I looked downhill and saw Jamie emerging from the willow trees that fringed the creek, shooing children ahead of him like a herd of small, disobedient sheep, bumping into each other and giggling. Not for the first time, I missed Rollo, who would have taken that job in hand—or paw—with gusto, and crossed myself at the thought with a rueful smile.
“Do you think it’s proper to pray for the soul of an animal?” I asked Roger, who was building up the cook fire, assisted by Mandy, who was helpfully handing him sticks and other objects she thought should be included. He straightened up, dusting his hands, and smiled at me.
“I’m thinking that any prayer is a good prayer, but I don’t think Presbyterians have any doctrines concerning animals. Which animal did ye have in mind? Because if it’s the White Sow…”
“No,” I said thoughtfully. “I’m reasonably sure the White Sow is beyond redemption. I was thinking of Rollo.”
“Oh, dogs. No, sweetheart, the fire’s high enough now—we need to let it burn down a bit so Grannie can have coals to cook our dinner. Go wash your hands—and maybe your face while you’re about it, aye?”
“And ask Germain to bring me a bucket of water, will you, Mandy?” I called after her. She nodded amiably and skipped off toward the well, Esmeralda in the crook of her arm and her ratty pinafore—now smudged with charcoal—flapping round her legs.
“Dogs,” he repeated, turning back to me. “Well… I once met a Catholic priest in Inverness—he sang in the St. Stephen’s choir, for fun, you know; beautiful baritone—anyway, I took him for a pint one night and in the course of the conversation, we got round to dogs. He’d just lost one of his pets, a very sweet fluffy wee dog, who’d come with him to practice and curl up by his feet while the singing went on. So I proposed a toast to Tippy, and everyone in the bar joined in—well, anyway, someone asked Peter—Peter Drummond, Father Pete, they called him—asked him whether dogs have souls.”
“Well, of course they have.” Jamie had dispersed his flock and made his way up the hill in time to hear this. “How could ye look into a dog’s eyes and doubt it?”
“Good point,” I said. “Though the question was—wait. Why are you wet?” He was barefooted, the hem of his kilt dark and dripping.
“I had to wade out into the creek to fetch wee Orrie Higgins. He took a fright when Myers came into the water, and—”
“John Quincy is in the creek?”
“Aye, washing himself and his clothes. Amy Higgins gave him a bit of soft soap for the job. What is it about dogs’ souls?”
“I was wondering if it’s proper to pray for the soul of a dog,” I explained. “Rollo, you know…”
“If ever I met a dog with a better chance at heaven, I canna recall it.” Jamie shook his head. “He was a good dog.”
“Yes, he was,” Roger agreed. “But I was just telling Claire the views of a priest I knew. He said that dogs are pure love and thus when they die, they’re instantly in the presence of God. So theoretically, they wouldn’t need praying for.”
Jamie made a Scottish sound of approval at this bit of theological reasoning.
“I want a dog!” Mandy said, appearing with Germain and the bucket of water, “Can we has a dog, Daddy?”
“Later,” Roger said, adding with low cunning, “Ask your mother.”
“We need a house first,” I told her. “The dog will need a place to sleep.”
“It can sleep wif me!”
“It might eat Esmeralda,” Germain said, teasing. Mandy clutched the doll to her chest, scowling at him.
“No! Grannie, tell him no!”
“Germain, or the dog?” I inquired. “Jamie, help me with this, will you? And where are Jem and Fanny?”
And thanks to Cheryl Brady for the lovely bee close-up!
This DailyLine (Excerpt) was also posted on my official Facebook Page in April, 2018.
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