“Never mind that, Jim,” I said. “You should not fret over a thing for which you are not to blame. I am sure you must be glad for one reason that you have left your old life.”
“What is that?” he said.
“On account of the birds. You know Miss Laura thinks it is wrong to kill the pretty creatures that fly about the woods.”
“So it is,” he said, “unless one kills them at once. I have often felt angry with men for only-half killing a bird. I hated to pick up the little, warm body, and see the bright eye looking so reproachfully at me, and feel the flutter of life. We animals, or rather the most of us, kill mercifully. It is only human beings who butcher their prey, and seem, some of them, to rejoice in their agony. I used to be eager to kill birds and rabbits, but I did not want to keep them before me long after they were dead. I often stop in the street and look up at fine ladies’ bonnets, and wonder how they can wear little dead birds in such dreadful positions. Some of them have their heads twisted under their wings and over their shoulders, and looking toward their tails, and their eyes are so horrible that I wish I could take those ladies into the woods and let them see how easy and pretty a live bird is, and how unlike the stuffed creatures they wear. Have you ever had a good run in the woods, Joe?”
“No, never,” I said.
“Some day I will take you, and now it is late and I must go to bed. Are you going to sleep in the kennel with me, or in the stable?”
“I think I will sleep with you, Jim. Dogs like company, you know, as well as human beings.” I curled up in the straw beside him, and soon we were fast asleep.
I have known a good many dogs, but I don’t think I ever saw such a good one as Jim. He was gentle and kind, and so sensitive that a hard word hurt him more than a blow. He was a great pet with Mrs. Morris, and as he had been so well trained, he was able to make himself very useful to her.
When she went shopping, he often carried a parcel in his mouth for her. He would never drop it nor leave it anywhere. One day, she dropped her purse without knowing it, and Jim picked it up, and brought it home in his mouth. She did not notice him, for he always walked behind her. When she got to her own door, she missed the purse, and turning around saw it in Jim’s mouth.
Another day, a lady gave Jack Morris a canary cage as a present for Carl. He was bringing it home, when one of the little seed boxes fell out. Jim picked it up and carried it a long way, before Jack discovered it.
* * * * *
THE PARROT BELLA
I often used to hear the Morrises speak about vessels that ran between Fairport and a place called the West Indies, carrying cargoes of lumber and fish, and bringing home molasses, spices, fruit, and other things. On one of these vessels, called the “Mary Jane,” was a cabin boy, who was a friend of the Morris boys, and often brought them presents.