Black Beauty HTML version

10. A Talk in the Orchard
Ginger and I were not of the regular tall carriage horse breed, we had more of the racing
blood in us. We stood about fifteen and a half hands high; we were therefore just as good
for riding as we were for driving, and our master used to say that he disliked either horse
or man that could do but one thing; and as he did not want to show off in London parks,
he preferred a more active and useful kind of horse. As for us, our greatest pleasure was
when we were saddled for a riding party; the master on Ginger, the mistress on me, and
the young ladies on Sir Oliver and Merrylegs. It was so cheerful to be trotting and
cantering all together that it always put us in high spirits. I had the best of it, for I always
carried the mistress; her weight was little, her voice was sweet, and her hand was so light
on the rein that I was guided almost without feeling it.
Oh! if people knew what a comfort to horses a light hand is, and how it keeps a good
mouth and a good temper, they surely would not chuck, and drag, and pull at the rein as
they often do. Our mouths are so tender that where they have not been spoiled or
hardened with bad or ignorant treatment, they feel the slightest movement of the driver's
hand, and we know in an instant what is required of us. My mouth has never been
spoiled, and I believe that was why the mistress preferred me to Ginger, although her
paces were certainly quite as good. She used often to envy me, and said it was all the
fault of breaking in, and the gag bit in London, that her mouth was not so perfect as mine;
and then old Sir Oliver would say, "There, there! don't vex yourself; you have the greatest
honor; a mare that can carry a tall man of our master's weight, with all your spring and
sprightly action, does not need to hold her head down because she does not carry the
lady; we horses must take things as they come, and always be contented and willing so
long as we are kindly used."
I had often wondered how it was that Sir Oliver had such a very short tail; it really was
only six or seven inches long, with a tassel of hair hanging from it; and on one of our
holidays in the orchard I ventured to ask him by what accident it was that he had lost his
tail. "Accident!" he snorted with a fierce look, "it was no accident! it was a cruel,
shameful, cold-blooded act! When I was young I was taken to a place where these cruel
things were done; I was tied up, and made fast so that I could not stir, and then they came
and cut off my long and beautiful tail, through the flesh and through the bone, and took it
"How dreadful!" I exclaimed.
"Dreadful, ah! it was dreadful; but it was not only the pain, though that was terrible and
lasted a long time; it was not only the indignity of having my best ornament taken from
me, though that was bad; but it was this, how could I ever brush the flies off my sides and
my hind legs any more? You who have tails just whisk the flies off without thinking
about it, and you can't tell what a torment it is to have them settle upon you and sting and
sting, and have nothing in the world to lash them off with. I tell you it is a lifelong wrong,
and a lifelong loss; but thank heaven, they don't do it now."
"What did they do it for then?" said Ginger.
"For fashion!" said the old horse with a stamp of his foot; "for fashion! if you know what
that means; there was not a well-bred young horse in my time that had not his tail docked