Beautiful Joe
Chapter 11, Page 2


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.


I thought it was a great deal of trouble to take care of them. The first morning after Carl left, Billy, and Bella, and Davy, and I followed Miss Laura upstairs. She made us sit in a row by the door, lest we should startle the canaries. She had a great many things to do. First, the canaries had their baths. They had to get them at the same time every morning. Miss Laura filled the little white dishes with water and put them in the cages, and then came and sat on a stool by the door. Bella, and Billy, and Davy climbed into her lap, and I stood close by her. It was so funny to watch those canaries. They put their heads on one side and looked first at their little baths and then at us. They knew we were strangers. Finally, as we were all very quiet, they got into the water; and what a good time they had, fluttering their wings and splashing, and cleaning themselves so nicely.

Then they got up on their perches and sat in the sun, shaking themselves and picking at their feathers.

Miss Laura cleaned each cage, and gave each bird some mixed rape and canary seed. I heard Carl tell her before he left not to give them much hemp seed, for that was too fattening. He was very careful about their food. During the summer I had often seen him taking up nice green things to them: celery, chickweed, tender cabbage, peaches, apples, pears, bananas; and now at Christmas time, he had green stuff growing in pots on the window ledge.

Besides that he gave them crumbs of coarse bread, crackers, lumps of sugar, cuttle-fish to peck at, and a number of other things. Miss Laura did everything just as he told her; but I think she talked to the birds more than he did. She was very particular about their drinking water, and washed out the little glass cups that held it most carefully.

After the canaries were clean and comfortable, Miss Laura set their cages in the sun, and turned to the goldfish. They were in large glass globes on the window-seat. She took a long-handled tin cup, and dipped out the fish from one into a basin of water. Then she washed the globe thoroughly and put the fish back, and scattered wafers of fish food on the top. The fish came up and snapped at it, and acted as if they were glad to get it. She did each globe and then her work was over for one morning.

She went away for a while, but every few hours through the day she ran up to Carl's room to see how the fish and canaries were getting on. If the room was too chilly she turned on more heat; but she did not keep it too warm, for that would make the birds tender.

After a time the canaries got to know her, and hopped gayly around their cages, and chirped and sang whenever they saw her coming. Then she began to take some of them downstairs, and to let them out of their cages for an hour or two every day. They were very happy little creatures, and chased each other about the room, and flew on Miss Laura's head, and pecked saucily at her face as she sat sewing and watching them. They were not at all afraid of me nor of Billy, and it was quite a sight to see them hopping up to Bella. She looked so large beside them.

One little bird became ill while Carl was away, and Miss Laura had to give it a great deal of attention. She gave it plenty of hemp seed to make it fat, and very often the yolk of a hard-boiled egg, and kept a nail in its drinking water, and gave it a few drops of alcohol in its bath every morning to keep it from taking cold. The moment the bird finished taking its bath, Miss Laura took the dish from the cage, for the alcohol made the water poisonous. Then vermin came on it, and she had to write to Carl to ask him what to do. He told her to hang a muslin bag full of sulphur over the swing, so that the bird would dust it down on her feathers. That cured the little thing, and when Carl came home, he found it quite well again. One day, just after he got back, Mrs. Montague drove up to the house with a canary cage carefully done up in a shawl. She said that a bad-tempered housemaid, in cleaning the cage that morning, had gotten angry with the bird and struck it, breaking its leg. She was very much annoyed with the girl for her cruelty, and had dismissed her, and now she wanted Carl to take her bird and nurse it, as she knew nothing about canaries.

Carl had just come in from school. He threw down his books, took the shawl from the cage and looked in. The poor little canary was sitting in a corner. It eyes were half shut, one leg hung loose, and it was making faint chirps of distress.

Carl was very much interested in it. He got Mrs. Montague to help him, and together they split matches, tore up strips of muslin, and bandaged the broken leg. He put the little bird back in the cage, and it seemed more comfortable "I think he will do now," he said to Mrs. Montague, "but hadn't you better leave him with me for a few days?"

She gladly agreed to this and went away, after telling him that the bird's name was Dick.

The next morning at the breakfast table, I heard Carl telling his mother that as soon as he woke up he sprang out of bed and went to see how his canary was. During the night, poor foolish Dick had picked off the splints from his leg, and now it was as bad as ever. "I shall have to perform a surgical operation," he said.

I did not know what he meant, so I watched him when, after breakfast, he brought the bird down to his mother's room. She held it while he took a pair of sharp scissors, and cut its leg right off a little way above the broken place. Then he put some vaseline on the tiny stump, bound it up, and left Dick in his mother's care. All the morning, as she sat sewing, she watched him to see that he did not pick the bandage away.

When Carl came home, Dick was so much better that he had managed to fly up on his perch, and was eating seeds quite gayly. "Poor Dick!" said Carl, "leg and a stump!" Dick imitated him in a few little chirps, "A leg and a stump!"

"Why, he is saying it too," exclaimed Carl, and burst out laughing.