Beautiful Joe
Chapter 10, Page 3


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.


We had a grand game with Willie. Miss Laura had trained us to do all kinds of things with balls — jumping for them, playing hide-and-seek, and catching them.

Billy could do more things than I could. One thing he did which I thought was very clever. He played ball by himself. He was so crazy about ball play that he could never get enough of it.

Miss Laura played all she could with him, but she had to help her mother with the sewing and the housework, and do lessons with her father, for she was only seventeen years old, and had not left off studying. So Billy would take his ball and go off by himself. Sometimes he rolled it over the floor, and sometimes he threw it in the air and pushed it through the staircase railings to the hall below. He always listened till he heard it drop, then he ran down and brought it back and pushed it through again. He did this till he was tired, and then he brought the ball and laid it at Miss Laura's feet.

We both had been taught a number of tricks. We could sneeze and cough, and be dead dogs, and say our prayers, and stand on our heads, and mount a ladder and say the alphabet, — this was the hardest of all, and it took Miss Laura a long time to teach us. We never began till a book was laid before us. Then we stared at it, and Miss Laura said, "Begin, Joe and Billy — say A."

For A, we gave a little squeal. B was louder. C was louder still. We barked for some letters, and growled for others. We always turned a summersault for S. When we got to Z, we gave the book a push and had a frolic around the room.

When any one came in, and Miss Laura had us show off any of our tricks, the remark always was, "What clever dogs. They are not like other dogs."

That was a mistake. Billy and I were not any brighter than many a miserable cur that skulked about the streets of Fairport. It was kindness and patience that did it all. When I was with Jenkins he thought I was a very stupid dog. He would have laughed at the idea of any one teaching me anything. But I was only sullen and obstinate, because I was kicked about so much. If he had been kind to me, I would have done anything for him.

I loved to wait on Miss Laura and Mrs. Morris, and they taught both Billy and me to make ourselves useful about the house. Mrs. Morris didn't like going up and down the three long staircases, and sometimes we just raced up and down, waiting on her.

How often I have heard her go into the hall and say, "Please send me down a clean duster, Laura. Joe, you get it." I would run gayly up the steps, and then would come Billy's turn. "Billy, I have forgotten my keys. Go get them."

After a time we began to know the names of different articles, and where they were kept, and could get them ourselves. On sweeping days we worked very hard, and enjoyed the fun. If Mrs. Morris was too far away to call to Mary for what she wanted, she wrote the name on a piece of paper, and told us to take it to her.

Billy always took the letters from the postman, and carried the morning paper up to Mr. Morris's study, and I always put away the clean clothes. After they were mended, Mrs. Morris folded each article and gave it to me, mentioning the name of the owner, so that I could lay it on his bed. There was no need for her to tell me the names. I knew by the smell. All human beings have a strong smell to a dog, even though they mayn't notice it themselves. Mrs. Morris never knew how she bothered me by giving away Miss Laura's clothes to poor people. Once, I followed her track all through the town, and at last found it was only a pair of her boots on a ragged child in the gutter.

I must say a word about Billy's tail before I close this chapter. It is the custom to cut the ends of fox terrier's tails, but leave their ears untouched. Billy came to Miss Laura so young that his tail had not been cut off, and she would not have it done.

One day Mr. Robinson came in to see him, and he said, "You have made a fine-looking dog of him, but his appearance is ruined by the length of his tail."

"Mr. Robinson," said Mrs. Morris, patting little Billy, who lay on her lap, "don't you think that this little dog has a beautifully proportioned body?"

"Yes, I do," said the gentleman. "His points are all correct, save that one."

"But," she said, "if our Creator made that beautiful little body, don't you think he is wise enough to know what length of tail would be in proportion to it?"

Mr. Robinson would not answer her. He only laughed and said that he thought she and Miss Laura were both "cranks."