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THE FIRST RIDE
Bunny Brown and his Sister Sue looked quickly up at hearing the harsh voice. They had been looking at Toby, thinking how nice he was, and how glad they were to have him, but now----
There they saw standing near the little horse Mr. Tang, the cross man who had said Mr. Tallman owed him money.
"I am just in time, I see!" went on Mr. Tang. "I went over to your house to get this pony, Mr. Tallman, but they said you had driven here with him. I see you had."
"Yes, I brought the pony over to Bunny and his sister," stated Mr. Tallman. "I have sold Toby to their father."
"You have?" cried Mr. Tang. "Why, you shouldn't have done that! You should have given that pony to me in part payment of the money you owe me. When are you going to pay me?"
"I can pay you something as soon as Mr. Brown gives me the money for Toby," was the answer.
"Then, I am too late. I can't have Toby, can I?" asked Mr. Tang.
And, oh! how anxiously Bunny and Sue waited for the answer. Suppose, after all, they could not have the pony?
But the next words of Mr. Tallman made them feel better. He said:
"Indeed, you are too late. I have sold Toby, and Bunny and Sue are going to have him after this. I will pay you as soon as I can, but I have been robbed, Mr. Tang. Some burglars took my red-and-yellow box that had in it some valuable papers, and I can't pay you all I owe you until I get that box back."
"But if you'd give me the pony you wouldn't have to pay me so much," went on Mr. Tang.
Mr. Tallman shook his head.
"It is too late," he said. "Toby goes to Bunny and Sue."
The little boy and girl were very glad, but Mr. Tang was angry.
"I've got to have my money!" he exclaimed. "If I can't get it one way I'll get it another. You watch out, Mr. Tallman!" and with that he turned his horse and drove away, giving a last look toward Toby, Bunny and Sue.
"Oh, he won't take Toby, will he?" asked Bunny.
"No, indeed," answered Mr. Tallman. "The pony is yours now."
Mr. Brown, who had not yet gone down to his fish dock, now came out of the house and paid Mr. Tallman for the Shetland pony. And when Bunny and Sue saw that done they felt sure the pet was their very own.
"For," said Bunny to Sue, as they stood patting Toby, "when you buy anything at the store, and give your pennies for it, the storekeeper can't take it back."
"Yes, I guess that's so," said Sue, as though not quite sure. "But Mr. Tallman isn't a storekeeper."
"Well, Toby's ours now; isn't he, Daddy?" asked the little boy.
"Yes, he surely is," said Mr. Brown.
Mr. Tallman told Bunny and Sue what to feed the little horse, and how to treat him.
"Bunker Blue will look after Toby in the stable," said Mr. Brown. "Bunker knows a lot about horses as well as about boats, and he'll harness the pony for the children until they get big enough to do it themselves. We have a nice little box-stall in the stable where Toby can make himself at home."
"And we'll put some soft straw in for his bed," added Bunny.
"And we'll pull grass and give it to him to eat," said Sue. "Will he like green grass, Mr. Tallman?"
"Oh, yes, very much. But he likes hay, too, and now and then a bit of apple or a lump of sugar."
"We'll give him them, too!" cried Bunny. "Oh, we'll have lots of fun with our pony, won't we, Sue?"
"Yes," answered the little girl, again patting Toby. "We'll have heaps of fun!"
"Well, good-bye, little horse," said Mr. Tallman finally, when it was time for him to go. "Good-bye! I'm sorry to have to sell you, but I need the money, and I'm sure you'll have a good home with Bunny and Sue. They will be kind to you. Good-bye!"
Toby bowed his head up and down. It may be that he was saying "Good-bye!" also, or perhaps he only happened to do that. But the two children thought it must be that he was bowing because Mr. Tallman was going away.
Bunny and Sue looked down the road to make sure the cross Mr. Tang was not in sight, and they were glad when they did not see him. For, even though they knew their father had paid for Toby, still they felt that, in some way, the gruff man might come and take him away.
"When may we have a ride, Daddy?" asked Bunny as he saw his father getting ready to go down to the dock. He was going to walk along with Mr. Tallman, who would have to take a train back to his home, since he could no longer ride in the pony cart.
"Oh, so you want to ride, do you?" asked Mr. Brown with a smile, and a wink at Mr. Tallman. "Why, I thought you wanted to have Toby just to look at."
"Oh, no, we want a ride! Don't we, Sue?" Bunny cried.
"Lots of rides!" exclaimed the little girl. "When may we have one, Daddy?"
"I'll send Bunker Blue up as soon as I get to the dock," promised Mr. Brown. "He can take you for a ride in the pony cart."
"Oh, shall we have to wait that long?" Bunny cried. "Couldn't we go for a ride by ourselves?"
"Not at first," Mr. Brown answered. "But after a while, when Bunker has shown you how to drive, then I expect you and your sister will go off on little trips by yourselves--not too far, though. I suppose Toby will be safe for the children to drive?" Mr. Brown asked Mr. Tallman.
"Oh, yes, of course," said that gentleman. "There is one nice thing about Toby--he is very gentle and kind and he likes children very much. In fact, he's like a big dog.
"But, Mr. Brown, if Bunny and Sue want a ride so much, why not let me drive them down to your dock? I know where it is, for I was there the other day. Then they can take Bunker Blue in with them and he can teach them how to hold the reins, and other things they need to know about the pony and cart. I'll drive them down."
"Will you?" returned Mr. Brown. "That is kind. Jump in, Bunny and Sue! Get ready for your first pony ride! Tell Bunker Blue I'll soon be there, and then you can all three go off together. Get in!"
"Oh! Oh!" exclaimed Bunny and Sue, filled with joy. "Oh! Oh!"
Mr. Tallman helped them into the basket cart, and then got in himself. Toby looked around as if to make sure that the children were safely seated before starting off, and he switched his long tail.
"Isn't his tail beautiful?" exclaimed Sue.
"Awful nice," agreed Bunny. "I guess no flies 'd better get on Toby, or they'll wish they hadn't when he switches 'em off!"
"Get along, Toby!" called Mr. Tallman to the little creature. "You are going to give Bunny and Sue their first ride. We could take you in the pony cart if you'd like it," he said to Mr. Brown. "Toby can easily pull all four of us, as the road is smooth and down hill."
"No," said Mr. Brown. "I have to stop at two or three places on my way to the dock. Besides, it seems too much for one little pony to pull two men and two children."
"Oh, Toby is strong!" replied Mr. Tallman. "He has often pulled heavier loads than that."
"Well, thank you, I'll not get in," again said Mr. Brown. "Ride along, Bunny and Sue, and wait for me at the dock. Then you and Bunker may have a good time."
Off started Toby, drawing Mr. Tallman, Bunny and Sue. The children looked with eager eyes at their new pony, whose little feet went "clap-clap!" on the hard road. And Toby went quite fast, too, trotting so rapidly that his feet seemed to "twinkle," as Sue said.
"Oh, I just love a pony!" said Sue, as she sat beside Bunny. "I just love Toby!"
"So do I!" agreed her brother. "We're going to keep him for ever and ever!"
But neither Bunny nor Sue knew what was shortly going to happen to Toby.
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