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Black Beauty

33. A London Cab Horse
Jeremiah Barker was my new master's name, 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 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. I will tell
more of that hereafter.
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. When
the crupper was let out a hole or two it all fitted well. 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 cab stand 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."
 
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