Obama on Black Beauty on Whips 4

Things are looking good. Another passage about whips and all good news, but we are four chapters further on, so I had better tell you what you have missed. Beauty went to his new master, but unfortunately two grooms in succession proved to be dodgy, not cruel, but stealing food or falining to look after Beauty, so his master gave up the idea of a horse and sent Beauty to the horse fair where jerry bought him as a cab horse.

But I’ll let him tell you himself.

Jerry was as good a driver as I had ever known, and what was better, he took as much thought for his horses as he did for himself. He soon found out that I was willing to work and do my best, and he never laid the whip on me unless it was gently drawing the end of it over my back when I was to go on; but generally I knew this quite well by the way in which he took up the reins, and I believe his whip was more frequently stuck up by his side than in his hand.

Again, all good, who could complain about a whip in these hands, but then that could be because Jerry’s hands didn’t need the whip. The whip seems to be no problem at all when the driver or rider doesn’t find it necessary.

Jerry and I were used to it, and no one could beat us at getting through when we were set upon it. I was quick and bold and could always trust my driver; Jerry was quick and patient at the same time, and could trust his horse, which was a great thing too. He very seldom used the whip; I knew by his voice, and his click, click, when he wanted to get on fast, and by the rein where I was to go; so there was no need for whipping; but I must go back to my story.

Beauty sums it up to perfection.

And here Governor Gray, the eminence grise of the cab rank, gives his opinion.

“If you ever do get rich,” said Governor Gray, looking over his shoulder across the top of his cab, “you’ll deserve it, Jerry, and you won’t find a curse come with your wealth. As for you, Larry, you’ll die poor; you spend too much in whipcord.”

“Well,” said Larry, “what is a fellow to do if his horse won’t go without it?”

“You never take the trouble to see if he will go without it; your whip is always going as if you had the St. Vitus’ dance in your arm, and if it does not wear you out it wears your horse out; you know you are always changing your horses; and why? Because you never give them any peace or encouragement.”

Another text to nail to the field gate. You never take the trouble to see if he will go without it. If you give the smallest children a whip, it becomes part of them, part of the way they ride. Of course they need it, they never get the chance to see if he will go without.

Unfortunately there are too many people who see the whip as the solution, as Beauty tells us again.

One day he and another gentleman took our cab; they stopped at a shop in R—— Street, and while his friend went in he stood at the door. A little ahead of us on the other side of the street a cart with two very fine horses was standing before some wine vaults; the carter was not with them, and I cannot tell how long they had been standing, but they seemed to think they had waited long enough, and began to move off. Before they had gone many paces the carter came running out and caught them. He seemed furious at their having moved, and with whip and rein punished them brutally, even beating them about the head. Our gentleman saw it all, and stepping quickly across the street, said in a decided voice:

“If you don’t stop that directly, I’ll have you arrested for leaving your horses, and for brutal conduct.”

The man, who had clearly been drinking, poured forth some abusive language, but he left off knocking the horses about, and taking the reins, got into his cart; meantime our friend had quietly taken a note-book from his pocket, and looking at the name and address painted on the cart, he wrote something down.

“What do you want with that?” growled the carter, as he cracked his whip and was moving on. A nod and a grim smile was the only answer he got.

On returning to the cab our friend was joined by his companion, who said laughingly, “I should have thought, Wright, you had enough business of your own to look after, without troubling yourself about other people’s horses and servants.”

Our friend stood still for a moment, and throwing his head a little back, “Do you know why this world is as bad as it is?”

“No,” said the other.

“Then I’ll tell you. It is because people think only about their own business, and won’t trouble themselves to stand up for the oppressed, nor bring the wrongdoer to light. I never see a wicked thing like this without doing what I can, and many a master has thanked me for letting him know how his horses have been used.”

“I wish there were more gentlemen like you, sir,” said Jerry, “for they are wanted badly enough in this city.”

After this we continued our journey, and as they got out of the cab our friend was saying, “My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.”

I have put a bit in bold that isn’t about whips or hitting. I have put it there because I think Simon worries that fighting the whip isn’t worth the abuse he gets, isn’t worth the stress. I hope he will continue to fight, not just for my sake, but for Beauty, and all those horses who have hated the whips over all these years.

The next passage on whips I have put in the whole chapter. There is no way I could shorten it without distorting the meaning, distorting the story Beauty had to tell. Here it is. You read it, you make up your own minds.

39 Seedy Sam

I should say that for a cab-horse I was very well off indeed; my driver was my owner, and it was his interest to treat me well and not overwork me, even had he not been so good a man as he was; but there were a great many horses which belonged to the large cab-owners, who let them out to their drivers for so much money a day. As the horses did not belong to these men the only thing they thought of was how to get their money out of them, first, to pay the master, and then to provide for their own living; and a dreadful time some of these horses had of it. Of course, I understood but little, but it was often talked over on the stand, and the governor, who was a kind-hearted man and fond of horses, would sometimes speak up if one came in very much jaded or ill-used.

One day a shabby, miserable-looking driver, who went by the name of “Seedy Sam”, brought in his horse looking dreadfully beat, and the governor said:

“You and your horse look more fit for the police station than for this rank.”

The man flung his tattered rug over the horse, turned full round upon the Governor and said in a voice that sounded almost desperate:

“If the police have any business with the matter it ought to be with the masters who charge us so much, or with the fares that are fixed so low. If a man has to pay eighteen shillings a day for the use of a cab and two horses, as many of us have to do in the season, and must make that up before we earn a penny for ourselves I say ’tis more than hard work; nine shillings a day to get out of each horse before you begin to get your own living. You know that’s true, and if the horses don’t work we must starve, and I and my children have known what that is before now. I’ve six of ’em, and only one earns anything; I am on the stand fourteen or sixteen hours a day, and I haven’t had a Sunday these ten or twelve weeks; you know Skinner never gives a day if he can help it, and if I don’t work hard, tell me who does! I want a warm coat and a mackintosh, but with so many to feed how can a man get it? I had to pledge my clock a week ago to pay Skinner, and I shall never see it again.”

Some of the other drivers stood round nodding their heads and saying he was right. The man went on:

“You that have your own horses and cabs, or drive for good masters, have a chance of getting on and a chance of doing right; I haven’t. We can’t charge more than sixpence a mile after the first, within the four-mile radius. This very morning I had to go a clear six miles and only took three shillings. I could not get a return fare, and had to come all the way back; there’s twelve miles for the horse and three shillings for me. After that I had a three-mile fare, and there were bags and boxes enough to have brought in a good many twopences if they had been put outside; but you know how people do; all that could be piled up inside on the front seat were put in and three heavy boxes went on the top. That was sixpence, and the fare one and sixpence; then I got a return for a shilling. Now that makes eighteen miles for the horse and six shillings for me; there’s three shillings still for that horse to earn and nine shillings for the afternoon horse before I touch a penny. Of course, it is not always so bad as that, but you know it often is, and I say ’tis a mockery to tell a man that he must not overwork his horse, for when a beast is downright tired there’s nothing but the whip that will keep his legs a-going; you can’t help yourself—you must put your wife and children before the horse; the masters must look to that, we can’t. I don’t ill-use my horse for the sake of it; none of you can say I do. There’s wrong lays somewhere—never a day’s rest, never a quiet hour with the wife and children. I often feel like an old man, though I’m only forty-five. You know how quick some of the gentry are to suspect us of cheating and overcharging; why, they stand with their purses in their hands counting it over to a penny and looking at us as if we were pickpockets. I wish some of ’em had got to sit on my box sixteen hours a day and get a living out of it and eighteen shillings beside, and that in all weathers; they would not be so uncommon particular never to give us a sixpence over or to cram all the luggage inside. Of course, some of ’em tip us pretty handsome now and then, or else we could not live; but you can’t depend upon that.”

The men who stood round much approved this speech, and one of them said, “It is desperate hard, and if a man sometimes does what is wrong it is no wonder, and if he gets a dram too much who’s to blow him up?”

Jerry had taken no part in this conversation, but I never saw his face look so sad before. The governor had stood with both his hands in his pockets; now he took his handkerchief out of his hat and wiped his forehead.

“You’ve beaten me, Sam,” he said, “for it’s all true, and I won’t cast it up to you any more about the police; it was the look in that horse’s eye that came over me. It is hard lines for man and it is hard lines for beast, and who’s to mend it I don’t know: but anyway you might tell the poor beast that you were sorry to take it out of him in that way. Sometimes a kind word is all we can give ’em, poor brutes, and ’tis wonderful what they do understand.”

A few mornings after this talk a new man came on the stand with Sam’s cab.

“Halloo!” said one, “what’s up with Seedy Sam?”

“He’s ill in bed,” said the man; “he was taken last night in the yard, and could scarcely crawl home. His wife sent a boy this morning to say his father was in a high fever and could not get out, so I’m here instead.”

The next morning the same man came again.

“How is Sam?” inquired the governor.

“He’s gone,” said the man.

“What, gone? You don’t mean to say he’s dead?”

“Just snuffed out,” said the other; “he died at four o’clock this morning; all yesterday he was raving—raving about Skinner, and having no Sundays. ‘I never had a Sunday’s rest,’ these were his last words.”

No one spoke for a while, and then the governor said, “I’ll tell you what, mates, this is a warning for us.”

Soon after Beauty sees Ginger again for the last time, alive, and Ginger says,

“And so at last,” said she, “I was bought by a man who keeps a number of cabs and horses, and lets them out. You look well off, and I am glad of it, but I could not tell you what my life has been. When they found out my weakness they said I was not worth what they gave for me, and that I must go into one of the low cabs, and just be used up; that is what they are doing, whipping and working with never one thought of what I suffer—they paid for me, and must get it out of me, they say. The man who hires me now pays a deal of money to the owner every day, and so he has to get it out of me too; and so it’s all the week round and round, with never a Sunday rest.”

Beauty is happy for Ginger when he sees his lifeless body on a cart I believe it was Ginger; I hoped it was, for then her troubles would be over. Oh! if men were more merciful they would shoot us before we came to such misery.

Beauty is discussing the street scenes and the way ponies are worked,

It often went to my heart to see how the little ponies were used, straining along with heavy loads or staggering under heavy blows from some low, cruel boy. Once I saw a little gray pony with a thick mane and a pretty head, and so much like Merrylegs that if I had not been in harness I should have neighed to him. He was doing his best to pull a heavy cart, while a strong rough boy was cutting him under the belly with his whip and chucking cruelly at his little mouth. Could it be Merrylegs? It was just like him; but then Mr. Blomefield was never to sell him, and I think he would not do it; but this might have been quite as good a little fellow, and had as happy a place when he was young.

Beauty goes on to tell the story of butcher’s boy, berated by his father for overworking the pony, but who points out that his father wants everything done instantly, that the customers want everything done instantly, and the only way it can happen is for the pony to work flat out. The butcher admits the boy has a point and tells him to give the pony the rest of the day off, and if there are any more orders, to carry them himself. Not an attitude that will make the boy feel more kindly to the pony, but the guilty parties are all those who want everything done instantly as only their convenience matters. Very much the point Seedy Sam made.

To counterbalance the tales of woe, Beauty tells us the story of the greengrocer’s boy,

There was a young coster-boy who came up our street with greens and potatoes; he had an old pony, not very handsome, but the cheerfullest and pluckiest little thing I ever saw, and to see how fond those two were of each other was a treat. The pony followed his master like a dog, and when he got into his cart would trot off without a whip or a word, and rattle down the street as merrily as if he had come out of the queen’s stables. Jerry liked the boy, and called him “Prince Charlie”, for he said he would make a king of drivers some day.

Followed by the coal merchant,

There was an old man, too, who used to come up our street with a little coal cart; he wore a coal-heaver’s hat, and looked rough and black. He and his old horse used to plod together along the street, like two good partners who understood each other; the horse would stop of his own accord at the doors where they took coal of him; he used to keep one ear bent toward his master. The old man’s cry could be heard up the street long before he came near. I never knew what he said, but the children called him “Old Ba-a-ar Hoo”, for it sounded like that. Polly took her coal of him, and was very friendly, and Jerry said it was a comfort to think how happy an old horse might be in a poor place.

No whips, no class, no problems. Anna Sewell in her quiet way was a determined revolutionary. You realise that all the good people who you can trust are poor, not a fashionable attitude in Victorian Britain.

We are no nearer finding this mythical, good, whip user. The defining characteristic of the good men is that they don’t need the whip, and we know this because they don’t use the whip. So back to the text to see what is in store.

This time it’s the end for old Captain, and again whips are involved, but not, I think you will agree, in a positive way.

Captain and I were great friends. He was a noble old fellow, and he was very good company. I never thought that he would have to leave his home and go down the hill; but his turn came, and this was how it happened. I was not there, but I heard all about it.

He and Jerry had taken a party to the great railway station over London Bridge, and were coming back, somewhere between the bridge and the monument, when Jerry saw a brewer’s empty dray coming along, drawn by two powerful horses. The drayman was lashing his horses with his heavy whip; the dray was light, and they started off at a furious rate; the man had no control over them, and the street was full of traffic.

One young girl was knocked down and run over, and the next moment they dashed up against our cab; both the wheels were torn off and the cab was thrown over. Captain was dragged down, the shafts splintered, and one of them ran into his side. Jerry, too, was thrown, but was only bruised; nobody could tell how he escaped; he always said ’twas a miracle. When poor Captain was got up he was found to be very much cut and knocked about. Jerry led him home gently, and a sad sight it was to see the blood soaking into his white coat and dropping from his side and shoulder. The drayman was proved to be very drunk, and was fined, and the brewer had to pay damages to our master; but there was no one to pay damages to poor Captain.

Captain never recovered and Jerry had him shot rather than send him to die in harness at a carter’s yard. The Christmas trade nearly killed Jerry with bronchitis, and he goes off to work in the country as a coachman. He does his best to find a good home for Beauty, but the fates are against him.

Jakes, like the other carters, always had the check-rein up, which prevented me from drawing easily, and by the time I had been there three or four months I found the work telling very much on my strength.

One day I was loaded more than usual, and part of the road was a steep uphill. I used all my strength, but I could not get on, and was obliged continually to stop. This did not please my driver, and he laid his whip on badly. “Get on, you lazy fellow,” he said, “or I’ll make you.”

Again I started the heavy load, and struggled on a few yards; again the whip came down, and again I struggled forward. The pain of that great cart whip was sharp, but my mind was hurt quite as much as my poor sides. To be punished and abused when I was doing my very best was so hard it took the heart out of me. A third time he was flogging me cruelly, when a lady stepped quickly up to him, and said in a sweet, earnest voice:

“Oh! pray do not whip your good horse any more; I am sure he is doing all he can, and the road is very steep; I am sure he is doing his best.”

“If doing his best won’t get this load up he must do something more than his best; that’s all I know, ma’am,” said Jakes.

“But is it not a heavy load?” she said.

“Yes, yes, too heavy,” he said; “but that’s not my fault; the foreman came just as we were starting, and would have three hundredweight more put on to save him trouble, and I must get on with it as well as I can.”

He was raising the whip again, when the lady said:

“Pray, stop; I think I can help you if you will let me.”

The man laughed.

“You see,” she said, “you do not give him a fair chance; he cannot use all his power with his head held back as it is with that check-rein; if you would take it off I am sure he would do better—do try it,” she said persuasively, “I should be very glad if you would.”

“Well, well,” said Jakes, with a short laugh, “anything to please a lady, of course. How far would you wish it down, ma’am?”

“Quite down, give him his head altogether.”

Again we have the check rein, but the whip is a definite part of the problem. As the lady leaves having shown the carter that a horse can pull better when the horse chooses where it’s head should go, she says,

“You see he was quite willing when you gave him the chance; I am sure he is a fine-tempered creature, and I dare say has known better days. You won’t put that rein on again, will you?” for he was just going to hitch it up on the old plan.

“Well, ma’am, I can’t deny that having his head has helped him up the hill, and I’ll remember it another time, and thank you, ma’am; but if he went without a check-rein I should be the laughing-stock of all the carters; it is the fashion, you see.”

“Is it not better,” she said, “to lead a good fashion than to follow a bad one? A great many gentlemen do not use check-reins now; our carriage horses have not worn them for fifteen years, and work with much less fatigue than those who have them; besides,” she added in a very serious voice, “we have no right to distress any of God’s creatures without a very good reason; we call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words. But I must not detain you now; I thank you for trying my plan with your good horse, and I am sure you will find it far better than the whip. Good-day,” and with another soft pat on my neck she stepped lightly across the path, and I saw her no more.

If you want a simple principle of working with ponies or horses, try leading, or showing, or asking, and I am sure you will find it far better than the whip.

Beauty’s life is now going down hill. The carter has sold him to Skinner, the cab owner that Seedy Sam drove for. Life is not good, and the whips are back with a vengeance,

Sometimes on a Sunday morning a party of fast men would hire the cab for the day; four of them inside and another with the driver, and I had to take them ten or fifteen miles out into the country, and back again; never would any of them get down to walk up a hill, let it be ever so steep, or the day ever so hot—unless, indeed, when the driver was afraid I should not manage it, and sometimes I was so fevered and worn that I could hardly touch my food. How I used to long for the nice bran mash with niter in it that Jerry used to give us on Saturday nights in hot weather, that used to cool us down and make us so comfortable. Then we had two nights and a whole day for unbroken rest, and on Monday morning we were as fresh as young horses again; but here there was no rest, and my driver was just as hard as his master. He had a cruel whip with something so sharp at the end that it sometimes drew blood, and he would even whip me under the belly, and flip the lash out at my head. Indignities like these took the heart out of me terribly, but still I did my best and never hung back; for, as poor Ginger said, it was no use; men are the strongest.

Beauty’s days in the cab rank are numbered,

My gentle friend had to obey, and box after box was dragged up and lodged on the top of the cab or settled by the side of the driver. At last all was ready, and with his usual jerk at the rein and slash of the whip he drove out of the station.

The load was very heavy and I had had neither food nor rest since morning; but I did my best, as I always had done, in spite of cruelty and injustice.

I got along fairly till we came to Ludgate Hill; but there the heavy load and my own exhaustion were too much. I was struggling to keep on, goaded by constant chucks of the rein and use of the whip, when in a single moment—I cannot tell how—my feet slipped from under me, and I fell heavily to the ground on my side; the suddenness and the force with which I fell seemed to beat all the breath out of my body. I lay perfectly still; indeed, I had no power to move, and I thought now I was going to die. I heard a sort of confusion round me, loud, angry voices, and the getting down of the luggage, but it was all like a dream. I thought I heard that sweet, pitiful voice saying, “Oh! that poor horse! it is all our fault.” Some one came and loosened the throat strap of my bridle, and undid the traces which kept the collar so tight upon me. Some one said, “He’s dead, he’ll never get up again.” Then I could hear a policeman giving orders, but I did not even open my eyes; I could only draw a gasping breath now and then. Some cold water was thrown over my head, and some cordial was poured into my mouth, and something was covered over me. I cannot tell how long I lay there, but I found my life coming back, and a kind-voiced man was patting me and encouraging me to rise. After some more cordial had been given me, and after one or two attempts, I staggered to my feet, and was gently led to some stables which were close by. Here I was put into a well-littered stall, and some warm gruel was brought to me, which I drank thankfully.

Beauty is taken back to Skinner’s stables and nursed in the hope he will fetch better than meat prices at the forthcoming market. Even Skinner doesn’t think a whip will improve things so

Skinner, rather unwillingly, I think, gave orders that I should be well fed and cared for, and the stable man, happily for me, carried out the orders with a much better will than his master had in giving them. Ten days of perfect rest, plenty of good oats, hay, bran mashes, with boiled linseed mixed in them, did more to get up my condition than anything else could have done; those linseed mashes were delicious, and I began to think, after all, it might be better to live than go to the dogs. When the twelfth day after the accident came, I was taken to the sale, a few miles out of London. I felt that any change from my present place must be an improvement, so I held up my head, and hoped for the best.

This is the end of this section of my work. From now on there are no more mentions of whips, of beating, flogging, the lash no longer features. I leave it for you to read Beauty’s work and see what he makes of the lack of the whip. Does he miss it. Does he feel every young horseman or horsewoman should be able to Hold the reins correctly and carry a whip in either hand.

I hope I have been honest, I have tried to be, and I have included every mention of whips, whipping that I can find in Black Beauty’s work. Those who read the first section will discover that I missed one mention of whips when I first published it. It was an entirely negative context, and involved whipping Ginger when she was fighting the check rein. It has been added now.

Simon is accused of being anti whips, but Anna Sewell isn’t, Black Beauty isn’t. Having analysed the text, I have to say that anyone who thinks Black Beauty and Anna Sewell weren’t anti whips, has never read the book. Simon has, I have, now it’s your turn. Read it, and tell me what you think about whips.

©Simon Mulholland 2012

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