He remembered something that he had read many times on great buildings with lofty entrances. “Dogs not admitted,” the signs had said, and he feared this might be the reason for the waiting circle outside the gate. It might be that this noble portal stood as the dividing-line between mere dogs and humans. But he had been a member of the family, romping with them in the living-room, sitting at meals with them in the dining-room, going upstairs at night with them, and the thought that he was to be “kept out” would be unendurable.
He despised the passive dogs. They should be treating a barrier after the fashion of their old country, leaping against it, barking, and scratching the nicely painted door. He bounded up the last little hill to set them an example, for he was still full of the rebellion of the world; but he found no door to leap against. He could see beyond the entrance dear masses of people, yet no dog crossed the threshold. They continued in their patient ring, their gaze upon the winding road.
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.”