Chapter 22 Summary

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After breakfast the next morning, Joe says good-bye and takes Merrylegs to the vicarage. Leading Black Beauty, John then rides Ginger fifteen miles across the county to Earlshall Park, where the Earl of W— [sic] lives. It is a fine estate with a grand house and many stables. When he arrives, John asks for Mr. York, Black Beauty and Ginger's new coachman. York is a middle-aged man whose voice says clearly that he expects to be obeyed. He is friendly and polite to John, but he barely looks at the horses before calling a groom to take them to their adjoining stalls. In their new homes, which are airy and filled with light, both horses are rubbed down and fed. Soon John and Mr. York come to see them.

York examines Black Beauty and Ginger; he sees no fault in them but wonders if there are any peculiarities about either of them which he should know. Praising them both, John explains they have very different temperaments. The black horse has always been treated well and has the perfect disposition; he seems to want only to please his master. The chestnut mare has had some harsh treatment, but for the past three years, she has been even-tempered and willing to work as long as she is treated with kindness. She is naturally more fretful and irritable than the black horse, and if she is mistreated, she is likely to show her displeasure.

York says it is good to know such things, but in such a large stable, it is difficult to monitor each groom to ensure he is acting appropriately. He promises to keep John’s words in mind and do his best. As they are leaving, John adds that the Squire never used the bearing rein with either horse. The black horse has never worn one, and the chestnut’s temper was ruined by one. York says that all horses at Earlshall wear the bearing rein. Though he prefers a looser rein and the master does not seem to mind, the mistress insists that her horses wear the device. She is concerned about fashion and will not even look at a horse if it is not reined up tightly. John says he is very sorry to hear this news, but he must hurry or he will miss the train. He pats both horses and speaks to them in a very sad voice before he leaves.

The next day Lord W—[sic] comes to see them. He seems pleased with their appearance; although they are not a match in color, he thinks they will do well for the carriage, and the black horse appears to be perfect for riding. York shares what John had said about the horses. Their new master directs York to "put the check-rein easy" on the mare; he thinks both horses will adjust after “a little humoring at first.” His wife will be informed, he tells York. That afternoon Ginger and Black Beauty are harnessed to the carriage and led around to the front of the grand old house. Though it is three or four times larger than Birtwick, Black Beauty finds it not nearly as pleasant. He also notices the footmen are dressed in formal liveries.

With a rustling of silk, their new mistress comes down the stairs. She is a tall, proud-looking woman. After looking at the horses, she seems displeased about something, but she gets into the carriage. Black Beauty has never before worn a bearing rein. Though he does find it to be a nuisance, it does not pull his head any higher than he is used to carrying it. Ginger seems quiet and content, though he is worried about her. The next day the carriage is brought around at three o’clock. When their mistress appears, she insists the horses’ heads be pulled higher, for they are “not fit to be seen.” York respectfully reminds her that these horses have not been reined up in three years and her husband suggested it would be better to help them adjust by degrees; however, he can raise their heads a bit if she wishes. She does.

York makes a small adjustment, but even a small change can make a big difference. When the horses have to pull the carriage up a great hill, Black Beauty begins to understand what others have said about the bearing rein. He wants to put his head forward and pull earnestly, but he cannot do so; all the strain settles in his back and legs. When they return, Ginger says she will be fine with the rein as it is, for they are well treated here; however, if she is reined too tightly, they had all better watch out, for she cannot and will not bear it.

Each day, however, the bearing reins are shortened. Black Beauty no longer looks forward with pleasure to being harnessed for a drive; now he dreads it. Ginger is restless, though she does not say much. When several days pass without further shortening of the reins, Black Beauty assumes he has seen the worst; he is determined to make the best of his situation, although it is not pleasant. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come.

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