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Saladin the Wonder Horse

SMASHWORDS EDITION

Published by
Outer Banks Publishing Group
on Smashwords

Saladin the Wonder Horse
By Koos Verkaik

Copyright © 2018 by Koos Verkaik

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This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

SALADIN

THE WONDER HORSE

Book 1


By Koos Verkaik







Saladin The Wonder Horse. Copyright © 2018 by Koos Verkaik. All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Outer Banks Publishing Group – Outer Banks/Raleigh.


www.outerbankspublishing.com


No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For information contact Outer Banks Publishing Group at


info@outerbankspublishing.com


This book is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events in this book are not real, and any resemblance to actual events organizations or actual persons living or dead, is unintentional.


Cover design by Maverick Book Services

www.mavericktambiga.wixsite.com/bookservices


FIRST EDITION – January 2018

ISBN 13 - 978-0-9906790-6-6

ISBN 10 - 0-9906790-6-3

eISBN - 978-1370623723




Also by Koos Verkaik

DUTCH

Novels


Adolar

Terug naar het Dorp

Conflict Afrika

Mana, en Toen Brak de Hel los

De Meesterparasiet

Grapstad

Psycho Park

Alvader

Wolfstranen

Neanderthaler Dromen

De Dans van de Nar


Series of Children’s Books:

Saladin Series


Saladin het Wonderpaard

Saladin en Silver

Silver en het Spookpaard

De Nar van Nottingham


Slimmetje Series


Het Konijn uit de Hoed

De Boze Beer


Schipbreuk

De Hoge Hoed is weg

Ridder Joris

De Schat van Kabouter Bollewijn

Professor in Paniek

De Tovertrein

De Verdwaalde Walvis

Sneeuwmannen in Kabouterland

Otto de Otter

Krimpende Paddestoelen


Wolpertinger series


De Monsterherberg

De Onderlanden

Oom Ballon

Het Land van Franje

De Drakentuin

Roest IJzervreter

Drie Dolle Prinsen

Koning Leo Lawaai

De Kater is Jarig

Alex de Grote

Heros de Haas


ENGLISH

Novels


The Nibelung Gold

All-Father

The Dance of the Jester

HIM, After the UFO Crash

Heavenly Vision

Series of Children’s Books


Alex and the Wolpertinger


The Monster Inn

The Downhills

Uncle Balloon

The Land of Fringe

The Dragon Garden


Saladin Series


Saladin the Wonder Horse

Saladin and Silver

Silver and the Ghost Horse

The Jester of Nottingham











This series is dedicated to all brave, adventurous children in the world.

Chapter 1 The Colt of Baltimore

The girl’s name was Angela. She didn’t even have a family name—everyone on the farm of Lord Patrick Baltimore called her simply Angie. A young girl with light brown hair, a delicate face, and dark eyes, she had lost her parents, and had the lowest status of anyone on the farm. All she possessed were the clothes she wore. She slept in a stable, where her duty was to take care of the horses.

She loved the frisky foals just as much as the big, strong workhorses that were used on the farm and, in times of war, in battle by the soldiers of the estate.

Angie was growing up in England, in the turbulent times of the Middle Ages.

King Richard the Lionheart had left in the company of a large number of knights to take part in the Crusades, and now his brother, Prince John, was ruling the country. It soon became obvious that this prince was out more to enrich himself than to rule the country in a good and fair way. He was hungry for money and imposed high taxes on the people.

At the beginning Angie hardly noticed this. She worked hard and was actually too young to understand what was happening around her.

In fact she was rather satisfied with her life.

In the kitchen there was always a place for her by the fire. She liked feeding the horses, grooming them, and bringing them to the fields, where the servants put them to the plough.

Patrick Baltimore was good to her, and his daughter Samantha, a girl of her own age, often helped her with her work. When they cleaned out the stables together there was time left to go out for a ride.

Angie was not allowed to do a thing like that all by herself, but together with Samantha it was no problem. She preferred to ride Misty, a beautiful gray mare. In fact, Misty was her favorite horse. It seemed as if the clever animal understood that the girl was especially fond of her.

When Angie rode, without a saddle, holding tight to the mare’s long mane, she felt free and happy. She would go at full gallop along the fields and through the woods, and Samantha always had trouble keeping up with her on her own horse. For Angie was an excellent rider and, especially when she sat on the back of Misty, no one could overtake her. Even the most fearless rider had to do his utmost to be a match for Angie on her mare.

While Prince John and his Norman allies terrorized the country and made the people toil and slave, Angie worked on the big farm of Lord Baltimore and noticed little of the changes. She was not aware of the brave Saxons fighting the prince’s power, and she knew nothing about the plundering and raids, the oppression and blackmail.

She lived her own life, in her own little world among the horses and the other animals she took care of.

She could not suspect that her life would soon change totally.

***

It was noisy in the kitchen where Rose, a fat, always cheerful woman, rattled her pots and pans to provide the workers with food and where the men sat at long tables drinking beer and telling each other tales. The work was done for the day, and everyone was in a good mood.

But Angie didn’t hear the sounds. She sat there on a stool by the fire, with her chin in her hands and her elbows resting on her knees, and kept silent. In thought she was with Misty, the gray mare.

Misty was almost ready to foal. At first Angie had been happy about it, but now her happiness had changed to concern. Bernard Brown was the man on the farm who always helped with the birth of a foal; he was the man who knew all about horses, who understood every situation, and who actually should have been present right now to take care of Misty. But Patrick Baltimore had sent him out, together with some other men, to sell part of the harvest at the market, and he would be away for a couple of days.

Lord Baltimore was worried about the mare as well. Without the help of experienced human hands, it was unlikely the animal would be able to give birth to the foal.

Therefore he had ordered one of his servants to send for Thomas Jenkins, a man who knew as much about animals as Brown.

Angela looked up when she heard the loud voice of Rose. The woman was standing right in front of her with a bowl of hot soup in her hands.

“You got to eat, Angie, you hear?”

The girl shook her head.

“I’m not hungry at all. I couldn’t eat that soup to save my life. I want to go back to the stable!”

“There’s already someone with Misty right now. You better stay right here in the kitchen. It’s rough outside. It’s rainy and stormy out there, and here it’s nice and warm. It’s too chilly for you there in the stables.”

“Why do you say that? I sleep there every night.”

“Never mind. Just eat. Or is my soup not good enough for you?”

“Of course it is, Rose, you know that very well. It’s just that I don’t have any appetite for soup right now. Do you realize how bad it is with poor Misty? The mare has a high fever, she’s panicky. If I’m with her, she’ll calm down—I’m sure of that. That’s the least I can do for her. Even Lord Baltimore cannot help her, and he’s a man who is able to find a solution for everything. But now . . .”

“Calm down, little girl. Someone’s on the way to look for Jenkins. And Jenkins is like a medicine man. He’ll know what to do, he’ll help Misty.”

Angela looked up at the friendly woman, who still stood there in front of her with the bowl of soup in her hands. Tears came to her eyes as she said:

“Jenkins lives in Eastwood. That’s far away from here. If he doesn’t come soon, Misty will probably die, and the foal will never be born.”

Rose was about to say something, when the kitchen door swung open with a creak. A cold gust of wind made the men at the table shiver. Drops of rains splashed inside, and a figure loomed up in the doorway.

“Joe! Close that door right away!” someone shouted in annoyance. “Leave that cold outside, will you?”

Angie jumped to her feet. Why was the man alone? He had been ordered to send for Jenkins, hadn’t he?

The man hung up his soaked coat and wiped the wet hair from his eyes. He said:

“I’ve already been to Lord Baltimore to inform him. Thomas Jenkins refuses to come. He sits in the Grey Eagle Inn in Eastwood, and there is nothing I can do to get him to come here. He’s busy playing dice with Norman soldiers, and he told me that he can make more money that way than by lending a helping hand to Lord Baltimore. He’s such a stubborn fellow...and a giant as well!”

Joe paused, looked at the girl, and then said, in a much softer voice:

“I’m so sorry, Angie. I couldn’t have done more. I know you’re so very fond of Misty. But there’s still hope—maybe will we be able to help the mare ourselves.”

Angie fought back her tears. Now was not the time to cry. She knew Thomas Jenkins. He had been on the farm before. He was a big, strong man with a wild look. A giant, as Joe had already said, with broad shoulders, bushy eyebrows, and cold, gray eyes. It was well known that he worked for Norman knights. He trained their horses and was the best blacksmith in the entire neighborhood.

And he was known as a person who was able to make sick horses well again.

Angie couldn’t understand how someone who worked constantly with horses was refusing now to help a man like Lord Baltimore with one of his animals.

“Damn those Normans!” shouted someone. “You see what happens now? They’re even able to influence Jenkins!”

Angie made a decision. She ran up to the door, and before Rose was able to stop her, she slipped outside.

The cold rain beat her face. She wore no coat, and her clothes were immediately soaked. The girl shivered with cold as she crossed the yard.

Rose stood in the light of the doorway, a shawl covering her face to protect it from the cold storm. She stared out into the darkness and listened to the fast footsteps of the girl as she ran with her worn-out shoes through the puddles.

“Angie! Where’re you going to? Come back immediately!”

“Close that door, Rose!” shouted Joe. “The storm’s blowing out the candles. Let her go—she’s probably running to the stable. Maybe it’s better this way. We must not forget that it is her favorite horse.”

Rose nodded doubtfully. Then she closed the door.

Angie had reached the stable. Ignoring the other horses, she went to the place where Misty stood. An old man sat on his heels in the straw and didn’t even look up when she came standing next to him.

“She won’t make it without help,” he muttered, still avoiding looking at her—he knew only too well how much she loved the mare.

Misty neighed softly. The girl stroked the perspiring neck of the animal and whispered:

“Let them all talk, Misty. I will help you! You’ll make it...I’m sure of that, I will see to it. Hang on just a little while longer. You’ll have your foal!”

The old man had risen to his feet.

“Don’t fool yourself, Angie. I’ve worked with horses all my life, but I don’t know what to do now. The mare has become ill, seriously ill. Go back to the kitchen and stay there. Did you hear me?”

Angie didn’t mind his words. She stood on her toes and pushed her head against Misty’s nose. Again the mare gave a soft nicker.

“You see? You understand me. Hang on. I’ll be back as soon as possible. I’m going to go for help.”

The old man reached out a hand in order to hold the girl back. But she was too quick for him. She slipped outside and ran resolutely up to the muddy path leading to Eastwood. She didn’t mind the rain and the storm, didn’t feel the cold, and only gritted her teeth when she knocked her foot against a rock on the middle of the path. It had been raining all day, and every now and then she sank up to her ankles in the mud.

“Got to hurry,” she thought. “It could be too late at any moment. Misty! Please, don’t give up. I’m doing my utmost!”

She ran as fast as she could.

The path led along the estates of Baltimore, through the fields and through the wood.

It didn’t occur for a second to Angie that even Joe had been afraid to walk here, because there was always the danger of getting held up by highwaymen, vagabonds, and other desperate persons who didn’t shrink back in these hard times from threatening and robbing anyone they came upon. She started to pant; the cold air cut into her longs with every breath, but she kept on running.

Several times she fell full length in the mud. Each time, she scrambled to her feet again, to push on even faster. In thought she was with the beautiful mare that needed her help so badly.

The gatekeeper of Eastwood looked up in surprise when he saw the girl turn up. His mouth fell open, and he raised a burning torch to be able to take a better look at her.

He clenched his hand, which had been resting on the hilt of his sword, into a fist.

“I don’t want any trouble!” he cried out before Angie had even been able to say a word. “I have no food for roaming kids. Be off with you. The gates of Eastwood remain closed for little beggars. And if you keep on insisting, I’ll lock you up. Without food, that is to say.”

And after he had looked her up and down he said, with a bit of fear in his voice:

“When I saw you loom up in the dark, I thought you might be a monster...a creep from the forest. You look like a drowned rat. Now, be off with you, I said!”

“But...I live here in Eastwood!”

She blurted the words out without thinking.

“I know it’s late already,” she continued, “but even in this nasty weather I had to work on the land, and now my father is waiting for me. Please let me in, quick!”

“And who might your father be?” asked the gatekeeper distrustfully.

“Old Jim!” lied Angie, hoping that the gatekeeper didn’t know all the inhabitants of Eastwood by name. “And we live right behind the Grey Eagle Inn, at the big market square. I work on the estate of Lord Baltimore.”

The gatekeeper burst out laughing. Angie began to think that he was up to her tricks. But to her great relief he turned around, walked up to the gate, opened it, and then said, still grinning:

“Well, hurry then. When you come home this late, you can expect a good hiding!”

She slipped inside and disappeared in the dark streets of the little town. She had been here before, together with Samantha and a servant, when there was market and they had something to sell. Therefore it was no problem for her to find the inn. Without giving herself a moment’s rest, she ran up to it. The door was ajar, and she pushed it open.

The inn was packed and permeated with the stench of stale beer. The innkeeper was standing by the fire. He looked up and then forgot to turn the meat he was broiling for the Norman soldiers who visited his inn. All of a sudden a hush fell in the Grey Eagle. No one spoke a single word, and all eyes turned to the little girl who stood there in the doorway. Her clothes were soaked and muddy.

Finally a Norman was the first to speak:

“It must be a ghost...” he stammered. “A ghost it is! Be careful, everyone! She’ll put a spell on all of us!”

“What are you doing here?” shouted the innkeeper, who began to turn the spit again and didn’t bother to look at her any further. “There’s no place for you here. An inn is for paying customers, for people who have some money to spend, you understand?”

Approving muttering sounded from all sides. But Angie didn’t pay attention to it. She saw Thomas Jenkins sitting at a table. The big man held four dice in his hand; it was his turn to throw them, but he waited when he noticed that the girl was coming up to him. The Norman soldiers sitting with him nudged each other.

“She’s looking for him. That’s the second one today. Wonder what that muddy child wants from him...”

Angela came standing right in front of him and straightened her back. It was true that she looked soaked, dirty, and shabby, but her eyes sparkled with self-confidence when she spoke in a loud voice.

“Thomas Jenkins! You come with me!”

Four dice rolled over the tabletop.

The big man looked at her and frowned his bushy eyebrows.

“I’m afraid I don’t understand exactly what you mean,” he said.

“She’s the second one coming to look for you,” grinned one of the Norman soldiers. “First a soaked man and now a soaked girl. It will be about that horse again. Let’s continue our game. Take a look at your dice, will you—don’t pay attention to that Saxon girl.”

Jenkins banged the table and made the wine cups rattle.

“Is it about that Baltimore horse?” he roared.

Angie looked at him, undaunted.

“Right. Good guess. You ought to be ashamed of yourself—a giant like you remaining sitting in a warm inn, when he’s able to help my Misty.”

“Your Misty?” grinned a soldier. “I doubt you own even half a saddle...not to mention an entire horse.”

The other soldiers laughed, but suddenly stopped when Jenkins banged the table for a second time.

“The child is right,” he said, while he slowly rose to his feet. “She made her way through this bad weather to find me. And here I sit, wasting my time throwing dice with a couple of stupid, drunken Normans!”

Two soldiers jumped up and fetched their weapons. The giant Saxon’s reaction was as quick as lightning. He grabbed each by the wrist and used his enormous power to push them back onto their seats.

“You work for Norman knights!” a soldier snapped at him. “Watch out, Jenkins. Soon they’ll refuse to give you work, and then you won’t earn a single penny!”

“They need me,” said Jenkins. “I’m the best blacksmith in Eastwood. And I don’t help them because they are nice, but because I love to work with horses. And now I won’t waste another word on you.”

He turned on his heels. His big hand grabbed Angie’s little hand.

“Let’s go. We’ve already lost too much precious time!”

Once outside, he put her on his shoulder as if she weighed nothing at all.

“Have you sat on a giant’s back before?” he laughed. “No? Well, then pay attention. We’re going to Baltimore’s farm...at the speed of a horse!”

Jenkins took to his heels.

He kicked the gate open before the gatekeeper was able to react. The muddy road through the forest and along the fields was in front of them now. Angie held on tight to the collar of the giant’s coat. It was indeed as if she were riding on the back of a horse. The rain beat her face, and she saw the dark silhouettes of the trees whizz past.

“You’re great, Jenkins!” she shouted above the sound of the howling wind. “No one can run as fast as you!”

The man gasped for breath and answered:

“I do my very best, girl, I just do my very best. Now tell me, what’s your name?”

“Angie!”

“You’re a brave girl, Angie!”

***

It was crowded in the stable where the horses of Lord Baltimore stood. Everyone had been surprised to hear that Angie had managed to bring Thomas Jenkins from the Grey Eagle to the farm, and not much later they had all been able to see it for themselves—the soaked giant stood next to the soaked Angie. They were both covered with mud, but they laughed at each other and got cracking immediately. Angie fetched fresh water so that the man could wash his hands, and then Jenkins went to the mare and started to examine her.

“All right. And now everyone leaves the stable,” he said in a dark voice. “Well, except for you, of course, Lord Baltimore...and you can stay as well, Angie. All others have to disappear.”

Lord Baltimore asked Jenkins several questions, and Angie listened with close attention.

“Will the mare survive? It’s such a fine animal...It doesn’t bear thinking that we may lose her.”

“I think I’m just in time, my lord.”

“How long will it take?”

“It can happen any time now. The mare is sick, but with a bit of luck I’ll manage to pull her through.”

Angie bit her lips. She shivered with cold. A tear ran down her cheek, leaving traces in the thick layer of mud on her skin. She had allowed herself no time to wash her face or dry her clothes.

“Now there’s help for you, Misty,” she said in a voice that cracked.

The mare nickered softly, and Lord Baltimore shook his head slowly while he said:

“Isn’t that amazing? Misty recognizes her on the spot.”

“Not amazing at all,” said Jenkins in a surprisingly soft tone. “This is all about a mare being very fond of a girl...and about a girl that dearly loves a horse!”

Sitting on a bale of straw, Angie looked at the two man as they did their utmost to help the mare. Her eyes grew big when she finally saw the foal! She clapped her hands and shouted with joy when she saw the little animal move.

Thomas Jenkins, happy as a child, clapped along with her. Forgetting all about the presence of Lord Baltimore, he cried out:

“Angie! There it is. And Misty will recover! Look...look! It’s a colt! Perfectly health—and the color is so beautiful!”

“The skin is like silver,” murmured Lord Baltimore. “I am so very grateful to you, Jenkins. You did a fine job. Without you—”

“No, without Angie, my lord,” interrupted Jenkins. “Without Angie it would all have gone wrong. Forgive me my rudeness, but Angie deserves all the credit. If she hadn’t come all the way to the Grey Eagle to drag me away from that game of dice, Misty wouldn’t have made it, and the colt would never have lived at all. In fact, one could say that it is her colt...”

Baltimore cleared his throat. He came and stood next to Angie. As they looked at the beautiful colt together, he said:

“Yes, yes, I think Jenkins is right. In a way it is your colt indeed, Angie. Do you have any idea how you would name it?”

“Silver!” Angie responded immediately.

Her face was beaming with happiness as she looked at the newborn animal that already tried to get on its feet.

“A good name, a nice name—Silver,” said Lord Baltimore. “We can only hope that it will become as brave as the girl that gave it its name.”

Angie remained watching Misty and Silver for a long time. Only when Jenkins and Lord Baltimore had left the stable did she fall asleep on a bale of straw—next to the gray mare and her silver child; the colt of Baltimore...

Chapter 2 Two Fugitives

Angie loved Misty dearly.

She was happy to take care of the mare. She talked to her as if she were convinced that Misty was able to understand every single word, and she did her utmost to give the animal a pleasant life. There was an even bigger place in her heart for the colt, and in fact that was not so surprising—she had been there when it was born, she had helped to make the birth possible, and besides she would never forget what Lord Baltimore said when he repeated the words of Jenkins:

“In a way it is your colt indeed, Angie...”

Every time she saw Silver, she couldn’t help thinking of that.

“Just imagine—my horse, my own colt. I’ve never had something for myself. Now I have the feeling that I really am the owner of a horse...”

Silver was a beautiful colt. A lively and clever animal, he ran through the meadow cheerfully and made the most silly jumps. Almost from birth he had responded to Angie’s voice. Everyone on the farm agreed that seldom or never had a more beautiful colt been born in the stable.

“And it’s mine, all mine,” Angie often said, proudly and with sparkling eyes.

One day, when Angie had brought the horses to the stable and fed them and gone to the big kitchen to have a bite to eat herself, Rose took her aside.

“I don’t think you should talk too much about Silver and yourself, Angie,” she said. “O yes, I do understand that Lord Baltimore has made a certain remark. But that was a long time ago, wasn’t it? He was extremely happy then, for Misty had survived and Silver was born. In his joy he made you a compliment and thought that Silver might be a bit yours as well. But you should face the truth. Lord Baltimore is an important nobleman. A girl like you should be glad to have a roof over your head, even though it’s only the roof of a stable. Silver isn’t yours. The colt is owned by Lord Baltimore, just like all the horses here belong to him. Remember that, and never make Lord Baltimore angry.”

Angie stared at the ground.

“I understand that only too well, Rose. It’s just such a nice idea...”

“Well, don’t talk about it anymore. You know that I mean no harm. I only intend to help you. Mind your words, and keep on taking care of the animals.”

From that day on Angie kept silent about it.

She worked in the stables with double effort.

And at night she slept in the hay, close to Silver.

Time flew. Weeks stringed into months. Silver grew and grew.

The horse seemed to grow more beautiful, more strong, and more proud by the day. Samantha, the daughter of Lord Baltimore, noticed it as well. When she helped Angie with her work, she couldn’t help giving Silver some extra food.

“He’s such a beauty,” she said time after time. “When Silver is grown up, he will run faster than all the other horses. Take a look at those dark eyes...and that long, silver mane. Many a knight will be jealous of my father. They will come to visit us and make a bid for Silver. They will put down silver and golden coins. But every time I will be present myself and say to them: ‘I’m very sorry, gentlemen, but this horse isn’t for sale.’ Silver will stay with us forever.”

“Are you serious?” Angela wanted to know, after Samantha had mentioned this one time.

“Oh yes, I’m sure,” Samantha said emphatically. “Silver doesn’t have to carry knights on his back. He doesn’t have to be sold so that he can be used as a warhorse. You know, my father says that times are getting tougher and tougher. Prince John is pushing everybody. He exploits the people, and now he’s even plundering round with his Norman friends. There are fights all over the country. Imagine if Silver was put into war. How terrible that would be!”

“Before long Silver will be strong enough to carry a rider,” sighed Angela. “But now he’s still too young for that. He can’t even carry me, not to mention a heavily armed knight.”

“A good thing, too!” said Samantha. “Here with us, he’s safe.”

She made a deep bow and waved her hand.

“I’m so sorry, noble knights, but Silver cannot carry you yet. I advise you to buy another horse. Goodbye to you all...”

Angela imitated her.

“Silver is as free as a bird, gentlemen. This beautiful horse has nothing to do with swords, shields, spears, and arrows. You better fight your battles without him, that seems a much better idea to me.”

While they brought Silver and Misty to a meadow, Samantha continued:

“Prince John has many helpers. But fortunately there are still brave men who remain faithful to Richard the Lionheart. They have united in the impenetrable forests. Have you heard about them?”

Angela thought it over for a while.

“Yes, I think so,” she said finally. “You mean Robin Hood and his men. They put up a stubborn resistance against the terror; they haven’t forgotten Richard the Lionheart. But what do we have to do with that, Samantha? I love living here on the farm. Life is good here. I feel happy when I am working with the horses.”

One day, much later, they had brought the horses into the meadow again to let them graze. The two girls sat on a fence—Samantha, the daughter of the wealthy Lord Baltimore, and Angie, the girl who possessed nothing at all.

They had gotten along very well together for a long time, and it didn’t bother them that there was such a great difference between them. They looked around in silence. Misty and Silver were standing close to each other; the sun made their skin shine. Farther on, men and women were working in the fields. Two big, strong horses pulled a heavily loaded cart over a path, urged on by the loud voice of a servant.

“Life is beautiful this way,” sighed Angie. “Taking a rest for a while, sitting down and looking at the horses. Silver will stay here forever...and so will I!”

“You’re right,” laughed Samantha. “When I have grown up, Angie, you’ll be still here. One day all this land here will be mine. And then I will order my servants to build a nice little house for you.”

“That is so nice of you,” said Angie. “Will we still go out for rides together then?”

“You bet. I feel like riding right now. Are you coming with me? If you’re with me, my father won’t say anything about it and you won’t have to work. Besides, I think you’ve already done more than enough for today.”

The two girls were ready to jump down from the fence, but suddenly they froze. They remained sitting there as if turned into stone and stared out in front of themselves in surprise.

They had heard a loud cry. And now they heard the trampling of hoofs.

The people who were working in the fields looked up as well. The sound of hoofs grew louder, and a rider appeared at the edge of the forest. He was dressed in trousers and a jerkin of threadbare leather. The lean horse that carried him was tired and wet with perspiration. The man sent the horse at a great speed in the direction of the farm.

“Faster!” he cried out. “Come on! Faster!”

After rider and horse had passed the meadow, Samantha jumped down from the fence.

“You stay here,” she said to Angie. “I’m going to my father. I want to know what is going on.”

Angie stayed behind.

For some time she thought about the arrival of the man and wondered why he had been in such a hurry, but finally she forgot about him and looked at Silver standing not far from the mare and enjoying the lush grass.

When she whistled softly between her teeth, Silver looked up promptly and came walking up to her. Angie stared into the dark eyes and reached out her hand to stroke the neck of the young stallion.

“Yes, we both like it here, don’t we?” she whispered. “We never want to leave here. You know, Silver, we understand each other. There is a strong bond between me and your mother Misty. But you...you’re so special! To me you’re the most beautiful and smartest horse ever.”

Silver raised his head, and she stroked his nose.

Misty came up to her as well.

Angela talked to both horses as if they were able to understand her:

“We have a good life here,” she said. “We take good care of you. A big meadow, a warm stable...and you know, Silver, Rose once said to me that I must tell no one that you’re actually mine. Well, I’ve kept my mouth shut about it ever since. But you know that you and I belong together—am I right or not?”

Silver blinked his big eyes, and Angie wondered if it was because of the blazing sun or the fact that he had understood her.

“Well...you know what I mean. You’re such a clever animal. I’ll give you something extra to eat tonight, Silver. You can count on that.”

***

The moment Angie had closed the kitchen door behind her, she noticed that the atmosphere inside was different from usual. There was no laughter. No one spoke a single word. The servants sat at the table, brooding, gloomy, staring out in front of them. Normally nothing could mar Rose’s good mood, but now she stood there stirring the soup, wrapped in thought, looking as gloomy as all the others.

Angie’s heart started to beat faster. She felt that something was about to happen, something unexpected and ominous. A shiver went down her spine, and she hurried to her place by the fire. Only now did she notice that a guest sat at the table with the others. It was the mysterious rider who had come to the farm so hastily.

The man in the threadbare leather looked tired. He stared at a dish of food on the tabletop and reached out his hand to take something out of it, but changed his mind and put his hand on his knee. He shook his head slowly. Then he opened his mouth, closed it again, shook his head one more time, and remained silent.

When Rose looked over at her, Angie said in a soft voice, as if she was afraid to disturb the others in their silence:

“Rose, I expected that man to be with Lord Baltimore.”

Rose nodded yes.

“He just came back from his visit to Lord Baltimore...”

“I found his horse in the stable and fed him,” whispered Angie. “What is that man doing here, Rose?”

“You better mind your own business,” said Rose impatiently. “See to it that his horse has a good rest, for he has to go on farther. And as for the rest, you don’t ask questions. Here, this is for you.”


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