge fatigue - tunics the sixteen men about the long table looked as
different from the gay soldiers of the march as though so many scarlet and
gold and bonneted butterflies had turned back into sad-colored grubs.
“Private McLean,” he called to his batman who, for one-and-six a week, cared
for his belongings, “tak’ chairge o’ the dog, wull ye, an' fetch ’im to the
non-com mess when ye come to put ma kit i’ gude order.”
Before he could answer the bombardment of questions about Bobby the door was
opened again. The men dropped their knives and forks and stood at attention.
The officer of the day was making the rounds of the forty or fifty such
rooms in the barracks to inquire of the soldiers if their dinner was
satisfactory. He recognized at once the attractive little Skye that had
taken the eyes of the men on the march, and asked about him. Sergeant Scott
explained that Bobby had no owner. He was living, by permission, in
Greyfriars kirkyard, guarding the grave of a long-dead, humble master, and
was fed by the landlord of the dining-rooms near the gate. If the little dog
took a fancy to garrison life, and the regiment to him, he thought Mr.
Traill, who had the best claim upon him, might consent to his transfer to
the Castle. After orders, at sunset, he would take Bobby, down to the
“I wish you good luck, Sergeant.” The officer whistled, and Bobby leaped
upon him and off again, and indulged in many inconsequent friskings. “Before
you take him home fetch him over to the officers’ mess at dinner. It is
guest night, and he is sure to interest the gentlemen. A loyal little
creature who has guarded his dead master’s grave for more than eight years
deserves to have a toast drunk to him by the officers of the Queen. But it’s
an extraordinary story, and it doesn’t sound altogether probable. Jolly
little beggar!” He patted Bobby cordially on the side, and went out.
The news of his advent and fragments of his story spread so quickly through
the barracks that mess after mess swarmed down from the upper floors and out
into the roadway to see Bobby. Private McLean stood in the door, smoking a
cutty pipe, and grinning with pride in the merry little ruffian of a
terrier, who met the friendly advances of the soldiers more than half-way.
Bobby’s guardian would have liked very well to have sat before the canteen
in the sun and gossiped about his small charge. However, in the sergeant’s
sleeping-quarters above the mess-room, he had the little dog all to himself,
and Bobby had the liveliest interest in the boxes and pots, brushes and
sponges, and in the processes of polishing, burnishing, and pipe-claying a
soldier’s boots and buttons and belts. As he worked at his valeting, the man
kept time with his foot to rude ballads that he sang in such a hissing
Celtic that Bobby barked, scandalized by a dialect that had been music in
the ears of his ancestors. At that Private McLean danced a Highland fling
for him, and wee Bobby came near bursting with excitement. When the sergeant
came up to make a magnificent toilet for tea and for the evening in town,
the soldier expressed himself with enthusiasm.
“He iss a defile of a dog, sir!”
He was thought to be a “defile of a dog” in the mess, where the non-com
officers had tea at small writing and card tables. They talked and laughed
very fast and loud, tried Bobby out on all the pretty tricks he knew, and
taught him to speak and to jump for a lump of sugar balanced on his nose.
They did not fondle him, and this rough, masculine style of pampering and
petting was very much to his liking. It was a proud thing, too, for a little
dog, to walk out with the sergeant’s shining boots and twirled
walking-stick, and be introduced into one strange place after another all
around the Castle.
From tea to tattoo was playtime for the garrison. Many smartly dressed
soldiers, with passes earned by good behavior, went out to find amusement in
the city. Visitors, some of them tourists from America, made the rounds
under the guidance of old soldiers. The sergeant followed such a group of
sight-seers through a postern behind the armory and out onto the cliff.
There he lounged under a fir-tree above St. Margaret’s Well and smoked a
dandified cigar, while Bobby explored the promenade and scraped acquaintance
with the strangers.
On the northern and southern sides the Castle wall rose from the very edge
of sheer precipices. Except for loopholes there were no openings. But on the
west, there was a grassy terrace without the wall, and below that the cliff
fell away a little less steeply. The declivity was clothed sparsely with
hazel shrubs, thorns, whins and thistles; and now and then a stunted fir or
rowan tree or a group of white-stemmed birks was stoutly rooted on a
shelving ledge. Had any one, the visitors asked, ever escaped down this wild
Yes, Queen Margaret’s children, the guide answered. Their father dead in
battle, their saintly mother dead in the sanctuary of her tiny chapel, the
enemy battering at the gate, soldiers had lowered the royal lady’s body in a
basket, and got the orphaned children down, in safety and away, in a fog,
over Queen’s Ferry to Dunfirmline in the Kingdom of Fife. It was true that a
false step or a slip of the foot would have dashed them to pieces on the
rocks below. A gentleman of the party scouted the legend. Only a fox or an
Alpine chamois could make that perilous descent.
With his head cocked alertly, Bobby had stood listening. Hearing this vague
talk of going down, he may have thought these people meant to go, for he
quietly dropped over the edge and went, head over heels, ten feet down, and
landed in a clump of hazel. A lady screamed. Bobby righted himself and
barked cheerful reassurance. The sergeant sprang to his feet and ordered him
to come back.
Now, the sergeant was pleasant company, to be sure; but he was not a person
who had to be obeyed, so Bobby barked again, wagged his crested tail, and
dropped lower. The people who shuddered on the brink could see that the
little dog was going cautiously enough; and presently he looked doubtfully
over a sheer fall of twenty feet, turned and scrambled back to the
promenade. He was cried and exclaimed over by the hysterical ladies, and
scolded for a bittie fule by the sergeant. To this Bobby returned
ostentatious yawns of boredom and nonchalant lollings, for it seemed a small
matter to be so fashed about. At that a gentleman remarked, testily, to hide
his own agitation, that dogs really had very little sense. The sergeant
ordered Bobby to precede him through the postern, and the little dog
All the afternoon bugles had been blowing. For each signal there was a
different note, and at each uniformed men appeared and hurried to new
points. Now, near sunset, there was the fanfare for officers’ orders for the
next day. The sergeant put Bobby into Queen Margaret’s Chapel, bade him
remain there, and went down to the Palace Yard. The chapel on the summit was
a convenient place for picking the little dog up on his way to the officers’
mess. Then he meant to have his own supper cozily at Mr. Traill’s and to
negotiate for Bobby.
A dozen people would have crowded this ancient oratory, but, small as it
was, it was fitted with a chancel-rail and a font for baptizing the babies
born in the Castle. Through the window above the altar, where the sainted
Queen was pictured in stained glass, the sunlight streamed and laid another
jeweled image on the stone floor. Then the colors faded, until the holy
place became an austere cell. The sun had dropped behind the western
Bobby thought it quite time to go home. By day he often went far afield,
seeking distraction, but at sunset he yearned for the grave in Greyfriars.
The steps up which he had come lay in plain view from the doorway of the
chapel. Bobby dropped down the stairs, and turned into the main roadway of
the Castle. At the first arch that spanned it a red-coated guard paced on
the other side of a closed gate. It would not be locked until tattoo, at
nine-thirty, but, without a pass, no one could go in or out. Bobby sprang on
the bars and barked, as much as to say: "Come awa’, man, I hae to get oot.”
The guard stopped, presented arms to this small, peremptory terrier, and
inquired facetiously if he had a pass. Bobby bristled and yelped
indignantly. The soldier grinned with amusement. Sentinel duty was lonesome
business, and any diversion a relief. In a guardhouse asleep when Bobby came
into the Castle, he had not seen the little dog before and knew nothing
about him. He might be the property of one of the regiment ladies. Without
orders he dared not let Bobby out. A furious and futile onslaught on the
gate he met with a jocose feint of his bayonet. Tiring of the play,
presently, the soldier turned his back and paced to the end of his beat.
Bobby stopped barking in sheer astonishment. He gazed after the stiff,
retreating back, in frightened disbelief that he was not to be let out. He
attacked the stone under the barrier, but quickly discovered its unyielding
nature. Then he howled until the sentinel came back, but when the man went
by without looking at him he uttered a whimpering cry and fled upward. The
roadway was dark and the dusk was gathering on the citadel when Bobby dashed
across the summit and down into the brightly lighted square of the Palace
The gas-lamps were being lighted on the bridge, and Mr. Traill was getting
into his street-coat for his call on Mr. Brown when Tammy put his head in at
the door of the restaurant. The crippled laddie had a warm, uplifted look,
for Love had touched the sordid things of life, and a miracle had bloomed
for the tenement dwellers around Greyfriars.
“Maister Traill, Mrs. Brown says wull ye please send Bobby hame. Her gude -
mon’s frettin’ for 'im; an' syne, a' the folk aroond the kirkyaird hae come
to the gate to see the bittie dog’s braw collar. They wullna believe the
Laird Provost gied it to ’im for a chairm gin they dinna see it wi’ their
“Why, mannie, Bobby's no' here. He must be in the kirkyard.”
“Nae, he isna. I ca'ed, an' Ailie keeked in ilka place amang the stanes.”
They stared at each other, the landlord serious, the laddie’s lip trembling.
Mr. Traill had not returned from his numerous errands about the city until
the middle of the afternoon. He thought, of course, that Bobby had been in
for his dinner, as usual, and had returned to the kirkyard. It appeared,
now, that no one about the diningrooms had seen the little dog. Everybody
had thought that Mr. Traill had taken Bobby with him. He hurried down to the
gate to find Mistress Jeanie at the wicket, and a crowd of tenement women
and children in the alcove and massed down Candlemakers Row. Alarm spread
like a contagion. In eight years and more Bobby had not been outside the
kirkyard gate after the sunset bugle. Mrs. Brown turned pale.
“Dinna say the bittie dog’s lost, Maister Traill. It wad gang to the heart
o' ma gude mon.”
“Havers, woman, he's no' lost." Mr. Traill spoke stoutly enough. “Just go up
to the lodge and tell Mr. Brown I’m—weel, I’ll just attend to that sma’
matter my ainsel’.” With that he took a gay face and a set-up air into the
lodge to meet Mr. Brown’s glowering eye.
“Whaur’s the dog, man? I’ve been deaved aboot ’im a’ the day, but I haena
seen the sonsie rascal nor the braw collar the Laird Provost gied ’im. An’
syne, wi’ the folk cornin’ to spier for ’im an’ swarmin’ ower the kirkyaird,
ye’d think a warlock was aboot. Bobby isna your dog—”
"Haud yoursel’, man. Bobby’s a famous dog, with the freedom of Edinburgh
given to him, and naething will do but Glenormiston must show him to a
company o’ grand folk at his bit country place. He’s sending in a cart by a
groom, and I’m to tak’ Bobby out and fetch him hame after a braw dinner on
gowd plate. The bairns meant weel, but they could no’ give Bobby a washing
fit for a veesit with the nobeelity. I had to tak’ him to a barber for a
Mr. Brown roared with laughter. “Man, ye hae mair fule notions i’ yer heid.
Ye’ll hae to pay a shullin’ or twa to a barber, an’ Bobby’ll be sae set up
there’ll be nae leevin’ wi’ ’im. Sit ye doon an’ tell me aboot the collar,
“I can no’ stop now to wag my tongue.
Here’s the gude-wife. I’ll just help her get you awa’ to your bed.”
It was dark when he returned to the gate, and the Castle wore its luminous
crown. The lights from the street lamps flickered on the up-turned, anxious
faces. Some of the Children had begun to weep. Women offered loud
suggestions. There were surmises that Bobby had been run over by a cart in
the street, and angry conjectures that he had been stolen. Then Ailie
wailed: “Oh, Maister Traill, the bittie dog’s deid!” “Havers, lassie! I’m
ashamed o’ ye for a fulish bairn. Bobby's no' deid. Nae doot he’s amang the
stanes i’ the kirkyaird. He’s aye scramblin’ aboot for vermin an’ pussies,
an’ may hae hurt himsel’, an’ ye a’ ken the bonny wee wadna cry oot i’ the
kirkyaird. Noo, get to wark, an’ dinna stand there greetin’ an’ waggin* yer
tongues. The mithers an’ bairns maun juist gang hame an’ stap their havers,
an’ licht a’ the candles an’ cruisey lamps i’ their hames, an’ set them i’
the windows aboon the kirkyaird. Greyfriars is murky by the ordinar’, an' ye
couldna find a coo there wi’oot the lichts.”
The crowd suddenly melted away, so eager were they all to have a hand in
helping to find the community pet. Then Mr. Traill turned to the boys.
“Hoo mony o' ye laddies hae the bull's-eye lanterns?"
Ah! not many in the old buildings around the kirkyard. These japanned tin
aids to dark adventures on the golf links on autumn nights cost a sixpence
and consumed candles. Geordie Ross and Sandy McGregor, coming up arm in arm,
knew of other students and clerks who still had these cherished toys of
boyhood. With these heroes in the lead a score or more of laddies swarmed
into the kirkyard.
The tenements were lighted up as they had not been since nobles held routs
and balls there. Enough candles and oil were going up in smoke to pay for
wee Bobby's license all over again, and enough love shone in pallid little
faces that peered into the dusk to light the darkest corner in the heart of
the world. Rays from the bull’s-eyes were thrown into every nook and cranny.
Very small laddies insinuated themselves into the narrowest places. They
climbed upon high vaults and let themselves down in last year’s burdocks and
tangled vines. It was all done in silence, only Mr. Traill speaking at all.
He went everywhere with the searchers, and called:
‘‘Whaur are ye, Bobby? Come awa' oot, laddie!”
But no gleaming ghost of a tousled dog was conjured by the voice of
affection. The tiniest scratching or lowest moaning could have been heard,
for the warm spring evening was very still, and there were, as yet, few
leaves to rustle. Sleepy birds complained at being disturbed on their
perches, and rodents could be heard scampering along their runways. The
entire kirkyard was explored, then the interior of the two kirks. Mr. Traill
went up to the lodge for the keys, saying, optimistically, that a sexton
might unwittingly have locked Bobby in. Young men with lanterns went through
the courts of the tenements, around the Grassmarket, and under the arches of
the bridge. Laddies dropped from the wall and hunted over Heriot’s Hospital
grounds to Lauriston market. Tammy, poignantly conscious of being of no
practical use, sat on Auld Jock’s grave, firm in the conviction that Bobby
would return to that spot his ainsel’. And Ailie, being only a maid, whose
portion it was to wait and weep, lay across the window-sill, on the pediment
of the tomb, a limp little figure of woe.
Mr. Traill’s heart was full of misgiving. Nothing but death or stone walls
could keep that little creature from this beloved grave. But, in thinking of
stone walls, he never once thought of the Castle. Away over to the east, in
Broughton market, when the garrison marched away and at Lauriston when they
returned, Mr. Traill did not know that the soldiers had been out of the
city. Busy in the lodge Mistress Jeanie had not seen them go by the kirkyard,
and no one else, except Hr. Brown, knew the fascination that military
uniforms, marching and music had for wee Bobby.
A fog began to drift in from the sea. Suddenly the grass was sheeted and the
tombs blurred. A curtain of gauze seemed to be hung before the lighted
tenements. The Castle head vanished, and the sounds of the drum and bugle of
the tattoo came down muffled, as if through layers of wool. The lights of
the bull’s-eyes were ruddy discs that cast no rays. Ther these were smeared
out to phosphorescent glows, like the “spunkies” that everybody in Scotland
knew came out to dance in old kirkyards.
It was no’ canny. In the smother of the fog some of the little boys were
lost, and cried out. Mr. Traill got them up to the gate and sent them home
in bands, under the escort of the students. Mistress Jeanie was out by the
wicket. Mr. Brown was asleep, and she “couldna thole it to sit there snug.”
When a fog-horn moaned from the Firth she broke into sobbing. Mr. Traill
comforted her as best he could by telling her a dozen plans for the morning.
By feeling along the wall he got her to the lodge, and himself up to his
For the first time since Queen Mary the gate of the historic garden of the
Greyfriars was left on the latch. And it was so that a little dog, coming
home in the night. might not be shut out.