Chapter 12 Summary

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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 them to stop because the middle of the bridge is broken and has been carried away by the swollen river. The master is grateful for his horse, and John thankfully leads Black Beauty away from the bridge. It is dark and still. The horse knows there would have been no help for them if he had tried to cross the bridge. They surely would have drowned. The Squire has said that God gave men reason so that they can discover things for themselves; He created animals with knowledge that does not depend on reason. Therefore, animals can react more quickly and efficiently. John knows many stories of animals that have done wonderful things, and he believes humans do not value their animals enough or make friends of them as they should.

They finally arrive home and discover everyone has been worried about them, thinking an accident must have occurred. Mrs. Gordon had sent James off on Justice to see if they were at the bridge yet. The Squire is quick to give credit to Black Beauty for their safe arrival, and then John takes the horse to the stables for a wonderful supper and a thick bed of straw on which to sleep. The horse is thankful for both gifts, for he is tired.

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Chapter 11 Summary


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