Taïga often bikes out to the countryside on weekends. Her favorite destination is Papy Pivert’s farm.
The main attraction is the horses!
Papy Pivert has an enormous orchard where he grows cherries, pears and apples.
Now that his old companion Absinthe is retired and spends his time grazing or sleeping under his favourite chestnut tree, Papy’s bought a tractor…
Papy also has four cows, numerous chicken and two cats…
‘Papy, je te présente Taïga, une amie de mon école.’
‘Bonjour, Taïga.’ Papy only speaks French.
‘On voulait savoir… si on pouvait monter derrière le tracteur?’
Taïga whispers: ‘Don’t forget to ask him about the horses.’
Papy scratches his chin. ‘Et je pourrais vous déposer au pré – il y a deux nouveaux poulains!’ He winks at Taïga who blushes. ‘Ah spik a litteul Anglische! And zere arre deux newborn foals forr you to see.’
Jeanne has waited outside examining the tractor.
‘Eh, Jeanne! Descends! Tu pourras conduire un peu après, comme d’habitude…’
Jeanne claps her hands. ‘Papy Pivert, vous êtes le meilleur!’
‘Watch out! I’ll jump on when it starts moving!’
Papy takes them on a tour around the orchard.
Jeanne and Agnès keep chatting while Taïga takes it all in; the splendor of the crisp fall day and vibrant leaves, the blue sky…
… and even the crisp smell of autumn air – mixed with a whiff off manure and a little touch of gasoline!
Taïga catches a glimpse through the trees of the mares with their foals. ‘Look! They’re over there – right under that Chestnut tree!’
Agnès and Jeanne lean in to hear Taïga better over the rumbling of the engine.
The tractor stops at the meadow, and the girls excitedly jump off. Papy gives them a last word of advice before the girls set off.
‘You lissen to Agnès, les filles. Elle sait comment faire.’
‘Merci!’ ‘Merci Monsieur Pivert!’
‘Et je vous ferais des crêpes ce soir! Allez, ouste!’
Agnès shows how to clean the hooves, but Taïga is spellbound by the beauty of the foal.
‘Don’t approach from behind, Taïga. Let them know you’re coming… Or you might get kicked…’
Taïga clicks her tongue, and approaches the big horses. The little foal looks curiously at her, but doesn’t budge. She talks softly to the foal and strokes its silky flank.
Later, in Papy Pivert’s kitchen.
The first “crêpe” is for Papy’s big red cat, Auguste. ‘Crêpe spéciale à l’anchois! Mais où est Minette? I aven’t seen errr for… Je ne sais pas…’
The girls look at each other. Yuk! Agnès whispers: ‘Don’t worry, it’s not the same batter…’
‘J’ai quelque chose à vous demander… ‘ Uhoh… Agnès frowns. ‘Une des juments n’a pas assez de lait, et peutêtre vous aimeriez..?’
‘Oh oui, Papy!’ Thrilled, Agnès turns towards Taïga: ‘He wants us to bottle feed one of the foals!’ Taïga can’t believe her luck. Bottle feed a real living baby horse! Wow! Papy entertains the girls with histories from his past while the girls wolf down the crêpes.
Papy is funny and very kind, but Taïga can’t wait to get the lunch over with and get back to the meadow. ‘Sooo… Steady now.’
The moment is magical and Taïga beams. ‘I wish you were mine, you’re sooo beautiful…’
After feeding the foal, Jeanne and Agnès take some “driving lessons” on Papy’s tractor. Taiga prefers staying with the horses so she takes her easel and acrylics into the meadow…
‘Danseur! Stop nuzzling! You’re ruining my picture…’
The big horse snorts. And suddenly he canters off!
‘Taïga! We were looking for you!’
‘Just a minute! I’ll just finish this…’
Taïga has painted a mare and her foal, using the new impressionist technique explained by Monsieur Lefèbvre.
She runs downhill to catch up with Agnès and Jeanne. One of the foals runs after her.
Taiga stops and faces the foal. It’s the same she bottle fed earlier.
‘Do you want to play?’ The foal whinnies and nods vigorously.
Taïga laughs and starts running, stopping, feinting – the foal happily following her.
When she stops out of breath, he nudges her with his head and Taïga throws her arms around him and hugs him…
‘Taïga! Where are you?’
Taïga snuggles close to the foal: ‘I have to go now, but I’ll be back soon.’
The girls are waiting for Taïga at the stables. Taïga has never seen a cow up close before, and it’s a little intimidating.
Agnès and Jeanne aren’t afraid – not as long as the horned animals stay inside… Papy milks the cow while Taïga fascinated watches and Agnès and Jeanne try their best funny-faces on the cows. ‘First one to make a cow laugh wins!’ But the cows just stand there, ruminating; and the girls soon grow tired of making fun of the poor beasts.
‘Let’s go back to the horses!’
Taïga picks up a soft brush and brushes “her” foal. ‘Does it have a name?’
‘I don’t think so…’
‘I might call you Prancer. Do you like it?’ Taïga talks softly to the foal.
Jeanne brushes the other foal, but it keeps moving around.
‘This is boring and it’s time to leave anyway…’ Jeanne doesn’t like horses, she prefers motorcycles and cars. Taïga could stay and brush Prancer the whole night, but she knows Jeanne is right – they have to leave soon.
They have left their bikes in the ditch on the other side of the road, they were in such a hurry when they got here this morning… And now they will have to hurry back to school!
The following week…
Auguste, Papy’s big red cat, makes Taïga follow him upstairs into the attic. He stops and hisses in front of an old linen closet.
Taïga gets down on her knees and checks under the closet, but the cat mews and scratches on the door.
Taïga opens the door, and is surprised to find Minette and a whole litter of kittens comfortably installed on the linen.
‘Whoa!’ All the cats jump out and purring surround Taïga.
‘Ah, there you are! We we’ve been looking for… Oh, mon Dieu comme ils sont mignons!’
Jeanne comes rushing in too. ‘Aww…’ The three girls scoop up the kittens and carry them downstairs.
They put them down in front of the fireplace, and play with them until Papy calls from the kitchen.
Papy opens a bottle of homemade cider. ‘Merci Taïga! Célébrons! Now we mussst celebrrrreit! Cidre forrr you all!’
Agnès cuddles one of the kittens. ‘Je peux avoir un chaton, Papy?’
‘Bien sûr, ma chérie! You can ave all ov zem, on va tous les garder.’
Taïga is a little jealous, but she knows she can play with and cuddle the kittens every time she visits the farm…
Suddenly Jeanne cries out: ‘Monsieur Pivert! Les crêpes!..’
‘Oh, mon Dieu! Les crêpes!’ Papy hurries back to the stove and turns the crêpe in the air, like a chef!
‘Crêpes pour tout le monde! Avec chantilly…’
Part I – End of Chapter 46