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Strawberry Shakespeare

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From A Horse's Point of View! Ch. 12
By Strawberry Shakespeare
Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rated "G" by the Author.

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Attention Horse-lovers! The young folks edition of Black Beauty, the great classic novel by Anna Sewell, is available for your reading pleasure on Strawberry Shakespeare's site. Check out this wonderful readaloud for the whole family -- from a horse's point of view. Enjoy Chapter 12 right now!


BLACK BEAUTY

 

by Anna Sewell

 

 

CHAPTER XII

 

 

A LONDON CAB HORSE

 

My new master's name was Jeremiah Barker, but as every one called him

Jerry, I shall do the same. Polly, his wife, was just as good a match as

a man could have. She was a plump, trim, tidy little woman, with smooth,

dark hair, dark eyes, and a merry little mouth. The boy was nearly

twelve years old, a tall, frank, good-tempered lad; and little Dorothy

(Dolly they called her) was her mother over again, at eight years old.

They were all wonderfully fond of each other; I never knew such a happy,

merry family before or since. Jerry had a cab of his own, and two

horses, which he drove and attended to himself. His other horse was a

tall, white, rather large-boned animal, called Captain. He was old now,

but when he was young he must have been splendid; he had still a proud

way of holding his head and arching his neck; in fact, he was a

high-bred, fine-mannered, noble old horse, every inch of him. He told me

that in his early youth he went to the Crimean War; he belonged to an

officer in the cavalry, and used to lead the regiment.

 

The next morning, when I was well-groomed, Polly and Dolly came into the

yard to see me and make friends. Harry had been helping his father since

the early morning, and had stated his opinion that I should turn out "a

regular brick." Polly brought me a slice of apple, and Dolly a piece of

bread, and made as much of me as if I had been the Black Beauty of olden

time. It was a great treat to be petted again and talked to in a gentle

voice, and I let them see as well as I could that I wished to be

friendly. Polly thought I was very handsome, and a great deal too good

for a cab, if it was not for the broken knees.

 

"Of course there's no one to tell us whose fault that was," said Jerry,

"and as long as I don't know I shall give him the benefit of the doubt;

for a firmer, neater stepper I never rode. We'll call him Jack, after

the old one--shall we, Polly?"

 

"Do," she said, "for I like to keep a good name going."

 

Captain went out in the cab all the morning. Harry came in after school

to feed me and give me water. In the afternoon I was put into the cab.

Jerry took as much pains to see if the collar and bridle fitted

comfortably as if he had been John Manly over again. There was no

check-rein, no curb, nothing but a plain ring snaffle. What a blessing

that was!

 

After driving through the side-street we came to the large cabstand

where Jerry had said "Good-night." On one side of this wide street were

high houses with wonderful shop fronts, and on the other was an old

church and churchyard, surrounded by iron palisades. Alongside these

iron rails a number of cabs were drawn up, waiting for passengers; bits

of hay were lying about on the ground; some of the men were standing

together talking; some were sitting on their boxes reading the

newspaper; and one or two were feeding their horses with bits of hay,

and giving them a drink of water. We pulled up in the rank at the back

of the last cab. Two or three men came round and began to look at me and

pass their remarks.

 

"Very good for a funeral," said one.

 

"Too smart-looking," said another, shaking his head in a very wise way;

"you'll find out something wrong one of these fine mornings, or my name

isn't Jones."

 

"Well," said Jerry pleasantly, "I suppose I need not find it out till it

find me out, eh? And if so, I'll keep up my spirits a little longer."

 

Then there came up a broad-faced man, dressed in a great gray coat with

great gray capes and great white buttons, a gray hat, and a blue

comforter loosely tied around his neck; his hair was gray, too; but he

was a jolly-looking fellow, and the other men made way for him. He

looked me all over, as if he had been going to buy me; and then

straightening himself up with a grunt, he said, "He's the right sort for

you, Jerry; I don't care what you gave for him, he'll be worth it." Thus

my character was established on the stand. This man's name was Grant,

but he was called "Gray Grant," or "Governor Grant." He had been the

longest on that stand of any of the men, and he took it upon himself to

settle matters and stop disputes.

 

The first week of my life as a cab horse was very trying. I had never

been used to London, and the noise, the hurry, the crowds of horses,

carts, and carriages, that I had to make my way through, made me feel

anxious and harassed; but I soon found that I could perfectly trust my

driver, and then I made myself easy, and got used to it.

 

Jerry was as good a driver as I had ever known; and what was better, he

took as much thought for his horses as he did for himself. He soon found

out that I was willing to work and do my best; and he never laid the

whip on me, unless it was gently drawing the end of it over my back,

when I was to go on; but generally I knew this quite well by the way in

which he took up the reins; and I believe his whip was more frequently

stuck up by his side than in his hand.

 

In a short time I and my master understood each other, as well as horse

and man can do. In the stable, too, he did all that he could for our

comfort. The stalls were the old-fashioned style, too much on the slope;

but he had two movable bars fixed across the back of our stalls, so that

at night, when we were resting, he just took off our halters and put up

the bars, and thus we could turn about and stand whichever way we

pleased, which is a great comfort.

 

Jerry kept us very clean, and gave us as much change of food as he

could, and always plenty of it; and not only that, but he always gave us

plenty of clean fresh water, which he allowed to stand by us both night

and day, except of course when we came in warm. Some people say that a

horse ought not to drink all he likes; but I know if we are allowed to

drink when we want it we drink only a little at a time, and it does us a

great deal more good than swallowing down half a bucketful at a time

because we have been left without till we are thirsty and miserable.

Some grooms will go home to their beer and leave us for hours with our

dry hay and oats and nothing to moisten them; then of course we gulp

down too much at once, which helps to spoil our breathing and sometimes

chills our stomachs. But the best thing that we had here was our Sundays

for rest! We worked so hard in the week, that I do not think we could

have kept up to it, but for that day; besides, we had then time to enjoy

each other's company.

 


For kids who love stories about horses, a must-read is
Saving Bluestone Belle, the award-winning comic-adventure novel by Strawberry Shakespeare. Click here to see the eye-popping book cover and learn more about this rollicking adventure tale! Also be sure to check out Strawberry Shakespeare's new short story collection for kids, The Cloud Horse, containing three enchanting fables that are guaranteed to please the fussiest young reader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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