Anna Sewell has penned the book "Black Beauty", which became a bestselling book and a children's classic. She had written the book for people those who took care of horses and worked with horses. She has prescribed the ways to treat animals with sympathy, kindness and how to treat the horses. Though intended for an adult audience, it has become a huge success amongst children also.
A horse is narrating the story. Autumn is the season after summer and before winter. It is a period when the weather is cool, rainy and trees start to shed its leaves. The horse's master had decided to ride the horse cart and leave on a journey. A person named John fixed a set of straps on the horse to attach him to the new cart. The horse said he liked the new cart as it was light-weight and the wheels went around smoothly. It felt light for the horse to pull the cart.
The new horse light-weight horse cart!
It was very windy and about to start raining at any time. The dry leaves that had fallen off the trees flew across the road due to the winds. The horse, his master and John rode along cheerfully till they reached the toll gate. Tollgate is a place where gates/barriers are placed, and travellers should pay an amount to cross the place further.
Tollgate - pay to proceed!
The toll gate was the entrance to the low wooden bridge. The bridge did not arch over the river, as the banks were usually high - it was just at crossing level. If the river was full, the water would fill up till the foot of the bridge. However, since there were solid, strong railson both the sides of the bridge, people were not afraid to cross the bridge, even in peak season.
The wooden bridge on an autumn evening.. the river level continued to rise fast!
There was a man at the toll gate who warned them that the river level was rising fast and it may not be a good idea to cross the bridge now. He said many fields had been submerged in the water already. In a low area on the road, the water was already up to the horse's knees. But the horse said the cart was new and good, and the master rode him softly, so they need not worry.
After they reached the town, the horse had to wait for a long time. His master's work kept him busy for a long time, and they could not start their return journey almost till evening. The weather had worsened by that time. The winds were stronger, and master had told John that they had never travelled in such a bad storm. They passed through the woods where the branches were swinging and shaking like small twigs. The winds were so strong that it shook the branches easily like it shook small twigs! The wind also had a frightening loud sound.
The stormy woods that evening, it was scary!
The master said he wanted to get out of the woods. John replied yes, and he hoped that branches of the trees do not fall on them, as the winds shook the branches terribly. Just as John had finished saying that, there was a huge sound of a tree breaking down. An oak tree had uprooted and crashed down just in front of them.
Branches of the oak tree crashed down right in front of them!
The horse got scared now, and he admitted it. He stopped the cart and stood there, shaking out of fear. But he did not give up and run away. He was taught to face obstacles and was grown as a brave horse. John had jumped out of the cart and stood beside the horse. He held the horse's neck straps and pacified him because John knew the horse was tensed.
Master exclaimed that it was close! He meant the tree could have fallen on them anytime. He asked John about what to do next.
John told master that they cannot drive further because of the fallen tree and that they cannot go around it also. He added they must go back to the four crossways, and then it will take about six miles before they reach the wooden bridge again. It will be late by then, but the horse black beauty still looked fresh. He meant the horse was steady and good to go.
The master had seen such things happen during floods, so he did not stop. They were travelling along at a good speed when the horse suddenly felt something. The horse felt the ground with his feet, in the first part of the bridge and felt something was wrong. He did not dare to move forward a single step. He made a sudden, sharp stop.
The horse came to a dead stop!
The master did not understand why Black Beauty stopped; he asked him to go on. He lightly touched him with his whip to make the horse move. But the horse did not dare to move. Then the Master gave a whack with the whip. The horse jumped in pain again and again but did not move forward.
John found that there was something wrong. He got down and came near the horse. He caught the bridle and guided him to move forward. The horse could not explain to him the problem that he felt. But he knew that the bridge was dangerous to cross. The horse had an instinct, a feeling that it was not safe, and it believed in it strongly. Even if he got whip lashes, he did not move - he believed in his instincts.
At the same time, a man from the other side of the toll gate ran out, flashing his torch lightlike a crazy man. He shouted "Hoy, Hoy, Hoy, Stop!" at them. The horse's master asked him what the matter was. The toll gate man explained that the bridge was broken in the middle. There had been a flood, and a part of the bridge had been washed away. He warned them that if they moved any further, they would fall in the river.
"The bridge is broken in the middle. Part of it has been carried away by the flood!"
The master thanked God in relief! If the horse had not realized the danger through its instinct, they could have drowned that day! John appreciated the horse and told him he was a real beauty, as he caught the bridle and softly turned the horse around.
By this time, even the wind had calmed down. It grew darker, and it became noiseless and motionless. The horse ran with short steps, softly. The wheels did not make any sound of touching on the ground because the road was soft and wet.
Master told John that God had given brains for people so that they can get to know things for themselves. But God had given a special knowledge to animals, who cannot think, but to react quicker in response to any danger. This is called instinct. The in-built power of animals to respond to certain situations is the power of instinct that God had blessed animals with. This instinct has saved the lives of many people in history, said master to John.
John also had experiences to share about instincts of dogs and horses. He knew the stories of the lovely ways those animals had saved the lives of people. He felt many of them did not treat animals properly. They did not care for them or befriend them.
Finally, they reached the master's house. The lights were still on in the house.
All the lights were on at the master's house!
As the cart pulled up near the door, the master's wife came running to the door, to see the master. She asked him if he was safe and told that she had been worried about him. Since the storm was bad, the Mistress was scared whether they would return home safely that night. She also asked if they had met with an accident since they were late.
The master said they did not meet with an accident, but if Black Beauty had not been wiser than them, then all of three of them would have drowned at the wooden bridge. They went into the house, and the horse could not hear anymore of the conversation. John took the horse to his stable.
John took the horse to the stable and gave him a nice supper!
He gave him a nice dinner that night and a thick bed of straw for him to rest for the night. The horse was thankful for everything, but he was also very tired after pulling through the storm.