A Spectral Collie
WILLIAM PERCY CECIL happened
to be a younger son, so he left home
-- which was England -- and went
to Kansas to ranch it. Thousands
of younger sons do the same, only their des-
tination is not invariably Kansas.
An agent at Wichita picked out Cecil's
farm for him and sent the deeds over to Eng-
land before Cecil left. He said there was a
house on the place. So Cecil's mother fitted
him out for America just as she had fitted
out another superfluous boy for Africa, and
parted from him with an heroic front and big
agonies of mother-ache which she kept to
The boy bore up the way a man of his
blood ought, but when he went out to the
kennel to see Nita, his collie, he went to
pieces somehow, and rolled on the grass with
her in his arms and wept like a booby. But
the remarkable part of it was that Nita wept
too, big, hot dog tears which her master
wiped away. When he went off she howled
like a hungry baby, and had to be switched
before she would give any one a night's sleep.
When Cecil got over on his Kansas place
he fitted up the shack as cosily as he could,
and learned how to fry bacon and make soda
biscuits. Incidentally, he did farming, and
sunk a heap of money, finding out how not
to do things. Meantime, the Americans
laughed at him, and were inclined to turn
the cold shoulder, and his compatriots, of
whom there were a number in the county,
did not prove to his liking. They consoled
themselves for their exiled state in fashions
not in keeping with Cecil's traditions. His
homesickness went deeper than theirs, per-
haps, and American whiskey could not make
up for the loss of his English home, nor flir-
tations with the gay American village girls
quite compensate him for the loss of his
English mother. So he kept to himself and
had nostalgia as some men have consumption.
At length the loneliness got so bad that he
had to see some living thing from home, or
make a flunk of it and go back like a cry
baby. He had a stiff pride still, though he
sobbed himself to sleep more than one night,
as many a pioneer has done before him. So
he wrote home for Nita, the collie, and got
word that she would be sent. Arrangements
were made for her care all along the line, and
she was properly boxed and shipped.
As the time drew near for her arrival, Cecil
could hardly eat. He was too excited to
apply himself to anything. The day of her
expected arrival he actually got up at five
o'clock to clean the house and make it look
as fine as possible for her inspection. Then
he hitched up and drove fifteen miles to get
her. The train pulled out just before he
reached the station, so Nita in her box was
waiting for him on the platform. He could
see her in a queer way, as one sees the purple
centre of a revolving circle of light; for, to
tell the truth, with the long ride in the morn-
ing sun, and the beating of his heart, Cecil
was only about half-conscious of anything.
He wanted to yell, but he didn't. He kept
himself in hand and lifted up the sliding
side of the box and called to Nita, and she
But it wasn't the man who fainted, though
he might have done so, being crazy home-
sick as he was, and half-fed and overworked
while he was yet soft from an easy life. No,
it was the dog! She looked at her master's
face, gave one cry of inexpressible joy, and
fell over in a real feminine sort of a faint,
and had to be brought to like any other lady,
with camphor and water and a few drops of
spirit down her throat. Then Cecil got up
on the wagon seat, and she sat beside him
with her head on his arm, and they rode home
in absolute silence, each feeling too much for
speech. After they reached home, however,
Cecil showed her all over the place, and she
barked out her ideas in glad sociability.
After that Cecil and Nita were inseparable.
She walked beside him all day when he was
out with the cultivator, or when he was mow-
ing or reaping. She ate beside him at table
and slept across his feet at night. Evenings
when he looked over the Graphic from
home, or read the books his mother sent him,
that he might keep in touch with the world,
Nita was beside him, patient, but jealous.
Then, when he threw his book or paper down
and took her on his knee and looked into her
pretty eyes, or frolicked with her, she fairly
laughed with delight.
In short, she was faithful with that faith of
which only a dog is capable -- that unques-
tioning faith to which even the most loving
women never quite attain.
However, Fate was annoyed at this perfect
friendship. It didn't give her enough to do,
and Fate is a restless thing with a horrible
appetite for variety. So poor Nita died one
day mysteriously, and gave her last look to
Cecil as a matter of course; and he held her
paws till the last moment, as a stanch friend
should, and laid her away decently in a
pine box in the cornfield, where he could be
shielded from public view if he chose to go
there now and then and sit beside her grave.
He went to bed very lonely, indeed, the
first night. The shack seemed to him to be
removed endless miles from the other habi-
tations of men. He seemed cut off from the
world, and ached to hear the cheerful little
barks which Nita had been in the habit of
giving him by way of good night. Her ami-
able eye with its friendly light was missing,
the gay wag of her tail was gone; all her
ridiculous ways, at which he was never tired
of laughing, were things of the past.
He lay down, busy with these thoughts,
yet so habituated to Nita's presence, that
when her weight rested upon his feet, as
usual, he felt no surprise. But after a mo-
ment it came to him that as she was dead the
weight he felt upon his feet could not be
hers. And yet, there it was, warm and com-
fortable, cuddling down in the familiar way.
He actually sat up and put his hand down
to the foot of the bed to discover what was
there. But there was nothing there, save
the weight. And that stayed with him that
night and many nights after.
It happened that Cecil was a fool, as men
will be when they are young, and he worked
too hard, and didn't take proper care of him-
self; and so it came about that he fell sick
with a low fever. He struggled around for a
few days, trying to work it off, but one morn-
ing he awoke only to the consciousness of
absurd dreams. He seemed to be on the sea,
sailing for home, and the boat was tossing
and pitching in a weary circle, and could
make no headway. His heart was burning
with impatience, but the boat went round and
round in that endless circle till he shrieked
out with agony.
The next neighbors were the Taylors, who
lived two miles and a half away. They were
awakened that morning by the howling of a
dog before their door. It was a hideous
sound and would give them no peace. So
Charlie Taylor got up and opened the door,
discovering there an excited little collie.
"Why, Tom," he called, "I thought Cecil's
collie was dead!"
"She is," called back Tom.
"No, she ain't neither, for here she is,
shakin' like an aspin, and a beggin' me to
go with her. Come out, Tom, and see."
It was Nita, no denying, and the men, per-
plexed, followed her to Cecil's shack, where
they found him babbling.
But that was the last of her. Cecil said he
never felt her on his feet again. She had
performed her final service for him, he said.
The neighbors tried to laugh at the story at
first, but they knew the Taylors wouldn't take
the trouble to lie, and as for Cecil, no one
would have ventured to chaff him.
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