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Chapter 23 Summary

A Strike for Liberty

One day the Earl’s wife comes down for her ride later than usual, and her skirts seem to rustle more fiercely. She commands they drive to see one of her friends, a duchess, and insists that the horses’ heads be reined in tightly once and for all—“no more of this humoring nonsense.” York starts with the black horse while a groom stands at Ginger’s head; he makes the reins so tight they are almost intolerable to Black Beauty. Ginger impatiently jerks her head up and down against the bit; when York prepares to tighten her reins, she rears up, hitting York in the nose and causing the groom to lose his balance.

Both men grab for her head, but she is too quick for them and continues plunging, rearing, and kicking desperately. Finally she kicks over the carriage poles, hitting Black Beauty, as well. She would no doubt have done more damage, but York sits on her head to keep her from struggling. He then orders that the black horse be unbuckled and the carriage unhitched from the mare. The black horse, free of both Ginger and the carriage, is returned to his stall. If he had been raised to kick and rear, Black Beauty is certain he would have acted as Ginger had. He is miserable, inclined to kick anyone who comes near him at this moment.

A bruised and battered Ginger is soon returned to her stall, as well. York comes to assess the situation, muttering about bearing reins and controlling one’s wife and washing his hands of the problem, unconcerned that his mistress might not get to her garden party. None of the stable workers hear him, though, as he maintains a respectful tone in front of them. York feels a lump on Black Beauty where he has been kicked and directs that it be treated immediately.

Lord W—[sic] is not happy when he hears what has happened, scolding York for giving in to his wife's demand; York replies that he would prefer to take orders only from his master. Nothing changes, however, except that Ginger is never placed in the carriage harness again. Once her bruises heal, one of the master's sons asks to ride her while hunting. Black Beauty is still forced to pull the carriage while wearing a tight rein; his partner now is Max. Black Beauty asks his new partner, a veteran carriage horse, how he tolerates such treatment. Max says he bears it because he must, but it is shortening his life. He adds that the bearing rein will...

(The entire section is 655 words.)