Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


17 Heriot Row
by [?]

Would I could retrogress over the devious and enchanting itinerary. The McGill route from Oxford to Auld Reekie is 417 miles; it was the afternoon of the ninth day when with thumping hearts we saw Arthur’s Seat from a dozen miles away. Our goal was in sight!

There was a reason for all this pedalling madness. Ever since the days when we had wandered by Darby Creek, reading R.L.S. aloud to one another, we had planned this trip to the gray metropolis of the north. A score of sacred names had beckoned us, the haunts of the master. We knew them better than any other syllables in the world. Heriot Row, Princes Street, the Calton Hill, Duddingston Loch, Antigua Street, the Water of Leith, Colinton, Swanston, the Pentland Hills–O my friends, do those names mean to you what they did to us? Then you are one of the brotherhood–what was to us then the sweetest brotherhood in the world!

In a quiet little hotel in Rutland Square we found decent lodging, in a large chamber which was really the smoking room of the house. The city was crowded with tourists on account of an expected visit of the King and Queen; every other room in the hotel was occupied. Greatly to our satisfaction we were known as “the smoking-room gentlemen” throughout our stay. Our windows opened upon ranks of corridor-cars tying on the Caledonian Railway sidings, and the clink and jar of buffers and coupling irons were heard all night long. I seem to remember that somewhere in his letters R.L.S. speaks of that same sound. He knew Rutland Square well, for his boyhood friend Charles Baxter lived there. Writing from Samoa in later years he says that one memory stands out above all others of his youth–Rutland Square. And while that was of course only the imaginative fervour of the moment, yet we were glad to know that in that quiet little cul de sac behind the railway terminal we were on ground well loved by Tusitala.

The first evening, and almost every twilight while we were in Auld Reekie, we found our way to 17 Heriot Row–famous address, which had long been as familiar to us as our own. I think we expected to find a tablet on the house commemorating the beloved occupant; but no; to our surprise it was dark, dusty, and tenantless. A sign TO SELL was prominent. To take the name of the agent was easy. A great thought struck us. Could we not go over the house in the character of prospective purchasers? Mifflin and I went back to our smoking room and concocted a genteel letter to Messrs. Guild and Shepherd, Writers to the Signet.

Promptly came a reply (Scots business men answer at once).

16 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.

26th July, 1911



We have received your letter regarding this house. The
house can be seen at any time, and if you will let us
know when you wish to view it we shall arrange to have
it opened.

We are,

Yours faithfully,


Our hearts were uplifted, but now we were mightily embarrassed as to the figure we would cut before the Writers to the Signet. You must remember that we were two young vagabonds in the earliest twenties, travelling with slim knapsacks, and much soiled by a fortnight on the road. I was in knickerbockers and khaki shirt; Mifflin in greasy gray flannels and subfusc Norfolk. Our only claims to gentility were our monocles. Always take a monocle on a vagabond tour: it is a never-failing source of amusement and passport of gentility. No matter how ragged you are, if you can screw a pane in your eye you can awe the yokel or the tradesman.

The private records of the firm of Guild and Shepherd doubtless show that on Friday, July 28, 1911, one of their polite young attaches, appearing as per appointment at 17 Heriot Row, was met by two eccentric young gentlemen, clad in dirty white flannel hats, waterproof capes, each with an impressive monocle. Let it be said to the honour of the attache in question that he showed no symptoms of surprise or alarm. We explained, I think, that we were scouting for my father, who (it was alleged) greatly desired to settle down in Edinburgh. And we had presence of mind enough to enquire about plumbing, stationary wash-tubs, and the condition of the flues. I wish I could remember what rent was quoted.