Authors: Bonnie Bryant
It took Stevie a minute to recover her composure. Could she have heard correctly—younger sisters? “How old are your sisters?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant.
Miss Cartwright laughed. She was used to having
Stevie cut right to the point. “Actually, they’re both twenty-three. They’re twins.”
“But that’s even better!” Stevie blurted out. “I mean, uh, it would be great if you came and brought them, too.” Twins? Stevie thought. This was getting exciting.
“Really? I’m sure they’d love to. Won’t it be too many people, then?”
, Miss Cartwright. The more, the merrier. That’s what Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow, always says. He’s so friendly—he just loves to meet new people. I can’t wait to introduce him to you and your sisters. I’m sure you’ll think he’s wonderful.”
“I’m sure we will, Stevie. Thank you for inviting us.”
for coming, Miss Cartwright.” Stevie was about to hang up in a haze of well-being when Miss Cartwright’s final words interrupted her reverie.
“I’ll look forward to seeing your project then, too,” she said. “Good-bye.”
“Oh, right,” Stevie muttered as the dial tone sounded in her ear. Anyway, digging out her science project would be a small price to pay for finding Max a suitable wife. After all, her children would be thanking her all their lives for sending them to Pine Hollow to ride with Max the Fourth.
Thinking of Pine Hollow gave Stevie new motivation to finish vacuuming and get over there. She could hardly wait to tell Carole and Lisa to add three more women to
the list of potential mates. But first she absolutely had to find her father’s gold pen.
In a flash of inspiration, she removed the vacuum bag from the machine and dumped everything out onto the carpet. She squatted down on the floor to begin examining the mess. Then she saw the telltale flash of gold. The pen was lying under the couch, just within reach and perfectly safe. It hadn’t gotten sucked up at all.
Stevie looked from it to the pile of dirt and dust on the carpet that represented the morning’s vacuuming. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Finally she lay down on the couch and laughed until her stomach ached.
EFORE LEAVING FOR
Pine Hollow later that morning, Stevie decided to conduct a quick search of her closet for her science project. As she expected, the cardboard graph was there—halfway filled out—but none of the pots were in sight. Stevie began to panic. How could she start over now? The Fourth was a week away; nothing would grow that fast. Moreover, Miss Cartwright was not only one of the nicest teachers at Fenton Hall, she was also one of the toughest. Rather than let Stevie take a failing grade, she would probably make her do the whole thing over just to get a passing D. Meanwhile the perfect day was slipping away.
Stevie made a characteristic split-second decision: She would go to Pine Hollow now, come up with a plan later.
In a flash she grabbed her stuff and headed for the door. Before she could close it, the phone rang. Stevie groaned. At this rate she would never catch Lisa and Carole. She ran to pick up the receiver. It was Mrs. Lake calling on her lunch break to see how the vacuuming was going.
“Great,” Stevie told her, “now that it’s done.” Actually, the house did look great. Every speck of dust had vanished.
“Housework’s like that,” Mrs. Lake answered.
“Say, Mom, speaking of housework, I was cleaning out my closet today, and I was just wondering—you don’t happen to know what happened to those three pots of plants I was growing for science, do you?”
“Oh, you mean the three pots of dead weeds? Sure. I found them drying up underneath your bed, so I watered them and relocated them to the back porch. They’re looking great now, especially the red ones. I think the soil they’re in may be better than the white and blue flowers’ soil.”
Stevie squealed with joy. Never mind getting a D—this looked like an A project. “You’re the best!” she shouted.
“Gee, I didn’t know vacuuming would have such a marvelous effect on you. I hope dusting is as fun,” Mrs. Lake said.
“Thanks again, Mom,” Stevie said.
“Anytime. I’ll see you tonight for your father’s dinner,” she added.
After hanging up Stevie raced to the back porch. There, in the row of houseplants that her mother moved outside during the summer, were three pots of flowers, overflowing with red, white, and blue blossoms.
“Yippee!” Stevie kicked up her heels and took off for Pine Hollow. Hurrying over, she hoped that she would catch Lisa and Carole to share the news.
Both of her friends looked up from cleaning their tack when Stevie walked in ten minutes later.
“What happened?” Carole asked. “You missed a great outdoor schooling session.”
Stevie groaned. “I know, I know. And I’m sure you’re all done grooming and are just finishing up your tack.”
Lisa and Carole nodded truthfully.
“Unfortunately, housework now takes precedence over horses at my house,” Stevie said. She related her morning trials to them. Lisa and Carole commiserated, like the good friends they were.
“But if you can believe it, I have good news, too,” Stevie said.
“Your mom decided you did such a good job that you don’t have to help anymore?” Lisa guessed hopefully.
“Fat chance,” Stevie said. “When she sees the rugs, she’ll probably want me to quit school and be a full time housedaughter.
“The good news is that while I was vacuuming, Miss Cartwright, my science teacher, called and said that she didn’t have my final science project so I have an Incomplete until she sees it.”
news?” asked Lisa. With perfect grades since first grade, Lisa couldn’t imagine why on earth Stevie would appreciate having an Incomplete on her report card.
“Let me finish,” Stevie protested. She explained the coincidence of her project’s red, white, and blue flowers and the Fourth of July picnic and Miss Cartwright’s twin sisters’ visit and her mother’s rescue of the plants.
“You’ll probably get an A,” Lisa predicted.
“That’d be nice for a change,” Stevie said.
“And all three sisters are coming?” Carole asked incredulously.
“All three of them,” Stevie said. “And Miss Cartwright said she used to ride when she was little.”
“Then that makes a total of four candidates for Mrs. Max so far,” Lisa said. She told Stevie about Tiffani. “I’m not positive that she’s smart enough for Max, but we at least have to give him the option of choosing someone who’s totally beautiful.”
As Carole was trying to absorb all this information, a horn tooted in the driveway—unmistakably her father’s jeep. She gave a quick last swipe to her saddle and placed it carefully back on its rack.
“Gotta run, guys,” she said, gathering up her stuff.
“You’re leaving now?” Stevie asked. Even though Carole had said that she was almost finished with her tack, that didn’t mean she wouldn’t hang out at Pine Hollow for hours, grooming and regrooming Starlight and finding work to do around the barn. In fact, Stevie had been counting on her for company while she tacked up. She told Carole so.
“I guess Lisa will just have to keep you and Topside company,” Carole replied. “Today is ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ at Quantico, and Dad is going to show me around so I can see what he does all day.”
Lisa and Stevie thought it sounded like a great idea.
“I wonder if you’ll see any top-secret maneuvers,” Stevie said. “Like in
The Sands of Iwo Jima
Carole laughed tolerantly. She was used to civilians thinking that military life was just like the movies—especially Stevie, who, like Colonel Hanson, had a passion for films from the fifties, many of which seemed to be set during World War II.
“I think it’ll probably be pretty routine stuff,” Carole said. As she headed for the driveway, she paused at the stable door and called back over her shoulder, “If we play any war games, I’ll be sure to remember them for our next Pony Club mounted-games meeting!”
“Good idea!” Lisa yelled. “I’m sure Stevie wouldn’t
want to miss an opportunity to attack Phil on horseback!”
Phil Marsten was Stevie’s boyfriend. He belonged to Cross County Pony Club. The Saddle Club all belonged to the Horse Wise club, which met at Pine Hollow. The two clubs often competed against one another—in rallies, Know-downs, and mounted games. Stevie and Phil were known for being almost as fond of competition as they were of each other.
“You’d better believe it,” Stevie said, in response to Lisa’s comment.
Colonel Hanson waved hello from the jeep as soon as Carole came outside to meet him.
“Hello, daughter,” he said, saluting her formally through the window. He was wearing the green-on-khaki uniform he always wore for routine days on base.
“So, Dad,” Carole said, climbing up to join him in the jeep, “will I be seeing any super-important, classified action today?”
Colonel Hanson chuckled. “Sorry, honey, but how about lunch at the Officers’ Club to start with?”
“Sounds great,” Carole said. As usual, she had worked up a huge appetite while riding. “And
we’ll take care of the bloodless revolutions in the halls of Montezuma, right?”
“I don’t know—I thought we might have to battle on the shores of Tripoli, actually,” Colonel Hanson replied.
“Well, naturally,” Carole said. They passed the rest of the ride kidding each other.
Even though Carole laughed and joked, half of her mind was somewhere else—back at Pine Hollow, where it usually was, with Stevie and Lisa. Carole felt that she was really letting them down, not to mention Max, because she hadn’t been able to think of even one woman to invite to the picnic. She had even looked through her father’s address book to make sure that all of the women really were too old for Max.
What if Max didn’t find anyone he liked? He was sure to become depressed and, sooner or later, desperate for a wife. For all she knew, he felt that way already.
Carole’s spirits lifted when Colonel Hanson drove through the gates to Quantico. A tall uniformed soldier saluted them and then waved them through. Carole
excited for the day with her father, and since she couldn’t do anything right away about Max, she figured she might as well try to put the situation out of her mind.
Their first stop was the Officers’ Club. Colonel Hanson showed her the ballroom where they held dances on holidays and the lounge where officers could read the newspapers. Everywhere they went, men and women stopped to speak with Colonel Hanson and meet Carole. It was the same during lunch. Carole’s father could barely eat his turkey club sandwich because he was so busy introducing her.
“Phew!” he said, as they got back into the jeep after lunch. “I thought we’d never escape! I never realized how much work it is having such a pretty daughter.”
“Pretty daughter?” Carole teased. “How about having such an important father—I’m exhausted!”
“Not too exhausted for a trip to the stables, I hope?” Colonel Hanson asked.
“Oh, I think I might be able to stay awake for that,” Carole said. Actually, she could hardly wait to pay a visit to the base stables where she had ridden so many times.
The barn and paddocks looked exactly as Carole remembered—only half as big. She fairly leapt out of the jeep and ran inside the barn.
“Soda Pop! You’re still here!” she cried, glimpsing the palomino Shetland pony that most of the beginners rode. Carole gave the pony a big hug over the stall door.
“You think we’d ever get rid of him?” a familiar voice asked.
Carole spun around. Margery Tarr stood at the end of the aisle, pitchfork in hand. “Margery!” Carole said. She went to hug her former riding instructor. Margery was the daughter of General Peter Tarr, a close friend of Colonel Hanson’s. She had been teaching riding to children on the base since she was fourteen. She was twenty-six now.
“I thought you’d be happy to see each other,” Colonel Hanson said.
Margery greeted the Colonel. “Excuse my appearance, sir, but—” she began.
“No need to explain,” Colonel Hanson said. “Carole looks just the same most of the time, so I’m used to it.”
“But you’re beautiful!” Carole protested.
Margery and Colonel Hanson laughed. Only Carole would call someone dressed in muddy boots and breeches with hay all over her “beautiful.” But Margery was beautiful. She had dark brown hair and pale skin and twinkling brown eyes. No doubt she had hundreds of boyfriends and was probably even engaged to—
“You’re not married, are you?” Carole blurted out.
Margery laughed again. “Not yet, Carole,” she said. “I’m still enjoying life as a single gal,” she said.
“Do you want to go to a Fourth of July picnic at Pine Hollow?” Carole asked.
Margery looked somewhat taken aback by the sudden change in topic, but she agreed good-naturedly. “Sure, that would be really fun. I always like to visit the stables there.”
Colonel Hanson eyed Carole suspiciously. Unlike Margery, he had a pretty good idea what Carole was up to. But he wasn’t about to stand in the way of a friendly invitation.
“Then I’ll see you on the Fourth,” Carole concluded happily.