IN due time the Sable
Island ponies arrived, and were announced to be sold by auction, at the
Government Wharf. Taking Bert with him, Mr. Lloyd went down in time to
have a good look at the shipment before the sale commenced, so that he
might have his mind made up before beginning to bid. They certainly were
a queer lot of little creatures. Not a curry-comb had touched their
hides since they were born, nor had the shears ever been near their
manes or tails. Their coats were long, thick, and filled with dirt;
their manes and tails of prodigious length, and matted together in
inextricable knots. They were of all colours, and within certain limits
of all sizes. Brown, bay, black, piebald, grey, and sorrel. There was no
lack of variety; and Mr. Lloyd and Bert wandered up and down the long
line as they stood tethered to the wall, scrutinising them closely, and
sorely puzzled as to which to decide upon.
It was, of course, quite impossible to tell anything as to disposition,
for all the ponies seemed equally wild and terrified at their novel
situation; but, after going over them carefully, Mr. Lloyd decided upon
a very promising-looking black pony that stood near the middle of the
row. He was of a good size, seemed to be in better condition than many
of those around him, had a well-shaped head, and altogether presented
about as attractive an appearance as any in the lot.
There were numerous bidders at the auction, and Bert grew deeply
interested in the selling, as pony after pony was put up, and after a
more or less spirited contest, according to his looks, was knocked down
to the person that bid the highest for him. By the time the pony his
father had selected was reached, he was fairly trembling with
excitement. He was full of apprehension lest somebody else should take
him away from them, and when the bidding began, he watched every
movement and word of the auctioneer with breathless anxiety, raising
quite a laugh at one time, by answering his oft-repeated question “Will
anybody give me five? I have thirty—will anybody give me five?” with an
eager “I will!” that was easily heard by everybody in the crowd. It was
an immense relief to him, when, at length, after what seemed to him most
unnecessary persistence in trying to get more, the auctioneer called out
“Going, going, going, at thirty-five dollars. Will you give me any more?
Going at thirty-five—going, going, gone; and sold to Mr. Lloyd.”
Thirty-five dollars does not seem very much to give for a pony; but
considering that this pony had everything to learn, and nobody to
guarantee his good behaviour, it was a fair enough price for him. The
getting him home proved to be quite a serious undertaking. The strange
sights and sounds of the city streets did not merely frighten him—they
positively crazed him for the time; and it took two strong men, one on
either side of his head, to guide him in safety to the stable. Once
securely fastened in the stall, he quieted down in time, but not one
bite of food would he touch that day, nor the next, although Bert tried
to tempt him with everything of which Brownie had been fond. This
troubled Bert very much. He began to fear his new pony would starve to
death. But his father reassured him.
“Don’t be alarmed, my boy. The pony will find his appetite all right so
soon as he gets used to his new quarters,” said Mr. Lloyd.
And sure enough on the third morning, Bert, to his great relief, found
the oat box licked clean, and the pony looking round wistfully for
something more to eat. After that, the difficulty lay rather in
satisfying than in tempting his appetite. He proved an insatiable eater.
But then nobody thought of stinting him, especially as his bones were
none too well covered.
It was with great difficulty that he could be persuaded to allow himself
to be groomed. He would start at the touch of the curry-comb, as though
it gave him an electric shock, and Michael, who combined in himself the
offices of groom and gardener, declared that “of all the pesky, fidgety
critters that ever stood on four legs, he never did see the like of this
’ere Sable Islander.” Michael’s opinion was not improved when he came to
break the little Sable Islander in, for he led him such a dance day
after day that his stout heart was well-nigh broken before the pony’s
will showed any signs of being broken. However, patience and kindness,
combined with firmness, eventually won the day; and Michael, with
considerable pride announced that “Sable,” as it had been decided to
call him, was ready for use.
Mr. Lloyd thought it best to ride Sable for a week or two before Bert
should mount him, and to this arrangement Bert was nothing loath, for
the pony’s actions while in process of being broken in had rather
subdued his eagerness to trust himself upon him. As it chanced, Mr.
Lloyd came very near paying a severe penalty for his thoughtfulness. He
had been out several mornings on Sable, and had got along very well. One
morning while he was in the act of mounting, the gate suddenly slammed
behind him with a loud bang. The pony at once started off at full
gallop. Mr. Lloyd succeeded in throwing himself into the saddle, but
could not get his feet into the stirrups, and when the frightened
creature upon which he had so insecure a hold swerved sharply round at
the end of the street, he was hurled from his seat like a stone from a
catapult, and fell headlong, striking his right temple upon the hard
A few minutes later Mrs. Lloyd was startled by a hasty rap at the door,
and on opening it beheld her husband supported between two men, his face
ghastly pale, and stained with blood from a wound on his forehead. She
was a brave woman, and although her heart almost stood still with
agonised apprehension, she did not lose control of herself for an
instant. Directing Mr. Lloyd to be carried into the parlour and laid
gently upon the sofa, Mrs. Lloyd bathed his head and face while Mary
chafed his hands; and presently, to their unspeakable joy, he recovered
consciousness. Fortunately, his injuries proved to be comparatively
slight. Beyond a cut on his forehead, a bad headache, and a general
shaking up, he had suffered no material injury, and he would not listen
to Mrs. Lloyd’s finding any fault with Sable for the accident.
“Tut! tut! Kate,” said he; “the pony was not to blame at all. Any horse
might have been frightened by a gate banging to at his heels. The fault
was mine in not seeing that the gate was shut before I mounted. No; no,
you must not blame poor, little Sable.”
Curiously enough, Bert had a somewhat similar experience shortly after
he began to ride Sable. At a little distance from the house was a hill
up which the street led, and then down the other side out into the
country. The ascent was pretty steep, the descent not so much so, and
Bert liked to walk his pony up to the top, and then canter down the
other side. One afternoon, just as he reached the summit, a little
street boy, probably by way of expressing the envy he felt for those who
could afford to ride, threw a stone at Sable, which struck him a
stinging blow on the hindquarters. Like an arrow from the bow, the pony
was off. Taking the bit in his teeth, and straightening his head out, he
went at full speed down the hill, Bert holding on for dear life with his
heart in his mouth, and his hat from his head.
In some way or other, he himself never knew exactly how, he got both his
feet out of the stirrups, and it was well for him he did, for just at
the bottom of the hill, when he was going like a greyhound, Sable
stopped short, lowered his head, flung up his heels, and, without the
slightest protest or delay, Bert went flying from the saddle, and landed
in the middle of the dusty road in a sitting posture with his legs
stretched out before him. The saucy pony paused just long enough to make
sure that his rider was disposed of beyond a doubt, and then galloped
away, apparently in high glee.
Bert was not hurt in the least. He had never sat down quite so
unexpectedly before, but the thick dust of the road made an excellent
cushion, and he was soon upon his feet, and in full cry after the
runaway. Thanks to a gentleman on horseback who had witnessed the whole
scene, and went immediately in chase of Sable, the latter was soon
recaptured, and Bert, having thanked his friend in need, and brushed
some of the dust from his clothes, remounted his mischievous steed, and
rode him for the rest of the afternoon.
After those two somewhat unpromising performances, Sable settled down
into very good habits, and during all the rest of the time that he was
in Bert’s possession did not again disgrace himself by running away or
pitching any one off his back. He never became the pet that Brownie had
been, but he was, upon the whole, a more useful animal, so that Bert
came to feel himself well compensated for his loss.
About this time Bert made the acquaintance of a pony of a very different
sort. How, indeed, it came to have this name does not seem to be very
clear, for what natural connection can be established between a
diminutive horse, and a discreditable method of reducing the
difficulties of a lesson in Latin or Greek? It would appear to be a very
unjust slur upon a very worthy little animal, to say the least.
Bert’s first knowledge of the other kind of pony was when in the course
of his study of Latin he came to read Sallust. Caesar he had found
comparatively easy, and with no other aid than the grammar and lexicon
he could, in the course of an hour or so, get out a fair translation of
the passage to be mastered. But Sallust gave him no end of trouble.
There was something in the involved obscure style of this old historian
that puzzled him greatly, and he was constantly being humiliated by
finding that when, after much labour, he had succeeded in making some
sort of sense out of a sentence, Dr. Johnston would pronounce his
translation altogether wrong, and proceed to read it in quite another
As it happened, just when Bert was in the middle of those difficulties,
Mr. Lloyd was called away from home on important business which entailed
an absence for many weeks, and consequently Bert was deprived of his
assistance, which was always so willingly given.
He had been struggling with Sallust for some time, and was making but
very unsatisfactory headway, when one day, chancing to express to Regie
Selwyn his envy of the seeming ease with which the latter got along,
Regie looked at him with a knowing smile, and asked:
“Don’t you know how I get my translation so pat?” "No,” replied Bert; “
tell me, won’t you?”
“Why, I use a pony, of course,” responded Regie.
“A pony!” exclaimed Bert, in a tone of surprise. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, come now,” said Regie, with an incredulous smile. “Do you mean to
say that you don’t know what a pony is?”
“I do, really,” returned Bert. “Please tell me, like a good fellow.”
“Come along home with me after school, and I’ll show you,” said Regie.
“All right,” assented Bert; “I will.”
Accordingly, that afternoon when school had been dismissed, Bert
accompanied Regie home, and there the latter took him to his room, and
produced a book which contained the whole of Sallust turned into clear,
“There,” said he, placing the volume in Bert’s hands; “that’s what I
mean by a pony.”
Bert opened the book, glanced at a page or two, took in the character of
its contents, and then, with a feeling as though he had touched a
serpent, laid it down again, saying:
“But do you think it’s right to use this book in getting up your
Regie laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “Where’s the harm, my boy. If
you can’t translate old Sallust by yourself, you can’t, that’s all, and
you’ve got to wait for Dr. Johnston to do it for you. Now, mightn’t you
just as well get it out of this book at once, and save all the trouble,”
he argued, glibly.
This was very fallacious reasoning, but somehow or other it impressed
Bert as having a good deal of force in it. The simple truth was that he
was willing to be convinced. But he did not feel quite satisfied yet.
“Then, of course, you never look at it until you have done your best to
get the lesson out without it?” he asked.
“That depends. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t,” answered Regie,
in a tone that implied very plainly that the latter “sometimes” occurred
much more frequently than the former.
Bert took up the book again and fingered it thoughtfully.
“Could I get one if I wanted to?” he asked, presently.
“Why, of course,” answered Regie. “There are many more at Gossip’s where
I got this, I guess.”
Bert said no more; and the two boys soon began talking about something
For some days thereafter Bert was in a very perplexed state of mind. It
seemed as though “the stars in their courses” were fighting not against,
but in favour of his getting a “pony” for himself. His father’s absence
was indefinitely prolonged, the Sallust grew more and more difficult,
and demanded so much time, that Bert’s chance of winning one of the
prizes for general proficiency was seriously jeopardised.
Instead of dismissing the subject from his mind altogether, he fell to
reasoning about it, and then his danger really began, for the more he
reasoned, the weaker his defences grew. There seemed so much to be said
in favour of the pony; and, after all, if he did not resort to it until
he had done his best to work out the translation unaided, what would be
Clearly Bert was in a perilous position. Right and wrong were strongly
contending for the victory, and much would depend upon the issue of the