Authors: Walter Farley
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THE BLACK STALLION SERIES BY WALTER FARLEY
THE BLACK STALLION
THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS
SON OF THE BLACK STALLION
THE ISLAND STALLION
THE BLACK STALLION AND SATAN
THE BLACK STALLION’S BLOOD BAY COLT
THE ISLAND STALLION’S FURY
THE BLACK STALLION’S FILLY
THE BLACK STALLION REVOLTS
THE BLACK STALLION’S SULKY COLT
THE ISLAND STALLION RACES
THE BLACK STALLION’S COURAGE
THE BLACK STALLION MYSTERY
THE BLACK STALLION AND FLAME
MAN O’ WAR
THE BLACK STALLION CHALLENGED!
THE BLACK STALLION’S GHOST
THE BLACK STALLION AND THE GIRL
THE BLACK STALLION LEGEND
THE YOUNG BLACK STALLION
(with Steven Farley)
Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Text copyright © 1953 by Walter Farley
Text copyright renewed 1981 by Walter Farley
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Reprinted by arrangement with Random House Books for Young Readers
For Alice Patricia
Other Books by This Author
About the Author
The gray gelding, Napoleon, was built from the ground up and butter fat. His roundness was not due to overfeeding or lack of exercise but to a most placid disposition and an ease of adapting himself to any kind of situation or way of life. He stood with one hind foot drawn in an easy, relaxed position and eyes half-closed. Only his long ears moved, and they just wobbled as if the weight of them was too much for him to bear at this particular moment. He was the picture of contentment; as peaceful as the June night which enveloped him. There was no reason for him to appear otherwise. He was perfectly happy with his life.
The grass of his paddock moved in the night breeze, giving it the soft, liquid motion of the sea. There were stars and a moon, and together they shone frostlike on the fences and roofs of the barns and main house a short distance away.
Finally the old gray roused himself to saunter about his paddock. His movements were slow and
quiet. He was very particular in his choice of grass. He would stop only long enough to crop a few mouthfuls, then go on to other grasses that appealed more to his fancy and discriminating taste. But it wasn’t long before he returned to his favorite haunt beneath the billowing oak tree. He closed his eyes again.
All was quiet, and as it should be. The inky silhouette of a tall, black stallion moved in the adjacent paddock to his left. Teeth clicked sharply as the stallion cut the grass low and even.
The gray’s wobbling ears were keen, and by using them he followed the movements of the Black. He was well aware, too, of the whereabouts of the burly black horse in still another paddock, the one on his right. He had heard Satan snort a few moments ago.
The breeze became stronger, gently whipping his body with a shower of deep evening coolness. After the heat of day it felt very good. That there were no flies to bother him added to his enjoyment. For ideal comfort this was the way it should be. A fly-protected barn during the day, and at night the freedom of the paddocks. For several weeks now the horses had been allowed this privilege. It would continue as long as there was peace in the paddocks. All this the old gray knew very well; his vast experience told him so.
He knew why he occupied the paddock between the Black and Satan. To keep his head, to think for himself, to do what was expected of him … these things he had learned long ago. He did his duties willingly, whether he was on the track, helping to school young and eager yearlings in their first lessons, or here in the paddock, where he was ever watchful of the actions of
mature stallions. Knowing that he was wanted, that he had a job to do, gave him a warm consciousness of virtue and well-being. He opened his eyes, took in the paddock fences, and then, as though receiving comfort and security from their great height, permitted his eyelids to drop again. This time he went fast asleep.
He awakened to the sound of a strong wind. The skies had turned black. The moon was blanketed by heavy, running clouds and the stars were mere pinpoints in the heavens, shedding no light below. The oak tree afforded the gray horse protection against the wind and he was loath to leave it. Besides, there was no reason for him to go. He need only stay here and wait out the wind. If it got worse and became a storm, he was certain that soon he would see the lights go on in the house and barn, and shortly thereafter he and the others would be taken into their stalls. He moved closer to the great trunk of the tree, and for a while just listened to the racing winds above him.
It was the wind and the blackness of the night that diverted Napoleon’s attention from the movements of the tall stallion in the next paddock. For a long while the Black had trotted lightly and warily along the fence, only his eyes disclosing the excitement that burned within him. He made no sound except for the slight, hushed beat of his hoofs over the grass. He did not shrill his challenge to the burly stallion two paddocks away from him. It was not yet time. The Black was clever and able to control the savage instinct that sought release within his great body.
The wind whipped his mane, and his tail, set high, billowed behind him. He stopped again to measure the
height of the fence. In spite of his long limbs he had to stretch his head to touch the top board. He moved on to the front corner of the paddock, facing the barn. Once more he tested his strength against the center boards at this particular spot. They bent as they had before. He pushed harder this time. They cracked and split. He stopped using his strength, waiting almost cunningly until deciding on his next move. The fire in his eyes was mounting.
Carefully he lowered himself to the ground, pressing the weight of his body against the bottom board. Then he rolled away and struck a smashing blow against it with his hind feet. It split as had the others. Still on his back, he rolled back and forth, using his great body like a pendulum against the boards. But he did not ram his weight like a blundering bruiser. Instead, with cunning and skill he maneuvered his body, using pressure against the split boards only when he knew they were most apt to give completely. Finally they broke and were swept outward as he rolled under the top board. The Black was free of his confining paddock!
He got to his feet with the speed and agility of the wildest and most savage of animals. A striking change had swept over his glistening body. No longer was he calm and cunning, but trembling and brutally eager
. Gone was his domesticity and the inner control that had kept the fire from his eyes and given the coolness to his blood. Now he was inflamed with a terrible but natural instinct to do battle with another stallion. He turned his gleaming, red eyes on Satan, two
paddocks beyond; then he hurled forth his screaming challenge, and its shrillness rose above the cry of the wind.
He was already on his way down the dirt road fronting the paddocks when the gray gelding came plunging to the fence. The stallion paid not the slightest attention to him. The gray ran with his ears back, his teeth snapping in rage between the boards because he knew the stallion’s savage intent, and could do nothing to keep him from the black horse beyond. The gelding stopped when he came to the end of his enclosure. He neighed loudly and incessantly, knowing this was the only useful thing he could do. But his warnings of the disturbed peace were deadened by the force of the wind. The house and barn remained dark.
Turning from the dirt road, the tall stallion ran down the corridor between the paddocks. Every possible precaution had been taken to make the paddocks foolproof, to keep one stallion from another, to forestall just such an emergency as this. The paddock fences were strong and high, the corridor wide. Yet the Black was loose, and in spite of the fence still separating him from Satan, his fury was not to be denied. He ran with reckless speed down the corridor and back again, once hurling himself against the fence, only to be repelled. He ignored the gray gelding, who followed his every move still neighing in rage. He had eyes only for the large black horse who stood so quietly in the center of his paddock. That Satan did not move, that he uttered no scream accepting the challenge, infuriated the tall stallion even more. His nostrils were distended in
recognition of the hateful scent of his rival as he finally left the corridor and approached Satan’s paddock from the front.
He went to the fence screaming. Lifting his head, he touched his nose to the top board. Then he rose on hind legs to bring his forehoofs down upon it. He was terrible in his fury, but his act proved futile. Frenzied rage had replaced the cool cunning of his earlier behavior. He rose again, trying to batter down the fence, and his legs hurt from the crashing impact of his blows. The fence remained intact. He whirled while still at his utmost height, his hind legs pivoting his great body with uncanny grace and swiftness, then sending him away from the fence in long strides. It was less than a hundred feet to the barn, and there he stopped short with tossing head and mane. With no hesitation he whirled again and swept back, his strides lengthening with startling swiftness for so short a distance. He gathered his great body in front of the fence as though to jump it, but he never unleashed his spring. Instead he stopped short again, stomping the earth with both forefeet in his frenzy and frustration.
He turned to the left to run along the fence. He had passed the paddock gate when suddenly he felt the earth rise gradually beneath his running hoofs, and then descend abruptly. He went on for a short distance before stopping and going back to the elevated stretch of ground which was used in the loading and unloading of horses from vans. Now he was more quiet, more cunning. He walked up the gradual ascent to the flat summit of the grassy mound. For a moment he stood
there, his wild eyes seeming to measure the distance to the fence. His added height enabled him to see over the top board, and he screamed again at the horse beyond. There was a new note to his whistle, for now he knew the battle was close at hand. Satan, too, was aware of it; he screamed for the first time … and his answer was as shrill, as terrible in its savagery as his challenger’s.
The Black turned, leaving the mound, and went once more as far as the barn. He whirled and bolted, picking up speed with every stride. He gathered himself going up the grassy incline. At the top he rose in the air, hurling himself forward, his legs tucked well beneath him. A hoof struck the top of the fence but did not upset him. He came down and, without breaking stride, raced forward to meet Satan.
He went only a short distance before he came to a plunging stop; the cool logic that had helped him win battles with other stallions came to the fore. His eyes were still blazing with hate, his ears were flat against his head. But when he moved again it was to circle his opponent with strides that were light and cautious.
Both fear and fire shone in Satan’s eyes. He did not want to fight yet he stood unflinching and ready. He was heavier than the Black, though not as tall. His bones were larger, his neck shorter and more bulging with muscle, his head heavier. Yet his great, thick body had the same fascination and swiftness of movement as the stallion who circled him. He had inherited these together with his tremendous speed from the Black, his sire. Now, keeping his bright eyes on his opponent,
Satan began to move with him. He heard him scream again, and answered. He waited for the fight to be brought to him. He was ready.
Yet when the attack came, it was with the swiftness of light, and even though Satan had thought himself prepared he barely had time to rise and meet the horrible onslaught. Two raging furies, hateful to see, began a combat that would end only with the death of one!
The first light that went on was in the apartment over the broodmare barn, just past the main house. Seconds later a short, stocky man, wearing only pajamas and slippers, came running out the door. He moved ghostlike in the wind, his face as white as his disheveled hair. His bowlegs spun like wheels with his fast strides. He lost one flapping slipper. He kicked the other off without breaking his run. Only when he came to the main house did he stop, and then just for a second. Cupping large hands around his mouth, he let loose a scream in the direction of the open window on the second floor.
Alec! Alec! Alec!
The wind hurled his cries aside. He didn’t know if he’d been heard and he couldn’t wait to find out. He started running again, his blood hammering within his chest, but not from his exertion. His eyes were dimmed and wet, but not from the wind. He had just seen the Black clear the fence into Satan’s paddock. He knew what the consequences would be.
Nearing the fence, he saw the silhouette of the attacker circling Satan. He knew he was too late, that the clash of bodies would come in seconds. His face grew even paler, yet uncontrollable rage was there, too.
His body and voice trembled as he roared, “
Away! Away, you killer!
” But he knew the Black didn’t hear him, and that even if he did the command would have little effect.
He ran to the stallion barn and flung open the door, looking for any weapons he might use. A leather riding whip hung on a peg in the entryway. He took it. A pitchfork stood by the door. He grabbed this, too, and ran outside again. Reaching the paddock gate, he pulled it open wide, and charged toward the black bodies now wrapped in a deadly embrace.
He screamed at them, but his voice was just a muted whisper beneath the crashing blows of forehoofs that pounded in furious battle. Suddenly, from their great height, the stallions toppled and fell, their bodies shaking the very earth. The man sprang forward, trying to get between them with his pitchfork. But their action was too fast and terrifying, and his efforts were futile. They bounded to lightning feet and clashed again, their heads extended long and snakelike as they sought with bared teeth to tear and rend each other.
Unmindful of his own safety, the man moved forward with his puny weapons. As yet neither stallion had drawn blood. But in a matter of seconds, if he couldn’t separate them, it would be too late. They were locked together, seemingly suspended in the air. Each sought the other’s windpipe for the vicious hold that would mean certain death. The man’s breath came in fast, hard gasps as he tried to thrust the pitchfork between them, to divert their attention to him. Even now he knew he could control Satan if he ever got the chance. But there would be no opportunity, not with
, forcing the fight, determined on destruction!
The stallions lost their holds and came screaming down again. The Black whirled, letting fly his hind hoofs in an awful blow which, if it had landed full, would have sent Satan reeling. But the burly horse saw the hoofs coming. He shifted his great body with amazing agility, and the crashing hind legs only grazed him. Nevertheless, although he had avoided serious injury, the glancing blow sent him off balance. He stumbled and went down.
At this moment the man plunged forward, reaching the Black before he could whirl on the fallen horse. In his fury he used the leather riding whip, bringing it down hard again and again against the stallion’s lathered hindquarters. A great tremor racked the Black’s body as the blows landed. Suddenly he turned upon the man, all his savagery now directed at him.
With pitchfork extended the man fell back. He shouted futile commands as the stallion plunged toward him and then stopped before the steel prongs of the fork. The man knew his life was in great danger, yet he stole a second to glance at Satan, who was climbing to his feet. If only Satan would go through the open gate of the paddock! If only he could keep the Black away and get out himself! He backed toward the gate shouting, “
Out, Satan! Out!
” But the words barely left his lips before the Black came at him again, and he raised the pitchfork in his defense. He struck hard, viciously, and the stallion fell back.
The man saw Satan moving toward the gate. Then he saw Alec, running past the horse. He shouted the
boy’s name and waited for him, without lowering his pitchfork.
Alec came to a stop. He stood still until he was certain the Black’s wild eyes were on him, then he walked forward, his bare feet making no sound.
Still pale with rage and terror, the man cried, “Take the whip, Alec! Use it on him if you have to!”
Without taking his eyes off the Black, Alec said, “If I did, he’d kill me, Henry. The same as he would have killed you.” He continued walking forward, talking to the stallion in a soft, low voice, and never raising it or his hand in a gesture of any kind. Only once did he interrupt his murmurings with a soft-spoken command. When he got close to the Black, he put his hand on the lathered halter. The stallion trembled, and for a moment his eyes gleamed brighter than ever. Alec gave the low command again, but the stallion drew back his head in an abrupt gesture of defiance.
Keeping his hand on the halter, Alec moved along with the stallion until he came to a stop. The boy waited patiently, his eyes never leaving those of his horse, his murmurings never ceasing. With a motion of his head, he indicated to Henry that he was to leave.
Alec turned the Black toward the upper end of the paddock, diverting his attention from Satan and Henry. With his free hand he tried to soothe the tossing head, and finally he got the stallion to take a few steps up the paddock. Then the Black stopped again, trying to turn his head.
Alec held him close, and waited for a while before leading him forward once more. Satan and Henry had left the paddock. It was a little easier now. The Black
followed Alec for a moment before stopping again, this time to utter his short, piercing blast. Alec stood quietly beside him, the wind billowing his pajamas. He knew that in a little while the Black would calm down, and he would be able to take him into the barn. But right now he must go on as he was doing, talking to him, soothing him, and waiting.
He walked him again, and as he did, he tried to understand the reason for the Black’s sudden, vicious attack on Satan. For many months his horse had been all a well-mannered stallion should be. Why, then, had he reverted to the role of a killer tonight? And what were he and Henry going to do about it?
Alec stood outside the heavy oak door of the Black’s stall. He heard him rustling his straw, and through the iron-barred window watched him move restlessly about. The fierce light had left the stallion’s eyes, and Alec knew that in a few minutes it would seem as if he had never shown rage, as if his fury had never been aroused. Yet within him that savage, natural instinct to kill would live, smoldering and waiting for some spark to set it aflame again. It would never die.
Alec turned from the Black to watch Henry in his never-ending walk up and down the long corridor, his voice still raised in furious tirade against the stallion. As with the Black, it would take a little while for Henry to quiet down, thought Alec. He’d be able to talk to him sensibly then. But not now. Now he could only listen, and wait.
Henry came down the corridor. “He would have killed Satan! In another minute he’d have done it!” He turned on his heel quickly with only a glance at Alec.
Again he walked up the corridor, his bare grass-stained feet making no sound. “He would have killed me, too! Just like that!” He snapped his large, rugged fingers.
Henry passed Napoleon’s stall. The old gray had his large head down as though he were assuming all blame for the night attack and thought that Henry’s loud denuciation was meant for him alone. Satan was in a stall at the far end of the barn, and only there did Henry come to a stop, to speak softly. There was no doubt of his love for Satan. It was in his eyes and voice for anyone to see. He had raised Satan from a colt. He had trained him carefully and wisely, making him a perfect racing machine, a great champion.
Alec waited, never moving from the Black’s door while Henry resumed his pacing. The overhead lights were harsh and cruel to his old friend. They emphasized the deep lines in Henry’s face and his dropped jowls. They made his disheveled hair look whiter and thinner.
A few more trips up and down the corridor, and then Henry’s pace slowed. There were longer lapses between his sentences. Alec knew that it wouldn’t be long now before they’d be able to discuss intelligently the Black’s vicious attack on Satan, the reasons for it, and the precautionary measures that must be taken to prevent its happening again. Finally, Henry came to a stop before him.
“You’ve said nothing, Alec, nothing at all! Don’t you realize what he did? What could have happened to Satan?”
” Alec added. “Yes, I know, Henry.”
Henry’s jaw came out, his unshaven face bristling
with stiff, gray hair. “Then why do you take it so calmly, just as though you didn’t care?”
“I do care, I’m not calm. But shouting’s not going to help us work it out.”
!” Henry bellowed. He turned fiercely and went up and down the corridor again. When he came back he said bitterly, “Okay, Alec, let’s have it your way, then. You want to sit down nice-like and talk it all over quietly as if we’re just havin’ a little trouble with an unruly yearling.” His jaw quivered while he paused for breath. When he spoke again, all his anger and fury had returned. “Get smart, Alec! This is no yearling we’re dealin’ with. Get smart before he kills all of us!”
Alec’s mouth tightened, and white showed at his cheekbones. He kept quiet. He had to understand Henry, just as he did the Black. He had to remember never to force an issue with either of them. Trying to push them around, battling their wills, would get him nowhere. Ask them nicely and he had a chance.
Henry had turned to the Black’s window, and was watching the tall stallion. “It’s not as if this fight was something that just flared up in a moment,” the trainer said. “This took time, a lot of time, a lot of planning. It took cunning to break down the fence, and then find a way into Satan’s paddock. His attack was no sudden, natural urge to fight another stallion, but the methodical, vicious, premeditated scheme of a
For a moment the barn was quiet and they could hear the wind blowing outside.
Alec said, “Where’d we get the Black, Henry?”
The trainer’s small, boring eyes left the stallion.
“You’re being silly. What do you mean where’d we get him?”
“Just that, Henry. We got him in Arabia. He was foaled and raised in the Great Desert, the Rub’ al Khali.”
I know all that.
“I thought maybe you’d forgotten,” Alec said.
“Forgotten?” Henry sought an explanation in Alec’s eyes. “Forgotten that he was desert born? What do you take me for, Alec?” He raised his voice a pitch higher. “Do you think that excuses him for
Wasn’t Satan desert born, too?”
“Satan came to us as a weanling,” Alec said quietly. “He had a chance. The Black was a mature stallion, never fully broken, never handled. And, Henry, he had roamed the desert
for a long while. Have you forgotten that?”
“I tell you I haven’t forgotten anything,” the old man said. Some of the harshness was gone from his voice. “I know further that he’s your horse completely, that no other person in this world can do as much with him. But Alec …”
“Do you remember my telling you what happened the first time I ever saw him,” Alec interrupted, “the day they were loading him on board my ship when it stopped at that Arabian port on the Red Sea?”
Henry shook his head in disgust. “Alec, if you’re going to bother tellin’ me the whole story of the Black again, you’d better just save your breath an’ I’ll save you some time. I know he was stolen from the Arab sheik, Abu Ishak, and put aboard your ship. I knew it went down off the west coast of Spain and you and the
Black were the only survivors. An’ if he hadn’t pulled you to that reef of an island somewhere out there you wouldn’t be around now to be talkin’ this way.” Henry paused for breath. “I know, too, that if you hadn’t found food for him on the island, he wouldn’t be any more yours than he’s mine or anyone else’s. A hungry animal is a tame animal. I’ve seen it happen before. Sure, I’ll admit he loves you now, but never forget that your finding something for him to eat when he was starving made it all possible.”
“I wasn’t going into all that,” Alec said.
“You brought it up,” Henry insisted, his mouth less tight now. “I’ll finish it. I don’t want you to think I’ve forgotten
” he added sarcastically. “When you came back to the States with him, I met you and him for the first time. I knew what kind of a horse you had better’n you did. We raced him once and there never was or will be another race like it. Then we lost him because his rightful owner, Abu Ishak, came to reclaim him. Later on he sent you Satan as your reward, and then when Abu died he willed you the Black, so we got him back again.”
Henry stopped. “Am I making sense, Alec? Isn’t my memory still good?”
Alec nodded, and tried to interrupt. “All I wanted to say, Henry, was …”
“Let me finish, Alec. So we had the Black and Satan, and we made a world champion of Satan. It enabled us to set up this place.” Henry’s hands went out in a great gesture. “We have one of the country’s finest stock farms and racing stables. Sure, Alec, we’ve arrived in the big time, and we’re more than payin’ our
way along. An’ we owe it all to the Black and Satan. Without them you and I would be back in the suburbs of New York City. You ridin’ subways instead of horses, and me sittin’ in a chair tryin’ to remember the old days when I was a lot younger and had a way with horses. Sure and I’d be grievin’ about it being all over.”
Henry paused for a moment, his yellowing teeth biting into his lower lip. Then he went on. “But what has all that got to do with what happened tonight, Alec? How does all this business of remembering what’s happened before, and appreciating what we have now, got to do with the viciousness, the ruthlessness of what
“It helps us to understand him and the reasons for his attack on Satan.”
But I do understand,
” Henry came back, emphasizing every word, every letter. “That’s what I’ve been telling you.”
“You do now, but you didn’t. Not a few minutes ago,” Alec said. “You didn’t give yourself a chance.”
“So I blew off steam,” Henry said.
“So you did,” Alec agreed. “And now you’re all quieted down.”
“All quieted down,” Henry repeated. “If we’re goin’ to talk any more let’s go into the office. Let the horses get some quiet, too.”
They left the corridor, turning off the light behind them, and entered the barn’s office. As Henry sat down in the deep cushioned chair behind the desk, Alec straddled a straight chair before it.
“You still haven’t let me say what I wanted to,”
Alec said. “About what happened the time I first saw the Black.”
“He was a terror on the pier,” Henry recalled.
“More than that. He killed a man,” Alec returned quietly.
Henry’s face became taut. “Yes, I remember you told me that.”
“I told you why he did it, too, didn’t I?”
Henry nodded. “Someone used a whip on him.”
“That’s right,” Alec said. “And you used one on him tonight. That’s why he turned on you.”
“But what was I going to do, Alec? He was about to kill Satan!”
“I know, but the point is, you forgot. He would have taken anything else from you but a whip. You’ve never had any trouble with him before.”
“All right, I forgot,” Henry said brusquely. “But where do we go from here? What are we going to do about him?”
“Nothing. There’s nothing we
do except always keep his background in mind, and never forget it. I think we’ve both been inclined lately to do just that.”
“He’s given us every reason to forget what he was,” Henry insisted. “He’s been easy to handle, and a good-mannered stallion. At times he’s been just as nice as Satan. He’s taken to stable routine like a park hack.”
“That’s just it,” Alec said. “He’s been good too long. The break had to come sometime, and it came tonight. Unfortunately, neither of us was figuring on such a thing happening. We’re as much to blame.”
Henry left his chair to walk nervously about the
room. His eyes swept over the walls, taking in the numerous championship plaques that had been awarded to Satan during his racing career. “Do you think he’s gotten it out of his system for a while, then?” he asked.
“I don’t know, Henry. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t think there’s any way of telling for sure.”
“Then the only thing we can do is to isolate him until we find out,” the trainer said. “Put him in one of the far pastures or keep him in the barn most of the time.”
“Isolation might make things worse,” Alec said quietly.
“I know, but we can’t take any chances of him gettin’ to Satan again.”
Alec’s gaze left Henry and shifted to the east window. The horizon was turning a dull gray. Soon the day would begin. There was no sense in going back to bed now. In a little while it would be time to feed the broodmares and their colts, to handle the weanlings and yearlings, to do the many other endless tasks that went with the operation of a stock farm. Routine and schedules. Regular hours for feeding, handling, cleaning and training. But in spite of all this his days were never dull. Every colt and filly, every broodmare and stallion was an individual to be treated in his or her own special way to obtain best results. Yet there were only so many hours in a day, with so many jobs to be done. Keep to a schedule and one finished in time for bed.
Hearing the Black neigh jolted Alec’s mind back to the problem at hand. If the stallion were a person, one would say he was tired of routine, tired of the regularity of his daily schedule.
, Alec thought,
He’s bored! Say it and get it over with!
Not so long ago the Black had roamed the Great Desert of Arabia, wild and free. Now he was being treated like the most domesticated of farm animals. Was it any wonder that he had revolted against it all? Wasn’t it, indeed, a wonder that he hadn’t revolted long before tonight? The Black needed freedom, a freedom he couldn’t have here no matter what arrangements were made!
“What do you do when you get pretty fed up with farm routine?” Alec asked.
Henry looked puzzled. He walked around to the front of the desk and then sat down again, hoping to meet Alec’s gaze. But the boy’s eyes were fixed on the desk.
“You can’t say I get fed up,” Henry said. “I like it here. I just need a change every once in a while.”
“So you take one or more of our horses to the track for a season’s campaign.”
“Sure, Alec. That’s part of my job here. Racing helps to pay our bills.” Henry grinned sheepishly. “But what are you driving at?”
“The point I’m trying to make is that you’d be a pretty unruly guy if you couldn’t get back to the track once in a while.”
“Naturally. It’s been an important part of my life for some fifty years. It’s
“It’s the Black, too,” Alec said quietly.
“Racing?” Henry asked incredulously. “Are you out of your mind, Alec? He’s not controllable on a track. You know that as well as I do.”
“I didn’t mean racing,” Alec said quickly. “But just as training and racing are important to you, freedom is necessary to the Black.”
Henry laughed. “Sure,” he said, “but what do you want to do? Turn him loose to roam wherever he pleases?”
“That’s exactly what I mean.”
“You’re kidding.” But the smile left Henry’s lips when he met Alec’s gaze. “Can’t you just see him running around the countryside? Maybe he’ll even head down the Parkway to New York City for a look at the race tracks.”
“Now you’re trying to be funny,” Alec said.
“Okay, I was tryin’,” Henry returned gravely. “But you suggested this, so let’s hear you come up with some kind of an explanation.”
“He needs a change from the routine and daily schedule he’s had here at the farm. He’s behaved himself for a long, long while but tonight was the turning point. We won’t have a moment’s peace around here from now on. I’m convinced of that, now that I’ve thought it all over. Give him some freedom, a chance to roam and be on his own again, and it’ll get a lot out of his system. He’ll come back a better horse for it.”
“Come back? Come back from where?”
“How about Bill Gallon’s place in southern California?”
“The Desert Ranch? You mean, Alec, you want to send him way out there? Why?”
“Because Bill Gallon has several thousand fenced acres of desert and irrigated pastureland,” Alec said quietly. “The Black would have something like his
homeland. He’d have freedom to roam. It’s the closest thing I can think of to what he needs right now. Do you think Bill would let us turn him out there for a month, maybe two months?”
“Of course. He’s one of my best friends, isn’t he? But, Alec …” Henry paused. “You really think that’ll do the trick? You just want him turned loose?”
“That’s all,” Alec said. “It’ll be enough.
“You should go with him. He’s your horse.”
Alec’s gaze dropped to the huge desk in front of him. “I’ll take him out there, anyway.”
“And then come back?” Henry asked.
“Yes, just as soon as I know everything is all right.”
“Why don’t you stay with him?”
“You know why, Henry.”
“Your work here?”
Henry was quiet for a few minutes, but his eyes never left Alec’s face. Finally he said, “Maybe you need a change, too.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“But you’ll miss him.”
“And he’ll miss you.”
“He’ll be too happy, too free to miss anybody,” Alec said.
“Having just you around would make his freedom all the more exciting,” Henry said. “Just the two of you, like it was at first.”
Alec smiled. “You’re getting sentimental, Henry.”
“Sure, but I’d like to see you go with him, if you’re serious about all this.”
“I’m serious, all right.”
Henry stood up. “He’s your horse, so you stay with him. I’ll take over your jobs here, and with your dad and Jinx to help I’ll have no trouble. In fact, it’ll do me good to assume some responsibility around here for a change.”
Alec rose from his chair. “No, Henry. I’ll come back.”
“So you think you’re indispensable?”
“No, it isn’t that.”
“Sure it is, and that’s a bad state of mind.” Henry came around the desk, and took Alec by the arm. “If the Black goes, you go, too … and you stay with him until he comes back. That’s decided. Now let’s get out of these pajamas.”
As they left the office Alec asked, “Will you call Bill Gallon today to see if it’s all right with him?”
“Sure. When do you want to leave?”
“As soon as we can charter a plane. The sooner the better, now that we’ve decided to get him out of here.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Henry returned. “No sense puttin’ it off, not after tonight.”
After Henry had left, Alec stood for a few minutes in the darkened corridor. The air was heavy with the smells of oiled leather, and soap, and hay, and grain. All this had become so much a part of him. Wouldn’t he worry about the mares and their foals, and the yearling colts and fillies while he was away? He supposed so, but it was needless. There was competent help here and, as Henry had said, no person was indispensable.
He heard the Black nickering, and his heart pounded while he thought of the two of them being
alone again. Remember the island? Remember his first ride on the Black? Remember Arabia? Remember riding the Black across the desert and the steady beat of the stallion’s hoofs in the sand? Yes, in spite of his love for the farm, it would be good to be alone with his horse again. Like the Black, he wanted to be free for a while.
Without turning on the lights, he walked down the long corridor. He’d tell the great stallion what they were going to do, and somehow the Black would understand. Not from his words, but through some other way, which he himself didn’t understand and could only accept.
Two days later they stood within the close confines of a plane that had been specially equipped for the air transportation of horses. The floor of the horse pullman was lower than in passenger planes, providing additional head space, and the Black stood cross-tied in a boxed stall. He had given Alec no trouble while being loaded, following him up the ramp docilely and hesitating only before the rooftop doorway that had been raised high to give him more headroom upon entering the plane.
Now Alec adjusted the meshed-rope sling before the stall so his horse could more easily get at the hay it held. The Black pulled a mouthful from the sling, but held the hay between his lips without chewing, his large eyes wandering over the interior of the plane. He pawed for a while at the wood shavings beneath his hoofs, found the rubber matting beneath, and then his gaze finally returned to Alec. He began chewing the hay.
Henry said, “Until they find a better way of securing a horse inside a plane, air-shipping isn’t for me.”
Alec watched the stallion shift his weight from one side of his close stall to the other, and then shake his head as much as his tie ropes would allow. “They secure them as well as possible,” Alec said. “Give a horse no room to move at all, and you’ll only have more trouble.”
“I suppose so,” Henry admitted. He paused. “Well, Alec, I guess this is it for a while.” His smile belied the soberness he felt. “You two have a good vacation, and don’t worry about the farm. We’ll do all right. You give my best to Bill. Tell him I’ll be out there one of these days.”