Chapter 7 | The Flood | The Story of a Nodding Donkey

"Look out there!" roared the Noah's Ark Lion.

"Here! What are you going to do?" snarled the Noah's Ark Tiger.

Of course neither of these animals made very much noise, being quite small, but they did the best they could.

"Come over by me, Mr. Nodding Donkey, if you are afraid!" called the Elephant through his trunk. He was the largest animal in the Noah's Ark, but even he was not as big as the Donkey. As for that nodding toy, he reared back on his hind legs when he saw the strange animal, covered with fur and with the big tail like a dustbrush, jump on the table. The toy animals could move and talk among themselves now, as long as no human being was in the room.

The furry animal stood on the table in the midst of the toys. He sat up on his hind legs and seemed to be eating something that he held in his forepaws.

"Are you a cat?" asked the Noah's Ark Camel, sort of making his two humps shiver.

"No, I'm not a cat," was the answer. "I am a Chattering Squirrel, and I am eating a nut. I live in a hollow tree just outside this house, and, seeing a window open and all you toys on the table, I jumped in to see what fun you were having."

The Flood

"Oh, that's all right," said the Nodding Donkey politely. "We are glad to see you. But even I was scared, at first. We were just talking among ourselves while the lame boy is away. He was playing circus with us."

"I know the lame boy," said the Chattering Squirrel. "He is very kind to me. He puts nuts out for me to eat. I am eating one now. Will you have a nibble?" and the squirrel held out the nut to the Nodding Donkey.

"No, thank you; I don't eat nuts," returned the new toy.

"I eat other things, too," went on the Squirrel. "I take them right out of the lame boy's hand, and I never nip him, for I like him and he likes me. I am sorry he is lame."

"So am I," said the Nodding Donkey. "I felt sorry for him when he looked in the store window of Mr. Mugg's shop, and I nodded to him so that he smiled. But hush! Here he comes now!"

And this time it was the lame boy and his mother coming back into the room where the Nodding Donkey and the Noah's Ark toys had been left on the table. Instantly each toy became stark and stiff and no longer moved or spoke. But the Chattering Squirrel, not being a toy, could do as he pleased. So he frisked his tail and nibbled the nut.

"Oh, Mother! See! There is Frisky, my tame Squirrel!" cried Joe. "He must have come in through the window to see my Nodding Donkey. Hello, Frisky!" cried the lame boy, and then when he put down his hand the Chattering Squirrel scrambled across the table and let Joe rub his soft fur.

"I guess he is looking for something to eat," said Mrs. Richmond, with a smile. "He wants his supper, as you want yours, Joe, and as your father will, as soon as he gets home. You had better put away your toys now—your Nodding Donkey and the Noah's Ark animals—and get ready for supper. I think there are a few more nuts left which you may give Frisky."

"Oh, he'll love those, Mother!" cried Joe. And when he had put away his toys he brought out some more nuts for the Squirrel, who liked them very much.

The Nodding Donkey was put up on the mantel shelf in the dining room, but the Noah's Ark toys, being older, were set aside in a closet.

"I want Daddy to see my Donkey as soon as he comes in," said Joe, and he waited for his father. Soon Mr. Richmond's step was heard in the hall, and Joe hobbled on his crutches to meet him. Frisky, the Chattering Squirrel, had skipped out of the open window in the kitchen as soon as he had eaten the nuts Joe gave him.

"How is my boy to-night?" asked Mr. Richmond, as he hugged Joe.

"Oh, I'm fine!" was the answer. "And look what Mother bought me!"

Joe pointed to the Nodding Donkey on the mantel.

"Well, he is a fine fellow!" exclaimed Mr. Richmond. "Where did he come from?"

"From the toy shop," Joe answered, and then, even though supper was almost ready, he had to show his father how the Donkey nodded his head.

"He surely is a jolly chap!" cried Daddy Richmond, when he had taken up the Donkey and looked him all over. "And now how are your legs?" he asked Joe.

"They hurt some; but I don't mind them so much when I have my Donkey," was the answer.

After supper Joe again played with his toy, and, noticing that their son was not listening, Mr. and Mrs. Richmond talked about him in low voices.

"He doesn't really seem to be much better," said the father sadly.

"No," agreed the mother. "I am afraid we shall have to let the doctor break that one leg and set it over again. That may make our boy well."

"I hope so," said Mr. Richmond, and both he and his wife were sad as they thought of the lame one.

But Joe was happier than he had been in some time, for he had his Nodding Donkey to play with. When the time came to go to bed, Joe put the Donkey away in the closet with the Noah's Ark, his toy train of cars, the ball he tossed when his legs did not pain him too much, and his other playthings.

"Well, how do you like it here?" asked the toy Fireman of the toy train, when the house was all quiet and still and the toys were allowed to do as they pleased.

"I think I shall like it very much," was the Donkey's answer.

"I would give you a ride on this toy train," said the Engineer in the cab across from the Fireman, "but you are too large to get in any of the cars."

"But we aren't!" cried the Tiger. "Come on, Mr. Lion, let's go for a ride while we have the chance!"

"All right!" agreed the Lion from the Noah's Ark.

So then, in the closet where they had been put away for the night, the small animals rode up and down the floor in the toy train. The Fireman made believe piles of coal under the boiler, and the Engineer turned on the steam and made the cars go. The Fireman rang the bell, and the Engineer tooted the whistle.

The Nodding Donkey, being rather large, could not fit in the train, but the other toys were just right, and they had a fine time.

"Perhaps if you climbed up on top of the cars I might give you a ride," said the Engineer after he had taken all the Noah's Ark animals on short trips around the closet floor.

"Oh, thank you; but I might fall off and get my head out of order so it would not nod," answered the Donkey. "I think I'll just keep quiet this evening."

"Perhaps you could tell us a story," suggested the Camel. "Tell us the latest news from North Pole Land, where Santa Claus lives. It is a long time since we were there."

"Yes, I could do that," agreed the Nodding Donkey. "And I'll tell you how we ran into a snow bank."

So the Nodding Donkey did this, telling the Noah's Ark animals the same story that I have told you, thus far, in this book. The night passed very happily for the toys in the closet.

When morning came the toys had to become quiet, for it was not allowed for them to be heard talking or to be seen at their make believe fun.

Then began many happy days for the Nodding Donkey. Joe, the lame boy, made a little stable for his new toy, building it out of pieces of wood. He put some straw from the chicken coop in it, so the Donkey would have a soft bed on which to sleep.

Joe played all sorts of games with his new toy. Sometimes it would be a circus game, and again the lame boy would tie little bundles of wood on his Donkey's back, making believe they were gold and diamonds which the animal was carrying down out of pretend mines.

One day Arnold and Sidney, two boys who lived not very far from the home of Joe, came over with their playthings. Arnold brought his Bold Tin Soldier and his company and Sidney his Calico Clown. The three boys looked at the Nodding Donkey and admired him very much, and Joe had fun playing with the Soldier and the Clown.

After a while Mrs. Richmond called to Joe and his chums:

"Come out into the kitchen, boys, and I'll give you some bread and jam," and you can easily believe the boys did not take long to hurry out, Joe stumping along on his crutches.

Meanwhile the Donkey, the Clown, and the Soldier and his men, being left by themselves in the other room, had a chance to talk.

"I am so glad to meet you," brayed the Donkey. "I have heard so much about you."

"Did you hear how once I burned my trousers?" asked the Calico Clown.

"I heard it mentioned," the Donkey said; "but I should like to hear more about it."

"I'll tell you," offered the funny chap. So he related that tale, just as it is told in another of these books.

"Well, that was quite an adventure," said the Donkey, when all had been told. "I suppose you have had adventures, too?" he went on, looking at the Bold Tin Soldier.

"Oh, a few," was the answer.

"Tell them about the time, in the toy shop, when you drew your sword and frightened away the rat that was coming after the Sawdust Doll and the Candy Rabbit," suggested the Clown.

"All right, I will," said the Soldier, and he did. You may read, if you like, about the Candy Rabbit and the Sawdust Doll in the books written especially about those toys.

So the Nodding Donkey listened to the stories told by the Soldier and the Clown, and he was just wishing he might have adventures such as they had had, when back into the room came Joe and his friends. They had finished eating the bread and jam. Then the boys played again with their toys until it was time for Arnold and Sidney to go home.

And now I must tell you of a wonderful adventure that befell the Nodding Donkey about a week after he had come to live with the lame boy, and how he saved Joe's home from being flooded with water.

Joe had been playing with his Nodding Donkey all day, but toward evening the little lame boy's legs pained him so that he had to be put to bed in a hurry. And in such a hurry that he forgot all about the Nodding Donkey and left him on the floor in the kitchen, under the sink, which Joe had pretended was a cave of gold.

"I wonder if I am to stay here all night! It is growing bitterly cold, too!" thought the Donkey, as Joe's father and mother took their boy up to bed. "They must have forgotten me."

And that is just what had happened. After Joe had gone to sleep his father and mother sat in the dining room talking about him.

"I think we shall have to have the doctor come and see Joe to-morrow," said Mr. Richmond. "His legs seem to be getting worse."

"Yes," answered Mrs. Richmond. "Something must be done."

They were both very sad, and sat there silent for some time.

Meanwhile, out in the kitchen, at the sink, something was happening. Suddenly a water pipe burst. It did not make any noise, but the water began trickling down over the floor in a flood. Right where the Nodding Donkey stood, in the pretend cave, the water poured. It rose around the legs of the Donkey, and he felt himself being lifted up and carried across the kitchen toward the dining room door.

The burst pipe had caused a flood, and the Nodding Donkey was right in it!