Study Guide

Black Beauty Chapter 10

By Anna Sewell

Chapter 10

A Talk in the Orchard

  • Because Beauty and Ginger have more racing blood than many carriage horses, they're often used for riding in addition to driving. Beauty's favorite activity is to go out in a riding party with Squire Gordon's family, Ginger, Merrylegs, and another Birtwick horse, Sir Oliver. Beauty "had the best of it, for I always carried the mistress" (10.1), he says, and the mistress of the house is kind, gentle, and always drives him with a light touch.
  • As an aside, Beauty reminds us that driving a horse with a light touch is basically the best thing ever: "Our mouths are so tender, that where they have not been spoiled or hardened with bad or ignorant treatment, they feel the slightest movement of the driver's hand, and we know in an instant what is required of us" (10.2).
  • Ginger complains that her mouth is not as good as Beauty's because she wasn't broken in with kindness, but Sir Oliver comforts her by saying that it's a great honor for Ginger to carry the master of the house.
  • Sir Oliver has a very short tail, and one day when all the horses are in the orchard, Beauty asks him what accident caused this. "It was no accident! It was a cruel, shameful, cold-blooded act!" (10.3), Sir Oliver exclaims. He says when he was young he was taken to a place that cut off his tail, and we're treated to a painful description of it. Sir Oliver says it wasn't just painful; now he can't swat flies like other horses.
  • Beauty wants to know why anyone would do such a thing, and Sir Oliver explains it was for fashion (10.7). The horses all agree that fashion "is one of the wickedest things in the world" (10.9), leading to docked tails, bearing reins, and dogs with clipped ears and tails. Fashionistas of the world, be warned: Sir Oliver wants you to keep your evil clippers and reins far away from all animals.
  • Sir Oliver's rant inspires Ginger to declare that men are "both brutes and blockheads" (10.10), though Merrylegs calms her down, reminding her that their master and their groom are the very best.
  • Beauty attempts to change the subject by asking why blinkers are used. Whoops, maybe not the best idea… Blinkers, for the non-Victorians among us, are a piece of horse tack that attach near the horse's eyes, preventing them from seeing on either side—just straight ahead.
  • The horses all discuss why blinkers are a spectacularly bad idea. Sir Oliver says they're also used for fashion, even though people think they're supposed to prevent a horse from being startled. Sir Oliver points out that a horse would be much less startled if the horse could actually see. Which, you know, kind of makes sense—it's hard to be scared by something you see coming, after all.
  • Before Ginger and Sir Oliver can start ranting again, peacekeeper Merrylegs reminds them that their own masters don't believe in using blinkers, and suggests they go in search of fallen fruit in the orchard. (How about them apples, Ginger?)

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