Lightfoot, down in the hold of the canal boat, felt the craft slipping through the water easily. He was being carried with it.
“Well, this is not so bad, for a start,” thought the goat. “It is much easier than riding in a wagon, as I once did.”
When Lightfoot was a small goat, before he had come to live with Mike and his mother, he remembered being taken from one place to another, shut up in a box and carried in a wagon. The wagon jolted over the rough road, tossing Lightfoot from side to side. The motion of the canal boat was much easier, for there were no waves in the canal, except at times when a steam canal boat might pass, and even then the waves were not large enough to make the Sallie Jane bob about. Sallie Jane was the name of the boat on which Lightfoot was riding.
“This is a nicer ride than I had in the wagon,” thought Lightfoot, “only I don’t know where I am going. But then,” he thought, “I didn’t know where I was going the other time. However, I came to a nice place—the shanty where Mike and his mother lived, and maybe I’ll go to a nice place now. Anything is better than being chased with a stick and chased by boys with lumps of coal.”
Then Lightfoot began to feel more hungry. From somewhere, though the exact place he did not know, he could smell hay and oats.
“I guess it must be from the stable where the horses are that I was talking to,” he said to himself. “I’m going to ask them if they can’t hand me out something to eat. It isn’t any fun to be hungry, even if you are on a canal boat voyage.”
So Lightfoot went to the end of the boat where the stable was, and, tapping on the wall with his horns, waited for an answer:
“What is it, Lightfoot?” asked one of the horses, for he had told them his name.
“If you please,” said the goat, “I am very hungry. Could you not pass me out some of the hay or oats that I smell?”
“We would be glad to do so,” said a kind horse, “only we can not. There is no opening from our stable into the hold where you are. If you could jump out you could get right in where we are.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” said Lightfoot. “It is pretty high to jump. But I’ll try.”
Lightfoot did try to jump up, but he could not. It is easy to jump down, but not easy, even for a goat, to jump up.
“I can’t do it!” sighed the goat. “And the smell of your hay and oats makes me very hungry! Why is it I can smell it so plainly if there is no opening from your stable to where I am?”
“I don’t know,” answered one horse.
“Nor do I !” whinnied another. “Don’t you remember, Stamper,” he said to the horse in the stall next to him, “on the last voyage this boat was loaded with hay and grain? Some of that must be left around in the corners of the hold. That is what Lightfoot smells so plainly.”
“So it is,” said the first horse. Then he called: “Lightfoot, look and smell all around you. Maybe you will find some wisps of hay or some little piles of grain in the dark corners of the hold where you are. If you do find them, eat them.”
“Thank you, I will!” called Lightfoot.
Then he began to walk around in the big hollow part of the canal boat, sniffing here and there in corners and cracks for something to eat. He could smell hay very plainly, and as he went toward a corner, in which some boards were piled, the smell was very much stronger. Then, all of a sudden, Lightfoot found what he was looking for.
“Oh, here’s a nice pile of hay!” he called, and the horses in their stalls heard him.
“That’s good,” one of them said. “Now you will not be hungry any more, Lightfoot.”
“No, I guess I won’t,” said the goat. “At last, after I have had some bad luck, I am going to have some good.”
Then he began to eat the wisps of hay which had lodged in the corner of the canal boat when the cargo had been unloaded a few days before. There was enough hay for more goats than Lightfoot, but the men who unloaded the canal boat did not bother to sweep up the odds and ends, so the goat traveler had all he wanted.
After Lightfoot had eaten he felt sleepy, and, lulled by the pleasant and easy motion of the canal boat, he cuddled up in a corner near the horse-cabin, and, after telling his unseen friends what had happened to him, he went to sleep.
How long he slept Lightfoot did not know, but he was suddenly awakened by hearing a rumbling sound, like thunder.
“Hello! What’s this?” cried the goat, jumping up. “If it’s going to rain I had better look for some shelter.”
“Oh, it isn’t going to rain,” said a voice from the horse stable. “Those who have been pulling the boat are tired and are coming down the plank into their stalls. We are going out to take their places. It is our turn now.”
“Oh, I see,” returned Lightfoot. “But how do you horses get on shore? Do you swim across the canal?”
“No, though we could do that,” said Cruncher, a horse who was called that because he crushed his oats so finely. “You see,” he went on, “when the captain wants to change the teams on the towpath he steers the boat close to the shore. Then he puts a plank, with cross-pieces, or cleats, nailed on it, so we won’t slip down to our stable, and we walk up, go ashore, and take our places at the end of the towline. The tired horses come in to rest and eat.”
“Then is the boat close to the shore now?” asked Lightfoot.
“Yes, right close up against the bank,” answered Cruncher as he made ready to go out on the towpath.
“Oh, I wish I could get ashore,” said Lightfoot. “I like you horses, and I like this boat, because it saved me from the boys who were chasing me, but still I would rather be out where I can see the sun.”
“I don’t blame you,” said Nibbler, who was called that because he used to nibble the edge of his manger. “Sometimes I get tired of this dark stable. But then, twice a day, we go out in the air to pull the boat.”
“Do you think I could get on shore?” asked Lightfoot.
“Well, if you could jump up out of the hold, where you are, you could,” said Cruncher, his hooves making a noise like thunder on the planks as he walked up. “If you can do that you can go ashore.”
“I’m going to try,” said Lightfoot, and he began jumping up as high as he could to get out of the deep hole into which he had leaped.
But, jump as he did, Lightfoot could not get out of the hold. It was like being down in a deep well. If he had been a cat, with sharp claws to stick in the wooden sides of the boat, or a bear, like Dido, the dancing chap, Lightfoot might have got out. But as he was neither of these, he could not.
Again and again he tried, but it was of no use. Then he felt the boat moving again, and he knew it was being pulled along the canal by the horses.
“There is no use jumping any more,” thought Lightfoot. “If I did jump out now I would only land in the water. I must stay here until I can find some other way to get out.”
Lightfoot found more hay and a mouthful of grain in one of the corners of the boat, and after he had eaten he felt better. But still he was lonesome and homesick.
Pretty soon it grew dark, and Lightfoot could see the stars shining overhead. He cuddled up in a corner, among some old bags, and went to sleep.
For three days Lightfoot traveled on in the canal boat. All he could see were the dark sides of the hole in which he was. He could talk to the horses through the wooden walls of their stable, but he could not see them.
Now and then the boat would pull up to shore, and the tired horses would come aboard while the others would take their turn at the towrope. All this while Lightfoot lived on the hay and grain he found in the cracks and corners of the canal boat. Had it not been for this the goat would have starved, for neither the captain nor his wife knew Lightfoot was on board, and the horses, much as they wished, could not pass the goat any of their food.
One day the boat was kept along the shore towpath for a long while. Lightfoot tried again to jump out but could not. Then, all at once he heard a very loud noise. It was louder than that made by the hoofs of the horses, and the goat cried:
“Surely that is thunder!”
He saw something black tumble down into the hold at the end farthest from him.
“No, it is not thunder,” said Cruncher. “The captain is loading the boat with coal. Don’t be afraid.”
“I’m not afraid,” said Lightfoot. “Only coal is very black and dirty stuff.”
“Yes, it is,” agreed Nibbler. “But it may be a good thing for you, Lightfoot.”
“How?” asked the goat.
“In this way,” said Nibbler. “I have seen this boat loaded with coal before. They fill the hold as full as they can, and they don’t put the covers on.”
“But if they fill it full,” said Lightfoot, “they will cover me with the coal, and then how can I get out?”
“I’ll tell you,” answered Nibbler. “They will not fill all of the boat at once. It takes about two days. And when half the boat is full the coal is in a pile in the middle, like a hill. You can climb up the side of the coal-hill, Lightfoot, and then you will be able to get out of the hold. You can scramble up on top of our stable-cabin and from there you can easily jump to shore.”
“Oh, that will be fine!” cried the goat.
“Do you think you can walk up the hill of coal in this boat?” asked Cruncher.
“Surely I can,” Lightfoot said. “I could climb up the rocky, rocky path back of the cabin, and surely I can climb up the coal hill.”
All that day men with wheelbarrows dumped coal into the hold of the canal boat. It made a black dust, and Lightfoot kept as far away from it as he could.
“It’s a good thing I am going to get out,” he said. “For the coal will soon cover up all my hay and grain and I would have nothing to eat.”
Lightfoot waited until after dark, so no one would see him. Then he scrambled up the sloping sides of the pile of coal in the middle of the canal boat until he could jump to the edge and so to the roof of the stable cabin.
“Good-by, kind horses,” he called to Cruncher and the others. “I am sorry I can’t stop to see you, but I had better go ashore.”
“Yes, while you have the chance,” said Nibbler.
Then, with a nimble leap, Lightfoot jumped from the canal boat to the towpath. He had gone ashore.
“I wonder what adventures I’ll have next,” he said to himself as he wiggled his way into the bushes at the edge of the path.
Without stopping to look back at the canal boat from which he had escaped, Lightfoot ran on through the bushes, and soon found himself in some woods. He was afraid someone from the boat might run after him, and take him back there.
“Not that it was such a bad place,” thought the goat, as he went in and out among the trees; “but it is no fun to be in a place from which you can’t get away when you want to. If it had not been that they made a little hill of coal in the boat maybe I’d never have gotten away.
“I liked those horses, though I never saw them, and the hay and grain in the cracks was good eating. Still I would rather be out here and free.”
No one except the canal horses knew Lightfoot had been on the boat. The captain and his wife had not seen him jump down into the hold, nor had the boys picking coal. They only imagined the goat might be somewhere near the boat when they asked about him, but they really had not seen him get aboard.
Lightfoot ran on a little farther and then, thinking he was safe, hidden behind a bush, turned and looked back. He was on a side hill that ran along the canal, and he could look down on the towpath. He saw a team of horses hitched to a long rope, which, in turn, was tied to the canal boat.
“There are my kind friends, the horses,” thought Lightfoot. “But I don’t know which ones they are. I wish I could stop and speak to them, but it would not be safe. Anyhow I said good-bye to them, and thanked them.”
As Lightfoot looked, the team pulling the canal boat turned around a curve in the towpath and were soon out of sight. Then, once more, the goat turned and went on into the woods.
“Well, I shall not be hungry here, anyhow,” thought Lightfoot. “There are more bushes and trees here than in the park where Mike used to drive me about, hitched to the little wagon. I wonder if I am allowed to eat these leaves.”
Lightfoot looked around. He saw no policemen or park guards, such as he had seen when he was in the other place, and, as he felt a bit hungry after his run, he nibbled some of the green leaves. They had a good taste and he ate many of them. No one called to him to stop, and no one chased him with a stick.
“This is a good place,” thought Lightfoot.
As with most animals, when he had eaten well, the goat felt sleepy, and picking out a smooth grassy place beneath some trees he cuddled up, and was soon asleep.
How long he slept Lightfoot did not know, but when he awakened he had a feeling that he wished he was back with Mike again, drawing children around the park. Whether Lightfoot had dreamed about his home amid the rocks I do not know. I do not know whether or not animals dream, but I think they do.
At any rate Lightfoot felt lonesome. He missed the cheerful whistle of the boy, and he missed, too, the nice combing and rubbing-down that Mike used to give him every morning in order to keep his coat in good condition.
Some of the goats that lived on the rocks had coats very rough with tangled hairs, to say nothing of the burrs and thistles that clung to them. But Mike kept Lightfoot slick and neat, brushing him as a groom brushes his horses.
“But I don’t look very slick now,” thought Lightfoot, as he turned his head and saw a lot of burrs on one side, while the other side carried a tangle of a piece of a briar bush. “I must clean myself up a bit,” thought the goat.
By twisting and turning about, using first one hind foot and then the other, as a cat scratches her ears, Lightfoot managed to get rid of most of the things that had clung to him as he tore his way through the bushes. Then he walked on again, until, feeling thirsty, he began to sniff the air for water. For goats and other animals can smell water before they can see it, though to us clean water has no smell at all.
Lightfoot soon found a little spring in the woods, and from it ran a brook of water, sparkling over the green, mossy stones.
As Lightfoot leaned over to get a drink from the spring he startled back in surprise.
“Why!” he exclaimed to himself. “Why! There’s another goat down there under the water. He’s a black goat. I’m white.”
Lightfoot thought for a moment as he drew back from the edge of the spring. Then he said to himself:
“Well, if there’s only another goat I needn’t be afraid, for we will be friends.”
He went to the spring again and looked down into the clear water. Again he saw the black goat, and he was just going to speak, asking him how he felt, what his name was, where he came from and so on, when Lightfoot happened to notice that the black goat moved in exactly the same way, and did the same things that he, himself, did. Then he understood.
“Ha! Ha!” laughed Lightfoot to himself. “How silly I am! That is only my reflection in the spring, just as if it were a looking glass. But what makes me so black on my face, I wonder?”
Then he remembered.
“It’s the black coal dust, of course!” he cried. “It must have stuck to me all over, but I brushed some of it off when I went to sleep in the grass. Now I must wash my face.”
He glanced once more into the spring looking glass, and saw that indeed he was quite dirty from the coal dust. Taking a long drink of the cool water he went below the spring to the brook, and there he waded in and splashed around in the water until he was quite clean. This made him feel hungry again, and he ate more leaves and grass.
“And now,” said Lightfoot, as he noticed the sun going down in the west, and knew that it would soon be night, “it’s time for me to think of what I’m going to do.”
Lightfoot was not afraid to stay out alone in the woods all night. He had spent many a night on the rocks, though of course the other goats had been with him then. But he was a bigger and older goat now, and he was not afraid of being alone. Of course a little kid might have been, but Lightfoot was a kid no longer.
“I’ll stay here to-night, I think,” said the goat after a while. “It is good to be near water so you can drink when thirsty. I’ll stay here to-night and in the morning I’ll try to find my way back to Mike.”
Lightfoot slept well that night, for it was not cold, and in the morning, after he had eaten some leaves and grass and had drunk some water he started out to find the Malony shanty near the rocks.
But a goat is not like a dog or a cat, some of which can find their way home after having been taken many miles from it. So, after wandering about in the woods, and finding no place that looked like his former home, Lightfoot gave up.
“It’s of no use,” he said. “I guess I am lost. I must have come farther in that canal boat then I knew. Well, the woods are a good place to stay. I shall not be hungry here.”
Lightfoot wandered on and on for several days. Once some boys, who were in the woods gathering flowers, saw the goat behind some bushes.
“Oh, let’s chase after him!” called one, and they ran toward Lightfoot.
But the goat leaped away and soon left the boys far behind. If one of them had been Mike, Lightfoot would have gone to him, but Mike was not there.
One day as Lightfoot was wandering through the woods, wishing he were back in his home again, for he was lonely, having no one to talk to but the birds, he heard a noise in the bushes.
It was a smashing, crashing sort of noise, as though made by some big animal.
“Maybe it is one of the canal horses,” thought Lightfoot. “I hope it is. They’ll be company for me. Maybe one of them ran away.”
He looked through the underbrush and saw a big, shaggy, brown animal, standing on its hind feet. With its front paws it was pulling berries from a bush and eating them.
“Excuse me,” said Lightfoot in animal language. “But could you tell me the way to the Widow Malony’s shanty?”
The big animal stopped eating berries, looked up at the goat in surprise and asked, in a sort of growly voice:
“Who are you?”
“I am Lightfoot, the leaping goat,” was the answer. “Who are you?”
“I am Dido, the dancing bear, I am glad to meet you. Come over and have some berries,” and Lightfoot went.