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CHAPTER XI The Pet Horse
 HOW impossible Father was to understand! Why couldn’t he decide about the little horse that Carlstrom had said “the young gentleman” might ride? Johnny Blossom had been out to the Kingthorpe stables a number of times to see the horse. My, oh, my! but it was a beauty! It was small and trim, dun-colored, with black mane; and oh, how swiftly and it could run on those slender legs! No, Father could have no idea how it was that Carlstrom had offered to let him ride—and such a horse as that!  
However, one morning in the first week of vacation, Father said: “You may begin to ride now, John. I had a talk with Carlstrom yesterday.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“I do not need to say that you must be kind to the horse and do exactly as Carlstrom says.”
“Of course. I’m going now.” And Johnny Blossom ran at topmost speed, so as not to lose a second’s time in getting out to the little yellow horse.
Carlstrom was kind.
“We could have sent the horse in to the young gentleman,” he said, with extreme politeness.
“Let the horse go away into town just for me!” said Johnny, amazed. “Oh, no. It is better that I should run out here. I ran like the wind.”
Oh, what joy it was to ride! It was like having wings and flying through the air! Carlstrom showed him just how to hold the and to sit on the horse; and the little horse and John rose in the saddle, and his face shone.
“Thank you very much.” He bowed low to Carlstrom when at last he must go home.
After this, the moment he had swallowed his breakfast, off he would run to Kingthorpe; come home at noon, eat his dinner, and run straight out there again.
Father said it was best he should not ride in the town, but only out near Kingthorpe. Naturally, however, it was not long before the boys knew that Johnny Blossom, every single day, trotted around Kingthorpe on a beautiful horse; and of course the boys flocked out to Kingthorpe. They sat by the big pine tree and waited until Johnny Blossom came riding along. It was great fun for him when they around him, exclaiming over everything, while he sat in the saddle, whip in hand.
Even the great big boys of the Fourth Class came. Otto Holm himself, who wore a stiff hat and carried a , sat and waited to see him, little Johnny Blossom! By and by it came about that they asked if they might not ride, just a little way—Otto Holm and Peter Prytz and Gunnar Olsen, and it was too embarrassing to say no to such great big fellows.
“If you want to play ball with us in the afternoons, you may,” said Otto.
Indeed Johnny Blossom wanted to! He had hung over the fence day after day, looking at the big boys, who played in their shirt sleeves and without caps, and looked so . And these boys were asking him to play with them! Of course they must ride, they were so very friendly to him. It made him feel quite grand, too, to be the one to decide whether they should ride or not.
“It isn’t worth while for you to say anything at home about our riding,” said Otto. Oh, no! Johnny wouldn’t say anything.
Day after day he found the group of big boys waiting for him. They did not embarrass him now by asking for rides, but took his permission so for granted that he himself had scarcely any chance to ride. However, it was interesting, because it was his horse, after all, and they kept appealing to him.
“Isn’t it my turn now, Johnny Blossom?”
“He’s mean, he is. It’s mine!”
“Are you crazy? He rode only yesterday, John.”
“Oh, John! Tell him to get off and let me ride!”
“Don’t you do it! It’s really my turn.”
My, oh, my! How exciting it was!
Bob—that was the horse’s name—knew Johnny whenever he went into the stable; there was no doubt about that, for the little horse would turn around in his stall and whinny at the sound of the boy’s step or voice. Of course Johnny always had sugar for him and brushed his pretty coat for him every day—dear, cunning little Bob!
One day Otto Holm proposed that they should see who could ride most quickly over a certain distance. Otto, who of course had a watch, should manage the starting; and Peter Prytz should be timekeeper at the turning point; and the time was to be kept , even to the seconds, exactly as in real races. They all thought Otto’s idea a fine one, but again they said to Johnny, “Now don’t go and tattle about this at home, for then all the fun would be over.”
Oh, no, Johnny would tell nothing. Great sport this race was going to be for him, because of course he would ride the swiftest of all, being the most accustomed to riding. The boys several days to practising for the great race which was to come off on Saturday.
The weather that day was damp and close, and the roads were very muddy because it had rained hard through the night; but all the boys were assembled at the big pine tree when Johnny Blossom rode up. They cast lots to determine the order in which they should ride. Otto had a notebook and pencil and wrote the names. Johnny Blossom’s, to his disgust, came last of all.
Otto rode first. He snapped the whip and off, making the mud fly in every direction. There was much disputing among the waiting boys as to whether he started at three or four seconds after eleven.
Why! There he was back again. “Six minutes and eight seconds going,” he shouted, “and eight minutes and one second coming back!”
The others went each in turn, all making fine speed. Johnny Blossom gave Bob two lumps of sugar after every trip.
Finally, it was Johnny’s turn. “You are really too little to ride properly,” said Otto. “We’ll allow you double time.”
Too little! Were they crazy? Indeed he wouldn’t have double time. He would ride better than any of them, he would. Who was it owned the horse? He would show them who could ride best; and he struck Bob sharply. “Away with you, Bob! Faster! Faster!”
But Bob was so queer today. And he breathed so stra............
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