Written by Richard Barnum
Dapple Gray, running toward the hole which the horses had made by pushing against the fence, met Tinkle’s mother going into the swamp.
“Oh, my dear lady!” exclaimed the old fire horse, “you must’nt go in there! You really must not!”
“Why?” asked Tinkle’s mother. “Oh, I’m sure something dreadful has happened! Tell me what it is. Is Tinkle—Is Tinkle—” and she could not ask any more.
“Now, it isn’t as bad as you think,” said Dapple Gray. “Horses and ponies have been caught in the swamp before. I remember when I was a young colt I—”
“Oh, is my little Tinkle caught in the bog?” asked his mother.
“Yes, I am sorry to say he is, and so are some of the other ponies and horses—Tinkle’s father among them,” said Dapple Gray. “But don’t be worried. All they have to do will be to stay there until we can get The Man to come with ropes and pull them out. They won’t be a bit the worse for the adventure after they wash the mud off. Now please don’t go in there, my dear lady, or you might get stuck too; and goodness knows there is trouble enough!”
“Oh, I am so sorry Tinkle made trouble!” exclaimed his mother. “He is usually such a good little pony—”
“Oh well, boys will be boys!” exclaimed Dapple Gray, or he said something like that which meant the same thing. And you all know how frisky colts are; always kicking up their heels and never knowing where they are going to land.
“Of course Tinkle didn’t do exactly right in running away and making this trouble,” said Dapple Gray in a kind voice. “But then it will be a lesson to him, and he won’t do it again, I’m sure.”
“I should think once would be enough,” sighed his mother. “But are you sure I can not do anything to help?”
“Not in there,” said Dapple Gray, nodding his head toward the swamp. “But you can come with me, if you like, and we’ll go to get The Man to help pull Tinkle and the others out of the swamp.”
“Yes, I’ll do that!” whinnied Tinkle’s mother.
So she and Dapple Gray ran back to the green meadow.
“What is it? What is it?” asked all the other animals that were waiting by the hole in the fence. These were the horses and the ponies who had not gone into the swamp.
Dapple Gray quickly told them of the trouble. At the same time he said:
“Don’t any of you go in there. The ground is too soft now and if a lot of you trample on it that will make it so much softer, and The Man and his friends will have trouble getting in there with their ropes and boards. So please keep out.”
The horses promised they would, while Dapple Gray and Tinkle’s mother ran as fast as they could across the meadow. They wanted to get to the long lane which led to the barn, not far from which was the house where lived “The Man,” as the horses called Mr. John Carter, the stock dealer.
“How are we going to tell him that Tinkle and the others are in the mire?” asked the pony’s mother. “We can’t talk man-talk, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” said Dapple Gray. “But I guess I can find a way to make him understand. I know what I’ll do,” he said, as he galloped on. “I’ll pick up a piece of rope in the barn and take it to The Man in my teeth. He’ll know that means we want him to bring other ropes and get the horses out of the swamp.”
“I hope he will understand,” said Tinkle’s mother.
“Oh, I think he will,” replied Dapple Gray, hopefully.
As they ran past the barn, the big doors of which were open, the old fire horse trotted inside. He looked about, and on the floor he saw a piece of rope. Picking this up in his teeth, Dapple Gray, with Tinkle’s mother, ran on toward the house. Out in the backyard stood Mr. Carter talking to some of his hands.
“Look!” suddenly called one of the men. “Some of the horses are out of the meadow. They’re coming here!”
“So they are!” said Mr. Carter. “I wonder what that means.”
“And Dapple Gray has a rope in his teeth,” went on the man.
“Why, so he has!” exclaimed Mr. Carter. “I wonder what that means.”
Dapple Gray and Tinkle’s mother ran right up to where the stock breeder and his men stood. The old fire horse stretched out his neck and shook his head up and down, the rope flapping to and fro. He seemed to be offering it to Mr. Carter.
“Ha! Dapple wants something,” said Mr. Carter. “I wonder what it is. I wish he could talk.”
And then Dapple Gray did something which was almost as good as talking. He rubbed the rope that was in his mouth against Mr. Carter’s hand, and then, dropping it at his feet, took hold of the man’s coat in his teeth. Then the old fire horse began to pull gently, just as often a dog, when it finds someone in danger, will try to lead somebody to the place to help.
“Why!” cried the surprised Mr. Carter. “I believe Dapple wants me to come with him.”
“That’s what he does!” exclaimed one of the hands.
“But what about the rope?” asked another.
“Maybe he wants me to bring that, too,” observed the stockman. “I wonder if anything can have happened to the horses?”
“I’ll go and take a look,” offered Mr. Carter’s overseer. He quickly ran to a place where he could look down into the green meadow.
“What is it?” asked Mr. Carter.
“All the horses seem to be over near a hole in the fence,” the man reported. “And some seem to be missing. I don’t see that little pony, Tinkle, anywhere.”
“Whew!” whistled Mr. Carter. “Something certainly has happened. This is Tinkle’s mother,” he went on, looking at Dapple’s companion.
“Wouldn’t it be strange if Tinkle were in trouble, and she had come to get you to help him?” asked the overseer.
And of course you and I know that is just what Tinkle’s mother did want, but the stockman and his helpers did not know that yet.
“I think I see what the trouble is!” suddenly cried Mr. Carter. “Some of the animals must have broken down the fence and gotten into the swamp! They’re stuck there! We must get ropes and haul them out. Dapple is a smart horse, to tell me that! I’ll come right away. Come on, men! Lively now.”
The man ran toward the barn for ropes, led by Mr. Carter. Though Dapple and Tinkle’s mother could not understand what the men said, they knew that help would soon be carried to Tinkle and the others held fast in the mud. They trotted along after the men, who were talking among themselves.
Of course horses and ponies understand some man-talk, else how would they know they are to stop when a man says “Whoa!” or to start when they hear “Giddy up!” or to back when they are told to do so. But it takes a little time for a horse to get to know these words, just as it does your dog to know when you want him to run toward you when you say: “Come here!” or go back when you point toward home, and tell him to go there.
“Things will be all right now,” said Dapple Gray to Tinkle’s mother, using horse-talk, of course. “The Man will soon have all the horses and ponies out of the bog.”
“Oh, I’m so glad you thought of a way to tell him,” said Tinkle’s mother.
Taking some ropes and planks out of the barn, Mr. Carter and his men ran on toward the green meadow. It did not take them long to reach the broken fence.
“Here’s where the rascals got through to the swamp!” cried Mr. Carter. “I must make the fence much stronger.”
Of course he did not know that Tinkle had made all the trouble by first jumping over the fence. The others had only broken it down to go to help the boy-pony.
“Come on!” cried the stockman. “That bog is a bad place. If they sink down too far we’ll have even more trouble. Come on, I say!”
On ran the men with the planks and the ropes. They soon came to the place where the horses and ponies were stuck.
“Tinkle is in deeper than any of them,” said Mr. Carter. “We must get him out first.”
The men laid down the wide planks. The pieces of wood were so broad that they did not sink down in the soft mud, any more than wide snow shoes will sink down when a man walks on them.
Then, standing on the planks, the men put ropes about Tinkle and began to pull on them. They also laid down planks near him so that when he got one foot out of the mire he could put it on a plank and it would not sink down again.
After some hard work and much pulling on the ropes, which hurt the little pony a bit, Tinkle was pulled out of the swamp, and led to firm, dry ground, back in the meadow.
“And now you’d better stay there,” said Mr. Carter. “Don’t try a thing like this again.”
“No indeed, you must never do it again!” said Tinkle’s mother, for she could tell by Mr. Carter’s voice that he was, in a way, scolding the pony. “See what a lot of trouble you made your father and me, as well as Dapple Gray and our other friends,” said Tinkle’s mother.
“I—I’m sorry,” said the little pony. “I’m never going to run away again.”
“And see how muddy and dirty you are,” went his mother. “You had better go to the brook and wash yourself.”
“Oh, let me stay and watch them get my father and the others out of the swamp,” begged Tinkle, so his mother let him stay.
It was not quite so hard to get the others out as it had been to save Tinkle, for they were not so deep in the mud. But it took Mr. Carter and his men quite a while. Finally, however, the ponies and the horses were all saved from the swamp.
“And I hope they never get caught that way again,” said the stockman, while Tinkle and the ponies and the horses hoped the same thing.
After the mud was washed off them, the animals were not much worse off for what had happened. Tinkle was sorry for all the trouble he had caused, and he told the other ponies and his horse-friends so.
For some time after this Tinkle lived with his father, mother and friends in the green meadow. He played with the other children-ponies, but he did not try to run away again. He did want to have some adventures, though, and he was soon to have some very strange ones.
One day, about a year later, a rich man called at the stock farm to buy a horse for his carriage. With the man, who was a Mr. Farley, was his son George, about nine years old.
“Yes, I have some good carriage horses,” said Mr. Carter to Mr. Farley. “Suppose you come down to the meadow and pick out the one you like best.”
“May I come too?” asked George.
“Yes, I think so,” answered his father. “The horses won’t kick; will they?” he questioned.
“Oh, not at all,” answered Mr. Carter. “They are all gentle.”
So George went with his father to look at the horses. But no sooner had the little boy caught sight of the ponies than he cried:
“Oh, see the little horses. I want one of them. Please, Daddy, buy me a pony!”
“Eh? What’s that? Buy you a pony!” cried his father, half teasing. “Why you couldn’t ride a pony.”
“Oh, yes I could!” said the little boy. “Anyhow I could drive him hitched to a pony cart.”
“But we don’t have a pony cart.”
“Well, couldn’t you get one? Oh, please get me a pony, Daddy!”
“Ah, um! Well, which one would you want, if you could have one?” asked Mr. Farley, half in fun.
George looked over the ponies who were cropping grass not far away. The boy’s eyes rested longest on Tinkle, for Tinkle was a pretty pony, with four white feet and a white star right in the middle of his head.
“This is the pony I want!” cried George, and, before his father could stop him the boy ran straight to Tinkle and put his arms around the pony’s neck.