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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSix Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 18. The New Ponies
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Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 18. The New Ponies Post by :netgurus Category :Long Stories Author :Laura Lee Hope Date :May 2012 Read :1267

Click below to download : Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 18. The New Ponies (Format : PDF)

Six Little Bunkers At Cowboy Jack's - Chapter 18. The New Ponies


Out of a box Chief Black Bear took certain treasures that he gave to the four little Bunkers who visited his wikiup. He even sent some fresh-water mussel shells, polished like mother-of-pearl, to the absent Margy and Mun Bun, of whom Cowboy Jack told him.

"They are some nice kids," declared the ranchman, who sometimes used expressions and words that were not altogether polite; but he meant no harm. "Especially that Mun Bun. _He went to sleep in a fence-corner to-day and got covered up with tumble-weed. But he's an all right boy."

Cowboy Jack seemed to think a great deal of the smallest of the Bunkers. He was frequently seen admiring Mun Bun. Even the other children noticed it, and Rose had once asked her mother:

"Why doesn't Mr. Scar--Scar--well, what-ever-it-iskil! Why doesn't he have children of his own?"

"But, my dear, everybody cannot have children just for the wishing," Mother Bunker replied.

"I should think he could," murmured Rose. "See how many children these Indians and Mexicans have; and they are none of them half as nice as Mr.--Mr.--well, Mr. Cowboy Jack."

To Russ and Rose and Laddie and Violet, Black Bear gave stone arrow-heads which may have been used by his forefathers when they roamed the plains, wild and free, as the young Indian said. But better than those, he gave Rose and Violet little beaded moccasins that fitted just as though they were made for the little white girls!

The children went away after that, for it was time for their own supper at the ranch house and Cowboy Jack always seemed afraid of making Maria Castrada cross if they were late for meals. But perhaps it was his own hearty appetite that spurred him to be on time.

At any rate, the Bunkers left Chief Black Bear sitting cross-legged before a low table on which the Indian women were serving his dinner, beginning with soup and from that going on through all the courses of a properly served meal.

"Funny fellow, that Black Bear," said Cowboy Jack to Mr. Bunker. "But maybe he's got it right. I was brought up pretty nice--silverware and finger-bowls, and all that sort of do-dads; but part of my life I've lived pretty rough. Black Bear has set himself a certain standard of living, and he's not going to slip back. Afraid of being a 'blanket Indian,' I suppose."

The children--even Russ and Rose--did not understand all this; but they had been much interested in Chief Black Bear.

"Only, I don't see why he paints up in the daytime and rides such wild ponies, and all that," grumbled Rose, who, like Russ, did not like to be mystified.

Whenever they tried to ask the older folks to explain the mystery they were laughed at. It was Cowboy Jack's mystery, anyway, and Mr. and Mrs. Bunker did not feel that they had a right to explain to the children all that they wished to know.

"Figure it out for yourselves," said Daddy Bunker.

"Is it a riddle, then?" demanded Laddie. "It must be a riddle. Why does Chief Black Bear paint his face, and--and----"

"And take it off with cold cream?" put in Vi. "Why _does he?"

"I guess that's the riddle," said her twin. "You answer it, Vi."

But although Vi could ask innumerable questions on all sorts of subjects she seldom was able to answer one--and certainly not this one Laddie propounded.

Next morning while the six little Bunkers were at the big breakfast table in Cowboy Jack's ranch house there again arose a considerable disturbance outside in front of the house. This time the children were pretty well over their meal, and they grew so excited that Mother Bunker allowed them to be excused.

Russ and Rose led the way out upon the veranda. There stood two of the smiling Mexican houseboys--"cholos," Cowboy Jack called them--and they bade the Bunker children a very pleasant good morning. Russ and Rose did not forget their manners, and they replied in kind. But the four smaller children just whooped when they saw what had brought the Mexicans to the front of the big house.

One of the men led two saddled ponies while the other held another fat pony that drew a brightly painted cart with seats in it and a step behind--just the dearest cart! Rose Bunker said.

"Oh, I know I can learn to drive that dear, dear pony!" Rose added. "And there is room for every one of you children with me in the cart."

"Huh!" exclaimed Laddie. "I am going to ride pony-back like Russ does. Which is my pony, Mr. Cowboy Jack?" he asked of the ranchman who had followed them out of the house to enjoy their amazement and delight.

"The one with the shortest stirrups, I guess," Russ said. "This one looks as if I could ride him," and he took the bridle handed him by the Mexican.

"Oh, lift me up! Lift me up!" cried Laddie, running to the other saddle pony.

Cowboy Jack strode down and did so. Meanwhile Rose and the other children were scrambling into the pony-cart, while the pony which drew it tossed its head and looked around as though counting the number of passengers that were getting aboard.

"Isn't he just cute?" cried Rose again. "Oh, Mr. Cowboy Jack! you are so good to us."

"Got to be," said the ranchman, laughing. "I haven't any little folks of my own, so I have to treat those I find around here pretty well, I do say."

Laddie clung to both the pommel and the bridle-reins at first, for he did seem so high from the ground at first. But Russ trotted away on his pony very securely. Russ had ridden quite a little at Uncle Fred's ranch and had not forgotten how.

Rose decided that she liked better to drive. But Vi must learn to drive, too, she said. And even Margy and Mun Bun clamored to hold the reins over the back of the sleepy brown pony. Russ's mount was what Cowboy Jack called a pinto, but Russ said it was a calico pony. He had seen them marked that way before--in the circus. Laddie's pony was all white, with pinkish nose and ears. Right at the start Laddie called him "Pinky." But the little girls could not agree on a name for the pony that drew their cart.

There seemed to be so many nice names that just fitted him! Margy wanted to call him Dinah after her lost doll.

"But that Dinah-doll was black," said Rose, in objection. "And this pony is brown. Maybe we ought to call him Brownie."

"Oh! I know!" cried Vi. "Let's call him Cute. He's just as cunning as he can be."

But this name did not appeal to the others, and they were no nearer finding a name for the brown pony when the ride was over and they all came back to the ranch house than at first. They had had so much fun, however, that they had forgotten for the time being the mystery of the Indians and soldiers whom they had seen the day before.

Laddie had thought up a new riddle--and it was a good one. He knew it was good and he told everybody about it, he was so excited.

"Listen!" he cried, when he half tumbled out of his saddle by the steps of the veranda. "This is a good riddle. Listen!"

"We're listening, Son," said Cowboy Jack. "Shoot!"

"What is it," asked Laddie earnestly, "that looks like a horse, has four legs like a horse, runs like a horse, eats like a horse, but it isn't a horse?"

"A cow," said his twin promptly.

"No, no! A cow has horns. A horse doesn't," Laddie declared scornfully.

"A colt," guessed Russ.

"No, no!" rejoined the eager Laddie. "A colt is a little horse, so that could not be the answer, Russ Bunker."

"A giraffe," suggested Vi again.

"I wish you wouldn't, Vi," complained the riddle-maker. "Does a giraffe look like any horse you ever saw?"

"A carpenter's horse," said Rose.

"Pooh! That's made of wood. Can a wooden horse _run_?" cried Laddie.

"I guess that _is a pretty good riddle," said Russ soberly. "What is the answer, Laddie?"

"Do you all give it up?" asked the smaller boy, his eyes shining.

"You got us thrown and tied," declared Cowboy Jack solemnly. "I couldn't guess that riddle in a thousand years."

"But you wouldn't want to wait that long to know what it is," Laddie said delightedly. "Now, would you?"

"You'd better tell us now, Laddie," said Daddy Bunker smilingly. "You know a thousand years _is a long time to wait."

"Well," said the little fellow proudly, "what looks like a horse, and has four legs like a horse, and runs like a horse, and eats like a horse, is----"

"Yes, yes!" exclaimed the impatient Violet.

"What is it, Laddie?"

"Why," said Laddie, with vast satisfaction, "it is a _mule_."

They all cried out in surprise at this answer. But it was a good riddle.

"Only," said Russ thoughtfully, "it's lucky you didn't say anything about its tail and ears. Then we would have caught you."

The Bunker children had so much fun with the ponies Cowboy Jack had selected for their use during the next two or three days that they thought of very little else. The mystery of the Indians and soldiers did not often trouble their minds. But something else did. Mail came from the East, and with it was a letter from Captain Ben, and another from Norah.

"And," said Mother Bunker soberly, reading the letters to the children, "both say that they have found neither Rose's wrist-watch nor Laddie's stick-pin. I am afraid, Rose and Laddie, that your carelessness has cost you both your jewelry. It is too bad. But perhaps it will teach you the lesson of carefulness with your possessions."

This, however, did not make either Rose or Laddie feel any better in their minds. They had been very proud of both the lost articles and it looked now as though they would never see the watch and the pin again.

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