A London Cab Horse
Black Auster’s new master is Jeremiah Barker, though everyone calls him Jerry. His wife Polly is a wonderful woman, tidy and cheerful. Harry, their son, is twelve years old and good-tempered; little Dorothy (called Dolly) is an eight-year-old version of her mother. They are wonderfully fond of one another, and the horse has never, before or since, met such a happy family. Jerry has a cab of his own and two horses which he takes care of himself. The other horse is a tall, white, large-boned animal called Captain. He is old now, but he must have been a splendid horse in his prime. He still bears himself like a proud, noble creature. As a young horse, he belonged to an officer in the cavalry and was in the Crimean War. He used to lead his regiment into battle.
The morning after Black Auster arrives, the entire family comes to spend time with the new horse. They give him treats and fuss over him, and he feels almost as if he is the “Black Beauty” he once was. The horse tries to show them he wants to be friendly, and Polly thinks the horse is much too good for a cab if it were not for his broken knees. Jerry says they will never know what caused the injury, but he intends to give the horse the benefit of the doubt, for his is as fine a horse as he has ever ridden. They name the horse “Jack,” after their former horse.
Captain pulls the cab all morning, and Harry cares for Jack after school. That afternoon Jack is put in a cab, and Jerry takes great care that all the equipment is well suited and comfortable for the animal, just as John Manly would have done. It is a blessing that there is no bearing rein. They drive to the cab stand they saw the night before; it is near a church and some wonderful shops. The men are gathered. Some are reading the paper, and some are giving their horses bits of hay or a drink of water. Several of them gather around the newcomers. One says the black horse is good for funerals; another predicts Jerry will find something terribly wrong with the horse before long. A man arrives, and the crowd parts for him. He is known as “Governor Grant,” and he is the most experienced man on that cab stand. He is a wise and sensible man, and his word carries much weight with these men. His pronouncement is that Jack is worth whatever Jerry paid for him and is the right sort of horse for his master. This establishes Jack’s character for the rest of the cab drivers.
His first week as a cab horse is quite trying for Jack. He has never been in a city, and the noises, traffic, and crowds of London make him feel anxious and harassed. As soon as he learns he can trust his driver, though, he relaxes and begins to enjoy his job. Jerry is as good a driver as Jack has ever known, and he cares for his horses as well as he cares for himself. Once he learns that the horse is willing to work hard and take direction, Jerry never uses the whip as a prod or a punishment. Soon they understand one another as well as horse and man are able.
Jerry makes his animals comfortable, allowing them as much freedom of movement as he can in the stalls he has for them. They are kept very clean, and...
(This entire section contains 716 words.)
their master gives them the best variety of food he can afford to give them. Unlike most grooms, he always has fresh water available to them, except when they are too warm from exertion. A horse knows it is best to drink water periodically rather than in big bursts at one time because they are so parched and uncomfortable. The best thing in this stable, though, is that Sunday is a day of rest for the animals. The two horses have time to recover from their hard work the rest of the week, and they get a chance to enjoy each other’s company. On one of those Sundays, Captain tells Jack his story.