Chapter 9 | A Lonesome Donkey | The Story of a Nodding Donkey

"What is the matter, Joe? What has happened?" asked Mrs. Richmond, hurrying downstairs, leaving her son's bed half made.

Mrs. Richmond, hurrying into the room where she had left Joe lying on the couch, saw him sitting up and holding his Nodding Donkey in his hands.

"Oh, look, Mother!" and Joe's voice sounded as if he might be going to cry. "Look what Frisky did to my Donkey! Knocked him off the shelf, and his left hind leg is broken."

"That is too bad," said Mrs. Richmond, but her face showed that she was glad it was not Joe who was hurt. "Yes, the Donkey's leg is broken," she went on, as she took the toy from her son. "Frisky, you are a bad squirrel to break Joe's Donkey!" and she shook her finger at the chattering little animal, who, perched on the shelf, was eating the nut the boy had given him.

"Oh, Mother! Frisky didn't mean to do it," said Joe. "It wasn't his fault. I guess the Nodding Donkey was too close to the edge of the shelf. But now his leg is broken, and I guess he'll have to go on crutches, the same as I do; won't he, Mother?"

The Nodding Donkey did not hear any of this. The pain in his leg was so great that he had fainted, though Joe and his mother did not know this. But the Donkey really had fainted.

"No, Joe," said Mrs. Richmond, after a while, "your Donkey will not have to go on crutches, and I hope the day will soon come when you can lay them aside."

"What do you mean, Mother?" Joe asked eagerly. "Do you think I will ever get better?"

"We hope so," she answered softly. "In a few days you are going to a nice place, called a hospital, where you will go to sleep in a little white bed. Then the doctors will come and, when you wake up again, your legs may be nice and straight so, after a while, you can walk on them again without leaning on crutches."

"Oh, won't I be glad when that happens!" cried Joe, with shining eyes. "But what about my Nodding Donkey, Mother? Can I take him to the hospital and have him fixed, too, so he will not need crutches?"

"Well, we shall see about that," Mrs. Richmond said. "I'll tie his leg up now with a rag, and when your father comes home he may know how to fix it. I never heard of a donkey on crutches."

"I didn't either!" laughed Joe. He felt a little happier now, because he hoped he might be made well and strong again, and because he hoped his father could fix the broken leg of the Nodding Donkey.

Mrs. Richmond got a piece of cloth, and, straightening out the Donkey's leg as best she could, she tied it up. Then she put the toy far back on the shelf, laying it down on its side so it would not fall off again, or topple over.

Frisky scampered out of the window, back to his home in the hollow tree at the end of the yard. Frisky never knew what damage he had done. He was too eager to eat the nut Joe had given him.

"Now lie quietly here, Joe," his mother said. "I will soon have your bed ready for you, and then you can go to sleep."

"I don't want to go until Daddy comes home, so he can fix my Donkey," said the boy, and his mother allowed him to remain up until Mr. Richmond came from the office.

"Oh, ho! So the Donkey has a broken leg, has he?" asked Mr. Richmond in his usual jolly voice, when he came in where Joe was lying on the couch. "Well, I think I can have him fixed."

"How?" asked the little lame boy.

"I'll take him back to the same toy store where you bought him," answered his father. "Mr. Mugg knows how to mend all sorts of toys."

By this time the Donkey had gotten over the fainting fit, as his leg did not hurt him so much after Mrs. Richmond had tied the rag around it. And now the Donkey heard what was said.

"Take me back to the toy store, will they?" thought the Donkey to himself. "Well, I shall be glad to have my leg mended, and also to see the China Cat and some of my other friends. But I want to come back to Joe. I like him, and I like it here. Besides, I am near the Calico Clown and the Bold Tin Soldier. Yes, I shall want to come back when my leg is mended."

Mr. Richmond, still leaving on the Donkey's leg the rag Mrs. Richmond had wound around it, put the toy back on the shelf. Then he carried Joe up to bed.

"When will the doctors operate on our boy, to make him better?" asked Mrs. Richmond of her husband, when Joe was asleep.

"In about a week," was his answer. "I stopped at the hospital to-day, and made all the plans. Joe is to go there a week from to-day."

"Will his Nodding Donkey be mended by that time?" asked Mrs. Richmond. "I think Joe would like to take it to the hospital with him."

"I'll try to get Mr. Mugg to finish it so Joe may have it," said Mr. Richmond. "Poor boy! He has had a hard time in life, but if this operation is a success he will be much happier."

All night long the Nodding Donkey lay on the shelf, his broken leg wrapped in the cloth. He did not nod now, for, lying down as he was, his head could not shake and wabble. Besides, the toy felt too sad and was in too much pain to nod, even if he had stood on his feet. But of course he couldn't stand up with a broken leg. Indeed not!

In the closet, where they were kept, the animals from Noah's Ark talked among themselves that night.

"Where is the Nodding Donkey?" asked the Lion. "Why is he not here with us?"

"I hope he hasn't become too proud, because he is a new, shiny toy and we are old and battered," said the Tiger sadly.

"Nonsense!" rumbled the Elephant. "The Nodding Donkey is not that kind of toy. He would be here if he could. Some accident has happened, you may depend on it."

"Well, I'm glad my train didn't run over him," said the Engineer of the toy locomotive.

"It was some kind of accident, I'm sure," insisted the Elephant. "I heard Joe cry out, and his mother came running downstairs."

And it was an accident, as you know. All night the Nodding Donkey lay on the shelf in the dining room. He had no other toys to talk to, and perhaps it was just as well, for he did not feel like talking with his broken leg hurting him as it did.

Early the next morning Mr. Richmond was on his way to the office, taking the Nodding Donkey with him.

"Let me see him once more before you take him to the toy shop to be fixed!" begged Joe, who had been told what was to be done with his plaything.

Joe's father put the Nodding Donkey into his son's hands.

"Poor fellow!" murmured Joe, gently touching the broken leg. "You are a cripple like me, now. I hope they make you well again."

Then, with another kind pat, Joe gave the Donkey back to his father, and, a little later, Mr. Richmond walked into Mr. Mugg's store with the toy.

"Hum! Yes, that is a bad break, but I think I can fix it," said the jolly old gentleman.

"Let me see," begged Miss Angelina, peering over her father's shoulder, with a dustbrush under her arm. She had been dusting the toys ready for the day's business.

"The leg isn't broken all the way off," said Miss Geraldine, who was washing the face of a China Doll, that, somehow or other, had fallen in the dust.

"Yes, that is a good thing," observed Mr. Mugg. "I can glue the parts together and the Donkey will be as strong as ever. Leave it here, Mr. Richmond. I'll fix it."

"And may I have it back this week?" asked the other. "My boy is going to the hospital to have his legs made strong, if possible, and I think he would like to take the Donkey with him."

"You may have it day after to-morrow," promised the toy man.

The Nodding Donkey was still in such pain from his broken leg that he did not pay much attention to the other toys in the store. But Mr. Mugg lost no time in getting to work on the broken toy.

"Heat me the pot of glue, Geraldine," he called to his daughter, "and get me some paint and varnish. When I mend the broken leg I'll paint over the splintered place, so it will not show."

The Nodding Donkey was taken to a work bench. Mr. Mugg, wearing a long apron and a cap, just like the workmen in the shop of Santa Claus, sat down to begin.

With tiny pieces of wood, put in the broken leg to make it as strong as the others that were not broken, with hot, sticky glue, and with strands of silk thread, Mr. Mugg worked on the Nodding Donkey. The toy felt like braying out as loudly as he could when he felt the hot glue on his leg, but he was not permitted to do this, since Mr. Mugg was looking at him. So he had to keep silent, and in the end he felt much better.

"There, I think you will do now," said Mr. Mugg, as he tightly bound some bandages on the Donkey's leg. "When it gets dry I will paint it over and it will look as good as new."

The mended Donkey was set aside on a shelf by himself, and not among the toys that were for sale. All day and all night long he remained there. He was feeling too upset and in too much pain to be lonesome. All he wished for was to be better.

In the morning he was almost himself again. Mr. Mugg came, and, finding the glue hard and dry, took off the bandages. Then with his knife he scraped away little hard pieces of glue that had dried on the outside, and the toy man also cut away some splinters of new wood that stuck out.

"Now to paint your leg, and you will be finished," said Mr. Mugg.

The smell of the paint and varnish, as it was put on him, made the Nodding Donkey think of when he had first come to life in the workshop of Santa Claus. He was feeling quite young and happy again.

"There you are!" cried Mr. Mugg, as he once more set the Donkey on the shelf for the paint and varnish to dry. And this time the Donkey was allowed to be among the other toys, though he was not for sale.

That night in the store, when all was quiet and still, the Nodding Donkey shook his head and spoke to the China Cat, who was not far away.

"Well, you see I am back here again," said the Nodding Donkey.

"Have you come to stay?" asked the China Cat. "You can't imagine how surprised I was when I saw you brought in! But what has happened?"

Then the Donkey told of his accident, and how he had been mended.

"Your leg looks all right now," said the China Cat, glancing at it in the light of the one lamp Mr. Mugg left burning when he closed his store.

"Yes, I am feeling quite myself again," said the Donkey. "But I am not here to stay. I must go back to Joe, the lame boy."

"At least we shall have a chance to talk over old times for a little while," said the China Cat. "I came near being sold yesterday. A lady was going to buy me for her baby to cut his teeth on. Just fancy!"

"I don't believe you would have liked that," said the Donkey.

"No, indeed!" mewed the China Cat. Then she and the Donkey and the other toys talked for some hours, and told stories. On account of his paint not being dry the Donkey did not walk around, jump or kick as he had used to do.

In the morning the toys had to stop their fun-making, for Mr. Mugg and his daughters came to open the store for the day. And in the afternoon Mr. Richmond called to get the mended toy.

And you can imagine how glad Joe was to get his Donkey back again.

"I'll never let Frisky break any more of your legs," said Joe, as he hugged the Donkey to him. "I'll take you to bed with me to-night."

But though Joe was allowed to take his Donkey to bed with him, it was thought best not to send the toy to the hospital with the little boy, when he went early the next week.

"Good-by, Nodding Donkey!" called Joe to his toy, as he was driven away; and when Mrs. Richmond put the mended Donkey away on the closet shelf, there were tears in her eyes.

The Nodding Donkey knew that something was wrong, but he did not understand all that was happening. He had seen Joe taken away, and he saw himself put in the closet with the Noah's Ark animals.

"What is the matter?" asked the Lion. "Is Joe tired of playing with you, as he grew tired of us?"

"I hope not," said the Nodding Donkey sadly.

But as that day passed, and the next, the Nodding Donkey grew very lonesome for Joe, for he had learned to love the little lame boy.