Beautiful Joe
Chapter 24, 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.


I had a sheepskin to lie on, and a very good bed it made. I slept soundly for a long time; then I waked up and found that, instead of rain pattering against the roof, and darkness everywhere, it was quite light. The rain was over, and the moon was shining beautifully. I ran to the door and looked out. It was almost as light as day. The moon made it very bright all around the house and farm buildings, and I could look all about and see that there was no one stirring. I took a turn around the yard, and walked around to the side of the house, to glance up at Miss Laura's window. I always did this several times through the night, just to see if she was quite safe. I was on my way back to my bed, when I saw two small, white things moving away down the lane. I stood on the veranda and watched them. When they got nearer, I saw that there was a white rabbit hopping up the road, followed by a white hen.

It seemed to me a very strange thing for these creatures to be out this time of night, and why were they coming to Dingley Farm? This wasn't their home. I ran down on the road and stood in front of them.

Just as soon as the hen saw me, she fluttered in front of the rabbit, and, spreading out her wings, clucked angrily, and acted as if she would peck my eyes out if I came nearer.

I saw that they were harmless creatures, and, remembering my adventure with the snake, I stepped aside. Besides that, I knew by their smell that they had been near Mr. Maxwell, so perhaps they were after him.

They understood quite well that I would not hurt them, and passed by me. The rabbit went ahead again and the hen fell behind. It seemed to me that the hen was sleepy, and didn't like to be out so late at night, and was only following the rabbit because she thought it was her duty.

He was going along in a very queer fashion, putting his nose to the ground, and rising up on his hind legs, and sniffing the air, first on this side and then on the other, and his nose going, going all the time.

He smelled all around the house till he came to Mr. Maxwell's room at the back. It opened on the veranda by a glass door, and the door stood ajar. The rabbit squeezed himself in, and the hen stayed out. She watched for a while, and when he didn't come back, she flew upon the back of a chair that stood near the door, and put her head under her wing.

I went back to my bed, for I knew they would do no harm. Early in the morning, when I was walking around the house, I heard a great shouting and laughing from Mr. Maxwell's room. He and Mr. Harry had just discovered the hen and the rabbit; and Mr. Harry was calling his mother to come and look at them. The rabbit had slept on the foot of the bed.

Mr. Harry was chaffing Mr. Maxwell very much, and was telling him that any one who entertained him was in for a traveling menagerie. They had a great deal of fun over it, and Mr. Maxwell said that he had had that pretty, white hen as a pet for a long time in Boston. Once when she had some little chickens, a frightened rabbit, that was being chased by a dog, ran into the yard. In his terror he got right under the hen's wings, and she sheltered him, and pecked at the dog's eyes, and kept him off till help came. The rabbit belonged to a neighbor's boy, and Mr. Maxwell bought it from him. From the day the hen protected him, she became his friend, and followed him everywhere.

I did not wonder that the rabbit wanted to see his master. There was something about that young man that made dumb animals just delight in him. When Mrs. Wood mentioned this to him he said, "I don't know why they should — I don't do anything to fascinate them."

"You love them," she said, "and they know it. That is the reason."