Beautiful Joe
Chapter 9

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Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


CHAPTER IX: THE PARROT BELLA

I often used to hear the Morrises speak about vessels that ran between Fairport and a place called the West Indies, carrying cargoes of lumber and fish, and bringing home molasses, spices, fruit, and other things. On one of these vessels, called the "Mary Jane," was a cabin boy, who was a friend of the Morris boys, and often brought them presents.

One day, after I had been with the Morrises for some months, this boy arrived at the house with a bunch of green bananas in one hand, and a parrot in the other. The boys were delighted with the parrot, and called their mother to see what a pretty bird she was.

Mrs. Morris seemed very much touched by the boy's thoughtfulness in bringing a present such a long distance to her boys, and thanked him warmly. The cabin boy became very shy, and all he could say was, "Go way!" over and over again, in a very awkward manner.

Mrs. Morris smiled, and left him with the boys.

I think that she thought he would be more comfortable with them.

Jack put me up on the table to look at the parrot. The boy held her by a string tied around one of her legs. She was a gray parrot with a few red feathers in her tail, and she had bright eyes, and a very knowing air.

"The boy said he had been careful to buy a young one that could not speak, for he knew the Morris boys would not want one chattering foreign gibberish, nor yet one that would swear. He had kept her in his bunk in the ship, and had spent all his leisure time in teaching her to talk. Then he looked at her anxiously, and said, "Show off now, can't ye?"

"I didn't know what he meant by all this, until afterward. I had never heard of such a thing as birds talking. I stood on the table staring hard at her, and she stared hard at me. I was just thinking that I would not like to have her sharp little beak fastened in my skin, when I heard some one say, "Beautiful Joe." The voice seemed to come from the room, but I knew all the voices there, and this was one I had never heard before, so I thought I must be mistaken, and it was some one in the hall. I struggled to get away from Jack to run and see who it was. But he held me fast, and laughed with all his might, I looked at the other boys and they were laughing, too. Presently, I heard again, "Beautiful Joe, Beautiful Joe." The sound was close by, and yet it did not come from the cabin boy, for he was all doubled up laughing, his face as red as a beet.

"It's the parrot, Joe!" cried Ned. "Look at her, you gaby." I did look at her, and with her head on one side, and the sauciest air in the world, she was saying: "Beau-ti-ful Joe, Beau-ti-ful Joe!"

I had never heard a bird talk before, and I felt so sheepish that I tried to get down and hide myself under the table. Then she began to laugh at me. "Ha, ha, ha, good dog — sic 'em, boy. Rats, rats! Beau-ti-ful Joe, Beau-ti-ful Joe," she cried, rattling off the words as fast as she could.

I never felt so queer before in my life, and the boys were just roaring with delight at my puzzled face. Then the parrot began calling for Jim: "Where's Jim, where's good old Jim? Poor old dog. Give him a bone."

The boys brought Jim in the parlor, and when he heard her funny, little, cracked voice calling him, he nearly went crazy: "Jimmy, Jimmy, James Augustus!" she said, which was Jim's long name.

He made a dash out of the room, and the boys screamed so that Mr. Morris came down from his study to see what the noise meant. As soon as the parrot saw him, she would not utter another word. The boys told him though what she had been saying, and he seemed much amused to think that the cabin boy should have remembered so many sayings his boys made use of, and taught them to the parrot. "Clever Polly," he said, kindly; "good Polly."

The cabin boy looked at him shyly, and Jack, who was a very sharp boy, said quickly, "Is not that what you call her, Henry?"

"No," said the boy; "I call her Bell, short for Bellzebub."

"I beg your pardon," said Jack, very politely.

"Bell — short for Bellzebub," repeated the boy. "Ye see, I thought ye'd like a name from the Bible, bein' a minister's sons. I hadn't my Bible with me on this cruise, savin' yer presence, an' I couldn't think of any girls' names out of it, but Eve or Queen of Sheba, an' they didn't seem very fit, so I asked one of me mates, an' he says, for his part he guessed Bellzebub was as pretty a girl's name as any, so I guv her that. 'Twould 'a been better to let you name her, but ye see 'twouldn't 'a been handy not to call her somethin', where I was teachin' her every day."

Jack turned away and walked to the window, his face a deep scarlet. I heard him mutter, "Beelzebub, prince of devils," so I suppose the cabin boy had given his bird a bad name.

Mr. Morris looked kindly at the cabin boy. "Do you ever call the parrot by her whole name?"

"No, sir," he replied; "I always give her Bell, but she calls herself Bella."

"Bella," repeated Mr. Morris; "that is a very pretty name. If you keep her, boys, I think you had better stick to that."

"Yes, father," they all said; and then Mr. Morris started to go back to his study. On the doorsill he paused to ask the cabin boy when his ship sailed. Finding that it was to be in a few days, he took out his pocket-book and wrote something in it. The next day he asked Jack to go to town with him, and when they came home, Jack said that his father had bought an oil-skin coat for Henry Smith, and a handsome Bible, in which they were all to write their names.