Chapter 21 Summary

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The Parting

It has been three years since Black Beauty came to Birtwick, and they have been happy years; however, sad changes are about to occur. Rumors of their mistress’s illness reach the stable occasionally, and the doctor is often at the manor. The master usually looks grave and anxious. One day everyone learns that she must leave for two or three years to live in a warmer climate. The news sounds like "the tolling of a death bell." All are sad as the master begins arranging for his estate to be emptied so that he and his family can leave England.

John is silent and sad, and Joe rarely whistles anymore. There is a lot of unusual activity; Black Beauty and Ginger are kept quite busy. The first to leave are the Squire's two daughters. Before Miss Jessie and Miss Flora depart with their governess, they come to tell the horses good-bye, hugging Merrylegs "like an old friend." Ginger and Black Beauty have been sold to the Earl of W---- [sic]. The Squire believes they will be well taken care of by the Earl because he is a friend of the master. Merrylegs will be given to the vicar, who has been looking for a pony for his wife. The vicar agrees to the Squire's one condition in giving away his horse: Merrylegs will never be sold. When he grows too old, he will be shot and buried. Joe will go with Merrylegs to the vicar’s. John has several good offers of employment, but he wants some time to make a decision.

The evening before the master and mistress leave, the Squire comes to the stable to give some last-minute instructions and pat his horses for the last time. His voice reveals his sadness at the parting to come. He asks John if he has reached a decision about his future employment. John replies that he thinks a position with a “first-rate colt-breaker and horse-trainer” would be the best one for him. John believes if he can keep animals from being mistreated at the important time of their breaking-in, he would be doing some good in the world. The master says he can think of no one better suited for such work and offers to help John get such a job.

Before the master leaves, John expresses his appreciation for all the kindnesses the Gordons have extended to him, so many that he could never repay them. He also expresses his wish that Mrs. Gordon will soon recover her good health. "We must keep up hope, sir," John tells the Squire. The last day arrives. Black Beauty and Ginger bring the carriage to Birtwick Hall for the last time. The remaining servants bring cushions and rugs to soften the carriage seat. As the master carries his wife to the carriage and takes great care to see that she is settled comfortably, the servants cry. The Squire tells everyone good-bye, and then he and the mistress leave.

They drive slowly through the park and the village, where people have gathered to watch them go, offering a blessing as they drive by. At the railway station, the mistress tells John good-bye in her sweet, frail voice, but John does not answer. In his great sadness, "perhaps he could not speak." Joe unloads the luggage from the carriage and hides his tears in the horses’ necks. The train pulls away, leaving heavy hearts behind. John tells Joe they will never see the mistress again, and they drive slowly home—only it is no longer their home.

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