Black Beauty Summary
My Early Home
The first home Darkie remembers is pleasant in every way. It is a large meadow with a clear pond in it. Around the pond grow shady trees, rushes, and water lilies. On one side of the meadow is a plowed field; on the other is the gate to his master’s house. At the top of the meadow are fir trees, and at the bottom of it is a running brook with a steep bank.
When he is young, Darkie drinks his mother’s milk; later, when he is old enough, he eats grass and his mother goes off to work all day. Each day he runs by his mother’s side, and each night he sleeps next to her. On hot days, they stand together under the trees, and when it is cold, they stay in the warm shed close to the plantation.
Six other colts live in the meadow with Darkie, all older than he and some almost the size of grown-up horses. They play by galloping around the field as fast as they can go. Sometimes they play more roughly, biting or kicking, as well as galloping. One day when the play gets too rough, Darkie’s mother calls him to her and tells him he must listen closely to her. She explains that while all the colts are very good, they will be ordinary cart horses one day and have not yet learned their manners. Darkie, on the other hand, is well bred and has a family history of greatness. He is always to remember that his family does not bite or kick, nor should he. She wants him to grow up strong and good, avoiding bad habits and working with a good spirit. He is never to kick or bite, even in play. He has never forgotten his mother’s advice.
His mother’s name is Duchess, but their master often calls her “Pet”; she is well loved and wise. Their master is a kind man who treats his horses well and speaks to them only with kindness. Duchess loves him and neighs with joy whenever she sees him near the fence. He always pats her before asking about her son, Darkie (a name he chose because the colt was a...
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Something memorable happens when Darkie is two. He and the other colts are feeding in the lower part of the field when they hear dogs baying nearby. One of the older colts recognizes the sound of hunting, and they all go to the gate where they can watch; Duchess and an older horse are already there. She tells her son the dogs have found a hare, and they will get to see the hunt if the dogs come this way.
Soon the chase comes to the field next to the watching horses. First come the dogs; they are neither whining nor howling, but the noise is nothing like Darkie has ever heard. Soon some men on horseback follow; some of them are wearing green jackets. The older horse and the colts wish they could gallop with them, but the hunters are soon gone.
In a field below, the dogs and horses come to a halt, and the dogs all have their noses to the ground, running around in every direction. The old horse says the dogs have lost the scent and thinks the hare may escape. Darkie asks where the hare came from and learns that the hunters just choose any hare they can find. Suddenly the baying begins again, and the dogs and hunters begin racing back up the hill toward the watching horses.
The horses can see the frightened hare as it makes its way to the fence, followed by dogs and men as they leap streams and dash over the field. The rabbit is unable to get through the fence and soon the dogs, with their wild cries, are on top of the poor creature. One shriek and the animal is dead. The hunters come and whip the dogs off the hare, holding up the torn and bloody carcass. All the gentlemen seem happy with the outcome of the hunt.
Darkie is astonished at the entire proceeding. When he looks back down the field, he sees several horses still near the water below. One of them is struggling in the stream; the other is groaning on the ground. One rider, covered with mud, is getting out of the...
(The entire section is 707 words.)
My Breaking In
Darkie is growing handsome. His coat is fine and bright black, and he has one white foot and a white star on his forehead. His master will not sell him until he is four years old, believing boys do not work like men and colts should not work like grown-up horses. When Darkie is four, Squire Gordon comes to look at him. He examines Darkie’s eyes, mouth, and legs and has him walk, trot, and gallop while he watches. The Squire seems to like what he sees and says the horse will do quite well once he is broken in well. The master says he will break Darkie, as he does not want him hurt or frightened. He begins the next day.
Breaking a horse is teaching him to wear a saddle and...
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After he has been broken, Darkie stands in the stable and gets brushed every day until his coat shines like the wings of a rook. In early May, one of Squire Gordon’s men comes to take him away. His master tells him to be a good horse and do his best; Darkie responds by putting his nose into the master’s hands before leaving his first home.
Squire Gordon’s park borders the village of Birtwick and can only be entered through a large iron gate. One must pass several lodges before arriving at the house and gardens, beyond which lie a paddock, an old orchard, and the stables. Darkie’s home stable is roomy, with four good stalls and a large swinging door which opens into the...
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A Fair Start
John Manly is the Squire’s coachman. He has a wife and one small child, and they live in the coachman’s cottage near the stables. The morning after he arrives, Darkie is groomed in the yard. Just as John is about to return him to his stall, the Squire comes to see him and looks pleased with the horse. He intended to ride Darkie that morning but is too busy; he tells John to ride Darkie around the grounds to check his training.
After breakfast, John fits Darkie with a bridle, allowing the horse to adjust and ensuring a comfortable fit. The first saddle he brings is too small, but he brings another, and soon they are trotting and then cantering in the yard. Once they reach the...
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Black Beauty is content in his new home. He has good people to take care of him, a comfortable and airy stable, and the best food to eat. Despite such a wonderful environment, he is discontent in one thing: He misses his liberty. For the first three-and-a-half years of his life, he had been allowed to do almost anything he pleased. Now, though, he must stand in a stable night and day, every minute of every day, unless he is wanted. Then, he must be just as steady and quiet as any horse who has been working for twenty years, straps everywhere and bridle and blinkers in place.
He does not want to complain, but it is a drastic change for a young horse full of strength and spirits who...
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One Sunday when Ginger and Black Beauty are standing by themselves in the shade, Ginger asks the younger horse about his upbringing and his breaking-in experience. After he tells her, she says she might have an even temperament like his if she had been treated as he had been. Now, though, she is sure she will never change because she has never been treated with love or kindness in her life.
Ginger was removed from her mother as soon as she was weaned and put in with a lot of other colts who cared nothing for her, and she cared nothing for any of them. No kind master brought her lovely things to eat or gave her any kind words. She was not abused, but she also was not cared for beyond...
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Ginger’s Story Continued
The next time Ginger and Black Beauty are together in the paddock, she continues her story. After the difficult breaking in, she was sold to a dealer who then sold her to a fashionable gentleman who wanted a matched pair of chestnuts. She had been tightly reined by the dealer, but the gentleman and his coachman thought the horses looked much more stylish if their heads were held even higher. They often drove this way in the park and other fashionable places.
Black Beauty has never worn a bearing rein, so Ginger explains that it is a rein which requires the horse’s head to be held unbearably high for hours, unable to move it anywhere but higher. This caused...
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The Vicar, Mr. Blomefield, has many children, and they sometimes come to play with Miss Jessie and Miss Flora. When they come to visit, Merrylegs is always busy, for the children love to get on his back and ride him around the paddock for hours. One afternoon Merrylegs is out with them a long time. When James brings him back to his stall, he is scolding the horse, warning him to behave better next time.
Black Beauty asks what he did to cause trouble. Merrylegs says he taught "those young people" a lesson about what was too long a ride by pitching them off his back when he had had enough. Black Beauty is shocked at such behavior and asks if he threw off Miss Jessie or Miss Flora....
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A Talk in the Orchard
Standing over fifteen hands high, Ginger and Black Beauty are more racehorses than carriage horses; they are as good for racing as they are for driving, and the Squire likes things to serve more than one purpose. Their happiest moments are enjoyed when they are saddled up for riding, the Squire on Ginger and his wife on Black Beauty, with his daughters on Sir Oliver and Merrylegs. The horses’ spirits are high when they are cantering together. Black Beauty has the best of it, since the mistress is light to carry and her voice is sweet.
When a horse’s mouth has been unspoiled, it takes only a little pressure or the slightest movement to make the rider’s wishes...
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The longer Black Beauty lives at Birtwick, the prouder and more satisfied he grows. The Squire and his wife are beloved by everyone who knows them, and all animals are treated kindly by the family as well as the servants. The Squire and Farmer Grey have worked for more than twenty years to ban the use of bearing reins on cart horses; anytime Mrs. Gordon sees a burdensome cart pulled by a horse with his head strained uncomfortably, she stops and reasons with the driver in her “sweet serious voice,” attempting to show him the foolishness and cruelty of using bearing reins.
The master, too, tries to stop abuses when he sees them. Once he and Black Beauty see a...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
A Stormy Day
One late autumn day, the Squire leaves for a business trip. John goes with him. Black Beauty is hitched to the dog-cart, and they begin their journey. The horse likes the lightweight cart. There has been a lot of rain lately, and the wind has picked up, blowing dried leaves across the road. As they near the river, water comes to the horse’s knees; however, the master drives gently, and the road offers good footing for the horse.
They arrive at a wooden bridge, built low across the river. When the river is high, water can come up to the floor of the bridge. Because there are sturdy rails on the bridge, people generally are not concerned when this happens. The bridge keeper...
(The entire section is 668 words.)
The Devil’s Trade Mark
One day John is riding Black Beauty on an errand for the Squire. At a distance, they see a boy trying to make a pony jump a gate. The horse refuses to leap, and the boy whips the horse. When the horse continues to refuse to jump, the boy gets even more incensed and begins beating and kicking the pony. Finally, the horse refuses the rider by rearing up and throwing him into a hedge of thorns. With the reins dangling, the pony gallops home leaving the boy in his indignity.
When the boy sees John approaching, he calls for help; however, John thinks a little scratching might teach the boy a lesson about trying to make a pony leap over a fence which is too high for him....
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John has just brought Black Beauty back to his stall after an exercise session one day in early December. James has come into the stable with some oats when the Squire joins them, looking quite serious. He has an open letter in his hands, and John fastens Black Beauty in his stall to wait for the news.
The master asks John if he has ever had a cause for complaint against James. John has had no complaints, but the Squire continues to question him. He asks if James has been a hard worker, if he has been respectful, and if he has ever shirked his duties when John’s back was turned. John assures his master that James has been a good worker in every way. The final question the...
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The Old Hostler
The Squire and his wife have decided to visit friends who live forty-six miles from the farm, and James is chosen to drive them. They travel thirty-two miles the first day through some long, hard hills, but James is careful and thoughtful so that the horses are “not at all harassed.” James remembers to put the drag on and take it off at the proper times and keeps the horses’ hooves on the smoothest part of the road. If the uphill trudge gets too long, he sets the carriage a little sideways to let the horses have a short rest. These thoughtful gestures and his kind words keep the animals happy.
At sunset they stop for the night at a hotel, and two hostlers come out to...
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Later that night a traveler brings his horse to the stable; the second hostler works on the horse while a young man smoking a pipe, Dick Towler, lounges in the doorway to talk. The hostler asks Towler to get some hay for the horses but to lay down his pipe before climbing the ladder into the loft. The young man goes into the loft, and Black Beauty hears him walking overhead, dropping the hay down for the horses. James comes to check on his two horses one last time that night, and then the stable door is locked.
Black Beauty does not know how long he has been sleeping or what time it is, but he wakes up feeling uncomfortable. He does not know why he gets up, but he sees the air...
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John Manly’s Talk
The rest of the journey is easy, and the Squire's party arrives at his friends’ house shortly after sunset. The horses are taken into a cozy stable and treated well by a kind coachman. When he hears of the fire, the coachman commends James for his willingness to risk his life for the horses, knowing they would not have come out if they had not recognized his calming voice and presence. After several days, the group heads back home, and the horses are glad to be back in their own stalls. John is equally glad to see them.
When James wonders who will be taking his place once he leaves, John tells him little Joe Green will come to learn the job. He is young, not even...
(The entire section is 522 words.)
Going for the Doctor
A few days after James left, Black Beauty is suddenly awakened from his sleep by the sound of the stable bell ringing loudly. John runs to the Squire's manor and then comes back to the stable. As he saddles Black Beauty, he tells the horse he must be ready to run as swiftly as he ever has run. The Squire appears and tells John to ride as quickly as he can to Dr. White; he gives John a note to deliver to the physician. They ride hard to the toll-gate. John pays the toll for them to pass, and he pays the gatekeeper to leave the gate open for the doctor.
John does not need to spur Black Beauty to go quickly; he gallops as fast as he can for several miles. He slows down for...
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Black Beauty is not sure how long he has been ill, but the horse doctor, Mr. Bond, comes to see him every day. One day he bleeds the horse as John holds the pail. After that, Black Beauty feels quite faint and thinks he is going to die; those around him seem to think so, too. Ginger and Merrylegs are moved to the other stable so that the Black Beauty's environment will be quieter; his fever makes him quite sensitive to sound.
One night John has to give Black Beauty some medicine, and Thomas Green, Joe’s father, comes to help him. After giving the medicine, John makes the horse comfortable and plans to stay for half-an-hour to see how the medicine settles; Thomas...
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Joe Green is learning quickly; he is attentive and careful in his work. John now trusts him with many tasks, but the boy is small and does not regularly care for or ride either Black Beauty or Ginger. One day John is out with Justice when the master needs a note delivered to a gentleman who lives about three miles away. He instructs Joe to saddle Black Beauty and ride him carefully to the gentleman’s house.
They deliver the note without incident. On their way home, they see a cart laden with bricks which has gotten stuck in the mud. As they approach the scene, the driver is shouting at the horses and beating them mercilessly. It is a sad sight; the horses strain and sweat, trying...
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It has been three years since Black Beauty came to Birtwick, and they have been happy years; however, sad changes are about to occur. Rumors of their mistress’s illness reach the stable occasionally, and the doctor is often at the manor. The master usually looks grave and anxious. One day everyone learns that she must leave for two or three years to live in a warmer climate. The news sounds like "the tolling of a death bell." All are sad as the master begins arranging for his estate to be emptied so that he and his family can leave England.
John is silent and sad, and Joe rarely whistles anymore. There is a lot of unusual activity; Black Beauty and Ginger are...
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After breakfast the next morning, Joe says good-bye and takes Merrylegs to the vicarage. Leading Black Beauty, John then rides Ginger fifteen miles across the county to Earlshall Park, where the Earl of W— [sic] lives. It is a fine estate with a grand house and many stables. When he arrives, John asks for Mr. York, Black Beauty and Ginger's new coachman. York is a middle-aged man whose voice says clearly that he expects to be obeyed. He is friendly and polite to John, but he barely looks at the horses before calling a groom to take them to their adjoining stalls. In their new homes, which are airy and filled with light, both horses are rubbed down and fed. Soon John and Mr. York come to see...
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A Strike for Liberty
One day the Earl’s wife comes down for her ride later than usual, and her skirts seem to rustle more fiercely. She commands they drive to see one of her friends, a duchess, and insists that the horses’ heads be reined in tightly once and for all—“no more of this humoring nonsense.” York starts with the black horse while a groom stands at Ginger’s head; he makes the reins so tight they are almost intolerable to Black Beauty. Ginger impatiently jerks her head up and down against the bit; when York prepares to tighten her reins, she rears up, hitting York in the nose and causing the groom to lose his balance.
Both men grab for her head, but she is too quick for...
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The Lady Anne, or a Runaway Horse
Early that spring, Lord W— [sic] takes part of his family to London, and he takes York with them. Black Beauty, Ginger, and several other horses are left behind in the care of the head groom. Lady Harriet remains at home; an invalid, she never goes out in the carriage. Lady Anne, who also stays at home, is a “perfect horsewoman," as fun and gentle as she is beautiful. She chooses the black horse for her own and names him “Black Auster”; he enjoys his rides with Lady Anne, sometimes accompanied by Ginger and other times by a thoroughbred mare named Lizzie. Lizzie is a favorite of the gentlemen, but Ginger knows her best and tells Black Auster that Lizzie is a...
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Reuben Smith is the groom placed in charge of the stables when Mr. York left for London. He is knowledgeable, faithful, and valuable, and he is gentle and clever when he manages the horses. He had lived several years with a veterinary surgeon and can treat animals almost as well as a doctor. Smith is also a skilled driver and a good scholar, a handsome man who is well liked. With so much to recommend him, it is surprising that he is not in a position as head coachman. That is because he has one great weakness: his love of drink.
Unlike some men, Reuben Smith is not a daily drinker. He often stays steady for weeks or months at a time; however, when he has what York calls a...
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How It Ended
It is probably midnight when Black Auster hears the distant sound of horses’ hooves. He hopes it is help coming from the direction of Earlshall Hall, and he is sure he recognizes Ginger’s steps as the sounds grow nearer. He neighs loudly and is overjoyed to hear Ginger’s answering neigh and the voices of men as they approach. Robert and Ned move slowly in the dark until they finally stop next to the still figure lying on the ground.
One of them examines the body and is shocked to discover it is Reuben Smith, his hair soaked in blood. He is dead. The men's first reaction is anger and surprise that Black Auster would have thrown his rider. They realize their friend must have...
(The entire section is 571 words.)
Ruined and Going Down-Hill
Once his knees are sufficiently healed, Black Auster is sent to a small field to recuperate. He enjoys the freedom and the sweet grass; however, after being used to the company of others, he finds himself quite lonely after a short time. He especially misses Ginger. When he hears horses on the road, he neighs but seldom gets an answer—until one day when Ginger is turned into the same field. Both horses are thrilled to be reunited, but Ginger is there for a sad reason, as well. She has been ruined by hard riding. She is now allowed to rest in the hope that she will recover.
Young Lord George is to blame for Ginger's poor...
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A Job-Horse and His Drivers
Black Auster had always been driven by people who knew how to manage a horse and a cart; now, though, he is experiencing drivers who have no knowledge or skill. He is a “job-horse,” hired out to all sorts of people. Because he is a good-tempered and gentle horse, he is more often hired out to bad drivers because he can be relied upon to treat them well despite their ignorance and ineptitude.
Some of the inexperienced drivers hold the reigns too tightly. They seem to think a successful driver must hold the reins as hard as he can, never relaxing the tension on the horse’s mouth or allowing him any freedom of movement. This may be necessary with horses whose...
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Another kind of driver which horses-for-hire experience is the "steam-engine" driver. Most of these drivers are cockneys, working-class people from town; they have never had a horse of their own and usually travel by train. They tend to think that because they have paid a fee to hire a horse, the animal can go as far and as fast, and with as heavy a load, as they wish. Whatever the road conditions—muddy or dry, stony or smooth, uphill or downhill—they drive on without any consideration for the horses.
Cockneys never get out and walk a particularly step hill; they believe horses were made for pulling people uphill and surely must be used to it. They are quick to ply the whip and...
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Mr. Barry is unmarried, lives in Bath, and spends much of his time engaged in business. His doctor has recommended he take more exercise, which is why he bought Black Auster. The master keeps his horse in a rented stable nearby and hires a groom, Filcher, to care for him. Though the owner does not know much about horses, he treats Black Auster well and life would have been good and easy for the horse if it were not for circumstances about which his master was unaware.
Barry had ordered that his horse be fed the finest food: hay with plenty of oats and crushed beans, with bran or rye grass as the groom sees fit. Black Auster heard the order being given, so he knows what he should be...
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A few days after the police arrested Filcher, Alfred Smirk becomes Black Auster’s new groom. He is a tall, good-looking fellow, but he is a “humbug.” He is never unkind to the horse; in fact, when the master is around the man does much patting and stroking of the horse. The rest of the time, however, he is not thorough. He always brushes the horse’s mane and tail with water and his hoofs with oil before the master arrives, so the horse looks shiny and well groomed. The reality is that Smirk never cleans the horse’s feet or takes care of his shoes, and he never grooms him thoroughly. The horse’s bit is allowed to stay rusty, his saddle is always damp, and his crupper is stiff and...
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A Horse Fair
There is plenty to see at a horse fair, and undoubtedly it is a fine place to go for those who have nothing to lose. Hundreds of horses are there. Some are colts brought fresh from the country; some are cart horses; some are purebred horses (like Black Auster) which are now in the possession of middle-class owners because of blemishes or some condition or complaint. Some of the horses are splendid animals in their prime, prancing and showing their paces proudly. In the background, though, are the horses that have been broken down by hard work. These horses are pitiful to look at, with their dejected faces and their swayed backs. Some have sores or have their ribs showing; most look as if...
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A London Cab Horse
Black Auster’s new master is Jeremiah Barker, though everyone calls him Jerry. His wife Polly is a wonderful woman, tidy and cheerful. Harry, their son, is twelve years old and good-tempered; little Dorothy (called Dolly) is an eight-year-old version of her mother. They are wonderfully fond of one another, and the horse has never, before or since, met such a happy family. Jerry has a cab of his own and two horses which he takes care of himself. The other horse is a tall, white, large-boned animal called Captain. He is old now, but he must have been a splendid horse in his prime. He still bears himself like a proud, noble creature. As a young horse, he belonged to an officer in the...
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An Old War Horse
Captain had been broken in and trained as an army horse, and his first owner was a cavalry officer serving in the Crimean War. In his youth, Captain had been quite a handsome horse; his master was very fond of him and treated him well. Captain had enjoyed his military training with the other horses and learned to obey the commands of their officer owners. Once he was sent abroad to fight, however, Captain had a different view of being an army horse.
The horses were strapped and swung onto the boat, and the sea crossing was dreadful. All of them were overjoyed to feel land under their feet once more. This country was far different from what they were used to, and the animals...
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Jack has never met a better man than his new master, Jerry Barker. He stands strongly for the right things; he is good and kind, always good-tempered and merry. Any man would have a difficult time picking a quarrel with him. He creates little songs as he works, and his family joins him in caring for the horses and keeping the cab clean and polished. The one thing Jerry cannot bear is loitering and wasting time; it infuriates him when people are late and then want a cab horse to be driven hard to make up for their own idleness.
One day two young men, who seem rather wild, leave a tavern and call for Jerry’s cab. They tell him they are running late and need him to rush them to...
(The entire section is 710 words.)
The Sunday Cab
One morning Jerry is hooking Jack up to the cab when a gentleman walks into the yard. He wants to make arrangements for Jerry to take his wife, Mrs. Briggs, to church on Sundays, as their church is now farther than she can walk. Jerry tells the man it would be illegal for him to drive on Sundays because he has only a six-day license. Briggs offers to change the license, but Jerry is still not interested.
He used to have a seven-day license, but working on Sunday was simply too much strain on both him and his horses. He missed having the day with his family and going to church; for the past five years, he has taken Sunday as a day of rest. Briggs continues to make his case,...
(The entire section is 524 words.)
The Golden Rule
One evening several weeks later, as Jerry and Jack return to the yard, Polly runs to them with a light. She is excited to tell Jerry that everything will be all right now, since Mrs. Briggs sent her servant this afternoon to hire Jerry’s cab for eleven o’clock the next morning. Briggs has been trying other cabs after Jerry refused his offer, but something has been wrong with each one. Nothing will suit Mrs. Briggs but Jerry and his cab. Jerry laughs with joy. From then on, Mrs. Briggs always uses Jerry’s cab as she once did. Only one time does Jerry’s cab make a Sunday run.
One Sunday morning Jerry is grooming Jack when Polly comes to tell him that Dinah Brown has...
(The entire section is 535 words.)
Dolly and a Real Gentleman
Winter comes early and brings plenty of cold and wet. Snow, sleet, or rain comes down nearly every day for weeks, accompanied by biting winds and sharp frosts. A couple of thick rugs will help keep horse and driver warm when the cold is dry; when it is wet, soaked blankets are of no help in getting warm. Some of the cab drivers have waterproof covers for their horses, but many are too poor to afford such a luxury; both horses and men suffer, though the men suffer perhaps even more than the horses.
Streets slippery with sleet or snow are the most taxing, for it takes all a horse’s energy to keep his footing. The fear of falling is also exhausting for the animals....
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Jack is blessed because his driver is his owner, and it benefits Jerry to treat his animals well. Many horses, though, belong to large cab-owners who rent their horses and cabs to the drivers. These cab drivers’ only concern, of course, is how to get the most money out of the horses. Most of the creatures have a “dreadful time of it.”
One day a man nicknamed “Seedy Sam,” a shabby, miserable-looking driver, brings his horse in looking terribly used. Governor says the pair looks more fit for the police station than for the cab station. The man throws a tattered blanket over his horse and says, with desperation, that the only criminals are the horse owners who charge...
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One day, while many cabs are waiting near a park where a band is playing, a shabby cab drives up next to Jerry and Jack. The horse is a worn-out old chestnut whose coat is dirty and unkempt and whose ribs are showing. Her legs are scarred and unsteady. Jack has been munching on some hay; when the wind rolls a loose bit of hay, the poor animal sticks out her neck and grabs it before looking pitifully around for more stray wisps. Jack sees the hopeless look in her dull eyes and experiences a moment of recognition. Just as he is wondering where he has seen this horse before, she looks right at him and asks if he is her old friend Black Beauty.
The other horse is Ginger, but she has...
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While he is in London, Jack sees many problems that could be prevented by a bit of common sense. Horses do not mind hard work if they are treated reasonably, and being owned by a good-tempered poor man is better than being ill-treated by a lord or a lady. He is most saddened by how poorly some ponies are being treated; he often sees them struggling to pull heavy loads or being whipped by cruel young boys.
Butchers’ horses are forced to move at great speeds, something Jack does not understand until he spent some time waiting on the street near a butcher’s shop. The driver of the butcher’s cart pulls up in front of the shop, and it is clear the horse is exhausted after being...
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One afternoon Polly comes to the yard and tells her husband that someone was here today asking about his vote and wanting to hire his cab for the election. He will call again for Jerry’s answer, but Jerry already knows what he will say. He tells Polly to tell the man that his cab will be “otherwise engaged” on election day. He has no interest in having his cab plastered with large advertisements and driving to inns to pick up half-drunk voters. Such behavior is an insult to his horses, and Jerry refuses to do it.
Polly asks if her husband will vote for the man, for they share some of the same politics. He will not, Jerry tells her, for the man’s trade is repugnant to him...
(The entire section is 430 words.)
A Friend in Need
On election day there is no shortage of work for Jerry and Jack. They have a variety of passengers doing a variety of errands on this busy day. At the bank, a red-faced gentleman comes running out of the building with a sheaf of papers in his hand. Before Jerry can even get down and open the door for the man, he lets himself into the cab and is calling out his destination: the police station. Once that errand has been completed, they go back to the cab stand and Jerry feeds Jack while they have a few moments to rest between jobs.
After feeding Jack a delightful mix of oats and bran, Jerry eats one of Polly’s meat pies. The streets are full of cabs with the candidates’...
(The entire section is 748 words.)
Old Captain and His Successor
Jack and Captain are great friends, for he is a noble horse and very good company. The younger horse never thinks about the Captain dying, but one day he does.
After taking some passengers to the railway station, Jerry and Captain are on their way back to the cab stand when Jerry sees a brewer’s empty cart coming their way. The driver is lashing his horses with a thick whip and they are moving at a furious pace. The street is full of traffic and the driver clearly has no control of his animals. The next instant the carriage smashes into the cab.
Both wheels are torn off and the cab is overturned. Captain is dragged to the ground. The shafts...
(The entire section is 778 words.)
Jerry’s New Year
Christmas and the New Year are happy times for most people, but cabmen and their horses do not have time to celebrate. The work is hard and often late, for the weather is cold and the waiting seems longer when there is a merry celebration just inside, where it is warm. Jerry uses Jack for most of the evening work. They stay very busy and Jerry’s cough is bad; however, no matter how late they arrive home, Polly is up and comes to greet her husband with a lantern in her hand and anxiety on her face. On the evening of the New Year, Jack and Jerry take two gentlemen to a gathering at nine o’clock and are told to return for them at eleven o’clock. They may be a few minutes later than...
(The entire section is 798 words.)
Jakes and the Lady
A corn dealer and baker buys Jack. Jerry knows the man and believes he will treat his horse well, giving him good food and fair work. At first this is true, and if the master were on the premises more often, Jack would not have been over-loaded. The foreman, though, is always hurrying everyone; and often, when Jack’s load is already full, he orders something else to be loaded onto the cart. Jakes, the carter, tells the foreman the load is too heavy, but the foreman always overrules him in the interest of efficiency and increased profit. In addition, Jakes (like all his fellow drivers) keeps the horse’s bearing rein up, which makes pulling the too-heavy load even more difficult....
(The entire section is 703 words.)
Jack’s new master has black eyes, a hooked nose, and harsh, grating voice. His name is Nicholas Skinner, and he is the same man for whom Seedy Sam had driven a cab. Though he had seen and heard some of the suffering such horses must bear, Jack only now learns the “utter misery” of a cab-horse’s life.
Skinner’s drivers and cabs are both of a low sort—he is hard on the men and the men are hard on the horses. There is no rest on Sundays and often Jack is so used and worn he can hardly eat. The drivers are cruel and Jack is regularly and harshly whipped. Jack longs to go back to his time with Jerry. This undignified treatment takes the heart out of the poor horse, but Jack...
(The entire section is 808 words.)
Farmer Thoroughgood and his Grandson Willie
At the horse sale, Jack is of course placed with all the broken-down horses, some of whom are in such bad shape they should probably have just been shot out of mercy. Some of the buyers and sellers do not look much better than the pitiful creatures they are hoping to buy. A man approaches from the direction of the better horses. He appears to be a gentleman farmer who has a kind face and a young boy by his side. When he arrives at the pitiful group of horses, the man looks around until he sees Jack. He still has an impressive mane and tail, so he looks somewhat better than the horses around him. Jack perks up his ears and looks at the man.
(The entire section is 743 words.)
My Last Home
One day during the summer Jack is groomed with such extraordinary care that he senses another change may be about to occur in his life. Willie seems both anxious and excited as he gets into the chaise with his grandfather. He tells the boy he hopes the ladies like the horse, for they are well suited to one another. Several miles from the village, they pull up at a pretty house with grass, shrubbery, and a drive up the front lawn.
Willie rings the bell and asks if Miss Blomefield and Miss Ellen are home. Willie waits outside with Jack while his grandfather goes in to visit with the women. Soon Thoroughgood comes back outside followed by three ladies. One is tall and pale, wrapped...
(The entire section is 783 words.)