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Jane Badger Books

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Plenty of Ponies (eBook)

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Plenty of Ponies (eBook)

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The Esmond children have everything they ever wanted. They have a pony each, a lovely house, boats ... but has it done them any good?

They were nicer people when they didn't have much money, thinks Lewis, the oldest of the family. Even the commissioner of the Pony Club doesn't think much of them. Can they change? Ride their ponies better? Stop quarellling? At first it seems that nothing they do will work.

This is one of Josephine Pullein-Thompson's earliest novels. It was printed in 1949, when hunting was legal.

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“I’ve never known such a family of selfish, quarrelling, bad-mannered children. I’m disgusted with the lot of you,” finished Professor Esmond. He stood for a moment glaring at his children who were standing sheepishly by the library door. He was a tall, thin man, always quite an imposing figure, thought Lewis, but when he was angry he positively towered. He wasn’t one of those fathers who grow red and shout when their children annoy them.

There was nothing about his anger that you could laugh at, he never raised his voice and everything he said was horribly true, at least Lewis thought so, though he wished that it wasn’t. Thank goodness that’s over; we haven’t had such a row for ages, thought Paul, stifling a yawn. Charlotte was looking at her feet and wondering whether her father was right; had living at Waywards House and having ponies and boats and practically everything that they had ever wished for made them into nastier people? She hoped not, but, she thought, we do seem to have quarrelled a lot lately; more perhaps than we did at the cottage. Julian, the youngest of the Esmonds, decided that however undignified it was to cry he couldn’t prevent himself a moment longer and searched his pockets feverishly for a handkerchief. Tina had started to cry at the very beginning of the row and Professor Esmond’s lecture had been punctuated by sniffs, but then she could not help it; she always cried very easily and when everything was beastly she always thought that it would never be right again.

“Can we go?” asked Paul, feeling that the atmosphere was growing unbearably solemn.

“Yes,” answered the professor, looking at his watch, “it’s almost time for lunch; you had better tidy yourselves.”

The children hurried out of the room with a feeling of relief. “Gosh,” said Paul, as soon as they were out of their father’s hearing, “what a row!”

His flippant tone annoyed Lewis, who felt that this had not just been an ordinary lecture over table manners or being untidy. Their parents, he thought, weren’t fussy; they didn’t make mountains out of molehills and, though he didn’t want to believe it, if they really thought that their children were becoming foul, it was frightful; because no one wants to be disliked by their parents, at least not if they have decent ones. “Shut up,” he said to Paul. “It’s not funny.”

“I didn’t say it was,” answered Paul. “But you can’t expect me to go about looking as though I’ve just been to a funeral; we all know that it’s your usual expression.”

“No,” said Lewis, “you prefer to rush about grinning like a half-witted ape and, as you think that you’re perfect, it’s a waste of time to suggest that you should alter your expression.”

“I’d much rather look like an ape than like you,” said Paul.

“Oh, do shut up,” said Charlotte. “You’ve started quarrelling again already.”

Realising that this was true, Lewis curbed his desire to hit Paul and ran upstairs to his room. He didn’t wash for lunch but stood with his hands in his pockets looking out across the bleak, frozen garden to the red roofs of the stables and wondering why he found Paul so irritating. Were younger brothers always irritating, he wondered, or was it just that Paul was better than him at so many things?

Tina and Julian didn’t wash for lunch either; they sat on the attic stairs discussing the row. “It was awful,” said Julian. “Much worse than rows at school.”

“Of course,” said Tina, “school rows are always over such pointless things, breaking a few senseless rules or eating sweets when you shouldn’t; nobody cares about them, but this is quite different. It’s frightful if we really are becoming horrid, spoiled, snivelling children—the sort that we’ve always despised. But I don’t believe that we are.” She asked suddenly after a pause, “Do you?”

“Well,” said Julian, “you do make rather a babyish fuss sometimes, over squashed things and earwigs and thunderstorms.”

“Oh, I don’t,” said Tina. “At least, not much. Anyway,” she went on, “you can’t talk; look what a fuss you made this morning at breakfast, just because your egg wasn’t done enough.”

“Ugh,” said Julian, screwing up his face at the memory of the egg, “it was sloppy; it made me feel sick.”

“Well, Mummy said that you were a fusspot,” said Tina.

“She says that you’re a baby,” said Julian, “and I’d rather be a fusspot than a baby.”

“I wouldn’t,” replied Tina. “You grow out of being babyish but fusspots get worse and worse. Charlotte says that you’re like an old gentleman now,” she added, “so what you’ll be like by the time you’re forty, I really don’t know.”

“By that time,” answered Julian, “I shall have a house of my own and I shall never eat sloppy eggs or fat or fish.”

Page length: 182

Original publication date: 1949

Who's in the book?

Human: the Esmonds (Lewis, Charlotte, Paul, Tina, Julian, Professor Edmond, Mrs Edmond), Maddo and Francine, Arthur Freeman, Colonel Howard
Equine: Solomon, The Turk, October, Frosty, Delight, Jackanapes

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