The Bobbsey Twins in the Country by Laura Lee Hope
Chapter XII. Tom's Runaway
"Tom Mason is going to bring his colt out this afternoon," said Harry to Bert, "and we can all take turns trying him."
"Oh, is it that pretty little brown horse I saw in the field back of Tom's home?" asked Bert.
"That's him," Harry replied. "Isn't he a beauty!"
"Yes, I would like first-rate to ride him, but young horses are awful skittish, aren't they?"
"Sometimes, but this one is partly broken. At any rate, we wouldn't have far to fall, for he is a little fellow," said Harry.
So the boys went down to Tom's home at the appointed time, and there they met Jack Hopkins.
"We've made a track around the fields," Tom told his companions, "and we will train him to run around the ring, for father thinks he may be a race- horse some day, he's so swift."
"You may go first," the boys told him, "as he's your horse."
"All right!" Tom replied, making for the stake where Sable, the pony, was tied. Sable marched along quietly enough and made no objections to Tom getting on his back. There was no saddle, but just the bit in the horse's mouth and attached to it a short piece of rein.
"Get app, Sable!" called Tom, snapping a small whip at the pony's side.
But instead of going forward the little horse tried to sit down!
"Whoa! whoa!" called the boys, but Tom clung to Sable's neck and held on in spite of the pony's back being like a toboggan slide.
"Get off there, get off there!" urged Tom, yet the funny little animal only backed down more.
"Light a match and set it under his nose," Harry suggested. "That's the way to make a balky horse go!"
Someone had a match, which was lighted and put where Sable could sniff the sulphur.
"Look out! Hold on, Tom!" yelled the boys all at once, for at that instant Sable bolted off like a deer.
"He's running away!" called Bert, which was plain to be seen, for Tom could neither turn him this way or that, but had all he could do to hold on the frightened animal's neck.
"If he throws him Tom will surely be hurt!" Harry exclaimed, and the boys ran as fast as they could across the field after the runaway.
"Whoa! whoa ! whoa!" called everybody after the horse, but that made not the slightest difference to Sable, who just went as if the woods were afire. Suddenly he turned and dashed straight up a big hill and over into a neighbor's cornfield.
"Oh, mercy!" cried Harry, "those people are so mean about their garden, they'll have Tom arrested if there's any corn broken."
Of course it was impossible for a runaway horse to go through a field of corn and do no damage, and Tom realized this too. By this time the dogs were out barking furiously, and altogether there was wild excitement. At one and of the field there was a high board fence.
"If I could only get him there he would have to stop," thought Tom, and suddenly he gave Sable a jerk in that direction.
"Drop off, Tom, drop off!" yelled the boys. "He'll throw you against the fence!"
But at that minute the little horse threw himself against the boards in such a way that Tom slid off, yet held tightly to the reins.
The horse fell, quite exhausted.
As quickly as they could get there the boys came up to help Tom.
"Hurry!" said Harry, "there is scarcely any corn broken, and we can get away before the Trimbles see us. They're away back in the fields planting late cabbage."
Tom felt hardly able to walk, but he limped along while Harry led Sable carefully between the cornhills. It was only a few feet to the edge of the field, and then they were all safe on the road again.
"Are you hurt?" the boys asked Tom, when finally they had a chance to speak about the runaway.
"I feel as if I had dropped from a balloon onto a lot of cobblestones," Tom answered, "but I guess that's only the shaking up I got. That pony certainly can go."
"Yes indeed," Harry admitted; "I guess he doesn't like the smell of sulphur matches. Lucky he was not injured with that fall against the fence."
"I found I had to throw him," Tom said, "and I thought the fence was softer than a tree."
"I suppose we ought to make him run until he is played out," said Bert, "That's the way to cure a horse of running away."
But none of the boys felt like risking their bones even to cure Sable, so the panting animal was led to the stable and for the rest of the day allowed to think over his bad conduct.
But that was not the last of the runaway, for in the evening just after supper old Mr. Trimble paid a visit to Tom's father.
"I came over to tell you what a scallywag of a boy you've got," began the cross old man. "He and a lot of young loafers took a horse and drove him all through my cornfield to-day, and now you've got to pay the damages."
"My son is not a scallywag," Mr. Mason declared, "and if you call him names like loafer and scallywag I'll make you pay damages."
"Oh! you will, eh?" the other sneered. "Think I'm afraid of an old constable up here, do you?"
"Well now, see here," Mr. Mason said, "Be reasonable and do not quarrel over an accident. If any corn is knocked down I'll get Tom to fix it up, if it's broken down we will see what it would cost to replace it. But the boys did not do it purposely, and it was worse for Tom than anyone else, for he's all black and blue from the hard knocks he got."
At this the cross man quieted down and said, Well, he would see about it. Mr. Trimble was one of those queer people who believe all a boy is good for is doing mischief and all a boy deserves is scolding or beating. Perhaps this was because he had no sons of his own and therefore had no regard for the sons of other people.
Mr. Mason went directly to the cornfield with his neighbor. He looked carefully over every hill, and with a spade and hoe he was able to put back into place the few stalks that had been knocked down in Sable's flight.
"There now," said Mr. Mason, "I guess that corn is as good as ever. If it wants any more hoeing Tom will come around in the morning and do it. He is too stiff to move to-night."
So that ended the runaway, except for a very lame boy, Tom Mason, who had to limp around for a day or two from stiffness.
"How would you like to be a jockey!" laughed his companions. "You held on like a champion, but you were not in training for the banging you got."
"Well, I guess Sable will make a fine racehorse," said Tom, "when he's broken. But it will take someone stronger than I am to break him in."
The next afternoon all the boys went fishing. They had been out quite late the night before to find the "night walkers" for bait, as those little worms only come out of the ground after dark. Bert had a new line his father brought from Lakeport, and the others boys had nets and hooks, as most country boys who live near streams are always fond of fishing.
"Let's go over to the cove," Harry said when they all started off. "There's lots of good fish in that dark corner."
So the cove was chosen as a good spot to fish from, and soon the Bobbsey boys and their friends were Iying around the edge of the deep clear stream, waiting for a bite.
Bert was the first to jerk his line, and he brought it up with such force that the chubfish on his hook slapped Harry right in the face!
"Look out!" called Harry, trying to dodge the flapping fish. "Put your catch down. He's a good one, but I don't care about having him kiss me that way again."
All the boys laughed at Bert, who was a green fisherman they said. The fish was really a very nice plump chub and weighed more than a pound. He floundered around in the basket and flapped his tail wildly trying to get away from them.
"I've got one," called Tom next, at the same moment pulling his line and bringing up a pretty little sunfish. Now "sunnies" are not considered good eating, so Tom's catch did not come up to Bert's, but it was put in the basket just the same.
"I'm going out on the springboard," August Stout announced, stepping cautiously out on the board from which good swimmers dived.
"You know you can't swim, August," said Harry, "and if you get a catch and jerk it you'll tumble in."
"Oh! I'll be all right," August answered, lying down flat on the narrow springboard and dropping his line.
For a time all the boys lay watching for a bite. No one spoke, for sometimes they say fish are very sensitive to sound and go in another direction if they hear a voice.
It was a beautiful July day, and perhaps the boys were a little lazy. At any rate, they all became so quiet the little woodpeckers on the trees went on with their work pecking at the tree bark as if no human being was in sight.
Suddenly there was a big splash!
"August!" yelled all the boys at once, for indeed Angust was gone from the springboard.
"Quick!" called Harry to his companions. "He can't swim!"
The next minute the boy in the water came to the top and threw up his arm. But no one was near enough to reach it.
"Strike out, August!" yelled Bert. "We're coming," and one boy after the other dropped in the water now, having thrown off their heavy clothing.
"Oh, where is he?" screamed Bert in terror, for no movement on the water's surface showed them where August was.
"Here!" cried Tom Mason, who was quite a distance out. "Here he is! Help! come quick!"
No need to urge the boys to hasten, for all realized the danger their companion was in.
"Don't pull down, August," went on Tom. "Try to help yourself, or you'll pull me under." Harry had around his neck a strong piece of rope he picked up as he made a dive into the water.
"Take hold of this," he called to August, "and we can all pull."
As the rope was put in August's hand the other boys all took hold and soon towed the unfortunate boy in.
"He's very weak," said Harry when they pulled August up on the shore. "I guess he has swallowed a lot of water. We better roll him on the grass and work his arms up and down. That will revive him."
August was indeed very weak, and had had a narrow escape. For some time his companions worked over him before he opened his eyes and spoke.
"Oh!" he murmured at last, "I'm so sick!"
"I guess you are, August," said Tom, "but you'll be all right soon." They lifted him carefully under a shady tree and removed his wet clothing.
"I'll run over to Smith's and get him something to wear home," said Harry, who hurried across lots and presently returned with an old suit of clothes. August was able to dress himself now, and as soon as he felt strong enough the boys helped him home.
"You can have my fish, August," said Bert nobly.
"And mine too," Tom added. August did not want to accept the boys' offers at first, but at last they prevailed upon him to do so.
"I think I fell asleep," said he, referring to the accident.
"Guess we all did!" added Harry, "for we only woke up when we heard the splash."
It seems the number of accidents country boys have only make them truer friends, for all the things that happened in Meadow Brook made each boy think more of his companions both in being grateful for the help given and being glad no dear friend's life was lost.