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

herself.



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

came out.



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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