Fred and Dog Stephen

NOW, just one good cuddle,” said little six-year-old Freddie, “and then I’ll be ready for school;” and he curled himself up like a young Turk in his mother’s lap, and nestled there in a very enjoyable way.

She was sitting by the dining-room window; it was open, and a pitcher of wild phlox and pink-and-white wake-robins stood in it. While they sat there they saw Uncle Rube, who lives over on the hillside, coming along the crooked path with a basket on his arm. His head was down, and he was thinking so intently that he did not hear the steps behind him of his young dog, Stephen.

Stephen holding a rose in his mouth

DOG STEPHEN.

Now, Rube means to make the best dog in the world of Stephen—the playful little puppy!—and he never permits him to follow him anywhere unless by special invitation. About once a week he will say to him, “Stevie, would you like to go to your grandfather’s with me? Come on, then;” and here they will come, the puppy so glad that his gait is more awkward than ever, his fat body, twisted out of all shape, wriggling along, while his tail will flap about in every direction and his ears look like wilted cabbage-leaves.

“He doesn’t know Stevie is behind him, does he, ma? and now let’s watch and see what they will both do when they find out.” So they snugged down by the window and tittered and watched and anticipated rare fun.

Uncle Rube was whispering to himself and nodding his head and making gesticulations with his open hand, while Stephen trotted with his little soft, careful feet behind him, smelling of the ground, and thinking green grass with the dew sparkling on it was just made purposely for dogs to admire.

Just as Rube came to the big gate and stopped to unlatch it he heard a little whiffy breathing behind him, and then he looked and saw Stephen. He was very much surprised; but as he never scolded the dog, he simply said, in a very earnest way, “Steve, I am astonished! You go right back home immediately. You’re a great boy, indeed, to sneak along without ever being invited! I didn’t want you, sir, or I’d have told you so. Now go right back again.”

Oh, it was so funny! Stephen just threw his head back and whirled on his heels, and ran with all his might down the crooked path.

Then the school-bell rang, and Fred’s mother kissed him “good-morning,” and he started off with his books, and as he turned round the corner his white teeth showed prettily as, half laughing, he said to himself in wonderment, “Dear little Stevie dog! he just ran back ’zactly as if he wanted to.