Chapter 1 | The Santa Claus Shop | The Story of a Nodding Donkey

The Nodding Donkey dated his birth from the day he received the beautiful coat of varnish in the workshop of Santa Claus at the North Pole. Before that he was just some pieces of wood, glued together. His head was not glued on, however, but was fastened in such a manner that with the least motion the Donkey could nod it up and down, and also sidewise.

The Santa Claus Shop

It is not every wooden donkey who is able to nod his head in as many ways as could the Donkey about whom I am going to tell you. This Nodding Donkey was an especially fine toy, and, as has been said, his first birthday was that on which he received such a bright, shiny coat of varnish.

"Here, Santa Claus, look at this, if you please!" called one of the jolly workmen in the shop of St. Nicholas. "Is this toy finished, now?" and he held up the Nodding Donkey.

Santa Claus, who was watching another man put some blue eyes in a golden-haired doll, came over to the bench where sat the man who had made the Nodding Donkey out of some bits of wood, glue, and real hair for his mane and tail.

"Hum! Yes! So you have finished the Nodding Donkey, have you?" asked Santa Claus, as he stroked his long, white beard.

"I'll call him finished if you say he is all right," answered the man, smiling as he put the least tiny dab more of varnish on the Donkey's back. "Shall I set him on the shelf to dry, so you may soon take him down to Earth for some lucky boy or girl?"

"Yes, he is finished. Set him on the shelf with the other toys," answered dear old St. Nicholas, and then, having given a last look at the Donkey, the workman placed him on a shelf, next to a wonderful Plush Bear, of whom I shall tell you more in another book.

"Well, I'm glad he's finished," said Santa Claus' worker, as he took up his tools to start making a Striped Tiger, with a red tongue. "That Nodding Donkey took me quite a while to finish. I hope nothing happens to him until his coat of varnish is hard and dry. My, but he certainly shines!"

And the Nodding Donkey did shine most wonderfully! Not far away, on the same shelf on which he stood, was a doll's bureau with a looking glass on top. In this looking glass the Nodding Donkey caught sight of himself.

"Not so bad!" he thought. "In fact, I'm quite stylish. I'm almost as gay as some of the clowns." And his head bobbed slowly up and down, for it was fastened so that the least jar or jiggle would move it.

"I must be very careful," said the Nodding Donkey to himself. "I must not move about too much nor let any of the other toys rub against me until I am quite dry. If they did they would blur or scratch my shiny varnish coat, and that would be too bad. But after I am dry I'll have some fun. Just wait until to-night! Then there will be some great times in this workshop of Santa Claus!"

The reason the Nodding Donkey said this, was because at night, when Santa Claus and his merry helpers had gone, the toys were allowed to do as they pleased. They could make believe come to life, and move about, having all sorts of adventures.

But, presto! the moment daylight came, or any one looked at them, the toys became as straight and stiff and motionless as any toys that are in your playroom. For all you know some of your toys may move about and pretend to come to life when you are asleep. But it is of no use for you to stay awake, watching to see if they will, for as long as any eyes are peeping, or ears are listening, the toys will never do anything of themselves.

The Nodding Donkey knew that when Santa Claus and the workers were gone he and the other toys could do as they pleased, and he could hardly wait for that time to come.

"But while I am waiting I will stay here on the shelf and get hard and dry," said the Nodding Donkey to himself.

Once more he looked in the glass on the doll's bureau, and he was well pleased with himself, was the Nodding Donkey.

Such a busy place was the workshop of Santa Claus at the North Pole, where the Nodding Donkey was drying in his coat of varnish!

The place was like a great big greenhouse, all made of glass, only the glass was sheets of crystal-clear ice. Santa Claus needed plenty of light in his workshop, for in the dark it is not easy to put red cheeks and blue eyes on dolls, or paint toy soldiers and wind up the springs of the toys that move.

The workshop of Santa Claus, then, was like a big greenhouse, only no flowers grew in it because it is very cold at the North Pole. All about was snow and ice, but Santa Claus did not mind the cold, nor did his workmen, for they were dressed in fur, like the polar bears and the seals.

On each side of the big shop, with its icy glass roof, were work benches. At these benches sat the funny little men who made the toys.

Some were stuffing sawdust into dolls, others were putting the lids on the boxes where the Jacks lived, and still others were trying the Jumping Jacks to see that they jerked their legs and arms properly.

Up and down, between the rows of benches, walked Santa Claus himself. Now and then some workman would call:

"Please look here, Santa Claus! Shall I make this Tin Soldier with a sword or a gun?"

And St. Nicholas would answer:

"That Soldier needs a sword. He is going to be a Captain."

Then another little man would call, from the other side of the shop:

"Here is a Calico Clown who doesn't squeak when I press on his stomach. Something must be wrong with him, Santa Claus."

Then Santa Claus would put on his glasses, stroke his long, white beard and look at the Calico Clown.

"Humph! I should say he wouldn't squeak!" the old gentleman would remark. "You have his squeaker in upside down! That would never do for some little boy or girl to find on Christmas morning! Take the squeaker out and put it in right."

"How careless of me!" the little workman would exclaim. And then Santa Claus and the other workmen would laugh, for this workshop was the jolliest place in the world, and the man would fix the Calico Clown right.

"I'm glad I was born in this place," said the Nodding Donkey to himself, as his head swayed to and fro. "This is really the first day of my life. I wish night would come, so I could move about and talk to the other toys. I wonder how long I shall have to wait?"

Not far from the doll's bureau, which held the looking glass, was a toy house, and in it was a toy clock. The Donkey looked in through the window of the toy house and saw the toy clock. The hands pointed to four o'clock.

"The men stop work at five," thought the Donkey. "After that it will be dark and I can move about—that is if my varnish is dry."

Santa Claus was walking up and down between the rows of work benches. The dear old gentleman was pulling his beard and smiling.

"Come, my merry men!" he called in his jolly voice, "you must work a little faster. It is nearly five, when it will be time to stop for the day, and it is so near Christmas that I fear we shall never get enough toys made. So hurry all you can!"

"We will, Santa Claus," the men answered. And the one who had made the Nodding Donkey asked:

"When are you going to take a load of toys down to Earth?"

"The first thing in the morning," was the answer. "Many of the stores have written me, asking me to hurry some toys to them. I shall hitch up my reindeer to the sleigh and take a big bag of toys down to Earth to-morrow. So get ready for me as many as you can.

"Yes," went on Santa Claus, and he looked right at the Nodding Donkey, "I must take a big bag of toys to Earth to-morrow, as soon as it is daylight. So hurry, my merry men!"

And the workmen hurried as fast as they could.

Ting! suddenly struck the big clock in the workshop. And ting! went the little toy clock in the toy house.

"Time to stop for supper!" called Santa Claus, and all the little men laid aside the toys on which they were working. Then such a bustle and hustle there was to get out of the shop; for the day had come to an end.

Night settled down over North Pole Land. It was dark, but in the house where Santa Claus lived with his men some Japanese lanterns, hung from icicles, gave them light to see to eat their supper.

In the toy shop it was just dimly light, for one lantern had been left burning there, in case Santa Claus might want to go in after hours to see if everything was all right.

And by the light of this one lamp the Nodding Donkey saw a curious sight. Over on his left the Plush Bear raised one paw and scratched his nose. On the Donkey's right the China Cat opened her china mouth and softly said:


And then, on the next shelf, a Rolling Elephant, who could wheel about, spoke through his trunk, and said:

"The time has come for us to have some fun, my friends!"

"Right you are!" mewed the China Cat.

"And we have a new toy with us," said the Plush Bear. "Would you like to play with us?" he asked the Nodding Donkey.

The Nodding Donkey moved his head up and down to say "yes," for he was [Pg 12]afraid of speaking aloud, lest he might wrinkle his new varnish.

"All right, now for some jolly times!" said the Rolling Elephant, and he began to climb down from the shelf, using his trunk as well as his legs.

"Ouch! Look out there! You're stretching my neck!" suddenly cried a Spotted Wooden Giraffe, and the Nodding Donkey, looking up, saw that the Elephant had wound his trunk around the long neck of the Giraffe.

"Oh, I'm going to fall! Catch me, somebody!" cried the Spotted Giraffe. "Oh, if I fall off the shelf I'll be broken to bits! Will no one save me?"