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Black Beauty

4. Birtwick Park
At this time I used to stand in the stable and my coat was brushed every day till it shone
like a rook's wing. It was early in May, when there came a man from Squire Gordon's,
who took me away to the hall. My master said, "Good-by, Darkie; be a good horse, and
always do your best." I could not say "good-by", so I put my nose into his hand; he patted
me kindly, and I left my first home. As I lived some years with Squire Gordon, I may as
well tell something about the place.
Squire Gordon's park skirted the village of Birtwick. It was entered by a large iron gate,
at which stood the first lodge, and then you trotted along on a smooth road between
clumps of large old trees; then another lodge and another gate, which brought you to the
house and the gardens. Beyond this lay the home paddock, the old orchard, and the
stables. There was accommodation for many horses and carriages; but I need only
describe the stable into which I was taken; this was very roomy, with four good stalls; a
large swinging window opened into the yard, which made it pleasant and airy.
The first stall was a large square one, shut in behind with a wooden gate; the others were
common stalls, good stalls, but not nearly so large; it had a low rack for hay and a low
manger for corn; it was called a loose box, because the horse that was put into it was not
tied up, but left loose, to do as he liked. It is a great thing to have a loose box.
Into this fine box the groom put me; it was clean, sweet, and airy. I never was in a better
box than that, and the sides were not so high but that I could see all that went on through
the iron rails that were at the top.
He gave me some very nice oats, he patted me, spoke kindly, and then went away.
When I had eaten my corn I looked round. In the stall next to mine stood a little fat gray
pony, with a thick mane and tail, a very pretty head, and a pert little nose.
I put my head up to the iron rails at the top of my box, and said, "How do you do? What
is your name?"
He turned round as far as his halter would allow, held up his head, and said, "My name is
Merrylegs. I am very handsome; I carry the young ladies on my back, and sometimes I
take our mistress out in the low chair. They think a great deal of me, and so does James.
Are you going to live next door to me in the box?"
I said, "Yes."
"Well, then," he said, "I hope you are good-tempered; I do not like any one next door
who bites."
Just then a horse's head looked over from the stall beyond; the ears were laid back, and
the eye looked rather ill-tempered. This was a tall chestnut mare, with a long handsome
neck. She looked across to me and said:
"So it is you who have turned me out of my box; it is a very strange thing for a colt like
you to come and turn a lady out of her own home."
 
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