One day, while our cab and many others were waiting outside one of the
parks where music was playing, a shabby old cab drove up beside ours.
The horse was an old worn-out chestnut, with an ill-kept coat, and bones
that showed plainly through it, the knees knuckled over, and the
fore-legs were very unsteady. I had been eating some hay, and the wind
rolled a little lock of it that way, and the poor creature put out her
long thin neck and picked it up, and then turned round and looked about
for more. There was a hopeless look in the dull eye that I could not
help noticing, and then, as I was thinking where I had seen that horse
before, she looked full at me and said, "Black Beauty, is that you?"
It was Ginger! but how changed! The beautifully arched and glossy neck
was now straight, and lank, and fallen in; the clean, straight legs and
delicate fetlocks were swelled; the joints were grown out of shape with
hard work; the face, that was once so full of spirit and life, was now
full of suffering, and I could tell by the heaving of her sides, and her
frequent cough, how bad her breath was. Our drivers were standing
together a little way off, so I sidled up to her a step or two, that we
might have a little quiet talk. It was a sad tale that she had to tell.
After a twelve month's run off at Earlshall, she was considered to be fit
for work again, and was sold to a gentleman. For a little while she got
on very well, but after a longer gallop than usual, the old strain
returned, and after being rested and doctored she was again sold. In
this way she changed hands several times, but always getting lower down.
"And so at last," said she, "I was bought by a man who keeps a number of
cabs and horses, and lets them out. You look well off, and I am glad of
it, but I could not tell you what my life has been. When they found out
my weakness, they said I was not worth what they gave for me, and that I
must go into one of the low cabs, and just be used up; that is what they
are doing, whipping and working with never one thought of what I
suffer--they paid for me, and must get it out of me, they say. The man
who hires me now pays a deal of money to the owner every day, and so he
has to get it out of me, too; and so it's all the week round and round,
with never a Sunday rest."
I said, "You used to stand up for yourself if you were ill-used."
"Ah!" she said, "I did once, but it's no use; men are strongest, and if
they are cruel and have no feeling, there is nothing that we can do but
just bear it--bear it on and on to the end. I wish the end was come, I
wish I was dead. I have seen dead horses, and I am sure they do not
I was very much troubled, and I put my nose up to hers, but I could say
nothing to comfort her. I think she was pleased to see me, for she said,
"You are the only friend I ever had."
Just then her driver came up, and with a tug at her mouth, backed her
out of the line and drove off, leaving me very sad, indeed.
A short time after this, a cart with a dead horse in it passed our cab
stand. The head hung out of the cart tail, the lifeless tongue was
slowly dropping with blood; and the sunken eyes! but I can't speak of
them, the sight was too dreadful! It was a chestnut horse with a long,
thin neck. I saw a white streak down the forehead. I believe it was
Ginger; I hoped it was, for then her troubles would be over. Oh! if men
were more merciful, they would shoot us before we came to such misery.
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.