Black Beauty 3: New Friends and a New Name
One morning after breakfast, a young man came into the stable with Farmer Grey.
"Here he is," my master said, stopping in front of my stall.
The stranger peered in at me. "What a handsome horse. I'm not surprised the squire chose him."
"Yes, I'm sure he'll enjoy this horse," Farmer Grey said. "I will certainly miss him when he goes."
The farmer led me out and gave me a pat. I didn't understand what was going on, or why his eyes looked sad. But I put my nose into his hand to try to make him feel better.
"Good-bye, boy," my master said. "Be a good horse, and always do your best."
Then he handed my lead rope to the other man.
The stranger and I walked out through the farm gates. My mother and some of the other horses neighed to me from the pasture.
Soon we turned in through another gate, and I saw a fine estate. This was my new home, Birtwick Park.
The man leading me was James, the head groom. He put me into a large, airy stall and gave me a handful of grain.
"There you go," he said kindly. "I'd better go tell the squire you're here."
There were four stalls in this part of the stable, and mine was the largest. In a smaller stall stood a fat, gray pony. He had a thick mane and tail, and a pretty head.
"Hello," I said. "What's your name?"
"I'm Merrylegs," the pony said. "I am very handsome so the young ladies love to ride me or drive me in a cart. Are you going to live next door to me now?"
"I think so," I answered.
"I hope you're a nice horse," Merrylegs said. "I don't like living next door to anyone who bites."
He looked over at the stall on his other side. A chestnut mare with a long, graceful neck stood there.
"So you're the one who took my stall," she snapped. "How dare you put a lady out of her home!"
"Excuse me, but I did no such thing," I said politely. "The man who brought me here put me in this stall. I truly had no choice in the matter."
"Don't worry about her," Merrylegs said quietly as the mare turned away. "Ginger knows it's her own fault she was moved out of that stall. She has a bad habit of biting, and the young ladies were becoming afraid to visit me."
"They won't have to worry about me," I said. "The only things I bite are grass, hay, and grain. Why does Ginger bite?"
"She says no one was ever nice to her before," Merrylegs said. "John and James hope she'll be better tempered now that she's here."
The next day John Manly led me out of my stall. John was the head coachman. James and the other stable hands worked for him.
John had kind eyes and a calm manner. He groomed me from head to hoof, making my dark coat gleam. He was almost finished when the squire arrived.
"Hello, John," the squire said. "I wanted to try out my new horse this morning, but I'm too busy. Would you ride him for me and let me know how he goes?"
"Of course, sir," John said.
He brought out a saddle along with a bridle. When he set the saddle on my back, it pinched my shoulders. Luckily John immediately saw that it didn't fit. He took it away and brought out a different one.
John was a very good rider, and I was happy to do exactly what he asked. We walked for a while, and then we trotted. Finally he urged me into a fast gallop.
We were riding back toward the stable when we passed the squire walking with his wife.
"How was your ride, John?" the squire asked.
"Very good, sir," John answered, sounding pleased. "It's obvious the horse has been well-treated and well-trained."
"Excellent," the squire said. "I'll try him myself tomorrow."
The next day the squire took his turn on me. He was a good rider too, and we had a pleasant ride. When we passed the house, his wife came out.
"How do you like him?" she asked.
"I've never ridden a finer horse," the squire replied. "Now all this fellow needs is a name."
"Should we call him Blackbird, like your uncle's old horse?" his wife asked.
The squire shook his head. "He is handsomer than Blackbird ever was."
"He really is a beauty," his wife agreed. "We could call him Black Beauty."
"Black Beauty," the squire said thoughtfully. "I like it."
And so I had a new home and a new name.