HE summer passed like magic, as happy summers always do,
and before the boys knew it winter knocked at the door
and John once more found himself at his post in the Toy
Valley where matters advanced but little with his
There was only one good thing about it. The more
discouraging the results the harder he tried. Herr
Ampezzang kept him at work on the rough blocks more
than a year because he had no
 tool to take the next step and besides there was no
wood to waste. And when one remembers how long it took
him to shape the block properly it is not surprising
that no one was anxious to see him begin on the next
But he uncomplainingly got the blocks ready for the
others, leaning over his bench hours at a time, shaving
them down neatly and accurately though always slowly.
"You will never make a living, John, you move too
slowly," Herr Ampezzang sometimes said, but Frau
Ampezzang always looked at him with kind eyes.
"Keep trying, John, it is the only way," she would say,
and he kept trying.
The other children laughed at him a great deal.
"He wants to carve," said the people,
 "and he cannot. None of his family has ever carved. Why
does he try?"
But try he did, and little by little learned to shave
down the back leaving the head end higher and the tail
end neatly rounded. Thus he kept on, cheerfully
beginning blocks for the others to finish.
Finally he had made ready so many that Frau Ampezzang
declared he had earned a tool and gave him an old one
of hers. This was smaller than his other and it was
curved and was used to gouge out the body under the
What work John did make of it! The first time he tried
he cut off all the legs so that his block looked like a
"I declare, John, you will ruin us wasting the wood,"
Am-  pezzang, but Frau Ampezzang said soothingly,
"Just think how long he has worked for us for nothing.
Surely he will learn the next step as perfectly and
then he will indeed be a help."
John smiled gratefully at her and dug away at his block
for dear life.
In time, as Fran Ampezzang had said, he learned to make
the under cuts, leaving the proper amount of wood
untouched from which to finish the legs and neck and
Now it happened that in the Toy Valley each family was
in the habit of working always on one toy, this even
descending from generation to generation, so that in
one house it was all horses, in another all dolls, and
so on. But the Ampezzangs were among the best carvers
in the valley and Frau
 Ampezzang could carve everything from a cow to a duck,
and John's ambition was to do the same. But the winters
that he began she was making only donkeys,—having a
large order for them,—and so John's first winter's work
was forming blocks for donkeys and his second winter's
work was scooping out the under part of the body of the
same animal, as Frau Ampezzang was still at work on
"It is better so," she said to him, for you must learn
one thing well and then you can easily change to
So John cut away at his donkeys and at the end of two
years could no more make a donkey than he could sing a
song or write a poem. But he could hew out the rough
form so well that Frau Ampezzang was glad to entrust
 the first cutting to him. He never made a mistake and
he never grew careless.
What with his school and his work in the house and his
carving,—for which Uncle Francesco allowed him more and
more time,—he had little time to visit that winter; yet
once in a while he would find his way to the
Wolferlos', where all the children were, of course,
working on horses as their parents and grandparents had
done before them, and where little Angelica still put
red paint in their nostrils and still wore her long
yellow braids wound around her pretty head as her
grandmother and great-grandmother had done before her.
John saw her in school sometimes but she was in another
room and had recess at a different time so that it was
only when the children went home after school that he
caught a glimpse of her,
 and not always then. Once he slapped a boy for pulling
the kerchief off her head, a way the mischievous boys
had of teasing the little girls. John did not pull off
their kerchiefs though he liked to tease as well as any
boy and once got severely punished by the teacher for
putting a wriggling worm into the dinner pail of the
biggest girl in school.
How she screamed and jumped about! And how angry the
teacher was! He said words that John never forgot and
next day the biggest girl in school found a bunch of
pretty flowers in her dinner pail.
The year passed and John had earned the tools he needed
by cutting blocks for the Ampezzangs, but he could not
separate the legs of his donkeys; his hands were so
large and clumsy and the tools so small that he
invariably cut off
 the legs or made them taper off as sharp as pins or
made them such strange shapes that everybody laughed to
All the people now called him Donkey John, and made so
much fun of him that anybody else would have given it
up and gone off and hid away somewhere. But John only
wrinkled up his pug nose in a cheerful grin and plodded
away as though nothing were wrong.
Although he made such a mess of his carving everybody
liked him; he was always so good-natured and so willing
to help even those who laughed at him that the people
loved him in spite of their nonsense, and probably any
outsider who might have ventured to call him names
would have received a black eye for his pains. Out of
doors, of course, in games and in feats of strength
 he might have called them names, but he never thought
"He who laughs last, laughs best," said Frau Ampezzang,
who had grown so fond of her slow pupil that she
resented his being the butt of the village and being
called Donkey John, though in her heart of hearts she
herself sometimes wondered what would come of it all.