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Chapter 19

The Major's Scheme

"I never can run a thousand miles through the tree-tops," Major Monkey told Jolly Robin in a tone of great disappointment. "I don't see how I can spend the winter in the South; and I certainly don't want to stay here, if it's as cold as you say." The poor Major looked so glum that Jolly Robin was sorry for him.

"Can't you get a ride?" he asked.

"I could ride a horse, if I had one," Major Monkey replied.

"That's not a bad idea," Jolly Robin said. "But I'm afraid you'd have trouble finding a horse. Farmer Green would scarcely care to spare one of his horses for so long a trip."

"Well, I could ride a dog," said Major Monkey. "There's that dog at the farmhouse--old Spot, as you call him. Surely Farmer Green wouldn't mind if I rode him away, for he's nothing but a nuisance."

"Why don't you ask Farmer Green?" Jolly Robin suggested.

But Major Monkey shook his head.

"No!" he said. "No! I don't want to do that yet. Before I speak to Farmer Green I prefer to make sure that old dog Spot is easy to ride on."

Jolly Robin looked puzzled. His mouth fell open. And for a few moments he stared at Major Monkey without saying a word.

When he finally spoke, it was to ask Major Monkey how he was going to find out what he wanted to know about old dog Spot.

"There's only one way," said Major Monkey. "There's only one way; and that's to ride him and see."

Jolly Robin thought what a bold fellow Major Monkey was. He entirely forgot the Major's flight from the picnic grove. Riding a dog was such a feat as Jolly Robin himself would never, never attempt. And he was sure that if Major Monkey really undertook it there could be no doubt of his bravery.

"How do you know"--Jolly asked the Major timidly--"how do you know that old dog Spot will let you ride him?"

"Don't you worry about that!" Major Monkey cried lightly, as he swaggered along a limb of the apple tree where they were talking. "Leave that to me."

And Jolly Robin thought what a stout heart beat beneath Major Monkey's red coat, and how fine it was to be one of his friends.

"I should like to see you when you first ride old Spot," said Jolly Robin.

"Delighted, I'm sure!" Major Monkey cried.

"And I hope you've no objection to my bringing my wife along, too."

Major Monkey was not so sure that he would care to have Mrs. Robin for an onlooker.

"Women are likely to be timid," he remarked. "They sometimes scream at the wrong time. And if your wife happened to cry out just as I was about to drop on old Spot's back, he might jump. And that would spoil everything."

Jolly Robin decided that Major Monkey knew best.

"We'll keep this affair a secret," he whispered.

The Major nodded.

"And now"--Jolly Robin asked him--"now where and when are you going to ride old Spot?"

Shutting his eyes tightly, Major Monkey wrinkled his low forehead until Jolly Robin began to fear that he was in great pain.

"Are you ill?" Jolly asked him.

"No!" said the Major. "I was only thinking. And it seems to me that the other end of the orchard, toward the farmhouse, would be the best place to begin my ride.... As for the time," he added, "that will be when old Spot happens to come that way."

"I'll be there, whenever that may be," Jolly Robin assured him.

Arthur Scott Bailey

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