Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter XXIV. A Chapter on Ponies

IT was a proud day for Bert when he came home from school, bearing a handsome volume of Captain Gordon Cumming’s Adventures in Africa, and he felt as though he could scarcely wait for his father’s return from the office, so eager was he to show him his prize. As it was, he watched impatiently for him, and so soon as he came in sight rushed toward him, holding the book above his head, and shouting:

“I've won it. I've won the prize.”

The Lloyds were all quite as proud as Bert himself over his success, and they made a very merry quartette as they sat around the dinner-table that evening.

“Dear me! I suppose I’ll have to keep my promise now, though it takes my last cent to pay for it,” said Mr. Lloyd, with a pretence of looking rueful.

“Indeed you will, father. I’m not going to let you off, of that you may be sure,” exclaimed Bert, gleefully, knowing very well that his father was only in fun, and that it would take the cost of a good many ponies to reach his last cent.

“Well, then, sir, since you insist upon it, may I venture to inquire what sort of a pony you would like.”

“Oh, I don’t know, father.”

"I suppose you’re not very particular, Bert, so long as he’ll let you stay on his back,” said Mr. Lloyd, smiling.

“That’s about it, father,” assented Bert.

“Be sure and get a nice, quiet pony that won’t run away with Bert, or give him a nasty kick some time,” interposed Mrs. Lloyd, with an anxious look, as she contemplated the possibility of some accident happening to her darling.

“Never fear, mother, I’ll make sure of that,” answered Mr. Lloyd, with a reassuring smile. “And for that very reason,” he continued, addressing himself to Bert, “I may be some time in finding one just to suit. So you must be patient, my little man, and be willing to wait, so that when your pony does come, he may be a good one.”

As it turned out, Bert had to wait several months, and the chill winter had given way to the warm sunshine of spring, and the boy’s patience had almost given way altogether, when at last his father, on coming home one evening, announced, to his immense joy, that after much searching he had secured a pony that thoroughly suited him, and that this equine treasure would be brought to the house the next morning early.

If Bert was too much excited to sleep for more than half-an-hour at a time that night, who cannot sympathise with him? And if, when he did fall into a troubled doze, he had nightmare visions which soon woke him up again, who would dare laugh at him? In all his young life he had never been in such a fever of expectation, and long before dawn he was wide awake, with no hope of again closing his eyes, and tossed and tumbled about until it was light enough to get up and dress himself.

As soon as he had dressed he went down to the barn to assure himself for the twentieth time that the little stall was in perfect readiness; that there was no lack of oats in the bin or hay in the loft; that the brand-new halter was hanging in its place, waiting to be clasped upon the head of the coming pony, and thus he managed to while away the time until the breakfast bell rang.

The pony was to arrive shortly after breakfast, and, hungry as he was, Bert could scarcely be persuaded to taste his porridge, toast, or coffee, and he made the others laugh by jumping up to run to the door at the slightest suspicion of a sound in the street. At length, just when he had settled down again after one of these excursions, the door bell rang vigorously. Bert rushed through the hall, opened the door, and immediately there was a glad shout of “Hurrah! Here he is! Isn’t he a beauty?” which brought the whole family to the door, and there they beheld the overjoyed boy with his arms clasped tightly round the neck of a brown pony that seemed to quite appreciate this little demonstration, while the groom looked on with a superior smile at Bert’s enthusiasm.

The pony was indeed a beauty. He was of a rich brown colour, without a white spot upon him, just high enough for Bert to see comfortably over his back, and as round and plump as the best master could wish. His head was small and perfectly shaped, his neck beautifully arched, and he had large brown eyes that looked out upon the world with an intelligence almost human. He had the highest testimonials as to soundness of wind and limb, and sweetness of temper, and was altogether just the very kind of a pony to make a boy happy.

And yet all of his good points have not been recounted. He had a list of accomplishments quite as long as his list of virtues, for at some previous stage of his life he had, on account of his beauty and great docility, been put in training for the circus; and although for some reason or other he had never got so far as to make his appearance in the saw-dust arena, he had been taught a great many tricks, and these he was generally willing to perform, provided an apple or lump of sugar were held out as a reward.

All this the groom explained while they were standing at the door, and then the pony, having been sufficiently introduced, was led round to the yard, and duly installed in his corner of the stable, Bert clinging as close to him as if he feared he had wings like the fabled Pegasus, and might fly away if not carefully watched.

“The pony was a beauty, just high enough for Bert to see comfortably over his back.”

The days that followed were days of unalloyed happiness to Bert. He, of course, had to learn to ride “Brownie,” as the pony was christened by Mary, to whom was referred the question of a name. But it was an easy matter learning to ride so gentle and graceful a creature. First at a walk, then at a trot, then at a canter, and finally at full gallop, Bert ere long made the circuit of the neighbouring squares ; and as he became more thoroughly at home he extended his rides to the Point, where there were long stretches of tree-shaded road that seemed just intended for being ridden over.

The best of it was that, as Bert prophesied, the wish being in his case father to the thought, Mr. Bowser did follow Mr. Lloyd’s example.

I reckon I can stand a pony for my boy about as well as Lawyer Lloyd can for his,” said he to himself, pressing his hand upon a fat wallet in his pocket, after Frank had been earnestly petitioning him, without eliciting any favourable response. “There’s no point in Frank’s going on foot while Bert’s on horseback. I must see about it.”

He gave poor disappointed Frank, however, no hint of what he had in mind; and then one day he made him fairly wild with delight, by sending home a pretty bay pony with a star in his forehead, which, although he was not quite as handsome or accomplished as “Brownie" was an excellent little animal, nevertheless. Oh, what proud, happy boys the two friends were, the first day they rode out together! It was a lovely afternoon, not too warm to make it hard upon the ponies, and they rode right round the Point, and along the road skirting the arm of the sea, going much farther than Bert had ever been before; now pattering along the smooth dry road at a rattling pace, and now jogging on quietly with the reins hanging loosely on the ponies’ necks. If Bert’s pony knew the more tricks, Frank’s showed the greater speed, so they both had something to be especially proud of, and were content accordingly.

Brownie’s performances were very amusing indeed, and after he and his young master had become thoroughly acquainted, he would go through them whenever called upon to do so. Often when the Lloyds had guests, they would entertain them by having Bert put Brownie through his programme. Then the cute little fellow would be at his best, for he evidently enjoyed an appreciative audience quite as much as they did his feats. He would begin by making a very respectful bow to the spectators, lifting his pretty head as high as he could, and bringing it down until his nose touched his breast. He would then, as commanded, “say his prayers,” which he did by kneeling with his forefeet, and dropping his head upon his knees; “knock at the door,” which meant going up to the nearest door, and knocking at it with his hoof until some one opened it; “walk like a gentleman”— that is, rear up on his hind legs, and walk up and down the yard; “go to sleep,” by lying down and shutting his big brown eyes tight; shake hands by gracefully extending his right hoof; allow a cap to be placed on his head, and then sidle up and down the yard in the most roguish way; and other little tricks no less amusing, which never failed to elicit rounds of applause from the delighted spectators.

There were many ways in which Brownie endeared himself to every member of the Lloyd family. If Mrs. Lloyd or Mary happened to come into the yard when, as often happened, he was roaming about loose, he would go up to them and rub his nose gently against their shoulder, thus saying as plainly as could be, “Haven’t you got a crust for me?” and the moment Mr. Lloyd showed himself, Brownie’s nose would be snuffing at his coat pockets for the bit of apple or lump of sugar that rarely failed to be there. As for his bearing toward Bert, it showed such affection, obedience, and intelligence, that it is not to be wondered at, if the boy sometimes asked himself if the “Houyhnhnms” of Gulliver’s Travels had not their counterpart in nature, after all.

Great, then, was the concern and sorrow when, after he had been just a year with them, Brownie fell sick, and the veterinary surgeon said that he must be sent away to the country to see if that would make him well again. Bert sobbed bitterly when the little invalid was led away. He would have dearly loved to accompany Brownie, but that could not be managed, so there was nothing for it but to wait patiently at home for the news from the sick pony.

Unhappily, the reports were not cheering. Each time they were less hopeful, and at last one dull rainy day that Bert was long in forgetting, the farmer came himself to say that despite his utmost care dear little Brownie had died, and was now buried beneath a willow tree in a corner of the pasture. Poor Bert! This was the first great grief of his life. Had Brownie been a human companion, he could hardly have felt his loss more keenly or sorrowed more sincerely. The little, empty stall, the brass-mounted bridle, and steel-stirruped saddle hanging up beside it, brought out his tears afresh every time he looked upon them. Frank did his best to console him by offering him the use of his pony whenever he liked; but, ah! though “Charlie” was a nice enough pony, he could not fill the blank made by Brownie’s loss.

In the meantime Mr. Lloyd had been making diligent inquiry about a successor to Brownie, and had come to the conclusion to await the annual shipment from Sable Island, and see if a suitable pony could not be picked out from the number. The announcement of this did much to arouse Bert from his low spirits, and as Mr. Lloyd told him about those Sable Island ponies he grew more and more interested. They certainly have a curious history. To begin with, nobody knows just how they got on that strange, wild, desolate, sand bank that rises from the ocean about a hundred miles to the east of Nova Scotia. Had they the power of speech, and were they asked to give an account of themselves, they would probably reply with Topsy that “they didn’t know—they ’spects they grow’d.” There they are, however, to the number of several hundred, and there they have been ever since anybody knew anything about Sable Island. And such a place for ponies to be! It is nothing but a bank of sand, not twenty-five miles long, by about one and a-half wide, covered here and there with patches of dense coarse grass, wild pea vine, and cranberry swamps. There are no trees, no brooks, no daisied meadows, and through all seasons of the year the ponies are out exposed to the weather, whether it be the furious snow storms of winter, the burning heat of summer, or the mad gales of the autumn.

Once a year the Government officials who live upon the island, having charge of the lighthouses and relief stations, for it is a terrible place for wrecks, have what the Western ranchmen would call a “round-up” of the ponies. They are all driven into a big “corral” at one end of the island, and the best of the younger ones carefully culled out, the rest being set free again. Those selected are then at the first opportunity put on board a ship and carried off to Halifax, where rough, shaggy, ungroomed, and untamed, they are sold at auction to the highest bidders.

It was one of these ponies that Mr. Lloyd proposed to purchase for Bert. The latter was an expert rider now, and could be intrusted with a much more spirited animal than dear, little Brownie. The arrival of the annual shipment was accordingly looked forward to by both Bert and his father with a good deal of interest, Bert wondering if on the whole shipload there would be anything to compare with Brownie, and Mr. Lloyd hoping that he would be able to obtain a pony big enough to carry him if he felt in the humour for a ride on a bright summer morning.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.