JOHN STARTS FOR HOME
EXT morning, with his basket on his back John left the Town
Below The Mountains the way he had entered it. He
followed up the valley, looking back now and again at
the receding town of which he finally took leave at the
high point from which he had first seen it. Here he
paused a moment to take a last, long look.
It was all quite different from what he had imagined;
the city was not all the thing he had dreamed it was,
 was just as wonderful in its way, and in it lived real
people who had been kind to him.
It looked like a picture from where he stood gazing
down at it, with the tall bright dome shining out of
its midst. And the soft green color running up the
lower slopes of the surrounding mountains he now knew
was made by terraced grape-vines. As grapes did not
grow in the Toy Valley, he had not at first understood
the meaning of that charming garment of green that
clothed the lower slopes of the Town Below The
Mountains. But he had learned the look of vine-clad
hills in those few days, and he had learned the taste
of the grape as well, delicious wagon-loads of which
were brought every day to the Fair, for the earliest
kinds had begun to ripen.
And then he thought of the Fair. He
 could never forget that, with its music and bustle and
flags and beautiful things, and the people walking
about and laughing as though all were happy.
And then the town at night! He had seen that too, with
the lights just as Herr Herder had described it.
As he thought of the wonders of the world he had seen,
he had a great desire to go on, even to the plains
that, so they said, lay as flat as a table top, with
not a mountain in sight, and to the sea itself. But not
now. Now above all things he wanted to get to Anton on
the Big Alp. At the thought that he should see Anton in
a few hours his cheeks flushed, and his heart thumped.
He would have flown like the geier over the intervening
space if he could. But that was impossible; so, turning
his back on the wonderful town, he began to
 walk resolutely on, up the valley that grew narrow but
yet was wide compared to the Toy Valley.
He followed up the valley only about half way to the
house where he had first entered it, for you remember
he was going home by way of the Big Alp, which was
somewhat nearer but very much steeper; but that did not
matter, as his basket was now so light that he scarcely
At a certain gorge which Herr Herder had described to
him, and which entered into the valley he was
ascending, he turned in and straightway began to climb.
There was a wild mountain torrent leaping down it which
made music to his ears. He hurried on, and at every
step he took his heart grew lighter.
But even the thought of going home and the exhilaration
of the high air could
 not prevent him from finally discovering how very
hungry he was. He had quite forgotten to bring anything
to eat, and there was no house in sight and no hope of
finding one so high up the mountain. He drank icy water
of the brook that rushed past, and this refreshed him
for a while; and then he thought of the cakes in his
basket,—those appetizing sugar-covered cookies he had
brought for his mother. He tried not to think of them,
but it seemed as though, do what he would, he could
think of nothing else. Finally he sat down to rest with
his basket by his side and drew out the paper of cakes
just to see how they looked. They looked even more
tempting than he remembered and he broke off a corner
of one—just to see how it tasted. And then—well, the
brave knight errant, the successful
 and valiant toy man, Donkey John, the hero of many
adventures, sat on a rock on the mountain side and age
up all his mother's cakes. Every one!
In this way his body was much refreshed though he had a
terribly mean feeling inside that prevented him from
thinking of cakes with pleasure, even for a long time
after. In order to forget he jumped up and began to
hurry along, striking his staff against the stones in
as noisy a manner as possible.
The path grew steeper and rougher every step he took.
But this mattered little as the air grew keener and
finer and the breeze that now and then found him came
straight from his beloved icy summits.
His spirits revived amazingly as he went on and he was
so happy he did not know what to do with himself
 for an occasional very disagreeable twinge when his
mind wandered to sugar-covered cookies.
"If only I had them back in the basket I would not eat them
no matter how hungry I felt," he assured himself.
Finally he got to the end of the steep climb and came
out upon a wide-rolling plateau, not at all his idea of
the Big Alp, which to his imagination lay as flat as a
pancake up on the mountain top, spanned only by the
But here he could not see far at all because of the low
hills in front and all about him. He had a vague sense
of disappointment as he kept to the path that led on
into this strange and unfamiliar world of rolling
The land flattened out as he went, however, and all
about him waved tall, uncut grass and presently he
 an elevation and before him lay the vast expanse of the
Big Alp, the largest Alp in all Tyrol, and when one
reflects that it is twelve miles long and more than
eight miles broad, of an undulating surface, it is not
surprising that John could not see all of it at once.
Straight ahead, some miles away, towered the great
rocky peak he had seen grow rosy red every fair night
since he could remember, and it looked as high up here
as from his own home—higher, for he was closer to it.
Behind it he saw other wild peaks and beyond these the
great flat mountain of pale rock that helped shut in
the upper end of the Toy Valley.
Between him and these peaks lay the meadows with here
and there a line of darker green where the bushes
followed some stream down a little ravine. They
 were not as flat as a table-top, as he had looked for,
but oh, how lovely they were, and how immense!
Like the city the Big Alp was quite different and on a
much larger scale than he had dreamed it. He began to
wonder how he should ever find Anton. And the thousands
of cattle he knew were pastured here, where were they?
And the hundreds of haymakers' huts? He climbed to the
summit of a knoll and looked across the vast sea of
grass through which no path was visible.
He did not know which way to turn, for on all sides the
uncut grass concealed the paths that he knew crossed
the Big Alp in every direction. He was not afraid
although he knew that people had been lost here, but
that was in fog and now the air was clear as crystal
and before him stood for a landmark the great bare
 At last he heard a far-off tinkling sound and he went
towards it until he came upon a herd of cattle and a
man and two boys watching them. He did not known them
but they told him where to look for Anton and how to
get to his part of the great plateau, for that is what
the Big Alp is, a broad grassy plateau.
So up a little ravine through a sea of grass he went
and presently he saw an empty hay hut. More hay huts he
passed and then he heard the pleasant sound of tinkling
bells, and going up out of the ravine he saw a sight he
never forgot. It was Big Peter's herd of a hundred cows
scattered over the flat bottom of a basin of land. On
the rim of the basin stood the big milk house and near
it, leaning on their staffs, were the boys that watched
John shouted and ran towards them,
 and at sight of him the nearest cows raised up their
heads and the bells on their necks tinkled. He knew the
herd boys well and they took him into the milk house
and gave him milk and cheese and black bread, and never
had food tasted so good, for he was ready to drop with
hunger, having eaten nothing but his mother's cakes all
In the house were Big Peter and two other men making
wooden collars for the cows, for the cheese and butter
for the day were made and it was not yet milking time.
They invited John to sit down and tell them of his
adventures and he did so and showed them the money in
his handkerchief. Then as the sky was growing red he
started forth to find Anton, with whom he hoped to
spend the night.
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