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Famous Modern Ghost Stories (Various authors) online
At the Gate
"Sorry to leave you, old fellow," he said, "but I'm going in to watch over the kid. You see, I'm all she has up here."
The bull-terrier looked at the Airedale for appreciation.
"That's the way we do it," he said proudly.
"Yes, but--" the Airedale put his head on one side in perplexity.
"Yes, but what?" asked the guide.
"The dogs that don't have any people--the nobodies' dogs?"
"That's the best of all. Oh, everything is thought out here. Crouch down,--you must be tired,--and watch," said the bull-terrier.
Soon they spied another small form making the turn in the road. He wore a Boy Scout's uniform, but he was a little fearful, for all that, so new was this adventure. The dogs rose again and snuffled, but the better groomed of the circle held back, and in their place a pack of odds and ends of the company ran down to meet him. The Boy Scout was reassured by their friendly attitude, and after petting them impartially, he chose an old-fashioned black and tan, and the two passed in.
Tam looked questioningly.
"They didn't know each other!" he exclaimed.
"But they've always wanted to. That's one of the boys who used to beg for a dog, but his father wouldn't let him have one. So all our strays wait for just such little fellows to come along. Every boy gets a dog, and every dog gets a master."
"I expect the boy's father would like to know that now," commented the Airedale. "No doubt he thinks quite often, 'I wish I'd let him have a dog.'"
The bull-terrier laughed.
"You're pretty near the earth yet, aren't you?"
Tam admitted it.
"I've a lot of sympathy with fathers and with boys, having them both in the family, and a mother as well."
The bull-terrier leaped up in astonishment.
"You don't mean to say they keep a boy?"
"Sure; greatest boy on earth. Ten this year."
"Well, well, this is news! I wish they'd kept a boy when I was there."
The Airedale looked at his new friend intently.
"See here, who are you?" he demanded.
But the other hurried on:
"I used to run away from them just to play with a boy. They'd punish me, and I always wanted to tell them it was their fault for not getting one."
"Who are you, anyway?" repeated Tam. "Talking all this interest in me, too. Whose dog _were_ you?"
"You've already guessed. I see it in your quivering snout. I'm the old dog that had to leave them about ten years ago."
"Their old dog Bully?"
"Yes, I'm Bully." They nosed each other with deeper affection, then strolled about the glades shoulder to shoulder. Bully the more eagerly pressed for news. "Tell me, how are they getting along?"
"Very well indeed; they've paid for the house."
"I--I suppose you occupy the kennel?"
"No. They said they couldn't stand it to see another dog in your old place."
Bully stopped to howl gently.
"That touches me. It's generous in you to tell it. To think they missed me!"
For a little while they went on in silence, but as evening fell, and the light from the golden streets inside of the city gave the only glow to the scene, Bully grew nervous and suggested that they go back.
"We can't see so well at night, and I like to be pretty close to the path, especially toward morning."
"And I will point them out. You might not know them just at first."
"Oh, we know them. Sometimes the babies have so grown up they're rather hazy in their recollection of how we look. They think we're bigger than we are; but you can't fool us dogs."
"It's understood," Tam cunningly arranged, "that when he or she arrives you'll sort of make them feel at home while I wait for the boy?"
"That's the best plan," assented Bully, kindly. "And if by any chance the little fellow should come first,--there's been a lot of them this summer--of course you'll introduce me?"
"I shall be proud to do it."
And so with muzzles sunk between their paws, and with their eyes straining down the pilgrims' road, they wait outside the gate.