LA DUQUESA – Wonder Horse Book Two
By Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Authors of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Ginny wasn’t surprised when Maryann approached her about riding Prince Ali for Becky. That was what she’d come to expect from Maryann, and she was always willing to help someone else. As long as it was okay with Caroline Howard and Maryann’s mother, Rose, it was fine with her.
Ginny picked Maryann up at school, and they drove to San Juan Capistrano. Maryann was surprised at Becky’s home. She didn’t expect that. It was huge, gorgeous, and they even had a housekeeper. Maryann never knew anyone that had a housekeeper. When Aunt Ginny took her to the barn area to meet Becky, she was surprised all over again. The horse area was beautiful. There were grass pastures with horses turned out in them. The barn was stately. Even the stall door handles were solid brass and highly polished. They spied Becky in the breezeway with Prince Ali in cross ties waiting for them. Becky had him almost ready to ride. Becky hugged Aunt Ginny and thanked her for bringing Maryann to ride for her; then she hugged Maryann and handed her the reins. The three of them walked Ali to the arena. Becky stood at the rail and watched as Aunt Ginny gave Maryann a boost up to mount. “He’s quite a bit taller than Quesa, isn’t he?” Maryann said in surprise. Ginny smiled.
“Yes, he is, but you never rode him before, so you probably didn’t notice the difference.”
Maryann walked him around and let him loosen up before she asked him to collect and trot. He felt a lot like Quesa, but she also noticed he had more power in his movements. As she walked him past Becky, she whispered, “Boy, this is like Quesa on steroids!”
Becky giggled. “Wait ‘til you get him going!” she told her.
Maryann pushed Ali into a strong trot for a lap around the arena. She was ready to whoop out loud. “Golly, he’s got so much horsepower under the skin. He’s sure fun to ride!” She pulled him back to a normal trot because he was a little out of shape. She kept him going for several laps in both directions. “Should I go ahead and canter?” she asked Aunt Ginny.
Ginny nodded. “We’ll just do a couple of laps, then give him a rest and walk him out. He’s starting to sweat already.”
Maryann’s ride was short but sweet. Prince Ali’s canter was smooth as glass. His trot was easy to post. His strong trot was exciting. She understood why Becky wanted to ride him. Ali seemed to enjoy himself through every change of gait. But, by the time Ginny called the ride to a halt, Ali was sweating quite a bit. “He’s out of shape. He needs short rides until he gets back into shape,” she announced. “Becky, can you ask someone to start lounging him every day? That will improve his stamina a lot. Maryann will be able to ride a little longer each time we come, and he should be ready for you to start your own practice on him.”
Becky agreed. She and Maryann put Ali back in cross ties and removed the tack. They took him to the indoor wash rack and bathed him. Maryann put him on the hot walker to let him stretch his legs while he dried off. The girls brushed him down and put him back in his stall. Maryann gave him some apple pieces she’d brought with her. The two girls chatted happily as they worked.
“Why don’t you stay for dinner here before you head back up the hill, Aunt Ginny? You remember what a good cook Esperanza is. She made extra hoping you’d stay. She told me she missed you,” Becky said.
“I’d love to!” Ginny said. “But we need to check in with Maryann’s mom, and I have to call home first. Mike and Brody will be on their own for dinner. That means Mike will go out for pizzas or hamburgers. That won’t break Brody’s heart.” She laughed.
Becky’s mom, Caroline, joined everyone on the back patio by the pool when they finished up in the barn. Caroline invited Ginny to have an iced tea with her. Becky took Maryann to her room so she could show her pictures of Ali in the show ring. As they walked down the hallway to Becky’s bedroom, Maryann got a glance into the living room. She was amazed. The entire house she lived in would fit into that one room here. When they got to Becky’s bedroom, she thought most of her house would fit into that room too. She was astonished. Becky noticed her expression and her open mouth. “It’s just a house, Maryann. My dad is an architect. He makes a lot of money. Don’t let it scare you.”
Maryann laughed nervously. “Oh, it didn’t scare me. It’s just funny, I guess. My whole house would fit into your living room. I’ve never seen a house this big before. It sure is beautiful.”
“My mom says the most important thing is not where you live or how fancy your house is, it is what kind of person you are that counts,” Becky told her. “She says you should be kind to everyone, give what you can to someone who has less than you, and try to be the best person you can be.”
“Your mom and my mom will get along really well,” Maryann told her. “She says the same thing!”
Before Esperanza, the housekeeper, called them to dinner, Becky and Maryann talked about horses and horse shows. Becky told her all about the craziness that happened to her and Prince Ali. Becky also told her about going to the National Championships with Ali and her trip to Paris for the World Championships. Maryann was transported. She wanted to take La Duquesa to the Youth National Championship in July with Becky and Ali. She just couldn’t bring herself to ask her mom about it. She knew they couldn’t afford it.
Becky called Aunt Ginny the next evening. They talked about Maryann. Becky wanted to know if there was any way she could help make sure La Duquesa become Maryann’s for real and for certain. Ginny asked her to give it some time. Something would come up.
Ginny had a glimmer of an idea. If Maryann’s grandparents disowned Rose before she knew she was pregnant with Maryann, maybe they didn’t know they had a grandchild. If their son was their only child, maybe they would be receptive to their only grandchild. And, if they were really wealthy, they might be willing to help. She asked Brody to find out what Maryann’s grandparents names were on the sly. She didn’t want Maryann to know she was snooping around in her background.
Brody told her what Maryann knew about them the next evening while he helped her wash up dinner dishes. She had a name. Carnegie! That was an important east-coast family and if they were related to the Andrew Carnegie side, they could be more than rich. They could be filthy rich and famous too.
Ginny took some pictures of Maryann and La Duquesa the next day while they were riding in the arena. That night she started looking for Charles and Celeste Carnegie on the internet. She found them easily. Celeste was heavily involved in charity work that extended from the east to west coast, raising money for children’s charities and cancer research. She found a photo of the couple at a charity function printed in a major east coast newspaper. They were a handsome couple. Charles, a distinguished neurosurgeon at the best hospital in the east, had neatly groomed silver gray hair and looked handsome wearing a tuxedo in the picture. Celeste, looking years younger than her age, wore a fashionable gown and was dripping with jewels. They were what Ginny expected, and she noticed the resemblance Maryann had to her grandfather right away.
It took Ginny a day or two to make up her mind. She finally decided to go ahead with her plan. She wrote a letter to the Carnegies and included a close up picture of Maryann riding La Duquesa. She slipped it in the mail the next day and crossed her fingers. The letter would either bring her grandparents into Maryann’s life or make no difference in her life if they rejected her.
She prayed she’d made the right decision and the grandparents would welcome their only grandchild.