Chapter 18 Summary

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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 sleeps, John mentally scolds Joe for not putting on the horse’s cloths and for giving him cold water to drink, though he knows the boy did the best he knew.

Black Beauty is now ill with a serious lung inflammation; every breath is painful for him. John nurses the horse night and day, and his master often comes to visit. One day he tells the horse that he saved Mrs. Gordon's life. The doctor said that if he had arrived any later, she would have died. John knows Black Beauty ran faster than he had ever seen him run, and it seemed to him as if the horse knew how important their errand was that night. Of course he knew, and he was happy to do it for his kind mistress.

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