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Jane Badger Books

Christine Pullein-Thompson: The First Rosette (eBook)

Christine Pullein-Thompson: The First Rosette (eBook)

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David's family don't like horses. They think he should concentrate on school, because there's no future with horses for someone like him. But David is determined, and horses are somehow in his blood. He meets Pat, the Master's daughter, and they get on well, despite coming from completely different backgrounds.

David gets a reward he never expected after he does a good deed, and he learns more and more about horses. Perhaps one day he'll win that first rosette. 

This book was written in the 1950s, when hunting was legal.

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Read a sample

‘Horses is all he cares about. Horses, horses all day long. His grandfather was a coachman, that’s where he gets it from. He’s as different from the others as chalk from cheese. My eldest, he’s a head clerk, and young John’s just won a scholarship to Cambridge,’ Mrs. Smith said, smiling at the young doctor.

David lay in the small bed in a corner of the crowded room. ‘I can get up tomorrow,’ he thought, ‘that means I shall be able to go down to the riding school on Saturday.’ He saw himself riding bare-back across the common, with a breeze in his hair, feeling like a king. ‘Who wants to win scholarships if they can ride?’ he thought.

‘Well, look after yourself, David,’ the young doctor said, smiling at him across the room. ‘No more tummy upsets. Goodbye, Mrs. Smith.’

David looked round the room which he shared with his brother. ‘One day I shall win a cup,’ he thought, ‘and it will stand on the mantelpiece over there.’

He was small and dark with a forelock which always seemed to be dangling over one eye. He had earnest brown eyes, and a firm, determined chin. He was ten and had just failed an examination for the local grammar school. He didn’t mind, but his mother did. She liked to think that her children were bettering themselves. There were four of them, Michael, John, David and Susan. David was the youngest. Susan was training to be a secretary, Michael was married, John was going to Cambridge. They were all tall and fair; only David was small and dark. Mr. Smith drove a delivery van. They lived in a red brick cottage five miles from Oxford.
‘So you’ll be all right now,’ Mrs. Smith said, smiling at David. She was tall and well-built, perpetually in an overall with a handkerchief tucked in her cardigan sleeve.

‘Yes, I shall go down to the riding school on Saturday,’ David said.

‘Oh, you and that riding school,’ Mrs. Smith replied. ‘You should attend more to your books. You’ll never get anywhere in the world riding horses.’

‘What about Gordon Richards?’ David asked. ‘One day I shall be on television; you wait. Everyone will say, “look, there’s David Smith.”’

‘Go on with you,’ Mrs. Smith replied, tucking in his bed-clothes. ‘More likely you’ll be delivering fish like your Dad.’


David rose early on Saturday. It was April, and all the birds in the world seemed to be singing outside his window. He dressed quickly in dungarees and a jersey and tough working boots. He had to hurry; the girls from the riding school would be collecting the ponies tethered on the common at eight. Mrs. Smith was already up. She pressed a sandwich into his hand. ‘And here’s a shilling for your lunch,’ she said.

Outside the air smelt warm and wet. A mist still hung over Oxfordshire. David hurried in the direction of the common.

He was in plenty of time. The ponies were grazing peacefully. There was no sign of the girls. He always called them the girls, though he knew their names—Marian, Clarissa and Betty. The first few times he had gone to the riding school to help he had addressed them as Miss, but Marian, who was slim and dark, had said, ‘Please not Miss. Call us by our Christian names. Everyone does.’

Now David went round the ponies patting each in turn. There were ten altogether; lovely, grey Mercury, bay Crusader, black Midnight, little Dartmoor Wistful, and Winsome, Bruno, Darkie, Carnation, Ladybird and Cassius. David liked Wistful best.

The girls arrived plus two helpers, Roger and Shirley. ‘Hullo, David,’ they called. ‘You made it then.’

Clarissa was large and fair with her hair tied back; Betty was plump and small with nut-brown hair. Marian was seventeen; the other two were older.

‘You’d better ride Wistful,’ Clarissa told David. ‘Do you think you can untie her all right?’

‘Sure,’ David said.

They all rode home together along the road. The sun came out and dried the grass and hedges. Wistful was marvellous and watching her neat brown ears, David tried to remember all the things he had been told—toes up, heels down, look straight in front of you, keep your tummy in. The others chattered gaily with one another. Clarissa had been to a dance. Roger had been caned by the Head. David didn’t really listen. He didn’t really belong in their world. He was quite happy in his own world of dreams.

That’s how it all began for David. He fetched the ponies down from the common every morning throughout the summer; and sometimes, when a pupil didn’t turn up or there was a pony to spare, the girls gave him a free lesson. In exchange he cleaned tack, mucked out stables, groomed endlessly. He never really felt that he belonged; but he stayed a solitary determined figure who was certain that one day he would become a great rider.
In August he jumped for the first time and fell off for the fiftieth. He was always falling off. But he never seemed to mind. In September, Betty presented him with a crash cap and a pair of outgrown jodhpurs. He tried on the hat and it fitted perfectly and he thought ‘Perhaps one day I’ll be a huntsman.’

In November when David was just eleven, hounds met in the village on the green. David rose at dawn that morning and helped groom and plait the riding school ponies. His mother had given him a boiled egg and sandwiches for lunch and he meant to follow all day on foot. A small girl called Merry was riding Wistful and David spent hours polishing Wistful’s black legs and her dark bay coat. He had on his jodhpurs and a jersey his mother had knitted for him. Betty had lent him a book on hunting called Ratcatcher to Scarlet by Cecil Aldin. He had read it from cover to cover. He had practised view holloas until his father had said, ‘For pity’s sake stop that yelling, David. Whatever’s come over you?’ He was terrified of heading the fox, and he was terribly excited; but there was nothing to tell him that the day was to be one of the most important in his life.

Page length: 174

Original publication date: 1956

Who's in the book?

Humans: David Smith, Mr and Mrs Smith, Pat Lewisham, Colonel Lewisham, Mrs Lewisham, Bert, Mr Austin
Equines: Mistletoe, Sinbad, Folly

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