Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 562
One day, while many cabs are waiting near a park where a band is playing, a shabby cab drives up next to Jerry and Jack. The horse is a worn-out old chestnut whose coat is dirty and unkempt and whose ribs are showing. Her legs are scarred and unsteady. Jack has been munching on some hay; when the wind rolls a loose bit of hay, the poor animal sticks out her neck and grabs it before looking pitifully around for more stray wisps. Jack sees the hopeless look in her dull eyes and experiences a moment of recognition. Just as he is wondering where he has seen this horse before, she looks right at him and asks if he is her old friend Black Beauty.
The other horse is Ginger, but she has changed so very much from the horse she once was. Her glossy, arched neck, once so proud, is now lank and straight; her clean, straight legs are now swollen and misshapen by hard word and ill treatment. Her face, once so full of “spirit and life,” is now full of suffering. Her sides are heaving and she coughs frequently, so her breathing is labored much of the time. Both of their drivers have stepped away from their cabs, so Jack takes a few steps closer to his old friend so they can share a quick, quiet visit.
Ginger’s story is a sad one. After a year of rest at Earlshall, she was considered fit to work again and was sold to a gentleman. She did well for a short time, but then her old injuries began to show; after she was again treated and rested, Ginger was sold once again. In every exchange, the purebred horse moved lower and lower in ownership. Finally she was bought by a man who owns many cabs and horses and rents them to drivers. Unfortunately, she was demoted to the lowest cab once her weakness was discovered, and there she is being quickly “used up.”
Her driver must pay an exorbitant amount of rent to her owner, so Ginger is worked unbearably hard and mistreated so her driver can get his money’s worth from her. There is no rest for her, even on Sundays. Ginger thinks Jack looks well, and he tells her she should stand up for herself. She tried once, but men are stronger than horses and if they are cruel and unfeeling there is no hope for the animals. Now Ginger wishes she were dead, for then she would no longer have to suffer the pain of her existence.
Jack is troubled by her statement and puts his nose to hers, but he has no words of comfort to offer her. Ginger tells Jack he is the only friend she ever had and is pleased to see him. Her driver arrives just then, tugging at her mouth to get her moving. As they drive off, Jack is “very sad indeed.”
Shortly after this conversation, a cart with a dead horse passes by the cab stand. It is a horrible sight, and when Jack sees the chestnut coat with a white streak down the forehead, he believes it is Ginger. He hopes it was her, for then her trouble would be over. If men were more merciful, they would shoot their horses before they grow so miserable.