A Strike for Liberty
One day my lady came down later than usual, and the silk rustled
more than ever.
"Drive to the Duchess of B----'s," she said, and then after a pause,
"Are you never going to get those horses' heads up, York?
Raise them at once and let us have no more of this humoring and nonsense."
York came to me first, while the groom stood at Ginger's head.
He drew my head back and fixed the rein so tight that it was
almost intolerable; then he went to Ginger, who was impatiently
jerking her head up and down against the bit, as was her way now.
She had a good idea of what was coming, and the moment York took the rein
off the terret in order to shorten it she took her opportunity
and reared up so suddenly that York had his nose roughly hit
and his hat knocked off; the groom was nearly thrown off his legs.
At once they both flew to her head; but she was a match for them,
and went on plunging, rearing, and kicking in a most desperate manner.
At last she kicked right over the carriage pole and fell down,
after giving me a severe blow on my near quarter. There is no knowing
what further mischief she might have done had not York promptly
sat himself down flat on her head to prevent her struggling,
at the same time calling out, "Unbuckle the black horse!
Run for the winch and unscrew the carriage pole! Cut the trace here,
somebody, if you can't unhitch it!" One of the footmen ran for the winch,
and another brought a knife from the house. The groom soon set me free
from Ginger and the carriage, and led me to my box. He just turned me in
as I was and ran back to York. I was much excited by what had happened,
and if I had ever been used to kick or rear I am sure I should have
done it then; but I never had, and there I stood, angry, sore in my leg,
my head still strained up to the terret on the saddle,
and no power to get it down. I was very miserable and felt much inclined
to kick the first person who came near me.
Before long, however, Ginger was led in by two grooms, a good deal
knocked about and bruised. York came with her and gave his orders,
and then came to look at me. In a moment he let down my head.
"Confound these check-reins!" he said to himself; "I thought we should have
some mischief soon. master will be sorely vexed. But there,
if a woman's husband can't rule her of course a servant can't;
so I wash my hands of it, and if she can't get to the duchess' garden party
I can't help it."
York did not say this before the men; he always spoke respectfully
when they were by. Now he felt me all over, and soon found the place
above my hock where I had been kicked. It was swelled and painful;
he ordered it to be sponged with hot water, and then some lotion was put on.
Lord W---- was much put out when he learned what had happened;
he blamed York for giving way to his mistress, to which he replied
that in future he would much prefer to receive his orders only from
his lordship; but I think nothing came of it, for things went on
the same as before. I thought York might have stood up better
for his horses, but perhaps I am no judge.
Ginger was never put into the carriage again, but when she was
well of her bruises one of the Lord W----'s younger sons
said he should like to have her; he was sure she would make a good hunter.
As for me, I was obliged still to go in the carriage, and had a fresh partner
called Max; he had always been used to the tight rein.
I asked him how it was he bore it.
"Well," he said, "I bear it because I must; but it is shortening my life,
and it will shorten yours too if you have to stick to it."
"Do you think," I said, "that our masters know how bad it is for us?"
"I can't say," he replied, "but the dealers and the horse-doctors
know it very well. I was at a dealer's once, who was training me
and another horse to go as a pair; he was getting our heads up, as he said,
a little higher and a little higher every day. A gentleman who was there
asked him why he did so. `Because,' said he, `people won't buy them
unless we do. The London people always want their horses
to carry their heads high and to step high. Of course it is very bad
for the horses, but then it is good for trade. The horses soon wear up,
or get diseased, and they come for another pair.' That," said Max,
"is what he said in my hearing, and you can judge for yourself."
What I suffered with that rein for four long months in my lady's carriage
it would be hard to describe; but I am quite sure that, had it lasted
much longer, either my health or my temper would have given way.
Before that, I never knew what it was to foam at the mouth,
but now the action of the sharp bit on my tongue and jaw,
and the constrained position of my head and throat, always caused me
to froth at the mouth more or less. Some people think it very fine
to see this, and say, "What fine spirited creatures!" But it is just
as unnatural for horses as for men to foam at the mouth; it is a sure sign
of some discomfort, and should be attended to. Besides this,
there was a pressure on my windpipe, which often made my breathing
very uncomfortable; when I returned from my work my neck and chest
were strained and painful, my mouth and tongue tender,
and I felt worn and depressed.
In my old home I always knew that John and my master were my friends;
but here, although in many ways I was well treated, I had no friend.
York might have known, and very likely did know, how that rein harassed me;
but I suppose he took it as a matter of course that it could not be helped;
at any rate, nothing was done to relieve me.
Black Beauty Chapter 22
... Black Beauty Chapter 24