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Chapter 3 Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders

There was a young man going by on a bicycle. He heard my screams, and springing off his bicycle, came hurrying up the path, and stood among us before Jenkins caught sight of him.

In the midst of my pain, I heard him say fiercely, “What have you been doing to that dog?”

“I've been cuttin' his ears for fightin', my young gentleman,” said Jenkins. “There is no law to prevent that, is there?”

“And there is no law to prevent my giving you a beating,” said the young man angrily. In a trice he had seized Jenkins by the throat and was pounding him with all his might. Mrs. Jenkins came and stood at the house door crying, but making no effort to help her husband.

“Bring me a towel,” the young man cried to her, after he had stretched Jenkins, bruised and frightened, on the ground. She snatched off her apron and ran down with it, and the young man wrapped me in it, and taking me carefully in his arms, walked down the path to the gate. There were some little boys standing there, watching him, their mouths wide open with astonishment. “Sonny,” he said to the largest of them, “if you will come behind and carry this dog, I will give you a quarter.”

The boy took me, and we set out. I was all smothered up in a cloth, and moaning with pain, but still I looked out occasionally to see which way we were going. We took the road to the town and stopped in front of a house on Washington Street. The young man leaned his bicycle up against the house, took a quarter from his pocket and put it in the boy's hand, and lifting me gently in his arms, went up a lane leading to the back of the house.

There was a small stable there. He went into it, put me down on the floor and uncovered my body. Some boys were playing about the stable, and I heard them say, in horrified tones, “Oh, Cousin Harry, what is the matter with that dog?”

“Hush,” he said. “Don't make a fuss. You, Jack, go down to the kitchen and ask Mary for a basin of warm water and a sponge, and don't let your mother or Laura hear you.”

A few minutes later, the young man had bathed my bleeding ears and tail, and had rubbed something on them that was cool and pleasant, and had bandaged them firmly with strips of cotton. I felt much better and was able to look about me.

I was in a small stable, that was evidently not used for a stable, but more for a play-room. There were various kinds of toys scattered about, and a swing and bar, such as boys love to twist about on; in two different corners. In a box against the wall was a guinea pig, looking at me in an interested way. This guinea pig's name was Jeff, and he and I became good friends. A long-haired French rabbit was hopping about, and a tame white rat was perched on the shoulder of one of the boys, and kept his foothold there, no matter how suddenly the boy moved. There were so many boys, and the stable was so small, that I suppose he was afraid he would get stepped on if he went on the floor. He stared hard at me with his little, red eyes, and never even glanced at a queer-looking, gray cat that was watching me, too, from her bed in the back of the vacant horse stall. Out in the sunny yard, some pigeons were pecking at grain, and a spaniel lay asleep in a corner.

I had never seen anything like this before, and my wonder at it almost drove the pain away. Mother and I always chased rats and birds, and once we killed a kitten. While I was puzzling over it, one of the boys cried out, “Here is Laura!”

“Take that rag out of the way,” said Mr. Harry, kicking aside the old apron I had been wrapped in, and that was stained with my blood. One of the boys stuffed it into a barrel, and then they all looked toward the house.

A young girl, holding up one hand to shade her eyes from the sun, was coming up the walk that led from the house to the stable. I thought then that I never had seen such a beautiful girl, and I think so still. She was tall and slender, and had lovely brown eyes and brown hair, and a sweet smile, and just to look at her was enough to make one love her. I stood in the stable door, staring at her with all my might.

“Why, what a funny dog,” she said, and stopped short to looked at me. Up to this, I had not thought what a queer-looking sight I must be. Now I twisted round my head, saw the white bandage on my tail, and knowing I was not a fit spectacle for a pretty young lady like that, I slunk into a corner.

“Poor doggie, have I hurt your feelings?” she said, and with a sweet smile at the boys, she passed by them and came up to the guinea pig's box, behind which I had taken refuge. “What is the matter with your head, good dog?” she said, curiously, as she stooped over me.

“He has a cold in it,” said one of the boys with a laugh; “so we put a nightcap on.” She drew back, and turned very pale. “Cousin Harry, there are drops of blood on this cotton. Who has hurt this dog?”

“Dear Laura,” and the young man coming up, laid his hand on her shoulder, “he got hurt, and I have been bandaging him.”

“Who hurt him?”

“I had rather not tell you.”

“But I wish to know.” Her voice was as gentle as ever, but she spoke so decidedly that the young man was obliged to tell her everything. All the time he was speaking, she kept touching me gently with her fingers. When he had finished his account of rescuing me from Jenkins, she said, quietly:

“You will have the man punished?”

“What is the use? That won't stop him from being cruel.”

“It will put a check on his cruelty.”

“I don't think it would do any good,” said the young man, doggedly.

“Cousin Harry!” and the young girl stood up very straight and tall, her brown eyes flashing, and one hand pointing at me; “will you let that pass? That animal has been wronged, it looks to you to right it. The coward who has maimed it for life should be punished. A child has a voice to tell its wrong a poor, dumb creature must suffer in silence; in bitter, bitter silence. And,” eagerly, as the young man tried to interrupt her, “you are doing the man himself an injustice. If he is bad enough to ill-treat his dog, he will ill-treat his wife and children. If he is checked and punished now for his cruelty, he may reform. And even if his wicked heart is not changed, he will be obliged to treat them with outward kindness, through fear of punishment.”

The young man looked convinced, and almost as ashamed as if he had been the one to crop my ears. “What do you want me to do?” he said, slowly, and looking sheepishly at the boys who were staring open-mouthed at him and the young girl.

The girl pulled a little watch from her belt. “I want you to report that man immediately. It is now five o'clock. I will go down to the police station with you, if you like.”

“Very well,” he said, his face brightening, and together they went off to the house.

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