THE SHORT TALLMAN
Mr. Brown talked with the farmer a little while longer, asking him if he knew any other place where Shetland ponies might be bought.
"Well, I don't know that I do," answered Mr. Bascomb, the farmer. "Not many of us around here keep 'em. But if I hear of any I'll let you know."
"I wish you would," said Mr. Brown. "I didn't know my little boy and girl were so eager for a pony."
"We always liked them!" said Bunny.
"But we didn't know how really-truly nice they were until we saw Toby to-day," added Sue. "Please get us a pony, Daddy!"
"I will if I can find one," promised her father.
But, though he inquired at many places in East Milford, Mr. Brown could find no one who had ponies to sell. Finally Bunny and Sue became tired, even with riding about in an auto looking for a possible pet, and Mr. Brown said:
"Well, we'll go back home now. Your mother will be getting anxious about you. We'll try again to-morrow to find a Shetland pony."
"Maybe we'll meet Mr. Tallman on our way back," remarked Sue.
"What good would that do?" asked Bunny.
"Well, maybe he'd sell us Toby now," went on his sister. "I like Toby awful much!"
"So do I," said Bunny. "But I don't guess we'll get him."
"I'm afraid not," put in Mr. Brown. "Mr. Tallman is too fond of his pet to part with him."
Riding home in the train from East Milford to Bellemere, Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue talked of little but the pony they had seen, and the one they hoped to get. They talked so much about ponies, in fact, that Mr. Brown feared they would dream about one perhaps, so he said:
"To-night we will all go to a moving-picture show. That will take your mind off ponies and basket carts."
"Oh, it'll be fun to go to the movies!" cried Sue, clapping her hands.
"And maybe we'll see a picture of a pony!" added Bunny, eagerly.
Mr. Brown smiled and shook his head.
"I'll certainly have to get them one," he thought.
Bunny and Sue fairly rushed into the house when they reached home. They saw their mother telling Tressa, the good-natured cook, what to get for supper.
"Oh, Mother!" cried Bunny, "did Bunker Blue tell you about us?"
"Do you mean about you and Sue hiding away in the ark, when I didn't know it, and taking a ride?" asked Mrs. Brown, with a smile at the children, and a funny look at her husband. "Yes, he told me that, Bunny. And please don't do it again. I know you didn't mean to do wrong, but you did."
"Oh, I don't mean about our going away in the ark," said Bunny. "I mean, did Bunker tell you about the pony our auto scared, and how it ran away?"
"The pony ran away, not our auto," explained Sue, for fear her mother might not understand what Bunny was talking about.
"I know," said Mrs. Brown with another smile. "You saw a little pony, did you?"
"Oh, such a sweet little pony!" cried Sue.
"He was a dandy!" said her brother.
"And daddy is going to get us one!" went on Sue.
Mrs. Brown looked at her husband.
"Bunker Blue didn't tell me anything about that," she said.
"No, he didn't know about it," replied Mr. Brown. "But I think we shall have to get the children a new pet, Mother. Otherwise they'll never be happy."
Then he told about trying to buy a pony in East Milford, but there was none to be had.
"I don't believe there are any in Bellemere, either," said the children's mother. "Where did this Mr. Tallman, who is so short, live?"
"Over in Wayville," answered Mr. Brown, naming the town next to the one where he lived. "But I'm afraid he won't sell. I'll have to find some one else with a Shetland pony."
"What makes 'em call them Shetland ponies, Daddy?" asked Sue, as they sat down to the table for supper. "Are they all named Shetland?"
"They are called that," answered Mr. Brown, "because many of the little horses, for they are really that, come from the island of Shetland, which is near Scotland, many, many miles from here.
"The island of Shetland is rather cold and rugged, and the little horses that live there are small and rugged like the island. They have thick hair to keep them warm in winter, and, though the Shetland ponies are so small, they are strong. That is why Toby was able to draw Mr. Tallman in the cart, even though the pony was not much larger than a big Newfoundland dog.
"Sometimes Shetland ponies are called Shelties, which means the same thing," went on Mr. Brown.
"Well, we'd like a Shelty," said Sue, with a smile.
"And you shall have one, if I can find him for you," promised her father.
"Do all ponies come from Shetland?" asked Bunny.
"Oh, no, not all of them," answered the children's father.
For two or three days after that Mr. Brown made inquiries in and about Bellemere for Shetland ponies. But there seemed to be none for sale. Mr. Brown even wrote Mr. Tallman a letter, asking if the owner of Toby knew any one else who had ponies for sale. But the letter was not answered.
"I guess Mr. Tallman has so much trouble about the money he owes Mr. Tang that he has no time to write letters," said the children's father.
Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue often talked about the pony they hoped to have. And one day, about a week after they had seen Toby, Bunny said:
"Come on, Sue. Let's go down and see."
"Go down where?" the little girl wanted to know.
"Down to daddy's wharf."
"What for? To see the boats? I'd rather play with my doll."
"No, not to see the boats," went on Bunny. "Let's go down and see if daddy has found a Shetland pony for us yet."
"Oh, let's!" cried Sue, and, hand in hand, she and her brother went down to their father's dock.
Though the wharf was near the bay, where the water was deep, Bunny and his sister were allowed to go there if they first stopped at the office, on the land-end of the dock, and told their father they had come to see him. In that way Mrs. Brown knew they would not fall into the water, for Mr. Brown would have Bunker Blue, or some of his other helpers, stay with the children until they were ready to go home again.
Bunny and his sister always liked to go to their father's dock. There were many things to see--the boats coming in or going out, sometimes big catches of fish being unloaded, to be afterward packed in barrels with ice, so they would keep fresh to be sent to the big city. Once a boat came in with a big shark that had been caught in the fish nets, and once Bunker Blue was pinched by a big lobster that he thought was asleep on the dock.
So down to their father's office went Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue, but when they looked in the room where Mr. Brown was usually to be found, he was not there. However, Bunker Blue was.
"Hello, messmates!" called the boy in greeting.
"Hello," answered Bunny. "Is my father here?"
"No, he just went home," said Bunker. "Didn't you meet him?"
"No," answered Sue, with a shake of her head. "We didn't see him, and we just came from home."
"Well, maybe he had to stop at a store first," said Bunker.
"Did he have our pony?" asked Bunny eagerly. "Maybe he stopped in a store to get the harness, Sue!"
"Or the cart!" added Bunny's sister.
Bunker Blue smiled and shook his head.
"No," he said slowly. "I'm sorry, but your father didn't get any pony. He had a letter from a man he wrote to about one, but this man didn't have any to sell."
"Oh, dear!" sighed Bunny. "I don't guess we're ever going to have that pony!"
"I don't guess so, too," added the little girl. "What'll we do now, Bunny?"
"Let's go home and ask daddy about it," suggested her brother. "Maybe he's heard something about a pony."
"Be sure to go straight home!" warned Bunker Blue. "Else I'll have to go with you."
"We'll go straight home," promised Bunny, as he started off, his sister's hand in his.
When they promised this Bunny and Sue were allowed to go back and forth between their father's office and their home alone. For the street was almost a straight one, and, as they knew the way and many persons living along it knew the children, Mrs. Brown felt no harm would come to them.
So, after a little look about the dock, and not seeing anything to amuse them, Bunny and his sister started back home again. They had hardly left their father's office, where Bunker Blue stayed to do some work, before the two children heard a voice saying:
"Hello there, little ones! Can you tell me where Mr. Walter Brown lives?"
Bunny and Sue turned quickly around. They saw a small man smiling at them, and they knew they had seen him before.
"Why, it's my two little friends that were in the big auto!" cried the short man in surprise. "You're Mr. Brown's children, aren't you?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," Bunny answered.
"And is your father here?" the man went on.
"No, sir," said Bunny. Then he added: "You're Mr. Shortman; aren't you?"
"Ha-ha! Not quite right," was the laughing answer. "Sometimes my friends call me that in fun. But my right name is Tallman."
"Oh, yes, now I 'member!" exclaimed Bunny. "Do you want to see my father?" he asked.
"I'd like to," replied Mr. Tallman.
"He's just gone home," said Sue. "We came down to see him ourselves, but he's gone. We came to see if he had a pony."
"But he didn't," Bunny said. "So we're going home ourselves to see him. You could come with us if you wanted to see my father," he added.
"Well, I will," returned the man who had been driving Toby the day the big auto frightened the little pony. "I'll go home with you two little tots, and see your father."
Bunny and Sue wanted very much to ask why Mr. Tallman wanted to see Mr. Brown, but they did not think that would be polite, so they did not do it.
Hand in hand Bunny and Sue started off again, Mr. Tallman following. In a little while, so fast did the children go, even with their short legs, all three were at the Brown home.
"Oh, Mother!" cried Bunny, running into the room where Mrs. Brown was sitting, "where's daddy?"
"He's out in the barn, little son," answered Mrs. Brown. "But why are you so excited, and why do you want daddy?"
"'Cause there's a short man to see him!" gasped Bunny.
"No, it's a tall man," added Sue. "I mean his name is Tallman, but he is a little, short man."
"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Brown. "What is it all about? I don't understand. Does some one want to see your father?"
"Yes," answered Bunny. "A Tallman."
"And he's such a short man," went on Sue.
"Excuse me, ma'am," said Mr. Tallman himself, following the children into the room. "But I guess they get mixed up about me. You see, I am really short, though I have a tall name. I'm the one who owned the little pony which I guess your children have told you about, and I would like to see Mr. Brown. I came with the children up from the dock. Is your husband at home?"
"He is out in the barn. Won't you have a chair?"
"Thank you, I will," and Mr. Tallman sat down and looked at Bunny and Sue, while Mrs. Brown went to call her husband. At last Bunny could keep still no longer.
"Mr. Tallman," he asked, "did you come to tell daddy about a pony?"
"That's what I did, little man! That's what I did!" was the answer, and the hearts of Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue beat high with hope.
Were they going to get a pony at last?