BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Hermenie Templeton Kavanagh


The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely


The Characters of Theophrastus

Theophrastus


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


Greyfriars Bobby

by Eleanor Atkinson

Excerpt:

It is said that some of the ships of the Spanish Armada, with French poodles in the officers' cabins, were blown far north and west, and broken up on the icy coasts of The Hebrides and Skye. Some such crossing of his far-away ancestry, it would seem, had given a greater length and a crisp wave to Bobby's outer coat, dropped and silkily fringed his ears, and powdered his useful, slate-gray color with silver frost. But he had the hardiness and intelligence of the sturdier breed, and the instinct of devotion to the working master. So he had turned from a soft-hearted bit lassie of a mistress, and the cozy chimneycorner of the farm-house kitchen, and linked his fortunes with this forlorn old laborer.

A grizzled, gnarled little man was Auld Jock, of tough fiber, but worn out at last by fifty winters as a shepherd on the bleak hills of Midlothian and Fife, and a dozen more in the low stables and storm-buffeted garrets of Edinburgh. He had come into the world unnoted in a shepherd's lonely cot. With little wit of mind or skill of hand he had been a common tool, used by this master and that for the roughest tasks, when needed, put aside, passed on, and dropped out of mind. Nothing ever belonged to the man but his scant earnings. Wifeless, cotless, bairnless, he had slept, since early boyhood, under strange roofs, eaten the bread of the hireling, and sat dumb at other men's firesides. If he had another name it had been forgotten. In youth he was Jock; in age, Auld Jock.

In his sixty-third summer there was a belated blooming in Auld Jock's soul. Out of some miraculous caprice Bobby lavished on him a riotous affection. Then up out of the man's subconscious memory came words learned from the lips of a long-forgotten mother. They were -words not meant for little dogs at all, but for sweetheart, wife and bairn. Auld Jock used them cautiously, fearing to be overheard, for the matter was a subject of wonder and rough jest at the farm. He used them when Bobby followed him at the plow-tail or scampered over the heather with him behind the flocks. He used them on the market-day journeyings, and on summer nights, when the sea wind came sweetly from the broad Firth and the two slept, like vagabonds, on a haycock under the stars. The purest pleasure Auld Jock ever knew was the taking of a bright farthing from his pocket to pay for Bobby's delectable bone in Mr. Traill's place.

Given what was due him that morning and dismissed for the season to find such work as he could in the city, Auld Jock did not question the farmer's right to take Bobby "back hame." Besides, what could he do with the noisy little rascal in an Edinburgh lodging? But, duller of wit than usual, feeling very old and lonely, and shaky on his legs, and dizzy in his head, Auld Jock parted with Bobby and with his courage, together. With the instinct of the dumb animal that suffers, he stumbled into the foul nook and fell, almost at once, into a heavy sleep. Out of that Bobby roused him but briefly.

Long before his master awoke, Bobby finished his series of refreshing little naps, sat up, yawned, stretched his short, shaggy legs, sniffed at Auld Jock experimentally, and trotted around the bed of the cart on a tour of investigation. This proving to be of small interest and no profit, he lay down again beside his master, nose on paws, and waited Auld Jock's pleasure patiently. A sweep of drenching rain brought the old man suddenly to his feet and stumbling into the market-place. The alert little dog tumbled about him, barking ecstatically. The fever was gone and Auld Jock's head quite clear; but in its place was a weakness, an aching of the limbs, a weight on the chest, and a great shivering.

Although the bell of St. Giles was just striking the hour of five, it was already entirely dark. A lamp-lighter, with ladder and torch, was setting a double line of gas-jets to flaring along the lofty parapets of the bridge. If the Grassmarket was a quarry pit by day, on a night of storm it was the bottom of a reservoir. The height of the walls was marked by a luminous crown from many lights above the Castle head, and by a student's dim candle, here and there, at a garret window. The huge bulk of the bridge cast a shadow, velvet black, across the eastern half of the market.

Had not Bobby gone before and barked, and run back, again and again, and jumped up on Auld Jock's legs, the man might never have won his way across the drowned place, in the inky blackness and against the slanted blast of icy rain. When he gained the foot of Candlemakers Row, a crescent of tall, old houses that curved upward around the lower end of Greyfriars kirkyard, water poured upon him from the heavy timbered gallery of the Cunzie Neuk, once the royal mint. The carting office that occupied the street floor was closed, or Auld Jock would have sought shelter there. He struggled up the rise, made slippery by rain and grime. Then, as the street turned southward in its easy curve, there was some shelter from the house walls. But Auld Jock was quite exhausted and incapable of caring for himself. In the ancient guildhall of the candlemakers, at the top of the Row, was another carting office and Harrow Inn, a resort of country carriers. The man would have gone in there where he was quite unknown or, indeed, he might even have lain down in the bleak court that gave access to the tenements above, but for Bobby's persistent and cheerful barking, begging and nipping.


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