Why does Black Beauty get sick in Anna Sewell's story? 

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Part 1, Chapter 19 of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, soon after Little Joe Green replaces James Howard as the stable boy at Squire Gordon's Birtwick Hall, Mistress Gordon falls ill in the middle of the night. John Manly, the coachman, arouses Black Beauty, called Beauty for short, and rides him to fetch the doctor to save the mistress's life. Beauty rides with all his might and is soon safely returned to his stable. However, sadly, Joe, being new and ignorant, makes a terrible mistake with the care of Beauty that makes him ill, nearly to the point of death.

Not only does Beauty ride John to the doctor's, he also rides the doctor to Squire Gordon's. Upon Beauty's arrival back at Squire Gordon's, Beauty describes himself as having shaking legs, being able to do nothing but "stand and pant," and being completely soaked with sweat:

I had not a dry hair on my body, the water ran down my legs, and I steamed all over. (Ch. 19, Pt. 1)

Under the care of young Joe, whom Beauty is sure "did the very best he knew," Beauty was rubbed down, given nice cold water to drink, and fed hay and corn. But, thinking that Beauty was hot, Joe makes the terrible mistake of not covering Beauty up with his "warm cloth." Joe did not realize that, as a result of the sweat and cold water, Beauty would soon be freezing cold.

Left alone in his box in the stable, Beauty grows so freezing cold that he trembles, aches, and feels "sore all over." When John finally enters the stable that night, he finds Beauty lying down in his hay and moaning with pain. John quickly covers him up with multiple blankets and makes him warm gruel to drink. But the damage was already done; the next morning, Beauty has a lung infection so bad he "could not draw [his] breath without pain." But, luckily, with medicine and daily veterinary care, Beauty returns to health.

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Black Beauty

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