Bob, Son of Battle by Alfred Ollivant
Hoo aboot sich a yarn that’ll bring the tares to the eyes o’ e’en the sternest mon. Bob, Son of Battle (copyright 1898) is about:
1. Bob, a bonnie tyke and last of the Gray Dogs of Kenmuir
2. Davie, a puir mitherless lad
3. Davie’s fether, Adam M’Adam, a little man turned harsh after the death of his wife
…With a choking gasp the little man turned into the house, and ran up the stairs and into his room. He dropped on his knees beside the great chest in the corner, and unlocked the bottom drawer, the key turning noisily in its socket.
In the drawer he searched with feverish fingers, and produced at length a little paper packet wrapped about with a stained yellow ribbon. It was the ribbon she had used to weave on Sundays into her soft hair.
Inside the packet was a …photograph…It was a sweet, laughing face that looked up at him from the frame, demure yet arch, shy yet roguish-a face to look at and a face to love.
As he looked, a wintry smile, wholly tender, half tearful, stole over the little man’s face.
“Lassie,” he whispered, and his voice was infinitely soft, “it’s lang sin’ I’ve daured look at ye. But it’s no that ye’re forgotten, dearie.”
Then he covered his eyes with his hand as though he were blinded.
“Dinna look at me sae, lass!” he cried, and fell on his knees, kissing the picture, hugging it to him and sobbing passionately…
Memories swarmed back on the little man.
It was more than a decade ago now, and yet he dared barely think of that last evening when she had lain so white and still in the little room above.
“Pit the bairn on the bed, Adam man,” she had said in low tones. “I’ll be gaein’ in a wee while noo. It’s the lang good-by to you—and him.”
He had done her bidding and lifted David up. The tiny boy lay still a moment, looking at this white-faced mother whom he hardly recognized.
“Minnie!” he called piteously. Then, thrusting a small, dirty hand into his pocket, he pulled out a grubby sweet.
“Minnie, ha’ a sweetie—ain o’ Davie’s sweeties!” and he held it out anxiously in his warm plump palm, thinking it a certain cure for any ill.
“Eat it for mither,” she said, smiling tenderly; and then: “Davie, ma heart, I’m leavin’ ye.”
The boy ceased sucking the sweet, and looked at her, the corners of his mouth drooping pitifully.
“Ye’re no gaein’ awa’, mither?” he asked, his face all working, “Ye’ll no leave yer wee laddie?”
“Ay, laddie, awa’—reet awa’. HE’s callin’ me.” She tried to smile; but her mother’s heart was near to bursting.
“Ye’ll tak’ yer wee Davie wi’ ye mither!” the child pleaded, crawling up toward her face.
The great tears rolled, unrestrained, down her wan cheeks, and M’Adam, at the head of the bed, was sobbing openly.
“Eh, ma bairn, ma bairn, I’m sair to leave ye!” she cried brokenly. “Lift him for me, Adam.”
He placed the child in her arms; but she was too weak to hold him. So he laid him upon his mother’s pillows; and the boy wreathed his soft arms about her neck and sobbed tempestuously.
And the two lay thus together.
Just before she died, Flora turned her head and whispered: “Adam, ma man, ye’ll ha’ to be mither and father baith to the lad noo,” and she looked at him with tender confidence in her dying eyes.
“I wull! afore God as I stan’ here I wull!” he declared passionately. Then she died, and there was a look of ineffable peace upon her face.
My advice is:
If you find this book at a garage sale, auction, or used book store, buy it. It’s one of those books that is ignored by modern youth and thus tossed out by modern librarians. The 21st century will see a redefining of the term “classic fiction.” Gone from the shelves will be books such as The Adventures of Perrine and Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, only to be replaced with great works of art like The Babysitter Club and Goosebumps.
It is up to faithful homeschooling families to rescue the true classics from oblivion and build a library that we can pass on to our children.