Black Beauty soon comes to realize how beautiful and just a master and mistress he has in Birtwick—which is the name of Squire Gordon’s hall. They would, for example, actively campaign against the use of checkreins; these were people not afraid to stand up for the rights of the weak. Black Beauty recounts one instance where he and his master came across a builder named Sawyer lashing his overburdened horse. The master rebukes the man, pointing out that beating the horse will not improve the situation at all; in fact, it will not only injure the horse but also injure the man’s reputation. One another occasion, the master argues with a friend of his—Captain Langley--who insists on using checkreins in the name of fashion. He compares horses to soldiers, who would not fight effectively if they had to maintain parade formation and wear their parade uniforms during the heat of battle.
In Chapter 12, Black Beauty recounts the story of the stormy night. One night, John and the master had to travel a ways on business and they took Black Beauty as their carthorse. On their return journey a heavy storm was raining down on them. As they continued on their road, an oak tree came crashing down—torn up by its roots—right in front of the cart. To his credit, Black Beauty did not dash away or lose control, but only trembled a little. The tree blocked the main road so they had to take another, more dangerous road, which crossed over a large river. As they approached the bridge crossing over the river, Black Beauty hesitated. He did not want to go onto the bridge. His master nudged him on, gave him a little whip then a sharp cut but still Black Beauty did not move forward. Something was not right with the bridge and in a few moments they found out what that was: the bridge had collapsed and anyone who attempted to get on the bridge would fall into torrent below. The master, realizing his error, expressed great pleasure with Black Beauty. He pointed out that God gave humans reason but gave animals insight, and the one compliments the other. Furthermore, upon their return he praised Black Beauty as the reason why he and John and the whole cart had not sunk in the river.
Black Beauty narrates another story of mistreatment in Chapter 13. In this case, a young boy is attempting to drive his pony to jump over a high gate. When the pony refuses to jump he starts thrashing the poor thing, driving it to such a point that it throws him off. John—as a witness to this—tells the boy he got what was coming to him and then makes sure the boy’s father knows that he was abusing his pony. Later on John mentioned the incident to James, who confirmed that the boy was indeed a bully, known for his habit of torturing little bugs. James recounts one incident when the boy was taking flies and pulling their wings off. When the teacher found out he punished the boy severely and warned the students against cruelty, labeling it as “the devil’s trade-mark.” Anyone who loved cruelty belonged to the devil. Upon hearing this, John reaffirms the teachers message, advising James that religion is in large part to love and be kind to man and beast and if it does not contain those then it is a sham.
Time passes and soon it is time for James Howard to move on. One day, the master asks John about James’s character and work ethic. He explains that Sir Williams of Clifford Hall—his brother-in-law—wrote him requesting that he find a capable, good groom that Sir Williams could hire. The pay and opportunity would be considerably higher at Clifford Hall compared to Birtwick Hall, and so the master encourages young James to seize this chance. James decides to accept, despite his love for Birtwick Hall and its people and horses. Before leaving though, he is supposed to learn how to drive a carriage under John’s careful tutelage.
However, as it turns out, Black Beauty is to have one more adventure with James before his departure. The master and mistress decide to visit friends some distance away, and the drive will take a few days. On the way the stop by in a town for the night, and the stablemen are to take care of Black Beauty. Their stay their goes quite well at first. The head stablemen is quite adept—having worked 40 years taking care of horses—and he mentions that Black Beauty is a fine horse and has clearly received a good upbringing. The behavior of the horse can be directly tied to the quality of upbringing its masters gave it.
Later that night, another man pays a visit to the stables to gossip with a stableman. He forgets his pipe there to devastating consequences. Hours later, in the late watches of the night, Black Beauty awakens and cannot breathe. A fire has spread in the barn, and will soon burn the whole structure down! The stableman bursts in and attempts to lead a horse out but to no avail—the horse will not budge. He goes to each horse in turn desperately trying to lead it out but each horse is too frightened to budge, even Black Beauty. Giving up hope the man turns and runs out of the stables. Soon though, James comes, putting on a cheery face as always. He is able to coax Black Beauty out of the stables and then returns to save another horse. Then the fire engine arrived and the fire was eventually put out, not before two horses were burned to death though. Their shrieks could be hard in the distance during those dark hours of the night and Ginger and Black Beauty could not help but hear those terrible cries. All because one man forget his little pipe as he went on his way to gossip with a buddy.
The group returns to Birtwick, and soon James is making preparations to leave. He inquires about his replacement at the hall, and John tells him about little Joe Green, who is to take James’s job once he is gone. James points out that he is too young and little to be of much use but John argues in his favor, saying his has the right heart for the job. He also explains his own story: how he was once a young orphan and he had a crippled sister to look after. The master took him in as a stable-hand for the old stable-master of that time—Norman. Now Norman could have turned up his nose at this young inexperienced plow-hand but instead he took John in like a son and patiently taught him the job. So how could John not do the same for little Joe Green, he asks?
James leaves soon after and Joe begins his new job, taking great pains to learn and master all this new information. Even with all his effort, it was impossible for him to not make any mistakes. This is nowhere clearer than in the aftermath of one harrowing adventure. One night, the mistress becomes dangerously ill. Without a doctor the fear she will lose her life. John’s mission, then, is to take Beauty and bring word as fast as possible to Dr. White in the distant town. So in that crisp, moonlit night, Beauty gallops faster and farther than ever before, riding for his mistress’s life. They arrive and give word to the doctor, who then immediately sets out on Beauty back to the hall. Black Beauty manages to make it back quickly, despite his exhausting nightlong dash. When he arrived the doctor went to help his patient and Beauty was left sweating and steaming all over, in the sole care of little Joe—for John had been left behind in the distant town. Joe did the very best he could—as Beauty explains—but he did not know how to take care of a horse in this situation. Of course, he gave him food and water and rubbed him down. But he forgot to put any blankets or warm coverings on Beauty, thinking it would be too hot. So the horse soon began to shake and shiver and became deadly cold. When he returns home, John is furious to find Beauty thus, and soon the horse becomes severely ill.
Days pass and Beauty’s health does not improve. John fears he will die and--as Beauty himself admits—he fears the same thing. As for Joe, he is not eating meals, not smiling and cannot stop blaming himself, though he did try his best. Tom Green—Joe’s father—comes by and asks John to give the boy a kind and encouraging word to tell get him out of his depression. The boy did not mean anything wrong, Tom argues. It was only ignorance, he says. At this, John becomes furious. Only ignorance? Ignorance is one of the worst things on earth, he argues, it causes as much mischief as wickedness, despite the good intentions of the ignorant.
Despite this incident, Joe progresses in his work well. He learned and worked efficiently and kindly, and John placed more and more trust in him. His development reached a significant milestone one day when riding with Black Beauty back to the hall they encountered a cart. The driver was lashing his two horses because they could not drag the brick-laden cart out of a muddy hole. Joe, feeling sympathy for the horses, shouts at the man to stop lashing and to let Joe help get the cart out. The man refused all attempts to stop him though, and so Joe left him and quickly went to a neighbor to report the man to the authorities. When the case was brought up in court, the magistrate asked Joe to come as a witness and the young man—usually of such a quiet and gentle demeanor—showed confidence and firmness in dealing with the case. The case went well, the man was found guilty of cruelty to his horses and the softhearted Joe’s newfound confidence became a permanent feature. It was as if he went from being a boy to being a young man in a day.
This happy phase of Beauty’s life came to an end and for a while his affairs were to take a turn for the worse. The mistress could not recover fully from her illness, and the doctors recommended that she leave the country for a warmer climate. The master sells Ginger and Beauty to the Earl of W---. Merrylegs is to go to another owner who will employ Joe as well. On the day of farewell, the servants shed many tears, sorry to see such a kind couple as the master and mistress leaving. They said their final farewells next to the train, then Joe and John and the two horses made their way back to the Hall, never to see their gentle masters again.