Beautiful Joe/Chapter 1
ONLY A CUR.
Y name is Beautiful Joe, and I am a brown dog of medium size. I am not called Beautiful Joe because I am a beauty. Mr. Morris, the clergyman, in whose family I have lived for the last twelve years, says that he thinks I must be called Beautiful Joe for the same reason that his grandfather, down South, called a very ugly colored slave-lad Cupid, and his mother Venus.
I do not know what he means by that, but when he says it, people always look at me and smile. I know that I am not beautiful, and I know that I am not a thoroughbred. I am only a cur.
When my mistress went every year to register me and pay my tax, and the man in the office asked what breed I was, she said part fox-terrier and part bull-terrier; but he always put me down a cur. I don't think she liked having him call me a cur; still, I have heard her say that she preferred curs, for they have more character than well-bred dogs. Her father said that she liked ugly dogs for the same reason that a nobleman at the court of a certain king did—namely, that no one else would.
I am an old dog now, and am writing, or rather getting a friend to write, the story of my life. I have seen my mistress laughing and crying over a little book that she says is a story of a horse's life, and sometimes she puts the book down close to my nose to let me see the pictures.
I love my dear mistress; I can say no more than that; I love her better than any one else in the world; and I think it will please her if I write the story of a dog's life. She loves dumb animals, and it always grieves her to see them treated cruelly.
I have heard her say that if all the boys and girls in the world were to rise up and say that there should be no more cruelty to animals, they could put a stop to it. Perhaps it will help a little if I tell a story. I am fond of boys and girls, and though I have seen many cruel men and women, I have seen few cruel children. I think the more stories there are written about dumb animals, the better it will be for us.
In telling my story, I think I had better begin at the first and come right on to the end. I was born in a stable on the outskirts of a small town in Maine called Fairport. The first thing I remember was lying close to my mother and being very snug and warm. The next thing I remember was being always hungry. I had a number of brothers and sisters—six in all—and my mother never had enough milk for us. She was always half starved herself, so she could not feed us properly.
I am very unwilling to say much about my early life. I have lived so long in a family where there is never a harsh word spoken, and where no one thinks of ill-treating anybody or anything, that it seems almost wrong even to think or speak of such a matter as hurting a poor dumb beast.
The man that owned my mother was a milkman. He kept one horse and three cows, and he had a shaky old cart that he used to put his milk cans in. I don't think there can be a worse man in the world than that milkman. It makes me shudder now to think of him. His name was Jenkins, and I am glad to think that he is getting punished now for his cruelty to poor dumb animals and to human beings. If you think it is wrong that I am glad, you must remember that I am only a dog.
The first notice that he took of me when I was a little puppy, just able to stagger about, was to give me a kick that sent me into a corner of the stable. He used to beat and starve my mother. I have seen him use his heavy whip to punish her till her body was covered with blood. When I got older I asked her why she did not run away. She said she did not wish to; but I soon found out that the reason she did not run away, was because she loved Jenkins. Cruel and savage as he was, she yet loved him, and I believe she would have laid down her life for him.
Now that I am old, I know that there are more men in the world like Jenkins, They are not crazy, they are not drunkards; they simply seem to be possessed with a spirit of wickedness. There are well-to-do people, yes, and rich people, who will treat animals, and even little children, with such terrible cruelty, that one cannot even mention the things that they are guilty of.
One reason for Jenkins' cruelty was his idleness. After he went his rounds in the morning with his milk cans, he had nothing to do till late in the afternoon but take care of his stable and yard. If he had kept them neat, and groomed his horse, and cleaned the cows, and dug up the garden, it would have taken up all his time; but he never tidied the place at all, till his yard and stable got so littered up with things he threw down, that he could not make his way about.
His house and stable stood in the middle of a large field, and they were at some distance from the road. Passers-by could not see how untidy the place was. Occasionally, a man came to look at the premises, and see that they were in good order, but Jenkins always knew when to expect him, and had things cleaned up a little.
I used to wish that some of the people that took milk from him would come and look at his cows. In the spring and summer he drove them out to pasture, but during the winter they stood all the time in the dirty, dark stable, where the chinks in the wall were so big that the snow swept through almost in drifts. The ground was always muddy and wet; there was only one small window on the north side, where the sun only shone in for a short time in the afternoon.
They were very unhappy cows, but they stood patiently and never complained, though sometimes I know they must have nearly frozen in the bitter winds that blew through the stable on winter nights. They were lean and poor, and were never in good health. Besides being cold they were fed on very poor food.
Jenkins used to come home nearly every afternoon with a great tub in the back of his cart that was full of what he called "peelings." It was kitchen stuff that he asked the cooks at the different houses where he delivered milk, to save for him. They threw rotten vegetables, fruit parings, and scraps from the table into a tub, and gave them to him at the end of a few days. A sour, nasty mess it always was, and not fit to give any creature.
Sometimes, when he had not many "peelings," he would go to town and get a load of decayed vegetables, that grocers were glad to have him take off their hands.
This food, together with poor hay, made the cows give very poor milk, and Jenkins used to put some white powder in it, to give it "body," as he said.
Once a very sad thing happened about the milk, that no one knew about but Jenkins and his wife. She was a poor, unhappy creature, very frightened at her husband, and not daring to speak much to him. She was not a clean woman, and I never saw a worse-looking house than she kept.
She used to do very queer things, that I know now no housekeeper should do. I have seen her catch up the broom to pound potatoes in the pot. She pounded with the handle, and the broom would fly up and down in the air, dropping dust into the pot where the potatoes were. Her pan of soft-mixed bread she often left uncovered in the kitchen, and sometimes the hens walked in and sat in it.
The children used to play in mud puddles about the door. It was the youngest of them that sickened with some kind of fever early in the spring, before Jenkins began driving the cows out to pasture. The child was very ill, and Mrs. Jenkins wanted to send for a doctor, but her husband would not let her. They made a bed in the kitchen, close to the stove, and Mrs. Jenkins nursed the child as best she could. She did all her work near by, and I saw her several times wiping the child's face with the cloth that she used for washing her milk pans.
Nobody knew outside the family that the little girl was ill. Jenkins had such a bad name, that none of the neighbors would visit them. By-and-by the child got well, and a week or two later Jenkins came home with quite a frightened face, and told his wife that the husband of one of his customers was very ill with typhoid fever
After a time the gentleman died, and the cook told Jenkins that the doctor wondered how he could have taken the fever, for there was not a case in town.
There was a widow left with three orphans, and they never knew that they had to blame a dirty, careless milkman, for taking a kind husband and father from them.