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Jane Badger Books

Ruby Ferguson: Jill's Pony Trek (paperback)

Ruby Ferguson: Jill's Pony Trek (paperback)

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"Really, Jill I never knew anybody like you for falling on your feet. When other people would be landed in an absolute mess, you find yourself a house and plenty to eat."

Jill and her friends are going on a pony trek. Of course, nothing goes absolutely to plan, especially when Jill and Ann manage to forget where they're supposed to be meeting up with the rest of the trek. Rather than have to spend the night shivering in a ditch, they manage to come to the rescue of someone who's fallen down the stairs, and stay in their house. This is not their only adventure, and this last Jill story sees Jill back where she belongs, surrounded by ponies and the people who love them.

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BEING seventeen has its points, but there are moments when one feels very dim about such things as being too old for the pony classes, and having to take life seriously and think about a career, and one’s mind hies back to the gorgeous experiences of one’s carefree youth when it was ponies, ponies all the way.

I began to wonder if there were any of those experiences which I hadn’t yet related to my gloating readers, and if so, would it do me any good to recall them now, or should I just howl with anguish at the thought of having exchanged the riding stick for the sordid ball-point pen?

“You never told them about that pony trek,” said my friend Ann Derry.

“What pony trek?” I said without much interest.

“Miss Crombie’s pony trek.”

I sat up from where I had been lying on the rug in front of the fire, letting the new puppy bite my hair, and said firmly, “It wasn’t Miss Crombie’s pony trek. Miss Crombie never even went. It started with that Mrs. Folds who had a brother who had a riding school. I don’t remember how Miss Crombie came into it at all.”

“But she jolly well did, you know.”

“Gosh!” I said. “So she did. I’d forgotten about Miss Crombie since she went to live at Bournemouth or somewhere.”

Ann said I must be slipping if I went on forgetting people and things like that, and I ought to take a memory course, and I said there was nothing wrong with my memory, and soon we were having an absolute ding-dong, just like old times, and Mummy came in and said anybody listening to us would think it was break-time in the kindergarten, and could we make less row as she was just about to start a new book and couldn’t get the first sentence going.

Ann said, “Jill’s going to start a new book too, and she doesn’t even know what it’s going to be about.”

But I suddenly realised that I did know what it was going to be about, and I even remembered that it all began one morning at school, in geometry of all things.

We had a new geometry mistress that term called Miss Pyck. I expect she had put the “y” in herself to make it more interesting, but of course we called her The Shovel, except for the sixth form who tried to be subtle and called her Choosey.

So I was sitting at my desk in a beautiful golden dream when she suddenly asked me, “Jill, could you bear to tell us what kind of an angle we shall have in segment A of Circle B?”

I didn’t know what she was talking about as I had been out on Cloud Seven for several minutes, and hadn’t even noticed any Circle A, so I just gaped and she said, “I thought so. Take an order mark for inattention.”

What I had been thinking about was a library book which Ann and I had just read called Pony Trekking in Ecuador. A smashing book. Neither of us had much idea where Ecuador was, except that it must be a world away from our own sordid orbit, but it sounded a pretty good place. One thing about Ecuador was that it didn’t seem to be cluttered up with any gruesome ideas about end of term exams, or tidying up as you go, or order marks, or cleaning the hens on Saturday mornings. In Ecuador you hurled a few carefree nothings into saddle-bags whenever you felt like it, and got on a pony and set out for romance and adventure.

I felt bitter about that order mark. Order marks went down on your report, and I already had five, and there was still another week of term, and Mummy would be livid as they were all for the same thing, inattention, which I felt wasn’t a fair description as all I was doing was dreaming of nobler things than whatever it was I was supposed to be inattentive about, which makes sense to me if it doesn’t to you.

When we went out for break I told Ann what I thought about this, and she said, “Blow The Shovel! Can’t you think about something else and look as if you were listening to her? I can. And by the way, would you like to sell flags on Saturday for the Horse Protection Society, because Captain Todd is looking for people and I said I would.”

“I don’t mind,” I said without enthusiasm, “but I’m not much good at it. The people I catch always put pennies in, and the people other people catch put half-crowns in, and my cousin Cecilia got eight pounds in her tin and I only got twenty-one and four, and mine was all in pennies and she had three pound notes and heaps of silver, and then she said I hadn’t tried. Tried!” I gave a sort of hollow, tragic laugh.

“Gosh, you are in a mood,” said Ann.

“If only I lived in Ecuador,” I said, kicking the railing outside the gym. “Always pony trekking, never selling flags or keeping hens. Hens!”

Mummy’s hen-interests were a sore point with me, because though profitable they are otherwise almost a dead loss since they are not creatures you can get fond of, and would not if you could since you later eat them. I often wished that Mummy could have found herself a more glamorous side-line which did not involve my toiling among feathered fools with no more reward than an occasional chicken dinner. My only consolation was dreaming day-dreams in which the hens became so profitable that Mummy bought a farm for them with lots of outbuildings in which I could gradually accumulate a lot of ponies and start a riding school, which in its turn would become so successful that it would eliminate the hens for which the farm was originally started.

“I’m sick of hearing about Ecuador,” said Ann. “I wish you’d snap out of it.”

I didn’t think this exactly sympathetic, and told her so, and added that it was a good thing her flag day was for something horsy as otherwise I wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole, and she said did I mean that if it had been orphans I wouldn’t have done it?—and I said that’s what I did mean, and she said she never heard of anything so mean and grudging, and then the bell rang and we stalked into school.

At home I had a quiet sort of evening, reading, and Mummy said, “Isn’t Ann coming round?”

I dipped rather dolefully into a packet of liquorice allsorts to find the ones I like best, which are like little black swiss rolls, and said, “No. We had a slight row,” and Mummy said, “Don’t be childish, what was it about?” and I said, “Oh, Ecuador and orphans and things,” and it sounded so silly that I started giggling.

Page length:

Original publication date: 1962

Who's in the book?

Human:
Jill Crewe, Ann Derry, Miss Crombie, Mrs Folds, April, May and June Cholly-Sawcutt, Diana Bush, Jack and Val Hobday-Heath, Mercy Dulbottle, Wendy Mead, Katy Smith, Billie Smith, Rosevale Washington, Mrs Appleyard, Mrs Gilpin
Equine:
Black Boy, Rapide, London Pride, Marmion, Ricky, Psyche, Pippin, Piper, Pierrot

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