It was one of the prettiest places in all Kentucky where the Little Colonel stood that morning. She was reaching up on tiptoes, her eager little face pressed close against the iron bars of the great entrance gate that led to a fine old estate known as “Locust.”
A ragged little Scotch and Skye terrier stood on its hind feet beside her, thrusting his inquisitive nose between the bars, and wagging his tasselled tail in lively approval of the scene before them.
They were looking down a long avenue that stretched for nearly a quarter of a mile between rows of stately old locust-trees.
At the far end they could see the white pillars of a large stone house gleaming through the Virginia creeper that nearly covered it. But they could not see the old Colonel in his big chair on the porch behind the cool screen of vines.
At that very moment he had caught the rattle of wheels along the road, and had picked up his field-glass to see who was passing. It was only a coloured man jogging along in the heat and dust with a cart full of chicken-coops. The Colonel watched him drive up a lane that led to the back of the new hotel that had just been opened in this quiet country place. Then his glance fell on the two small strangers coming through his gate down the avenue toward him. One was the friskiest dog he had ever seen in his life. The other was a child he judged to be about five years old.
Her shoes were covered with dust, and her white sunbonnet had slipped off and was hanging over her shoulders. A bunch of wild flowers she had gathered on the way hung limp and faded in her little warm hand. Her soft, light hair was cut as short as a boy’s.
There was something strangely familiar about the child, especially in the erect, graceful way she walked.
Old Colonel Lloyd was puzzled. He had lived all his life in Lloydsborough, and this was the first time he had ever failed to recognize one of the neighbours’ children. He knew every dog and horse, too, by sight if not by name.
Living so far from the public road did not limit his knowledge of what was going on in the world. A powerful field-glass brought every passing object in plain view, while he was saved all annoyance of noise and dust.
“I ought to know that child as well as I know my own name,” he said to himself. “But the dog is a stranger in these parts. Liveliest thing I ever set eyes on! They must have come from the hotel. Wonder what they want.”
He carefully wiped the lens for a better view. When he looked again he saw that they evidently had not come to visit him.
They had stopped half-way down the avenue, and climbed up on a rustic seat to rest.
The dog sat motionless about two minutes, his red tongue hanging out as if he were completely exhausted.
Suddenly he gave a spring, and bounded away through the tall blue grass. He was back again in a moment, with a stick in his mouth. Standing up with his fore paws in the lap of his little mistress, he looked so wistfully into her face that she could not refuse this invitation for a romp.
The Colonel chuckled as they went tumbling about in the grass to find the stick which the child repeatedly tossed away.