The pony stood in his pen, mournfully gazing at the ramshackle house on the other side of the muddy and weed choked yard. It had been a long time since he had had anything to eat, and he was very hungry. But he was patient. Maybe today there would be something. It had rained in the night, and even though he was now soaking wet and cold, at least now he had water to drink.
There was a commotion on the other side of the house and he saw the curel man who lived there coming around the corner towards him. The pony flinched involuntarily. Was he coming to shout at him and perhaps to strike him, as he often did, or would he today have something for him to eat?
Two others were with him; one of the small people and a large round man who spoke loudly but did not sound angry like the cruel man usually did. The cruel man was talking and laughing in an unpleasant voice as they approached. The pony's ears always hurt when he heard that voice. He moved away from the cruel man slightly, who struck him angrily. The small person pushed in front of the cruel man and began looking over the pony carefully. He seemed worried, and was shaking his head. He gave him a little pat, as if to comfort him after the blow -- that was nice, thought the pony. The small one looked at the round one and shrugged, then gave a nod. The round person began to argue with the cruel man, but after a bit, he sighed heavily and dug in his pocket. He gave the cruel man a lot of shiny metal things, shaking his head the whole time. The cruel man laughed again and slapped the pony hard on his rump and walked away. The pony was relieved to see him go.
The small person took out a rope and tied it around the pony's neck and the two of them led him away. The pony followed meekly; he wondered what was happening, but he was happy to go with these people. Maybe he would not have to see the cruel man again.
The pony was taken through the streets of the town to the yard of the inn. There, standing about, was another group of people. One was a man, taller than the cruel man, and with a face that looked stern, but kind. There were more of the small ones, and they had packs and bags with them. The large round person started making a lot of noise and gestured towards the pony. He dug in his pocket again and gave more of the metal things to one of the little people. That one tried to stop him, but the round man insisted. The pony had been startled by the man's loudness and constant chatter, and he began to shiver. He wondered if this man would hit him, too.
One of the small people stepped forward quickly and taking the rope in his hand, he patted the pony on the nose, all the while speaking in a soothing voice.
This one had a kind face, thought the pony; his voice was very nice! It made him feel much calmer. He liked this person. He nuzzled him hesitantly, hoping that this one would not suddenly change and do cruel things.
The small one laughed -- but it was a pleasant sound, not an angry sound -- and ran his hand over the pony's neck. From out of his pocket he took an apple and gave it to the pony. Oh, joy! His favorite thing to eat! He munched contentedly and gazed with love at the new small one who continued to pat him comfortingly. He listened to the others speaking, though he did not know what the sounds meant.
"Well, he does not look like he will be dying just yet!"
"But he's so thin! Will he be able to carry anything at all?"
"He'll do!" That was his nice one speaking. "I'll see to that! He'll be right as rain in next to no time, won't you, Bill?"
"Bill! What kind of name is that!?"
"That's his name, he as good as told me, didn't you, Bill? Come on, then, let's get you cleaned up a bit and presentable, and then we'll go for a bit of a walk.
You'll like that, won't you, Bill? And a bit of something more to eat for you, I think."
Bill the pony sighed with contentment as he was led away. He somehow knew that things were going to be different from now on. He did not know where they were going, but he sensed that wherever it was he and the kind small one would be together and that was fine. He'd do his best to make this nice one happy -- they were going to be great friends, he could tell.