Bob, Son of Battle
Category: Children
Level 5.28 9:01 h
Red Wull and Owd Bob are rival sheepdogs that are both very good at their job. Who will win the big trophy at the next competition, though? Bob, Son of Battle, is a children's book about two battling sheepdogs and a boy caught between them. When sheep start disappearing, things get serious, and the culprit must be stopped.

Bob, Son of Battle

Alfred Ollivant

Bob, Son of Battle

Part I The Coming of the Tailless Tyke

Chapter I.
The Gray Dog

The sun stared brazenly down on a gray farmhouse lying, long and low in the shadow of the Muir Pike; on the ruins of peel-tower and barmkyn, relics of the time of raids, it looked; on ranges of whitewashed outbuildings; on a goodly array of dark-thatched ricks.

In the stack-yard, behind the lengthy range of stables, two men were thatching. One lay sprawling on the crest of the rick, the other stood perched on a ladder at a lower level.

The latter, small, old, with shrewd nut-brown countenance, was Tammas Thornton, who had served the Moores of Kenmuir for more than half a century. The other, on top of the stack, wrapped apparently in gloomy meditation, was Sam’l Todd. A solid Dales — man, he, with huge hands and hairy arms; about his face an uncomely aureole of stiff, red hair; and on his features, deep-seated, an expression of resolute melancholy.

“Ay, the Gray Dogs, bless ‘em!” the old man was saying. “Yo’ canna beat ‘em not nohow. Known ‘em ony time this sixty year, I have, and niver knew a bad un yet. Not as I say, mind ye, as any on ‘em cooms up to Rex son o’ Rally. Ah, he was a one, was Rex! We’s never won Cup since his day.”

“Nor niver shall agin, yo’ may depend,” said the other gloomily.

Tammas clucked irritably.

“G’long, Sam’! Todd!” he cried, “Yo’ niver happy onless yo’ making’ yo’self miser’ble. I niver see sich a chap. Niver win agin? Why, oor young Bob he’ll mak’ a right un, I tell yo’, and I should know. Not as what he’ll touch Rex son o’ Rally, mark ye! I’m niver saying’ so, Sam’l Todd. Ah, he was a one, was Rex! I could tell yo’ a tale or two o’ Rex. I mind me hoo — ”

The big man interposed hurriedly.

“I’ve heard it afore, Tammas, I welly ‘ave,” he said.

Tammas paused and looked angrily up.

“Yo’ve heard it afore, have yo’, Sam’l Todd?” he asked sharply. “And what have yo’ heard afore?”

“Yo’ stories, owd lad — yo’ stories o’ Rex son o’ Rally.”

“Which on’ em

“All on ‘em, Tammas, all on ‘em — mony a time. I’m fair sick on ‘em, Tammas, I welly am,” he pleaded.

The old man gasped. He brought down his mallet with a vicious smack.

“I’ll niver tell yo’ a tale agin, Sam’l Todd, not if yo’ was to go on yo’ bended knees for’t. Nay; it bain’t no manner o’ use talkin’. Niver agin, says I.”

“I niver askt yo’,” declared honest Sam’l.

“Nor it wouldna ha’ bin no manner o’ use if yo’ had,” said the other viciously. “I’ll niver tell yo’ a tale agin if I was to live to be a hunderd.”

“Yo’ll not live to be a hunderd, Tammas Thornton, nor near it,” said Sam’l brutally.

“I’ll live as long as some, I warrant,” the old man replied with spirit. “I’ll live to see Cup back i’ Kenmuir, as I said afore.”

“If yo’ do,” the other declared with emphasis, “Sam’l Todd niver spake a true word. Nay, nay, lad; yo’re owd, yo’re wambly, your time’s near run or I’m the more mistook.”

“For mussy’s sake hold yo’ tongue, Sam’l Todd! It’s clack-clack all day — ” The old man broke off suddenly, and buckled to his work with suspicious vigor. “Mak’ a show yo’ bin workin’, lad,” he whispered. “Here’s Master and oor Bob.”

As he spoke, a tall gaitered man with weather-beaten face, strong, lean, austere, and the blue-gray eyes of the hill-country, came striding into the yard. And trotting soberly at his heels, with the gravest, saddest eyes ever you saw, a sheep-dog puppy.

A rare dark gray he was, his long coat, dashed here and there with lighter touches, like a stormy sea moonlit. Upon his chest an escutcheon of purest white, and the dome of his head showered, as it were, with a sprinkling of snow. Perfectly compact, utterly lithe, inimitably graceful with his airy-fairy action; a gentleman every inch, you could not help but stare at him — Owd Bob o’ Kenmuir.

At the foot of the ladder the two stopped. And the young dog, placing his forepaws on a lower rung, looked up, slowly waving his silvery brush.

“A proper Gray Dog!” mused Tammas, gazing down into the dark face beneath him. “Small, yet big; light to get about on backs o’ his sheep, yet not too light. Wi’ a coat hard a-top to keep oot Daleland weather, soft as sealskin beneath. And wi’ them sorrerful eyes on him as niver goes but wi’ a good un. Amaist he minds me o’ Rex son o’ Rally.”

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” groaned Sam’l. But the old man heard him not.

“Did ‘Enry Farewether tell yo’ hoo he acted this mornin’, Master?” he inquired, addressing the man at the foot of the ladder.

“Nay,” said the other, his stern eyes lighting.

“Why, ‘twas this way, it seems,” Tammas continued. “Young bull gets ‘isseif loose, somegate and marches oot into yard, o’erturns milkpail, and prods owd pigs i’ ribs. And as he stands lookin’ about un, thinking’ what he shall be up to next, oor Bob sees un ‘An’ what yo’ doin’ here, Mr. Bull?’ he seems to say, cockin’ his ears and trottin’ up gay-like. Wi’ that bull bloats fit to bust ‘isseif, lashes wi’s tail, waggles his head, and gets agate o’ chargin’ ‘im. But Bob leaps oot o’ way, quick as lightnin’ yet cool as butter, and when he’s done his foolin drives un back agin.”

“Who seed all this?” interposed Sam’l, sceptically.

“’Enry Farewether from the loft. So there, Fat’ead!” Tammas replied, and continued his tale. “So they goes on; bull chargin’ and Bob drivin’ un back and back, hoppin’ in and oot agin, quiet as a cowcumber, yet determined. At last Mr. Bull sees it’s no manner o’ use that gate, so he turns, rares up, and tries to jump wall. Nary a bit. Young dog jumps in on un and nips him by tail. Wi’ that, bull tumbles down in a hurry, turns wi’ a kind o’ groan, and marches back into stall, Bob after un. And then, dang me!” — the old man beat the ladder as he loosed off this last titbit, — “if he doesna sit’ isseif i’ door like a sentrynel till ‘Enry Farewether coom up. Hoo’s that for a tyke not yet a year?”

Even Sam’l Todd was moved by the tale.

“Well done, oor Bob!” he cried.

“Good, lad!” said the Master, laying a hand on the dark head at his knee.

“Yo’ may well say that,” cried Tammas in a kind of ecstasy. “A proper Gray Dog, I tell yo’. Wi’ the brains of a man and the way of a woman. Ah, yo’ canna beat ‘em nohow, the Gray Dogs o’ Kenmuir!”

The patter of cheery feet rang out on the plank-bridge over the stream below them. Tammas glanced round.

“Here’s David,” he said. “Late this mornin’ he be.”

A fair-haired boy came spurring up the slope, his face all aglow with the speed of his running. Straightway the young dog dashed off to meet him with a fiery speed his sober gait belied. The two raced back together into the yard.

“Poor lad!” said Sam’l gloomily, regarding the newcomer.

“Poor heart!” muttered Tammas. While the Master’s face softened visibly. Yet there looked little to pity in this jolly, rocking lad with the tousle of light hair and fresh, rosy countenance.

“G’mornin’, Mister Moore! Morn’n, Tammas! Morn’n, Sam’l!” he panted as he passed; and ran on through the hay-carpeted yard, round the corner of the stable, and into the house.

In the kitchen, a long room with red-tiled floor and latticed windows, a woman, white-aproned and frail-faced, was bustling about her morning business. To her skirts clung a sturdy, bare-legged boy; while at the oak table in the centre of the room a girl with brown eyes and straggling hair was seated before a basin of bread and milk.

“So yo’ve coom at last, David!” the woman cried, as the boy entered; and, bending, greeted him with a tender, motherly salutation, which he returned as affectionately. “I welly thowt yo’d forgot us this mornin’. Noo sit you’ doon beside oor Maggie.” And soon he, too, was engaged in a task twin to the girl’s.

The two children munched away in silence, the little bare-legged boy watching them, the while, critically. Irritated by this prolonged stare, David at length turned on him.

“Weel, little Andrew,” he said, speaking in that paternal fashion in which one small boy loves to address another. “Weel, ma little lad, yo’m coomin’ along gradely.” He leant back in his chair the better to criticise his subject. But Andrew, like all the Moores, slow of speech, preserved a stolid silence, sucking a chubby thumb, and regarding his patron a thought cynically.

David resented the expression on the boy’s countenance, and half rose to his feet.

“Yo’ put another face on yo’, Andrew Moore,” he cried threateningly, “or I’ll put it for yo’.”

Maggie, however, interposed opportunely.

“Did yo’ feyther beat yo’ last night?” she inquired in a low voice; and there was a shade of anxiety in the soft brown eyes.

“Nay,” the boy answered; “he was a-goin’ to, but he never did. Drunk,” he added in explanation.

“What was he goin’ to beat yo’ for, David?” asked Mrs. Moore.

“What for? Why, for the fun o’t — to see me squiggle,” the boy replied, and laughed bitterly.

WholeReader. Empty coverWholeReader. Book is closedWholeReader. FilterWholeReader. Compilation cover