Chapter 6 | A New Home | The Story of a Nodding Donkey

For a minute or two longer the lame boy and his mother stood in front of the show window of the toy shop of Mr. Horatio Mugg and his two daughters. The lame boy looked at the Nodding Donkey and the Nodding Donkey bobbed his head in such a funny fashion that the lame boy smiled.

"I'm glad I could make him do that," thought the Donkey. "He doesn't look so sad when he smiles. I wonder what is the matter with him that he walks in such a funny way?"

Of course the Nodding Donkey did not know what it meant to be lame. His own wooden legs were straight and stiff, and he did not need crutches, as did the lame boy.

"Be sure it is the Nodding Donkey you want, and not some other toy," said the boy's mother, as they looked at the things in the window.

"Yes, Mother, I'd rather have him than anything else," the boy answered, and into the store they went. Mr. Mugg came out from behind the counter.

"Would you like to look at some toys?" asked the storekeeper.

"My little boy thinks he would like the Nodding Donkey in the window," said the lady, whose name was Mrs. Richmond.

"Ah, yes, that is a very fine toy!" said Mr. Mugg, with a smile for the lame boy. "It is one of the very latest from the shop of Santa Claus. Geraldine, please show the boy the Nodding Donkey," Mr. Mugg called, and as Joe, the lame boy, walked along with Miss Geraldine, Mr. Mugg said to Mrs. Richmond:

"I am very sorry to see that your boy has to go on crutches."

"Yes, his father and I feel very sad about it," Joe's mother answered. "We have already had the doctors do almost everything they can to cure him, but now we fear he must have another and worse operation. I dread it, and that is why I would get him almost anything to make him happy. He seemed very pleased with the Nodding Donkey."

"I'm sure Joe will like that toy," said Mr. Mugg.

And when Joe had the wooden animal in his hands, and saw how much faster the head nodded at him, the lame boy smiled and said:

"Oh, this is the nicest toy I ever had!"

"I am glad you like it," said the storekeeper. "Geraldine, please wrap up the Nodding Donkey for Joe."

All this while the Nodding Donkey had said nothing, of course, and he had done nothing, except to shake his head. He took one last look around the toy store as he was being wrapped up in paper by Miss Geraldine. The Nodding Donkey saw the Jack in the Box and the China Cat peering at him.

"I wish I might say good-by to them," thought the four-legged toy, "but I suppose it isn't allowed. I shall be lonesome without them."

The China Cat wished she might wave her paw, or even the tip of her tail, at her friend, the Nodding Donkey, and the Jack in the Box did seem to nod a farewell, but perhaps that was because he was on a spring, and could move so easily. As for the China Cat, she had to keep straight and stiff.

With the Nodding Donkey safely wrapped in paper under his arm, Joe left the store of Mr. Mugg with his mother. Joe limped along on his crutches, and he had to go slowly. But he was smiling happily, and for the first day in a long time he forgot about his lameness. And when his mother saw her son smiling, she, too, smiled. But she was worried about another operation that Joe must go through. The doctor had said that one of his legs had grown so crooked that the only way to fix it was to break it, and let it grow together again, straight.

But now, with his Nodding Donkey, Joe thought nothing about operations, or his crutches, or about being lame. All his mind was on the Nodding Donkey, and he even tore a little hole in the paper so he could look through and make sure his toy was all right.

His mother saw him tearing this hole as they sat in the street car riding home, and as she looked down at him sitting beside her she smiled and asked:

"Aren't you afraid your Nodding Donkey will take cold?"

"Oh, no, Mother," Joe answered. "It is nice and warm in this car. But I'll hold my hand over the hole if you want me to, and that will keep out the wind when we walk along the street."

Soon Joe and his mother left the car, to walk toward their home, which was not far from the corner. The weather was getting colder now, and even inside the wrapping paper the Nodding Donkey could feel it, though the lame boy did hold his hand over the hole.

"I wonder what sort of place I am coming into?" thought the Nodding Donkey, as he felt himself being carried inside a house. Wrapped up as he was, of course he could see nothing. But he could feel that the house was warm, for being out in the cold air was almost like the time he had been tossed from the sleigh of Santa Claus into the snowdrift.

"Now I'll have some fun!" cried Joe, as he took the paper off his toy. "Will you please get me my Noah's Ark, Mother? I'll take the animals and have a circus."

Joe sat down to a table and placed the Nodding Donkey in front of him. Up and down and sidewise bobbed the loose head of the toy. And, as he nodded, the Donkey had a chance to look about him. His new home was quite different from the gay toy store he had been taken from. Here was only a plain house, though it was neat and clean and pretty.

"I think I shall like it here," said the Donkey to himself. "I believe Joe will be good and kind to me. I am going to be lonesome at first, but that cannot be helped."

However, the Nodding Donkey was not lonesome now, for Joe's mother set on the table in front of the boy a rather battered old Noah's Ark. From this Joe took out an elephant, a tiger, a lion, a camel and many other animals. They were not as large or as fine as the Nodding Donkey, and they looked at him in a rather queer way, did these animals from the Noah's Ark. Of course they did not dare say or do anything as long as Joe was looking at them.

"Now I will pretend that this table is the circus ring," said Joe, talking to himself, as he often did. "I will put the Nodding Donkey in the middle and all the other animals around him. Then I'll be the Ringmaster and make believe they are doing tricks."

So Joe put the Nodding Donkey in the very center of the table, where the new toy bobbed his head up and down and sidewise, just as he had done in the store of Mr. Mugg and in the workshop of Santa Claus.

"Now comes the Tiger," said Joe, going on with his circus play, and he set that striped animal down near the Donkey. "And then the Lion. I hope they don't bite my new Donkey."

But the Noah's Ark animals were very good and kind, and they did not so much as open their mouths at the Nodding Donkey. Joe played away and had lots of fun at his pretend circus, while his mother got the supper ready. Once when she came into the room where the lame boy sat at the table, Mrs. Richmond said:

"I just saw some friends of yours going past, Joe."

"Who were they?" asked Joe.

"Arnold and Sidney," was the answer. "Arnold had his Bold Tin Soldier, and Sidney was carrying his Calico Clown."

"Oh, I want to see them!" cried Joe. "They have such fun with their toys, and I want them to come in and see mine."

"I'm afraid it is too late—they have gone on home," answered Mrs. Richmond, but Joe took his crutches, which stood near his chair, and hobbled into the front room, where he could look out in the street to see the boys of whom his mother had spoken.

The Nodding Donkey was left on the table with the other animals from the Noah's Ark. As Mrs. Richmond, as well as Joe, was out of the room, and there was no one to look at them, the animals could do as they pleased.

"How do you do?" politely asked the Lion. "We are glad you have come to live here, Mr. Nodding Donkey. But where is the Noah's Ark that you belong in? It must be very large."

"I did not come out of a Noah's Ark," the Donkey answered, with a friendly nod of his head. "I came first from the workshop of Santa Claus, at the North Pole, and just now I came from a toy store."

"Yes, we, too, were in each of those places, years ago," said the Tiger. "But we have belonged to the little lame boy for a long while. He is very good to us, and you will like it here."

"I heard the boy's mother speak of a Bold Tin Soldier and a Calico Clown," said the Donkey. "Do they belong here?"

"No; they are toys that belong to boys who sometimes come to play with Joe," answered the Elephant. "Then we have jolly times! You ought to see that Calico Clown! He is so funny! And you ought to hear him tell about the time in the toy store when his trousers caught fire!"

"That never happened in the toy store where I was—not in Mr. Mugg's store," said the Donkey.

"No, that was another store," said the Elephant. "You'll like the Calico Clown, I know you will, and the Bold Tin Soldier, too. Arnold and Sidney will bring them over some day."

"Now that I think of it, I believe I have heard those toys spoken of in the workshop of Santa Claus," said the Donkey. "The China Cat also mentioned them. Yes, I should like to see them. But we had better stop talking. I think I hear Joe or his mother coming back."

There was a noise at the door, but it was not made by the lame boy or his mother. They were both at the front window, looking down the street at Arnold and Sidney, who were going home, one with his Bold Tin Soldier and the other with his Calico Clown.

And then, all of a sudden, something covered with fur and with a big, bushy tail, like a dustbrush, jumped up on the table and sprang at the Nodding Donkey.