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JOHN GOES TO THE FAIR
N a moment John was wide awake and very much frightened,
for he had become conscious of a great roar and noise
as though the mountain were falling down.
Then he remembered that he was in the city and the
noise was the noise of wheels and the feet of the
people passing, for in that part of the world the
common people all wore wooden shoes, or at least
wooden soles to their shoes, and when he realized what
the sound was,
 the clatter of these on the stones again gave John that
strange, sick feeling; for it made him think of the Toy
Valley, and whenever he thought of home the feeling
He quickly dressed and went out, for he imagined the
procession of people must be going to the Fair, and
that he would be late.
So he put his basket on his back and stepped outside.
By daylight he saw that the magic city was like the
little villages of the mountains, only much larger, and
the streets were flat and broad and the houses large
He joined the procession passing along the sidewalk,
thinking thus to find the Fair. But the man just in
front of him soon turned down a side street, and
another went into a house, and presently he saw they
were all going
 different ways and not to the Fair at all.
So he walked along staring about him too full of wonder
at visible things to trouble himself much about an
invisible fair. Soon he came to a corner and when he
looked down the street he said to himself, "This is
surely the Fair," and yet he was puzzled, for he had
heard that the Fair was held out of doors, and that
every one could go there, while this wonderful place
was like the long aisle of a church with a roof
overhead, and a row of arches supported by pillars
running the whole length of the street. Indeed on
either side of the street was a long arcaded gallery
and opening from this were shops, while out on the
sidewalks were cases and tables full of all sorts of
things, more than John had ever seen or dreamed of,
displayed for sale.
 He walked the length of the entrancing arcades on one
side, intending to cross at the head of the street and
pass back on the other. But at the head of the street
he came out into a square full of people, and gay
booths covered the space. This then was the Fair. What
beautiful fruits and so many kinds!
No fruit grows in the Toy Valley excepting preissel
berries, as you well know. It is too cold up there
under the snowy mountains, and John had never seen
anything but a few apples that some one occasionally
had brought in and the preissel berries that grew in
the woods. And so he stared at the fruit on the stalls
as though it were some strange and unknown and
beautiful and fragrant variety of flower. It took him
some time to get over his surprise and delight enough
to ask himself why
 it was they had only fruit for sale in the Fair.
This was an enchanted place if ever a knight errant got
into one, and the poor little toy man began to feel
very much puzzled and distressed as he wandered
tongue-tied about the fruit market, not knowing which
way to turn to escape from his enchantment, for he saw
that here was no place for him to vend his donkeys.
And the donkeys! How unimportant they all at once
seemed in this magnificent place so full of everything!
Tears again threatened his dignity when he when he
heard a loud voice.
"To the Fair!" it called in words he could understand!
For the language of the Toy Valley is a strange mixture
of something like Italian and something like German and
something like a number of other languages, which makes
it very easy
 for its people to learn those other languages if they only
want to. If John had wanted to learn German as much as
he had wanted to carve donkeys he would have succeeded
admirably, and at the present moment would have been
able to find out by asking all he needed to know about
the Fair, instead of wandering about the fruit market
like a lost lamb in a snow-storm.
But when he heard those blessed words—"To the Fair!"—he
followed the Italian father who was leading his flock
of children to the Fair, having stopped a moment to buy
a pear and a bunch of grapes in the fruit market.
John followed until the man and his children met
another man, and they all stopped and laughed and
talked a while, then turned into a restaurant and left
John staring after them on the sidewalk.
 He sensibly concluded to keep on the way he was headed
and look in at every window as he went. Before one of
them he suddenly realized he was very hungry and went
in and laid down a small piece of money and got some
bread and a handful of figs. These he ate cautiously;
skins and all, and with growing pleasure; for figs of
course did not grow on the pine trees in the Toy
Valley, and one had to get used to them.
He had almost forgotten the Fair when he came upon it.
People had their things to sell piled up on tables in
the open air or in piles on the ground. Large,
bright-colored umbrellas covered some of them, and
there were flags flying and bells ringing and music
playing and crowds moving about from one table to
another, the people laughing and talking and buying
something now and then.
 There was no mistaking it this time! This indeed
surpassed his wildest dreams. How could anything be so
diverting, so beautiful, so enrapturing as this great
Fair! All his troubles were forgotten as he walked
about from booth to booth with eyes, and mouth too,
wide open; or stood still to watch the gay
strange-looking crowd, or listen to the enchanting
strains of a mouth organ as played by some spangled
clown, or the inspiriting toot of a horn, or the crash
of a drum.
He was intoxicated with it all, and his eyes shone
ever so, and his mouth was on a broad grin most of the
time. Here he stopped before a mountain of wooden
shoes, and over there was another of felt ones, and he
thought how fine it would be to take a pair of them
home to little Angelica.
Then a film came over his eyes. For
 a moment he forgot the Fair and all the gay sights and
sounds and saw before his eyes quite plainly the Toy
Valley and the stone house under the towering cliff
where live Angelica and her brothers and parents, and
again he had that strange, sick feeling at his heart.
He winked hard and walked on looking at the things for
some minutes before he saw them, for the Toy Valley had
somehow protruded itself so disconcertingly into the
wonders of the Fair that it quite spoiled the fun. But
in time he ceased to think of it, and again his
attention was absorbed by piles of bright cloth, blue,
red, yellow, green; gay shawls; wonderful shining
jewelry; picture books and prayer books; copper kettles
such as his mother cooked in at home, and as he cleaned
so often for Uncle Francesco; girls' hats and men's
hats; hoods and scarfs; pins and
 needles; everything he had ever seen or expected to
see,—here it all was in plain sight.
He was so absorbed as to be totally unconscious how
many people turned to gaze after him as he went about
in his gay peasant's costume, looking so blissfully
happy, when some one touched his arm and he saw a pair
of laughing eyes looking at him and a finger pointing
at his pack.
Then he understood that the young lady who had thus
stopped him wished a toy, and so he took off his pack
and handed her one. She gave him a copper coin and in a
moment was lost in the crowd that was thick now, for it
was the middle of the afternoon, the busiest time at
the Fair, and John remembered at last what he was there
for and sat down in a clear space a little to one side
 spreading tree and took out his donkeys and stood them
on the ground before him.
Soon a little stream of people was passing in front of
him, and they looked at the donkeys but mostly at him,
and laughed and talked, and though he could understand
scarcely a word they said, he saw they were pleased,
and so he smiled and nodded at them and pointed to his
donkeys, and once in a while some one bought one, so
that when night came he had only half of them left and
his pockets were heavy with copper coins.
At last the people took away or covered up their wares,
and as it grew dark the fairground became deserted, and
John began to think about going back to the house where
he was to sleep, but how in the world was he to find
He bought some more bread and figs and much relieved by
the lightness of his
 pack started out and tried to go back the way he had
come. But that, of course, soon became hopeless.
In the course of his wanderings he found himself in the
great square where the church stood, the same square
that in these days has the big stature of Walther von
der Vogelweide in the middle. Walther was the greatest
of the Minnesingers in spite of John's always saying
Oswald was, and I should like to tell you about him,
only I know you would skip it, with John going about
lost in the city at night.
Well, John walked around the big open square, right
across the spot where the statue of the greatest of the
Minnesingers would one day stand, though of course he
could not be expected to know that. Before some of the
buildings the sidewalks were almost covered with little
 tables at which sat strangely dressed people,—that is
they looked strange to John,—all eating and drinking
strange things such as he had never seen before, though
a very appetizing smell came to him from the steaming
plates as he passed by.
Not knowing what else to do he crossed over to the
church whose door stood open and went in and knelt down
with the people assembled there. This gave him a sense
of comfort, for surely the good God could understand
him, and it brought the people a little nearer too to
be thus together speaking one language of the heart.
When he raised his eyes the church was so large inside,
and so grand with the lights at the top of the tall
candles and the shining ornaments about the altar that
he felt almost afraid; and then the
 organ music rolled out, and he sat spellbound until the
service was over and the people all were gone.
It was getting dark when he went out, and the first
thing he heard was his name called by the woman who had
helped him the night before. He was so glad to see her
he almost blubbered, and do his best his mouth twitched
a little and his eyes swam.
He told her that he wanted to find the way home, and
she at once showed him where the house lay and how to
get to it from the square and also how to get back to
the Fair next day.
"Now go home and go to sleep," she said, "you have done
enough for one day. You look quite white you are so
tired, and if you are not careful you will get sick,
and that would be a fine ending to your wanderings."
 John thanked her and took her advice, and if ever a
tired head pressed a pillow it was John's that night.
He did not hear any of the noises in the street, and he
did not dream a dream.