by Charlotte Maria Tucker
"What a grand day I shall have! How I've been looking forward to it for the last month!" exclaimed young Robin Alleyne. "Ah! here comes Brownie at last," he added, as a shaggy little Shetland pony, led by an hostler from a neighboring inn, came up at a gentle trot to the gate where Robin was impatiently awaiting him. "You're a little late in bringing him, John. It is more than half-past ten, but Brownie is a good little pony and will soon make up for lost time."
With these words on his lips, Robin lightly sprang into the saddle and took the rein from the hostler. "Here we go off, off, and away!" and a shake of the bridle sent the brave little pony off at a canter, without his needing a touch of the whip.
The day was wintry, the sky cloudy, snow lay on the ground, but the merry boy heeded not the weather. He was going to spend the day at his uncle's house, with a cheerful party of young cousins and friends. There was to be a foot-race on the lawn, with plenty of hurdles to jump over, and a silver-tipped bugle as a prize. Robin had been practising running and jumping to prepare for this race. When the snow kept him indoors, he would run round his father's dining room, leaping over the chairs and even trying to clear the table at a bound, an attempt which had cost him a tumble. But little cared Robin for a tumble. Little cared he for knock or for bruise. He was a manly boy, active, merry, and bold, with a heart as light as a feather.
"The race is to be at eleven, so make good speed, little Brownie!" cried the young rider to the pony, which his father had hired for the day that it might bear him to Mayblossom Lodge. One of the greatest treats that could be given to Robin was a ride upon Brownie. The boy would often have been tempted to wish that the pony were quite his own, had not Robin been taught not to covet, but to be contented and thankful for the things which he had, without longing for what he had not.
It was not easy for Brownie to canter on as fast as his young rider would have liked, for the snow lay thick and he often sank in it up to his shaggy fetlocks. Robin had ridden about half the distance to Mayblossom Lodge, when, at a turn of the road, he passed a lonely cottage in which dwelt a poor old couple of the name of Browne. Robin had often seen the old man weeding in his little garden, or his wife, who took in washing, hanging out clothes to dry, but he had never spoken to either of them and scarcely knew them by name.
Just as Robin had cantered past the cottage, the shrill sound of a woman's voice calling out loudly after him, made the young rider draw the rein. Turning round on his saddle, he saw Mrs. Browne come running out into her garden, without bonnet or shawl, with a look of fear and distress on her face, which showed Robin at once that something serious must be the matter.
"Oh, young master!" she cried in a tone of entreaty, "will you, for mercy's sake, ride off to Barnes for the doctor? my poor old man's taken with a fit and there's not a soul near that can go!"
"To Barnes!" cried Robin Alleyne, "why, that is nearly five miles away!"
"Your pony can carry you. I could not leave my husband. Oh, young master, he's ill, very ill!"
Robin Alleyne could not help wishing that the illness had happened on any day rather than on this. Barnes lay in quite a different direction from Mayblossom Lodge. Every one would be expecting him at his uncle's and oh, how impatient he was to be there! Old Browne was no relation or friend of his own—why should he be the one to be sent for the doctor? So whispered selfishness for a moment—but only a moment. There came to the memory of the boy the beautiful story from Scripture of a traveller who would not go on to pursue his own business or pleasaure, and leave a poor stranger to suffer and die. Robin thought of the sacred command, "Go and do thou likewise," and he did not hesitate long.
"Go back to your husband," he said, "I know where the doctor lives and I'll soon let him hear of your trouble," and turning his pony's head, Robin Alleyne cantered off in the very opposite direction from that which his own wishes would have led him to take, passing his father's house, which he had quitted so gaily not a quarter of an hour before.
Very long seemed the ride to Barnes. Very hard was it for Brownie to make his way through the snow. The pony and his rider were now facing the chill north wind and it seemed to pierce Robin through like a dart of ice. Then down came some large white flakes from the dull-looking sky. Faster and faster they fell, till the air was darkened by the heavy snow storm. It seemed to poor Robin Alleyne as if he would never readh the doctor's door, and he thought with a little regret on all the pleasure that he was losing and how by this time all chance was gone of his winning the silver-tipped bugle.
At last Robin came in sight of the ugly red brick house with green palings, which had the doctor's name on a brass plate on the door. Up to it trotted Brownie, panting and puffing, the steam rising from his shaggy hide, and Robin, whose fingers were stiff with cold, pulled the bell with such hearty goodwill that its loud summons soon brought the servant running in haste.
"Tell your master, please," cried the boy, "that poor old Browne, who lives in the lonely cottage by Twygate pond, is taken with a fit and is dreadfully ill and ask him to go and see him as fast as ever he can."
"Master's just gonig out—here comes the gig for him," answered the servant, "I'll give him your message directly."
"Oh, how glad I am that I did not delay," thought Robin as he turned his pony. "If I had been but five minutes later, the doctor might have gone out for the day. But there's the church clock striking half-past eleven. The race must be over now. Well, though I've lost my chance of the prize, I'll never regret that I've done a kindness to those poor old people."
Robin was too kind a boy to flog the pony, which was growing tired from the heaviness of the road. It was therefore almost one o'clock before he reached the gate of Mayblossom Lodge.
"I'll not tell what has made me so late," thought the boy, "my father's proverb is 'Do what is right and say nothing about it,' and we are told in the Bible not to seek for the praise of men."
Right glad was Robin to give Brownie in charge to his uncle's servant, and shaking the snow from his dress, to run into the warm house and up to the room from which came the sound of merry young voices.
"Oh! here is Robin!—here he comes at last!" shouted half a dozen children, as Robin, with his cheeks red as apples from the cold, suddenly made his appearance.
"Why, what has kept you so late? you're two hours behind time," cried one.
"We thought that you were lost in the snow," said another.
"What delayed you?" asked Jessy, his cousin.
"Never mind what delayed me, as I've come at last," said Robin, rubbing his chilled hands by the roaring fire.
"I know what kept him," laughed a boy who was fond of a joke, "he ate so much plumcake last night that he could not get up in the morning."
"Or he was afraid to let Brownie go faster than a walk, lest he should be pitched over the pony's head!" cried another saucy little rogue.
"You may guess what you please," said Robin, good-humoredly, "now tell me who won the foot-race."
"Oh, the snow came on, so we put off the race," said his uncle. "But the sun is beginning to shine, so we'll have the race after dinner."
"Then I'm not too late, after all," thought Robin, "it was a good thing for me that the snow storm came on, though I thought it a trouble at the time."
Just then the dinner was announced and who amongst the party enjoyed the roast beef and plum-pudding like Robin, who had won a good appetite by his long ride and who was, besides, happy in the consciousness that he had performed a kind action!
About an hour after dinner, the race came off. Robin ran in the race and ran well. He sprang over the hurdles one after another, like a bounding deer, and he was the first at the goal! Blithe and merry was Robin when he rode home at dusk, with his silver-tipped bugle hung round his neck.
Robin was glad, when he called at Browne's cottage on the following day, to find that the doctor had driven to it directly and that the poor old man was likely to recover from his illness. Sweet to the boy were the thanks and blessings of the grateful wife. Robin said nothing to any one at his home of his adventure. He little guessed that his father had heard the whole story from the doctor and that he had thanked God, when at his evening prayers, for having blessed him with a son who would quietly do his duty and seek for no reward but the approval of his Heavenly Master.
On New Year's Day, Robin chanced to be looking out of the window, when he saw John the hostler leading Brownie up to the gate.
"Oh, papa!" cried Robin to his father, who was sitting beside him, "why is dear old Brownie brought here today?"
"Can you not guess?" said Mr. Alleyne.
"I suppose that you are going to treat me to another ride, dear papa. You are so kind to hire Brownie for me."
"Brownie cannot be hired any more, for a gentleman has bought him," said Mr. Alleyne.
The face of poor Robin fell. "I can't help being sorry for that," he exclaimed, "for I never can ride him again."
"Do not be sure of that till you hear the name of his new master," said Mr. Alleyne with a smile. "The pony is now the property of one who has shown that he knows how to use him on errands of kindness." The father laid his hand fondly on the shoulder of Robin as he added, "Brownie belongs to a boy who gave up his own pleasure that he might bring a doctor to a suffering fellow-creature. The pony is a father's gift to the son who has learned to do what is right and say nothing about it!"
Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner
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