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29. Cockneys
Then there is the steam-engine style of driving; these drivers were mostly people from
towns, who never had a horse of their own and generally traveled by rail.
They always seemed to think that a horse was something like a steam-engine, only
smaller. At any rate, they think that if only they pay for it a horse is bound to go just as
far and just as fast and with just as heavy a load as they please. And be the roads heavy
and muddy, or dry and good; be they stony or smooth, uphill or downhill, it is all the
same -- on, on, on, one must go, at the same pace, with no relief and no consideration.
These people never think of getting out to walk up a steep hill. Oh, no, they have paid to
ride, and ride they will! The horse? Oh, he's used to it! What were horses made for, if not
to drag people uphill? Walk! A good joke indeed! And so the whip is plied and the rein is
chucked and often a rough, scolding voice cries out, "Go along, you lazy beast!" And
then another slash of the whip, when all the time we are doing our very best to get along,
uncomplaining and obedient, though often sorely harassed and down-hearted.
This steam-engine style of driving wears us up faster than any other kind. I would far
rather go twenty miles with a good considerate driver than I would go ten with some of
these; it would take less out of me.
Another thing, they scarcely ever put on the brake, however steep the downhill may be,
and thus bad accidents sometimes happen; or if they do put it on, they often forget to take
it off at the bottom of the hill, and more than once I have had to pull halfway up the next
hill, with one of the wheels held by the brake, before my driver chose to think about it;
and that is a terrible strain on a horse.
Then these cockneys, instead of starting at an easy pace, as a gentleman would do,
generally set off at full speed from the very stable-yard; and when they want to stop, they
first whip us, and then pull up so suddenly that we are nearly thrown on our haunches,
and our mouths jagged with the bit -- they call that pulling up with a dash; and when they
turn a corner they do it as sharply as if there were no right side or wrong side of the road.
I well remember one spring evening I and Rory had been out for the day. (Rory was the
horse that mostly went with me when a pair was ordered, and a good honest fellow he
was.) We had our own driver, and as he was always considerate and gentle with us, we
had a very pleasant day. We were coming home at a good smart pace, about twilight. Our
road turned sharp to the left; but as we were close to the hedge on our own side, and there
was plenty of room to pass, our driver did not pull us in. As we neared the corner I heard
a horse and two wheels coming rapidly down the hill toward us. The hedge was high, and
I could see nothing, but the next moment we were upon each other. Happily for me, I was
on the side next the hedge. Rory was on the left side of the pole, and had not even a shaft
to protect him. The man who was driving was making straight for the corner, and when
he came in sight of us he had no time to pull over to his own side. The whole shock came
upon Rory. The gig shaft ran right into the chest, making him stagger back with a cry that
I shall never forget. The other horse was thrown upon his haunches and one shaft broken.
It turned out that it was a horse from our own stables, with the high-wheeled gig that the
young men were so fond of.