The long-popular Black Beauty is an engaging story told from the perspective of a horse. Black Beauty's experiences lead him through a diverse series of encounters and bring him into contact with many characters, including other horses with stories of their own to tell.
Sewell uses Black Beauty's story to explore her theme of cruelty to animals. She shows the positive results of kind treatment, while attacking the animal abuse common in her times. Sewell believed that animal cruelty was a societal problem that could not be ignored, a problem that was often caused by ignorance and fashion, as well as intentional abuse.
The lines between good and evil are clearly drawn, and this fable is intended to leave the reader with a strong moral lesson that it is better to be a good person than an evil one. The horses are mistreated through no fault of their own by uncaring or insensitive people. In Sewell's story the world is cruel because it is inhabited by corrupted people, who have the power to reform, if they wish.
(The entire section is 177 words.)
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Black Beauty opens with its main character describing his first memory as that of a “pleasant meadow.” The reader is told about his life as a colt, his mother’s advice on how to behave as a well-bred horse, and his master’s kind care. When Black Beauty is two, he witnesses the brutality of a hunt for a hare and the tragedy of one of the riders being killed in a fall from his horse. At age four, Black Beauty is broken in to the use of the saddle, bridle, and carriage harness. He describes how bad the bit feels as well as getting his first shoes. Then he is sent to a neighbor’s pasture near a railroad to get used to the sounds he might hear when out on the road and is thus prepared to start work. He is sold to Squire Gordon and is named by Mrs. Gordon. Birtwick Hall becomes his pleasant home for more than three years. Here he meets the horses Merrylegs, Ginger, and Sir Oliver, and the grooms James Howard and John Manly. He learns that Ginger got her ill-tempered nature from a hard life with previous owners, and that Sir Oliver got a shortened tail when a thoughtless fashion dictated that it be cut. Sir Oliver also reveals the painful practices of bobbing tails and ears on dogs. Merrylegs, a pony, is a trusted playmate of the Gordon and Blomefield children. Squire Gordon and John Manly are both known to take issue with those who mistreat horses. Stable hand James gets an opportunity for a better position elsewhere and...
(The entire section is 1198 words.)
Chapter 1 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 dull black). He then gives the colt a piece of bread. All the horses would come to him, but Darkie is sure their master loves him and his mother best.
One of the plowboys, Dick, sometimes comes to their field to pick and eat blackberries. After he is full, Dick plays roughly with the colts, throwing stones and sticks at them to make them gallop. Though he rarely hits his target, when he does it hurts them. One day he is “playing” in this way and does not know the master is...
(The entire section is 536 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
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 stream, but the other remains on the ground, unmoving. Duchess tells Darkie that the man has broken his neck. All the horses, including Darkie, believe the man deserved his fate, but Duchess says that while she does not understand the men’s desire to hunt in such a way, horses are only horses and do not know what motivates men to do the things they do.
As they continue to watch, the horses see men going to help the fallen rider. The first to arrive is their master, who had been watching...
(The entire section is 707 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
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 bridle so that he can carry a person on his back and go where he is directed to go. A horse must also learn to wear a collar, a crupper, and a breeching, and he must learn to stand still while all of these things are being put on him. He must learn to have a cart or chaise fixed behind him and to go as fast or slow as the driver wishes. A horse must never get startled by anything he sees; he must never speak to other horses or express his own will by biting or kicking. Instead, he must follow the will of his master. Of greatest importance is that a horse must never jump with joy or lie down out of weariness once the harness is on him. Breaking a horse is an important thing.
Though Darkie has worn a halter and a headstall, the bridle is something new and unpleasant. The thick piece of steel inserted into his mouth and over his tongue until it settles into the corner of his mouth is “a nasty thing,” but Darkie knows his mother always wears one when she goes out, as do all grown-up horses. With the enticement of oats, kind words, and gentle pats, Darkie learns to wear his bit and bridle. Adjusting to the feel of the saddle is much easier for Darkie, and soon his master is able to ride on his back. Being ridden feels odd to Darkie, but he is proud to carry his master and is soon used to it.
The iron shoes he has to wear are unpleasant to think about, but his master comes with him to the forge to ensure Darkie is neither frightened nor hurt. First the blacksmith cuts off part of the horse’s hooves, and it does not hurt. Neither does the iron shoe the blacksmith nails to each hoof, but Darkie’s feet now feel heavy and stiff. The harness is next, including a stiff, heavy collar and...
(The entire section is 861 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
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 yard and makes the place pleasant and airy.
The first stall is large and square with a low rack for hay and a low manger for corn; it is called a “loose box” because a horse in this stall is not tied up, able to do as he likes. Every horse wishes for a loose box. When Darkie arrives at Squire Gordon’s, he is placed in the first stall. He is given nice oats, gentle pats, and kind words before being left alone to examine his new surroundings. It is the best place he has ever been. After he eats a bit, he looks around and sees a fat little gray pony. He has a thick mane and tail and a pert nose.
Darkie speaks through the iron rails at the top of his stall and asks the horse’s name. The gray pony says his name is Merrylegs, and he tells Darkie a little about himself. Merrylegs carries the young ladies around on his back. Sometimes he takes the mistress out in her low chair. Everyone here likes him, and he hopes that if Darkie will be living here, he is good-tempered and does not bite. Suddenly another horse peers over the stall next to Merrylegs’. It is a tall chestnut mare, with a long beautiful neck, who looks rather ill-tempered. She tells Darkie he took her stall from her, something she thinks no young colt should do to a lady.
Of course, Darkie asks her forgiveness. He says he has no choice in the matter of his lodgings. He tells her he is not a colt but a grown-up horse, and he wishes only to live peacefully with those around him. The mare says that has yet to be seen, and she has no desire to “have words with a young thing like you." When she leaves that afternoon, Merrylegs tells Darkie that her name is Ginger, and she has a habit of biting and snapping. One day she bit...
(The entire section is 611 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
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 common, John touches the horse lightly with a whip and they gallop. As they come back though the park, they are met by the Squire and Mrs. Gordon. John gives a positive report: Darkie responds to the slightest touch, he is not frightened by other horses or sudden movements, and he was obviously not ill-treated or frightened as a colt.
The next day the Squire rides his new horse. Darkie remembers everything his mother taught him and treats his new master well. The Squire is a good rider and thoughtful of his horse, as well. When they ride to the house, Mrs. Gordon meets them, and the Squire tells her the horse is exactly as John described. Then he asks her what they should name their new horse. They consider calling him Ebony or Blackbird, but they choose Black Beauty because he is beautiful, intelligent, and even-tempered.
When John returns the horse to the stables, he tells James the Squire has named the new horse Black Beauty. James thinks the horse could have been named Rob Roy, if the thought were not so sad, because the two horses looked so alike. John reminds him that both horses were the sons of Farmer Grey’s old horse, Duchess. This is the first time Black Beauty has heard about a brother and now understands why his mother was so troubled by Rob Roy’s death. Black Beauty now understands that horses have no relatives, or at least they do not know each other after they have been sold.
John seems quite proud of Black Beauty, keeping him meticulously groomed and talking to him all the time. The horse does not always understand the words, but he comes to know what John means when he talks. Black Beauty grows very fond of John, for he is kind and gentle, seeming to know just...
(The entire section is 614 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
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 was used to large fields. He used to be able to fling his head up, toss up his tail, and gallop away at full speed, snorting with his companions. Now, when he has had less to do than usual, he feels so full of life and energy that when John takes him out to exercise, he is unable to keep quiet. He feels as if he must jump or prance or dance. He knows he has shaken John more than he should, especially after he first arrived, but John is always patient and simply tells him to get the “tickle” out of his feet.
As soon as they get out of the village, John allows Black Beauty to run as fast as he wants before slowing him down to a more normal pace. Horses that do not get enough exercise are often called “skittish” and punished for their excess energy; however, John understands this is natural for young horses. John communicates through his voice or the touch of the rein, and when he is serious, Black Beauty always responds because he is very fond of John.
Sometimes the Squire’s horses have their liberty, often on Sunday afternoons during the summer since the church is near and no one needs the carriage. Being set free in the home paddock or the old orchard is a treat for the horses. The grass is cool and refreshing to their feet, and the air is sweet. Here they have the freedom to gallop or lie down on their backs or roll over or nibble at the sweet grass. This is also a good time for talking as they stand in the shade of a large chestnut tree.
(The entire section is 415 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
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 the necessities of adequate food and shelter. A footpath wound through their field, and some older boys would throw stones at the horses to get them to gallop; one of the colts was scarred this way, though Ginger was never hit. Such cruelties only made the colts wilder, and they all quickly decided that boys were their enemies.
Sometimes life for them was good, but being broken in was a bad experience for Ginger. The mare was dragged and forced into the bridle and halter, without kindness or any opportunity to discover what the men wanted of her. Ginger was a purebred with a lot of energy; undoubtedly she gave them a lot of trouble. She found it “dreadful” to be shut into a confining stall all day. She fretted and whined all the time, wanting to get loose. Black Beauty has felt this way, even with all the kindness and thoughtfulness he has known; being confined was even worse for a horse that had never experienced kindness.
One former master, Mr. Ryder, might have been able to help Ginger change, but he was old and allowed his son to run the daily operations of his business. He only came to oversee sometimes. Samson, his son, was a tall, strong, aggressive man who used to brag that no horse would ever throw him. Unlike his father, he was hard: his eyes, his hands, and his voice. Ginger soon recognized his goal—to wear out all of her spirit and create a humble, broken, obedient horse. Even thinking about him now makes Ginger stamp her foot.
Samson ran her around for hours on a long training leash, trying to wear her out. He used to drink, and it was worse for her when he had been drinking. She went back to her stall, exhausted, and he came for her again the next morning. After...
(The entire section is 893 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
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 unbearable aching in her neck, and there were two bits instead of one, causing flecks of blood to color the froth that collected around her lips. The pair of chestnuts stood for hours, waiting for their mistress to attend a grand party or other entertainment; if she ever stamped a hoof in impatience, she was whipped.
The master cared nothing for the horses themselves, only the appearance they made; the coachman supposedly cared for the horses but complained that Ginger had an “irritable temper” and had been poorly broken to the bearing rein. In the stables the coachman was surly and unpleasant; if he had delivered any form of kindness, Ginger would have borne the pain and tried to do as she was asked. That never happened. Ginger knew the rein was damaging her windpipe, in addition to her neck and mouth; if she had been forced to stay there longer, she would not have been able to breathe. Consequently, she grew more and more irritable and restless and began to bite and kick anyone who came to harness her.
One day when she had been buckled onto the carriage and her head was straining against the rein, she began “to plunge and kick with all her might” until she kicked herself clear of it. That was the end of her time with this master. Ginger was taken to Tatersall’s to be sold. She could not be presented to potential buyers as being problem-free, but her fine appearance and good paces caught the attention of a dealer who bought her and tried many kinds of bits and bridles with her, learning what she could and could not bear. He drove her regularly without a bearing rein and sold her as a well-behaved horse to a gentleman in the country. Everything was good for Ginger until the old groom left and...
(The entire section is 791 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
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. Merrylegs is indignant, saying he would never treat ladies or "little ones" in such a way. He is their instructor, understanding their need for him to go slowly until they are more stable and confident; he claims he is the “best riding master” the children can have.
It is the boys who must be taught a lesson. They, like colts, must be broken in and “taught what’s what.” The younger children had ridden Merrylegs for several hours, and the boys wanted a turn. He was agreeable and galloped them around the fields and orchard for an hour. They had fashioned a riding whip from a hazel branch and whipped the horse a bit harder than he would have liked, but he good-naturedly continued their rides. Once Merrylegs thought enough was enough, though, he stopped several times. He hoped they would take the hint that the ride was over, but boys think horses are like machines, without feelings, and can keep going inexhaustibly.
When the one who was whipping him failed to take the hint, Merrylegs rose up on his hind legs and deposited the boy gently on the ground. The boy remounted, and the horse repeated his action. Merrylegs simply wanted to teach them a lesson, but the boys complained to James. James was angry at the size of the sticks the boys had used as whips, and Ginger says she would have given the boys a good kick which would have taught them a lesson. Merrylegs says he would never abuse the trust placed in him by the master or make James afraid of him.
Merrylegs is aware of his role as protector of the children. He has even heard the Squire tell Mrs. Blomefield that she could trust the horse, and he would never sell Merrylegs because of that. It would be ungrateful of the...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
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 known, which is why the mistress prefers Black Beauty to Ginger. The mare expresses her jealousy regarding this preference and the better treatment Black Beauty has had, but Sir Oliver tells her she should be proud that she is strong enough to carry a grown man’s weight and still maintain a sprightly step. A horse must take things as they come and be content when treated with kindness.
One day several of the horses spend time together in the orchard. Sir Oliver has a very short tail, only six or seven inches long, and Black Beauty finally has an opportunity to ask him about the accident that caused his shortened tail. Sir Oliver snorts at the word “accident”; there was nothing accidental about being taken to a cruel place, being tied up so that he could not move at all, and having his tail cut off through flesh and bone and taken away. It was dreadful for him to have such pain, but it is just as dreadful to have lost one of his finest features and have nothing with which to swish away the flies. All horses at that time got their tails docked simply because docked tails were the fashion.
Ginger agrees that fashion is a terrible thing, for it is what made her masters keep her head in the terrible bearing rein. Sir Oliver says dogs are not exempt from this frenzy for fashion and talks about a friend of his, a brown terrier, whose five puppies were taken away from her to have their tails and ears docked. They came back to her "bleeding and crying pitifully." Because of fashion, they would never have the flap designed to protect their ears from dust and injury. He wonders why humans would not do such things to their own children but are perfectly content to “torment and disfigure” God’s...
(The entire section is 712 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
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 pretty, delicate horse gaze at them for a moment as they pass by him. The driver is infuriated by this apparent lack of obedience and yanks so hard on the horse’s reins that Black Beauty can only imagine the pain it must have caused the creature’s jaw. The driver proceeds to whip the horse, and the Squire turns his own horse around to address the offender. He calmly reasons with the man, whom he knows, and then scolds him for giving way to his passions and displaying such weak character. Then he reminds him that man is judged by his works, whether toward man or beast.
Another day he talks with a friend of his, a captain who proudly displays his new team of horses, their heads erect. When the Squire mentions the bearing reins, the captain says he likes his horses to hold their heads high; the Squire agrees, but he says he does not like to see them held up. He proceeds to make the case that the bearing rein actually weakens a horse and causes a temper to rise in the animal, making him much less useful and productive. The Squire draws a comparison between horses and soldiers. If soldiers' heads were held high with bearing reins, they would look good on parade, but they would be ineffective in battle: "I would not give much for their chance of victory." Every acquaintance of the Squire knows his position on the issue of fashion and cruelty versus function and kindness, and the captain is not an exception. The military man would like to dismiss the Squire’s arguments as fanatical, but the arguments make sense. He tells the Squire he is right in theory and the application to soldiers is apt, but he will have to think about what the Squire has said.
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
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 warns them that the river is rising quickly and many of the meadows are under water; he is afraid this will be a bad night. The Squire decides to move forward anyway.
They spend a long time in town, not leaving for home until late in the afternoon. By now the wind is much stronger, and the Squire tells John he has never been out in such a storm. Black Beauty agrees with his master. John wishes they were clear of the woods and remarks that it would be a bad thing if one of the branches fell on them. As soon as the words leave his mouth, a tree crashes to the ground on the road ahead of them. Black Beauty was trained not to react, and he stands still when he hears the thundering crash; however, he is certainly frightened and trembling as John jumps from the dog-cart and goes to the horse to reassure him.
They have no choice but to go back to a crossroads, making the trip to the bridge almost six miles. It is a longer journey than any of them like, but the horse is fresh. It is nearly dark when they reach the wooden bridge. The water is already over the middle of it, something that happens sometimes during floods. The Squire opts to move forward, and they are moving along at a quick pace until the moment Black Beauty puts his foot on the first part of the bridge. The horse instantly knows something is wrong, and he stops completely. The master urges him to keep moving and prods him with the whip, but the horse does not move. Even when the whip cracks smartly, Black Beauty dares not move.
John understands that something is wrong and tries to lead the horse forward, but he still will not budge. Just then the bridge keeper appears on the other side of the river, waving a torch and calling to...
(The entire section is 668 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
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. John recognizes the boy as the son of Farmer Bushby and drives to their home. He finds the parents worried about the fate of their son after the pony returned without him. John explains what he saw and asks forgiveness for not helping the boy but hopes he will learn something from the experience.
The boy’s mother begins to cry, fearing her son Bill is hurt; however, her husband tells her to go into the house. He intends for the boy to learn something from the experience. This is not the first or even the second time that Bill has abused the pony, and the farmer thanks John for letting him know what happened.
When John and Black Beauty arrive home, John shares the story with James, who laughs because he knows the boy from school and knows he was a bully to the younger children even then. As a farmer’s son, Bill used to believe he was superior to the children of laborers, but the older boys (including James) let him know that on the playground every child was the same.
One afternoon James discovered Bill pulling the wings off of flies. He sneaked up on the boy and boxed his ears, sending him sprawling onto the floor. Though he was angry, James was rather frightened at Bill’s roaring cry in response. Others heard the commotion and came running, thinking that someone had been murdered, at the least. James owned up to his actions and explained why he hit Bill; the teacher saw the evidence and punished Bill by making him sit on a stool for the rest of the afternoon and not allowing him to participate in recess for the rest of the week. They all got a stern lecture about cruelty being the devil’s trade mark and were encouraged to report any instances of cruelty they saw. Conversely,...
(The entire section is 501 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
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 Squire asks is whether John has any reason to suspect that when James is taking the horses out for exercise, he is stopping to talk with friends or going uninvited into people’s houses and leaving the horses unattended.
James is adamant that this has not happened and says anyone who accuses James of doing so is trying to besmirch the young man’s character. James is honest, smart, and pleasant; in addition, he is kind and gentle to the animals, and John would rather have him in charge than most of the young men who do this job. John Manly promises he will be a positive character reference for James Howard.
The master has been standing attentively and listening gravely to everything John has said. Suddenly he smiles broadly and motions James to come nearer. He explains that John is often reticent to express his opinion about people, so he tricked the man into giving his assessment of James. The Squire agrees with John’s assessment and explains that his brother-in-law is looking for a young man to replace his old coachman, and he thinks it would be a fine position from which a young man could advance. He does not want to see James go, but this is a good opportunity for the almost-nineteen-year-old. John, too, will be sad to lose such a good worker, but he does not want to stand in the boy’s way.
A few days later, it is determined that James will go to Clifford Hall in a month or so; in the meantime, he is to get as much driving practice as possible. Now every time a simple errand needs doing, Ginger and Black Beauty are hitched to the carriage and James drives. At first, John drives with him, but soon James drives on his own. Black Beauty thinks it is pleasant to drive so often...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
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 take care of the horses. The men move quickly and efficiently, and James watches the entire proceeding carefully. Black Beauty’s cleaning is done so quickly that James fears it was not done well; however, when he checks the horse he sees that he is clean and ready for a rest. The crooked little hostler says forty years of experience has made him efficient. He is in the habit of working quickly, something that is just as easy to develop as the habit of working slowly. He has worked with horses since he was twelve, originally planning to be a jockey. After he fell and broke his knee, though, he began working for the hotel and has loved working with such fine creatures as Black Beauty and Ginger.
He can handle a horse for twenty minutes and know what kind of care the horse is given and what kind of treatment it has experienced. A fidgety or timid horse has been treated poorly, as has a horse that is violent or afraid. Horses are like children, the old hostler adds: "[T]rain 'em up in the way they should go, as the good book [the Bible] says, and when they are old they will not depart from it, if they have a chance." James likes the old man’s philosophy and tells him this is how animals are treated at his master’s farm.
The man asks who James’s master is, and James tells him his master is Squire Gordon of Birtwick Park. The hostler has heard of the Squire and applauds him as a fine judge of horses and "the best rider in the county." James says the Squire rides very little since the accident suffered by his son. The old man remembers the story and comments that the site of the accident was not an ideal setting for any horse to jump, even for bold riders and experienced horses. He asks about the...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
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 around him is “all thick and choking.” Ginger is coughing, and another horse is moving restlessly. It is dark; Black Beauty can see nothing. The smoke is making it difficult for him to breathe. The trapdoor to the loft is still open, and it seems as if the smoke is emanating from there. Now the horse hears a soft, rushing kind of noise with a low crackling and snapping. He does not recognize the sound, but he is afraid of it. The other horses are now awake, showing signs of panic.
Finally Black Beauty hears footsteps. The younger hostler enters the stables with a lantern and tries to lead the horses out; however, because he is frightened and hurried, he makes the horses panic even more. He tries to drag the horses out, one by one, but none of them will go with him. Though it may be foolish to stay, the horses have no one to trust in this strange, uncertain environment. The sounds overhead are growing louder, and now red light flickers on the wall. Outside, someone cries “Fire!”; inside, the noise and smoke are dreadful.
The next thing Black Beauty hears is James’s voice, calm and cheerful, as always. He coaxes Black Beauty, who is closer to the door, out of the burning stable by placing the scarf from around his neck over the horse’s eyes. Once Black Beauty is out safely, James calls for someone to take him, while James goes back into the fire for Ginger. Black Beauty whinnies when James leaves him; Ginger hears the sound, which gives her the courage to leave the burning stable.
There is much confusion in the yard as horses are gathered and carriages are pulled out of the stable. The hotel's windows are open all around, and people at the windows shout at the crowd below. Black...
(The entire section is 737 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
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 fifteen, but he is a quick learner, willing to work; Joe's father likes the prospect, and the master wants to give the boy a chance. John has agreed to a six-week trial, but James says that is too short a time for Joe to learn the job. John is willing to work extra until the "little chap" is able to do everything he will need to do. James admires John for his unselfishness.
John does not usually speak of himself, but he explains that he once was given a similar chance when both his parents died and left him alone with his crippled sister, Nelly. The two young children had no relatives who could help them. John hired himself out to do farm work but did not make enough to support his sister; Nelly would have been sent to the poorhouse if their mistress had not provided lodging for her, as well as small jobs to do when she was able. Also, the master hired John as a stable boy and gave him a place to live, clothes to wear, and a few shillings to help Nelly.
Norman was an older man in charge of the stables, and he could have said he did not want to bother with John, who was so young; instead, he acted as a father to John. Years later, after Norman died, John stepped into his place. Now he is paid top wages, and Nelly is “happy as a bird.” That is why he is willing to allow such a young boy to learn from him. He is not a selfish man. John believes that one should perform a kindness whenever he can.
The next day Joe begins working in the stables, hoping to learn as much as he can before James takes his new job. Joe is too short to groom any horse but Merrylegs, so that is the horse he is given charge of for now. On the morning James is to leave, he is not his usual cheery self. He is sad...
(The entire section is 522 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
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 the bridge and then resumes his pace for the rest of the journey. The town is asleep, and John has to bang on the doctor’s door to wake him. He says Mrs. Gordon is quite ill and may die if the doctor does not come. The doctor reads the note and is soon at the door, ready to leave. Unfortunately, the doctor’s horse was in use all day, and he needs to ride Black Beauty. John explains that the horse had galloped hard all the way and deserves a rest, but he is confident the Squire would approve if Black Beauty must make the return trip home.
John rubs the horse’s neck, for he is still hot from his hard ride. When the doctor comes out with his riding whip, John assures him he will not need it. Black Beauty will “go till he drops,” if necessary. In a moment, horse and rider are gone. The doctor is heavier than John and not as good a rider, but Black Beauty does his best; soon they are back at the manor. Joe is there to meet them, and the doctor goes immediately into the house. Joe leads the horse into his stall and does his best to care for the overheated animal. Unfortunately, he is quite inexperienced and does all the wrong things. While he does rub the horse’s trembling legs and chest, he does not put the thick blanket over him, thinking the horse is too hot and would not want it. Then he gives Black Beauty a pail full of cold water to drink before leaving him to rest. The horse sleeps but soon wakes up and is shivering and aching from the cold, wishing for John to come and take proper care of him.
John has to walk all the way from the doctor’s home. When he finally arrives, he immediately puts warm cloths over the horse and prepares some warm gruel for him to drink. As Black Beauty...
(The entire section is 608 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
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 wants to stay, as well. The pair sits on a bench that has been brought into Merrylegs’ stall. They set the lantern on the floor so that the light will not disturb their patient.
After sitting in silence for a while, Thomas asks John if he will “say a bit of a kind word” to Joe, for he feels utterly responsible for Black Beauty’s condition. The boy is quite broken-hearted and cannot eat or smile; he believes no one will ever speak to him again if the horse dies. This is breaking his father’s heart, so he asks John to give the boy some words of comfort, as he is a good boy. John pauses slowly before speaking. He asks Thomas not to be too hard on him, for while he knows Joe is not a bad boy and he meant no harm, Black Beauty is “the pride of his heart.” This horse is also the favorite of the Gordons, and thinking that his life "may be flung away in this manner" is a burden John does not want to bear. John does agree to speak a kind word to the boy tomorrow—if Black Beauty is better.
Thomas thanks him, adding that he is glad John understands that Joe acted only out of ignorance. John is provoked by the statement and practically shouts that ignorance is the “worst thing in the world,” next to evil. People do awful things in the name of ignorance, he says, and he gives several examples. Martha Mulwash pleaded ignorance when she killed her baby with the wrong medicine and was tried for manslaughter. Bill Starkey did not mean any harm when he dressed up like a ghost and chased his brother in the moonlight; the boy literally lost his wits and will never be what he should have been, all because of his brother’s ignorance. Several weeks ago, John reminds him,...
(The entire section is 550 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
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 without success to pull the cart from the mud while the man continues to swear at them and beat them brutally.
Joe tries to reason with the man, but he does not stop, telling the boy to mind his own business. It is clear the man has been drinking; caught up in his anger and frustration, he will not listen. Joe turns Black Beauty toward Mr. Clay's house, and they move with greater haste than the master would approve of, to be sure; however, both horse and rider are eager to put a stop to the man’s abusive behavior.
Mr. Clay, the brickmaker, is a friend of the Squire. When Joe arrives at his door, Mr. Clay wonders if Joe has brought a message from him. Joe explains what is happening in his brickyard, and Mr. Clay immediately prepares to go to the scene. He asks Joe if he would be willing to testify to what he has witnessed if the matter should go to court. Joe says he would be glad to speak the truth.
When Joe and Black Beauty return home, John asks why Joe looks and acts so angry. Joe quickly tells the story, and it is wonderful to see the quiet young boy roused to such passion. John assures the boy he did the proper thing, unlike many others who would not have stopped. Cruelty and oppression are everyone’s business, according to John, and when a person sees them, he should do what he can to stop them. "[Y]ou did right, my boy," he tells Joe. Now Joe is calm. He basks in the older man’s praise. Just before dinner, Joe learns he has been summoned to the Squire’s private room to give evidence of a man abusing his horses. The boy’s eyes sparkle as he agrees to tell what he saw.
John helps the boy straighten his clothes a bit before sending him to the master. The...
(The entire section is 560 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
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 kept quite busy. The first to leave are the Squire's two daughters. Before Miss Jessie and Miss Flora depart with their governess, they come to tell the horses good-bye, hugging Merrylegs "like an old friend." Ginger and Black Beauty have been sold to the Earl of W---- [sic]. The Squire believes they will be well taken care of by the Earl because he is a friend of the master. Merrylegs will be given to the vicar, who has been looking for a pony for his wife. The vicar agrees to the Squire's one condition in giving away his horse: Merrylegs will never be sold. When he grows too old, he will be shot and buried. Joe will go with Merrylegs to the vicar’s. John has several good offers of employment, but he wants some time to make a decision.
The evening before the master and mistress leave, the Squire comes to the stable to give some last-minute instructions and pat his horses for the last time. His voice reveals his sadness at the parting to come. He asks John if he has reached a decision about his future employment. John replies that he thinks a position with a “first-rate colt-breaker and horse-trainer” would be the best one for him. John believes if he can keep animals from being mistreated at the important time of their breaking-in, he would be doing some good in the world. The master says he can think of no one better suited for such work and offers to help John get such a job.
Before the master leaves, John expresses his appreciation for all the kindnesses the Gordons have extended to him, so many that he could never repay them. He also expresses his wish that Mrs. Gordon will soon recover her good health. "We must keep up hope, sir," John tells the Squire. The last day...
(The entire section is 596 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
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 them.
York examines Black Beauty and Ginger; he sees no fault in them but wonders if there are any peculiarities about either of them which he should know. Praising them both, John explains they have very different temperaments. The black horse has always been treated well and has the perfect disposition; he seems to want only to please his master. The chestnut mare has had some harsh treatment, but for the past three years, she has been even-tempered and willing to work as long as she is treated with kindness. She is naturally more fretful and irritable than the black horse, and if she is mistreated, she is likely to show her displeasure.
York says it is good to know such things, but in such a large stable, it is difficult to monitor each groom to ensure he is acting appropriately. He promises to keep John’s words in mind and do his best. As they are leaving, John adds that the Squire never used the bearing rein with either horse. The black horse has never worn one, and the chestnut’s temper was ruined by one. York says that all horses at Earlshall wear the bearing rein. Though he prefers a looser rein and the master does not seem to mind, the mistress insists that her horses wear the device. She is concerned about fashion and will not even look at a horse if it is not reined up tightly. John says he is very sorry to hear this news, but he must hurry or he will miss the train. He pats both horses and speaks to them in a very sad voice before he leaves.
The next day Lord W—[sic] comes to see them. He seems pleased with their appearance; although they are not a match in color, he thinks they will do well for the carriage, and the black horse appears to be perfect for riding. York...
(The entire section is 874 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
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 them and continues plunging, rearing, and kicking desperately. Finally she kicks over the carriage poles, hitting Black Beauty, as well. She would no doubt have done more damage, but York sits on her head to keep her from struggling. He then orders that the black horse be unbuckled and the carriage unhitched from the mare. The black horse, free of both Ginger and the carriage, is returned to his stall. If he had been raised to kick and rear, Black Beauty is certain he would have acted as Ginger had. He is miserable, inclined to kick anyone who comes near him at this moment.
A bruised and battered Ginger is soon returned to her stall, as well. York comes to assess the situation, muttering about bearing reins and controlling one’s wife and washing his hands of the problem, unconcerned that his mistress might not get to her garden party. None of the stable workers hear him, though, as he maintains a respectful tone in front of them. York feels a lump on Black Beauty where he has been kicked and directs that it be treated immediately.
Lord W—[sic] is not happy when he hears what has happened, scolding York for giving in to his wife's demand; York replies that he would prefer to take orders only from his master. Nothing changes, however, except that Ginger is never placed in the carriage harness again. Once her bruises heal, one of the master's sons asks to ride her while hunting. Black Beauty is still forced to pull the carriage while wearing a tight rein; his partner now is Max. Black Beauty asks his new partner, a veteran carriage horse, how he tolerates such treatment. Max says he bears it because he must, but it is shortening his life. He adds that the bearing rein will shorten Black...
(The entire section is 655 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
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 rather nervous horse.
A gentleman named Blantyre is staying at Earlshall Hall. When he and Lady Anne go riding together, he always rides Lizzie. He praises Lizzie so much that one day Lady Anne orders a sidesaddle placed on the horse so that she can ride her, while Blantyre rides Black Auster. Blantyre seems uneasy with this change. She would like to try the charming mare, Lady Anne says, for in size and appearance, Lizzie is more a lady’s horse than her beloved Black Auster. The gentleman advises her against the switch one last time, saying Lizzie is much too nervous for her to ride; however, Lady Anne will not be dissuaded, and Blantyre reluctantly helps her mount.
As they are leaving, a footman brings a note with a question Lady Harriet wants the doctor to answer, so Lady Anne and Blantyre ride to Dr. Ashley’s. When they arrive, Lady Anne says she will wait for Blantyre at the gate for the five minutes he will be gone on the errand. After draping Black Auster's reins over an iron spike in the gate, Blantyre walks up the short path to the doctor's house. Lady Anne waits, "sitting easily with a loose rein, humming a little song." Black Auster stands a few paces away. Just as the gentleman knocks on the doctor's door, some cart horses and young colts come toward the gate. A young boy is cracking a whip, and the cart horses are “wild and frolicsome.” One of them inadvertently bumps up against Lizzie’s hind leg. She gives a violent kick and dashes off in a headlong gallop. The sudden move nearly unseats Lady Anne, but she manages to stay in the saddle.
The black horse begins neighing for help, trying to shake his reins loose from the gate. Blantyre comes running and sees Lady Anne...
(The entire section is 935 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
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 “bout,” he is a disgrace to himself, a nuisance to everyone around him, and a terror to his wife. York had covered up Smith’s problem because he is such a valuable and skilled worker, but one night Smith was too drunk to drive a party home from a ball. One of the gentlemen was forced to drive the ladies home. The Earl found out, of course, and Smith was summarily dismissed. He and his family had to leave the premises immediately. This incident happened quite a while in the past, and shortly before the new horses arrived, Smith had been re-hired. York had pleaded on the man’s behalf; Smith had promised never to drink as long as he lived at the estate. The groom had kept his promise so well that York had felt no hesitation in leaving Smith in charge while he was away.
In April, before the family was to return the following month, Colonel Blantyre had to leave Earlshall to return to his military post. Since the smaller carriage was in need of refurbishing, a plan was made. Taking a saddle with him, Smith would drive Blantyre into town, leave the carriage to be "fresh done up," and then ride Black Auster back home. When they arrive in town, Colonel Blantyre gives the groom some money for driving him; he tells Smith to take care of Lady Anne and to keep other riders away from the black horse, for he is her special mount. Smith says good-bye to Blantyre, drops off the carriage, and then rides to the White Lion, where he orders the hostler to care for Black Auster. Later, the hostler notices a loose nail in one of the horse’s shoes. When Smith returns to the yard at five o’clock, the hostler asks if he should have the shoe fixed; Smith says he has met some friends and will be back for the horse at six...
(The entire section is 828 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
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 lain here for hours, and they find it odd that the horse has not moved. When Robert attempts to move Black Auster, the horse tries to take a step forward but nearly falls.
Robert examines the horse more closely; he sees his injured foot and knees. He knows Reuben Smith would not have ridden a horse in this condition if he had been in his right mind: "Why, if he had been in his right senses he would just as soon have tried to ride him over the moon." Robert now realizes what has happened to cause such tragedy--"it has been the old thing again." He feels sorry for Susan Smith, Reuben's wife, who had begged him earlier that night to find her husband. When he had not returned home from town, she worried he was having another "bout," although she had not said so directly. "Poor Susan!" Robert says.
Robert and Ned discuss what must be done. It will be difficult to get both Smith's body and the injured horse back to Earlshall Park. Robert, who is a groom, uses his handkerchief to bind Black Auster's foot and leads the horse slowly home; he offers encouraging words as Black Auster hobbles and limps the three miles back to the stable. Meanwhile, Ned loads Reuben Smith's body into the dog-cart as Ginger stands perfectly still, something she does not usually do. Ned drives the cart slowly back to the house.
Once Black Auster is back in his stall, Robert feeds him and treats the hoof with a bran poultice. The doctor will arrive in the morning. The horse manages to settle into the hay and sleep a bit in spite of the pain. The next day, the farrier examines the wound. He hopes there will be no permanent damage, but there will surely be a scar. Although everyone does his best to heal the wound, it...
(The entire section is 571 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
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 health. He will not accept guidance or take good advice, and he is quite careless with his horses. On the day of a steeplechase, he insisted on riding Ginger, even though her groom advised against it; Ginger, he said, was in no condition to race. Lord George refused to respect the groom's judgment and rode Ginger, despite his warning. During the race, he goaded her to keep up with the lead horses. Because she was bred to race, Ginger did as she was asked and passed three horses ahead of her; however, Lord George was too heavy to ride her, and her back was injured. After Ginger and Black Auster learn each other's stories, Ginger tells him, "And so . . . here we are, ruined in the prime of our youth and strength, you by a drunkard, and I by a fool; it is very hard." They both understand that they are not young and strong as they once had been, but they enjoy each other’s company and their easy life until the family comes home from London.
One day the Earl and Mr. York come into their meadow and examine both horses. The Earl is agitated that good horses have been ruined; even more disturbing to the Earl is that the horses had come from an old friend who trusted they would be safe with him. He decides that Ginger will be allowed a year’s rest, but Black Auster must be sold, for the Earl cannot have in his stables a horse with such scarred and damaged knees. York knows a man in Bath, the master of several livery stables, who is not concerned about appearance when he can buy a good horse for little money. York believes the black horse would be treated well there; he is certain the man would accept the Earl’s recommendation—or his own—regarding the horse’s good character and...
(The entire section is 691 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
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 mouths have been desensitized by rough treatment, but other horses are easily guided; tight reins are tormenting, and their continuous use is a stupid practice. Other inexperienced drivers hold the reins too loosely; if anything happens unexpectedly, they are not able to control their horses or their carriages. Black Auster prefers this kind of driver, as he does not depend on his drivers for guidance and direction; however, there is some security in knowing the driver could take effective action if necessary—and that he has not fallen asleep. Slovenly driving allows some horses to become lazy, and they often have to be whipped, literally, back into their good habits.
These careless drivers are also inattentive to their horses. Once Black Auster got a stone in one of his feet that went unnoticed by his driver who was paying attention only to the passengers in the carriage. He drove at least half-a-mile before noticing that something was wrong with the horse; then he complained that Black Auster was simply being lazy and continued his journey. A farmer happened by and told the driver his horse appeared to have a stone in his foot. The driver complained that he should not have been given a lame horse, but the farmer ignored the comment. He dismounted from his horse, examined Black Auster's hoof, and discovered the stone. He tried to dislodge it by hand, but the stone was tightly wedged. The farmer was patient; using a stone pick he carried in his pocket, he worked with the horse's hoof until he eventually freed the stone.
Showing the stone to the driver, the farmer said it was "a wonder" the horse did not fall down and break his knees. The careless, inexperienced driver exclaimed that he never...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
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 scold horses for being lazy, even though the animals are doing their best under adverse conditions. They use the drag [brake] improperly, often causing accidents. They leave the stable at a full gallop and pull up so suddenly when they want to stop that it is dangerous to both horse and carriage. They also speed too quickly around corners, disregarding anyone else on the road. Cockneys wear horses out very quickly.
One spring evening, Black Auster and Rory, the horse he is most often paired with, are returning from a pleasant day with one of their own stable drivers. They are coming home at twilight, rounding a corner close to a hedge with plenty of room on the road for an approaching carriage to pass by. Black Auster hears a carriage coming toward them, very fast, but cannot see it beyond the hedge. Then it appears suddenly; it is moving too fast for the driver to pull his horse to his side of the road. Rory is harnessed next to Black Auster, on the outside of the team with nothing to protect him. He suffers the entire shock of the impact; he staggers back with a terrified cry as the shaft of the other carriage runs straight into his chest. The other horse, also from their stables, is thrown on his haunches. Rory is nearly killed. It most probably would have been better if he had died, as he never really recovers; he is eventually sold to cart coal laboriously up and down hills.
After Rory is disabled, Black Auster is often paired with a mare named Peggy. She is not high-bred. Although she is quite pretty and sweet-tempered, the black horse occasionally sees something in her eyes that tells him she has had some kind of trouble in her life. The first time they go out together, he notices the mare...
(The entire section is 844 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
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 eating. For several days everything goes well. Filcher was a former hotel ostler, so he knows how to care properly for a horse. The stall is light and airy, and the horse is groomed gently and thoroughly each day. In addition to his grooming duties, Filcher and his wife are in the business of growing vegetables to sell at the market, and they fatten poultry and rabbits for sale.
Soon the horse realizes that he is being given very few oats, probably only a quarter of what he should be getting each day. After a week or two, this lack of nutritious food begins to affect Black Auster’s strength and energy. He is unable to complain, of course, and the shortage of nutritious food begins to show. The horse is surprised his master has not noticed anything, but again, he is inexperienced with horses and does not recognize the problem.
One of Barry’s friends notices that Black Auster does not look as healthy as when the man first got him. Barry tells him he has noticed the horse is lacking energy but his groom tells him that is typical for a horse in the fall. The other man says that is a foolish notion and besides, it is only August. He asks what the horse has been eating; when Barry tells him, the man feels the horse’s neck and shoulder and says someone has not been honest in his dealings with Barry. He can tell that someone is robbing the horse of his food.
The master soon learns that early every morning Filcher and his little boy have been coming into the stables and filling a bag with oats; then the man sends the boy home with the bag. One morning, just after the little boy leaves the stable, several policemen walk into the barn holding the boy tightly by the arm. They tell the boy to...
(The entire section is 533 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
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 unyielding.
In contrast, the groom is quite fastidious about his own appearance, and he spends much time in front of the mirror fussing with his hair, whiskers, and necktie. The man is polite and deferential to Barry, and everyone thinks Smirk is a very nice young man whom the master is fortunate to have hired. Black Auster knows the man is selfish and conceited. It is true the horse is not being particularly mistreated; however, a horse wants more than that. He wants to be treated well.
Black Auster has a loose box and should have been quite comfortable, but the groom is too lazy to clean it out regularly. Instead he simply puts new hay over the old, smelly hay, causing the smells to rise and inflame the horse’s eyes and then causing him to lose his appetite for his food. One day the master notices the smell and calls it to the groom’s attention, telling him he should thoroughly scrub the stall. Smirk says he can do that, but it is quite dangerous for horses to have water in their stalls because they are likely to catch cold. Barry does not want his horse to catch a cold, of course, and wonders if the drains are working properly. The groom is quick to agree the smell is probably due to faulty drains.
A bricklayer comes and finds nothing wrong with the drains, so he just puts down some lime and charges the master an exorbitant fee. The smell is still strong, and now the horse’s feet are growing tender and unhealthy because his straw is damp. Barry only knows that his horse is not as sure-footed as he once was, and the groom says he has noticed the same thing when he exercises the horse. In fact, Smirk rarely takes Black Auster out for any exercise. Often days go by when he is not...
(The entire section is 627 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
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 they no longer wish to live. It is a sad sight for both horses and men to see.
A horse fair is filled with much bargaining and movement, though the horses know there is also much lying and trickery. Black Auster is put with several other strong, useful-looking horses, and many people stop to look at them. The gentlemen who come always walk away when they see his scarred knees, though they are told the damage was done by a slip in the stall. Others examine the horse by opening his mouth, looking at his eyes, running their hands firmly along his body, and trying his paces. Each potential buyer has a different approach and feel, and the horse judges the men just as he is being judged.
Black Auster finds one man he wishes would become his next master. He is not a gentleman but a rather small man who clearly knows and understands horses. He speaks gently and has a kind look in his grey eyes. His clean, fresh smell is also attractive to the horse. There is no smell of stale beer or tobacco, which he has reason to hate; instead he smells like fresh hay. The man offers twenty-three pounds for the horse, but his offer is refused and he walks away. Others come and bargain for the horse, but finally the man with the kind voice raises his offer and buys Black Auster.
The man leads the horse to the inn where he is staying and feeds him oats as he talks to the horse. Shortly they are on their way to London, and the ride is pleasant. They wind their way through town and arrive at a long cab stand after dark. Some of the men call the master “Governor” and ask if he found a good horse. He tells them he is sure he did. They keep riding until they arrive on a very narrow side street with poor-looking...
(The entire section is 587 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary
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 cavalry and was in the Crimean War. He used to lead his regiment into battle.
The morning after Black Auster arrives, the entire family comes to spend time with the new horse. They give him treats and fuss over him, and he feels almost as if he is the “Black Beauty” he once was. The horse tries to show them he wants to be friendly, and Polly thinks the horse is much too good for a cab if it were not for his broken knees. Jerry says they will never know what caused the injury, but he intends to give the horse the benefit of the doubt, for his is as fine a horse as he has ever ridden. They name the horse “Jack,” after their former horse.
Captain pulls the cab all morning, and Harry cares for Jack after school. That afternoon Jack is put in a cab, and Jerry takes great care that all the equipment is well suited and comfortable for the animal, just as John Manly would have done. It is a blessing that there is no bearing rein. They drive to the cab stand they saw the night before; it is near a church and some wonderful shops. The men are gathered. Some are reading the paper, and some are giving their horses bits of hay or a drink of water. Several of them gather around the newcomers. One says the black horse is good for funerals; another predicts Jerry will find something terribly wrong with the horse before long. A man arrives, and the crowd parts for him. He is known as “Governor Grant,” and he is the most experienced man on that cab stand. He is a wise and sensible man, and his word carries much weight with these men. His pronouncement is that Jack is worth whatever Jerry paid for him and is the right sort of horse for his master. This establishes Jack’s character for the rest of the...
(The entire section is 716 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
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 endured many hardships despite the efforts of their masters to keep them comfortable in the wet and snow. They had practiced the drills of fighting, but there had been no bayonets, bullets, or cannonballs such as in an actual battle. Despite their fears, the horses felt confident as long as they felt their riders firm in their saddles—even when the terrible bombshells exploded into a thousand pieces all around them.
Captain and his officer were never wounded, though he saw many men and horses shot, pierced, and gashed by various weapons. The horse feared more for his rider than for himself, and he trusted the man so perfectly that he felt no fear of their surroundings. He often cantered up hills slippery with blood, and he had to avoid trampling fallen men and horses. He was not afraid until one terrible day.
After a long pause, Captain tells the story of an autumn day which began as every other during the war. When the order was given, all the officers mounted their horses, eager for the battle ahead of them. Captain and his master were at the head of the line; the young soldier patted his horse and told him this would be a difficult day, but they would do their duty as they had always done. He stroked and patted Bayard (as that was Captain’s name back then) more than usual. He was ready to do his duty.
It was a long day. The last charge Captain and the officer made together was in a valley directly in front of the enemy’s cannon. They experienced more fire this day than ever before. Many men and horses fell; some terrified horses ran wild into the battle without their riders. Though it was a fearful battle, no one turned back. Even as some comrades fell, the army moved...
(The entire section is 716 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary
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 Victoria Station to catch the train; they will pay him an extra shilling to get them there on time. Jerry agrees to take them, but he tells them he will drive at the pace he always drives, for a shilling is not enough to warrant the stress on the horse. Another driver, Larry, accepts their offer, goading his already worn horse to go as fast as he can. Jerry pats Jack and says again a shilling is not worth the potential damage. Jerry always drives at a reasonable pace, not unwilling to “put on the steam” for a worthy cause.
One morning a young man carrying a heavy suitcase slips on an orange peel near the cab stand. When he seems a bit dazed and in pain, Jerry leads him into a shop. In about ten minutes, the same young man hires Jerry to take him to his twelve o’clock train, explaining it is imperative that he not miss it. He, too, offers Jerry extra money if he arrives in time. Jerry agrees to take him, noticing that the man looks “dreadfully white and ill.” Moving quickly through London is a difficult thing; only when horse and driver are in perfect communication and have perfect trust can it be done more easily. Jerry and Jack are able to get the man to the station with eight minutes to spare. They immediately pull over, out of traffic, to make way for other cabs carrying departing passengers.
When the gentleman gratefully thanks them and tries to give him extra fare, Jerry refuses and calls for a porter to help the man with his heavy suitcase. The cab driver is thankful they got the man to the station in time. When they return to the cab stand, his colleagues ask Jerry how much extra he received from the gentleman. Jerry slyly answers that what the man gave him will keep him "in...
(The entire section is 710 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary
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, saying Jerry still would have most of the day with his family—and Mr. and Mrs. Briggs have always been very good customers. While Jerry is grateful for their trust and is willing to do what he can for them, he will continue to give himself and his horses a day of rest. Briggs walks away in a bit of a huff.
Jerry calls his wife out to the yard and explains the offer just made to him, including the reality that the Briggses have been fair and honorable in all their dealings with him. They are his best customers. His refusal today is likely to lose them the Briggses' business, and he asks Polly’s opinion about the proposition. Polly speaks very slowly, telling her husband she would not want him to work on Sundays again even if Mr. Briggs paid him an outrageous sum for the job. She would rather they struggle together than not have her husband (and the children’s father) with the family on Sundays. That is exactly what he had told Briggs, Jerry says, and he assures his tearful wife that he will stick to his word.
Three weeks have passed; there has been no call from Mrs. Briggs for a cab. Soon the other drivers realize Jerry has lost his best customer and know why it happened. Some believe he is a fool, but most understand and agree with Jerry’s decision. Larry disregards the religious meaning of the Sabbath; he is willing to make a profit at any time. Religious people, he says, are no better than others. Jerry tells him religious people do not always live as they should, but each man is responsible for his own soul.
Finally, Jerry says people expect them to work on Sundays because some of the drivers are willing to do so, and customers know someone will do business with them. If all...
(The entire section is 524 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary
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 received word her mother is dangerously ill; she must go to her mother directly if she wants to see her alive. Her mother lives more than ten miles away. If Dinah takes the train, she will still have four miles to walk with her four-week-old baby. Dinah would like Jerry to take her to her mother, and she will be faithful to pay him as she gets the money. Jerry is not concerned about the money, but he is concerned about the time away from his family. Also, both he and the horses are tired.
Polly agrees his going will be a sacrifice for all of them, but she reminds him they are to do for others what they would want others to do for them. Jerry thanks his wife for her small sermon and says he will pick up Dinah and her baby at ten o’clock. He also asks Polly to ask the butcher if he can borrow the man’s light trap, something the butcher does not use on Sundays and would be easier for Jack to pull. The butcher readily agrees to the use of his trap, and Polly tells Jerry she will have a hot meal waiting for him when he returns.
It is a beautiful day in May. Pulling the borrowed carriage seems very easy to Jack; the drive begins to feel refreshing to the horse as they stop to pick up Dinah Brown. A young man (Dinah’s brother) asks Jerry to bring the trap into the meadow. Jack spends time enjoying the quiet, beautiful meadow while Jerry waits for the woman. When the horse’s harnesses are removed, he can't decide if he should eat or roll over in the grass, lie down and rest or gallop freely across the meadow. Eventually he does all of them, as Jerry sits by the side of a brook, singing and reading his Bible.
Finally Jerry prepares to leave, gathering a lovely bouquet of wildflowers...
(The entire section is 535 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary
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. When the weather is the worst, some cab drivers sit in a local tavern and have someone else watch for potential fares; however, these men miss fares and always end up spending money at the tavern. On the worst days, Jerry visits a small coffee shop, but generally he waits out in the cold. Sometimes Dolly will see him and run home to get something hot for her father to eat or drink. Dolly is a special favorite of the men on the cab stand; all of them would have protected her with their lives if her father were not there to do so.
One day as Jerry is enjoying a bowl of something hot which Dolly has brought him, a gentleman approaches and hires him. Jerry prepares to hand the bowl to Dolly so that he can drive, but the man insists he has time for Jerry to finish his meal. Jerry thanks the man and finishes his food while the gentleman sits in the cab. Jerry tells his daughter that such a kindness is the mark of a gentleman. Later, he takes Jerry's cab several more times. The gentleman appears to love dogs and horses. Each time the cab drops him off at his house, several dogs come out to meet him, and he is quick to pat Jack and offer him some kind words. The gentleman is pleasant; his voice exudes trust. He seems determined in anything he does.
One day the gentleman and a friend take Jerry’s cab and stop at a small shop. While his friend goes into the store, the gentleman waits outside. On the other side of the street, a cart pulled by two horses begins to pull away without a driver. Soon the driver appears and starts to thrash the horses furiously for leaving. The gentleman, who has seen everything that has happened, crosses the street quickly, threatening the driver with negligence and brutality...
(The entire section is 620 words.)
Chapter 39 Summary
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 outrageous fees for the use of their animals. The drivers have no choice but to work the horses harder than they should just to eke out a living. Cab owners like Skinner expect their drivers to work outrageously long hours, limiting their time to rest and spend with their families. If a driver has a large family, he is particularly desperate and must often do without some necessity or another because he must pay exorbitant rental fees for his horses and cab.
Other drivers nod their agreement and Seedy Sam continues. There is so little profit to be made that drivers must overuse their horses, but they take no pleasure in the whippings they must give their overworked and tired animals. If customers were not so cheap, more money could be made; the few generous tips a driver receives are helpful but certainly not enough to make a significant change. Men all around him agree and say that their bad behavior (like drinking too much or abusing a horse) is justified because of such forced adversity.
Jerry remains silent during Seedy Sam’s diatribe, but his face reflects extreme sadness. Governor Grant apologizes for his comment about the police, for he knows what the man said is true. He does think drivers should apologize to their horses, at least, for venting their frustrations at other things on them. Kind words are understood even by animals.
A few mornings later, a strange man shows up at the cab stand with Sam’s cab. He explains that Sam got so ill the night before that he could barely crawl home. Sam’s wife sent a message to the man this morning that her husband was ill with a high fever and could not work, so he came with the cab. The same man shows up the next morning, as well. When...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
Chapter 40 Summary
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 changed so very much from the horse she once was. Her glossy, arched neck, once so proud, is now lank and straight; her clean, straight legs are now swollen and misshapen by hard word and ill treatment. Her face, once so full of “spirit and life,” is now full of suffering. Her sides are heaving and she coughs frequently, so her breathing is labored much of the time. Both of their drivers have stepped away from their cabs, so Jack takes a few steps closer to his old friend so they can share a quick, quiet visit.
Ginger’s story is a sad one. After a year of rest at Earlshall, she was considered fit to work again and was sold to a gentleman. She did well for a short time, but then her old injuries began to show; after she was again treated and rested, Ginger was sold once again. In every exchange, the purebred horse moved lower and lower in ownership. Finally she was bought by a man who owns many cabs and horses and rents them to drivers. Unfortunately, she was demoted to the lowest cab once her weakness was discovered, and there she is being quickly “used up.”
Her driver must pay an exorbitant amount of rent to her owner, so Ginger is worked unbearably hard and mistreated so her driver can get his money’s worth from her. There is no rest for her, even on Sundays. Ginger thinks Jack looks well, and he tells her she should stand up for herself. She tried once, but men are stronger than horses and if they are cruel and unfeeling there is no hope for the animals. Now Ginger wishes she were dead, for then she would no longer have to suffer the pain of her existence.
Jack is troubled by her statement and puts his nose to hers, but he has no words of comfort to offer her. Ginger...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Chapter 41 Summary
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 driven too hard. The butcher comes out to the cart and scolds the driver, his son, for treating the horse in such a way after many warnings not to drive so recklessly.
His son interrupts his father’s scolding and tells him angrily that none of it is his fault, for every time he has to make a delivery he is told by his father to “be quick” and “look sharp.” Every delivery seems to be an emergency of some sort, due to poor planning, unexpected company, or other so-called crises. In every case, his father wants him to hurry—so he does. The butcher agrees that it is his customers’ problems which cause the need to rush and he wishes things were different. He would even be a better butcher if his customers planned ahead better and did not make such last-minute decisions. He tells his son to go take care of the horse; if there is another delivery today, the boy must take it himself.
All boys are not cruel, treating their horses as they would a family pet. Those horses work willingly and hard for their young masters. One young boy regularly drives past the cab stand with vegetables; his horse is old and not particularly handsome, but he works tirelessly for his young master without the need for a whip. An old man regularly drives a coal cart down the street, and he and his horse work together in silent teamwork. The old horse keeps one ear cocked, listening for the slightest sound of his master’s voice; they are like partners who have been together for a long time and understand one another well. The sight of this pair makes Jack happy, for he sees it is possible for an old horse to be happy in a poor place.
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapter 42 Summary
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 and he cannot in good conscience help get him elected to make laws which will affect working men. The man may be angered by this, but Jerry believes each man must do what he thinks is best for his country.
The morning before the election, Jerry is putting Jack into the shafts of the cab when Dolly comes into the yard crying. Her pretty blue dress and white pinafore are splattered with mud. Her father asks what happened, and she explains some boys called her a “ragamuffin” and threw mud at her. Harry comes running in behind her; he is angry and explains that he gave the boys in orange who were tormenting his sister a good thrashing.
Jerry kisses his daughter and tells her to go see her mother, giving her permission to stay home from school today. Then he turns to Harry and thanks him for defending his sister. That is what an older brother is to do; however, Jerry warns his son not to make judgments about people based on their politics. There as many scoundrels wearing blue, white, purple, or any other color, and he does not want his family to get involved in such foolishness. Women and children are too often ready to quarrel based solely on color, and it is likely they do not even understand the politics their colors represent.
Harry thinks blue is the party of liberty, but his father tells him liberty does not come from colors; colors only designate parties, and there is “liberty” to do awful things in every political party. He is ashamed at such behavior, for an election is quite a serious thing—or at least it ought to be—and every man should be allowed to vote his conscience without interference from anyone else.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapter 43 Summary
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’ colors on them, and they are dashing through the streets with little regard for pedestrians—they even see two people knocked down that day, one of them a woman. The horses are struggling, and the half-drunk voters inside the cabs are cheering out of the cab windows as their own party passes by them. It is the first election Jack has seen, and he has no desire to see another.
Soon a distressed young woman carrying a heavy child walks in a bewildered manner toward the cab stand. She tells Jerry she must get her son to the hospital but does not know how to get there as she has just arrived from the country and knows nothing about the election or about London. Her child is four years old and cannot walk, but there is a doctor at the hospital who says the boy might get well if she can get him to the hospital. It is three miles away, Jerry tells her, and the child is heavy to carry. The woman insists she can get there if he will only give her directions. It is about to rain and Jerry insists that she allow him to drive her, but she has only enough money for them to get back home and cannot pay him.
Jerry tells her he has a wife and children at home, and he would be ashamed of himself if he did not help her. The woman bursts into tears and blesses Jerry as he escorts her to his cab. As Jerry opens the door, two rough men wearing election colors push the woman aside and get into the cab. He tells the men the cab has already been engaged by the woman, but they insist their business is more important than anything a woman could need. They say it is their right and they will stay in the cab.
Jerry turns his back on the interlopers and walks to the woman and laughs, telling her the men will be...
(The entire section is 748 words.)
Chapter 44 Summary
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 connecting the horse to the cab are splintered and one of them is driven into Captain’s side. Though Jerry is thrown from the cab, he is merely bruised—a true miracle. The horse is badly hurt, and Jerry walks him home slowly as the blood drips from his side and shoulder. The driver of the cart was drunk and got fined; the brewer had to pay damages to Jerry for the cab; but there was no one to pay damages for Captain.
Jerry and the farrier do their best to make the horse comfortable, and for several days Jerry is unable to work. When the cab is repaired and Jerry and Jack return to the cab stand, Governor asks about Captain. Jerry knows the old horse will never recover from this accident. He is furious at the drivers who are drunk and careless, wishing they could all be put in a “lunatic asylum” where they would not do any harm to sober people. If they ruin their own horses and their own carts and no one would care; however, they hurt innocent people and animals and there is never suitable compensation for such a thing. He wishes alcohol could be banned.
Governor sheepishly admits he occasionally partakes, and Jerry tells him he can simply choose to quit, for he is too good a man to be a slave to liquor. Governor has tried to quit drinking without success and asks Jerry how he did it. Jerry tells him he never used to get drunk, but he did not like being a slave to liquor so he struggled to put the habit of drink behind him. It was difficult, but he did it, thanks to God and his wife. He has no lingering wish for liquor after ten years. Governor thinks perhaps he will try it, becoming his own master once again.
At first it seems as if Captain might recover; however, he is an old horse...
(The entire section is 778 words.)
Chapter 45 Summary
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 eleven, but they want the cab there on time.
Jerry is waiting at eleven; as the clock strikes twelve, he is still waiting. It is windy, the sleet is bone-chilling, and there is no shelter for the cab or the horse. Jerry tries to protect Jack with cloths and walks to stay warm until he begins to cough. At twelve thirty, Jerry rings the bell and asks the servant if the cab will be needed tonight. He is assured the cab will be needed soon, so they wait.
At 1:15 the two gentleman walk out of the house and into the cab without a word to their driver except to tell him their destination. The address is nearly two miles away, and Jack’s legs are so cold he nearly stumbles. The men say nothing until Jerry tells them the fare and they complain about paying for his waiting time. Because Jerry is an honest man, he never charges more than he is due, but he never leaves without collecting his fare. The fare was hard-earned that night. He can barely speak and his cough is dreadful. Polly opens the door and holds the lantern, as always. He tells her she can feed Jack something warm and then boil him some gruel as he rubs down his horse as usual. Once Jack is warm and comfortable, Polly and Jerry lock the stable.
It is late the next morning before Harry comes to the stable. He tends to both horses as if it were Sunday. The boy is quiet; he neither whistles nor sings. At noon Dolly comes with him to give the horses their food and water. She is crying and Jack learns their father is dangerously ill with bronchitis. Two days pass and the children are still caring for the horses. Polly is tirelessly at her husband’s side, for he must remain very quiet. On the third day, Governor Grant comes in to the...
(The entire section is 798 words.)
Chapter 46 Summary
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. After three or four months, Jack is already weaker than when he arrived.
One day the load is particularly heavy, and the road is steeply uphill. Jack uses all his strength, but he cannot move the load and continually has to stop. The driver is displeased, of course, and he uses his whip cruelly and liberally. Jack starts again, struggles for a few yards, then stops—only to be whipped again. The poor horse’s mind is hurt as much as his sides. It is hard for him to be punished for doing his very best, and it takes the heart out of him. The third time he is being flogged, a sweet lady approaches the driver and asks him to stop abusing the horse, as the animal is undoubtedly doing the best he can trying to haul this heavy load up such a steep hill.
Jakes tells her that the horse must get this load up the hill and obviously needs to do something more than his best. He agrees that the load is too heavy, but it is the foreman who added another three hundred pounds to the loaded cart simply for convenience sake. Now they must both make the best of this very difficult situation. Jakes raises the whip to get the horse moving again, and the lady tries to persuade him that if the bearing rein were removed the horse would pull his load more easily. The driver is willing to try.
Jack is immensely relieved when the rein is removed, and he shakes his neck to relieve the stiffness. The woman kindly pats the horse, and Jakes tells the animal to move. The horse moves steadily up the hill, and at the top the lady pats the horse once again—an encouragement he has not had for a long time. As Jakes is about to hitch up the bearing rein once more, the lady asks him to leave it off. It is the fashion,...
(The entire section is 703 words.)
Chapter 47 Summary
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 continues to do his best. Ginger was right: it is of no use to fight back, for men are stronger. Now he, like Ginger, wishes his life and his misery were finally finished. One day he nearly gets his wish.
Halfway through a productive day, Jack and his driver take a passenger to the train station. The driver hopes to pick up a return fare, and a family of four with an excessive amount of luggage hires Jack’s cab. As the luggage is being loaded, the young daughter looks at the horse more closely and tells her father the animal looks too weak and worn to take their heavy load very far. The driver assures them the horse is strong enough, despite the porter’s recommendation that the family hire a second cab.
The load is so heavy the cab’s springs are noticeably stressed. The daughter beseeches her father to take a second cab, but he tells her to get in the cab and be quiet. The gentle girl has no choice but to obey. All the boxes are loaded, and the driver lashes the whip to jerk the horse into action. The load is quite heavy and the horse has had no food or rest since the morning, but Jack does his best—as he always does, even in the face of injustice and cruelty. He does fairly well until he gets to Ludgate Hill. There his exhaustion and the strain of the heavy load are too much and, as he is being whipped mercilessly, his feet slip from under him and he lands heavily on the ground.
He lands on his side, and the fall takes his breath away. Jack is powerless to move and is certain he is going to die. There is confusion around him, as well as loud, angry voices. The luggage is being removed from the cart, and a sweet, pitying voice exclaims it is all their fault. Someone loosens...
(The entire section is 808 words.)
Chapter 48 Summary
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 farmer tells his grandson that this was once a fine horse; the contours of his face and the structure of his neck and shoulders tell the man he is a purebred horse. He pats the animal on the neck, and Jack puts out his nose as an act of kindness. The boy strokes Jack’s face and asks if his grandfather can “buy him and make him young again” as he did with another horse named Ladybird. The boy believes the horse is not old or diseased, just in need of kindness and gentle treatment. The horse would grow young again in their meadows.
The man who brought Jack to the sale now speaks. He tells the gentleman that, indeed, this horse is not old and is simply in need of rest. He repeats the doctor’s pronouncement that six months of rest would make a new horse of him. In the last ten days of taking care of Jack, the man from the stables says the horse has been the most grateful and pleasant animal. Five pounds is a small price to buy the animal a chance to recover and become whole again. The boy reminds his grandfather that he made an extra five pounds on the sale of their colt, so he would be out nothing if he buys this horse.
The gentleman begins to examine the horse gently and carefully, estimating his age at thirteen or fourteen and then asking how much the man would be willing to take for the damaged horse. Five pounds is the answer, and the gentleman shakes his head as he gets the money and remarks on the gamble he is about to take. The stable man takes Jack to the inn; the new owners walk to the inn, as well. The boy can barely contain his delight, and the grandfather enjoys the boy’s pleasure. Jack is given a good feed and is then ridden gently to his new home and let loose into a large meadow...
(The entire section is 743 words.)
Chapter 49 Summary
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 in a white shawl and leaning on a younger lady with dark eyes and a merry face. The third woman, very stately-looking, is Miss Blomefield. They all come over to look at the horse and ask questions. The young lady, Miss Ellen, is quite taken with the animal and says she is sure she will like the horse, for he has a kind face. The tall woman, Lavinia, believes she would always be nervous riding behind a horse which had once collapsed, as it might happen again.
Thoroughgood patiently explains that many fine horses have been ill-treated or treated carelessly, causing such an incident. His experience with horses tells him this is the case with the horse in front of them, though he does not want to unduly influence their decision about the animal. Miss Blomefield says they have always respected his advice on such matters and they will be glad to accept his offer of a trial period with the horse.
In the morning, a sharply dressed young man comes to get Jack, and he is pleased with the animal until he sees the horse’s knees. He is surprised that Thoroughgood would ever recommend such a blemished horse to such fine ladies; the gentleman replies that beauty is not what matters and he will take the horse back if he does not suit them. Jack is led to his new home and settled in to his comfortable new surroundings. The next day when he is cleaning the horse’s face, the groom says one of his old horses, Black Beauty, had a white star on his face just as this one does. Next the man sees a tiny scar on the horse’s neck, which startles the groom into making a closer inspection of the animal in front of him.
He soon realizes this is, indeed, Black Beauty, and he tells the horse he is Joe Green,...
(The entire section is 783 words.)