Written by Richard Barnum
Lightfoot and Dido stood looking at one another for a few seconds. It was the first time the goat had ever seen a bear, for though there were wild animals in the park where Mike used to drive him, Lightfoot had never been taken near the bear dens. But it was not the first time Dido had seen a goat.
“Do you like raspberries?” asked Dido, pulling a branch toward him with his big paw and stripping them off into his big red mouth.
“I don’t know,” answered the goat. “I never ate any.”
“Help yourself,” invited Dido. “Just reach out your paw and with your long claw-nails strip off the berries into your mouth.”
“But I haven’t any paw,” said Lightfoot.
“That’s right, you haven’t,” observed Dido reflectively, scratching his black nose. “Well, you have a mouth, anyhow, that’s one good thing. You’ll have to pick off the berries one by one in your lips. You can do that.”
“Yes, I think I can do that,” answered Lightfoot, and he did. At first the briars on the berry bush stuck him, but he soon found a way to keep clear of them. Dido did not seem to mind them in the least.
“Did you say you were a dancing bear?” asked Lightfoot of his new friend, when they had eaten as many berries as they wanted.
“Yes, I can dance. Wait, I’ll show you,” and in a little glade in the woods Dido began to dance slowly about.
“That’s fine!” said Lightfoot. “I wish I could dance.”
“Can you do any tricks?” asked Dido. “I can play soldier, turn somersaults and things like that.”
“I can draw children about the park in a little cart,” said the goat, “and I am a good jumper, I’ll show you,” and he gave a big jump from a log to a large, flat rock.
“You are a good jumper,” said Dido. “That is much farther than I could jump. Some of the men in the circus could jump farther than that, though.”
“What do you know about a circus?” asked Lightfoot.
“I used to be in one,” answered Dido. “In fact I may go back again. I am out now, traveling around with my owner who blows a brass horn to gather together the boys and girls. And when they stand in a circle around me I do my tricks and my owner takes up the pennies in his hat. It’s lots of fun.”
“Where is your owner now?” asked Lightfoot.
“He is asleep, not far away, under a tree. He lets me wander off by myself, for he knows I would not run away. I like him too much and I like the circus. I want to go back to it.”
“I met someone who was in a circus,” said Lightfoot.
“Who?” the dancing bear asked.
“Tinkle, a pony,” answered the goat.
“Why, I know him!” cried Dido. “He is a jolly pony chap. He draws a little boy and girl about in a cart.”
“That’s right,” said Lightfoot. “I did the same thing for the children in the park. Oh, how I wish I were back with my owner, Mike,” and he told him about his adventures.
“Do you think you could tell me the way back to the shanty at the foot of the rocks, where I made my first big jump?” asked Lightfoot of Dido, after a while.
The bear thought for a minute.
“Hmmm! No,” he answered slowly, in animal talk, “I don’t believe I could, I’m sorry to say. I have traveled about in many places, but if I have gone past the shanty where the Widow Malony lives, I do not remember it.”
Just then came through the woods a sound like:
“Ta-ra! Ta-ra! Ta-rattie tara!”
“What’s that?” asked Lightfoot, in surprise.
“That’s my owner, blowing the brass horn to tell me to come back,” answered Dido. “I must go. Well, I’m glad to have met you. And if you ever get to the circus, give my regards to Tum Tum, the jolly elephant, and Mappo, the merry monkey.”
“I will,” promised Lightfoot. “I have heard Tinkle, the trick pony, speak of both of them. Good-bye!”
“Good-bye!” called Dido, and, with a wave of his big paw, stained from the berries he had pulled off to eat, he lumbered away through the woods to his owner who was blowing the horn for him.
“Well, I had a nice visit,” said Lightfoot to himself as he ate a few more berries. “Dido would be good company, but I can not travel with him, as I can do no tricks. I wonder if I shall ever find my own home again.”
On and on through the woods wandered Lightfoot. Now and then he would stop to nibble some grass or leaves, and again to get a drink from some spring or brook. When he was tired he would stretch out under a bush or a tree and go to sleep. Then he would wander on again.
The second night in the woods found him far from the canal, and much farther from the park and his home near the big rocks. He was completely lost now, and did not know where he was. But it was not so bad as if a boy or a girl were lost. For Lightfoot could find plenty to eat all around him. He had but to stop and nibble it. And, as it was Summer, it was warm enough to sleep out of doors without any shelter, such as a barn or a shed.
One day as Lightfoot was eating some blackberries in the way Dido, the dancing bear, had taught him, he heard a noise in the bushes as though someone were coming through.
“Oh, maybe that is the dancing bear!” exclaimed the lonely goat. “I hope it is.”
An animal presently jumped through the bushes out on the path and stood looking at Lightfoot; but at first glance the leaping goat saw that it was not Dido. It was a small white animal, with very large ears, one of which drooped over, giving the animal a comical look.
“Hello!” exclaimed Lightfoot in a friendly voice. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you before.”
“Maybe not,” was the answer. “But I’ve seen you, or someone like you. A boy, in whose woodshed I once lived, had a goat like you.“
“Was his name Mike?” asked Lightfoot eagerly. And then he knew it could not be, for he knew his Mike had no such animal as this.
“No, his name was not Mike,” was the answer. “But what is your name?”
“Mine’s Flop Ear, and I’m a rabbit. A funny rabbit some folks call me. I’m in a book.”
“This is strange,” said Lightfoot. “You speak about being in a book. So did Dido, the dancing bear.”
“Oh, did you meet Dido?” cried Flop Ear, looking at Lightfoot in a funny way. “Isn’t he the dearest old bear that ever was?”
“I liked him,” said Lightfoot.
“And he’s almost as jolly as Tum Tum, the jolly elephant. Tum Tum is in a book, too.”
“What’s all this about being in a book?” asked Lightfoot.
“Well, I don’t exactly understand it myself,” answered Flop Ear. “But I know children like to read books about us. Tell me, have you had any adventures?”
“I should say I had!” cried Lightfoot. “I ran away, and I was on a canal boat, and I climbed a hill of coal and—”
“That’s enough!” cried Flop Ear, raising one paw. “You’ll find yourself in a book before you know it. Then you’ll understand without my telling you. Would you like to have a bit of cabbage?”
“Oh, I should say I would,” cried Lightfoot. “I’ve been living on grass, berries and leaves—”
“Well, I brought some cabbage leaves with me when I came for a walk this morning,” said Flop Ear, “and there’s more than I want, and you are welcome to them.” From the ground where he had dropped it Flop Ear picked up a cabbage leaf and hopped with it over to Lightfoot. The goat was glad to get it, and while he was chewing it he told the rabbit of running away from the park. In his turn Flop Ear told how he had been caught by a boy and how he had gnawed his way out with the mice, meeting Grandma Munch in the woods.
“And so I’ve lived in the woods ever since,” said Flop Ear.
“Could you tell me how to get out of the woods and back to my home with Mike, near the rocks?” asked Lightfoot.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t,” answered the rabbit.
The rabbit and the goat talked in animal language for some little time longer, then Flop Ear said he must go back to his burrow, or underground home.
“And I’ll travel on and see if I can find my home,” said Lightfoot. “I’ve been lost long enough.”
For two or three days more Lightfoot wandered about in the woods. He looked everywhere, but he could not find his home near the rocks. One afternoon, as he was asleep under a tree, he was suddenly awakened by feeling something hit him on the nose.
“I wonder if it’s going to rain?” said Lightfoot, suddenly jumping up. Then something hit him on his left horn and bounded off. Lightfoot saw that it was an acorn, many of which he had seen in the woods.
“I guess it fell off a tree,” he said.
“No, it didn’t. I dropped it,” said a chattering voice in the air. “I am lonesome and I wanted someone to talk to. So I awakened you by dropping an acorn on your pretty black nose. Excuse me.”
“But who are you and where are you?” asked Lightfoot.
“I am Slicko, the jumping squirrel,” was the answer, “and I’m perched on a limb right over your head.”
Lightfoot looked up, and there, surely enough, was a little gray animal with a very big tail, much larger than Lightfoot’s small one.
Leaving Lightfoot and Slicko talking together in the woods, we will go back a little while and see what is happening in the shanty near the rocks, where Mike Malony lived with his widowed mother. Mike came in one day, after a long search through the park. Though it had been several weeks since Lightfoot had run away the boy never gave up hope that, some day, he would find his pet.
“Well, Mike me lad, did you hear anything of your goat?” asked Mrs. Malony.
“No, Mother,” was the answer, “and I don’t believe I ever shall. Lightfoot is gone forever.”
“Oh, don’t say that, Mike! He may come back. And if he doesn’t, can’t you take one of the other goats and train it to pull a cart?”
“No,” said Mike, with a shake of his head, “I couldn’t do that. The other goats are for giving milk, and the like, but they wouldn’t be like Lightfoot for drawing the children. No goat will be like Lightfoot to me. I’ll have to get work at something else, I guess, Mother.”
“I’m afraid you will Mike,” said his mother, and now as she was a bit sad, she was not smiling at her freckle-faced and red-haired son. “Our money is almost gone, and we need more to buy something to eat. Luckily we have no rent to pay. You had better look for a job, Mike.”
Mike did, but work was hard to find. Meanwhile the money which the Widow Malony had put away was getting less and less. Mike came in one day, tired, and feeling very unhappy, for he had walked far looking for work without finding it. He had even tried training one of the other goats to pull the cart, but they did not seem able to learn, being too old, I suppose. Blackie had been sold to bring in a little money.
“Well, maybe better luck will come to-morrow, boy. Don’t give up. What!” she cried. “There’s the post man’s whistle. Sure he can’t be comin’ here!”
“But he is, Mother!” cried Mike. “Maybe it’s some of the men I gave my name to, sendin’ for me to give me work.”
With trembling hands Mrs. Malony opened the letter. When she had read it she cried:
“Saints be praised, Mikey me lad. Our troubles are over now! Our troubles are over now!”
“How?” asked Mike.
“I’ve been left a farm, Mike! A farm with green grass and a house, and cows and a place to raise hay and a horse to haul it to market. Read!”
Mike read the letter. It was true. A cousin of his mother, who had known her in Ireland, had passed away and left her his farm, as she was his nearest relative. The letter was from the lawyers saying she could claim the farm and live on it as soon as she pleased.
The troubles of the Widow Malony and her son were indeed over as far as money was concerned. They sold what few things they had, even the goats, for it would be hard to carry them along, and then, bidding good-bye to the other neighbors, they moved to the farm that had been left them. It was many miles from the big city, out in the country.
“Sure ’tis a grand farm!” cried Mike as he saw the snug house in which he and his mother were to live. “’Tis a grand farm entirely. And would you look at the river right next door! I can go swimming in that and sail a boat.”
“’That’s not a river, Mike, my boy,” said his mother. “That’s a canal, same as the one that runs near the big city where we came from, though I guess you were never over that far.”
“No,” said Mike, “I was not. A canal,huh?
Sure it’s a funny thing. A river made by men,” and he sat down to look at it.
But there were many things to do on the Malony farm, and Mike and his mother were happy in doing them, for now they saw better times ahead of them.
“Sure this would be a fine place for Lightfoot,” said Mike as he sat on the steps one day and looked across the green fields. “He’d be fair wild with the delight of it here,” and his face was a bit sad as he thought of his lost pet.
It was about the time that the farm had been left to the widow and her son that Lightfoot met Slicko the jumping squirrel in the woods as I have told you.
“And so you were lonesome! And that’s the reason you woke me by dropping a nut on my nose?” asked Lightfoot of Slicko.
“Yes,” was the answer. “And I guess you are glad it wasn’t Mappo, the merry monkey, who tried to wake you up that way.”
“Why?” asked Lightfoot.
“Because Mappo would likely have dropped a coconut on your nose, and that’s bigger and heavier than an acorn.”
“Well, I guess it is,” laughed Lightfoot. “I’m glad you didn’t do that. But why are you lonesome?”
“I am looking for a rabbit named Flop Ear to play with,” answered Slicko. “He and I used to have jolly times together. We were both caught, but we were both let go again, and since then we have lived in these woods. But I haven’t seen him for some days.”
“I met him, not long ago,” said Lightfoot. “Did he have one ear that drooped over in a funny way?”
“Yes, that was Flop Ear,” answered the squirrel. “Please tell me where to find him. I want to have some fun.”
“I left him over that way,” and Lightfoot pointed with his horns.
“Thank you. I’ll see you again, I hope,” and Slicko was scampering away with a nut in her mouth when Lightfoot called after her:
“Can you tell me where to find a canal? I was carried away on a canal boat, and I think now, if I can find the canal, I can walk along the path beside it and get to my own home. I am tired of wandering in the woods.”
“There is a large brook of water over that way,” said Slicko, pointing with her front paw from the tree. “I have heard them call it a canal. Maybe that’s what you are looking for.”
“Oh, thank you. Maybe it is,” said Lightfoot. “I’ll know it as soon as I see it again.”
Leaving the jumping squirrel to frisk her way among the tree branches, Lightfoot set off to find the “brook” as Slicko had called the canal. It did not take him long to find it, for it curved around in a half circle to meet the very woods in which the leaping goat then was.
“Yes, it’s the same canal,” said Lightfoot, as he saw coming along it a boat drawn by two big-eared mules. “Now all I have to do is to follow the towpath, and I’ll soon be at the big city again, and I can then find my way back to the shanty on the rocks, and Mike.”
Lightfoot might have reached the city had he walked the right way along the canal bank, but he hurried along away from the big city instead of toward it. Day after day he wandered on, and whenever he saw any men or boys he hid in the trees or bushes along the towpath.
“I wonder when I shall come to the city,” thought Lightfoot, who was getting tired.
On and on he went. He did not stop to speak to any of the canal horses or mules. When he was hungry he ate grass or leaves, and when he was thirsty he drank from brooks or from the canal, where the banks were not too steep.
One day Lightfoot came to a place where the canal passed through a little village. The goat could see people moving about, some on the banks of the canal.
“This does not look like the big city,” said the goat. “I think I will ask one of the canal horses.”
He stepped from the bushes out on the path, and was just going to speak to a horse, one of a team that was hauling a boat loaded with sweet-smelling hay in bales, when a boy, who was driving the team, saw the goat and cried:
“Ha! There is a Billie! I’m going to get him!” and he raced after Lightfoot. But the goat was not going to be caught. Along the towpath he ran, the boy after him. Lightfoot knew he could easily get away, but then, right in front of him, came another boy. This boy, too, was driving a team of horses hitched to another canal boat.
“Stop that goat!” cried the first boy.
“I will,” said the other.
Lightfoot did not know what to do. He did not want to run into the woods on one side of the path, for fear he would be lost again. Nor could he swim if he jumped into the canal. And then he saw, right in front of him, a bridge over the water.
“That’s my chance,” thought the goat, and lightly he leaped to one side, getting away from both boys, and over the bridge he ran. The boys did not dare leave their horses long enough to follow.
Over the bridge and down a country road on the other side of the canal ran Lightfoot. He saw some cows and sheep in the fields on either side of the road. Then he saw a little white house with green shutters. In the front yard, picking some flowers, was a woman. Lightfoot looked at her.
“I wonder—I wonder,” said Lightfoot slowly to himself, “where I have seen that woman before, for I am sure I have.”
The woman kept on picking flowers. Lightfoot stood near the gate watching her, but she did not see him. Pretty soon she called:
“Mike, bring me the watering can. The flower beds are dry.”
“All right, Mother, I will. Sure if I had Lightfoot back again I’d make a little sprinkling cart and have him draw it. It’s a good place for goats—the country farm.”
Lightfoot pricked up his ears. He could not understand it. But that name Mike—that voice—
He walked into the yard. The woman picking flowers looked up. Mike came along with the sprinkling can, and when he saw the goat he nearly dropped it.
“Mother, Mother!” he cried. “Look! Look! It—it’s Lightfoot—come back to us!”
“Sure! Look at the likes of him as fine as ever—finer! Oh, Lightfoot, I’m so glad!” And this time Mike did drop the watering pot, splashing the water all about as he ran forward to throw his arms around the goat’s neck while Mrs. Malony patted him.
And so Lightfoot came to his new home. By mistake he had gone the wrong way, but it turned out just right. He could not tell how glad he was to see Mike and his mother again, for he could not speak their language. But when Lightfoot met the horses, the cows and the pigs on the farm the widow and her son owned, the goat told them all his adventures.
“Lightfoot has come back to me! Lightfoot has come back!” sang Mike. “I wonder how he found this place?”
But Lightfoot could not tell. All he knew was that he was with his friends again, and on a farm, which he thought much nicer than the park, pretty as that was.
The leaping goat soon made himself at home. He was given a little stall to himself in the stable with the horses, who grew to like him very much.
Mike had brought with him from the city the goat wagon, and many a fine ride he had in it, pulled along the country road by Lightfoot, who was bigger and stronger than before.
“I wonder what Blackie, Grandpa Bumper and the other goats would think of me now?” said Lightfoot one day as he rolled over and over in a green meadow where daisies and buttercups grew.
But as the other goats were not there they could say nothing. And so Lightfoot had his many adventures, and he was put in a book, just as he hoped to be, so I suppose he is happy now.