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Joe and Blinky, from Harper's

 

Blinky was a poor dirty little puppy whom somebody had lost, and somebody else had stolen, and whose miserable little life was a burden to himself until Joe found him. It happened one warm day in July that Joe, whose bright eyes were always pretty wide open, saw a group of youngsters eagerly clustering about an object which appeared to interest them very much. This object squirmed, gasped, and occasionally kicked, to the great amusement of the little crowd, who liked excitement of any sort. Joe put his head over the shoulders of the children, and saw a wretched little dog in the agonies of a convulsion. Now, instead of giving him pleasure, this sight pained him grievously, as did any suffering, and Joe pushed his way through the crowd, asking whose dog it was. No one claimed it; and Joe was watched with great interest, and warned most zealously, as he took the poor little creature by the nape of its neck to the nearest pump.

"You'd better look out. He's mad. See if he isn't."

"What yer goin' to do?—kill him? My father's got a pistol; I'll run and get it."

"No, you needn't," said Joe.

There was no pound in the town, and so the dog was worthless, and after a while the crowd of children found something else to interest them.

Joe bathed the little dog, and rubbed it, and soothed its violent struggles, and carried it away to a quiet corner on the steps of a house where a great elm-tree made a refreshing shade. Here he sat a long time, watching his little patient, and glad to find it getting quieter and quieter, until it fell fast asleep in his arms. Joe did not move, so pleased was he to relieve the poor little creature, whose thin flanks revealed a long course of suffering. There were few passers in the street, and Joe had no school duties, thanks to its being vacation, so he was free to do as he chose. After more than an hour the poor little dog opened its eyes, which were so dazzled by the light that Joe at once named him Blinky, and presently a hot red little tongue was licking Joe's big brown hand. That was enough for Joe; it was as plain a "thank you" as he wanted, and he carried his stray charge home to share his dinner.

From that day Joe was seldom seen without Blinky; and after many good dinners, and plenty of sleep without terrible dreams of tins tied to his tail, Blinky began to grow handsome, and Joe to be very proud of him. Blinky slept under Joe's bed, woke him every morning with a sharp little bark, as much as saying, "Wake up, lazy fellow, and have a frolic with me," and then bounced up beside him for a game. And how he frisked when Joe took him out! The only thing he did not enjoy was his weekly scrubbing, and the combing with an old coarse toilet comb which followed. But he bore it patiently for Joe's sake. Vacation came to an end, and school began. This was as sore a trial to Blinky as to Joe, for of course he could not be allowed in school, though he left Joe at the door with most regretful and downcast looks, which said plainly, "This is injustice; you and I should never be parted," and he was always waiting when school was out.

Joe hated school; he would much rather have been chestnutting in the woods, gay with their crimson and yellow leaves, or chasing the squirrels with Blinky; but he knew he had to study, if ever he was to be of any use in the world, and so he tried to forget the delights of roaming, or the charms of Blinky's company. But when the first snow came, how hard it was to stick at the old books! How delicious was the frosty air, and how pure and fresh the new-fallen snow, waiting to be made use of as Joe so well knew how!

"Duty first," said Joe to himself, as with shovel and broom he cleared the path in the court-yard, and shovelled the kitchen steps clean. He did it so well that his father tossed him some pennies—for he was saving up to buy Blinky a collar—and he turned off with a light heart for school, with Blinky at his heels.

The school-mistress had a hard time that day; all the boys were wild with fun, one only of them not sharing the glee. This one was a little chap whose parents had sent him up North from Georgia to his relatives, the parents being too poor after the war to maintain their family. He was a skinny little fellow, always shivering and snuffling, and his name was Bob.

Now Bob wasn't a favorite. The boys liked to tease him, called him "Little Reb," and he in turn disliked them, and was ever ready to report their mischievous pranks to the teacher. If there was anything pleasant about the boy, no one knew it, because no one took the trouble to find out. Bob did not relish the snow; he was pinched and blue, and whenever he had the chance was huddling up against the stove; besides, he liked to read, and would rather have staid in all day with a book of fairy tales than shared the gayest romp they could have suggested. This afternoon Joe had made so many mistakes in his arithmetic examples that he was obliged to stay late, and do them over; but he was sorely annoyed and tempted at hearing the shouts and cries of joy with which the boys saluted each other as they escaped from the school-room, and he spoke very crossly when a little voice at his elbow said,

"Please may I go home with you?"

"No," said Joe.

"Ah, please!"

Joe turned, and saw that it was Bob. This provoked him still more. "I said no, 'tell-tale.' What do I want to be bothered with you?"

Bob turned away, disappointed. Joe kept on at his lesson; it was very perplexing, and he was out of humor. Besides, the fun outside was increasing; he could hear the roars of laughter, the whiz of the flying snow-balls, and the gleeful crows of the conquering heroes. He was the only one in the school-room. Presently there was a hush, a sort of premonitory symptom of more mischief brewing outside, which provoked his curiosity to the utmost.

"Five times ten, divided by three, and— Oh, I can't stand this," said Joe, as he gave a push to his slate, and ran to the window.

The boys had gone off to the farthest corner of the vacant lot on which the school-house stood, and by the appearance of things were preparing to have an animated game of foot-ball; but by the gestures and general drift of motions Joe saw, to his horror, that poor little Bob was evidently to be the victim. Already they were rolling him in the snow, and cuffing him about as if he were made of India rubber, and deserved no better treatment.

Joe's conscience woke up in a minute, for he knew that if he had allowed Bob to wait for him as he had wanted to do, the boys would not have dared to touch him, and he felt ashamed of his unkindness and ill humor as he saw the results.

The child was getting fearfully maltreated, as Joe saw, not merely on account of their dislike for him, but because in their gambols the boys were lost to all sense of the cruelty they were practicing, and they tossed him about regardless of the fact that his bones could be broken or his sinews snapped.

Cramming his books in his bag, and snatching up his cap, Joe dashed out of the door. Blinky was ready for him, and did not know what all this haste meant, but dashed after his master, as in duty bound.

"I say, fellers, stop that!" he shouted, repeating the "stop that!" as loud as his lungs could make the exertion. The din was so great that it was some moments before they heard him, but Blinky barked at their heels, and helped to arrest their attention.

"Stop! what shall we stop for?" asked one of the bigger and rougher ones.

"You are doing a mean, hateful thing—that's why."

"Oho! that's because you haven't a share in it," was the sneering reply.

"FIRE AWAY!" "FIRE AWAY!"

"If you'll stop, I'll run the gauntlet for you," said Joe. There was a pause. Perhaps that would be better than foot-ball; besides, Joe never got mad, and little Bob was crying hard. "Let Bob go home, fair and square, and I'll run," repeated Joe.

"All right," they shouted. "Come on, then."

Joe helped to uncover Bob, shook the snow off his clothes, wiped his eyes with the cuff of his coat, and sent him on his way. Then the boys formed two lines, each with as many snow-balls as he could hurriedly make, and Joe prepared for the run. Blinky was furious, and as Joe shouted, "Fire away!" and started down the line, he barked himself hoarse. Hot and heavy came the balls, or rather cold and fast they fell on Joe's back and head and school bag. But he was a good runner, and tore like mad from his pursuers, screaming, as he ran, "Fire away! fire away!" until he reached a cellar door, where he knew he could take refuge. Here he halted; but Blinky was in a rage at having his master thus used. Joe did not mind it in the least, and was as full of fun as he could be. When he got home he found his mother making apple pies; she had baked one in a saucer for him. It looked delicious, but as he was about to bite it, he said, "Mother, may I just run over to Mrs. Allen's for a minute?"

"Oh yes," was the reply.

Wrapping up the pie in a napkin, he carried it with him. By the side of the stove, with his head aching and bound up in a handkerchief, he found poor little Bob. Without a word, he stuffed the nice little pie in Bob's hands, and then rushed out again.

It is hardly necessary to say that in the future Blinky had a rival, and that rival was Bob.