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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online
At the Gate
He now advanced cautiously to examine the gate. It occurred to him that it must be fly-time in this region, and he did not wish to make himself ridiculous before all these strangers by trying to bolt through an invisible mesh like the one that had baffled him when he was a little chap. Yet there were no screens, and despair entered his soul. What bitter punishment these poor beasts must have suffered before they learned to stay on this side the arch that led to human beings! What had they done on earth to merit this? Stolen bones troubled his conscience, runaway days, sleeping in the best chair until the key clicked in the lock. These were sins.
At that moment an English bull-terrier, white, with liver-colored spots and a jaunty manner, approached him, snuffling in a friendly way. No sooner had the bull-terrier smelt his collar than he fell to expressing his joy at meeting him. The Airedale's reserve was quite thawed by this welcome, though he did not know just what to make of it.
"I know you! I know you!" exclaimed the bull-terrier, adding inconsequently, "What's your name?"
"Tam o'Shanter. They call me Tammy," was the answer, with a pardonable break in the voice.
"I know them," said the bull-terrier. "Nice folks."
"Best ever," said the Airedale, trying to be nonchalant, and scratching a flea which was not there. "I don't remember you. When did you know them?"
"About fourteen tags ago, when they were first married. We keep track of time here by the license-tags. I had four."
"This is my first and only one. You were before my time, I guess." He felt young and shy.
"Come for a walk, and tell me all about them," was his new friend's invitation.
"Aren't we allowed in there?" asked Tam, looking toward the gate.
"Sure. You can go in whenever you want to. Some of us do at first, but we don't stay."
"Like it better outside?"
"No, no; it isn't that."
"Then why are all you fellows hanging around here? Any old dog can see it's better beyond the arch."
"You see, we're waiting for our folks to come."
The Airedale grasped it at once, and nodded understandingly.
"I felt that way when I came along the road. It wouldn't be what it's supposed to be without them. It wouldn't be the perfect place."
"Not to us," said the bull-terrier.
"Fine! I've stolen bones, but it must be that I have been forgiven, if I'm to see them here again. It's the great good place all right. But look here," he added as a new thought struck him, "do they wait for us?"
The older inhabitant coughed in slight embarrassment.
"The humans couldn't do that very well. It wouldn't be the thing to have them hang around outside for just a dog--not dignified."
"Quite right," agreed Tam. "I'm glad they go straight to their mansions. I'd--I'd hate to have them missing me as I am missing them." He sighed. "But, then, they wouldn't have to wait so long."
"Oh, well, they're getting on. Don't be discouraged," comforted the terrier. "And in the meantime it's like a big hotel in summer--watching the new arrivals. See, there is something doing now."
All the dogs were aroused to excitement by a little figure making its way uncertainly up the last slope. Half of them started to meet it, crowding about in a loving, eager pack.
"Look out; don't scare it," cautioned the older animals, while word was passed to those farthest from the gate: "Quick! Quick! A baby's come!"
Before they had entirely assembled, however, a gaunt yellow hound pushed through the crowd, gave one sniff at the small child, and with a yelp of joy crouched at its feet. The baby embraced the hound in recognition, and the two moved toward the gate. Just outside the hound stopped to speak to an aristocratic St. Bernard who had been friendly: