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Jane Badger Books

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Mystery on the Moor (eBook) Moors 6

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Mystery on the Moor (eBook) Moors 6

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The moors are being stalked by a new enemy: rabies.

Somehow the disease is getting into the country, despite the quarantine regulations.

There are changes too. Menacoell has now been refurbished and the children can’t use it to camp out any more. They’re not even allowed to ride near it because it enrages Mr Bates, the new owner.

Angela is back on the moor, staying with the less-than-keen Sukey, and there is also the infuriating Jess, determined to gallop everywhere no matter what.

Why is Mr Bates so keen no one goes near his cottage? What does he have to hide?

Moors book 6

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‘It’s lovely to be back, really lovely,’ said Angela Fletcher, looking across the concreted yard of Church Farm to North Moor where the great green hump of Penkevil and the stern, craggy heights of Menacoell rise from a waste of heather. ‘And it’s gorgeous to see the ponies, darling Bingo.’

She hugged my brown gelding and then rushed on to Chris’s sturdy dun, Joey. They were both tied to rings in the stable wall, for we’d been grooming when Angela arrived.

‘Don’t they smell delicious, so lovely and warm and cuddly after beastly boats.’

‘You didn’t have to sail in the Christmas holidays, surely?’ asked Chris.

‘No, not sail, but you know what my family are like. They spend weeks scraping and painting horrible hulls, checking sails and sheets, polishing and mending. Now Seaspray’s perfect, the dinghy’s perfect and the rubber dinghy’s perfect and they’re all putting to sea on the evening tide. I’m so glad that Rob and Ian are crewing and that I don’t have to go. It’s going to be lovely staying with you.’

I looked at Angela who, wearing a yellow sailing mac over her jodhs, seemed even more square-shaped and solidly built than usual. Her pink face was square too and framed by straight black hair square-cut with a fringe. She was OK, I liked her really, I told myself, but the words I knew I ought to say, that it was lovely to have her to stay, stuck in my throat. When Mrs Fletcher had written asking us to have Angela as an official paying guest, the rest of the family had been in favour. Mum had said that it would be nice for me and that the cash would help with the mortgage, but they didn’t have to share with Angela, be her best friend, lend her their possessions, have her sleeping in their rooms. I did, and I had learned from experience that she wasn’t good at sharing; she was one of those people who take over.
‘We’d better finish grooming,’ I said. ‘Mum’s coming home the moment the small animal surgery ends. She’s got to inject some cows on a farm near Tolbay, so she’ll drop you at the Hamiltons to collect Patchy on the way and we’re meant to be riding over to meet you.’

‘Can’t I ride over to Penhydroc?’ pleaded Angela. ‘You’ve both spent the whole winter riding while I’ve been cleaning beastly boats.’

‘No you can’t.’ Chris sounded very firm. ‘They’re our ponies, and as we’ve only just broken up, we want to ride them; Patchy is yours.’

Angela made a disappointed moaning noise which made me feel guilty.

‘Mum said you shouldn’t ride for too long on your first day,’ I told her. ‘You don’t want to be stiff.’

‘Oh all right. I’ll wait then,’ Angela agreed grumpily.

‘Where are the dogs? They’ll keep me company until your mother comes.’

‘In the kitchen, pressed against the Aga,’ answered Chris. ‘They haven’t noticed that the rain’s stopped.’
‘Don’t let them both out at once or they’ll go off hunting,’ I told her. ‘And with lambing in full swing the farmers are inclined to shoot wandering dogs on sight.’

Angela picked up her case and went off towards the house, and I saddled and then bridled Bingo. He’s thirteen-two, a rich chocolate brown with a white face which goes over both his eyes and gives him a slightly goofy look. He wasn’t much good when we first had him, he’d been half-starved in his youth and looked very weedy and weak, but nine months of good feeding had made a tremendous difference: the muscles of his neck and quarters had developed, he carried his head higher and his eyes were bright.

Joey, who belongs to Chris, is only twelve-two, a yellow dun with a donkey stripe and black points. Dad got him very cheap because he was so badly behaved, he bit and was dreadfully obstinate and nappy. When we first had him he was awful, we couldn’t control him at all, but the Burnetts helped us to re-train him and now he’s a reformed character.

Chris and I are quite alike, both fairly small and light with pale fair hair, brown eyes, small faces, and noses and mouths of matching size. We used to look a bit wishy-washy and people thought we were weaklings, but living on the moor has changed us.

We waved goodbye to Angela, who was looking out of my bedroom window, as we set off along the road. We rode through Marstow, past the dull little church, the plain stone cottages, and then trotted on to the much prettier village of St Clarus with its beautiful old church, besieged all summer by hordes of tourists. But the antique and cream tea shops still had their CLOSED notices up—they were waiting until Easter to open. We crossed the main road and rode on along the narrow one which runs beside the estuary and is often half flooded at high tide. Now we were in a different world, a world of water, bobbing boats and swooping seagulls, instead of our usual one of heather, rocks and mournful curlews.
When we came to the tiny ancient church of St Nechtan (the moor is covered in churches, mostly named after even more ancient Celtic saints) we took the bridle path which leads through the large fertile fields reclaimed from the old marshlands, and on to Middle Moor. We cantered along the path until we came to a deep muddy patch made by the Chilmarth cows. Then we walked, wading and sploshing, till we had crossed the track which leads to the farmyard, and came to dry land again and the gate to the moor.

‘You open it,’ I said to Chris, making way for him on the path. ‘Bingo’s so dim about gates it’ll take me hours.’
‘You should school him.’ Chris and Joey both had superior expressions on their faces as they opened the gate neatly.

‘He’s better than he used to be, he can do it now, but he hasn’t a natural aptitude; it’s like being hopeless at gym or maths,’ I explained.

It was lovely on Middle Moor. A gentle west wind was blowing, warm and balmy, full of the fresh, damp, green smells of spring. The sheep which had already lambed were back on the moor, grazing intently on the patches of new grass among the heather, while their stout, white woolly lambs skipped round them, baaing ceaselessly. A herd of ponies, with three gangling, long-legged foals, was hurrying single file along one of the narrow paths, heading for the Chilmarth woods. Lapwings were calling on the farmland, a sad-crying curlew wheeled over the moor, a lark soared into the sky above our heads.
‘Let’s canter,’ said Chris, taking the narrow twisting path which would lead us to the Penhydroc track. When we reached the track, wide and grassy, we galloped. The ponies, their necks outstretched, their black manes flying, seemed to enjoy their speed as much as we did.
They didn’t race, but hurtled side by side until we pulled them up, puffing but excited, beside the Hamiltons’ slip rails.

‘Great,’ said Chris, patting Joey lovingly.

‘Do you think we can jump in?’ I asked. ‘It saves going round by the road. Do you think they’ll mind?’

Chris leaned over and dropped the top slip rail. ‘No,’ he answered, ‘we went in this way last holidays.’
The ponies jumped willingly. I dismounted to put the top rail back before we cantered down into the valley and then up to the stables. Huw and Danny were waiting for us, sitting on the low wall between the stable yard and the vegetable garden. Three bridled heads, brown, black and skewbald, neighed welcomes over the loose box doors.

‘We’re all ready, I’ve even groomed dirty old Patch, though I must admit his white areas aren’t very brilliant,’ Huw told us cheerfully. ‘Danny and I thought we’d ride back with you.’

‘Who’s riding Crackers then?’ I asked.

‘Me. Toby’s lent him to me while he’s away,’ explained Danny.

I was surprised, because though Danny rides quite well and has helped the Jacksons to break and school quite a few of their little ponies, he’s very thin and light and only months older than Chris and Huw. I couldn’t see him controlling Crackers, who is a strong and self-willed pony of fourteen-two.

‘My mother won’t let me ride on the moor alone, it’s her idea,’ Huw explained. ‘Danny and I are supposed to be inseparable, sort of Siamese twins.’

‘We were doing all right until we had these drippy kids dumped on us,’ complained Danny angrily, ‘I don’t know that I’m going to be able to stop him if they go charging off.’

‘What drippy kids?’ asked Chris.

‘Mrs Hathaway’s great-grandchildren. Jessica and Georgina.’ Danny pronounced their names in a mocking voice. ‘They arrived last night. Both their parents are working, the au pair has let them down, and they can’t be left alone all day in a London flat. So they’re dumped on us. Poor old Mrs Hathaway can’t cope. She’s over eighty and nearly blind so Mum and I have taken them on. But Mum works, she’s assistant manageress of the hotel in Tolbay now, so it’s me who gets landed with them, all day and every day, worse luck.’ He scowled and his brown, tanned face, surrounded by a mop of curly black hair, looked very ferocious.

‘How old are they?’ asked Chris calmly.

‘Ten and twelve.’

‘That’s not too bad.’

‘It would be OK if we could get them suitable ponies, but they’ve left it so late. Unless some of the Jackson trekkers cancel at the last minute we haven’t a hope of getting a pony, much less one of the good ones. We’re on our way to Black Tor Farm now.’

Page length: 120

Original publication date: 1984

Who's in the book?

Humans: Sukey and Chris Ashworth, Huw Hamilton, Angela Fletcher, Danny, Mick and Heather Jackson, Jess and Georgina

Equines: Snowman, Patchy, Joey, Bingo, Crackers, Russet

Other titles published as

Series order

1. Star-riders of the Moor
2. Fear Treks the Moor
3. Ride to the Rescue
4. Ghost Horse on the Moor
5. Treasure on the Moor
6. Mystery on the Moor
7. Suspicion Stalks the Moor

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