Beautiful Joe
Chapter 21

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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 XXI: MR. MAXWELL AND MR. HARRY

Mr. Maxwell wore a coat with loose pockets, and while she was speaking, he rested on his crutches, and began to slap them with his hands. "No; there's nothing here to-day," he said; "I think I emptied my pockets before I went to the meeting."

Just as he said that there was a loud squeal: "Oh, my guinea pig," he exclaimed; "I forgot him," and he pulled out a little spotted creature a few inches long. "Poor Derry, did I hurt you?" and he soothed it very tenderly.

I stood and looked at Mr. Maxwell, for I had never seen any one like him. He had thick curly hair and a white face, and he looked just like a girl. While I was staring at him, something peeped up out of one of his pockets and ran out its tongue at me so fast that I could scarcely see it, and then drew back again. I was thunderstruck. I had never seen such a creature before. It was long and thin like a boy's cane, and of a bright green color like grass, and it had queer shiny eyes. But its tongue was the strangest part of it. It came and went like lightning. I was uneasy about it, and began to bark.

"What's the matter, Joe?" said Mrs. Wood; "the pig won't hurt you."

But it wasn't the pig I was afraid of, and I kept on barking. And all the time that strange live thing kept sticking up its head and putting out its tongue at me, and neither of them noticed it.

"Its getting on toward six," said Mrs. Wood; "we must be going home. Come, Mr. Maxwell."

The young man put the guinea pig in his pocket, picked up his crutches, and we started down the sunny village street. He left his guinea pig at his boarding house as he went by, but he said nothing about the other creature, so I knew he did not know it was there.

I was very much taken with Mr. Maxwell. He seemed so bright and happy, in spite of his lameness, which kept him from running about like other young men. He looked a little older than Miss Laura, and one day, a week or two later, when they were sitting on the veranda, I heard him tell her that he was just nineteen. He told her, too, that his lameness made him love animals. They never laughed at him, or slighted him, or got impatient, because he could not walk quickly. They were always good to him, and he said he loved all animals while he liked very few people.

On this day as he was limping along, he said to Mrs. Wood: "I am getting more absent-minded every day. Have you heard of my latest escapade?"

"No," she said.

"I am glad," he replied. "I was afraid that it would be all over the village by this time. I went to church last Sunday with my poor guinea pig in my pocket. He hasn't been well, and I was attending to him before church, and put him in there to get warm, and forgot about him. Unfortunately I was late, and the back seats were all full, so I had to sit farther up than I usually do. During the first hymn I happened to strike Piggy against the side of the seat. Such an ear-splitting squeal as he set up. It sounded as if I was murdering him. The people stared and stared, and I had to leave the church, overwhelmed with confusion."

Mrs. Wood and Miss Laura laughed, and then they got talking about other matters that were not interesting to me, so I did not listen. But I kept close to Miss Laura, for I was afraid that green thing might hurt her. I wondered very much what its name was. I don't think I should have feared it so much if I had known what it was.

"There's something the matter with Joe," said Miss Laura, when we got into the lane. "What is it, dear old fellow?" She put down her little hand, and I licked it, and wished so much that I could speak.

Sometimes I wish very much that I had the gift of speech, and then at other times I see how little it would profit me, and how many foolish things I should often say. And I don't believe human beings would love animals as well, if they could speak.