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- The Pony Rider Boys in the Rockies - 5/35 -


CHAPTER III

TAD GOES INTO BUSINESS

After supper, that night, Banker Perkins strolled leisurely across town to the cottage occupied by Tad Butler and his mother. The house lay on the outskirts of the village, surrounded by half an acre of ground, part of which the boy tilled, keeping the little family in vegetables a great part of the year. The rest of the plot had been seeded down, and was now covered with a bright green carpet of new clover.

Tad, being busy at the grocery store that night, did not return home for his supper, so that the banker's visit was all unknown to the boy who was going stoically about his duties over in the village. Yet, in his clear eyes there was nothing of regret at his own refusal to permit the desire of his life to be gratified.

Mr. Perkins remained at the cottage for nearly an hour and a half, and a quiet smile might have been observed hovering about his lips as he bade good-night to Mrs. Butler, whose countenance reflected something of his own satisfaction.

"I will attend to the matter on Monday morning," were his parting words, at which Mrs. Butler bowed and withdrew into the cottage.

All unmindful of the important conference, Tad returned home at ten o'clock. His mother was awaiting him. She greeted him with a hearty embrace and a kiss, which the boy returned with no less fervor.

"I have a nice, warm supper ready for you, Tad," she informed him. "You must have a man's appetite by this time, for you have had hardly anything to eat since your breakfast."

"It does put an appetite into a fellow, riding behind a horse, even if it is an old lame one," laughed Tad.

"I really believe you would find pleasure in driving a wooden horse, such as I have seen in harness shops," smiled Mrs. Butler. "You are so like your grandfather. He would miss a meal at any time for the sake of driving a horse or talking horse with a friend."

"Father didn't care so much about them, did he?"

"No, your father was not particularly interested in horses. He was in too poor health to be able to handle them after he reached a position where he might have afforded such a luxury."

Tad nodded reflectively.

"And you still want a pony, do you, my son?" asked Mrs. Butler, leaning forward with a twinkle in her eyes. But the boy's gaze was fixed steadily on his plate and he failed to note the expression.

"Yes, I do, mother. However, I don't allow myself to think much about it. I have got to take care of you, first. After I have made enough so that you can get along, then I shall have a horse. But not until then."

"Perhaps you may have one sooner than you know," breathed the mother, veiling her eyes with her hands, that he might not read what was plainly written there.

Tad shot a keen glance at her, then resumed his supper in silence.

The subject was not again referred to between them, and on Monday afternoon Tad Butler was again at the grocery store, prepared for work should there be any for him.

Mr. Langdon, the proprietor, was talking with one of the men from his farm just outside the village.

"You say the old mare is unfit for further service, Jim?"

"Yes."

"What do you advise doing with her?"

"Shoot her."

"Very well, take the old mare out in the swamp and put her out of her misery," directed Mr. Langdon after he had thought a moment.

"I beg pardon, Mr. Langdon," interrupted Tad Butler, who had been an interested listener to the interview.

"Yes, Tad; what is it?"

"Is it old Jinny that you are speaking of, if I may ask?"

"It is," smiled the grocer, good-naturedly.

"What's the trouble with her?"

"Trouble?" sniffed the farm-hand." Jinny's got the heaves that bad she blows like a blacksmith's bellows. Why, sometimes she even coughs the oats out of her manger before she's had the chance to eat them. And that ain't all that ails her, either. I----"

"Why do you ask, Tad?" said Grocer Langdon.

"What will you take for Jinny?" inquired the boy, the color flaming to his face as a bold plan suddenly occurred to him.

"Why, what could you do with an old, broken-down animal like that?"

"I don't know. But I should like to make a bargain with you----"

"Of course if you want her you may have her, provided you get her off the premises at once," answered the grocer." She'll die on our hands presently, anyhow."

"No; I don't want the mare that way. But, I'll tell you what I will do, Mr. Langdon."

"Yes?"

"I will clean out your store every morning for a month in payment for the mare. Yes, I will make it two months. If two months is not long enough, I will work for you longer."

"Oh, very well. The mare's not worth it. However, if you wish to have it that way I am sure I ought to be satisfied," laughed the grocer.

"Then, will you write on a piece of paper that the mare is sold to me, and that I am to clean out the store every morning in payment for her?" asked Tad.

"Certainly, if you wish it. I wish you luck," smiled Mr. Langdon, handing the agreement over the counter after he had prepared it.

With the precious document in his pocket, Tad Butler sped homeward as fast as his legs could carry him. Mrs. Butler saw him coming and wondered what the boy's haste might mean.

"I've got a horse! I've got a horse!" shouted Tad, vaulting the fence lightly and bounding up the steps. "I surely have a horse at last, mother."

Grasping his mother about the waist with both arms, Tad whirled her dizzily, the full length of the porch and back, finally dropping her into a rocking chair with a merry laugh.

"Mercy!" gasped Mrs. Butler. "You have shaken all the breath out of me. What does this whirlwind arrival mean?"

"It means that I have a horse at last, mother. To be sure, it is not much of a horse; but it's a horse just the same. And it's all mine, too."

Mrs. Butler gazed up at him in perplexity. Tad sank down at her feet and explained the terms on which he had procured Jinny from Mr. Langdon.

"Well, now that you have her, what do you mean to do with her?" asked Mrs. Butler, a quizzical smile on her face.

"With your leave, I shall bring her home. Will you let me turn Jinny in the clover patch there, mother? There'll be enough grass there to keep her all summer, and as soon as she is able to work I can get odd jobs enough with her to pay for the oats that I shall need to keep her up on," went on the boy speaking rapidly.

"Very well, Tad; the place is as much yours as it is mine," agreed Mrs. Butler, indulgently.

"And I have been thinking of something else, too--something for you. But I shall not tell you about that now. I am going to keep it as a surprise for you when I get it ready," announced the boy mysteriously. "If you have nothing for me to do just now, I think I'll go out to Mr. Langdon's farm and bring the mare in. I shall want to spend the evening making her comfortable."

Mrs. Butler gave a ready permission, and Tad hounded away, running every foot of the mile and a half to the Langdon farm, where old Jinny was turned over to him, together with a brand new halter and an old harness which the grocer had directed his man to furnish with the mare.

Tad petted and fondled the wheezy old creature, who nosed him appreciatively.

"How old is Jinny?" he asked.

"Going on twelve," answered the farm-hand laconically.

Tad opened the mare's mouth, which he studied critically.

"Humph!" he grunted, flashing a glance of disapproval at the farm-hand.

"What's that, younker? I said as she was going on twelve."

"I guess you have dropped five years out of your reckoning somewhere," answered the boy. "Jinny is past seventeen. But it's all right. It is all the same to me. I don't care if she's a hundred," decided Tad, picking up the halter and leading the mare from the yard.

"Hope she don't run away with ye," jeered the farm-hand, as boy and


The Pony Rider Boys in the Rockies - 5/35

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