Chapter 5 | The Lame Boy | The Story of a Nodding Donkey

When the China Cat said: "Here comes the Policeman!" the Nodding Donkey, who did not know just what a policeman was, was quite curious to see who was coming. So he walked to the edge of the shelf and bent his head as far down as he could in order to see.

"Be careful! You might fall!" mewed the China Cat.

"Ha! If he falls, then I'll pick him up! That's what I'm here for, to help in case of accident. I could ring for the ambulance!" suddenly came in the same voice that had asked if the Nodding Donkey kicked.

"On second thought perhaps it will be just as well to have an accident. It will give us something to talk about," the voice went on. "Go ahead, Nodding Donkey. Fall off the shelf. I'll pick you up and send you to the toy hospital in the toy ambulance with the clanging bell."

"Indeed I am not going to fall!" brayed the Donkey. "Who is he, anyhow?" he whispered to the China Cat.

"That's the Policeman I was telling you about," was the answer. "Here he comes now!"

And suddenly the Policeman's voice went on, saying:

"Come now! Move along! Don't block up the sidewalk! Move on! Don't loiter here!"

The Nodding Donkey looked to one side and there he saw a toy Policeman, dressed just as a real one would be, with blue coat, brass buttons, a white helmet and a club that swung on the end of a leather string. The Policeman walked along, for he could do that when a spring inside him was wound up. And as he walked he swung his club to and fro, and said, just like a real policeman:

"Come now, move along! Don't block up the sidewalk." Then he added, in a different tone: "There is no accident now, but if that Nodding Donkey would only fall off the shelf we might have one."

"Indeed, and I'm not going to fall off the shelf just for fun!" brayed the Donkey.

The Lame Boy

"Oh, aren't you? Then we must make fun in some other way," said the toy Policeman. "How are you feeling?" and with that he jumped up on the shelf beside the Donkey and tickled him in the ribs with the club.

"Oh, don't do—ha! ha!—Don't—ha! ha!—do that!" laughed the Donkey. "You make me feel so funny I may fall!"

"Well, if you do, I'll pick you up," said the Policeman, and he twisted his club around on the Donkey's ribs in such a funny way that the nodding creature laughed "ha! ha!" and "ho! ho!"

"I thought I'd stir things up and make them rather lively!" said the Policeman, with a jolly grin on his red face. "How are you feeling?" he asked, turning to the China Cat.

"I feel quite good enough without having you tickle me," she answered, as she got up to move away.

"Oh, you'll feel ever so much better after I tickle you!" cried the Policeman, and he reached out his club toward the Cat. But he was not quick enough. She slipped behind a Jack in the Box, where the Policeman could not see her.

"Well, I guess I'll tickle you again," said the toy with the club, as he turned back toward the Nodding Donkey.

"Oh, no, don't, please!" begged the long-eared chap. "I've had quite enough. When you tickle me I laugh, and when I laugh my head nods harder than it ought to, and maybe it might nod off."

"Oh, I wouldn't want that to happen!" exclaimed the Policeman. "That would be too bad an accident. I guess I'll walk down the shelf and see if there's a fire anywhere," he went on, and away he stalked, swinging his club from side to side.

"Oh, I hope there isn't a fire here," said the Nodding Donkey, as the China Cat came out from behind the Jack's box. "I am not used to being hot. I came from the cold North Pole."

"No, there isn't any fire. If there were you would soon see the toy Fireman and the Fire Engine starting out," replied the China Cat. "I don't like fires myself, and I detest the water they squirt on them. We cats don't like water, you know."

"So I have heard," said the Nodding Donkey.

"Dear me! there's a speck of dirt on my tail," suddenly mewed the China Cat, and she leaned over, and with her red tongue washed her tail clean.

Meanwhile the Policeman walked on down the counter, as though it were a street, and he swung his club and said:

"Move on now! Don't crowd the sidewalk! Everybody must keep moving!"

"Isn't he funny?" asked the Nodding Donkey.

"He is when he doesn't tickle you," said the China Cat, as she looked in a Doll's mirror to see if she had any more specks of dirt on her white coat. But she was nice and clean, was the China Cat.

Then the toys in the store of Horatio Mugg began to have lots of fun. They told stories, sang songs, made up riddles for one another to guess and played tag and hide-and-go-seek. They were allowed to do all this because it was night and no one was watching them. But as soon as daylight came and Mr. Mugg or Miss Angelina or Miss Geraldine or any of the customers came into the store, the toys must be very still and quiet.

"Is this the only store you were ever in?" asked the Donkey of the Cat, as they sat near each other after a lively game of tag.

"No, I was in one other," was the answer. "It was a store in which there lived a Sawdust Doll, a Lamb on Wheels, a Monkey on a Stick and many other playthings."

"Why did you leave?" asked the Donkey. "Was it because there were no other cats there for you to mew to?"

"No, it was not that," was the answer.

"Then why did you leave?" asked the Nodding Donkey.

"Well, one Christmas I was bought by a gentleman who sent me to a lady," was the answer. "She was a lady who was always changing things that came to her from the store. She would buy a thing one day and change it, or send it back, the next.

"And when I came to her as a Christmas present, she happened to have a little China Dog. I guess she thought the dog might bark at me. Anyhow, she sent me back to the store, only she sent me here instead of to the store where the Calico Clown and the other toys lived, and the mistake was never found out. Mr. Mugg and his daughters took me in, and I have been here ever since."

"Do you ever see your friend, the Monkey on a Stick, or hear from the Sawdust Doll?" asked the Donkey.

"Once in a while," was the answer. "Sometimes, when the grown folk buy toys for children they pick out the wrong ones, and the toys are brought back or exchanged. These toys that come back tell us of the houses where they have spent a few days.

"Once a Jumping Jack who was brought back in this way told about being in a house where the Sawdust Doll lived, and where there was also a White Rocking Horse I used to know."

"I should like to meet the White Rocking Horse," said the Nodding Donkey. "He might be a distant relation of mine."

"Perhaps," agreed the China Cat. "But now I think it is time we got back on our shelves. I see daylight beginning to peep in the window, and it would never do for Mr. Mugg or Miss Angelina or Miss Geraldine to see us moving about."

"I suppose not," said the Nodding Donkey, somewhat sadly.

"Move along, everybody! Move back to your places! Daylight is coming!" called the Policeman, as he walked past swinging his club.

And, a little later, when all the toys were back on the shelves, the sun rose, and in came Mr. Mugg to open the store for the day.

All that day people came and went in the toy store, some coming to look, and others to buy. Some of the toys were taken away, and the Nodding Donkey wondered when it would be his turn. But, though he was often taken up, shown and admired, no one purchased him.

"I know what I will do, so that Donkey will be sold!" said Mr. Mugg in the afternoon.

"What?" asked Miss Angelina.

"I will put him in the show window," answered her father.

"Oh, let me decorate the show window!" begged Miss Geraldine. "I'll make up a scene with a Christmas tree, and put the Nodding Donkey under it."

"Very well," agreed Mr. Mugg. "I will leave the show window to you, Geraldine. Make it look as pretty as you can."

And Miss Geraldine did. She got a little Christmas tree and set it up in a box. Then she put some tiny electric lights on it, and also some toys. Other toys were put under the tree, and one of these was the Nodding Donkey.

"Oh, now I can see things!" said the Donkey to himself, as he found he could look right out into the street. It was a scene he had never observed before. All his life had been spent in the workshop of Santa Claus or in the toy store. He was most delighted to look out into the street.

It was snowing, and crowds were hurrying to and fro, doing their Christmas shopping. After the show window in the store of Mr. Horatio Mugg had been newly decorated by Miss Geraldine, many boys and girls and grown folk, too, stopped to peer in. They looked at the Nodding Donkey, at the Jumping Jacks, at the Dolls, the toy Fire Engines, at the Soldiers and at the Policeman.

Toward evening, when the lights had just been set aglow, the Nodding Donkey saw, coming toward the window, a little lame boy. He had to walk on crutches, and with him was a lady who had hold of his arm.

"Oh, Mother, look at the new toys!" cried the lame boy. "And see that Donkey! Why, he's shaking his head at me! Look, he's making his head go up and down! I guess he thinks I asked you if you'd buy him for me, and he's saying 'yes'; isn't he, Mother?"

"Perhaps," answered the lady. "Would you like that Nodding Donkey for Christmas, Joe?"

"Oh, I just would!" cried the lame boy. "Let's go in and look at him. Maybe I can hold him in my hands! Oh, I'd just love that Nodding Donkey!"