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Jane Badger Books

Patricia Leitch: Cross Country Pony (eBook)

Patricia Leitch: Cross Country Pony (eBook)

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Cynically Harold regarded me, a gleam in his wicked little eyes. I was absolutely at his mercy. It was merely a question of what he decided to do with me.

Jinty and her sisters have set up a pets' holiday home. It's the only way they can think of to make enough money to buy their very own pony. When Harold turns up, they think their dreams have come true: a real life pony for them to look after, and they'll get paid for doing it.

Harold bucks. He objects to traffic. He hates gymkhanas. He far prefers life in a nice green field.

But there is one thing that Harold can do. Show him a cross country course and he is off.

Can Jinty persuade Harold that he can do just as well at gymkhanas as he can cross country?

This is a reprint of the 1960s original, and is one of Patricia Leitch's earlier books. If you like ponies with a mind of your own, then Harold is the pony for you.

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“How’s that?” asked Nick, sitting back and surveying her efforts. On the table in front of her was a square white card with a notice printed on it in green and black ink. It read:


We are the Misses. N.J. and P. Morton. I am Jinty and I am eleven years old. Nick, my elder sister, is thirteen, and Pip, my younger sister, is nine. We also have a brother, Timothy, commonly known as Spud, but he is only four.

Daddy is the Westonlie librarian and we have lived in Westonlie all our lives. Our house is old and built of grey stone. It is surrounded by a weedgrown garden and there is a field at the bottom of it. Until last winter life was bearable because even if we didn’t have a pony in our own field, we had a riding school at the end of the lane. We could only afford one ride a week but we spent all our free time helping Miss Harrison, the owner of the school. She was very decent, letting us exercise hunters in the winter and ride ponies bareback to their fields in the summer. Then last Christmas she got married to a steeplechase jockey. The riding school closed down leaving us ponyless and desolate.

‘I think you should make “ponies” stand out more,’ I suggested to Nick. ‘Put it first in huge letters and put “dogs” underneath in smaller letters.’

‘Don’t forget it’s the dogs we’re going to make all the money out of,’ Nick said.

‘I know, but do make “ponies” bigger. I couldn’t bear it if we didn’t get even one pony to exercise.’

With a groan Nick pushed the card to one side and started on her fourth attempt. She had smudged the first one half way through and on the second one the words were so crooked that Nick had abandoned it.

I sat on the edge of the table swinging my legs and trying to give silent moral support as Nick ruled the lines. The idea of a Pets’ Holiday Home had been Nick’s. ‘We’ll have other people’s ponies to ride during the summer holidays,’ she’d said. ‘And at the end of the holidays we’ll have made enough money to buy a pony of our own.’ Nick was nothing if not an optimist.

Daddy and Mummy hadn’t been very keen on the idea to begin with but they had agreed in the end. We weren’t going away for a summer holiday because everything cost so much and our dining-room carpet was in shreds. I think they decided that the Pets’ Holiday Home would be a good thing, to keep us from hanging around the house and moaning that we had nothing to do.

‘Headquarters in the shed, dog kennels in the garage?’ Mummy asked.

‘Absolutely,’ Nick assured her. ‘You won’t even know there’s a dog near you at all.’

‘The responsibility is all yours,’ Daddy said. ‘When the police come to collect you for breaking the law I shall wash my hands of you.’

We nodded. The responsibility was ours.

The notice looked much better this time. Nick had done it all in black except for ‘ponies’ which was in green ink, and the letters were big and clear.

‘No one could pass that without stopping,’ Nick said. ‘We’ll have a whole horde of ponies here once people see it.’

‘Don’t exaggerate,’ Pip said.

‘Well, one each,’ I said. ‘Perhaps you should be a commercial artist, Nick.’

‘Perhaps I should,’ Nick agreed, pushing back her chair and holding the notice at arm’s length in front of her.

‘Your,’ said Mummy, stopping to look at it, pointing to the second ‘your’. ‘Y-o-u-r not y-o-u’-r-e. And you’ve got it right twice so why did you change it there?’

‘Oh blow the beastly thing!’ Nick exclaimed. ‘Blow! Blow! Blow!’

But she did it again making ‘ponies’ even bigger and changing ‘you’re’ into ‘your’.

It was the first day of the holidays and seven glorious weeks of freedom stretched ahead of us, so we didn’t really mind when Mummy said, ‘Take Spud with you,’ as we trooped through the kitchen on our way down to Mrs Brown’s general stores.

‘Look,’ Spud said as we walked down the dusty road to the village, ‘Six sweeties.’ And he produced six boiled sweets, rather the worse for wear, from his pocket.

‘One each and three for Spud,’ Pip suggested.

‘No!’ exclaimed Spud, shocked. ‘Six for Spud. I’ve licked them.’

The shop bell jangled as we burst into Mrs Brown’s general stores. It was a dark little shop, crowded with sacks of potatoes, fancy boxes of biscuits and giant boxes of chocolates, which Mrs Brown dusted every Christmas but never sold; packets of soap powder jostled against baked beans and false teeth cleaners; everything was jumbled together and only Mrs Brown knew where anything was kept. At the sound of the bell she appeared from the back of the shop.

‘Well?’ she demanded gazing down at us. Mrs Brown is the hugest, roundest person I have ever seen. ‘And what do you want? I don’t suppose you’ve come to buy anything?’

‘No-o,’ Nick admitted. ‘Not exactly buy. You see, we’re starting a holiday home for pets and we wondered if you would put our notice in your window?’ And Nick produced our notice from behind her back.

‘Well I never!’ Mrs Brown threw up her hands in amazement. ‘A pets’ holiday home!’ she said as if we were starting a rest home for middle-aged elephants. ‘And what does your mother say about all this?’

‘She says it’s all right as long as we don’t bother her,’ Pip said smiling her angelic smile at Mrs Brown.

‘I don’t know who’d be fool enough to leave their pet in your tender care, indeed I don’t,’ Mrs Brown said after she had read our notice. ‘I wouldn’t dream of leaving Sooty with you.’ She looked lovingly at her plump black cat as he lay snoring on the counter, comfortably settled between the bacon slicing machine and a basket of ripe tomatoes.

Mrs Brown read our notice again and after assuring us that our mother didn’t know what she was letting herself in for, she opened the back of the shop window and propped our notice against the glass.

‘There,’ she said dusting her finger tips together. ‘That’s the best I can do for you.’

We thanked her and dashed outside to look at the notice. ‘Ponies’ stood out beautifully. Even from the other side of the street the green letters were quite clear.

‘We’d better get back home and start work on the kennels,’ I said. ‘Or we’ll be overwhelmed with dogs and have nowhere to put them.’

‘Where’s Spud?’ asked Pip just as he emerged from Mrs Brown’s.

‘She’s been giving him sweets again,’ I said enviously.
‘Look,’ said Spud, opening his clenched fists to reveal a horrid mess of squashed chocolate. ‘Sweeties, and you’re too late. I’ve squashed it.’

Just as we reached our gate Miss Crowther came out of hers. Miss Crowther is our next door neighbour. She is middle-aged with grey streaky hair but she still wears frilly, girlish clothes and high-heeled shoes which spike into the ground when she walks. Her mouth turns down at the corners as if she has just reached a very acidy bit in an acid drop. She doesn’t like us and we don’t like her. She is always running to Daddy with long tales of our wrong doings. Sometimes she stops and tells us that we are unwashed and untidy but today, to our relief, she only said, ‘Good morning, children,’ and teetered off towards the village.

‘D’you know,’ said Nick darkly, ‘Miss Crowther and the Pets’ Holiday Home are not going to agree. I can feel it in my bones.’

Page length: 104

Original publication date: 1965

Who's in the book?

Nick, Jinty, Pip and Spud Morton, Miss Crowther, Mrs Smalley-Smith
Harold, Sapphire, Klondyke

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