Despite his elation over the prospect before him, Dick found the actual parting with his comrades in Regina a good deal of a wrench. They were fond of him, and of Jan, and proud of both. And Dick found when the packing was over and valedictory remarks begun that these men had entered pretty deeply into his life and general scheme of things.
They were good fellows all, these hard, spare, long-limbed riders of the plains, and they and the North-west had made of the Dick who was now bidding them good-by a man radically different in a hundred ways from the careless, irresponsible, light-hearted Dick who had come to them a few years back direct from kindly, indulgent Sussex.
Dick had become a fit and proper part of his western environment and had “made good” in it, as the saying is. We most of us like doing that which we do well. Dick’s mature and able manhood had come to him in the West. He would never lose it now, however far eastward he might travel. But—the West and the good folk tugged pretty hard at his heart-strings, as from the rear platform of his car on the east-bound train he watched the waving stiff-brimmed hats of his comrades, and a little later the last of the roofs of Saskatchewan’s capital fading out in the distance.
Hard land as many have found it, hard though it had been in many ways for Dick, the North-west had forced its bracing, stimulating spirit into his being and made him the man he was, just so surely as the northland wilderness had made of Jan the wonderful hound he now was.
And Dick left it all with a swelling heart; not unwillingly, because he was going to a great promised happiness, but with a swelling heart none the less, and a kind of mistiness of vision, due in great measure to the real respect, the sincere gratitude he felt toward the land and life and people who had helped him to make of himself a very much bigger and better man than any previous efforts of his had promised to evolve out of the same material in Sussex, for example.
Winter ruled still in the land, and so the actual seaboard—Halifax—and not the big St. Lawrence port, was rail-head for Dick and Jan. But for Jan the enforced confinement of the journey was greatly softened by regular daily visits from his lord. And in Halifax two and a half days of almost unbroken companionship awaited them before their steamer left.
This homeward journey was a totally different matter for Jan from the outward trip. It was true he gave no thought to England as yet. But he perfectly understood the general idea of travel. He knew that he and his lord were on a journey together, that certain temporary separations were an unavoidable feature of this sort of traveling, and that, the journey done, the two of them would come together again. The sum of Jan’s knowledge, his reasoning powers, and his faculties of observation and deduction were a hundredfold greater now than at the time of his departure from England.