Chapter 11 Summary

Plain Speaking

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.