Black Beauty 1: My First Home
What is it like to be a horse? I can tell you because I've been one all my life. And what a life it has been!
The first thing I remember is the field where I was born. It had plenty of grass, a pond, and trees for shade. There was a shed at one end where we could stand when it was cold. Outside the fence lay more fields, a stream, and our master's house.
My mother's name was Duchess, and she was a favorite of the master because of her sweet nature. Whenever she saw him, she would neigh and trot over to greet him.
There were other mares and foals in the field as well. I ran and played with the other males. These colts were all older and bigger than me. Sometimes their play turned rough, with lots of kicking and biting.
One day my mother called me away from them. "I hope you will grow up gentle and kind," she told me. "I do not want you to bite or kick, even in play. You should always be good, and do your work as well as you can."
I never forgot this advice from my mother.
Our master's name was Farmer Grey. He always had kind words and pats for all the horses. He was kind and fair to his workers as well.
One of those workers was a boy named Dick.
Sometimes, after Dick finished his work, he came into our field to pick berries. And sometimes that wasn't the only thing he did.
"Hey, you!" he yelled at us one day.
I was grazing nearby with the other colts. We all looked up at the sound of his voice. One of the bigger colts took a step toward him. I could tell the colt was hoping for a treat like the ones Farmer Grey often brought us.
"Go on!" Dick shouted. "I want to see you run!"
Then he threw a stick at the big colt! It hit him hard on the chest.
The colt was so surprised that he snorted, whirled around, and kicked up his heels. Then he galloped off toward the mares, who were grazing at the other end of the field. That made the rest of us run too. Behind us I heard Dick laughing loudly.
After that Dick often hurled sticks and stones at us to make us run. Once we understood his game, we stayed far enough away so he couldn't hit us. But once in a while a stone would hit me, and it hurt. None of us liked that boy very much.
One day Dick began his game as usual. But he didn't know that Farmer Grey was in the next field. When our master saw what was going on, he rushed over and grabbed Dick by the arm.
"Bad boy!" he scolded Dick sternly. "I can tell this is not the first time you've chased the colts. But it will be the last time. You're fired!"
That was the last time we saw Dick.
Other than Dick's visits, most of our days were quiet and pleasant. Yet there was one other incident that I have never forgotten.
I was grazing in the field with the other colts. We all looked up when we heard dogs howling in the distance.
The oldest colt pricked his ears and listened. "Those are the hounds!" he said, cantering over to the fence.
The rest of us followed.
"What's happening?" I asked my mother, who stood there, looking out.
"It's the hunt," she told me. "Humans sometimes chase rabbits and foxes on horseback. The hounds help them follow the trail."
We all watched as the hunters came into sight. The hounds came first, racing after a speedy rabbit. Next came a group of riders.
The rabbit scampered down the hill and leaped across the stream. The hounds followed.
Most of the horses jumped the stream easily. But one slipped on the grass and fell down. His rider, a handsome young man, was flung off. He landed hard and lay still on the grass.
The others returned to check on him. But he never got up, and finally they carried him away.
Later we heard that the fallen rider was George Gordon. He was the only son of Squire Gordon, the richest man in the area. George had broken his neck and died in the fall.
When my mother heard the news, she looked sad. "I don't understand why people are so interested in hunting," she said. "Then again we're only horses. Who expects us to understand the ways of humans?"
I didn't know the answer to that. But soon I would learn more about the mysterious ways of humans, when I left that pleasant field behind forever.