Lightfoot, the Leaping Goat, Ch.5 🐐

Written by Richard Barnum.

The next day, bright and early, Mike drove his goat and wagon to the big park which was in the upper part of the city, not far from where the people had built their shanties on the rocks.
“Well, I see you are on time,” said the man who had the privilege of managing the goat wagons in the park. No wagons other than those he permitted could come in to give the children rides, so if Mike had not accepted his offer the boy could not have done a park business on his own.
“Yes, Lightfoot and I are ready,” said Mike.
In a little while the other goats were brought from the stable in the park where they were kept, and harnessed to small wagons. The wagons were better painted than Mike’s, but no cleaner nor larger. And as a friend of his mother’s had given her a strip of bright red carpet, Mike put this in the bottom of his goat cart, so that it looked bright and cheerful.
“Huh! Got a new boy, it seems,” said one of the small drivers, as he noticed Lightfoot and Mike.
“Yes, and if he tries to take away any of my customers he’ll get in trouble,” said another, shaking his fist at Mike.
“Here, you boys! No quarreling!” said the manager of the goat wagons, a Mr. Marshall. “You’ll all do as I say, and I won’t have any picking on this boy. Business isn’t all that good anyways, and I want you all to do your best.”
Mike said nothing to the other boys, but he was not afraid to take his own part.

The other goats looked at Lightfoot, and one, hitched to the wagon driven by the boy who had spoken a bit angrily to Mike, said to Lightfoot:
“Where did you come from?”
“From the high rocks,” answered Lightfoot.
“Do you mean the mountains?” asked another goat.
“I don’t know, but it’s over that way,” said Lightfoot, and he pointed with his horns in the direction of Mike’s home.
“Oh, he means the rocks by the shanties!” exclaimed the goat who had first spoken. “Why, we can’t have anything to do with goats like that! We give rides to well born children. This goat comes from a very poor home indeed.
“Who said you could come here and give rides with us?” he asked Lightfoot.
“I don’t know anything about it,” said Lightfoot. “I was driven here, and I’ll do my best to give good rides to the children. I may not have come from the mountains, but the rocks where I live are very high and sweet grass grows on top. Can any of you jump from the high rocks down on top of the widow’s shanty?”
“Thank you, we don’t live near shanties,” said another goat. “We live in the park stable.”
“Just the same, that was a good jump,” remarked a quiet goat, with short horns. “I was over that way once. I think I know the place you mean,” he went on to Lightfoot, and Mike’s goat was glad to know he had one friend.
“Well, he may be a good jumper but I don’t believe he can butt hard with his horns and head,” said the ill-tempered goat, who was called Snipper from the habit he had of snipping off leaves and flowers in the park.
“I once nearly butted a trolley car off the tracks,” said Lightfoot, “and I did shove a little girl out of the way of the car.”
“Pooh! That’s nothing,” sneered Snipper. “Let’s see how hard you can butt,” and he rose up on his hind legs and aimed his head and horns at Lightfoot.
“Look out, Lightfoot!” cried Mike. But the new goat was ready for Snipper. Rising on his own hind legs, Lightfoot butted the other goat so hard that he nearly fell over backward into the cart.
“Good! Well butted!” cried the kindly, short-horned goat. “That was fine!”
“You wouldn’t say so if you felt it,” bleated Snipper.
“Well, it was your own fault. You started the quarrel,” went on the friendly goat.
“I can butt better than he can, and I’ll show him too, next time,” grumbled Snipper, rubbing his head against a tree.

“Say!” cried the boy who had spoken roughly to Mike, “if your goat doesn’t leave mine alone I—I’ll do something to you!”
“Oh, no, you won’t,” said Mike. “I’m not afraid of the likes of you.”
“Here, boys, stop your quarreling,” said the man. “Get ready now, some children and their mothers are coming. Perhaps they may want rides.”

Along the path that led to the goat stand came a number of boys and girls. Seeing them, the boys in charge of the goats called:
“Here you are for a ride! This way for a ride! We’ve got the best goats in the park! Only five cents a ride!”
The children stopped. Some begged their fathers or mothers to let them have a ride. One man, with a boy and a girl, said yes.
“Which wagon and goat do you want?” asked the father.
For a moment the children were undecided.
“Here, take mine! It’s the best!” cried the boy whose goat had been butted by Lightfoot. For a moment the children seemed about to get into the wagon, then the little girl cried:
“Oh, see what a pretty red carpet is in this wagon!” and she ran over to Mike’s. “I want to ride in this!”
“So do I,” said her brother, and they got in.
Mike was pleased and happy, but the other boy, whose name was Henry, scowled.
“I’ll get you for that,” he muttered to Mike, but Mike did not care. He started Lightfoot down the park road and the goat drew the delighted children swiftly and carefully.
Thus it was that Mike and Lightfoot began their work in the park. From then on, for several weeks, Mike would take his goat and cart to the stand every morning, and all day long he would drive parties of children up and down. Lightfoot was growing stronger and more used to harness and cart, and he could soon pull as well as the best goat in the park.
Every Saturday night Mike took home ten dollars to his mother, and this was the best of all. Of course Mike took in more than this from the children who paid him for their rides, but everything over ten dollars went to Mr. Marshall. Out of the ten dollars Mike paid for hay and oats for Lightfoot, for now that he had work to do, the goat could not live on grass alone.

The other goats accepted Lightfoot for a friend now, and even Snipper was on good terms with him, for they all saw that Lightfoot was as strong as any of them and could take his own part. But Henry, the boy who drove Snipper, did not make friends with Mike.
“I’ll get even with him some day,” he said.
And this is how he did it—not a very fair way, I should say. One noon Mike took the harness off Lightfoot, and, putting a rope around the goat’s neck, tied the other end to a tree, so Lightfoot would not stray away, as he had once or twice, meaning nothing wrong. Mike’s mother had not had time to make his lunch that morning, so Mike went down to a little restaurant in the park, intending to get a glass of milk and some sandwiches.
“Now behave yourself, Lightfoot, while I’m gone. I’ll soon be back,” said Mike.
Lightfoot wiggled his little stubby tail. Whether he understood or not I can not say. He went on cropping grass, after he had eaten his hay and other food.
In a little while Henry came along. He saw Lightfoot tethered all by himself, the other goats having been taken to the stable. Henry looked about, and, seeing no signs of Mike, took up a stick, and, going toward Lightfoot, said:
“I’ll teach you to butt my goat! You won’t do it after I am through with you!”
Then, with the stick, he started chasing Lightfoot. At first Mike’s goat did not know what to make of this. He looked up and seeing that it was one of the goat-boys, but not Mike, thought maybe it was a new kind of game. But as the stick got closer and closer Lightfoot knew that it was no game.
Swish! Swish! Swish! Henry swung the stick around Lightfoot’s back.
Lightfoot tried to get away, but the rope held him. Then, suddenly the goat became angry, and you can not blame him. He knew he had strong horns and a strong head, given him by nature to butt with and defend himself.
“And I’m going to butt that boy who is chasing me with that stick!” thought Lightfoot. Before Henry knew what was happening Lightfoot rushed straight at him with lowered head, and the next thing Henry knew he found himself falling backward head over heels in the grass. The goat had butted him down good and hard.

For a moment Henry lay dazed, hardly knowing what had happened. Then, all of a sudden, Lightfoot felt sorry.
“Mike would not want me to do this,” he said to himself. “Maybe he will be angry with me when he comes back. I know what I’ll do; I’ll run away.”
With a strong jump, and a leap, Lightfoot broke off, close to his neck, the rope that held him. And then, before Henry could get up, off through the bushes in the park ran Lightfoot. He had run away.

The park where Lightfoot worked was quite a large one. There were many paths in it, and driveways. There were also patches of wood, and places where the bushes grew in tangled clumps, making many hiding places.
“I’d better hide myself for a while,” thought Lightfoot, for, though he was a tame goat, he still had in him some of the wildness that is in all animals and this wildness made him want to hide when he thought himself in trouble. And the trouble Lightfoot feared was that he would be spoken harshly to for knocking over the boy who had teased him.
“I’ll hide under these thick bushes,” said the goat to himself, when he had run quite a distance from the stand in the park where the small wagons were kept.

The bushes were thick, but with his strong head and horns Lightfoot soon poked a way for himself into the very middle of them, and there he lay down upon the ground to rest. For he had run fast and was tired. His heart was beating very hard.
Though he did not know it, Lightfoot had done just as a wild goat would have done—one that lived in a far-off country who had never seen a wagon, a harness or a shanty. He had hidden himself away from trouble.
And, with a beating heart, as he crouched under the bush, Lightfoot wondered what he would do next.
“I can’t go back to the park and help Mike with the wagon, giving the children rides,” thought Lightfoot. “If I do that, the boy with the stick will be waiting for me. He’ll be angry at me for knocking him down. That little girl wasn’t mad at me for knocking her off the trolley tracks; but then that was different, I guess. And maybe Mike will be angry with me too. I’ll be sorry for that.
“He won’t give me any more lumps of salt, nor sweet carrots. I won’t see Blackie again, nor Grandpa Bumper. I’ll never jump around on the rocks any more and see the Sharp-horns. Well, it can’t be helped, I suppose. I must do the best I can. I’ll stay here for a while and see what happens.”

So Lightfoot remained in hiding, and when Mike had finished getting his little lunch in the restaurant he came back to re harness his goat to the wagon, ready to give the children rides in the afternoon.
“What? Where’s Lightfoot?” asked Mike in surprise, as he came back and saw the broken rope where he had tied his pet. “Where’s my goat?”
“How should I know?” asked Henry in an angry sort of voice. “He butted me over on my back a little while ago.”
“You must have done something to make him do that,” quickly cried Mike. He looked at the end of the broken rope. At first he thought Henry might have cut it on purpose to let Lightfoot get away, but the ends of the rope, frayed and rough, showed that it had not been cut, but broken.
“Have any of you seen Lightfoot?” asked Mike of the other boys. But they had all been to dinner themselves and had not seen what had happened. The other goats, too, had been taken to the stable for the noon meal.
Only Henry had seen Lightfoot run away, and he felt so unkindly toward the goat and Mike that he would not tell Mike where he had gone. Mike ran here and there, asking the park policemen and other helpers if they had seen his goat, but none had. Lightfoot had taken just the best possible time to run away—noon, when everyone was at dinner. And now the goat was safely hidden in the bushes.
“Well, I’ve just got to find him,” said Mike to himself, as he looked at the goat’s harness hanging on a tree, and at the wagon with its strip of bright red carpet. “I’ve just got to find Lightfoot!”

Telling Mr. Marshall what had happened, and promising to come back with Lightfoot as soon as he could find him, and take up again the work of giving children rides in the park, Mike set off to find his pet.
Along the paths, cutting across the grassy lawns, looking under clumps of bushes, asking those he met, Mike went on and on looking for Lightfoot. Now and then he stopped, to call the goat’s name. But though once Lightfoot, from where he was hiding, heard Mike’s voice he did not bleat in answer, as he had always done before.
“He is looking for me to scold me,” thought Lightfoot, “and I am not going to be scolded!”
Poor Lightfoot! If he had known that Mike would not scold him, but would have pet him, and given him something nice to eat, the goat might have come out from the bush where he was hiding and have trotted up to Mike. Had Lightfoot done this he would have saved himself much trouble. But then, of course, he would not have had so many adventures about which I will tell you.

After calling and looking for Lightfoot, even very near the bush under which the goat was hidden, but never suspecting his pet was there, Mike walked farther on. He had not given up the search, but now he was far from the place where Lightfoot was hiding.
Lightfoot stayed under the bushes and listened. He did not hear anyone coming toward him, and he began to think he was now safe. He was beginning to feel a bit hungry again, so he reached out and nibbled some of the leaves.
“My! That tastes good!” he said to himself. “It’s better even than the grass that grows on top of the rocks at home.”
Then, all of a sudden, Lightfoot felt homesick. He thought of the fun he had had with Blackie and the other goats, and he wanted to go back to them.
“I think I’ll do that,” he said. “Maybe, after all, Mike will not let that other boy chase me. But I will wait until after dark.”
The sun sank down in the west. The children and their nurses went home from the park. The goats and wagons were taken to the stable. Mike came back from his search.
“Well, did you find your goat?” asked Mr. Marshall.
Mike shook his head sadly.
“No, I didn’t,” he answered. “But I’ll look again tomorrow.”
“If you don’t find him pretty soon,” went on the man, “I’ll have to get another goat and wagon.”
Mike felt sadder than ever at this for he knew the money he had been able to earn with Lightfoot was much needed at home. And it was with a sad heart that Mike told his mother what had happened.
“Never mind, Mike my darling,” said the good Irish woman. “Maybe Lightfoot will come back to us some day.”

At dark Lightfoot crept out from under the bush. The lights were sparkling in the park, and he thought he could easily find his way back to Shanty-town. Mike had driven him from there to the park and back many times.
But the darkness, even though there were lights here and there, bothered Lightfoot. He soon became lost. He did not know which way he was going. Once, as he crossed a green lawn in the park he saw, standing under a lamp, a policeman with a club. Lightfoot did not know what a policeman was but he knew what a club was used for—to chase goats.
“But he won’t chase me,” thought Lightfoot, so he kept in the shadows and got safely past. On and on he wandered, trying to find his way back to the rocks where he had spent so many happy months. But he could not find them, and at last he became so tired that he crawled under some bushes and went to sleep.

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