Beautiful Joe
Chapter 15, Page 4


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.


The young man looked thoughtful, and did not reply. A very sweet faced old lady sitting near him answered the old gentleman. I don't think I have ever seen such a fine-looking old lady as she was. Her hair was snowy white, and her face was deeply wrinkled, yet she was tall and stately, and her expression was as pleasing as my dear Miss Laura's.

"I do not think we are a wicked nation," she said, softly. "We are a younger nation than many of the nations of the earth, and I think that many of our sins arise from ignorance and thoughtlessness."

"Yes, madame, yes, madame," said the fiery old gentleman, staring hard at her. "I agree with you there."

She smiled very pleasantly at him and went on. "I, too, have been a traveler, and I have talked to a great many wise and good people on the subject of the cruel treatment of animals, and I find that many of them have never thought about it. They, themselves, never knowingly ill-treat a dumb creature, and when they are told stories of inhuman conduct, they say in surprise, 'Why, these things surely can't exist!' You see they have never been brought in contact with them. As soon as they learn about them, they begin to agitate and say, 'We must have this thing stopped. Where is the remedy?'"

"And what is it, what is it, madame, in your opinion?" said the old gentleman, pawing the floor with impatience.

"Just the remedy that I would propose for the great evil of intemperance," said the old lady, smiling at him. "Legislation and education. Legislation for the old and hardened, and education for the young and tender. I would tell the schoolboys and schoolgirls that alcohol will destroy the framework of their beautiful bodies, and that cruelty to any of God's living creatures will blight and destroy their innocent young souls."

The young man spoke again. "Don't you think," he said, "that you temperance and humane people lay too much stress upon the education of our youth in all lofty and noble sentiments? The human heart will always be wicked. Your Bible tells you that, doesn't it? You can't educate all the badness out of children."

"We don't expect to do that," said the old lady, turning her pleasant face toward him; "but even if the human heart is desperately wicked, shouldn't that make us much more eager to try to educate, to ennoble, and restrain? However, as far as my experience goes, and I have lived in this wicked world for seventy-five years, I find that the human heart, though wicked and cruel, as you say, has yet some soft and tender spots, and the impressions made upon it in youth are never, never effaced. Do you not remember better than anything else, standing at your mother's knee — the pressure of her hand, her kiss on your forehead?"

By this time our engine had arrived. A whistle was blowing, and nearly every one was rushing from the room, the impatient old gentleman among the first. Miss Laura was hurriedly trying to do up her shawl strap, and I was standing by, wishing that I could help her. The old lady and the young man were the only other people in the room, and we could not help hearing what they said.

"Yes, I do," he said in a thick voice, and his face got very red. "She is dead now— I have no mother."

"Poor boy!" and the old lady laid her hand on his shoulder. They were standing up, and she was taller than he was. "May God bless you. I know you have a kind heart. I have four stalwart boys, and you remind me of the youngest. If you are ever in Washington come to see me." She gave him some name, and he lifted his hat and looked as if he was astonished to find out who she was. Then he, too, went away, and she turned to Miss Laura. "Shall I help you, my dear?"

"If you please," said my young mistress. "I can't fasten this strap."