Beautiful Joe/Chapter 15
VERY other summer, the Morris children were sent to some place in the country, so that they could have a change of air, and see what country life was like. As there were so many of them, they usually went different ways.
The summer after I came to them, Jack and Carl went to an uncle in Vermont, Miss Laura went to another in New Hampshire, and Ned and Willie went to visit a maiden aunt who lived in the White Mountains.
Mr. and Mrs. Morris stayed at home Fairport was a lovely place in summer, and many people came there to visit.
The children took some of their pets with them, and the others they left at home for their mother to take care of. She never allowed them to take a pet animal anywhere, unless she knew it would be perfectly welcome. "Don't let your pets be a worry to other people," she often said to them, "or they will dislike them and you too."
Miss Laura went away earlier than the others, for she had run down through the spring, and was pale and thin. One day, early in June, we set out. I say "we," for after my adventure with Jenkins, Miss Laura said that I should never be parted from her. If any one invited her to come and see them, and didn't want me, she would stay at home.
The whole family went to the station to see us off. They put a chain on my collar, and took me to the baggage office, and got two tickets for me. One was tied to my collar, and the other Miss Laura put in her purse. Then I was put in a baggage car, and chained in a corner. I heard Mr. Morris say that as we were only going a short distance, it was not worth while to get an express ticket for me.
There was a dreadful noise and bustle at the station. Whistles were blowing, and people were rushing up and down the platform. Some men were tumbling baggage so fast into the car where I was, that I was afraid some of it would fall on me.
For a few minutes Miss Laura stood by the door and looked in, but soon the men had piled up so many boxes and trunks that she could not see me. Then she went away. Mr. Morris asked one of the men to see that I did not get hurt, and I heard some money rattle. Then he went away too.
It was the beginning of June, and the weather had suddenly become very hot. We had a long, cold spring, and not being used to the heat, it seemed very hard to bear.
Before the train started, the doors of the baggage car were closed, and it became quite dark inside. The darkness, and the heat, and the close smell, and the noise, as we went rushing along, made me feel sick and frightened.
I did not dare to lie down, but sat up trembling and wishing that we might soon come to Riverdale Station. But we did not get there for some time, and I was to have a great fright.
I was thinking of all the stories that I knew of animals traveling. In February, the Drurys' Newfoundland watch-dog Pluto, had arrived from New York, and he told Jim and me that he had a miserable journey.
A gentleman friend of Mr. Drury's had brought him from New York. He saw him chained up in his car, and he went into his Pullman, first tipping the baggage-master handsomely to look after him. Pluto said that the baggage-master had a very red nose, and he was always getting drinks for himself when they stopped at a station, but he never once gave him a drink or anything to eat, from the time they left New York till they got to Fairport. When the train stopped there, and Pluto's chain was unfastened, he sprang out on the platform, and nearly knocked Mr. Drury down. He saw some snow that had sifted through the station roof, and he was so thirsty that he began to lick it up. When the snow was all gone, he jumped up and licked the frost on the windows.
Mr. Drury s friend was so angry. He found the baggage-master, and said to him: "What did you mean, by coming into my car every few hours, to tell me that the dog was fed, and watered, and comfortable? I shall report you."
He went into the office at the station, and complained of the man, and was told that he was a drinking man, and was going to be dismissed.
I was not afraid of suffering like Pluto, because it was only going to take us a few hours to get to Riverdale. I found that we always went slowly before we came in to a station, and one time when we began to slacken speed I thought that surely we must be at our journey's end. However, it was not Riverdale. The car gave a kind of jump, then there was a crashing sound ahead, and we stopped.
I heard men shouting and running up and down, and I wondered what had happened. It was all dark and still in the car, and nobody came in, but the noise kept up outside, and I knew something had gone wrong with the train. Perhaps Miss Laura had got hurt. Something must have happened to her or she would come to me.
I barked and pulled at my chain till my neck was sore, but for a long, long time I was there alone. The men running about outside must have heard me. If ever I hear a man in trouble and crying for help I go to him and see what he wants.
After such a long time that it seemed to me it must be the middle of the night, the door at the end of the car opened, and a man looked in. "This is all through baggage for New York, miss," I heard him say, "they wouldn't put your dog in here."
"Yes, they did—I am sure this is the car," I heard in the voice I knew so well, "and won't you get him out, please? He must be terribly frightened."
The man stooped down and unfastened my chain, grumbling to himself because I had not been put in another car. "Some folks tumble a dog round as if he was a junk of coal," he said, patting me kindly.
I was nearly wild with delight to get with Miss Laura again, but I had barked so much, and pressed my neck so hard with my collar that my voice was all gone. I fawned on her, and wagged myself about, and opened and shut my mouth, but no sound came out of it.
It made Miss Laura nervous. She tried to laugh and cry at the same time, and then bit her lip hard, and said: "Oh, Joe, don't."
"He's lost his bark, hasn't he?" said the man, looking at me curiously.
"It is a wicked thing to confine an animal in a dark and closed car," said Miss Laura, trying to see her way down the steps through her tears.
The man put out his hand and helped her. "He's not suffered much, miss," he said, "don't you distress yourself. Now if you'd been a brakesman on a Chicago train, as I was a few years ago, and seen the animals run in for the stock yards, you might talk about cruelty. Cars that ought to hold a certain number of pigs, or sheep, or cattle, jammed full with twice as many, and half of 'em thrown out choked and smothered to death. I've seen a man running up and down, raging and swearing because the railway people hadn't let him get in to tend to his pigs on the road."
Miss Laura turned and looked at the man with a very white face. "Is it like that now?" she asked.
"No, no," he said, hastily. "It's better now. They've got new regulations about taking care of the stock, but mind you, miss, the cruelty to animals isn't all done on the railways. There's a great lot of dumb creatures suffering all round everywhere, and if they could speak, 'twould be a hard showing for some other people besides the railway men."
He lifted his cap and hurried down the platform, and Miss Laura, her face very much troubled, picked her way among the bits of coal and wood scattered about the platform, and went into the waiting room of the little station.
She took me up to the filter and let some water run in her hand, and gave it to me to lap. Then she sat down and I leaned my head against her knees, and she stroked my throat gently.
There were some people sitting about the room, and, from their talk, I found out what had taken place. There had been a freight train on a side track at this station, waiting for us to get by. The switchman had carelessly left the switch open after this train went by, and when we came along afterward, our train, instead of running in by the platform, went crashing into the freight train. If we had been going fast, great damage might have been done. As it was, our engine was smashed so badly that it could not take us on; the passengers were frightened; and we were having a tedious time waiting for another engine to come and take us to Riverdale.
After the accident, the trainmen were so busy that Miss Laura could get no one to release me.
While I sat by her, I noticed an old gentleman staring at us. He was such a queer-looking old gentleman. He looked like a poodle. He had bright brown eyes, and a pointed face, and a shock of white hair that he shook every few minutes. He sat with his hands clasped on the top of his cane, and he scarcely took his eyes from Miss Laura's face. Suddenly he jumped up and came and sat down beside her.
"An ugly dog, that," he said, pointing to me.
Most young ladies would have resented this, but Miss Laura only looked amused. "He seems beautiful to me," she said, gently.
"H'm, because he's your dog," said the old man, darting a sharp look at me. "What's the matter with him?"
"This is his first journey by rail, and he's a little frightened."
"No wonder. The Lord only knows the suffering of animals in transportation," said the old gentleman. "My dear young lady, if you could see what I have seen, you'd uever eat another bit of meat all the days of your life."
Miss Laura wrinkled her forehead. "I know—I have heard," she faltered. "It must be terrible."
"Terrible—it's awful," said the gentleman. "Think of the cattle on the western plains. Choked with thirst in summer, and starved and frozen in winter. Dehorned and goaded on to trains and steamers. Tossed about and wounded and suffering on voyages. Many of them dying and being thrown into the sea. Others landed sick and frightened. Some of them slaughtered on docks and wharves to keep them from dropping dead in their tracks. What kind of food does their flesh make? It's rank poison. Three of my family have died of cancer. I am a vegetarian."
The strange old gentleman darted from his seat, and began to pace up and down the room. I was very glad he had gone, for Miss Laura hated to hear of cruelty of any kind, and her tears were dropping thick and fast on my brown coat.
The gentleman had spoken very loudly, and every one in the room had listened to what he said. Among them, was a very young man, with a cold, handsome face. He looked as if he was annoyed that the older man should have made Miss Laura cry.
"Don't you think, sir," he said, as the old gentleman passed near him in walking up and down the floor, "that there is a great deal of mock sentiment about this business of taking care of the dumb creation? They were made for us. They've got to suffer and be killed to supply our wants. The cattle and sheep, and other animals would over-run the earth, if we didn't kill them."
"Granted," said the old man, stopping right in front of him. "Granted, young man, if you take out that word suffer. The Lord made the sheep, and the cattle, and the pigs. They are his creatures just as much as we are. We can kill them, but we've no right to make them suffer."
"Btut we can't help it, sir."
"Yes, we can, my young man. It's a possible thing to raise healthy stock, treat it kindly, kill it mercifully, eat it decently. When men do that I, for one, will cease to be a vegetarian. You're only a boy. You haven't traveled as I have. I've been from one end of this country to the other. Up north, down south, and out west, I've seen sights that made me shudder, and I tell you the Lord will punish this great American nation if it doesn't change its treatment of the dumb animals committed to its care."
The young man looked thoughtful, and did not reply. A very sweet-faced old lady sitting near him, answered the old gentleman. I don't think I have ever seen such a fine-looking old lady as she was. Her hair was snowy white, and her face was deeply wrinkled, yet she was tall and stately, and her expression was as pleasing as my dear Miss Laura's.
"I do not think we are a wicked nation," she said, softly. "We are a younger nation than many of the nations of the earth, and I think that many of our sins arise from ignorance and thoughtlessness."
"Yes, madame, yes, madame," said the fiery old gentleman, staring hard at her. "I agree with you there." She smiled very pleasantly at him, and went on. "I too have been a traveler, and I have talked to a great many wise and good people on the subject of the cruel treatment of animals, and I find that many of them have never thought about it. They, themselves, never knowingly ill-treat a dumb creature, and when they are told stories of inhuman conduct, they say in surprise, 'Why, these things surely can't exist!' You see they have never been brought in contact with them. As soon as they learn about them, they begin to agitate and say, 'We must have this thing stopped. Where is the remedy?'"
"And what is it, what is it, madame, in your opinion?" said the old gentleman, pawing the floor with impatience.
"Just the remedy that I would propose for the great evil of intemperance," said the old lady smiling at him. "Legislation and education. Legislation for the old and hardened, and education for the young and tender. I would tell the schoolboys and schoolgirls that alcohol will destroy the framework of their beautiful bodies, and that cruelty to any of God's living creatures will blight and destroy their innocent young souls."
The young man spoke again. "Don't you think," he said, "that you temperance and humane people lay too much stress upon the education of our youth in all lofty and noble sentiments? The human heart will always be wicked. Your Bible tells you that, doesn't it? You can't educate all the badness out of children."
"We don't expect to do that," said the old lady, turning her pleasant face toward him; "but even if the human heart is desperately wicked, shouldn't that make us much more eager to try to educate, to ennoble, and restrain? However, as far as my experience goes, and I have lived in this wicked world for seventy-five years, I find that the human heart, though wicked and cruel as you say, has yet some soft and tender spots, and the impressions made upon it in youth are never, never effaced. Do you not remember better than anything else, standing at your mother's knee—the pressure of her hand, her kiss on your forehead?"
By this time our engine had arrived. A whistle was blowing, and nearly every one was rushing from the room, the impatient old gentleman among the first. Miss Laura was hurriedly trying to do up her shawl strap, and I was standing by, wishing that I could help her. The old lady and the young man were the only other people in the room, and we could not help hearing what they said.
"Yes, I do," he said in a thick voice, and his face got vefy red. "She is dead now—I have no mother."
"Poor boy!" and the old lady laid her hand on his shoulder. They were standing up, and she was taller than he was. "May God bless you. I know you have a kind heart. I have four stalwart boys, and you remind me of the youngest. If you are ever in Washington, come to see me." She gave him some name, and he lifted his hat and looked as if he was astonished to find out who she was. Then he too went away, and she turned to Miss Laura. "Shall I help you, my dear?"
"If you please," said my young mistress. "I can't fasten this strap."
In a few seconds the bundle was done up, and we were joyfully hastening to the train. It was only a few miles to Riverdale, so the conductor let me stay in the car with Miss Laura. She spread her coat out on the seat in front of her, and I sat on it and looked out of the car window as we sped along through a lovely country, all green and fresh in the June sunlight. How light and pleasant this car was—so different from the baggage car. What frightens an animal most of all things, is not to see where it is going, not to know what is going to happen to it. I think that they are very like human beings in this respect.
The lady had taken a seat beside Miss Laura, and as we went along, she too looked out of the window and said in a low voice:
"What is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days."
"That is very true," said Miss Laura, "how sad that the autumn must come, and the cold winter."
"No, my dear, not sad. It is but a preparation for another summer."
"Yes, I suppose it is," said Miss Laura. Then she continued a little shyly, as her companion leaned over to stroke my cropped ears: "You seem very fond of animals."
"I am, my dear. I have four horses, two cows, a tame squirrel, three dogs, and a cat."
"You should be a happy woman," said Miss Laura, with a smile.
"I think I am. I must not forget my horned toad, Diego, that I got in California. I keep him in the green-house, and he is very happy catching flies and holding his horny head to be scratched whenever any one comes near."
"I don't see how any one can be unkind to animals," said Miss Laura, thoughtfully.
"Nor I, my dear child. It has always caused me intense pain to witness the torture of dumb animals. Nearly seventy years ago, when I was a little girl walking the streets of Boston, I would tremble and grow faint at the cruelty of drivers to over-loaded horses. I was timid and did not dare speak to them. Very often, I ran home and flung myself in my mother's arms with a burst of tears, and asked her if nothing could be done to help the poor animals. With mistaken, motherly kindness, she tried to put the subject out of my thoughts. I was carefully guarded from seeing or hearing of any instances of cruelty. But the animals went on suffering just the same, and when I became a woman, I saw my cowardice. I agitated the matter among my friends, and told them that our whole dumb creation was groaning together in pain, and would continue to groan, unless merciful human beings were willing to help them. I was able to assist in the formation of several societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and they have done good service. Good service not only to the horses and cows, but to the nobler animal, man. I believe that in saying to a cruel man, 'You shall not overwork, torture, mutilate, or kill your animal, or neglect to provide it with proper food and shelter,' we are making him a little nearer the kingdom of heaven than he was before. For, 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' If he sows seeds of unkindness and cruelty to man and beast, no one knows what the blackness of the harvest will be. His poor horse, quivering under a blow, is not the worse sufferer. Oh, if people would only understand that their unkind deeds will recoil upon their own heads with tenfold force—but, my dear child, I am fancying that I am addressing a drawing-room meeting—and here we are at your station. Good-bye; keep your happy face and gentle ways. I hope that we may meet again some day." She pressed Miss Laura's hand, gave me a farewell pat, and the next minute we were outside on the platform, and she was smiling through the window at us.