Authors: Bonnie Bryant
“Maybe,” Lisa said, “just maybe, Tessa and Veronica actually … like each other.”
Carole gasped. “No way,” she said quickly. “Tessa is a member of The Saddle Club. And Veronica is, well …”
“Pure evil?” Stevie suggested helpfully.
Carole laughed wryly. “Well, I was going to say Veronica is Veronica,” she said. “But either way you look at it, it just doesn’t make sense.”
“Should we just come right out and ask Tessa about it?” Carole said.
“I don’t know,” Lisa said. “Maybe we should wait a few days and see what happens.”
“Are you sure?” Stevie sounded worried. “Don’t forget, last time we tried to keep a secret from Tessa—”
“I know.” Lisa cut her off. “But this is different. We’re not hiding anything from her. If anything, she’s the one hiding something from us.”
RL 5, 009–012
A Bantam Skylark Book Duly
Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere
“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller.
The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books
“USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8462
All rights reserved
Copyright © 1998 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher
For information address: Bantam Books
Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
I would like to express my special thanks
to Catherine Hapka for her help
in the writing of this book
HAT WAS FUN
,” Lisa Atwood said contentedly. She leaned forward to give the horse she was riding, a tall, lively chestnut gelding named Derby, an appreciative pat on the withers.
One of Lisa’s best friends, Stevie Lake, nodded. “After a trail ride like that, aren’t you
glad that Max didn’t ban us from Pine Hollow?” she teased.
Their other best friend, Carole Hanson, shuddered. “Don’t even joke about that.” Her horse, Starlight, fell a few steps behind as the riders left a wooded trail and entered a sunny meadow. Carole urged him forward a little faster. “We’ve had some pretty close calls since Max put us on probation.”
“It’s just lucky Veronica didn’t manage to convince
him that we were behind that trick last night.” This time the speaker had a distinctly British accent. The speaker was Lady Theresa, known to her friends as Tessa, who was visiting from England. Tessa was referring to a trick the four girls had played the day before on Veronica diAngelo, a fellow rider at Pine Hollow Stables. Veronica’s family had a lot of money, and that made her think she was more important than everyone else. Although she was a better-than-average rider, the other girls often thought that the snobbish Veronica cared more about owning an expensive horse and wearing fancy clothes than she did about horses or riding.
Lisa thought about that now as she and her friends trotted across the meadow on their way back to the stable. She couldn’t understand Veronica’s attitude at all. She herself was interested in just about everything about horses, but the clothes she wore ranked near the bottom of the list.
Lisa’s love of horses and riding was shared wholeheartedly by Carole and Stevie. That was why the three girls had started The Saddle Club, which had only two rules: All members had to be willing to help one another out, and they had to be horse-crazy. Since starting The Saddle Club, Lisa, Carole, and Stevie had invited a number of other friends to join as out-of-town members. Some of these members, including Stevie’s boyfriend, Phil, who lived nearby, came to Pine Hollow frequently. Others, including Tessa, lived too far away to visit very often. But
where they lived didn’t make any difference. The important thing was that all of them cared as much about their friendship as they did about horses and riding.
Lisa glanced around at the scenery as the four friends rode slowly across the broad, white-fenced pastures behind Pine Hollow Stables. Taking in the lush, rolling Virginia landscape, the familiar scents of horses and clean leather, and the perfect summer day, Lisa couldn’t imagine anything she would rather be doing than completing a leisurely trail ride with her friends—except maybe starting another one.
Still, The Saddle Club had recently come very close to losing their riding privileges for a good long time. And as usual when there was trouble at Pine Hollow, Veronica had been involved.
It had all started on the last day of school, when Veronica had secretly arranged for Stevie to receive an award for best-dressed boy. The bogus prize, presented at a school assembly, had been an ugly plaid necktie arranged in a fancy gold frame.
Stevie had a wild and wacky sense of humor, and she could take a good joke as well as she could dish one out. Normally she might have appreciated the humor of the prank and let it pass. But she and Veronica had always gotten along about as well as cats and dogs, and Stevie drew the line at being humiliated by her archenemy in front of their entire school. She had vowed to get her revenge at any cost.
As the girls paused to open a gate between fields, Stevie was thinking about that very topic. “I still can’t believe we attacked the Penningtons by mistake,” she muttered as she rode through into the next field. She pulled her horse, Belle, to a halt to wait for Lisa to close the gate again.
Stevie’s revenge scheme had backfired. She, Carole, and Lisa had hidden in Pine Hollow’s loft and tried to pelt Veronica with water balloons. But they had fired too soon, accidentally soaking Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow and the girls’ riding instructor, along with a wealthy older woman named Mrs. Pennington and her preppy teenage grandson, Miles. The Penningtons appeared to have forgiven The Saddle Club, but Max hadn’t been so willing to let them off the hook.
“No kidding.” Carole rolled her eyes. “If it hadn’t been for that, Max wouldn’t have threatened to suspend us from the stable. And we wouldn’t be forced to let Veronica do and say whatever she wants without even trying to do anything about it.”
“I still feel awful about all that,” Tessa said mournfully. “If I weren’t here, Veronica couldn’t be nasty to me. And if she couldn’t be nasty to me, she wouldn’t have such an easy way to get your goat.
you wouldn’t have to worry so much about doing something to make Max turn your probation into suspension.” Veronica and Tessa had first met when Max, The Saddle Club, and Veronica had visited England for an international Pony Club rally. At first
Veronica had been awed by Tessa’s title and her distant kinship to the queen of England. But once Tessa became friends with The Saddle Club, Veronica’s admiration had quickly faded.
Stevie shrugged. “Don’t be silly, Tessa,” she said. “It was when we reminded Max that you were coming to visit that he decided to put us on probation instead of just kicking us out for a couple of weeks.”
“Stevie’s right,” Lisa added. “Besides, Veronica’s obnoxious personality is her own fault, nobody else’s. You can’t help it if she doesn’t like you.”
Stevie nodded emphatically. “In fact, you should probably take it as a compliment.”
Carole grinned and moved Starlight a little closer to Topside, the horse Tessa was riding. “They’re right, you know,” she told Tessa. “I think Max thought you might be a good influence on us while you were here. Little did he know that you would be the mastermind behind last night.”
The evening before, the girls had finally managed to get back at Veronica. Tessa had told the Pine Hollow riding class about a long-ago event known as the Midnight Steeplechase, when British cavalry officers had run an informal cross-country race after dinner wearing night-clothes over their uniforms. The students had decided to run the same kind of race themselves. But when The Saddle Club handed out maps, Veronica’s had been different from everybody else’s. Instead of riding through the
woods to the real finish line, Veronica had galloped off in the opposite direction, ending up at the Penningtons’ home. Upon arrival, she had found Miles Pennington and half a dozen of his teenage friends waiting for her. The fact that Veronica was wearing ridiculous pajamas and a silly nightcap over her riding clothes—and the fact that she had a huge crush on Miles—had only made the whole scene funnier as far as The Saddle Club was concerned.
“The best part of last night was that Veronica couldn’t prove it was us who sent her the wrong way, since the boys ripped up her map,” Lisa said.
“I know.” Tessa sighed. “Max did seem a bit suspicious, though. I never would have forgiven myself if our prank had cost you your riding privileges.”
“Well, we never would have forgiven ourselves if we’d let Veronica get away with making your visit miserable,” Stevie declared loyally.
Carole nodded. “True,” she said. “By making Tessa miserable, she was making us all miserable. And she knew it.”
“I just hope she’s given up now,” Lisa said worriedly. “I mean, that little prank last night doesn’t even begin to make up for all the grief Veronica has caused us—”
“Hear, hear,” Stevie put in wryly.
“—but I’m sure she’s not going to see it that way,” Lisa continued. “Especially if she thinks we’ve cost her her chance with Miles.”
“I see what you mean.” Stevie nodded and paused for a
moment as she gently pulled Belle back into line. The curious mare was trying to wander off to explore an intriguing patch of weeds. “Even if Veronica can’t convince Max that we arranged that prank,” Stevie said, “she knows very well that we did it. I hope she doesn’t get even meaner now.”