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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Hay Fever

BOOK: Hay Fever
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A NEW SADDLE CLUB PROJECT

There was a devious twinkle in Stevie’s eye. “So, is everyone thinking what I’m thinking?”

“You mean about finding Max a wife?” Carole said.

“And that it’s a perfect job for The Saddle Club?” Lisa chimed in.

“Exactly,” Stevie replied. “But I’m already a step ahead of you guys. I was thinking about a certain annual event at Pine Hollow that would be the perfect opportunity to introduce Max to hundreds of eligible women.”

“All I can think of is the Fourth of July picnic,” Lisa said.

“That’s it,” Stevie answered. “It’ll be up to The Saddle Club to bring in every single prospective wife we can think of. Then Max can choose one—with our advice, of course.…”

RL 5, 009–012

HAY FEVER

A Bantam Skylark Book / June 1994

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 trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller. The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of an inverted U-shaped design, a riding crop, and a riding hat is a trademark of Bantam Books
.

All rights reserved
.

Copyright © 1994 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
.

eISBN: 978-0-307-82490-5

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
.

v3.1

I would like to express my special thanks
to Caitlin C. Macy for her help
in the writing of this book
.

Contents

“W
ATCH OUT
!” Carole Hanson called. She swerved Starlight to the side just in time to avoid a head-on collision with another horse and rider. “We’re supposed to be trotting in a
clockwise
circle.” She twisted around in the saddle to see who had almost run into her and met the familiar eyes of her friend Stevie Lake.

“That’s not what Max told me,” Stevie said. “He definitely said
counter
clockwise.”

The two girls glanced around the outdoor ring. The other students in their afternoon lesson were trotting every which way. In the space of a few seconds, two more pairs almost collided. Angry shouts could be heard.

“Why on earth isn’t Max doing something?” Stevie asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out,” replied Carole.

There was definitely something strange going on. Max Regnery, the manager of Pine Hollow Stables and the girls’ instructor, always insisted on complete organization in his lessons. His strict discipline was one of the reasons that he was such a wonderful teacher. He was also smart, patient, and an excellent rider himself.

Carole and Stevie couldn’t imagine taking lessons with anyone else. The two of them and their friend Lisa Atwood spent practically every waking moment at Pine Hollow or wishing they were there. They had even formed a group for people who loved horses and riding. It was called The Saddle Club, and all of its members had to be completely horse crazy, as well as willing to help each other out.

This time it looked as if Max needed The Saddle Club to help
him
out. Carole trotted quickly to the middle of the ring. Max was speaking with a redheaded woman she didn’t recognize. He was explaining how to judge the correct distance apart for trotting poles. The redhead looked as if she was concentrating hard. Carole didn’t want to interrupt, but the situation was getting out of hand fast.

“Uh, Max—” she began timidly. He ignored her.

“Excuse me, Max,” she said more firmly. He still didn’t seem to notice her.

“Max!” she fairly shouted.

The redhead spoke up. “Max, someone wants to talk to you.”

Max looked up distractedly. “Yes, Deb? What are you doing in the middle of the ring?”

Taken aback, Carole paused for a second before correcting him. “It’s Carole,” she said. “And I was just wondering what direction we’re supposed to be trotting in, because everyone’s—”

“Yes,” Max replied curtly, “you’re supposed to be trotting. Now get back out there—heels down, okay, D—uh, Carole?” Turning back to the woman, Max sneezed several times.

Carole raised her eyebrows. Occasionally Max called her “Lisa” or “Stevie,” mixing up the three girls because they spent so much time together. But
Deb
? Where’d that come from? And he
still
hadn’t realized what was going on. “Max,” she said, “I
know
we’re supposed to be trotting. But in what
direction
?”

“Huh?”

The redhead interjected once again. “I think she’s asking about the direction, Max,” she said gently.

“Oh! Direction!” Max exclaimed, looking at the woman with admiration. “Clockwise, of course. Anything else?”

Carole shook her head weakly. All of a sudden she understood what people meant by the expression “talking
to a wall.” It was impossible to get through to Max today, and she had no idea why.

Carole quickly headed Starlight toward the far end of the ring, where Stevie and Lisa were walking side by side.

“Hey, that’s a great new shirt, Stevie,” Lisa was saying as Carole joined them.

“This? This isn’t new,” Stevie replied.

“Really? I’ve certainly never seen it before. Anyway, pink looks really good on you.”

Carole listened impatiently for a minute, then decided that there were more important things to talk about than clothes. She hastily explained that Max was acting more out of it than she’d ever seen him. “He called me ‘Deb,’ or something like that twice, and that woman practically had to translate everything I asked him,” she said.

Lisa frowned, glancing in the manager’s direction. “That does
not
sound like Max.”

“Who is that woman, anyway?” Stevie asked.

“I thought someone said she was a guest instructor,” Lisa said.

“If she’s a guest instructor, then Max has really flipped. She was just learning how to lay out trotting poles,” Carole said. “Anyway, we’re supposed to be going clockwise, and I think we’d better spread the word before things get any crazier.”

With that, Carole, Stevie, and Lisa turned Starlight, Topside, and Barq to go tell the others. Before they could
get very far, however, Max summoned everyone into the center. When they had all gathered, he looked at the group nervously and cleared his throat several times. Finally he opened his mouth to speak—and ended up sneezing several times.

The Saddle Club looked at one another. “Is it my imagination, or is Max really nervous about something?” Lisa whispered.

“Nervous, for one, and it looks like he’s sick, too,” Stevie said under her breath.

“A few sneezes doesn’t mean he’s sick,” Lisa whispered back.

“Who’s talking about the sneezes?” Stevie asked. “He
must
be sick—he’s not yelling at us for talking in class.”

In spite of the situation, Lisa and Carole burst into giggles. Stevie always saw the funny side of everything. At school and at Pine Hollow her impish nature and love of practical jokes had gotten her into more scrapes than the three of them cared to remember. Luckily for The Saddle Club, she usually got herself right back out—often with surprisingly good results.

“Ahem.” Max finally found his voice. “I have a question for the class. Did any of you see the front page of the
Washington Times
this morning?”

Lisa’s hand shot up. A straight-A student, it was no surprise that Lisa would have read the newspaper. With typical modesty, however, she put her hand down
quickly when she realized no one else had raised theirs. More than anything, Lisa hated to show off about her intelligence and good grades.

“I read the comics,” Stevie volunteered eagerly. Everyone laughed, including the new woman.

“I’m glad to see you’re challenging yourself, Stevie,” Max replied drily. Carole grinned. That sounded more like the Max she knew.

“Well, Lisa, why don’t you tell us if any particular story caught your eye.”

Lisa thought hard for a minute. She remembered something about the President taking a trip, then there was some drought in California.… “Oh, I know!” she blurted out. “There was a big article on drugging racehorses at the track. Some man was arrested, and they said he’d been drugging practically his whole stable for years because no one could ever catch him. Most of the horses were supposed to have been retired because of stress injuries and strains, but the trainer kept drugging them up and racing them.”

Max’s approving smile told Lisa that she had given the right answer. “Exactly,” he said, “only it wasn’t a ‘they’ who said it. It was our very special guest at Pine Hollow this week, Miss Deborah Hale, news reporter extraordinaire.” Max gestured toward the redheaded woman and then paused awkwardly. Having introduced
the woman, he didn’t seem to know what to do with himself. Deborah Hale, however, rose to the occasion.

“Oh, Max,” she protested, “I was only doing my job.”

“So does that mean you’re investigating Pine Hollow for drugs, too?” Lisa asked.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed Topside’s been a little sluggish, lately,” Stevie kidded.

Max managed to give both of them the evil eye at once. “She most certainly is not doing anything of the kind.” He explained that he had met Deborah a few weeks ago when she had first come to Willow Creek—the suburb of Washington, D.C., where they lived—to investigate.

“I needed to learn enough about horses—and fast—so that I wouldn’t look suspicious around the track,” Deborah said. Then she added, with a sidelong glance at Max, “Max is a wonderful teacher, as I’m sure you all know.”

“So you don’t even know how to ride?” a student standing in the back of the group asked condescendingly. In one motion the class turned to glare at the inquirer. Only one person at Pine Hollow could be that rude to a guest—Veronica diAngelo.

BOOK: Hay Fever
12.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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