from American Girl
Jo Ann and the Pup!
by Ellis Parker Butler
Jo Ann was all dressed, except for one stocking and her shoes, when she looked out of the window and saw Tommy Bassick and Ted Spence. They had riding crops in their hands so, of course, they were going to the riding school stable to hire horses for a ride.
"Wicky! Quick!" Jo Ann cried.
With that she grabbed her shoes and the other stocking and dashed from her room and down the stairs and out onto the street. She and Wicky had planned to ride, too, and the best horse in the stable was Major. No other horse, in Jo Ann's opinion, was half as good and Tommy knew it, and if Tommy reached the stable first he would certainly ask for and be given Major.
By the time Wicky reached the street Jo Ann was half a block away and running at a pace that would carry her past the two boys like a brisk wind passing a sleepy turtle, and the boys were walking with no thought of pursuit.
"Jo Ann! Wait!" Wicky called at the top of her voice, and Jo Ann heard her, but so did Tommy and Ted. They looked back and saw Jo Ann, and broke into a run. For another block Jo Ann pursued them, but they had too great a start to be overcome and after Jo Ann had shouted a taunt at them she slowed her pace to let Wicky catch up with her.
"Now they'll have Major and Kate before we can get there," Jo Ann said. "They know we want them, the unmannerly cubs! There's no use hurrying now -- I might as well put on my other stocking. Although," she added, "this one is never going to be well and hearty again."
About the horses she was right. When she and Wicky reached the stable, Tommy and Ted were already mounted and riding out.
"Sorry, Miss Jo Ann," the groom said, "but it's 'first come, first served,' you know. How would Prince suit you? He's a good horse, and fast, too."
"If I can't have Major," Jo Ann said. "And they took Kate, too! What have you got for Wicky?"
"I want a nice gentle horse," said Wicky.
"Bessie is what you want then," said the groom. "Gentle as a kitten, miss, and rides like a rocking chair." And in a few minutes the two girls were riding out of the stable. They turned toward Shady Lake Park.
"We'll ride around the lake once or twice, Wicky," Jo Ann said, for this was the first time Wicky had been on a horse for almost a year. The girls were just home from Wilmot School for the summer vacation. At Camp Minnedawa, where they had always spent their summers, they had had one riding lesson a week. Jo Ann, it need hardly be said, rode like a wild west cow-girl. The riding school was so close at hand that she rode often when she was home and she still had some tickets, each good for one hour, in the book her father had given her.
"You'll be used to your horse by the time we ride around the lake a couple of times," she said to Wicky, "and then we'll ride out to the old Fair Grounds. The old racetrack is peachy, and that's where Ted and that Bassick boy will go. I'd just like to show that redhead some real speed. This Prince horse isn't much but if I can't ride him faster than Tommy can ride Major I'd be ashamed of myself. You'll see some real speed this morning, Wicky. We turn left here."
The bridle path led to the lake and circled it and as the girls reached the lake they saw Tommy and Ted across the lake. Tommy saw the girls but he wanted no race with Jo Ann and he turned his horse into one of the paths that led away from the lake. Ted followed.
"That's not the way to the old Fair Grounds," Jo Ann said. "He's afraid to race. Come on! Get some speed into that horse and we can head them off. I'll dare him to race me."
She swung Prince around and Wicky followed her. Jo Ann put Prince into a gallop for she loved that wild boisterous pace. Her mount was fresh and eager and she urged him to his best speed so that he broke into a run, but Wicky cantered slowly and was soon far behind.
Jo Ann knew the paths of the park well and that she would soon come face to face with Tommy if he did not turn back. The path wound among the trees and Jo Ann knew that presently the path turned rather sharply in order to cross a bridge that carried it over the main driveway. As she neared this turn she pulled Prince down to a walk. She remembered hearing that a new bridge was to be built and that the old one had been torn down and a temporary bridge put in.
Sure enough, at the turn was a sign, "Slow! Temporary bridge! Danger!" Jo Ann proceeded slowly and carefully. Looking back she could not see Wicky but when she looked ahead again after founding the turn she saw the temporary bridge and she saw Tommy and Ted coming toward her from the other side of it. Tommy was in advance and when he saw Jo Ann he hurried his horse, trying to reach the bridge first. The temporary bridge was a timber affair, strong enough but so narrow that but one horse could cross at a time. Jo Ann spoke to Prince and as he put his forefeet on the bridge at one end Major got on at the other.
"Go back there -- I'm coming across," Jo Ann called.
"Back up yourself," Tommy said. "I was on the bridge first. I've got the right of way."
By the time he said this the two horses were nose to nose in the middle of the bridge. Below them, on the main drive, some twenty laborers were digging foundations for the new bridge and when they saw the two horses head to head they stopped work and laughed.
"Tommy Bassick, I was on this bridge just as soon as you were -- sooner!" declared Jo Ann. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself for crowding on when you saw I was coming. Anybody but a fresh kid would have waited when a lady was crossing a bridge."
"A lady? Ho! Did you hear that, Ted?" Tommy scoffed. "I don't see anything but a tomboy, do you, Ted? And what you did," he said to Jo Ann, "was hurry up to keep me from getting on the bridge. You know very well you did."
"Tommy Bassick, I did not! I have a right to cross this bridge. You've got to back off -- I'm more than half way across on this bridge."
"No, you're not," said Tommy. "I'm more than half way across if anybody is. You've got to back off."
It happened that at each side of the bridge there was an upright iron bar exactly in the middle of the supporting timbers and the noses of the two horses came together exactly opposite this bar. When Tommy saw this he urged his horse forward but Jo Ann also urged her horse forward. Each horse took one more step and now they were shoulder to shoulder and chest to chest. They did not understand what all this strange business meant but they were trained to obey and they were old stablemates. They stood with necks crossed. The head of Tommy's horse was almost in Jo Ann's lap and the head of Jo Ann's horse was in Tommy's face.
Ted's horse was close behind Tommy's, and now Wicky arrived behind Jo Ann.
"What's the matter, Jo Ann?" Wicky asked.
"Nothing," said Jo Ann. "Nothing at all is the matter. I'm riding across this bridge, that's all, and I have to wait until this boy backs his horse and lets me go on. I'm in no hurry, Wicky. I'll wait here all day if I have to."
"You'll wait a thousand years before I back off this bridge," Tommy said. "I'm going across this bridge and you might as well know it."
"Oh, Tommy -- you big nuisance!" Wicky exclaimed. "Don't be such a mean thing. Ted, tell him to back up and let us by."
"What can I do?" asked Ted helplessly. "I can't take his horse by the tail and pull it off the bridge, can I?"
"And you'd better not try it," said Tommy. "If this tomboy had asked me politely, maybe I'd have backed up, but she can't order me around as if she were my boss. You heard her, Ted. 'Go back there!' she yelled as if she owned the whole bridge and me and everything else in sight. If anybody is going to back out she can do the backing; I can stay here as long as she can. Longer!"
"I can stay until they tear this bridge down," said Jo Ann.
"You'll have to, maybe, if you don't back up," said Tommy. "I'm not going to move."
Below them on the drive automobiles passed every minute, some going in one direction and some in another. There was a sidewalk along one side of the drive but it had been torn up under the bridle path bridge and planks laid where it had been, and the few foot-passengers stopped and looked up, amused to see four horses standing two and two face to face. Some of the pedestrians grinned, but the workmen had the most fun. They were Italians and they stopped work now and then to talk to each other about Jo Ann and Tommy. Now and then, too, one or another would shout something at Tommy or Jo Ann in Italian, and it must have been funny, for they all laughed. One of them, who seemed to be the star jester of the group, took two strips of wood and tied them together into a rough semblance of a sword and tossed it up to Jo Ann. She did not try to catch it and it fell back but she guessed that the joker was saying that if there was to be a new equestrian statue in the park Jo Ann should have a Joan of Arc sword.
Jo Ann turned her back on the laborers and looked the other way but when half an hour had passed she turned her head again. It was more interesting to watch them dig.
"Jo Ann, how long are you going to stay here, I'd like to know?" Wicky asked at the end of an hour. "I don't think this is fun."
"You can go home if you want to," Jo Ann said, "but I'm going to wait until I can ride across this bridge."
"Well, I'm going home," Wicky said. "I don't think this is any sport at all -- it's just stubborn and stupid. Ted, let's go home."
"I'm willing," Ted answered. "I'll meet you down by the lake. I'm not helping you any, Tommy. You don't mind if I go?"
"Go ahead if you want to," Tommy told him; "I'm going to stay here."
Ted backed his mount off the bridge and Wicky backed, too, and Tommy and Jo Ann were left alone. The laborers cheered ironically when Ted and Wicky left. Then two of them evidently made a bet, for they gave money to the man who was their boss and presently they were all betting on whether Tommy or Jo Ann would be the first to quit and to back up.
"Lady, please, you keepa da bridge," one of the men begged grinningly. "If you no keepa da bridge I loosa da fi' cent."
"Mister, no giva up," another urged Tommy. "Keepa da bridge -- I getta da corn, da hay, da oat for horse."
"Just the same, I'm not going to move," Jo Ann told Tommy. "And I guess you know that when I say a thing I mean it. I'll stay as long as you will."
"I haven't anything to do till October," Tommy answered.
There had been tree-sitters and flagpole-sitters but no one yet had tried horse-sitting. There had been long distance horse riding contests, and millions of horse races, but never before an attempt to sit long and constantly on an immovable horse. As Jo Ann heard the noon whistles blow she set her mouth firmly. She knew now that she was hungry, and she had a faint hope that Wicky would come cantering back with a nice hot dog between halves of a roll or at least an ice cream cone. The laborers knocked off work and sat down to enjoy their lunches. One of Jo Ann's backers threw her an end of bread but she did not try to catch it. Tommy was less particular and when one of his supporters threw him a doughnut he caught it and ate it.
"Atta boy!" the Italian said. "No starva -- no fall offa da horse."
When the one o'clock whistle blew the men went back to work. Refreshed, they paid less attention to Tommy and Jo Ann, only looking up at them now and then, but about half past one they seemed to finish their work. They gathered up their picks and shovels and gave Tommy and Jo Ann a final yell or two and disappeared from sight. Jo Ann was watching them go and wondering how they would know who were the winners of the bets when she saw a new figure coming toward the bridge on the walk below. He was a poorly dressed man and he shambled along rather loose-jointedly with a covered basket on his arm. He spoke to the Italians as they went by, raising the lid of the basket. Jo Ann hoped he had doughnuts or hot dogs or something good to eat in the basket but the laborers bought nothing. As he reached the bridge Jo Ann leaned over and looked down.
"Say! You!" she called down to the man. "What are you selling?"
The man, who had been shuffling along with his head down, stopped and looked up.
"Say, I know you folks!" he exclaimed. "You're that Bassick boy and the girl that lives next door. I got something here you want, I bet you. Look at that, will you? Ain't he a beauty?"
He raised the lid of the basket and took from it a small and fuzzy puppy.
"Oh, the little darling!" Jo Ann cried.
"Full blood, sound and healthy," said the man. "Last one I've got of the litter, and I always hold the best till last. If you want to buy a dog, this is the dog you want to buy. And only one dollar."
"I'll take him," said Jo Ann and Tommy in the same breath and the same words.
"Sold!" said the man. "Now, which of you gets him?"
"I do," said Tommy and Jo Ann together.
"You take him to my house and tell my mother and she'll give you a dollar," said Jo Ann. "She said I could have a dog and she'll know I sent you."
"You take him to my house," said Tommy. "I haven't any money here but my mother will give you a dollar."
"Well, it's a sale, anyway," said the man, putting the puppy back into his basket, "and you won't never regret it. In about six months you'll be surprised. You'll have a dog as is a dog -- real dog and a lot of it. And much obliged to you."
"Hey! Look here! That's my dog," Tommy called after the man. "You take it to my house, you understand?"
"It's my dog," Jo Ann called. "I bought it. Take it to my house," but the man was already turning into one of the side paths. He waved his hand gaily and disappeared. "That's my puppy," said Jo Ann to Tommy. "I told him first and it's mine. And I mean to have it."
"You mean I told him first, don't you." Tommy scoffed. "That's my dog and I'm going to have it."
He stopped short and looked frightened.
"Oh, golly!" he exclaimed.
"What time do you think it is?"
"I don't know," Jo Ann said. "It's about two o'clock, I guess. And I know what you're going to say -- you're going to say you just remembered you had to do something at two o'clock. I knew you'd get off this bridge before I did!"
"That's not so," said Tommy, "and just for that I'll stay here the rest of my life if you don't go first."
What he had thought so suddenly was that his horse was costing him two dollars an hour. Jo Ann's, because she had tickets, was costing her only a dollar and a half an hour -- or really nothing, because her father had given her the book of tickets.
"Jo Ann --" he said.
"What?" Jo Ann asked.
"Do you call this having fun?"
"I never had so much fun in my whole life," said Jo Ann with exaggeration."
"But how would this be?" asked Tommy. "Suppose I don't make you back off the bridge and you don't make me back off the bridge. Suppose we just wait until the tenth automobile goes under the bridge and then we both just back off the bridge at the same time."
"No, thank you," said Jo Ann. "I'm going straight ahead when I do go. If you want to back off the bridge I'm sure nobody is stopping you."
No one from the riding school had come to call for the horses because Wicky and Ted had told them that Tommy and Jo Ann were not bringing the horses back quite yet. But another person brought the deadlock on the bridge to an end. One of the park policemen on horseback turned into the path and presently came to the bridge.
"What's this, now?" he asked. "What are you obstructing the bridge for?"
"I don't want to obstruct the bridge," Jo Ann said. "He won't let me pass."
"I'm not obstructing the bridge," said Tommy. "I was going across the bridge and she rode up in front of me and she won't let me go by."
The policeman dismounted and came up behind Tommy's horse. He was good-natured enough about it, but he was stern.
"You can't be staying here," he said. "One of you back off the bridge now."
"I wouldn't back off for anything," said Jo Ann. "I said I was going on across this bridge and I'm going to."
"One of them never-give-up and never-give-in contests, I can see," said the officer. "We'll settle this problem some way," he smiled. "Both of them horses is O'Connell's, as I well know, seeing them every day. And you'd not be turning back the way you came, miss?"
"If you make me I'll have to, I suppose," said Jo Ann.
"And far be that from me!" said the officer. "There's a way you both can have your ways and no harm done. Come off your horse, miss, and edge along over to this one of his, and you, young sir, edge over onto the horse she is on now."
It was a wise solution. For only a moment Jo Ann hesitated; then she stepped to the railing of the bridge and moved along it until she could get on Major's back. Tommy, on the other side of the horses, moved along until he was able to get into Prince's saddle.
"And now be off with you, crazy kids that you are!" said the park cop with a grin. "Back off the bridge the both of you and be on your way."
Tommy was already backing Prince and turning him.
"Yah!" he jeered at Jo Ann. "That's one time you didn't do so much!"
It did look as if Jo Ann had not triumphed especially. Tommy was not backing his horse off the bridge -- he was backing Jo Ann's. Tommy had meant to cross the bridge in the direction in which he had started to cross it -- and he was doing just that. But neither was Jo Ann backing her horse -- she was backing Tommy's. And she, too, was crossing the bridge and able to go on in the direction she had intended to go. It would have seemed, to anyone but Jo Ann, a tie finish with neither winning, but Jo Ann did not see it that way. She turned her head.
"Ho! Didn't I?" she called. "I wanted Major and now I've got him, Mister Smarty Bassick!" And with this final taunt she touched Major with her crop and let him run. But she did not turn him toward the stable. She guided him toward her home.
When she left the park Jo Ann had to pull Major down to a more reasonable gait. She hoped Tommy would go to the stable and so waste time, but Tommy evidently had the same thought that Jo Ann had and she saw him ride out of the park by another exit. He was headed for home, too, and Jo Ann knew he was thinking of the cunning little puppy and that he wanted to make sure the dog-seller had left the pup at his house and not at Jo Ann's. Jo Ann urged Major into a run, and they reached home neck and neck.
Wicky and Ted Spence were sitting on a bench in Jo Ann's yard and the precious pup was playfully worrying a stick at their feet. With one impulse Jo Ann and Tommy swung off their horses and dashed for the pup.
"That's my dog!" Jo Ann declared, reaching for the pup.
"My dog!" said Tommy, also reaching for it, but Wicky held the wiggling pup close in her arms.
"Jo Ann, stop it! Tommy, quit!" Wicky said, and Ted Spence put out an arm to ward the two rival claimants away.
"But it's my dog!" insisted In Ann. "It's mine and I want it, Julia Wickham."
"It's not her dog," said Tommy. "I told that man I'd buy it and it's mine."
Wicky turned and ran. Ted Spence still interfered, standing in front of Tommy and Jo Ann.
Now wait! Keep your shirt on. Tommy. Don't get excited, Jo Ann. Listen!"
"The man was waiting here when Wicky and I got here, and he said 'Well, here's the dog, where's those two folks that wanted it?' and we said you weren't here yet. So he said he wasn't going to wait all day and he could sell a dog like that in a minute for a dollar. So Wicky and I both bought the dog. I didn't have a dollar and Wicky didn't have a dollar, but I had fifty cents and Wicky had fifty cents, so I bought half the dog for Tom and Wicky bought half the dog for Jo Ann. You both own it."
For a moment or two neither Tommy nor Jo Ann said anything. Just then Wicky came back with the pup. It certainly was the cunningest pup they had ever seen.
"The darling!" Jo Ann exclaimed. "I want to pet it -- which half is mine?"
"We fixed that," Ted said. "We divided the pup lengthwise."
"We were awfully clever, Wicky explained. "We thought it all out. We thought the pup would mostly stand barking at the people on the street, and that would turn his right side toward Tommy's house, so we gave Tommy the right-hand side of him, and you the left, Jo Ann."
"And Wicky and I are going to build a kennel for him," said Ted, "and put the kennel half in Tommy's yard and half in yours. It will have two doors, one towards Tommy's house and one towards yours."
"All right!" said Jo Ann, with sudden decision. "All right! That suits me. But I'm going to name my half Rags."
"And I'm going to call my half Sport." So the puppy became Rags-Sport or Sport-Rags according to the point of view.
"We'll build the kennel tomorrow," Ted said, "and until then Wicky and I will take care of the pup."
Wicky, it was agreed, should retain the dog for that night, and Tommy and Ted rode the horses back to the stable. It began to look as if the long quarrel was about to end, thanks to the puppy. But when the boys were gone Jo Ann was almost too happy, it seemed to Wicky.
"You seem awfully pleased," Wicky said,
"Do I?" said Jo Ann. "I am, too. You know where you and Ted said the kennel was to be put, don't you? Half in Tommy's yard and half in mine? Well?"
"Oh, dear!" exclaimed Wicky, and well she might, for she and Ted had forgotten the tall terrace that ran up from Jo Ann's yard to Tommy's yard. To be half in one yard and half in the other the kennel would have to be at the foot of the terrace and not for months would the roly-poly pup be able to climb the terrace into Tommy's yard. It might as well be Jo Ann's pup entirely. Jo Ann had won again.