Black Beauty Chapters 18, 19, 20 and 21

18 Going for the Doctor

One night, a few days after James had left, I had eaten my hay and was lying down in my straw fast asleep, when I was suddenly roused by the stable bell ringing very loud. I heard the door of John’s house open, and his feet running up to the hall. He was back again in no time; he unlocked the stable door, and came in, calling out, “Wake up, Beauty! You must go well now, if ever you did;” and almost before I could think he had got the saddle on my back and the bridle on my head. He just ran round for his coat, and then took me at a quick trot up to the hall door. The squire stood there, with a lamp in his hand.

“Now, John,” he said, “ride for your life – that is, for your mistress’ life; there is not a moment to lose. Give this note to Dr. White; give your horse a rest at the inn, and be back as soon as you can.”

John said, “Yes, sir,” and was on my back in a minute. The gardener who lived at the lodge had heard the bell ring, and was ready with the gate open, and away we went through the park, and through the village, and down the hill till we came to the toll-gate. John called very loud and thumped upon the door; the man was soon out and flung open the gate.

“Now,” said John, “do you keep the gate open for the doctor; here’s the money,” and off he went again.

There was before us a long piece of level road by the river side; John said to me, “Now, Beauty, do your best,” and so I did; I wanted no whip nor spur, and for two miles I galloped as fast as I could lay my feet to the ground; I don’t believe that my old grandfather, who won the race at Newmarket, could have gone faster. When we came to the bridge John pulled me up a little and patted my neck. “Well done, Beauty! good old fellow,” he said. He would have let me go slower, but my spirit was up, and I was off again as fast as before. The air was frosty, the moon was bright; it was very pleasant. We came through a village, then through a dark wood, then uphill, then downhill, till after eight miles’ run we came to the town, through the streets and into the market-place. It was all quite still except the clatter of my feet on the stones – everybody was asleep. The church clock struck three as we drew up at Dr. White’s door. John rang the bell twice, and then knocked at the door like thunder. A window was thrown up, and Dr. White, in his nightcap, put his head out and said, “What do you want?”

“Mrs. Gordon is very ill, sir; master wants you to go at once; he thinks she will die if you cannot get there. Here is a note.”

“Wait,” he said, “I will come.”

He shut the window, and was soon at the door.

“The worst of it is,” he said, “that my horse has been out all day and is quite done up; my son has just been sent for, and he has taken the other. What is to be done? Can I have your horse?”

“He has come at a gallop nearly all the way, sir, and I was to give him a rest here; but I think my master would not be against it, if you think fit, sir.”

“All right,” he said; “I will soon be ready.”

John stood by me and stroked my neck; I was very hot. The doctor came out with his riding-whip.

“You need not take that, sir,” said John; “Black Beauty will go till he drops. Take care of him, sir, if you can; I should not like any harm to come to him.”

“No, no, John,” said the doctor, “I hope not,” and in a minute we had left John far behind.

I will not tell about our way back. The doctor was a heavier man than John, and not so good a rider; however, I did my very best. The man at the toll-gate had it open. When we came to the hill the doctor drew me up. “Now, my good fellow,” he said, “take some breath.” I was glad he did, for I was nearly spent, but that breathing helped me on, and soon we were in the park. Joe was at the lodge gate; my master was at the hall door, for he had heard us coming. He spoke not a word; the doctor went into the house with him, and Joe led me to the stable. I was glad to get home; my legs shook under me, and I could only stand and pant. I had not a dry hair on my body, the water ran down my legs, and I steamed all over, Joe used to say, like a pot on the fire. Poor Joe! he was young and small, and as yet he knew very little, and his father, who would have helped him, had been sent to the next village; but I am sure he did the very best he knew. He rubbed my legs and my chest, but he did not put my warm cloth on me; he thought I was so hot I should not like it. Then he gave me a pailful of water to drink; it was cold and very good, and I drank it all; then he gave me some hay and some corn, and thinking he had done right, he went away. Soon I began to shake and tremble, and turned deadly cold; my legs ached, my loins ached, and my chest ached, and I felt sore all over. Oh! how I wished for my warm, thick cloth, as I stood and trembled. I wished for John, but he had eight miles to walk, so I lay down in my straw and tried to go to sleep. After a long while I heard John at the door; I gave a low moan, for I was in great pain. He was at my side in a moment, stooping down by me. I could not tell him how I felt, but he seemed to know it all; he covered me up with two or three warm cloths, and then ran to the house for some hot water; he made me some warm gruel, which I drank, and then I think I went to sleep.

John seemed to be very much put out. I heard him say to himself over and over again, “Stupid boy! stupid boy! no cloth put on, and I dare say the water was cold, too; boys are no good;” but Joe was a good boy, after all.

I was now very ill; a strong inflammation had attacked my lungs, and I could not draw my breath without pain. John nursed me night and day; he would get up two or three times in the night to come to me. My master, too, often came to see me. “My poor Beauty,” he said one day, “my good horse, you saved your mistress’ life, Beauty; yes, you saved her life.” I was very glad to hear that, for it seems the doctor had said if we had been a little longer it would have been too late. John told my master he never saw a horse go so fast in his life. It seemed as if the horse knew what was the matter. Of course I did, though John thought not; at least I knew as much as this -that John and I must go at the top of our speed, and that it was for the sake of the mistress.

 

19 Only Ignorance

I do not know how long I was ill. Mr. Bond, the horse-doctor, came every day. One day he bled me; John held a pail for the blood. I felt very faint after it and thought I should die, and I believe they all thought so too.

Ginger and Merrylegs had been moved into the other stable, so that I might be quiet, for the fever made me very quick of hearing; any little noise seemed quite loud, and I could tell every one’s footstep going to and from the house. I knew all that was going on. One night John had to give me a draught; Thomas Green came in to help him. After I had taken it and John had made me as comfortable as he could, he said he should stay half an hour to see how the medicine settled. Thomas said he would stay with him, so they went and sat down on a bench that had been brought into Merrylegs’ stall, and put down the lantern at their feet, that I might not be disturbed with the light.

For awhile both men sat silent, and then Tom Green said in a low voice:

“I wish, John, you’d say a bit of a kind word to Joe. The boy is quite broken-hearted; he can’t eat his meals, and he can’t smile. He says he knows it was all his fault, though he is sure he did the best he knew, and he says if Beauty dies no one will ever speak to him again. It goes to my heart to hear him. I think you might give him just a word; he is not a bad boy.”

After a short pause John said slowly, “You must not be too hard upon me, Tom. I know he meant no harm, I never said he did; I know he is not a bad boy. But you see, I am sore myself; that horse is the pride of my heart, to say nothing of his being such a favorite with the master and mistress; and to think that his life may be flung away in this manner is more than I can bear. But if you think I am hard on the boy I will try to give him a good word to-morrow – that is, I mean if Beauty is better.”

“Well, John, thank you. I knew you did not wish to be too hard, and I am glad you see it was only ignorance.”

John’s voice almost startled me as he answered:

“Only ignorance! only ignorance! how can you talk about only ignorance? Don’t you know that it is the worst thing in the world, next to wickedness? – and which does the most mischief heaven only knows. If people can say, `Oh! I did not know, I did not mean any harm,’ they think it is all right. I suppose Martha Mulwash did not mean to kill that baby when she dosed it with Dalby and soothing syrups; but she did kill it, and was tried for manslaughter.”

“And serve her right, too,” said Tom. “A woman should not undertake to nurse a tender little child without knowing what is good and what is bad for it.”

“Bill Starkey,” continued John, “did not mean to frighten his brother into fits when he dressed up like a ghost and ran after him in the moonlight; but he did; and that bright, handsome little fellow, that might have been the pride of any mother’s heart is just no better than an idiot, and never will be, if he lives to be eighty years old. You were a good deal cut up yourself, Tom, two weeks ago, when those young ladies left your hothouse door open, with a frosty east wind blowing right in; you said it killed a good many of your plants.”

“A good many!” said Tom; “there was not one of the tender cuttings that was not nipped off. I shall have to strike all over again, and the worst of it is that I don’t know where to go to get fresh ones. I was nearly mad when I came in and saw what was done.”

“And yet,” said John, “I am sure the young ladies did not mean it; it was only ignorance.”

I heard no more of this conversation, for the medicine did well and sent me to sleep, and in the morning I felt much better; but I often thought of John’s words when I came to know more of the world.

 

20 Joe Green

Joe Green went on very well; he learned quickly, and was so attentive and careful that John began to trust him in many things; but as I have said, he was small of his age, and it was seldom that he was allowed to exercise either Ginger or me; but it so happened one morning that John was out with Justice in the luggage cart, and the master wanted a note to be taken immediately to a gentleman’s house, about three miles distant, and sent his orders for Joe to saddle me and take it, adding the caution that he was to ride steadily.

The note was delivered, and we were quietly returning when we came to the brick-field. Here we saw a cart heavily laden with bricks; the wheels had stuck fast in the stiff mud of some deep ruts, and the carter was shouting and flogging the two horses unmercifully. Joe pulled up. It was a sad sight. There were the two horses straining and struggling with all their might to drag the cart out, but they could not move it; the sweat streamed from their legs and flanks, their sides heaved, and every muscle was strained, while the man, fiercely pulling at the head of the fore horse, swore and lashed most brutally.

“Hold hard,” said Joe; “don’t go on flogging the horses like that; the wheels are so stuck that they cannot move the cart.”

The man took no heed, but went on lashing.

“Stop! pray stop!” said Joe. “I’ll help you to lighten the cart; they can’t move it now.”

“Mind your own business, you impudent young rascal, and I’ll mind mine!” The man was in a towering passion and the worse for drink, and laid on the whip again. Joe turned my head, and the next moment we were going at a round gallop toward the house of the master brick-maker. I cannot say if John would have approved of our pace, but Joe and I were both of one mind, and so angry that we could not have gone slower.

The house stood close by the roadside. Joe knocked at the door, and shouted, “Halloo! Is Mr. Clay at home?” The door was opened, and Mr. Clay himself came out.

“Halloo, young man! You seem in a hurry; any orders from the squire this morning?”

“No, Mr. Clay, but there’s a fellow in your brick-yard flogging two horses to death. I told him to stop, and he wouldn’t; I said I’d help him to lighten the cart, and he wouldn’t; so I have come to tell you. Pray, sir, go.” Joe’s voice shook with excitement.

“Thank ye, my lad,” said the man, running in for his hat; then pausing for a moment, “Will you give evidence of what you saw if I should bring the fellow up before a magistrate?”

“That I will,” said Joe, “and glad too.” The man was gone, and we were on our way home at a smart trot.

“Why, what’s the matter with you, Joe? You look angry all over,” said John, as the boy flung himself from the saddle.

“I am angry all over, I can tell you,” said the boy, and then in hurried, excited words he told all that had happened. Joe was usually such a quiet, gentle little fellow that it was wonderful to see him so roused.

“Right, Joe! you did right, my boy, whether the fellow gets a summons or not. Many folks would have ridden by and said it was not their business to interfere. Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody’s business to interfere when they see it; you did right, my boy.”

Joe was quite calm by this time, and proud that John approved of him, and cleaned out my feet and rubbed me down with a firmer hand than usual.

They were just going home to dinner when the footman came down to the stable to say that Joe was wanted directly in master’s private room; there was a man brought up for ill-using horses, and Joe’s evidence was wanted. The boy flushed up to his forehead, and his eyes sparkled. “They shall have it,” said he.

“Put yourself a bit straight,” said John. Joe gave a pull at his necktie and a twitch at his jacket, and was off in a moment. Our master being one of the county magistrates, cases were often brought to him to settle, or say what should be done. In the stable we heard no more for some time, as it was the men’s dinner hour, but when Joe came next into the stable I saw he was in high spirits; he gave me a good-natured slap, and said, “We won’t see such things done, will we, old fellow?” We heard afterward that he had given his evidence so clearly, and the horses were in such an exhausted state, bearing marks of such brutal usage, that the carter was committed to take his trial, and might possibly be sentenced to two or three months in prison.

It was wonderful what a change had come over Joe. John laughed, and said he had grown an inch taller in that week, and I believe he had. He was just as kind and gentle as before, but there was more purpose and determination in all that he did – as if he had jumped at once from a boy into a man.

 

21 The Parting

Now I had lived in this happy place three years, but sad changes were about to come over us. We heard from time to time that our mistress was ill. The doctor was often at the house, and the master looked grave and anxious. Then we heard that she must leave her home at once, and go to a warm country for two or three years. The news fell upon the household like the tolling of a deathbell. Everybody was sorry; but the master began directly to make arrangements for breaking up his establishment and leaving England. We used to hear it talked about in our stable; indeed, nothing else was talked about.

John went about his work silent and sad, and Joe scarcely whistled. There was a great deal of coming and going; Ginger and I had full work.

The first of the party who went were Miss Jessie and Flora, with their governess. They came to bid us good-by. They hugged poor Merrylegs like an old friend, and so indeed he was. Then we heard what had been arranged for us. Master had sold Ginger and me to his old friend, the Earl of W – – , for he thought we should have a good place there. Merrylegs he had given to the vicar, who was wanting a pony for Mrs. Blomefield, but it was on the condition that he should never be sold, and that when he was past work he should be shot and buried.

Joe was engaged to take care of him and to help in the house, so I thought that Merrylegs was well off. John had the offer of several good places, but he said he should wait a little and look round.

The evening before they left the master came into the stable to give some directions, and to give his horses the last pat. He seemed very low-spirited; I knew that by his voice. I believe we horses can tell more by the voice than many men can.

“Have you decided what to do, John?” he said. “I find you have not accepted either of those offers.”

“No, sir; I have made up my mind that if I could get a situation with some first-rate colt-breaker and horse-trainer, it would be the right thing for me. Many young animals are frightened and spoiled by wrong treatment, which need not be if the right man took them in hand. I always get on well with horses, and if I could help some of them to a fair start I should feel as if I was doing some good. What do you think of it, sir?”

“I don’t know a man anywhere,” said master, “that I should think so suitable for it as yourself. You understand horses, and somehow they understand you, and in time you might set up for yourself; I think you could not do better. If in any way I can help you, write to me. I shall speak to my agent in London, and leave your character with him.”

Master gave John the name and address, and then he thanked him for his long and faithful service; but that was too much for John. “Pray, don’t, sir, I can’t bear it; you and my dear mistress have done so much for me that I could never repay it. But we shall never forget you, sir, and please God, we may some day see mistress back again like herself; we must keep up hope, sir.” Master gave John his hand, but he did not speak, and they both left the stable.

The last sad day had come; the footman and the heavy luggage had gone off the day before, and there were only master and mistress and her maid. Ginger and I brought the carriage up to the hall door for the last time. The servants brought out cushions and rugs and many other things; and when all were arranged master came down the steps carrying the mistress in his arms (I was on the side next to the house, and could see all that went on); he placed her carefully in the carriage, while the house servants stood round crying.

“Good-by, again,” he said; “we shall not forget any of you,” and he got in. “Drive on, John.”

Joe jumped up, and we trotted slowly through the park and through the village, where the people were standing at their doors to have a last look and to say, “God bless them.”

When we reached the railway station I think mistress walked from the carriage to the waiting-room. I heard her say in her own sweet voice, “Good-by, John. God bless you.” I felt the rein twitch, but John made no answer; perhaps he could not speak. As soon as Joe had taken the things out of the carriage John called him to stand by the horses, while he went on the platform. Poor Joe! he stood close up to our heads to hide his tears. Very soon the train came puffing up into the station; then two or three minutes, and the doors were slammed to, the guard whistled, and the train glided away, leaving behind it only clouds of white smoke and some very heavy hearts.

When it was quite out of sight John came back.

“We shall never see her again,” he said – “never.” He took the reins, mounted the box, and with Joe drove slowly home; but it was not our home now.

Go to Chapters 22 and 23 here.