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Chapter 20

A Fast Ride

For once Mrs. Robin had reason to complain that her husband did not do his share of the work. Jolly Robin would spend most of his time at the further end of the orchard, talking with "that good-for-nothing Major Monkey," to use Mrs. Robin's own words.

Whenever she flew over to speak to her husband, the Major was most polite to her, never failing to take off his cap and ask after her health. But Mrs. Robin had little to say to him. She had, however, a great deal to say to Jolly Robin. But no matter how much she urged him to stop idling and come home and help her look after their big family, Jolly insisted that he and the Major "had business to attend to."

At last, when Mrs. Robin gave up in despair, Jolly began to feel somewhat uncomfortable. And he tried to get Major Monkey to go and ask old dog Spot to come to the orchard, instead of waiting there uncertainly for days and days.

But Major Monkey would not consent to such a move. He was quite firm.

"I don't want to ask old Spot to give me a ride," he explained.

"Then how do you ever expect to get one?" Jolly asked him anxiously.

"Oh, there's a way!" was the Major's mysterious reply. And that was all he would say.

The longer Jolly Robin waited to see the fun, the more excited he became, and the more Major Monkey seemed to enjoy himself.

"Old dog Spot ought to be here soon," the Major kept saying. "I can see him now. No! I'm mistaken."

Jolly Robin had so many disappointments that one morning when the Major cried out that at last old Spot was actually crawling through the fence, and would be in the orchard in about a minute and a half, Jolly couldn't believe him.

It was true, nevertheless. To Jolly's delight, old dog Spot came darting in and out among the apple trees, with his nose close to the ground. He was following a trail made by Tommy Fox, who had visited the henhouse the night before. And he was so intent on what he was doing that never once did he glance up into the apple trees, where Major Monkey and Jolly Robin were watching him.

Major Monkey dropped quickly down to a low-hanging limb. And as luck had it, Tommy Fox's trail led old dog Spot right under the tree where the Major waited, hanging gracefully by his tail and one hand.

As old Spot passed below him, Major Monkey loosened his hold on the limb and dropped squarely upon old Spot's back.

The moment he landed, the Major dug his fingers into Spot's long fur and hung on grimly. And at the same instant old dog Spot leaped high into the air and let out a frenzied yelp.

Jolly Robin was glad that his wife was not present, for he knew that the sight, and the sound too, could not have failed to terrify her.

Old Spot seemed almost out of his mind. For a few moments the poor fellow tore about the orchard in wide circles, hoping in vain that he might shake that strange load off his back.

But he soon saw that his rider clung to him like a burr. And wheeling suddenly, Spot shot like a streak out of the orchard and flew across the meadow.

Just before he disappeared behind a high knoll Major Monkey turned his face over his shoulder and looked behind. Then, holding on with one hand, with the either he waved his red cap at Jolly Robin.

The next moment Jolly saw the Major and his strange steed no more.

"They headed straight for the river!" Jolly exclaimed. And he felt so worried about his friend the Major that though he went home at once, his wife complained that his mind wasn't on his work and that he was more bother than help to her.

Some time later Major Monkey limped back to his home in the haystack, dripping wet. His fine coat was torn. And he had lost his red cap.

When Jolly Robin saw him he asked the Major if he had had a good ride.

"Well," said Major Monkey, "it was a good one; but it was too fast. If I started to travel south on old dog Spot's back I'd reach my journey's end before you had gone half way."

"Dear me!" said Jolly Robin. "Then we can't travel together after all."

Arthur Scott Bailey

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