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Jane Badger Books

Ruby Ferguson: Jill and the Perfect Pony (eBook)

Ruby Ferguson: Jill and the Perfect Pony (eBook)

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Amanda Applewood is not particularly keen on riding, and she's certainly not keen on using up her valuable holidays joining the Lockett family for a riding competition. Jill, on the other hand, would love it. Amanda suggests Jill take her place, on her perfect pony, Plum. It seems like utter heaven to Jill, until she arrives at the Locketts' and finds Amanda hasn't actually told them Jill is going in her place ... They think she's Amanda. And they don't like Amanda. Jill is so furious with Amanda she decides she'll pretend to be her and make sure the Locketts carry on not liking Amanda.

Not only does Jill have the Locketts to contend with, she also has to get used to Plum, whom she's never ridden before, and compete with the Locketts in just two weeks' time.

Originally published in 1959, and out of print for over 30 years, this edition uses the first edition text.

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THERE was a girl living near us with a perfect pony, called Amanda Applewood. I mean the girl, not the pony. The pony’s name was Plum, which I consider not only an insult but a very poor effort on the part of anybody who personally rejoices in such a mouthful as Amanda Applewood.

I had never seen Amanda ride, but Plum was a sort of legend in our neighbourhood. She was said to be fabulous, and never to put a foot wrong. None of us really knew Amanda, because she didn’t belong to our crowd. She learnt her riding at school, where she went as a weekly boarder. Plum had been selected and bought for her by her father—doubtless for some princely sum—and I cannot think of anything more dim than letting somebody else choose your pony, even if it’s your own parent.

Nor did Amanda ride in our local events, because her mother said that wasn’t the way to get to Harringay with Princess Alexandra handing you a silver cup.

By now you have probably got the impression that, girl to girl, Amanda was a shocker, but that wasn’t really so. She was quite a friendly type, only one didn’t run against her much, going to a different school and so on.

It was the beginning of the summer holidays, and I was sitting on a gate in the lane, in a sort of happy trance. Mummy was away in London and likely to stay about a fortnight, as the B.B.C. was making one of her children’s books into a television serial and she wanted to be in at the murder, so to speak. She had tried to persuade me to go and stay with a friend, but I had pleaded that I was quite all right at home, and had won the day; so it had been arranged that an artist friend of Mummy’s called Grace Webb should come and sleep at the cottage each night. I didn’t mind Miss Webb at all. She was frightfully harmless and rather like her name, gracious and graceful in a sort of spiderish way, and usually she was so wrapped up in the world of art that she hardly spoke at all, which suited me, because conversationally I don’t think we should ever have clicked. She arrived at the cottage every night about seven, and when I came in about nine we would have a cup of cocoa and some biscuits, and she would say very nicely How are the ponies? and I would say very politely, How’s the art coming on? and she would smile and so would I, and that was that. Nothing to object to at all, nor did she ever make boring remarks like “Are you sure your feet aren’t wet?” I discovered that there’s one thing that artists and horsy people have in common, they are above such things as wet feet, messy clothes, and keeping your bedroom drawers tidy, which makes life comfortable.
However, it was a Monday afternoon and I was sitting on this gate feeling a bit lazy and wondering what to do, when I saw Amanda Applewood strolling towards me along the lane.

I thought she would have gone right by, but to my surprise she said, “Hullo,” and stopped.

She was wearing a very tidy grey coat and skirt, a white blouse (clean) with a pink and green striped school tie, nylon stockings (fancy, on an ordinary afternoon!) and actually gloves. I had on my oldest jodhs and a pretty awful sweater, as I had just emerged from a slight argument with Rapide who had developed a sudden strong objection to doing half-passes.

“Hullo,” I said.

“I say,” said Amanda, “you know all about ponies, don’t you?”

“Well, not all,” I said, “but a bit.”

“There’s something wrong with my pony,” said Amanda.” She’s making an awful din and I wondered whether I ought to call the vet.”

“Colic?” I said hopefully.

“Oh, I don’t think so. They roll and yell, don’t they? She just stands still and bellows.”

I said, “What does your father think?” and she said, “Daddy and Mummy are both away, and the man who comes every day to do our horses has got the day off, and Plum would go wrong just when I’m on my own. I say, would you mind coming up and having a look at her, if you’re not doing anything?”

I was quite intrigued at the idea of seeing Amanda’s home and stables and everything, so I said I’d go.
We got to a white five-barred gate, and went up a long, tidy gravel drive. In front of the house there was a large lawn, cut so fine that it looked as if it had been painted on the ground, and some flower-beds full of rich pink geraniums. The house itself was long and large, built of red brick with a big white portico which is a superior kind of porch. At the side were some very clean stables, and I remembered hearing that Amanda’s father kept two hunters. Amanda opened the door of a loose-box, and there inside stood Plum, neighing away like mad.
“She does it all the time,” said Amanda. “Do you think she’s gone bats?”

It was my first real view of the perfect pony. She was a very pretty grey, with a white mane and tail, and at first sight looked much too pretty to be any good, only running my practised eye over her I noticed that she had lovely lines, and flawless legs and neck, and a very good head.

“I’ll tell you what I’d say was the matter with her,” I said. “She’s bored stiff. What do you do with her?”

“Do with her?” said Amanda stupidly.

“Do you take her out a lot, and have fun with her?”

“Oh gosh, no,” said Amanda. “I’m not all that keen. I just keep her for showing.”

“Golly!” I said. “How would you like to be just kept for showing?”

“It’s boring just riding her about,” said Amanda, going pink. “And anyway, the man washed her last night and said I wasn’t to take her out in case she got dirty.”

I felt very sorry for Plum, who had stopped neighing as soon as she saw me, doubtless thinking, poor animal, that I was about to take her for a nice ride. I only wished I could. I would have loved to try her, and I was hoping by now that Amanda would suggest it, but she didn’t.
“I might ride her round the paddock a bit after tea,” she said indifferently, “if you think that’s what she needs.”
I patted Plum’s silken neck and said, “Buck up, old girl, perhaps life will give you a break,” and went out into the yard.

“Come on in, and we’ll have tea,” said Amanda, and quite willingly I followed her into the house. We went into a very smart room with film-starish curtains and lamps and things, and Amanda rang a bell, and in came a man in a white jacket.

“Oh, we want some tea,” said Amanda, “and tons of hot buttered toast, and enough jam for the lot, and tell Mrs. Googe not that beastly gooseberry, either apricot or strawberry, and the same cake I had yesterday with the cherries in, and some chocolate biscuits if I left any, I don’t remember.”

“Very good, miss,” said the man, just like they do in films.
I was enormously intrigued by now, and enjoying myself very much though I thought I must be dreaming. But in came this colossal tea with everything complete, and we ate and ate, piggish though it may sound, and I wondered if Amanda went on like this every day or if it was just laid on to impress me.

“I know all about you,” said Amanda, licking the last bit of chocolate off her fingers. “You’re a pretty hot rider, aren’t you?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said modestly.

“Oh, yes, you are. Much better than me, anyway. I just sit and let Plum do everything, which nobody can call actually riding, but I feel good when I win which is nearly always. I do believe in being honest about these things. Of course Plum is super.”

“I’m sure she is,” I murmured, wishing with all my heart that I could try the perfect pony for myself.

“I’m feeling rather miserable today,” said Amanda. “I’m in a bit of a spot.”

“Oh, how’s that?”

“Well,” she said, biting her thumbnail, “I’m supposed to be going away tomorrow for about a fortnight, and I loathe the idea.”

“I suppose it’s to some ghastly relations,” I said sympathetically, “where they treat you as if you were about six.”

“Oh no,” said Amanda. “Not like that at all. These are some people that Mummy knows, I’ve never seen them, but they live in the country and do nothing but ride. They want me to go and make up a team, whatever that means. I take a dim view. I think they’re the sort of types who haul you out of bed at six o’clock in the morning, yarping on about what a gorgeous day it is and look at the shining dew, and let’s go for a ride before breakfast, when actually I loathe getting up before ten in the holidays. I mean, what are the holidays for?”

“If you really want that answered,” I said, “I think the holidays are just meant for getting all the riding you can. That’s how it strikes me.”

“There you are!” said Amanda, scratching her nylon ankle gloomily. “You’re the right type for that sort of thing, and I’m not. You ought to be going to these Locketts instead of me. Life’s so unfair. All I want is to be left in peace to mooch about and watch the television, and Mummy fixes up this ghastly visit for me. Honestly, it’ll kill me, I can’t think of anything worse. Does your mother do things like that to you?”

“Occasionally,” I said. “But as it happens she’s away. I can do exactly as I like for a whole fortnight, it’s gorgeous, positively blissikins.”

“Coo!” said Amanda, gazing at me with eyes that boiled over with envy. Then all of a sudden she put on a glassy look, like people do when their brains begin to work.
“I say!” she said suddenly. “Why shouldn’t you go to these Locketts instead of me?”

Page length: 163

Original publication date: 1959

Who's in the book?

Jill Crewe, Amanda Applewood, Catherine Crewe, Mr and Mrs Lockett, Phil, Mary and Jane Lockett, Tom and Lolly
Plum, Black Boy, Rapide, Opal, Gelert, Agate, Nice Weather, Commodore

Other titles published as

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