Black Stallion Audio Book
As a download
Read by Frank Muller
Buy @ audible
When the steamer Drake is shipwrecked off the Spanish coast, only two passengers survive. One is Alec Ramsay, a young American boy. The other is the Black Stallion, the wildest of all wild creatures. Stranded together on a desert island, boy and stallion develop a deep and wonderful understanding. The Black Stallion is the horse Alec has always dreamed of – beautiful, free-spirited, and astonishingly strong. Alec is determined to tame him and bring him home to New York. But the job turns out to be more difficult and dangerous that he ever thought possible, for a wild Arabian stallion will not settle down easily into the quiet American countryside. Generations have been captivated by Walter Farley’s heartwarming story of the extraordinary horse and the boy who loves him. To this day, The Black Stallion remains one of the best-loved books of children around the world and a classic of children’s literature.
©1941 Walter Farley (P)1999 Recorded Books, LLC
Black Stallion Returns
In this, the second book in the series, the heart-stopping adventures of the Black Stallion continue as Alec discovers that two men are after the Black. One claims to be the Black’s rightful owner and one is trying to kill the beautiful steed. An Arab chieftain proves his ownership of the Black and takes him away, but Alec is determined to find his horse again. Following the pair to Arabia, Alec encounters great evil and intrigue, as only a horse as spectacular as the Black could inspire.
Night hung black and heavy about the old barn. An iron gate creaked a short distance away and a few minutes later the short figure of a man slid alongside the barn. As he moved cautiously forward his fat, gloved hand felt the wood. The man stopped as he neared the door and his hand dug into his right coat pocket. Fumbling, he searched for something. Not finding it, he uttered an oath and reached awkwardly across to his left-hand pocket. He pulled the empty sleeve from the pocket and reached inside, withdrawing a long hypodermic needle. His dark-skinned face creased into folds of fatty tissue as he smiled. Moving forward once again, he did not bother to replace the empty coat sleeve and it hung limply at his side in the still air.
The prowler reached the door. Carefully he opened it and slid inside. His eyes, already accustomed to the darkness, made out the stalls on the other side of the barn. As he moved toward them, his thumb slipped to the back of the hypodermic needle.
The hard ring of a horse’s hoofs against the floor came from one of the stalls. Then a long and slender neck that arched to a small, savagely beautiful head peered over the door. Thin-skinned nostrils quivered as black ears pitched forward. The prowler, halfway to the stall door, had stopped. The horse shook his long black mane and a powerful foreleg struck the door.
A board creaked as the man moved closer. Baring his teeth, the horse whistled the shrill, loud scream of a wild stallion. As the whistle resounded through the barn, the prowler moved forward. He would have to work fast. Mincing steps carried his round body to the stall door with amazing speed. He opened it, but fell back as the black stallion struck at him.
Gripping the hypodermic firmly, the prowler advanced again, more cautiously this time. He stopped and his fat face twitched nervously. The giant horse rose on his hind legs, mouth open and teeth bared. As he came down, the man lunged at him, but the horse’s foreleg caught him in the groin. The attacker turned gray beneath his bronze skin. Staggering back, he attempted to close the stall door behind him. The stallion, halfway through the door, rose again on his hind legs as the man stumbled and fell to the floor. Thrashing hoofs pawed the air above him. The hypodermic dropped from his hand as the giant form began to descend. The man rolled fast, avoiding the stallion’s hoofs by inches. Climbing to his feet, he ran frantically for the barn door.
Outside, he heard voices coming from the direction of the gate and, turning, stumbled off into the night, the empty coat sleeve waving slightly at his side.
A few minutes later a young boy, carrying a flashlight, ran up to the barn door. Following him was a bowlegged man who moved with jerky strides.
“Something must be wrong, Henry,” the youth shouted. “The door’s open!”
Henry grabbed the flashlight. “Yeah, I’ll go in, Alec. Y’stay here, just in case …”
Impatiently, Alec waited while Henry entered the barn. A hand swept nervously across his pug nose as he pinched his nostrils. There was a worried expression on his freckled face. If anything had happened to the Black! Then he heard the short neigh and the sound of the stallion’s hoofs against the floor. His tense body relaxed. Everything was probably all right. Looking around the yard, his gaze swept to the open field. It was getting light and already he could make out the high white fence at the north end. There was no one around. He tightened the belt holding up his corduroys and then pushed a hand through his red, tousled hair.
Turning on the lights, Henry appeared in the doorway. He beckoned Alec inside.
The Black was in his stall. He whistled softly when he saw Alec and shook his black mane, which mounted high, then fell low, like a crest.
“Find anything, Henry?”
“He was out of his stall. Someone’s been here … there’s been a fight of some kind. He’s sweated.” Henry ran a gnarled hand over the stallion’s body as it glistened in the bright light.
The Black moved nervously around his stall and didn’t quiet until Alec’s hand rested on the thin-skinned nostrils. “He seems to be okay though, Henry.”
“Yep.” Henry was quiet. In his hand he studied a long glass object wrapped in his handkerchief.
“What is it?” Alec asked.
“You mean a hypodermic needle?” Alec asked incredulously. “You found it here?”
“Yep … on the floor.”
“What’s it mean, Henry?” Alec moved away from the Black to get a closer view of the glass tube.
“Looks as if someone intended to use it on the Black.”
“Y’mean …” Alec’s heart thumped hard. “Henry, are you sure it hasn’t been used?”
“It’s filled. We’ll get the stuff analyzed today by the police and find out what it is. Maybe it’ll give us a clue of some kind.” He wrapped the needle in the handkerchief and said, “Also, there might be some fingerprints.…”
Alec moved over to the Black again. The stallion lowered his head and, rubbing it, Alec asked, “But why would anyone want to harm him, Henry?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, Alec.” Then Henry added, “… perhaps better.”
“What do you mean?”
Henry moved over to Alec and placed a long arm on the stall door. “Well, here’s how I figure it out. The Black is a valuable horse since he beat out Sun Raider and Cyclone last June. There’s no doubt that he’s the fastest thing to set foot on any track here or abroad. Now to my way of thinkin’ there’s a good many reasons why somebody would want to steal the Black. He couldn’t be raced but he could be used for stud … that horse could do much to improve the bloodline of the American thoroughbred.…”
“But, Henry,” Alec interrupted, “he isn’t a registered thoroughbred. There are no papers … we know so little about where he came from or anything. If they won’t let us race him any more because no one knows who his sire and dam were, I don’t see how anyone could use him for stud either and get away with it.”
“Some folks might be able to get around it,” Henry answered. “But let me finish. Now whether or not anyone could get around the lack of registration papers for the Black is beside the point. Nobody tried to steal the Black … they tried to kill him; or at least that’s what I think we’ll find when we’ve had this stuff analyzed.” His gaze shifted to the hypodermic needle, then back to Alec. “Why would anyone want to kill the Black?”
“Hey, Henry, I don’t see how anyone could be that cruel.…” Then a vivid picture flashed before Alec; that of the small Arabian port where they had docked on his way home from visiting Uncle Ralph in India and where he had first seen the Black. Again he was looking down from the deck of the old freighter, Drake, and beholding a sight that made his body tremble with anger: The glistening black horse, too big to be pure Arabian, high on his hind legs; forelegs striking furiously in the air; white lather running from his body. And around his savage head was tied a scarf, covering his eyes. Two ropes led from the halter and four natives were attempting to pull him toward the ship. Standing behind the stallion was a dark-skinned man wearing a white turban. In his hand he held a hard whip, which he raised menacingly. Then he let the whip fall on the Black’s hindquarters and the stallion screamed. It was unlike anything Alec had ever heard before; it rose to a high-pitched whistle, the cry of a wild, unbroken stallion! He bolted, and if Alec had ever seen hate expressed by a horse, he had seen it then. The stallion struck one of the men holding the rope; he went down and lay in a still, lifeless heap. Eventually they had gotten the giant horse on the ship and in his stall.
Alec looked at Henry and realized the old man knew what he had been thinking. “You believe it might have been the man on the boat? Is that what you mean, Henry?”
“Could be, Alec.”
“But the storm, shipwreck … he was drowned. I saw him go down with my own eyes.”
“And his name wasn’t listed among the survivors?” Henry asked.
“No … there were only a few, as you know.”
“The last you saw of him was when he fell overboard … that right, Alec?”
“He didn’t exactly fall, Henry. He jumped for an already filled lifeboat and missed … he didn’t have a life jacket and there was such a sea that I couldn’t see him after that. A few minutes later the Drake cracked up and I was in the water, too. I saw the Black and the rope on his halter and grabbed it. The next thing I knew I was on the island. You know the rest.…”
“And after they found you … and during your trip home … you heard nothin’ to indicate that the Black’s owner was alive?”
“No, Henry … nothing. One lifeboat containing ten people was found, that’s all, and he wasn’t among them. I’m sure he couldn’t have lived in that heavy sea. Another thing, Henry, I don’t think for a moment that he was the owner of the Black.”
“Y’mean you think he had stolen him?”
“Yes. For one thing, he acted as though he had … always kept to himself. Then he was too cruel to the Black. If he owned him, he wouldn’t have done the things that he did.”
“Can’t tell, Alec. I’ve seen some purty hard horse owners in my time. Still, maybe you’re right … he’s a lot of horse and even without seein’ him run some people would pay a mighty handsome price for him.”
As Henry walked across the room, his foot struck a small metallic object. He stooped and picked it up. “What’s this?”
“Looks like a gold neck chain … but what’s that disc in the center, Henry?”
Henry walked over underneath the light and took a closer look at the disc. “Seems to be a bird of some kind,” he muttered. He handed the chain to Alec. “Make it out?” he asked.
A large bird carved in white ivory was embossed upon a gold disc which hung from the chain. Its long, powerful wings were outstretched in flight. Alec noticed the beak, hooked at the point, and long claws on short, strong legs. Two tiny red stones had been used for eyes. “I’m sure it’s a falcon, Henry. My Uncle Ralph had a couple when I was in India and I’ve seen others … although never any white ones like this. They’re usually a dusky color.”
Henry was silent for a few minutes. He took the chain from Alec and rolled it in his hands. “Cinch that this wasn’t made in the States, Alec,” he said.
“Guess not … the work is too fine. Henry, this may mean …”
“… that I may be right. That the guy on the ship is still alive and wants to kill the Black for some reason.”
“Or, Henry, that someone else from Arabia or somewhere in the Middle East wants to kill him.”
“Yeah.” Henry walked over to the Black and placed a hand on the flaring nose.
The sun had risen well above the trees at the east end of the field when Alec left the barn and headed for the gate and home. His feet dragged along the graveled driveway. He hadn’t wanted to leave, but Henry had talked him into it, knowing that this was the week before final exams. Exams! School! What did they matter now! Someone had attempted to kill the Black, his horse. And whoever it was might return to try again.
Henry had assured him that he would guard the stallion until Alec returned later in the day. The police would be notified, for he would stop in at the station on his way to school. Alec was sure his father would see to it that a policeman stayed near the barn at night, and Alec had every intention of sleeping in the barn with the Black. They’d change the locks on the iron gate and barn door. Summer vacation would follow next week’s exams, then he’d spend the next three months, night and day, with his horse.
He reached the high iron gate. The lock wasn’t broken and Alec doubted that anyone had scaled the fence with all that barbed wire running around the top. Obviously, the intruder had had a key or picked the lock. Still, perhaps Tony had left it open when he and old Napoleon, his gray, sway-backed horse, who shared the barn with the Black, had gone to the market to load the wagon with vegetables for the day’s business. There was a good chance, too, that the prowler, knowing what time Tony left each morning, had slipped inside after Tony had driven Napoleon through the gate without his being aware of it. He’d have to speak to Tony tonight.
Alec closed the gate behind him, locked it, and headed for the large brown house across the street. He walked slowly in spite of the fact that he knew it was getting late and he’d have to hurry if he was going to stop in at the police station and still make his first class.
Someone cruel and vicious wanted to put an end to the Black. Why? What motive could he possibly have? True, Alec knew little of the stallion’s past. Perhaps, as Henry had suggested, the answer lay there … somewhere in Arabia.
Son of the Black Stallion
When Alec receives the Black Stallion’s first son as a gift, he believes his dreams have come true, but Satan’s savage arrogance makes him dangerous and unpredictable. Still, Alec is resolved to gain the fiery colt’s trust, even if he must risk his life to do it.
For days the Bedouin band had ridden across the white sands of the Rub al Khali, the Great Central Desert of Arabia, and the steady pounding of the horses' hoofs left a rising cloud of sand behind them. The white-robed figures rode in no particular formation, their long guns resting easily across their thighs, their hands lying only lightly upon them. For the danger of a surprise raid by desert bands had passed . . . ahead lay Addis, on the Red Sea, their destination.
There were twenty of them, sitting still and straight in their saddles as their horses moved effortlessly across the sand. Each steed's head was held high, his hot coat shining in the sun, and each pulled slightly on his bit as though impatient to break out of the slow canter to which he had been held for so many days. The men, too, were as impatient as the blacks, bays and chestnuts they rode. E . . . yes! It had taken them ten days to cross the Great Desert from the mountain stronghold of their sheikh, Abu Ja Kub ben Ishak, who led them. Ten days! When other trips had taken them but four! Ten days of constant riding, halting during the day only for prayer, to turn toward Mecca with a reverent "La ilaha-'llah: Muhammadum rasula-'llah." And then they would be in the saddle again, their long limbs wrapped about the girths of their mounts.
And as they rode, if their eyes left the sheikh, astride his giant black stallion, Shetan, it was only to come to rest upon the small black colt who followed doggedly behind the stallion, straining at the lead rope that the sheikh had attached to his own saddle. E . . . yes! It was the young colt with his spindled, tiring legs who was responsible for this long slow march across the Rub al Khali. It was he, as much as his great black stallion of a father, who had caused them to ride with heavy hands upon unslung rifles for so many suns. Only for the possession of the mighty Shetan and his firstborn, worth all the treasures beneath the sun and moon, would other desert tribes dare to challenge the might of the powerful Sheikh Abu Ja Kub ben Ishak! But now the worst of the trek was over, for ahead was Addis and the ship of the sea which would take the young colt to another land.
Nearing the outskirts of town, the sheikh raised his rifle high in the air, and then slung it over his shoulder; and it came to rest with those of his men.
They were in formation, riding two abreast as they entered Addis and started down the street that would lead them to the sea and the ship that awaited the son of the black stallion.
Two boiler-room men climbed the spiraling iron staircase leading up from the bowels of the tramp steamer, Queen of India, as she docked at Addis. Reaching the upper deck, one of them wiped a greasy hand across his perspiring forehead, leaving it streaked with grime. "No better up here, Morgan," he said, as they walked over to the rail and leaned heavily upon it.
Below on the dock, vendors shouted forth their wares to the multitude of onlookers, freight agents and dock hands who laboriously loaded the varied produce of the desert and farms onto the ship. Camels and donkeys, heavily laden with the wares of vendors, milled with the crowd, superbly unbothered by the high-pitched voices of their owners.
"Makes me think of the barkers at Coney Island, Harrity," Morgan said nostalgically.
Harrity didn't answer, for his gaze had left the crowd below and had traveled up the long, narrow, cobblestoned street that led from the pier. Coming toward them was a group of horsemen. And even from this distance he could see that they weren't like the natives below. Heads moving neither to the right nor left, they rode forward, the hoofs of their horses ringing on the stones. Only for a few seconds did Harrity's gaze rest upon the riders' flowing robes; fascinated, he turned his attention to the magnificent animals they rode. He'd heard tales of such horses as these, owned by the feared and little-known Bedouins, supreme rulers of the desert. But in all his years of traveling up the coast of Arabia, he had never seen even one of them until now.
The horsemen came closer, and Harrity's eyes were drawn to the great black stallion in the lead. Never in the world had he seen a horse like this one, he told himself. This horse towered above the others, his body beautiful to behold. Thunder could roll under those powerful legs, Harrity was sure.
"Look at that band of Arabs comin' down the street," Harrity heard Morgan say.
Without taking his eyes from the mighty black, Harrity replied, "Look at the horses, Morgan. Look at them."
"I'm lookin'. And me who's been to Aqueduct and Belmont, and thought I'd seen the best of 'em."
"Me, too." Harrity paused, then added, "Get a load of that black stallion in the lead, Morgan. If he isn't one of the finest chunks of horseflesh I've ever seen, I'll eat my hat."
"Yeah," Morgan replied. "And he's a wild one, all right. See that small head and those eyes? There's fire in those eyes, Harrity. Look! He half-reared. He doesn't want to come any closer to this mob on the dock. That Arab on his back can ride, all right, but he's no match for that devil and he knows it. See, what'd I tell you, Harrity! They're stoppin' out there. He's goin' to get off."
Suddenly Harrity realized that the shrill voices of the vendors and natives had stilled. The dock was unnaturally quiet. Everybody there had seen the Bedouins.
A few of the multitude moved toward the band, but stopped when they were still a good distance away. They had moved as though compelled by the fascination of this wild band, and had stopped in fear of it. They knew this group of horsemen, no doubt about that.
Harrity's eyes were upon the black stallion and the sheikh with the white beard who stood beside him, holding the bridle. The stallion snorted and plunged, and the man let the horse carry him until he had regained control.
"A black devil," Harrity muttered. "A black, untamed devil."
"What'dya say?" Morgan asked.
"That black stallion . . . he's a devil," Harrity repeated.
"Yeah." There was a slight pause, then Morgan said, "And did ya notice that little black one just behind him? He's tryin' to work up a lather, too."
Harrity hadn't noticed the young colt, but now he saw him. Standing there on his long legs, the black colt, whom Harrity judged to be about five months old, was being held by one of the Bedouins.
The colt moved restlessly, trying to pull away from the tribesman who held him close. As though imitating the big black in front of him, he snorted and plunged, throwing his thin forelegs out, striking at the Bedouin. The man moved quickly, avoiding the small hoofs, and then closed in upon the savage head and held him still.
"Could be father and son from the way they act." Morgan laughed.
"Yeah," returned Harrity. "Look a lot like each other, too. Coal black they are, except for that small splotch of white on the colt's forehead. Didya notice it, Morgan?"
"Uh," Morgan grunted. "It looks diamond-shaped from here."
When Steve Duncan is asked to go on an archeological search on a remote Caribbean island, he never imagines the stallion he will find there. But the giant horse is unapproachable, showing nothing but fear and fury towards people. When the stallion gets caught in quicksand, can Steve get close enough to save the wild horse?
ISLAND OF LOST HORSES
Azul Island. Latitude 14° 3’ North. Longitude 56° 28’ West.
The freighter Horn, nine days out of New York City, was a mile from Azul Island, and running parallel to it. The freighter’s only passenger, Steve Duncan, stood beside the captain at the bow of the ship. Steve wore only a pair of swimming trunks, and his tanned, lithe body was wet with the spray that whipped from the prow of the Horn as she dipped to meet each oncoming wave. Steve had been waiting many hours for his first sight of Azul Island.
The captain passed his binoculars to Steve, saying, “We can’t get any closer, Steve. Dangerous reefs there. I’ve never been this close before.”
Through the glasses, Steve could see the long white line of churning waters foaming across the reef between the ship and the island. He watched the waters turn from white to blue-black once they had crossed the reef. Surging forward, the waves gathered momentum and height, only to disappear within the mist which hung like a gray veil about the base of Azul Island. Then there would be a sudden, bursting whiteness again, momentarily blotting out the gray, as the waves smashed heavily against what Steve knew must be a formidable wall of stone.
But above the mist he could see more of Azul Island, for the rock, a yellowish gold in color, rose a thousand or more feet above the sea. It was this massive rock that held his gaze as the Horn ran the length of the island. Azul Island was unlike any of the other islands they had passed in the Caribbean Sea. Not only did it differ in color from the green mountain ranges Steve had seen, but there were no peaks or ravines or indentations of any kind over its smooth, bare surface. The top of Azul Island seemed to be rounded off at one height, and Steve could only think of it as a huge stone that had been dropped into the sea. It was cold and barren, as though vegetation would have none of it.
The captain said, “Azul means blue in Spanish. I don’t see where it gets its name. There’s nothing but yellow rock.”
“There’s supposed to be a plain at one end of the island,” Steve said.
“We’re about opposite it now,” the captain returned, “but the mist is blanketing it. That is, if you want to call it a plain. From the sea, it’s always looked like a sandy spit. Oh, it’s somewhat rolling and green in spots, but a sailor might as well be drowned in the sea as be shipwrecked on it. Azul Island is one of the most forlorn places I’ve ever seen.” The captain paused and turned to the boy. “How did you know about the plain? That is, if you don’t mind my asking, Steve. Your interest in Azul Island has aroused my curiosity. I was surprised that you even knew of it, because the only map you’ll ever find it on is our large-scale navigation map of this area. And it’s nowhere near any of the airline routes. I just can’t figure out …”
The boy’s eyes were still turned shoreward as he said, “A very good friend of mine, Phil Pitcher, now lives on Antago. He wrote me about Azul Island a few weeks ago.”
“Phil Pitcher,” the captain repeated thoughtfully. “I believe I remember him, Steve. Sort of a small, thin man, wearing steel-rimmed glasses?”
“That’s Pitch, all right.” Steve smiled. “I think he did get down to Antago on the Horn at that.”
“He sure did,” the captain said, laughing. “If you don’t go to Antago on my ship, you don’t go at all. We’re the only line that puts in at Antago; it’s too far off the shipping lanes for any of the larger lines to bother with. Sure, I remember your Phil Pitcher. He spent most of his time reading during the trip, but every once in a while he’d come out of his shell and tell me about himself. It seems he was a little worried about having given up a job he’d had practically all his life to go to Antago. He wasn’t quite sure at the time that he’d done the right thing.”
“He’s sure now,” Steve said quietly. “From what he says in his letters, he’s happier than he ever was at home. He wasn’t very happy at home. Pitch lived next door to us for as long as I can remember, and he was pretty much a part of our family. We all knew he hated his job. He was a bookkeeper in the office of a big lumberyard, and the job kept him inside all the time. He didn’t like that. I guess everyone had heard Pitch say at one time or another that he was going to quit and go to Antago to live with his stepbrother, Tom, who has a sugar plantation there. But no one believed him. Then a little over a year ago he did it. Quit just as he’d said he would, and went to Antago.”
“Good man,” the captain said, smiling.
“Yes,” Steve said seriously, “we were so glad he finally did what he’d always wanted to do. But we’ve all missed him very much.”
“He certainly didn’t talk like a bookkeeper,” the captain recollected. “You should have heard some of the tales he told me about the Conquistadores and the Spanish Conquest. They were enough to make your head spin.”
“Pitch was always interested in the Conquistadores. That was another reason he preferred to come down here rather than go anywhere else. He’s a lot closer to them here.”
“Then it’s Pitch you’re visiting on Antago,” the captain said.
Steve nodded. “He’s been asking Dad and me to get down to see him. Dad couldn’t make it very well with his work and all, but he wanted me to go. I had planned to visit Pitch early next summer, instead of coming down now when I only have a few weeks before school opens again, but …” Steve stopped, his gaze shifting uneasily between the captain and the shoreline of Azul Island. He hadn’t meant to divulge so much.
The captain was looking at him questioningly, waiting.
“I—I mean I just decided to come now,” Steve said, without meeting the captain’s eyes.
Smiling, the captain said, “But you’ll have seventeen or eighteen days on Antago before we pick you up on the return trip. Maybe you’ll find that long enough to be there.”
“Sure,” Steve said. “Maybe I will.”
A few minutes later the captain left, and Steve stood alone at the rail as the Horn rounded the island and made its way south toward Antago, twenty miles away. He stayed at the bow until he could no longer see the yellow, dome-shaped top of Azul Island, then went below.
In his cabin, he took a worn and much-handled newspaper clipping from the pocket of his suitcase. It was a picture taken on the plain of Azul Island, and Pitch had enclosed it in his last letter. It was because of this clipping, and only because of it, that he was visiting Pitch now instead of waiting until next summer. He couldn’t have stayed at home, wondering. He had to know.
Steve’s dark, somber eyes studied the canyon in the picture. He noted again the high walls, tapering down to the sea; the rolling, barren land in front; and the cliff at the end of the canyon, hanging two hundred feet or more above the floor. And then his intent gaze became fixed upon the group of horses running down the canyon before the many men who followed. The head of a man wearing glasses was encircled in pencil, and alongside was the notation “Me.”
A flicker of a smile passed over Steve’s face before he turned to the caption beneath the picture. He read it carefully, slowly, even though he could have recited it word for word:
CARIBBEAN ROUNDUP!—Last week a group of men from Antago traveled the twenty miles to Azul Island to spend the day wrangling the wild horses that inhabit that island. The horses are believed to be descended from those that the Spanish Conquistadores brought to this hemisphere centuries ago. The government of Antago permits thirty horses to be removed from Azul Island every five years. The agent in charge of the procuring, breaking and sale of these horses is Thomas J. Pitcher.
Carefully, Steve folded the newspaper clipping and put it away.
It was four o’clock when the Horn dropped anchor a quarter of a mile from Chestertown, the port of Antago. Steve had finished packing his suitcase and was in the captain’s cabin, awaiting the attention of the man from the Antago Immigration Department, who was talking to the captain. Through the porthole, Steve could see the red-roofed buildings on the shore and the green countryside behind the town. He was taking it all in when he heard the man from the Immigration Department asking for his passport. Steve gave it to him. The captain rose to his feet, bade Steve good-bye and said he hoped he’d have a nice vacation on Antago; then he excused himself and left.
After stamping Steve’s passport, the man from the Immigration Department returned it to him, saying, “There’s a Phil Pitcher waiting for you on the wharf. If you’re ready to go in now, you can come along with me.”
A few minutes later, Steve followed the man down the ladder at the side of the Horn. Below, rising and falling with the swells of the bay, was a large, deep rowboat manned by six burly black men. The immigration official stepped into the boat and helpfully took Steve’s suitcase as the boy followed.
The men pushed away from the ship and began rowing toward town. For a few minutes, Steve looked back over the stern. Already the Horn’s cargo hoists were lifting heavy boxes from the hold to the barges that had pulled alongside the freighter. In a little while she would be on her way again, and Steve felt a temporary surge of regret that he was not going along.
But quickly he pushed the thought aside and turned his gaze shoreward. Here, he thought, is the beginning. This is what I actually asked for. It wasn’t the Horn or a trip through the Caribbean that I wanted. It was Antago. No, rather, it was Azul Island. Well, I’ve seen it, part of it at any rate. No, I’m not discouraged by what I’ve seen. Somehow, I had expected it to be different from the others—forlorn, forsaken by all save the horses. It makes Azul Island all the more interesting. I’ll have to arrange with Pitch to get there some way.
A fishing boat passed close by, its sails hard on the wind. And ahead, Steve could see other boats moored closely to the sides of a canal.
They went up the canal, finally turning in toward a wharf, alongside which there was a large shed. Steve looked for Pitch. At first he did not recognize him, for his gaze passed over the small, thin man wearing knee-length pants and a long-peaked cap. Then the man regained his attention by calling to Steve and sweeping off his cap, waving it vigorously. Seeing the steel-rimmed glasses the man wore was all that Steve needed to identify Pitch at that distance. Waving back, he replied to Pitch’s greetings and his frequent questions called across the twenty feet of water. Yes, Steve yelled back, he’d had a good trip. Yes, everything was all right at home. It was good seeing him, too. Antago looked fine, just fine.
And all the while Steve was thinking, He’s the same Pitch, all right. The short pants threw me off at first. I’ve never seen Pitch’s knees before. Just as knobby as the rest of him. His skin has darkened a lot from the sun, but his face hasn’t changed any. Mom always said that Pitch had the softest, roundest face she’d ever seen. Just take one look at Phil Pitcher, she’d say, and you know right off that he wouldn’t do a bit of harm to anyone.
The rowboat pulled alongside the wharf and Pitch got hold of Steve’s suitcase, sweeping it out of his hands. “You don’t know how good it is to see you, Steve!” he said. “I’ve looked forward to having you or your father down here for a visit. Tell me about him, Steve. And your mother? How is she?”
As they walked to the shed, Steve told Pitch all the news he could think of. He opened his suitcase for the Customs authorities, then shut it again when they’d finished looking through it. One of the Customs men took out a piece of chalk and scrawled his initials over Steve’s bag.
“Now we can go,” Pitch said, leading the way. “I have the car outside. We’re twelve miles from town.”
As they drove through the crowded streets, Pitch pointed out the local sights of interest—the bank, the market, theater, hotel—and then concluded by saying apologetically, “They’re really not much. Although,” he added more hopefully, “I do think you’re going to like our house. My brother Tom’s house, that is. It’s located on a high cliff overlooking the sea. A beautiful view, Steve, very beautiful.”
“I’m sure I’ll like it,” Steve assured him. He said it with enthusiasm, knowing very well that Pitch was afraid he’d be disappointed in his visit to Antago. It made him a little uncomfortable. So as they drove through the outskirts of town, he asked Pitch many questions about Antago and his life there.
And Pitch promptly reacted to Steve’s interest in the island. He told him about Antago’s sugar cane, among the finest grown in the world, he said. And his stepbrother, Tom, had the largest plantation on the island. Pitch was Tom’s bookkeeper. Yes, it was a much better job than working in the lumberyard office at home. It was very easy compared to that, he confided to Steve. Really, there wasn’t much to do except at harvest time. And the weather on Antago was always nice. A little hot just now, perhaps. But he could always stand the heat better than the cold. He had disliked the winters at home very much.
Steve pointed to Pitch’s shorts and said, smiling, “And you couldn’t get by with an outfit like that at home.”
“No,” Pitch returned very seriously, “no, you couldn’t at all. And it’s a shame, for they’re so comfortable.”
The countryside through which they were now driving was heavy with green fields of tall cane, but occasionally there would be open pasture land with lush grass upon which cattle, goats and horses were grazing. Steve had thought it best to wait awhile before mentioning his desire to visit Azul Island, but the sight of the horses caused him to consider bringing up the subject at once. What’s the sense of putting it off? he thought. I like Antago all right, but only as a place from which to get to Azul Island. I’ve only a little over two weeks, and I might as well find out now if Pitch knows how I can get there.
Pitch had been quiet for a while but now he turned to Steve. “Steve,” he asked, “are you still interested in horses? I remember that as a youngster you sold me about ten subscriptions to a magazine I never wanted just because you were going to win a pony.” Pitch’s tone was hopeful again, as though he was still striving to find something of real interest to Steve.
“Yes,” Steve replied, “very much so. I’ve ridden a lot during the past year.”
“Good,” said Pitch. “I was hoping you would be.” He paused a moment and Steve noticed an intentness in his pale blue eyes that hadn’t been there before. “I’d like to tell you something,” Pitch went on, “that’s been of great interest to me of late.” He paused again, and Steve waited impatiently for him to continue.
“Yes, Pitch,” Steve had to say finally. “What is it?”
“Do you recall the picture I sent your father several weeks ago? The one of our rounding up the horses on Azul Island?”
Did he remember it! “Yes, Pitch, I do. That’s why I …”
But Pitch interrupted with evident eagerness to tell his story. “It was the only time I’ve been to Azul Island,” he began. “Oh, I’d heard about it, of course; Tom spoke of it occasionally. And before I arrived here he had written me once or twice about wrangling horses on a small island not far from Antago. But,” and Pitch smiled, “you know I’m pretty much of a greenhorn about things like that, and I never really understood any of it. That is, not until I went to Azul Island with Tom and the others.”
Pitch paused and glanced at Steve. Then, as though pleased with the boy’s obvious interest, he went on: “I remember that we all looked upon our visit to Azul Island as very much like a day’s outing. And we spent the time there imagining ourselves as cowboys. I couldn’t help thinking, as we ran after the horses, how strange we’d look to any people from our western states. All of us, of course, were wearing our shorts and had on our sun hats because the day was extremely hot. We had no trouble chasing the horses into the canyon, because the island is very narrow at that point; and twenty of us, walking about thirty yards apart, I would say, easily forced the horses into the canyon. Tom was in charge because he was the only one who knew anything about horses. The rest of us were plantation men, laborers, fishermen and the like with no experience whatsoever in this business of wrangling horses. However, as I’ve said, there was little to it, because Tom told us what to do, and it was he who selected thirty of the most likely looking animals to take back with us to Antago.”
Pitch stopped, thought a moment, then said in an apologetic tone, “I must tell you, Steve, that the horses are small, scrawny beasts and not very much to look at, really. But if you’d seen the desolateness of that small bit of the island, with the sparse grass and only the few, meager fresh-water holes, you’d wonder that they’d survived at all.”
Pitch paused again before adding with renewed enthusiasm, “But they have, Steve! Their breed has survived for centuries on Azul Island!” His words came faster now. “It was on the way back from the island, with the animals crowded into the barge we towed behind our launch, that I first learned of it. I was sitting next to the photographer of our weekly newspaper, and I mentioned that I had been surprised to find so many horses on Azul Island. He mentioned, very casually, that these horses were believed to be descended from the ones that the Spanish Conquistadores rode centuries ago! I tried to learn more, but that was all he knew. His editor had told him, he said. It was just an assignment to him. He wasn’t really interested. It shocked me, actually, because I’ve always been so very much interested in Spanish colonial history that I suppose I assumed everyone else would be. To think that here was a breed of horse the Conquistadores rode, and which had survived all these hundreds of years, and no one—not even Tom, who knew of my interest—had thought it important enough to tell me!
Black Stallion and Satan
Satan has won the Triple Crown, yet Alec still misses the Black, who’s living in Arabia with Sheikh Abu Ishak. Unexpectedly, Alec receives word that the sheikh has died and has left the Black to Alec. A race between the Black and Satan is inevitable, but unexpected events put the horses in the path of a raging forest fire. Suddenly, they are racing for their lives.
Alec Ramsay sat still and straight in his saddle, seemingly unaware of the thousands of eyes upon him. He wore black racing silks, and beneath his peaked cap the whiteness of his face made a startling contrast to his racing colors and the burly black horse beneath him.
They were third in the parade to the post for the running of the classic Belmont Stakes. Alec wished they had drawn an outside position instead of the number 3 slot. He didn’t like being so near the rail. Henry’s instructions were to hold Satan until the field approached the middle of the backstretch before making his move. It would have been easier to do this from an outside post position.
The parade had passed the clubhouse and was now opposite the grandstand. Alec didn’t have to look to know that it was overflowing with people. The tumultuous roar from the stands took care of that. And he knew their eyes were upon Satan, wondering if the big three-year-old would win the Belmont Stakes, as he had won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, to take his place among the few great horses of the turf who had captured the Triple Crown! They wondered only because of the condition of the track. It was ankle-deep in mud after a heavy morning rain, and the early June sky was still overcast as a fine drizzle fell.
The last remaining doubters of Satan’s greatness asked themselves, “But can he race in the mud? He never has, you know.”
Alec’s hand went to the thick, muscular neck of the colt as Satan sidestepped quickly to the middle of the track. He spoke to him, and the heavy ears swept back at the sound of his voice; then the restlessness left Satan’s giant body and he was back in line as the field continued parading past the stands.
From the pushing, heaving wave of people at the rail, a man shouted, “Hey, Ramsay! You think it’s a horse show?”
Alec heard the man’s words, but his eyes never left the muddy track which he could see between Satan’s pricked ears.
“A Good Hands class maybe?” the man called again.
Only then did Alec Ramsay become aware that he was sitting much straighter in his saddle than the other jockeys. The whiteness of his skin gave way to a sudden flush of color, but his seat remained unchanged. He couldn’t have sat his horse any other way.
“Bring him home, Alec!” someone else shouted. “Bring him home like you did in the Derby an’ the Preakness!”
The post parade ended when they had filed past the stands, and Alec allowed Satan to go into a slow gallop. He rose in his stirrups and leaned forward, his face pressed close to the colt’s bulging neck.
Henry had said Satan could race in the mud as well as on a dry track. Henry should know, for he had been training Satan all winter and spring while Alec had spent most of his time in school. Henry said they had worked Satan in all kinds of weather and the big-boned colt didn’t know the difference between a dry track and a wet one. Alec had to take Henry’s word for it. He’d raced Satan only twice this year, once in the Kentucky Derby and again in the Preakness. The track had been dry and fast for each race, and Satan had had no trouble winning by many lengths.
He took the big black colt to the outside rail and went past the two horses in front of him. He let him go far around the turn, finding reassurance in the ever-lengthening and confident strides of the colt as he galloped fetlock-deep in the mud. And Alec thrilled to the swift and thunderous movement beneath his knees. But finally he rose still higher in his stirrups and drew back on the reins until Satan had slowed to a prancing crabstep.
He turned the colt to find the others already on their way back to the starting gate, now set in front of the grandstand. He kept Satan to a slow trot, and his hand slid down the thick neck before him. High above Satan’s craned head, Alec saw the many cameras set up on the top tier of the grandstand; they were trained on the field as it went to the post.
“Easy does it, Satan,” he said as one of the starter’s crew took hold of the bridle. Prancing, pulling a little, Satan moved inside the gate. The door behind them was closed; there was only one way out of the stall now.
For a moment, there were the heavy thuds of hoofs against stalls and the soft whisperings of jockeys to their mounts; all accompanied by the loud, shrieking clamor from the crowd, awaiting the break. Then, very abruptly, a heavy silence fell over the great stands, a silence which finally descended to the starting gate.
Only Satan’s big ears moved. Restlessly they pitched forward, then came back until they were flat and heavy against his head. Alec felt the tenseness of the giant colt beneath him. Close to Satan’s head he whispered to him. The break would come any second now, any second and they would be off.
“A mile and a half this time, Satan,” he said softly. “It’s a little longer than the others. Plenty of time for you. Easy getting away, Satan. Easy now … wait for me.”
The grilled doors clanged open; the starting bell rang. There was an outcry from more than fifty thousand voices that was quickly pommeled to deadening silence by racing, pounding hoofs.
Satan broke with the others, took two fast strides and stumbled! Alec felt his head go down, gave him more rein, then drew back, helping Satan to recover his feet. There was a sickening second of sliding, thrashing hoofs seeking foothold in the mud. Satan’s strides came fast and short as he tried to control the hurtling momentum of his heavy body over the slippery track. Alec felt the straining of the great muscles beneath him. He was afraid to move lest he offset Satan’s balance still more. He gave the colt his head, yet Alec’s hands on the reins were ready to help Satan when he needed it.
Satan’s strides were unrhythmic as he plunged forward, but Alec knew the worst was over. The big black colt had gathered himself and his feet were firmly beneath him once more. Even now his strides were lengthening, his body leveling out.
Only then did Alec become conscious of the heaving, sleek bodies to the front and side of him. The start on the muddy track had been difficult for all the horses, but now each was in his stride and moving fast.
Satan’s head was pushed forward and he was pulling. Bending low to the side of the black neck, Alec drew back on the reins. “Not yet, Satan. Not yet,” he called.
Driving hindquarters rose and fell in front of them, sending mud into their faces. Satan didn’t like it, but he didn’t attempt to free himself from Alec’s tight rein.
The three leading horses swung into the first turn, followed by Satan and the rest of the field. Alec saw the jockeys on his right starting to close in on him; they wanted to bring their mounts into the rail ahead of Satan going around the turn. Momentarily he gave Satan more rein. The colt surged forward, keeping the rail. But the others held on, pressing Satan as he sped about the turn.
The leaders were four lengths ahead as Satan came into the backstretch. Alec took a firm hold, keeping the black colt just to the fore of those running behind him.
“Make your move in the middle of the backstretch,” Henry had said. “Not before then. It’s only the gray you have to worry about, and he’ll be back with you, biding his time.”
The gray colt was behind him, as Henry had said. Alec could see his head coming up close beside them. He gave Satan a little more rein to keep ahead of the gray.
The leaders, having spent their early speed, were dropping back, and Satan bore down upon them with giant strides. But the gray was still pressing the black colt. Together they passed the tiring horses who had set the pace. Together they swept by the half-mile pole and drove toward the far turn.
No mud flew in Alec’s face now. The track ahead was clear of horses and only the racing gray, moving at Satan’s hindquarters, could keep the black colt from winning the Triple Crown!
“Now, Satan!” Alec shouted into the wind.
He moved forward and the white rail went by with ever increasing speed. Alec bent low, lost in the colt’s heavy, flowing mane. Nothing could stop Satan now, for he was running free, and there was a savage wildness to his action.
For only a few yards did the gray match Satan’s tremendous strides. Then he fell back before the fresh onslaught of speed and power displayed by the black colt. And as Satan rounded the turn in all his fury and came down the homestretch, the eyes of the crowd were on him alone. He was all power, all beauty as he swept beneath the wire, winner by a dozen lengths and the first undefeated Triple Crown winner in turf history!
High on the roof above the stands, a man kept his camera on Satan until the black colt was brought to a stop far up the track; then, turning to another cameraman, he said, “Never in my life have I seen a horse run like that. Never.”
“I have,” the other returned. “But only once. He was the Black, the sire of this colt. Alec Ramsay was up on him, too. That kid’s life is like something out of a movie,” he concluded, shaking his head.
“You mean you don’t know his story? Where’ve you been?”
“In Peru, shooting Inca ruins for the last five years.”
“What’s the story?”
“Alec Ramsay and the Black were the lone survivors of a shipwreck, and the kid brought him home. It turned out that Henry Dailey, the old trainer, whom everyone had just about forgotten, was a neighbor of Alec Ramsay. And when Henry saw the Black he knew what the kid had hold of. They kept the Black in what’s no more than a back lot over in Flushing; then they sprung him in that big match race that was arranged for Sun Raider and Cyclone a few years back, and he whipped them both. I saw him do it. It’s the only time he raced, but I’ll never forget him.” The cameraman turned toward the track and Satan. “They could have been one and the same horse today,” he added.
“But what happened to the Black?”
“As I heard it, an Arab chieftain by the name of Abu Ishak turned up not long after the match race and proved the horse was his. So he took the Black back to Arabia.”
“And that’s the end of the Black?”
“It is, as far as I know.”
“But where does Satan come in? How did Alec Ramsay get hold of him?”
“The story goes that this Abu Ishak promised the kid he’d send him the first foal by the Black. He kept his promise. Satan is that foal.”
“What a break for the kid.”
“Yeah. He and Henry Dailey raised Satan in the same lot where they’d kept the Black. They brought him out in the Hopeful last fall. You know the rest … he hasn’t been beaten yet.”
“From back lot to undefeated Triple Crown champion,” the other cameraman mused as he turned to the winner’s circle, where Alec Ramsay sat on Satan amidst a crowd of photographers. “He’s riding high in the big time now. No more back lots for Alec Ramsay. Lucky kid!”
Island Stallion's Fury
Only Steve Duncan and his friend Pitch know of the valley hidden behind the high cliffs of the remote Caribbean Azul Island. And only the two of them know of the beautiful, purebred horses that live there, under the watchful eye of the great red stallion, Flame. But when Pitch’s half-brother Tom learns of this lost paradise, he will stop at nothing to make it his own, even if he has to destroy it.
Island Stallion Races
More than anything, Steve Duncan dreams of racing his huge, wild stallion, Flame. The horse is untrained, but incredibly fast and Steve just wants to show him off. When two strangers show up and offer to make Steve’s dream a reality, Steve cannot believe his luck. But soon he realizes that a professional racetrack is no place for an unbroken stallion.
The Black Stallion's Courage
When Hopeful Farm burns down, Alec’s dreams for the future go up in smoke. How can he get the money to rebuild? To make matters worse, a strong young colt named Eclipse has taken the racing world by storm, threatening to replace the Black in the hearts of racing fans. Against all odds, Alec sets out to save the farm and prove that the Black is still the greatest race horse of all time!
“Everyone loves a champion. And when the champion is a gallant horse, when his story is told by a champion writer of horse stories, every reader is a winner.”—The New York Times
While waiting for a delayed airplane, old Henry Dailey, the Black’s trainer, tells young Alec Ramsay a story of his own youth, travelling with his brother, Bill. Bill Dailey’s talent as a horse-whisperer was unmatched in the days before the automobile and young Henry tells of an unscrupulous con-man who mistreats horses into behaving temporarily. Bill is determined to show that the man is a fraud, but can he unmask the con without getting hurt?
Walter Farley experimented with many genres of writing and here, in his only foray into historical fiction, he weaves a fascinating tale of life when horses were the primary means of transportation.
The Black Stallion Challenged!
The Black Stallion is the fastest horse in America and he and his jockey, Alec Ramsay, are training for a big race. Suddenly there comes a new challenger: Flame! An unproven racer, the Island Stallion can run like the wind and his jockey, Steve Duncan, knows that Flame will give the Black the race of his life. But what neither Steve nor Alec know, is that these two stallions have met before, and they hate each other.
The Black Stallion's Ghost
While riding the Black in the Everglades one day, Alec meets a man astride a ghostly gray mare. Alec’s fascination with the man turns to fear as he realizes the man is dangerously close to insanity. Soon Alec and the Black are caught up in a deadly chase through the depths of the Everglades, where a misstep could be fatal.
Black Stallion Adventure Box Set [Paperback]
Walter Farley’s tales of bravery, instinct, and survival have been captivating readers for almost 65 years. Here, in a handsome gift set, are four of the best, starting with The Black Stallion, where Alec Ramsay saves the Black after a shipwreck. The bond they form cannot be broken. This bond survives their separation in The Black Stallion Returns, when Alec returns the magnificent horse to his original owner in Arabia. Reunited in The Black Stallion’s Ghost, they survive a terrifying curse. Finally, in The Black Stallion Revolts, they are separated again after a plane crash, and Alec is suspected of murder as the Black runs wild! Each gripping tale culminates in a thrilling race to the finish!
Buy @ Amazon
"Little Black a Pony" Book
The book tells the story of a little boy and his pony, Little Black. The story is told form the little boy’s point of view. The illustrations in this book are wonderful. Everything -the horses and people- is very expressive. You can see the sadness in Little Black when the boy doesn’t ride him. You can see the boy’s fear when he is in the river. You can see Little Black’s pride in saving him. All these emotions are portrayed beautifully. The illustrator must have been very knowledgeable about horses as well, as these horses look alive. It is a great book with a sweet plot, great pictures and flowing words.
Little Black Goes to the Circus
The book was about a black pony names Little Black. The circus was in town and he went to check it out with his owner. When there he tried to do what the circus pony did, he stood on his two feet but feel down. They were laughed out of the circus. They went to an open field, where the owner to cheer the pony up, made there own circus. The pony walked across a plank and ran off back to the circus where he walked the planks but almost fell on one…
I think the lesson was never underestimate something by one thing, and you have to earn respect.
The age level would be 6-8. – Kid review
This book was a very good book because of the lesson it teaches and the excitement in it.
Hardcover : Printed by and proceeds for the Black Stallion Literacy Project
The book was about a black pony named Little Black. The circus was in town and he went to check it out with his owner. When there he tried to do what the circus pony did, he stood on his two feet but feel down. They were laughed out of the circus. They went to an open field, where the owner to cheer the pony up, made there own circus. The pony walked across a plank and ran off back to the circus where he walked the planks but almost fell on one… I think the lesson was never underestimate something by one thing, and you have to earn respect. The age level 6-8. This book was a very good book because of the lesson it teaches and the excitement in it. Language: English ISBN: 0394900332
Book & Bronze Special!
BUCEPHALUS + CLASSIC HARDBACK BOOK !!
Buy for yourself or a Christmas gift, (smart shopper)!
To celebrate LOVE!! Give that special gift to someone you know and love needs to have! A timeless GIFT and piece of HISTORY, the treasure of the desert;
++ BLACK STALLION hardback book – classic edition!!
OR a new copy of the wonderfully illustrated1953 beginner book;
“BIG BLACK HORSE” . Your choice!
Click “more details” for more photos;