Authors: Bonnie Bryant
“That’s not the first weird thing that’s happened around here lately,” Mrs. Reg said, shaking her head slowly. She sat down on the edge of a trunk, looking thoughtful. “Have you girls ever heard of poltergeists?”
“Sure,” Lisa said promptly. “They’re a sort of mischievous, playful ghost.”
“Not always so playful,” Mrs. Reg corrected. “They can be very destructive, if you believe the people who say they’ve been haunted by them. Like the people at Nevermore Stables. After almost a year of mysterious, annoying, sometimes dangerous mishaps—misplaced tack, unlatched gates, odd tapping and banging noises, things like that—they had no choice but to close down. The students were convinced it was a poltergeist at work, and they quit in droves.”
“But that’s ridiculous,” Carole said. “Even the best-run stable has an occasional accident.”
The worried crease in Mrs. Reg’s forehead deepened. “Occasional, yes,” she said softly. “But when the occasional becomes the everyday, well …”
RL 5, 009–012
A Bantam Skylark Book / September 1995
Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc
Registered in U.S. Ruent 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 “Porry Club” are registered trademarks of the United States Porry Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511–8462
All rights reserved
Copyright © 1995 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
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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
M GLAD YOU
could come today, Phil,” Carole Hanson said, leaning back against the wall of Pine Hollow Stables’ indoor ring. “Mr. Toll’s talk should be really interesting.”
“I’m glad, too,” Phil Marsten agreed. “Once in a while Stevie actually manages to come up with a good idea.” He turned to grin at Stevie Lake, his girlfriend and one of Carole’s two best friends.
Stevie replied by sticking out her tongue at him, and Carole laughed. It was a rainy Saturday morning in October, and in a few minutes it would be time for the weekly meeting of Pine Hollow’s Pony Club, Horse Wise. This week’s meeting was unmounted. When they were having a discussion instead of riding, Max allowed them to invite
guests. Stevie had invited Phil, who rode at a stable in a neighboring town and belonged to a different Pony Club chapter there. The scheduled speaker was a local farmer named Mr. Toll who owned Clydesdales and other workhorses. These giant, hardworking beasts didn’t have a whole lot in common with the riding horses at Pine Hollow, but they were still horses, and that was the most important thing of all, in Carole’s opinion. She loved all horses. In fact, she and Stevie and their other best friend, Lisa Atwood, loved horses and riding so much that they had formed The Saddle Club. The group had only two rules: Members had to be horse-crazy, and they had to be willing to help each other out in any way necessary.
Carole could hardly wait to hear Mr. Toll speak. She had first met him when her father had hired the old farmer to take Carole and her friends on a hayride for her birthday. She knew that he was an expert on old-fashioned farming methods as well as on breeding and training workhorses. Carole was glad that Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow and the girls’ riding instructor, liked his students to be well rounded and learn everything they could about everything having to do with horses—from fox hunting to horse racing and from show grooming to basic veterinary care. It made their favorite subject even more interesting.
“I wonder where Lisa is?” Stevie said, interrupting Carole’s thoughts. “It’s not like her to be late.”
As if on cue, Lisa hurried into the ring. She looked around until she spotted her friends, then hurried over and
plopped down next to them. “Whew!” she exclaimed, red-faced and out of breath. “I thought I’d never get here.”
“We thought so, too,” Stevie replied. “What happened?”
“It was my mother’s fault,” Lisa began. That was no surprise to the others. Mrs. Atwood was the one who had first insisted that Lisa learn to ride. She thought it was one of the things every proper young lady should be able to do, along with needlepoint, ballet, piano, and about a dozen other boring things. It was definitely not part of Mrs. Atwood’s plan for her daughter to become horse-crazy, but that was exactly what had happened. Since Lisa was a straight-A student who excelled at just about everything she did, she was already a very good rider, even though she hadn’t been riding as long as Carole and Stevie had. Mrs. Atwood didn’t exactly disapprove of her daughter’s favorite hobby, but she didn’t always understand why it was so important for Lisa to be on time for things like Horse Wise meetings.
“What did she do, stop along the way to sign you up for mambo lessons?” Stevie teased.
“Not exactly,” Lisa said with a grin. “But I’m sure she would have if she’d thought of it. Actually, she had to stop at the dry cleaner’s to pick up her Halloween costume. She and my dad are going to a party next weekend.”
“What’s the costume?” Carole asked, feeling a twinge of sadness. The three girls had decided the previous year that they were getting too old for trick-or-treating and wouldn’t be dressing up anymore. Carole had agreed with the decision
at the time, but now that the holiday was rolling around again she was starting to regret it. Dressing up for Halloween was an awful lot of fun. Carole had even come up with an idea for a costume before she remembered she wouldn’t need it. It was too bad—she was sure her friends would have loved it.
Lisa rolled her eyes. “My mom wears the same costume every year—Cinderella.”
The others laughed. That sounded like just the kind of costume Mrs. Atwood would like.
“Horse Wise, come to order!” With those words, Max strode into the ring, followed by two other adults. One of them was Mr. Toll. The other was a slim, pretty young woman wearing jeans and a patterned blouse.
“I wonder who that is,” Stevie whispered to Phil. “She doesn’t exactly look like a farmer’s assistant.”
“I know you’re all looking forward to hearing Mr. Toll speak today,” Max began. “But first I’d like to introduce you to a surprise guest who’s going to take a few minutes to talk to you before Mr. Toll gets started. This is Susan Connors. She works with Deborah at the paper.” Deborah Hale, Max’s wife, was a reporter for a newspaper in nearby Washington, D.C.
“Hello, everyone,” Susan Connors said when Max was finished. “Thanks for letting me speak to you today. I know you’re all eager to get on with your meeting, so I’ll be brief. I’m a volunteer for a nonprofit organization called City Kids/Country Kids.”
“I’ve heard of that,” Lisa whispered to her friends. “My parents have donated money to them.”
“What we do,” Susan continued, “is try to help disadvantaged kids in Washington, D.C. For one thing, we work with several other charity groups to distribute food, clothing, and other necessities. But in addition to taking care of their needs, we try to find ways for them to have fun. Because the neighborhoods where most of them live aren’t always safe places to play, we sponsor trips to places that are. In the summer, for instance, we run a camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We also run several team sports leagues that play on the Mall in D.C. But besides those regular programs we’re always looking for other places to take groups of kids—farms, national parks, anyplace we think will be fun for them.”
Carole immediately raised her hand. “Maybe some of the kids could come here to Pine Hollow,” she suggested eagerly. “I’m sure they’d love to see all the beautiful horses here, maybe even learn to ride …” Her voice trailed off when she glanced at Max, who looked annoyed. Biting her lip, she realized that he was probably mad at her for volunteering his stable without permission. Carole knew that her offer had been impetuous, but whenever there was a problem, she couldn’t help trying to come up with a solution involving horses. The idea of bringing city kids to Pine Hollow for a day of fresh air and horses made perfect sense to her. Still, Max ran a pretty tight ship, and he might not
like the idea of a bunch of strangers running around interrupting the routine.
But her fears were put to rest a second later when Max’s expression changed into a rueful smile. “I should have known you’d jump the gun on my great idea, Carole,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I’ve already volunteered Pine Hollow to Susan as the site for the group’s Halloween party next Saturday.”
“That’s right,” Susan said over the surprised gasps that greeted the announcement. “We had another site lined up, but it fell through. It’s really great of Max to agree to this at the last minute.” She smiled at Carole. “And it’s nice to see that his riders are just as good-hearted as he is.”
“They’d better be,” Max said warningly, glancing at the young riders. “This event is going to take a lot of work to pull off. I’ll need lots of help planning and running it, especially since I didn’t realize when I volunteered that most of the younger riders here are going to be at their school party at the public elementary school. So you older kids are really going to have to pitch in and help.”
The Saddle Club exchanged glances. Each of them knew exactly what the others were thinking. Without a word, they all raised their hands.
“We’d be happy to help out, Max,” Stevie called. “We have some experience in this sort of thing, you know.” The year before, the three girls had spent Halloween with their friend Kate Devine at her family’s dude ranch out West. Mrs. Devine had asked them to come to help her plan a
Halloween fair benefiting the local school’s American Indian program. The fair had been a huge success. The Saddle Club was sure they could do the same for this Halloween event.