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    Chapter 17

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    Chapter 17
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    A WHITE VIXEN



    The white mare that the blacksmith was shoeing looked much surprised when Twinkleheels told her he was not a colt.

    "Well, well!" she cried. "A pony, eh? Who'd have thought it? Anyhow, you've never been shod in your life. I can tell that by the way you act." And she cackled in a most unpleasant fashion.

    "What shall I say to her?" Twinkleheels asked Ebenezer. "She hasn't apologized to me."

    "Pay no attention to her," the old horse advised him in an undertone. "She's a low bred person. I've often met her on the road and she always wants to stop and talk. But I hurry past her."

    "What are you saying?" the white mare asked in a sour tone. "Are you gossiping about me?" She laid her ears back and showed her yellow teeth.

    "You see why I don't care to have anything to do with her," Ebenezer muttered to Twinkleheels.

    "I'd kick you if I could reach you--and that pony too," the white mare squealed. "I'm a lady--I am. And you'd better be careful what you say about me."

    Because she was angry and couldn't kick either Twinkleheels or Ebenezer she felt that she must kick somebody. So she let fly at the blacksmith, who had just stepped up beside her.

    Strangely enough, instead of jumping away from her, the blacksmith crowded as close to her as he could get. He knew what he was about. He hadn't shod horses for twenty years without learning something about them. He stood so near the white mare that her kick hadn't room to get going well. And the blacksmith wasn't hurt. He was merely disgusted.

    "I declare," he said to Farmer Green, "this mare is the meanest critter that comes into my shop. She doesn't know anything except how to kick and bite. That old horse of yours is worth a dozen like her. I'd give more for his tail than I would for her."

    Ebenezer tried to look unconcerned. The blacksmith had a hearty voice. Nobody in the shop could help hearing what he said. And Twinkleheels made up his mind that the blacksmith shouldn't have any reason to speak of him as he had of the silly white mare.

    Twinkleheels watched sharply as the blacksmith captured a hind foot of the white mare's and held it between his knees. Then he began to nail on the shoe.

    One thing puzzled Twinkleheels. Every time the blacksmith struck a blow with his hammer he gave a funny grunt. Twinkleheels nudged Ebenezer with his nose.

    "Do you hear that?" he asked. "Is he related to Grunty Pig--a sort of cousin, perhaps?"

    The old horse Ebenezer gasped.

    "Bless you, no!" he exclaimed.

    "Then why does he grunt?"

    "Oh, that's just a way he has," said Ebenezer. "Some blacksmiths think it's stylish to grunt like that."

    By this time the white mare seemed to be in a pleasanter frame of mind. At least, she let the blacksmith nail a shoe on each of her feet without making any objection--except to switch her tail now and then. And just as the blacksmith finished with her a man came and led her away.

    "Now," said the blacksmith, "I'm ready to shoe the pony. And if he's as clever as he looks I shan't have a bit of trouble with him."

    When he heard that, Twinkleheels made up his mind that he would behave his best, no matter what happened.
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