Beautiful Joe/Chapter 5
DON'T believe that a dog could have fallen into a happier home than I did. In a week, thanks to good nursing, good food, and kind words, I was almost well. Mr. Harry washed and dressed my sore ears and tail every day till he went home, and one day, he and the boys gave me a bath out in the stable. They carried out a tub of warm water and stood me in it. I had never been washed before in my life, and it felt very queer. Miss Laura stood by laughing and encouraging me not to mind the streams of water trickling all over me. I couldn't help wondering what Jenkins would have said if he could have seen me in that tub.
That reminds me to say, that two days after I arrived at the Morrises', Jack, followed by all the other boys, came running into the stable. He had a newspaper in his hand, and with a great deal of laughing and joking, read this to me:
"Fairport Daily News, June 3rd. In the police court this morning, James Jenkins, for cruelly torturing and mutilating a dog, fined ten dollars and costs."
Then he said, "What do you think of that, Joe? Five dollars apiece for your ears and your tail thrown in That's all they're worth in the eyes of the law. Jenkins has had his fun and you'll go through life worth about three-quarters of a dog. I'd lash rascals like that. Tie them up and flog them till they were scarred and mutilated a little bit themselves. Just wait till I'm president. But there's some more, old fellow. Listen: 'Our reporter visited the house of the above-mentioned Jenkins and found a most deplorable state of affairs. The house, yard, and stable were indescribably filthy. His horse bears the marks of ill usage, and is in an emaciated condition. His cows are plastered up with mud and filth, and are covered with vermin. Where is our health inspector, that he does not exercise a more watchful supervision over establishments of this kind? To allow milk from an unclean place like this to be sold in the town, is endangering the health of its inhabitants. Upon inquiry, it was found that the man Jenkins bears a very bad character. Steps are being taken to have his wife and children removed from him.'"
Jack threw the paper into my box, and he and the other boys gave three cheers for the Daily News and then ran away. How glad I was! It did not matter so much for me, for I had escaped him, but now that it had been found out what a cruel man he was, there would be a restraint upon him, and poor Toby and the cows would have a happier time.
I was going to tell about the Morris family. There were Mr. Morris, who was a clergyman and preached in a church in Fairport; Mrs. Morris, his wife; Miss Laura, who was the eldest of the family; then Jack, Ned, Carl, and Willie. I think one reason why they were such a good family, was because Mrs. Morris was such a good woman. She loved her husband and children, and did everything she could to make them happy.
Mr. Morris was a very busy man and rarely interfered in household affairs. Mrs. Morris was the one who said what was to be done and what was not to be done. Even then, when I was a young dog, I used to think that she was very wise. There was never any noise or confusion in the house, and though there was a great deal of work to be done, everything went on smoothly and pleasantly, and no one ever got angry and scolded as they did in the Jenkins family.
Mrs. Morris was very particular about money matters. Whenever the boys came to her for money to get such things as candy and ice cream, expensive toys, and other things that boys often crave, she asked them why they wanted them. If it was for some selfish reason, she said, firmly: "No, my children, we are not rich people, and we must save our money for your education. I cannot buy you foolish things."
If they asked her for money for books or something to make their pet animals more comfortable, or for their outdoor games, she gave it to them willingly. Her ideas about the bringing up of children I cannot explain as clearly as she can herself, so I will give part of a conversation that she had with a lady who was calling on her shortly after I came to Washington Street.
I happened to be in the house at the time. Indeed, I used to spend the greater part of my time in the house. Jack one day looked at me, and exclaimed: "Why does that dog stalk about, first after one and then after another, looking at us with such solemn eyes?"
I wished that I could speak to tell him that I had so long been used to seeing animals kicked about and trodden upon, that I could not get used to the change. It seemed too good to be true. I could scarcely believe that dumb animals had rights; but while it lasted, and human beings were so kind to me, I wanted to be with them all the time. Miss Laura understood. She drew my head up to her lap, and put her face down to me: "You like to be with us, don't you, Joe? Stay in the house as much as you like. Jack doesn't mind, though he speaks so sharply. When you get tired of us go out in the garden and have a romp with Jim."
But I must return to the conversation I referred to. It was one fine June day, and Mrs. Morris was sewing in a rocking-chair by the window. I was beside her, sitting on a hassock, so that I could look out into the street. Dogs love variety and excitement, and like to see what is going on outdoors as well as human beings. A carriage drove up to the door, and a finely dressed lady got out and came up the steps.
Mrs. Morris seemed glad to see her, and called her Mrs. Montague. I was pleased with her, for she had some kind of perfume about her that I liked to smell. So I went and sat on the hearth rug quite near her.
They had a little talk about things I did not understand, and then the lady's eyes fell on me. She looked at me through a bit of glass that was hanging by a chain from her neck, and pulled away her beautiful dress lest I should touch it.
I did not care any longer for the perfume, and went away and sat very straight and stiff at Mrs. Morris' feet. The lady's eyes still followed me.
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Morris," she said; "but that is a very queer-looking dog you have there."
"Yes," said Mrs. Morris, quietly; "he is not a handsome dog."
"And he is a new one, isn't he?" said Mrs. Montague.
"And that makes——"
"Two dogs, a cat, fifteen or twenty rabbits, a rat, about a dozen canaries, and two dozen goldfish, I don't know how many pigeons, a few bantams, a guinea pig, and—well, I don't think there is anything more."
They both laughed, and Mrs. Montague said: "You have quite a menagerie. My father would never allow one of his children to keep a pet animal. He said it would make his girls rough and noisy to romp about the house with cats, and his boys would look like rowdies if they went about with dogs at their heels."
"I have never found that it made my children more rough to play with their pets," said Mrs. Morris.
"No, I should think not," said the lady, languidly. "Your boys are the most gentlemanly lads in Fairport, and as for Laura, she is a perfect little lady. I like so much to have them come and see Charlie. They wake him up, and yet don't make him naughty."
"They enjoyed their last visit very much," said Mrs. Morris. "By the way, I have heard them talking about getting Charlie a dog."
"Oh," cried the lady, with a little shudder, "beg them not to. I cannot sanction that. I hate dogs."
"Why do you hate them?" asked Mrs. Morris, gently.
"They are such dirty things; they always smell and have vermin on them."
"A dog," said Mrs. Morris, "is something like a child. If you want it clean and pleasant, you have got to keep it so. This dog's skin is as clean as yours or mine. Hold still, Joe," and she brushed the hair on my back the wrong way, and showed Mrs. Montague how pink and free from dust my skin was.
Mrs. Montague looked at me more kindly, and even held out the tips of her fingers to me. I did not lick them. I only smelled them, and she drew her hand back again.
"You have never been brought in contact with the lower creation as I have," said Mrs. Morris; "just let me tell you, in a few words, what a help dumb animals have been to me in the up-bringing of my children—my boys, especially. When I was a young married woman, going about the slums of New York with my husband, I used to come home and look at my two babies as they lay in their little cots, and say to him, 'What are we going to do to keep these children from selfishness—the curse of the world?'
"'Get them to do something for somebody outside themselves,' he always said. And I have tried to act on that principle. Laura is naturally unselfish. With her tiny, baby fingers, she would take food from her own mouth and put it into Jack's, if we did not watch her. I have never had any trouble with her. But the boys were born selfish, tiresomely, disgustingly selfish. They were good boys in many ways. As they grew older, they were respectful, obedient, they were not untidy, and not particularly rough, but their one thought was for themselves—each one for himself, and they used to quarrel with each other in regard to their rights. While we were in New York, we had only a small, back yard. When we came here, I said, 'I am going to try an experiment.' We got this house because it had a large garden, and a stable that would do for the boys to play in. Then I got them together, and had a little serious talk. I said I was not pleased with the way in which they were living. They did nothing for any one but themselves from morning to night. If I asked them to do an errand for me, it was done unwillingly. Of course, I knew they had their school for a part of the day, but they had a good deal of leisure time when they might do something for some one else. I asked them if they thought they were going to make real, manly, Christian boys at this rate, and they said no. Then I asked them what we should do about it. They all said, 'You tell us mother, and we'll do as you say.' I proposed a series of tasks. Each one to do something for somebody, outside and apart from himself, every day of his life. They all agreed to this, and told me to allot the tasks. If I could have afforded it, I would have gotten a horse and cow, and had them take charge of them; but I could not do that, so I invested in a pair of rabbits for Jack, a pair of canaries for Carl, pigeons for Ned, and bantams for Willie. I brought these creatures home, put them into their hands, and told them to provide for them. They were delighted with my choice, and it was very amusing to see them scurrying about to provide food and shelter for their pets, and hear their consultations with other boys. The end of it all is, that I am perfectly satisfied with my experiment. My boys, in caring for these dumb creatures, have become unselfish and thoughtful. They had rather go to school without their own breakfast, than have the inmates of the stable go hungry. They are getting a humane education, a heart education, added to the intellectual education of their schools. Then it keeps them at home. I used to be worried with the lingering about street corners, the dawdling around with other boys, and the idle, often worse than idle talk, indulged in. Now they have something to do, they are men of business. They are always hammering and pounding at boxes and partitions out there in the stable, or cleaning up, and if they are sent out on an errand, they do it and come right home. I don't mean to say that we have deprived them of liberty. They have their days for base ball, and foot ball, and excursions to the woods, but they have so much to do at home, that they won't go away unless for a specific purpose."
While Mrs. Morris was talking, her visitor leaned forward in her chair, and listened attentively. When she finished, Mrs. Montague said, quietly, "Thank you, I am glad that you told me this. I shall get Charlie a dog."
"I am glad to hear you say that," replied Mrs. Morris. "It will be a good thing for your little boy. I should not wish my boys to be without a good, faithful dog. A child can learn many a lesson from a dog. This one," pointing to me, "might be held up as an example to many a human being. He is patient, quiet, and obedient. My husband says that he reminds him of three words in the Bible—'through much tribulation.'"
"Why does he say that?" asked Mrs. Montague, curiously.
"Because he came to us from a very unhappy home." And Mrs. Morris went on to tell her friend what she knew of my early days.
When she stopped, Mrs. Montague's face was shocked and pained. "How dreadful to think that there are such creatures as that man Jenkins in the world. And you say that he has a wife and children. Mrs. Morris, tell me plainly, are there many such unhappy homes in Fairport?"
Mrs. Morris hesitated for a minute, then she said, earnestly: "My dear friend, if you could see all the wickedness, and cruelty, and vileness, that is practised in this little town of ours in one night, you could not rest in your bed."
Mrs. Montague looked dazed. "I did not dream that it was as bad as that," she said. "Are we worse than other towns?"
"No; not worse, but bad enough. Over and over again the saying is true, one half the world does not know how the other half lives. How can all this misery touch you? You live in your lovely house out of the town. When you come in, you drive about, do your shopping, make calls, and go home again. You never visit the poorer streets. The people from them never come to you. You are rich, your people before you were rich, you live in a state of isolation."
"But that is not right," said the lady, in a wailing voice. "I have been thinking about this matter lately. I read a great deal in the papers about the misery of the lower classes, and I think we richer ones ought to do something to help them. Mrs. Morris, what can I do?"
The tears came in Mrs. Morris' eyes. She looked at the little, frail lady, and said, simply: "Dear Mrs. Montague, I think the root of the whole matter lies in this. The Lord made us all one family. We are all brothers and sisters. The lowest woman is your sister and my sister. The man lying in the gutter is our brother. What should we do to help these members of our common family, who are not as well off as we are? We should share our last crust with them. You and I, but for God's grace in placing us in different surroundings, might be in their places. I think it is wicked neglect, criminal neglect in us to ignore this fact."
"It is, it is," said Mrs. Montague, in a despairing voice. I can't help feeling it. Tell me something I can do to help some one."
Mrs. Morris sank back in her chair, her face very sad, and yet with something like pleasure in her eyes as she looked at her caller. "Your washerwoman," she said, "has a drunken husband and a cripple boy. I have often seen her standing over her tub, washing your delicate muslins and laces, and dropping tears into the water."
"I will never send her anything more—she shall not be troubled," said Mrs. Montague, hastily.
Mrs. Morris could not help smiling. "I have not made myself clear. It is not the washing that troubles her, it is her husband who beats her, and her boy who worries her. If you and I take our work from her, she will have that much less money to depend upon, and will suffer in consequence. She is a hard-working and capable woman, and makes a fair living. I would not advise you to give her money, for her husband would find it out, and take it from her. It is sympathy that she wants. If you could visit her occasionally, and show that you are interested in her, by talking or reading to her poor foolish boy or showing him a picture-book, you have no idea how grateful she would be to you, and how it would cheer her on her dreary way."
"I will go to see her to-morrow," said Mrs. Montague. "Can you think of any one else I could visit."
"A great many," said Mrs. Morris, "but I don't think you had better undertake too much at once. I will give you the addresses of three or four poor families, where an occasional visit would do untold good. That is, it will do them good if you treat them as you do your richer friends. Don't give them too much money, or too many presents, till you find out what they need. Try to feel interested in them. Find out their ways of living, and what they are going to do with their children, and help them to get situations for them if you can. And be sure to remember that poverty does not always take away one's self-respect."
"I will, I will," said Mrs. Montague, eagerly. "When can you give me these addresses?"
Mrs. Morris smiled again, and, taking a piece of paper and a pencil from her work basket, wrote a few lines and handed them to Mrs. Montague.
The lady got up to take her leave. "And in regard to the dog," said Mrs. Morris, following her to the door, "if you decide to allow Charlie to have one, you had better let him come in and have a talk with my boys about it. They seem to know all the dogs that are for sale in the town."
"Thank you, I shall be most happy to do so. He shall have his dog. When can you have him?"
"To-morrow, the next day, any day at all. It makes no difference to me. Let him spend an afternoon and evening with the boys, if you do not object."
"It will give me much pleasure," and the little lady bowed and smiled, and after stooping down to pat me, tripped down the steps, and got into her carriage and drove away.
Mrs. Morris stood looking after her with a beaming face, and I began to think that I should like Mrs. Montague too, if I knew her long enough. Two days later I was quite sure I should, for I had a proof that she really liked me. When her little boy Charlie came to the house, he brought something for me done up in white paper. Mrs. Morris opened it, and there was a handsome, nickel-plated collar, with my name on it—Beautiful Joe. Wasn't I pleased! They took off the little shabby leather strap that the boys had given me when I came, and fastened on my new collar, and then Mrs. Morris held me up to a glass to look at myself. I felt so happy. Up to this time I had felt a little ashamed of my cropped ears and docked tail, but now that I had a fine new collar I could hold up my head with any dog.
"Dear old Joe," said Mrs. Morris, pressing my head tightly between her hands. "You did a good thing the other day in helping me to start that little woman out of her selfish way of living."
I did not know about that, but I knew that I felt very grateful to Mrs. Montague for my new collar, and ever afterward, when I met her in the street, I stopped and looked at her. Sometimes she saw me and stopped her carriage to speak to me; but I always wagged my tail, or rather my body, for I had no tail to wag, whenever I saw her, whether she saw me or not.
Her son got a beautiful Irish setter, called "Brisk." He had a silky coat and soft brown eyes, and his young master seemed very fond of him.