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Katie and the Big Cat

In this story, Katie and her best friend Isis go on a Pony Trek. If you like horses, you’ll definitely love this story, and even if you aren’t quite such a horsey person, you will learn about a scary modern legend that has grown up in the western part of England called Cornwall.

Story by Bertie.

Read by Natasha. Duration 19 Minutes. Pictures by CaiJia Eng

Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.

It was the first day of term in the New Year.  Isis was standing in the playground talking to Judith and Andy about their holidays. All three of them had lovely suntans, Judith and Andy from their skiing trips, and Isis from her stay on a Caribbean island.  When Katie joined them, she had her usual pale white skin, with a touch of red on her nose from the cold winter air.

“Oh hi Katie, what did you do for Christmas?” asked Isis.

“Oh Mum and I went to Grandma’s as usual,” replied Katie.  

That evening, as Katie’s mum ladled out her home-made pumpkin soup for dinner, Katie asked: “Why can’t we be rich like Isis and her mum? I mean, we’re witches, so we could easily magic up some money and then we could go on lovely holidays and I could have a pony.”

“Oh Katie,” replied her mother. “We can’t do that. Only the Government is allowed to make money. Using magic to do it is called alchemy, and it’s against the law.”

“Oh,” said Katie. “That’s a pity. Isis is always talking about her pony, and I would really like to have one too.”

“Well maybe she will let you ride hers,” said her mother softly. “Ponies aren’t just expensive, they are a lot of work, and I’m sure that Isis could do with some help looking after hers.”

On Friday morning, Isis said to Katie, “Why don’t you come down to the pony farm with me tomorrow? You can have a ride on Bessie if you like.” And Katie was thrilled. “What a clever mother I have,” she thought. “I’m sure she did a little magic spell to make that happen.”  But in fact, her mother had just dropped a heavy hint to Isis’s mum at the school gate, along the lines of “Katie’s always telling me how Isis adores her pony. I think it’s a stage that every girl goes through, but we really can’t afford one.”

On Saturday, as they drove to the Pony Farm, Katie’s mum said: “Remember, don’t use any magic. We don’t want Isis’s mum seeing you doing any spells.”

“Promise Mum,” said Katie who was very excited just to be going riding for the first time.  

When they arrived, Isis was already tightening the saddle on Bessie and expertly adjusting the stirrups. She knew all about how the reins and the tackle fitted. Of course, she herself wore all the smartest riding clothes, including jodhpurs, a trim tweed jacket, and buckled shoes. Katie just had her jeans and trainers. She had to borrow a hard hat from the stable.

Isis lifted her foot into the stirrup, and swung her other leg over the pony. She looked a perfect picture sitting on top of the dapple-coated Bessie, and Katie could not help feeling a pang of envy. Isis gave Bessie a little kick, and rode her over to the ring, where she cantered and jumped over some small fences.

When it was Katie’s turn to have a go, Isis said: “Now remember, the most important thing is to let Bessie know that you are the boss. Horses can smell fear, so be firm.”

Katie found it a little bit of a struggle to climb up onto the saddle, but Bessie stood very still for her. Isis said:

“Don’t slouch. Hold the reins low, you’re not a cowboy. Give her a gentle kick.”

Katie kicked, but Bessie didn’t move.

“She knows you’re a beginner,” sighed Isis.

“Yes,” thought Katie. “But I know she will like me. We witches have an affinity with animals.” And she concentrated very hard before saying, “Click cluck” with the back of her mouth. Bessie started to walk. After fifteen minutes, and a little coaching from Isis, Katie was already trotting.

Isis’s mum said to Katie: “She’s a natural.” And at the end of the morning, Katie was really excited and thrilled just to have been on a horse.

After that, Isis often invited Katie to ride Bessie. And Katie helped look after her too. When nobody was looking, she used just a little magic to clean up the stable, which gave Isis and her more time to brush down Bessie’s coat and to gossip about school.

At half term, Isis and her mum rented a cottage in Cornwall. There was a stable nearby, and they planned to go riding every day. Isis asked if they could bring Katie too, and her mum gladly agreed, because she knew it would be more fun for her daughter to have a friend with her.  

As Katie was packing, her mum said: “Remember Katie, no magic on this holiday.” And Katie promised, “Yes mum. No magic.”  She kissed Solomon goodbye and said: “Be a good kittie while I’m away. Leave the mice alone. They have a right to live too you know.” And Solomon rubbed his face against Katie’s, purred, and thought, “No chance. I’ll get those pesky mice as soon as you’re gone.”

It was a long drive down to Cornwall, but Isis’s car was so comfortable that it was no hardship. When they were off the motorway, they drove along long country lanes with high hedges on either side. They were heading upwards, towards the moors. The satnav said: “Take the next left” and they turned into a little farm. Their cottage was in fact a newly converted barn. It was extremely comfortable inside, with warm central heating, a huge flat panel TV, and a lovely pink bathroom. Through the windows they could see the old stone farm house and the stables.

The next morning, Katie and Isis went to look at the ponies. They met a stable boy who was leading out a sleek black horse on long elegant legs.

“He’s a bit of an aristocrat of a horse,” said Katie admiringly.

And the boy said: (West Country Accent)

“He took a right fright yesterday afternoon and threw the boss.”

“What spooked him?” asked Isis?

“What else?” asked the boy, “But the Beast.”

“The beast? You’re kidding us,” said Isis.

But Katie said: “I suppose he means the Beast of Bodmin Moor.”

“That be the one,” said the boy.

“He’s like a big wild cat,” said Katie, “Some people think he’s a puma or a panther that escaped from the zoo.”

“Your friend’s got the low down,” said the boy. “Perhaps you’ll get a look at him yourself, if you’re very unlucky…”

Isis turned her nose up at him. She did not want to admit that he had got her rather spooked herself.  

“But most people think it’s just a rumour ,and the Beast doesn’t exist,” whispered Katie when he was out of earshot. “So he was probably just making it up to frighten us any way.”

They went inside the stable and found a girl who told them that the lad was always making up stories to scare the visitors. “He should be sacked,” she said. “Only, he’s the boss’s nephew. And it’s not true. Nobody was thrown off yesterday, especially not the boss, who isn’t even here this week.”

She found them two ponies, one called Yorkie who was black, and another called Steptoe who was brown with a shaggy mane and looked a little bit like a miniature carthorse. As Isis was the more experienced rider of the two girls, she took Yorkie who was the most frisky of the two ponies. Isis’s mum would have the tall black horse.

That afternoon, they set out on their first trek. They rode up to a lake where their ponies waded in for a drink. Over the next few days they explored the local paths and trails. It was not far from the farm before they were away from the hedges and long grass and up on more stony desolate country. They rode to an old deserted prison, which was rather spooky. Katie managed a few canters, and Isis’s pony jumped over a ditch.

When they got back to the farm, they played hide and seek in the hay loft and watched DVDs on TV. Isis’s mum drove into the village to fetch takeaway dinners, and Katie tried Chinese food and learned how to use chop sticks. All in all it was a perfect holiday.

On Friday, they took a packed lunch and rode out on an extra long trek. It was their aim to reach some ancient stones left on the moors by Druids centuries ago. The sun was shining brightly for the time of the year, and it was a crisp bright day. A bold fox sat on a stone wall and watched them approach, before slowly jumping down and trotting off to the woods. Brightly coloured pheasants pecked the grass in the fields. A scarecrow provided a perch for the beady-eyed birds. Katie’s pony plodded on in his usual docile way, until, quite out of character, he shied back and gave Katie a jolt. “Whoa!” she said, what’s got into you?” And then she saw a snake – probably an adder – slithering through the grassy ditch and disappearing into some long grass.

“That’s ok,” she said, “he’s gone.”

Further up the track ,they found an old deserted farm house. They rode into the walls of its tumbled-down garden, and were thinking of stopping for lunch when all of a sudden a huge black cat jumped over the wall – only this was no kitty-cat like Solomon – this was the size of a large dog, only much thinner and sleeker. He was black, with bright yellow eyes, yellow teeth, and a red tongue.  He was facing Isis who had her back to the farmhouse… her black pony started to rear and stomp all over the place… her mum screamed as Isis was flung clear off its back – one of her feet was caught in the stirrup – and oh it looked like it twisted nastily as she fell to the ground – the pony darted round the big cat and ran into the next field, but Isis was left on the ground. Her mum was in near hysterics. She was crying. The cat growled and fixed her with his stare. He looked like he was about to pounce.

“Katie, do some magic!” screamed Isis .

And Katie, who was already thinking of a spell, shouted “Catnip!” And then she said:

“Hey Cat – Don’t hurt my friend!”… and the cat turned around and said:

“I don’t mean to!”

“Then why did you scare her pony like that?” asked Katie, with difficulty, because her own pony was fritting around, fairly unsettled, even at a distance.

Isis’s mum had stopped screaming and was watching in a amazement as Katie carried on this conversation with the creature…

“Well,” said the cat, “I wouldn’t have done if I knew you could talk… Listen, I’m hungry. I don’t suppose you have anything to eat with you do you?”

“Just a cheese sandwich,” said Katie, starting to take off her back back.

“No thanks,” said the cat.

“Sorry, I’m a vegetarian” said Katie. “I’m sure you would get better food if you went back to the zoo.”

The cat, who was now sitting in front of Katie’s horse, licking his paw, looked up and said: “I don’t come from the zoo. I had an owner who kept me secretly in his back garden. I was in a cage, and he fed me on tins of yucky cat food, so I ran away when he forgot to lock the door. I’ve lived up here for the past few years. I catch rabbits and pheasants, but I don’t like the cold or the rain. Whenever I try to ask people for help, they get scared and run away.”

“You’re lucky a farmer hasn’t shot you,” said Katie. “That will happen one day you know. Hey, why don’t you let us take you to the zoo? I’m sure they will look after you.”

And since Katie seemed like such a nice girl, and so trustworthy, the cat agreed to go back to the farm with them. Isis’s leg really hurt, and it was with much difficulty that her mum helped her back onto her pony, but it was either that or call the air ambulance, and Isis didn’t fancy flying in a helicopter which would be really noisy and uncomfortable.

The Beast of Bodmin followed them back to the farm, trotting behind the horses,  and when they saw the stable boy Katie called out: “Hey have you got any legs of lamb in the freezer. We’ve got a hungry Beast here.”

“Wow!” said the boy, and legged it for the farm house as fast as he could.

The Beast stayed with Katie while Isis went to the hospital with her mum. They both promised not to breathe a word to anybody about the magic that they had witnessed, not even to Katie’s mum. Katie gave him a pint of milk, a pot of cream, and some leftovers of duck in plum sauce.

“I’m sure they will have steak in the zoo,” she promised. And the Beast of  Bodmin purred contentedly, because although he was hungry, he was at least warm by the radiator and looking forward to his new life in the enclosure, where food would be brought to him, and visitors would admire him.

And that was the story of Katie and the Pony who was spooked.

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