Beautiful Joe
Chapter 27


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 not been on the ground more than a few seconds, before I turned my eyes from Miss Laura to the log hut. It was deathly quiet, there was not a sound coming from it, but the air was full of queer smells, and I was so uneasy that I could not lie still. There was something the matter with Fleetfoot, too. He was pawing the ground and whinnying, and looking, not after Mr. Harry, but toward the log building.

"Joe," said Miss Laura, "what is the matter with you and Fleetfoot? Why don't you stand still? Is there any stranger about?" and she peered out of the buggy.

I knew there was something wrong somewhere, but I didn't know what it was; so I stretched myself up on the step of the buggy, and licked her hand, and barking, to ask her to excuse me, I ran off to the other side of the log hut. There was a door there, but it was closed, and propped firmly up by a plank that I could not move, scratch as hard as I liked. I was determined to get in, so I jumped against the door, and tore and bit at the plank, till Miss Laura came to help me.

"You won't find anything but rats in that ramshackle old place, Beautiful Joe," she said, as she pulled the plank away; "and as you don't hurt them, I don't see what you want to get in for. However, you are a sensible dog, and usually have a reason for having your own way, so I am going to let you have it."

The plank fell down as she spoke, and she pulled open the rough door and looked in. There was no window inside, only the light that streamed through the door, so that for an instant she could see nothing. "Is any one here?" she asked, in her clear, sweet voice. There was no answer, except a low, moaning sound. "Why, some poor creature is in trouble, Joe," said Miss Laura, cheerfully. "Let us see what it is," and she stepped inside.

I shall never forget seeing my dear Miss Laura going into that wet and filthy log house, holding up her white dress in her hands, her face a picture of pain and horror. There were two rough stalls in it, and in the first one was tied a cow, with a calf lying beside her. I could never have believed, if I had not seen it with my own eyes, that an animal could get so thin as that cow was. Her backbone rose up high and sharp, her hip bones stuck away out, and all her body seemed shrunken in. There were sores on her sides, and the smell from her stall was terrible. Miss Laura gave one cry of pity, then with a very pale face she dropped her dress, and seizing a little penknife from her pocket, she hacked at the rope that tied the cow to the manger, and cut it so that the cow could lie down. The first thing the poor cow did was to lick her calf, but it was quite dead. I used to think Jenkins's cows were thin enough, but he never had one that looked like this. Her head was like the head of a skeleton, and her eyes had such a famished look, that I turned away, sick at heart, to think that she had suffered so.

When the cow lay down, the moaning noise stopped, for she had been making it. Miss Laura ran outdoors, snatched a handful of grass and took it in to her. The cow ate it gratefully, but slowly, for her strength seemed all gone.

Miss Laura then went into the other stall to see if there was any creature there. There had been a horse. There was now a lean, gaunt-looking animal lying on the ground, that seemed as if he was dead. There was a heavy rope knotted round his neck, and fastened to his empty rack. Miss Laura stepped carefully between his feet, cut the rope and going outside the stall spoke kindly to him. He moved his ears slightly, raised his head, tried to get up, fell back again, tried again, and succeeded in staggering outdoors after Miss Laura, who kept encouraging him, and then he fell down on the grass.