Written by Richard Barnum
George and Mabel were soon at the store, and, going in, they bought the loaf sugar. Patrick stayed out in the pony cart, and Tinkle stood near him to the curb. Near him was a horse hitched to a wagon full of coal.
“Hello, my little pony!” called the coal-horse. “You have a fine rig there.”
“Yes, it is pretty nice,” said Tinkle, and he was sure he must look very gorgeous, for Mabel had tied a blue ribbon in his mane that morning.
“You’re quite stylish,” went on the coal-horse.
“Well, I s’pose you might call it that,” admitted Tinkle.
“It’s much more fun to be pulling a light, little cart like that around the city streets, than to haul a great big heavy coal wagon, such as I am hitched to,” went on the big horse.
“Yes, but see how strong you are!” observed Tinkle. “I never could pull such a heavy load as you haul.”
“No, I guess you couldn’t,” said the coal horse. “Especially up some of the hills we have. It is almost more than I can do, and there is one hill that I have to take a rest on, half way up, but my driver is good to me, and never hurries me, which is more than I can say of some drivers I have known. So I guess, after all, it is better for you to draw the pony cart and for me to stick with the coal wagon.”
“Indeed it is,” said a horse that was hitched to one of the grocery wagons. “You’d look funny, coal-horse, trying to fit between the shafts of that pony cart.”
“I suppose I would,” admitted the other, laughing, in a way horses have among themselves.
When George and Mabel came out of the store, with the bag of sugar lumps, they saw the two horses—one hitched to a coal wagon and the other to a grocery cart—rubbing noses with Tinkle.
“They’re kissing each other,” laughed the little girl.
But the horses and the pony were really talking among themselves, and even Patrick, much as he knew about animals, did not understand horse-talk.
“Let’s give Tinkle some sugar now,” said Mabel.
“All right,” answered George, so they gave the pony two lumps.
“My, that sugar certainly smells good!” exclaimed the horse that was hitched to the coal wagon.
“It certainly does,” said the other horse, sniffing hard through his nose, for the air was filled with the sweet smell of the sugar lumps Tinkle was eating. “You might think,” went on the grocery horse, “that, working for a store, as I do, I’d get a lump of sugar once in a while.”
“Don’t you?” asked Tinkle, reaching out for another sweet lump George offered him.
“Never a bit!” said the grocery-horse, “and I just love it!”
“So do I,” said the coal-horse.
“I’m sorry I didn’t offer you some,” apologized Tinkle. “But it’s too late now. I’ve swallowed it.”
Just then Mabel thought of something nice.
“Oh, George!” she cried. “Let’s give the two horses some of Tinkle’s sugar. I guess horses like sweet stuff the same as ponies. Don’t they, Patrick?” she asked the coachman.
“Sure they do,” he answered. “Sure they do!”
“Then give them some, George,” she begged. “We have more than enough for Tinkle.”
“All right,” said the little boy. So he held out two lumps of sugar to the coal horse, and two to the grocery horse, and I just wish you could have seen how glad those horses were to get the sweet stuff. If they could have talked man language they would have thanked George and Mabel, but as it was they could only say to one another and to Tinkle:
“Well, you certainly have a good home with such nice children in it.”
“I’m glad you think so,” whinnied Tinkle to them, and he felt very happy.
George and Mabel drove home in their pony cart, carrying what was left of the bag of sugar. When they were near their home, and on a quiet street, George let his sister take the reins so she would learn how to handle them. Patrick watched the little girl carefully and told her how and when to pull, so Tinkle would go to the right or to the left, and also around the corners.
“Oh, Mother! now I know how to drive!” cried Mabel as she ran into the house to tell her father and Mrs. Farley about their first trip downtown in the new pony cart.
After that George and Mabel had many rides behind Tinkle, even in the Winter, when they hitched him to a little sled. The little pony grew to like his little boy and girl friends very much indeed, and they loved him dearly. They would hug him and pat him whenever they went out to the stable where he was, and feed him lumps of sugar. When Spring came they took long rides in the country.
One day a funny thing happened to Tinkle. He had been hitched to the pony cart which was tied to a post in front of his house, waiting for George and Mabel to come out. And then, from somewhere down the street sounded the tooting of a horn, and a strange odor, which made him tremble, came to the pony’s nostrils.
“I wonder what that is?” said Tinkle to himself. Very soon he found out.
Along came a man wearing a red cap, and every once in a while he would put a brass horn to his mouth and blow a tooting tune. But this was not what surprised Tinkle most. What did, was a big shaggy animal, that the man was leading by a chain. And when Tinkle saw the shaggy creature he was afraid. But the other animal, rising up on its hind legs said:
“Don’t be afraid of me, little pony. I won’t hurt you!”
“Who are you?” asked Tinkle, wonderingly.
“I am Dido, the dancing bear,” was the answer, “and I have had many adventures that have been put into a book.”
For a few seconds Tinkle stood looking at Dido, the dancing bear, not knowing what to do or say. Some ponies would have been afraid of a bear. They would have snorted, stood on their hind legs, and maybe have run away. But Tinkle had never seen a bear before, no one had ever told him about them, and he really did not know enough to be afraid. Besides, Dido seemed such a funny, good-natured and happy bear that I believe no one would have been afraid of him.
“So you are Dido, the dancing bear, are you?” asked Tinkle. “And you say you are in a book. What does that mean?”
“I’ll tell you,” went on Dido, while his master, the man who blew such jolly tunes on the brass horn, was picking up some apples that had fallen from a roadside tree. He let Dido walk on ahead, without even a string tied to him, for he knew that Dido would not run away.
“You see, it’s this way,” went on the dancing bear. “Years ago I used to live in the woods with my father and mother, sisters and brothers.”
“I never lived in the woods,” said Tinkle, “but I lived in a big, green field.”
“That was nice,” murmured Dido. “I have been in the fields, too. Well, one day I was caught by a man, who took me away. At first I did not like it, but the man was good to me and taught me to do tricks.”
“What are tricks?” asked the pony, for he could speak all animal languages as well as understand them.
“Tricks are—well, I’ll show you in a minute,” went on Dido. “The man was good to me, as I said, and taught me tricks. Then I was sold to a circus and I had lots of good times with Tum Tum, the jolly elephant and Mappo the merry monkey. They are in books, too.”
“What are books?” asked Tinkle. “Are they good, like sugar; and do you eat them?”
“Oh, no!” laughed Dido. “Books are funny things, like blocks of wood; only you can open them, like a door, you know, and inside are funny black marks on paper that is white, like the snow. Boys and girls, and men and women, open these funny things called books and look at them for ever and ever so long.”
“Why do they do that?” asked Tinkle.
“Well, I don’t really know,” said Dido. “But after they have looked at the books, turning over the white things with the black marks on them, called leaves, the boys and girls laugh.”
“Why?” Tinkle demanded.
“Because of the funny things printed on them,” answered Dido. “You see in my book are all the things I did. And the things Mappo did and the things Tum Tum did are in their books. Some of the things were funny, and that is what makes the boys and girls laugh. Tum Tum’s book is enough to make any one laugh. He is a very jolly elephant.”
“Is it fashionable to be in a book?” asked Tinkle. “I have quite a stylish pony cart here, as you can see, so if being in a book is—”
“Of course it’s fashionable to be in a book!” exclaimed Dido. “You should see the funny pictures of me in my book.”
“Toot! Toot! Toot!” blew the horn again, and the man who owned Dido, having picked up all the apples he wanted, came walking along the road. Dido had been in a circus for some time, but now he was out again, traveling around the country doing tricks.
“Ah, you have met a friend, I see, Dido!” remarked the man, who had little gold rings in his ears. “A little pony, huh? Well, where there is a pony there must be children, and I think they will like to see your tricks, Dido. Come, we’ll get ready for them.”
The man blew another merry tune on his horn, and just then George and Mabel came running out of the house, ready to go driving in the pony cart.
“Oh, see the bear!” cried Mabel.
“And look at what he is doing!” added George. For, just then the man told Dido to do a somersault, and this the bear did.
“That’s one of my tricks,” said Dido to Tinkle, though of course George and Mabel did not know the two animals were speaking to one another, for they talked in a low whisper.
“Oh, so that’s a trick, is it?” asked Tinkle in surprise.
“Yes, and I can do others. Wait, I’m going to do some more,” went on Dido.
“Come on, Dido! Show the little boy and girl how you play soldier!” called the man and he tossed a stick to the bear. Dido clasped it in his paws and held it over one shoulder and marched around in a ring standing up stiff and straight like a soldier on parade.
“Oh, that’s great!” cried George.
“Is he a trained bear, Mister?” asked Mabel.
“Oh, yes he is a good trained bear,” answered the man. “I have taught him to do many tricks. Now stand on your head, Dido,” and Dido stood on his head without so much as blinking his eye. Only he could not stand that way very long because he was quite a heavy bear now. But he did very well.
“Can he do any more tricks?” asked George, and by this time Patrick, the coachman, Mary the cook, and Mrs. Farley had come out to watch Dido.
“I will have him climb a pole,” said the man, pointing to a telegraph pole in front of the Farley home. “Up you go, Dido!” he called, and the bear walked slowly over to the smooth pole. He stuck his sharp claws into the soft wood, and up and up he climbed until he was nearly at the top. Then he climbed down again while Mabel and George clapped their hands and laughed.
“He is a fine bear,” said George. “I wonder if he would eat sugar as Tinkle, my pony, does?”
“Try him and see,” answered the man, with a laugh.
“Won’t he bite?” asked Mabel, as George took some lumps of sugar from his pocket.
“Oh, no. Dido never bites,” answered the man. “He is a very gentle bear.”
George held a lump of sugar on his hand. Up Dido walked to the little boy.
“Don’t you dare bite him!” said Tinkle to Dido, speaking in animal talk, of course.
“Oh, no fear!” exclaimed Dido. “I wouldn’t bite him for the world. Just watch!” Then Dido put out his big red tongue to which the lump of sugar stuck, just like a postage stamp, and, in another second, it had slid down Dido’s throat.
“Oh, wasn’t that cute?” cried Mabel.
Then Dido did more tricks, and after Mrs. Farley had given the man some money he and Dido walked on down the road.
“Good-by, children!” called the man.
“Good-by,” answered George and Mabel, waving their hands.
“Good-by, Tinkle!” called Dido. “Perhaps some day I may see you again.”
“I hope so,” called back the pony. “I want to hear more about being in a book and about Tum Tum and Mappo.”
“They are in the circus now, I think,” said Dido. “If you ever go to the circus you may meet them.”
“I don’t believe I ever shall,” said Tinkle. But you just wait and see what happens.
“Well, go for your drive now, children,” said Mrs. Farley. “And don’t let Tinkle run away with you.”
“We won’t,” answered George, laughingly. And as he and Mabel drove away, Patrick not going with them this time, George said: “I wish I could teach Tinkle some tricks.”
“Oh, wouldn’t that be great!” exclaimed Mabel. “I once saw a trick pony in a show. He could bow and tell how old he was by pawing on the ground with his hoof.”
“Then I’m going to teach Tinkle some tricks,” said George. “And when he learns them we’ll take him around the country and show him off and earn money.”
“Oh, how nice!” cried Mabel, clapping her hands.
When George and Mabel got back from their drive George spoke to his father about teaching Tinkle to do some tricks.
“I hardly think you can,” said Mr. Farley. “But you may try. Better ask Patrick about it, though. He knows a lot about horses and ponies.”
“Teach Tinkle tricks, is it?” asked Patrick when George spoke to the coachman about it. “Well, maybe you can. He’s young yet. You can’t teach an old pony tricks any more than you can teach an old dog. We’ll try some day.”
A few days after this Patrick called George out to the stable yard where Tinkle was standing.
“What are you going to do?” asked George.
“Teach Tinkle his first trick,” was the answer. “He is going to learn how to jump over a stick.” Patrick put two boxes, about two feet high, on the ground and laid a stick across them. He led the pony close to the stick and stood there beside him.
“Now, George, you stand on the other side of the stick, and hold out these lumps of sugar,” said Patrick. “We will see what Tinkle will do.”
George held out the sugar a few feet away from Tinkle’s nose. Tinkle could smell it, and he wanted it very much.
“Go get it!” called Patrick, letting loose the halter strap he had been holding. “Go get the sugar, Tinkle.”
Instead of jumping across the stick, as they wanted him to do, Tinkle walked right against it and knocked it off the boxes.
“That won’t do!” cried Patrick. “Don’t give him the sugar, George, until he jumps over the stick.”
So George held the sugar behind his back, and Tinkle was quite disappointed at not getting it.
“I wonder what they want me to do, and why they put that stick in front of me?” thought the little pony. Patrick placed the stick back on the boxes, and this time he nailed it down so the pony could not easily knock it off. Then the coachman held the pony as before and George put the lumps of sugar out on his hand again.
Once more Tinkle walked forward to get them, but this time he could not knock the stick down with his legs. He shoved the boxes aside, though, and again Patrick led him back.
“Jump over the stick, Tinkle! Jump over the stick and I’ll give you the sugar!” called George. And then, after two or three more times, Tinkle understood. He found that stick always in his way when he wanted to get the sweet sugar, and finally he thought of the fence he had once jumped over.
“I guess that’s what they want me to do now!” he said. And with a jump, over the stick he went. Tinkle had done his first trick!