Dinner was smoking on the table, which was set in the midst of the great pool of sunlight. A very large black-and-white dog, with a great bushy tail, was walking around and around the table, sniffing the air. He looked as big as a bear to Elizabeth Ann; and as he walked his great red tongue hung out of his mouth and his white teeth gleamed horribly. Elizabeth Ann shrank back in terror, clutching her plate of butter to her breast with tense fingers. Cousin. Ann said, over her shoulder: “Oh, bother! There’s old Shep, got up to pester us begging for scraps! Shep! You go and lie down this minute!” To Elizabeth Ann’s astonishment and immense relief, the great animal turned, drooping his head sadly, walked back across the floor, got upon the couch again, and laid his head down on one paw very forlornly, turning up the whites of his eyes meekly at Cousin Ann.
Aunt Abigail, who had just pulled herself up the stairs, panting, said, between laughing and puffing: “I’m glad I’m not an animal on this farm. Ann does boss them around so.” “Well, SOMEbody has to!” said Cousin Ann, advancing on the table with a platter. This proved to have chicken fricassee on it, and Elizabeth Ann’s heart melted in her at the smell. She loved chicken gravy on hot biscuits beyond anything in the world, but chickens are so expensive when you buy them in the market that Aunt Harriet hadn’t had them very often for dinner. And there was a plate of biscuits, golden brown, just coming out of the oven! She sat down very quickly, her mouth watering, and attacked with extreme haste the big plateful of food which Cousin Ann passed her.
At Aunt Harriet’s she had always been aware that everybody watched her anxiously as she ate, and she had heard so much about her light appetite that she felt she must live up to her reputation, and had a very natural and human hesitation about eating all she wanted when there happened to be something she liked very much. But nobody here knew that she “only ate enough to keep a bird alive,” and that her “appetite was so capricious!” Nor did anybody notice her while she stowed away the chicken and gravy and hot biscuits and currant jelly and baked potatoes and apple pie—when did Elizabeth Ann ever eat such a meal before! She actually felt her belt grow tight.
In the middle of the meal Cousin Ann got up to answer the telephone, which was in the next room. The instant the door had closed behind her Uncle Henry leaned forward, tapped Elizabeth Ann on the shoulder, and nodded toward the sofa. His eyes were twinkling, and as for Aunt Abigail she began to laugh silently, shaking all over, her napkin at her mouth to stifle the sound. Elizabeth Ann turned wonderingly and saw the old dog cautiously and noiselessly letting himself down from the sofa, one ear cocked rigidly in the direction of Cousin Ann’s voice in the next room. “The old tyke!” said Uncle Henry. “He always sneaks up to the table to be fed if Ann goes out for a minute. Here,