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    Chapter 22

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    Chapter 22
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    THE CIRCUS RIDER



    The next afternoon, when Johnnie went to the pasture with old dog Spot to drive the cows home, he climbed a tree--not that climbing a tree helped in any way to get the cows into the lane!

    Just for the moment Johnnie was a sailor--in his mind's eye. He went up aloft to watch for a desert island, where pirate gold was hidden. And circus riding would never have entered his head had not Twinkleheels, who had been grazing in the pasture, come and stood under the tree into which his young master had climbed.

    When Johnnie came down out of the rigging of his ship--or when he slipped down through the branches of the tree--Twinkleheels stood just beneath the lowest limb. Johnnie Green swung off it, hung by his arms for a moment, and then dropped astride of Twinkleheels' back.

    It may have been because old dog Spot let out a delighted yelp at that instant. It may have been that Twinkleheels hadn't expected Johnnie to mount him in that unusual fashion. Anyhow, he gave one jump and then stood up on his hind legs.

    Johnnie Green didn't even have time to grab at Twinkleheels' mane. He slid off Twinkleheels' back and struck the ground with a dull thud.

    For a few moments he lay there, unable to breathe. Then he struggled to his feet and ran round and round in a circle, doubled up and groaning. There was a strange, strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He feared he would never be able to get his breath again.

    Twinkleheels paid no heed to him, but nibbled at choice clumps of grass and clover quite as if nothing had happened.

    Old dog Spot, however, seemed to think that Johnnie Green was having a good time and enjoying himself thoroughly. Spot capered about him, barking furiously.

    "Don't!" Johnnie managed to gasp. "Don't laugh, Spot! I'm terribly hurt. I don't believe I'll ever get well again."

    But in a few moments he succeeded in drawing a long, deep breath. He lay down upon the ground then and drew another and another and another. Already he began to feel better. And soon he stood up gingerly and felt of himself all over. To his great surprise, nothing seemed to be broken except his suspenders.

    Old Spot came up and put his paws against Johnnie and barked.

    "Let's have a good romp!" he begged. Or at least that was what Johnnie understood him to say.

    "No, Spot!" Johnnie answered. "Not now! I don't feel like running. You wouldn't, either, if you had just had the breath knocked out of you."

    Then Johnnie went soberly about the business of driving the cows home. At last he got them all started down the lane, put up the bars, and followed them.

    As he reached the barn Johnnie looked up curiously at the pictures of circus riders in pink tights gayly disporting themselves on the backs of dappled gray horses.

    "Humph!" he muttered. "I don't believe that's half the fun I always thought it was."
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