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Matt Christopher Adventure Classic
Author: Matt Christopher
2014 Reissue Edition
5"x 8" Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-1-62268-085-6 ebook
Excited and impatient, Stu Bancroft quickened his steps as he headed for
the tall, red barn. He had been waiting a long, long time for this glorious
The barn, with the twin hex signs painted over
its wide, sliding door, was only a short distance away from the house.
Inside was Midnight, the Morgan pony Stu and Sally had flown almost three
thousand miles to see and take back home with them.
"Slow down, Stu." Uncle Harry's deep
voice resounded behind him. "I don't want you to have an accident
at the very last minute."
Stu turned, smiling broadly as he waited for his
uncle, his fourteen-year-old cousin Wilbur, and his sister Sally. Uncle
Harry looked almost comic as he lumbered down the path, Sally on one side
of him and Wilbur on the other. Stu remembered Aunt Trish writing in one
of her letters to his mother that Uncle Harry was a big man. But she had
never said how big! He must weigh two hundred and fifty pounds if he weighed
"Is Midnight tall, Uncle Harry?" Stu
asked. "Is he still all black?"
"As black as the ace of spades," replied
Uncle Harry. "And he's about the standard size of a Morgan."
"How tall is that?" asked Sally, her
blond hair bouncing on her shoulders. At twelve, she was almost as tall
as her brother, and as athletic.
"Oh, about thirteen-nine hands. Just under
fourteen, I'd say," Uncle Harry answered.
They joined Stu and walked to the barn together,
Wilbur breaking loose from them to slide open the wide door.
As they stepped inside the barn, Stu was instantly
aware of the smell of hay and manure. His heart hammered as he remembered
that it was almost a year ago when he and his family had visited Aunt
Trish, during his father's two weeks' vacation. Midnight had been just
a foal then.
The muffled sounds of horses blowing air through
their thick nostrils filled the high-ceilinged barn at the same time that
Stu saw the two horses closest to the doorway.
"Black Eagle and Tiger Lil!" he cried,
suppressing a burning desire to run toward them.
At the sound of his voice, the horses, Midnight's
sire and dam, reared back, stamping hard on the floors of their stalls,
while their eyes widened in shock and alarm.
"You scared them, Stu!" Wilbur cried
fiercely. "I thought you understood horses!"
"I'm sorry," mumbled Stu.
"Stu's just excited, Wil," said his
father. "No harm's done. Okay, you two," he addressed the horses.
"Take it easy. It's just your old friends, Stu and Sally Bancroft.
They came to say hello."
Both horses looked at Uncle Harry with wide eyes,
their ears stiffly alert. The big man sweet-talked them for another minute
until they settled down.
Deep inside Stu felt a pang. He had been dreaming
of this moment for many months. He had ridden both the black stallion
and the bay mare long before Midnight was born, and now he was disappointed
that they didn't remember him.
He heard a whinnying sound from the next stall,
and could barely contain his excitement. That must be Midnight! He must
be full-grown now! A black beauty!
Unable to hold back any longer, Stu cat-footed
to the next stall. Excitement rippled through him in waves as he saw a
black velvet pony munching on a pile of hay. What a beauty he was! Not
quite as tall as his sire, but strong-bodied all the same.
"Midnight!" Stu whispered.
The pony looked up at Stu and stared. But he showed
no real sign of recognizing the boy, and a moment later returned to his
Disappointed, Stu glanced at his uncle, who came
up alongside him with Sally and Wilbur.
"Well, what do you think of him?" Uncle
"He's everything I dreamed he'd be!"
Stu answered breathlessly.
"Not as tall as Black Eagle, but handsome
just the same," said his uncle.
"I think he's gorgeous!" Sally
exclaimed delightedly. "I bet you ride him often, don't you, Wilbur?"
Stu wondered whether "Well yeah"
meant once or twice a day, or once or twice a week. He didn't ask for
specifics, though. He would rather not know; he was afraid he'd be jealous.
He was just happy that from now on Midnight would be his, and hoped that
his and Sally's two-week vacation would go by swiftly so that they could
take Midnight back home with them.
"We seldom keep them here in the barn,"
Uncle Harry explained. "They're only here now because you were coming.
They're out in the pasture most of the time, loose and running."
"Would you like to ride him?" Wilbur
"Would I!" said Stu, his eyes brightening.
"Not so fast," cautioned Uncle Harry.
"You ought to get reacquainted with him before you put a saddle on
Not even waiting for the go-ahead signal from
his uncle, Stu opened the stall door and stepped inside. Proceeding slowly,
he started talking to the pony in a soft voice.
"Hello, Midnight. Remember me? I'm Stu. The
last time we saw each other was almost a year ago. You were just a foal
then. A pretty little foal with long, skinny legs."
Midnight looked up, chewing on the hay that stuck
out of his mouth.
When Stu reached out to touch him, he stepped
back, muscles rippling in his velvety shoulders.
"Just take your time," advised Uncle
Harry. "He doesn't quite know what to make of you yet."
Stu moved toward the pony again, continuing to
talk in gentle tones. He knew that a pony only a year old could become
quite jittery and nervous when confronted by a stranger. I've got to
be as patient as I can, he thought. I want our friendship to last
At last patience won out, as the pony allowed
Stu to stand beside him and stroke his muzzle and neck.
"Well, I guess you've bridged the gap,"
observed Uncle Harry, smiling. "I didn't expect it to take very long.
Midnight's real good-natured. He'll make you a nice pet."
Stu laid his face against the pony's cheek. "Can
I ride him now?"
"Why not? Wilbur, put a bridle on him, then
bring him out. I'll get the saddle."
Stu saw his cousin take a bridle off a hook on
the wall and slip it over Midnight's head. As he watched Wilbur leading
Midnight out of the barn, Stu wondered just how much his cousin liked
the pony. Surely, he thought, Wilbur must have become quite attached to
Midnight. It would have been impossible not to, if he liked ponies at
Outside the barn, Stu hung on to the reins as
Wilbur lifted a saddle onto Midnight's back. He moved it gently into position
and tightened the girth.
"Okay, fella. He's all yours," Uncle
Harry said, after tightening the stirrups.
Placing a foot into the stirrup on the pony's
left side, Stu mounted him. But, just as Stu settled himself on the saddle,
Midnight whinnied shrilly, and bucked! Caught by surprise, Stu's feet
slipped out of the stirrups and he was thrown out of the saddle. Landing
on the soft turf, he rolled over a couple of times to keep from getting
"Stu!" cried Uncle Harry, rushing to
his side. "Are you hurt, boy?"
Stu rose dazedly to his feet, shocked by the fall
but unhurt. "No. I'm all right," he said, breathing heavily.
Both Sally and Wilbur had run forward too. Sally's
face was white. "Stu! Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm sure," he said. "But I can't
understand it! Why did he buck like that?"
"You've got me," said his uncle. "He
surprised me as much as he did you."
Stu looked around and saw Wilbur mounting Midnight.
He felt miserable as he saw his cousin prod the pony gently in the ribs
and ride off with no problem whatever.
"I don't understand it, Uncle Harry,"
said Stu. "Why should Midnight throw me like that? A minute ago we
got along fine. What made him change all of a sudden?"
"Stu. I'm just as puzzled as you are,"
said Uncle Harry, frowning.
©2014 Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.