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Chapter 4 Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders

The boys watched them out of sight, then one of them, whose name I afterward learned was Jack, and who came next to Miss Laura in age, gave a low whistle and said, “Doesn't the old lady come out strong when any one or anything gets abused? I'll never forget the day she found me setting Jim on that black cat of the Wilsons. She scolded me, and then she cried, till I didn't know where to look. Plague on it, how was I going to know he'd kill the old cat? I only wanted to drive it out of the yard. Come on, let's look at the dog.”

They all came and bent over me, as I lay on the floor in my corner. I wasn't much used to boys, and I didn't know how they would treat me. But I soon found by the way they handled me and talked to me, that they knew a good deal about dogs, and were accustomed to treat them kindly. It seemed very strange to have them pat me, and call me “good dog.” No one had ever said that to me before to-day.

“He's not much of a beauty, is he?” said one of the boys, whom they called Tom.

“Not by a long shot,” said Jack Morris, with a laugh. “Not any nearer the beauty mark than yourself, Tom.”

Tom flew at him, and they had a scuffle. The other boys paid no attention to them, but went on looking at me. One of them, a little boy with eyes like Miss Laura's, said, “What did Cousin Harry say the dog's name was?”

“Joe,” answered another boy. “The little chap that carried him home told him.”

“We might call him 'Ugly Joe' then,” said a lad with a round, fat face, and laughing eyes. I wondered very much who this boy was, and, later on, I found out that he was another of Miss Laura's brothers, and his name was Ned. There seemed to be no end to the Morris boys.

“I don't think Laura would like that,” said Jack Morris, suddenly coming up behind him. He was very hot, and was breathing fast, but his manner was as cool as if he had never left the group about me. He had beaten Tom, who was sitting on a box, ruefully surveying a hole in his jacket. “You see,” he went on, gaspingly, “if you call him 'Ugly Joe,' her ladyship will say that you are wounding the dear dog's feelings. 'Beautiful Joe,' would be more to her liking.”

A shout went up from the boys. I didn't wonder that they laughed. Plain-looking I naturally was; but I must have been hideous in those bandages.

“'Beautiful Joe,' then let it be!” they cried, “Let us go and tell mother, and ask her to give us something for our beauty to eat.”

They all trooped out of the stable, and I was very sorry, for when they were with me, I did not mind so much the tingling in my ears, and the terrible pain in my back. They soon brought me some nice food, but I could not touch it, so they went away to their play, and I lay in the box they put me in, trembling with pain, and wishing that the pretty young lady was there, to stroke me with her gentle fingers.

By-and-by it got dark. The boys finished their play, and went into the house, and I saw lights twinkling in the windows. I felt lonely and miserable in this strange place. I would not have gone back to Jenkins' for the world, still it was the only home I had known, and though I felt that I should be happy here, I had not yet gotten used to the change. Then the pain all through my body was dreadful. My head seemed to be on fire, and there were sharp, darting pains up and down my backbone. I did not dare to howl, lest I should make the big dog, Jim, angry. He was sleeping in a kennel, out in the yard.

The stable was very quiet. Up in the loft above, some rabbits that I had heard running about had now gone to sleep. The guinea pig was nestling in the corner of his box, and the cat and the tame rat had scampered into the house long ago.

At last I could bear the pain no longer. I sat up in my box and looked about me. I felt as if I was going to die, and, though I was very weak, there was something inside me that made me feel as if I wanted to crawl away somewhere out of sight. I slunk out into the yard, and along the stable wall, where there was a thick clump of raspberry bushes. I crept in among them and lay down in the damp earth. I tried to scratch off my bandages, but they were fastened on too firmly, and I could not do it. I thought about my poor mother, and wished she was here to lick my sore ears. Though she was so unhappy herself, she never wanted to see me suffer. If I had not disobeyed her, I would not now be suffering so much pain. She had told me again and again not to snap at Jenkins, for it made him worse.

In the midst of my trouble I heard a soft voice calling, “Joe! Joe!” It was Miss Laura's voice, but I felt as if there were weights on my paws, and I could not go to her.

“Joe! Joe!” she said, again. She was going up the walk to the stable, holding up a lighted lamp in her hand. She had on a white dress, and I watched her till she disappeared in the stable. She did not stay long in there. She came out and stood on the gravel. “Joe, Joe, Beautiful Joe, where are you? You are hiding somewhere, but I shall find you.” Then she came right to the spot where I was. “Poor doggie,” she said, stooping down and patting me. “Are you very miserable, and did you crawl away to die? I have had dogs do that before, but I am not going to let you die, Joe.” And she set her lamp on the ground, and took me in her arms.

I was very thin then, not nearly so fat as I am now, still I was quite an armful for her. But she did not seem to find me heavy. She took me right into the house, through the back door, and down a long flight of steps, across a hall, and into a snug kitchen.

“For the land sakes, Miss Laura,” said a woman who was bending over a stove, “what have you got there?”

“A poor sick dog, Mary,” said Miss Laura seating herself on a chair. “Will you please warm a little milk for him? And have you a box or a basket down here that he can lie in?”

“I guess so,” said the woman; “but he's awful dirty; you're not going to let him sleep in the house, are you?”

“Only for to-night. He is very ill. A dreadful thing happened to him, Mary.” And Miss Laura went on to tell her how my ears had been cut off.

“Oh, that's the dog the boys were talking about,” said the woman. “Poor creature, he's welcome to all I can do for him.” She opened a closet door, and brought out a box, and folded a piece of blanket for me to lie on. Then she heated some milk in a saucepan, and poured it in a saucer, and watched me while Miss Laura went upstairs to get a little bottle of something that would make me sleep. They poured a few drops of this medicine into the milk and offered it to me. I lapped a little, but I could not finish it, even though Miss Laura coaxed me very gently to do so. She dipped her finger in the milk and held it out to me and though I did not want it, I could not be ungrateful enough to refuse to lick her finger as often as she offered it to me. After the milk was gone, Mary lifted up my box, and carried me into the washroom that was off the kitchen.

I soon fell sound asleep, and could not rouse myself through the night, even though I both smelled and heard some one coming near me several times. The next morning I found out that it was Miss Laura. Whenever there was a sick animal in the house, no matter if it was only the tame rat, she would get up two or three times in the night, to see if there was anything she could do to make it more comfortable.

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