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Jane Badger Books

Ruby Ferguson: Rosettes for Jill (eBook)

Ruby Ferguson: Rosettes for Jill (eBook)

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It's happened again. Jill has planned a summer filled with her ponies and her friends, but something has happened. The Cortman Kids, Melly and Lindo, are coming to stay. For the summer. With their endless list of things they can do and Jill can't, like tennis. And they've come with their dogs, for the Cortmans are dog people, not horse people.

Jill has no choice but to make the best of it, and the Cortmans help out by deciding they'd like to learn to ride. They are then bought a stupendously beautiful pony called Blue Shadow. The Cortmans begin riding in shows, and that brings its own problems, but in the last show of all, Jill realises they are not as unsporting as she thinks.

This is a reprint of a book that first appeared in 1957.

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I HAVE told you a great many episodes from my young and horsewomanly career, but never about the time when the Cortman Kids came to stay with us at the cottage. It happened about two summers ago; and here follows the tale.

In the first place, I had never met the Cortman Kids, and all I knew about them was that their mother had in the Dark Ages of Long Ago been at school with my mother; and I had been instructed to call her Aunt Pamela on the two occasions when she had crossed my path, as it says in sinister stories. She was Mrs. Cortman, and Mummy said it was frightfully disrespectful of me to call her daughters the Cortman Kids, especially as one of them was older than I, but it just struck me that way and I went on doing it. Aunt Pamela was apt to rave about them slightly, and by the time that I had learned how beautifully one of them played the piano and how marvellously the other one danced or embroidered or something, I was in a complete state of inferiority complex. Actually Aunt Pamela wasn’t bad at all, and always used to crash in at Christmas with quite a decent present, such as a book token, which shows she had the right ideas. I mean, everybody wants a book and knows just what book they want, and who on earth else can know? And yet otherwise apparently sane relations keep on sending you The Third Form at St. Helen’s and Four Girls on Fairy Island when for weeks you’ve been flattening your nose against the bookshop window wondering how you can possibly raise ten-and-six to buy Practical Show-jumping. It really is anguish-making, but Aunt Pamela wasn’t like that. Always a book token, so I only had to shout Whoops! and make a bee-line for the bookseller’s.

I suppose you have noticed how life’s most portentous events hit you right in the eye when you’re not expecting it?

We were having breakfast on a perfectly peaceful, sunshiny morning, and for once I was lingering over my toast and marmalade because I had done my geometry prep the night before instead of while I was dressing, and I knew where my school hat was, and I had fed the ponies in good time and not at the last minute, so I was feeling frightfully carefree when suddenly Mummy looked up from one of her letters—which the postman had just brought—and said, Oh!

I knew at once it was something a bit shattering, because when it is something nice she says Ah and not Oh; but even I with my talent for expecting the worst from all grownups’ letters didn’t guess how shattering.

“What’s the matter?” I said. “Have they let you down again about the colour of the new curtains?”

“Let me down?” Mummy said briskly. “Of course not. It’s from Aunt Pamela. We’ll have to do some thinking.”

“Is she coming to stay?” I said, and Mummy said, on the contrary Aunt Pamela was taking her husband to Majorca for two months to recuperate after an operation and wondered if Mummy could find somewhere in our district for the two girls to stay where they would be under Mummy’s eye. Aunt Pamela thought that a spell of country life would be good for them, and was sure that Mummy would know of some simple, homely family who would take them for a few weeks and let them live a simple homely life.

“What about Moss Farm?” I said. “Mrs. Overdale is frightfully simple and homely and she has eight or nine children, so two Cortman Kids wouldn’t make a lot of difference.”

“There’s no question of it,” said Mummy, in her most determined voice, and my spirits flopped into my sandals and ran out through the toes because I knew what was coming—“Of course the girls must come here.”

“Why?” I said miserably, and Mummy said, “Because we’d love to have them.”

I put down my last corner of toast. “Oh, help!” I said. “That ruins everything.”

“Ruins what?” said Mummy.

“Well Ann and Diana and I have got everything planned for the holidays. We’re going to do a lot of intensive equitation in the evenings from now till the shows begin, and we’re certainly not going to have any time for strangers.”

Mummy said she thought my attitude was disgusting, and reminded her of the old saying, “Here comes a stranger, let’s throw a brick at him,” and that was what was the matter with the world today and started wars; and I said I hadn’t a single thing against strangers in general, but I couldn’t think of anything worse than to spend the next three precious months trailing the Cortman Kids round Chatton, because from my point of view they were a dead loss as they didn’t ride, and would, therefore, be completely incompatible, and why on earth couldn’t Aunt Pamela send her beastly daughters to some people who liked doing the things they liked doing?

“Blow!” I said. “It’s just the end.”

I could see already that it wasn’t any use and the worst was going to happen. When I got home from school at tea-time Mummy had already written to Aunt Pamela to tell her the girls were to come and stay with us.

“And I suppose they’re to have my room,” I said bitterly. “That’s O.K., a bit more torture’s neither here nor there.”

“Oh, buck up, Jill,” said Mummy, laughing. “They’re going to have a room at Mrs. Mills’, it’s only twenty yards along the lane, so that’s one thing you needn’t suffer over. I’ve arranged it all.”

For the next three days I kept hoping (a) that it was a dream and I should suddenly wake up and find it wasn’t true, or (b) that something would happen to make the Cortman Kids want to go somewhere else, because I couldn’t for the life of me see what attraction there could be for them at Chatton where, if you don’t ride, you might as well be dead.

My friend Ann Derry said, “Perhaps they won’t be so bad as you think!”

“They will,” I said. “I can feel it coming, like a Thing from Space.”

“Well, they needn’t interfere with us,” she said, cheerfully. “I mean, for the first day or two you’ll probably have to drag them round and show them where the tennis courts are and where the park is, and where they can get their beastly hair cut; and after that they’ll go their own simple, homely way and we can forget them, and get on with the ponies, and I did the most beautiful, beautiful collected trot I’ve ever done in my life this morning, and I’m dying to show you—if I can do it again.”
I said, I hoped she was right about the Cortmans, and we went on up to the riding school, and Ann did her collected trot to show me and Mrs. Darcy, and I told Mrs. Darcy all my woes. She merely laughed and said, “You’ll just have to make horsewomen out of them, Jill, I wouldn’t put it past you,” and I said darkly that there were some things that nobody could make out of anything.

The next morning brought a letter from the Cortman girls themselves, thanking Mummy for her invitation and saying how thrilled they were to be coming to stay with us in the country, because actually they lived at Cheltenham which was very towny nowadays.

They signed the letter, Melly and Lindo Cortman, and I said, “What names! More like spaniels.” Mummy said, “It’s funny you should say that, because just over the page there’s a P.S. and it says, ‘What dogs do you keep?’ What do you think that means?”

“I know only too well what it means,” I said. “There are two kinds of people in the world, horsy people and doggy people, and I’m the horsy kind and they’re doggy. That’s what it means.”

“But you’re very fond of dogs,” said Mummy.

“Yes, I know I am, but I don’t keep dogs because I don’t think it would be fair to them when I give all my time to the ponies. I mean, if you go in for any kind of animals you’ve got to make them feel they’re the most important things on earth to you, and when horses are most important things in the world to you you can’t convince dogs that they are.”

Mummy said that would be enough, and she got my general meaning and didn’t want me to tie myself in knots.

“Possibly Mello and Lindy, or whatever they’re called are bringing a couple of champion Alsatians with them.” I couldn’t resist flinging this out, and then we both began to giggle, though Mummy looked a bit shaken.

Page length: 175

Original publication date: 1957

Who's in the book?

Human:
Jill Crewe, Catherine Crewe, Melly and Lindo Cortman, Ann Derry, Mrs Crosby, Mr Prescott
Equine:
Black Boy, Rapide, George, Fantasy, Blue Shadow

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