Gateway to the Classics: The Storyland Tree by Maud Lindsay
 
The Storyland Tree by  Maud Lindsay

The Play-Ponies

O NE day Johnny's mamma was going to market to buy cherries and plums and other nice things besides.

"If I had anybody to pull it, I'd take Johnny's wagon with me and bring home a watermelon," she said as she put on her hat.

"Would you like to have a pony?" asked Johnny, who was a little boy almost five years old.

"Yes, indeed," said Mamma, "there is nothing I should like better than a little play-pony with a strong back and stout legs so that he could pull a load. Do you know where I could find one?"

But before Johnny would tell her this, he wished to know what color the pony must be.

"Let me see," said Mamma, "any color would do, but I believe a brown pony would suit me best, and I do hope he will have a star on his forehead like the pony on Grandpa's farm."

"I'm a brown pony," said Johnny. "I can pull loads of watermelons or hay or anything else, and my name is Star."

"Well, then," said Mamma, "we can have watermelon for dinner, and Father will be pleased."

Johnny's wagon was a bright red one with green wheels, and it looked as gay as a circus wagon when the little play-pony pulled it down the sidewalk that day. Step, step! And trot, trot! He did not stop all the way, except, of course, at the street crossings. Mamma had to walk fast to keep up with him.

Once they passed a little neighbor who was just as old as Johnny and just as tall.

"Hello, Johnny," he called, but Johnny tossed his head and kicked up his heels.

"I'm a brown pony," he said. "My name is Star, and I'm going to bring a watermelon from market."

The way to market was down-hill now, and so easy to travel that the little neighbor was soon left behind, and Mamma, too. Johnny had to wait for her at the bottom of the hill. There was only one more street to cross then, and the big policeman who stood there to help people made all the trucks and cars wait until Mamma and Johnny and the wagon were safe on the other side; and he knew what Johnny was playing without being told.

"It's a grand pony you have to help you," he said to Mamma, and when Johnny heard this he stepped high like his grandpa's horses.

He and Mamma were soon at the market where everything was as beautiful as pictures. The vegetable stalls had rows of green cabbages and orange carrots and dark red beets and silvery onions; oh, almost everything that grows in a garden was there. And the fruit stands were filled with red and yellow plums and red cherries and bunches of purple grapes. But Johnny thought that nothing else that he saw was so nice as the watermelons.

"Buy the biggest one you can find, please, Mamma," he whispered; and that was just what she did. It took up all the room in the wagon, and she had to carry the other packages herself.

The fruit-man thought that they could not have chosen a finer melon.

"When you cut it you will find pink meat and black seeds, or I am much mistaken," he told Mamma and Johnny, and they hoped he was right. There was nothing that Father liked more for dinner than a watermelon with pink meat and black seeds. They paid the man for it and started home that very minute, but they could not go fast. It would never do to bruise such a melon as this one.

The play-pony pulled his best, but the big watermelon was a heavy load and when they were halfway up the hill Mamma thought that she would have to put her bundles down and help him.

"I'll lay them under this tree and come back for them," she said, but before she had time to put a single bundle down, here came the little neighbor.

"I'm a pony, too, a white pony," he shouted to Johnny. "Don't you want me to help you pull your wagon?"

"Yes," said Johnny, stamping his feet and tossing his head, "and your name can be Whitefoot. I know a horse named that."

If Mamma had looked the whole world over she could not have found two better play-ponies than Star and Whitefoot. And how well they pulled together Almost before they knew it they were at the top of the hill, wagon and all. Step, step! And trot, trot! Why, here they were at Johnny's home. The cook came hurrying out to take the watermelon into the house, and then she fed the play-ponies. Each of them had a cookie as sweet as honey and round as the moon.

As for the watermelon, when it was cut at dinner time, what should Mamma and Father and Johnny see but pink meat and black seeds. Hurrah, the fruit-man had been right!

"It was the biggest watermelon in the market," Johnny told Father, "and it took two ponies to bring it up the hill."


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