Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 703
Jakes and the Lady
A corn dealer and baker buys Jack. Jerry knows the man and believes he will treat his horse well, giving him good food and fair work. At first this is true, and if the master were on the premises more often, Jack would not have been over-loaded. The foreman, though, is always hurrying everyone; and often, when Jack’s load is already full, he orders something else to be loaded onto the cart. Jakes, the carter, tells the foreman the load is too heavy, but the foreman always overrules him in the interest of efficiency and increased profit. In addition, Jakes (like all his fellow drivers) keeps the horse’s bearing rein up, which makes pulling the too-heavy load even more difficult. After three or four months, Jack is already weaker than when he arrived.
One day the load is particularly heavy, and the road is steeply uphill. Jack uses all his strength, but he cannot move the load and continually has to stop. The driver is displeased, of course, and he uses his whip cruelly and liberally. Jack starts again, struggles for a few yards, then stops—only to be whipped again. The poor horse’s mind is hurt as much as his sides. It is hard for him to be punished for doing his very best, and it takes the heart out of him. The third time he is being flogged, a sweet lady approaches the driver and asks him to stop abusing the horse, as the animal is undoubtedly doing the best he can trying to haul this heavy load up such a steep hill.
Jakes tells her that the horse must get this load up the hill and obviously needs to do something more than his best. He agrees that the load is too heavy, but it is the foreman who added another three hundred pounds to the loaded cart simply for convenience sake. Now they must both make the best of this very difficult situation. Jakes raises the whip to get the horse moving again, and the lady tries to persuade him that if the bearing rein were removed the horse would pull his load more easily. The driver is willing to try.
Jack is immensely relieved when the rein is removed, and he shakes his neck to relieve the stiffness. The woman kindly pats the horse, and Jakes tells the animal to move. The horse moves steadily up the hill, and at the top the lady pats the horse once again—an encouragement he has not had for a long time. As Jakes is about to hitch up the bearing rein once more, the lady asks him to leave it off. It is the fashion, though, and Jakes does not want to be the laughingstock of his peers. She asks if it is not better “to lead a good fashion, than to follow a bad one?” She also reminds him that most gentlemen no longer use the bearing rein, and the same is true of most fine carriages—but she is sure the whip will serve him far better.
After the woman leaves, Jakes notes that she was a true lady and he will try her plan at least to a degree. He loosens the bearing rein several notches and removes it altogether for the uphill hauls, though the overloaded carts are still the norm for poor Jack. Good food and a fair rest are not enough to compensate for over-loading, and soon a younger, stronger horse takes Jack’s place.
Jack experiences one other problem while he is in this stable, something he had heard of before but had never actually experienced. The lighting in the stable is quite dim and there are few windows. Not only does this have a negative effect on his spirits, but it also weakens his eyesight. When he is brought from the stable into the light, Jack can scarcely see where he is going and often stumbles. If he had stayed there longer, he would have become partially blind, a much more dangerous condition than complete blindness because it makes a horse timid. Fortunately, Jack is sold to a large cab-owner and his sight is saved.