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 through unfamiliar streets and unusual places as James prepares for his new job as a coachman.