Chapter 47 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 808

Hard Times

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Jack’s new master has black eyes, a hooked nose, and harsh, grating voice. His name is Nicholas Skinner, and he is the same man for whom Seedy Sam had driven a cab. Though he had seen and heard some of the suffering such horses must bear, Jack only now learns the “utter misery” of a cab-horse’s life.

Skinner’s drivers and cabs are both of a low sort—he is hard on the men and the men are hard on the horses. There is no rest on Sundays and often Jack is so used and worn he can hardly eat. The drivers are cruel and Jack is regularly and harshly whipped. Jack longs to go back to his time with Jerry. This undignified treatment takes the heart out of the poor horse, but Jack continues to do his best. Ginger was right: it is of no use to fight back, for men are stronger. Now he, like Ginger, wishes his life and his misery were finally finished. One day he nearly gets his wish.

Halfway through a productive day, Jack and his driver take a passenger to the train station. The driver hopes to pick up a return fare, and a family of four with an excessive amount of luggage hires Jack’s cab. As the luggage is being loaded, the young daughter looks at the horse more closely and tells her father the animal looks too weak and worn to take their heavy load very far. The driver assures them the horse is strong enough, despite the porter’s recommendation that the family hire a second cab.

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Latest answer posted February 19, 2010, 11:09 am (UTC)

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The load is so heavy the cab’s springs are noticeably stressed. The daughter beseeches her father to take a second cab, but he tells her to get in the cab and be quiet. The gentle girl has no choice but to obey. All the boxes are loaded, and the driver lashes the whip to jerk the horse into action. The load is quite heavy and the horse has had no food or rest since the morning, but Jack does his best—as he always does, even in the face of injustice and cruelty. He does fairly well until he gets to Ludgate Hill. There his exhaustion and the strain of the heavy load are too much and, as he is being whipped mercilessly, his feet slip from under him and he lands heavily on the ground.

He lands on his side, and the fall takes his breath away. Jack is powerless to move and is certain he is going to die. There is confusion around him, as well as loud, angry voices. The luggage is being removed from the cart, and a sweet, pitying voice exclaims it is all their fault. Someone loosens the straps which harness him, and another says the horse is dead. A policeman gives orders as Jack struggles to draw an occasional gasping breath. Cold water is thrown over the horse’s head, a cordial is poured into his mouth, and a cover is placed over him.

Jack does not know how long he lays there before he begins to feel his life returning to him. A man with a kind voice is patting him and encouraging him to rise. After a bit more of the cordial and several attempts, Jack staggers to his feet and is gently led to a nearby stable where he is treated kindly.

By evening he has recovered enough to be taken back to Skinner’s stables. In the morning, a farrier tells Skinner that the horse is suffering from overwork, not a disease. If the horse had six months to rest and recover, he would be able to work again; now, though, the poor horse has absolutely no strength left. Skinner immediately says Jack must “go to the dogs,” for a sick horse does not suit his business. His plan is always to work a horse nearly to death and then sell them for what he can get. The farrier says this horse can recover. If he is fed and rested, he might recover a bit and bring in more money than his body is worth, at least.

Skinner takes the doctor’s advice (rather unwillingly, it seems to Jack) and the stable man feeds and treats the horse well. Ten days of rest do more for the animal than any other cure or treatment could have done, and Jack even begins to think that it might be better to live than to be sold for dog food. Twelve days after the accident, the horse is taken to the horse sale several miles outside of London. This time, Jack feels that any change from his present condition will be an improvement, so he holds up his head and is hopeful of better things to come.

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