Series: The Pony-Mad Princess: Book 4
By Diana Kimpton
“Princess Aurelia!” The shout echoed down the palace corridor.
Princess Ellie groaned. She was on her way to the stables and didn’t want to stop. She didn’t want to be called by her real name either. She much preferred Ellie.
The owner of the voice rushed up. It was a maid, who looked very flustered and out of breath. “You’d better come quickly, Your Highness. The King and Queen are very cross.”
Ellie followed the maid back along the corridor, wondering what she’d done wrong this time. For once, she couldn’t think of anything. She had been very polite for the last few days, and it was ages since she’d last turned up for dinner in her jodhpurs, or muddy boots.
The King and Queen were waiting impatiently for her in their favourite part of the royal garden. Their arms were crossed, and their faces looked even angrier than Ellie had expected.
“Look at the mess you’ve made, Aurelia,” roared the King, as he pointed at the grass. The normally smooth, green surface of the lawn was pockmarked with hoofprints.
“How dare you ride in my garden,” wailed the Queen. She sniffed angrily and dabbed away a tear with a handkerchief embroidered with silver crowns.
“It wasn’t me,” said Ellie, indignantly.
“Don’t tell lies,” snapped the King.
Ellie resisted the temptation to snap back. She knew from experience that it would only make matters worse. “I am telling the truth,” she insisted, as calmly as possible. “I’ve got all the palace grounds to ride in. I don’t need to use the lawn.”
“Hmm,” said the Queen, thoughtfully. “Aurelia does have a point, my dear.”
The King was less convinced. He stared suspiciously at Ellie and asked, “How do you explain the hoofprints then?”
Ellie bent down and ran her fingers round one of the holes in the grass while she tried to think of an explanation. Meg, the royal groom, had a horse of her own, but she was far too sensible to ride Gipsy in the garden. Ellie’s four ponies were the only other suspects. There weren’t any others at the palace.
“If you haven’t ridden here, who has?” asked the Queen. “It certainly wasn’t Kate.”
Ellie didn’t need reminding about that. She had been lonely since her best friend had gone to visit her parents, who were working in some distant desert. Life was much more exciting and fun when Kate was staying with her gran, the palace cook. They spent all their time together, riding Ellie’s ponies, or helping out at the stables. Once, they had even saved Sundance’s life after he got out of his stable in a storm.
That memory gave Ellie a flash of inspiration. “One of the ponies must have escaped,” she announced.
“That’s a possibility,” admitted the Queen. “But we can’t have ponies running all over the place doing whatever they please.”
“Definitely not,” said the King, firmly. “Tell Meg to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Ellie promised that she would. Then she ran to the yard to check which of her ponies was missing. To her surprise, none of them were. Moonbeam, Rainbow, Sundance and Shadow were all in their stables, happily munching hay. So was Gipsy.
“That’s really strange,” said Meg, when she heard what had happened.
“Perhaps one of them escaped and then came back,” suggested Ellie. “Sundance knows how to undo bolts.”
“He must have learned how to do them up as well,” replied Meg. “His door was definitely fastened this morning.” She looked at Ellie’s anxious face and smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll double-check everything tonight before I go to bed and I’ll put a special clip on Sundance’s door so he can’t undo it.”
“That should stop it happening again,” said Ellie, confidently. If there was no way her ponies could escape, there was no way they could do any damage. By the morning, her parents would probably have forgotten all about the mysterious hoofprints.
Unfortunately, Ellie was wrong. Before she’d had time for breakfast, she was summoned to the garden again, and so was Meg. Ellie’s parents were even angrier than before. The King’s face was nearly as red as the ruby in his everyday crown.
“Look at this. There are even more hoofprints than yesterday,” said the King, as he stared at them both accusingly.
“And my prize petunias are ruined,” added the Queen, holding up the mangled plants. “Your wretched ponies have been eating my flowers.”
“They can’t have,” said Ellie.
“They must have,” snapped the King.
“Excuse me, Your Majesties,” said Meg, politely. “The ponies were all shut securely in their stables when I went to bed last night, and they were still there this morning.”
“Then they must have been out in between,” said the Queen. “It’s the only possible explanation. They are the only ponies at the palace.”
The King glared at Meg. “This is your fault. Go back to the stables and make sure it doesn’t happen again. If it does, we may have to consider your position.”
Ellie gasped with horror as Meg walked away. “You can’t sack her. She hasn’t done anything wrong.”
“Are you admitting that you have, then?” said her father, seriously. “Were you lying about not riding here?”
“No,” said Ellie. “But…”
“There are no buts about it,” said the King, before she had time to finish. “It’s Meg’s job to keep the ponies under control. If she can’t do that, I’m afraid she must go.”
Ellie stood defiantly on the damaged lawn as she watched her parents walk indoors. Meg had allowed her more freedom with her ponies than she had ever had before. Ellie didn’t want to lose her, and she didn’t want a new groom who might take that freedom away.
Somehow she had to find out who was making the mysterious hoofprints.
When the King finds hoofprints on his lawn, he blames Princess Ellie. But she doesn’t ride in the royal garden! Ellie must catch the real culprit, so she sets out on a scary, starlight adventure... Celebrate ten years of the Pony-Mad Princess series with these new editions of the much-loved stories.
Diana Kimpton has two passions - horses and writing. So it is no wonder that Diana creates brilliant pony stories, which demonstrate her own love and understanding of ponies. Diana also has a mischievous sense of fun, not unlike Princess Ellie! Diana has written a number of books and television scripts for children. She lives on the Isle of Wight, just a short walk from the sea.
Visit www.dianakimpton.co.uk to find out more.
“A sparkling new series of books from Diana Kimpton all about ponies, adventure and being a princess - they're full of authentic details about riding and looking after horses, as well as Princess Ellie's palace life (which isn't always as fun as it might seem)!”
Pretty Pony Club Magazine
“A heady cocktail of princesses, horses and mystery is enough to make any girl giddy. The text trots along with humour and enough horsey fact to hold the attention, while the lovely drawings help fit faces to story.”