Beautiful Joe
Chapter 22, 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.


Mr. Maxwell had got over his ill humor, and was chatting in a lively way. "Good Joe," he said, "I was cross to you, and I beg your pardon It always riles me to have any of my pets injured. You didn't know my poor snake was only after something to eat. Mrs. Wood has pinned him in my pocket so he won't come out again. Do you know where I got that snake, Mrs. Wood?"

"No," she said; "you never told me."

"It was across the river by Blue Ridge," he said. "One day last summer I was out rowing, and, getting very hot, tied my boat in the shade of a big tree. Some village boys were in the woods, and, hearing a great noise, I went to see what it was all about They were Band of Mercy boys, and finding a country boy beating a snake to death, they were remonstrating with him for his cruelty, telling him that some kinds of snakes were a help to the farmer, and destroyed large numbers of field mice and other vermin. The boy was obstinate. He had found the snake, and he insisted upon his right to kill it, and they were having rather a lively time when I appeared. I persuaded them to make the snake over to me. Apparently it was already dead. Thinking it might revive, I put it on some grass in the bow of the boat. It lay there motionless for a long time, and I picked up my oars and started for home. I had got half way across the river, when I turned around and saw that the snake was gone. It had just dropped into the water, and was swimming toward the bank we had left. I turned and followed it.

"It swam slowly and with evident pain, lifting Its head every few seconds high above the water, to see which way it was going. On reaching the bank it coiled itself up, throwing up blood and water. I took it up carefully, carried it home, and nursed it. It soon got better, and has been a pet of mine ever since."

After tea was over, and Mrs. Wood and Miss Laura had helped Adele finish the work, they all gathered in the parlor. The day had been quite warm, but now a cool wind had sprung up, and Mr. Wood said that it was blowing up rain.

Mrs. Wood said that she thought a fire would be pleasant; so they lighted the sticks of wood in the open grate, and all sat round the blazing fire.

Mr. Maxwell tried to get me to make friends with the little snake that he held in his hands toward the blaze, and now that I knew that it was harmless I was not afraid of it; but it did not like me, and put out its funny little tongue whenever I looked at it.

By-and-by the rain began to strike against the windows, and Mr. Maxwell said, "This is just the night for a story. Tell us something out of your experience, won't you, Mr. Wood?"

"What shall I tell you?" he said, good-humoredly. He was sitting between his wife and Mr. Harry, and had his hand on Mr. Harry's knee.

"Something about animals," said Mr. Maxwell. "We seem to be on that subject to-day."

"Well," said Mr. Wood, "I'll talk about something that has been running in my head for many a day. There is a good deal of talk nowadays about kindness to domestic animals; but I do not hear much about kindness to wild ones. The same Creator formed them both. I do not see why you should not protect one as well as the other. I have no more right to torture a bear than a cow. Our wild animals around here are getting pretty well killed off, but there are lots in other places. I used to be fond of hunting when I was a boy; but I have got rather disgusted with killing these late years, and unless the wild creatures ran in our streets, I would lift no hand to them. Shall I tell you some of the sport we had when I was a youngster?"

"Yes, yes!" they all exclaimed.