A mysterious quietness filled the misty morning air as Sadie stepped into her slippers and tiptoed out to the garden. The cold morning air slipped beneath her flannel nightgown and made her shiver. Here in Toronto, Canada, the winter mornings were cold and Sadie disliked them. But she ignored the chilly weather and headed toward the back of her garden. When Sadie reached the tangling green vines that grew up and over the red brick wall that separated her garden from the alley, she glanced over her shoulder at her house to make sure that none of the family was watching. Soundlessly, Sadie heaved herself over the wall and hopped down into the alley below. And then there it was, the horse corral, which was surrounded by a number of elm trees.
Sadie secretly visited these horses most mornings, and felt very sorry for them because they were not well taken care of. But two months ago, Sadie had decided to take care of the horses herself. She opened her knapsack and took out the oats, carrots, apples and sugar cubes that she had packed. Each and every horse had learned to trust Sadie, and all came trotting up to her anxiously. Sadie smiled at her friends, and stroked their velvet muzzles with happiness. This time of morning, misty and cool, with the horses, was Sadie’s time. Her favorite time. She loved to feed them and watch their tails whisk the air.
The man who owned the horses was unkind to them. He barely fed them a bucket of grain a day, and he never brushed their coats, manes and tails, rode them or hung out with them. And there he was, treating all people around him with kindness and leaving his poor horses out in the thunder and lightning, rain and snow. He didn’t deserve to own horses, thought Sadie. If you owned a horse, you should care for it.
Once in a while, Sadie brought along her hairbrush to brush the horses with. The horses really seemed to enjoy being brushed, since their coats were so shabby and dusty. Her horses may be shabby and thin, hungry and old, but they still had a sort of young liveliness kept inside them.
As Sadie was gently brushing the manes of the horses, she heard a whinnying call come from a gray stallion. All the other horses came jogging up to him. Seconds later, Sadie watched in amazement as each horse gracefully leapt over the fence! Then, from the bottom of her heart, Sadie knew that she must climb aboard. She skipped over to a buckskin mare and mounted up. All eight horses and Sadie ran down the alley, through the quiet, sleeping streets, and up over the hill at the end of the block.
Sadie’s nightgown fluttered in the breeze along with the horses’ manes and tails. The sun was rising, and they galloped toward it, wild and free.