Written by Richard Barnum
“Well, come along now, pony. I’ll see how many tricks you know and how many I can teach you.”
It was the circus man who had bought Tinkle who was speaking, but Tinkle was so taken up with looking about him, at the strange sights all round that he did not at first listen.
“Come along!” called the man again, and then Tinkle heard a whistle. This time he turned around quickly. For a moment he thought his dear little master George had come for him, but he saw only the circus man, and other strange men and animals all about.
“It must have been the man who whistled to me,” said Tinkle to himself. “I guess, though, he wants me to come with him, as George used to when he wanted me to go with him when he whistled. I’ll go.”
So Tinkle followed the man, which was just what the man wanted. He led Tinkle along by the rope made fast to his halter.
“Well, you know something, to start with,” said the circus man, smiling at Tinkle. The pony, of course, did not know what a smile meant, but he did know that the man spoke in kind tones and not sharp and cross as had the moving men, sometimes. Besides the circus man talked to the pony, and the other men had not.
So Tinkle knew by the voice that the man was kind, and he followed him to a little tent where there were many other ponies. In a tent next door were big horses, and they were all either eating hay or oats, or lying down on the straw, for it was not yet time for the circus to begin.
“Here is a new pony I have bought, Tom,” said the first man to one who had the charge of the ponies. “He can do a few tricks and I am going to teach him more. Look after him, and clean him off. He doesn’t seem to have been well taken care of.”
“That’s right, Mr. Drake; he doesn’t,” answered Tom. “I’ll take good care of him, though.”
Poor Tinkle’s hairy coat was in a sad state. It was dirty and bits of hay and straw clung to it. Also his mane and tail were tangled. Tinkle had been kept very clean by Patrick and George, but the moving men spent no time on the pony they had stolen.
“First to clean you up,” said Tom, talking to himself, but also, in a way, speaking to Tinkle. “Then we’ll see about your tricks. Mr. Drake is a good pony teacher.”
Though Tinkle could understand very little of this talk, yet, somehow, he felt happier than he had in a long while—in fact since he had been taken away from George.
With a brush, a currycomb, and a cloth Tom cleaned Tinkle’s hairy coat until it began to shine and glisten almost as it had when he lived in the nice Farley stable.
“That will do for a while,” said Tom. “Now I’ll get you something to eat. Come along, pony,” and he whistled just as George used to do. Tinkle liked to hear a clear, cheerful whistle.
Tinkle was tied in the tent with the other ponies. His stall was just a place between two ropes, and his manger made of canvas, for the tent, and everything in it, had to be moved from place to place as the circus traveled, and wooden stalls, such as are in barns, would never do. In the manger were some hay and oats. Tinkle began to eat hungrily. It was almost as good as being home again.
“Well, where in the world did you come from?” asked a pony on Tinkle’s left side.
“Yes, tell us about yourself,” added another on the right side. “You are a stranger. I never saw you in the circus before.”
“I just came to-day,” said Tinkle, after he had swallowed some of the hay and oats. “I never was with a circus before. Is it nice?”
“Oh, it’s lots of fun,” said the pony on the left, whose name was Tiny Tim. “It’s jolly!”
“We have great times doing tricks,” said the pony on Tinkle’s right, and his name was Prancer. “We do lots of tricks. Can you do any, Tinkle?” for the new pony had told his name.
“I can make a bow, jump over a rope and walk on my hind legs.”
“Those are all good tricks,” said Tiny Tim, “but you will have to learn many more if you are to stay with us in this circus.”
“I guess the man they call Mr. Drake will teach Tinkle tricks,” remarked Prancer. “He taught me all I know. Why, would you believe,” he went on, “when first I joined the circus I couldn’t do a single thing!”
“Can you do many tricks now?” asked Tinkle.
“I should say he could!” cried Tiny Tim, with a laughing whinny. “He is the best trick pony in the circus!”
“Oh, not the best,” protested Prancer modestly. “I can do a few tricks, it is true, but—”
“Now you let me tell!” interrupted Tiny Tim, laughing. “You can jump over a barrel, stand up on a platform on your hind legs and turn around, you can pick up different colored flags, count, add up numbers on a blackboard and take letters from the post-office.
“Well, yes, I can do those things,” said Prancer.
“My! What a lot of tricks!” cried Tinkle. “I wonder if I shall ever be able to do even half that many?”
“Of course you will,” said Prancer kindly. “You wait; Mr. Drake will teach you as he taught me.”
All this while many things were going on about the circus grounds. The big tents had been put up, the animal cages wheeled in, the clowns were painting their faces in such funny ways to make the boys and girls laugh, and the big, golden wagons were being made ready for the parade. A band was playing, the pretty flags were blowing in the wind, and, altogether, the circus was such a nice place that, for the first time in a long while, Tinkle felt happy. But when he thought of George and the nice home he had been taken from he felt sad.
“Still, this is much better than being kept in the dirty stable,” thought the trick pony. “Maybe I’ll see George someday.
Tom, the man who had cleaned and fed Tinkle, came running into the ponies’ tent.
“Come on now!” he cried. “Lively everybody!”
All at once some other men began taking down, off pegs in the tent poles, red blankets, strings of bells, gaily colored plumes and harnesses.
“What is going on?” asked Tinkle.
“Oh, they are going to dress us up, and hitch us to a little golden wagon to go in the parade,” said Prancer.
“Do you think I am to go?” asked Tinkle.
“I think not this time,” answered Tiny Tim. “You see you don’t know much about a circus yet, and you might be frightened by the big crowds and the noise. Then, too, you wouldn’t know how to pull the golden chariot in which a lady rides, dressed up like a fairy princess.”
“Oh, that must be fine!” cried Tinkle.
“It is. But you’ll be in it soon, so don’t worry,” put in Prancer. “We’ll be back by noon.”
The men hitched up the ponies and led them out of the tent to where the golden chariot stood.
“This new pony is a very pretty one,” said the man Tom to one of his helpers. “When he is trained he’ll go in the parade too.”
Tinkle felt a little sad when his pony friends left him alone in the big tent, but still he had plenty to eat and a clean place to stay, and he knew they would come back soon. Tinkle saw a boy coming toward him with a pail of water, and, for a moment, the pony thought the boy might be George. But he was not.
“I wonder if I shall ever see George, Mabel and nice Patrick again?” thought Tinkle. “I would just love to be in my nice home once more, even though I like the circus.”
Suddenly Tinkle heard someone call:
“Look out! Here come the elephants!” and the ground seemed to rumble and shake as it did when there was a heavy thunderstorm.
“Elephants? Elephants?” said Tinkle to himself. “Where have I heard that word before?” Then he remembered. “Oh, now I know,” he said. “Dido, the dancing bear, told me about them.”
Tinkle looked from his tent. Near him, just outside, were ten big elephants with bright silk blankets on their backs. And, as Tinkle looked, he saw one funny elephant slyly reach out his trunk and pull the tail of the elephant in front of him. Then the funny elephant looked the other way and seemed to be hunting on the ground for a peanut.
All at once it flashed into Tinkle’s head.
“That must be Tum Tum the jolly elephant Dido was telling me about. I’ll ask him.” So he called, in animal talk: “How do you do, Tum Tum?”
“Ha! What’s that? Some one must know me,” answered Tum Tum, for it was he. “Oh,” he went on, “it’s a little pony. But, though I know most of the ponies in this circus, I don’t know you,” and Tum Tum walked a little closer to Tinkle’s tent.
“I heard about you from Dido, the dancing bear,” said Tinkle, as he told his own name. “I never thought I should meet you in this circus, though.”
“Why, how strange!” cried Tum Tum. “Fancy meeting Dido! You must tell me all about him. He and I are very good friends. I was sorry when he went away from the circus. Tell me about him when I come back. I have to go in the parade now,” and Tum Tum, with a jolly laugh and a wink of his eye at Tinkle, marched slowly off with a man seated on his big head.
Now Tinkle, we can have a nice talk,” said Tum Tum, a little later, when he came back from the parade. “Tell me about yourself, how you came to join the circus and, most of all, I want to hear about my old friend Dido.”
So Tinkle told all he could remember; telling first of the beautiful green meadow in which he had once lived, and of George who had taught him a few tricks, and of having been taken away by two men in the big moving van.
Then Tinkle told of having met Dido, of what the dancing bear had said, and of what he had told Tinkle about Tum Tum and Mappo, the merry monkey.
“Is Mappo in this circus?” asked Tinkle, as he finished his little story.
“Yes, and you’ll probably see him in a day or so,” answered Tum Tum.
That afternoon, when the performance was over, Mr. Drake, the man who had bought Tinkle from the man who had stolen him, came to where the pony was lying down in the tent and said:
“Now we’ll see what you know and how much I have to teach you. We will begin with some easy tricks.”
Then began a busy time for Tinkle, not only that day but for a number of days. When the circus was not traveling from one city to another or when a performance was not being held in the tents, Mr. Drake taught Tinkle tricks. Tinkle, the first time it occurred, did not know what was going to happen when, instead of being allowed to go to sleep after the show, he and the other ponies and animals were put in big railroad cars and the whole train was hauled away by an engine.
Tinkle did not know what was happening but the other ponies told him it was all right, that he would not be hurt, that they were only going to another city to give a show there and that this happened nearly every day or night. Tinkle soon became used to travel, and rather liked it.
It would take too long to tell you how Tinkle was taught to do many different tricks. It was not as easy as he first had thought it would be, and many times he could not understand what Mr. Drake wanted him to do.
In time he learned how to go to a box, in which were a number of flags or handkerchiefs, of different colors—red, white and blue.
“Bring me a blue flag,” Mr. Drake would say; and though at first Tinkle could not tell one color from another, he soon learned to do so. And he could tell, by hearing the word “blue,” that it was not the red or the white flag the trainer wanted, but the other. So, though Tinkle had no word in his own language for blue, he knew what that sound meant, and for which flag it stood.
“Now, Tinkle, bring me the red flag,” Mr. Drake would say, when the blue one had been dropped at his feet from the pony’s teeth. And Tinkle would pick out the right color. In time he could pick out of the box, and bring to the trainer, any of the three colors, no matter which one was asked for first. Tinkle hardly ever made a mistake.
“Well, now that you know red, white and blue,” said Mr. Drake one day, “suppose we put all three together, and this is what we get, Tinkle,” and he held up the beautiful United States flag, with its stripes of red and white and the white stars on the blue field. “Now, Tinkle when I ask you what flag you love best I want you to bring me from the box this red, white and blue one,” said the trainer, shaking the flag in front of the pony.
It was several days before Tinkle learned to do this trick, but, after a while, he could go to the box, pick out the red, white and blue flags, and then, at the last when the trainer asked the question about loving the flag, Tinkle would trot over to him carrying in his teeth the stars and stripes. Then Mr. Drake petted him and gave him two lumps of sugar, for he had done the trick well.