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HURRAH FOR DONKEY JOHN!
OHN has finished his third year in school and is again
climbing up the steep green mountain side. Again he has
his basket on his back, but this time his father is not
with him. Nor is the basket the one he carried that day
he took the sheep-bell home; it is almost as large as
the one his father wore and it is filled to the top
with neatly cut blocks of wood. John himself has grown
large and strong. His wide mouth wears a very pleasant
expression and his blue
 eyes are shining happily, for in his pocket he is
clasping with one hand a toy donkey that he has made
and finished himself.
He looks neither to the right nor left but straight
ahead, apparently thinking of things far away, then he
suddenly starts. Across his path is thrown the shadow
of the tall crucifix that marks the spot where a man
once fell over the cliff above and was dashed to
pieces. John knelt reverently at the foot of the cross
with bared head and fervently thanked the dear God for
the success he had achieved. Then he went up on the
mountain through the fir forest that filled the air
with a warm and exquisite fragrance.
When John reached the top of the mountain it was yet
broad daylight about his home, though down in the
 deep valley and the dense forest night had already
There was no one in the house, and standing his basket
in a corner John took the little wooden donkey from his
pocket, stood it in the middle of the table, and hid
Presently his mother came in. She gave a great cry when
she saw what was on the table, and ran and found John.
"Is it true that you did it yourself?" she asked
breathlessly, after embracing him. "Run now and call
the father and let us all rejoice together."
So the three sat and looked at the little wooden
animal, first one and then the other of the parents
taking it up and feeling of it and turning it over to
examine every part.
"It is wonderful," said Mother Hofer, "and it looks
 "Yes, I think so," agreed Father Hofer. "See, that is
the way he stands with his right hind leg a little
drawn up, and see!—there is the little bunch above his
knee, and one ear lopped down!"
"Yes, indeed!" cried John, wild with delight, "it is
Franz. I didn't expect you to know it so soon though,"
and he capered about the little room like a young
"Now I must show it to Anton," he shouted, and though
it was fast getting dark he dashed down the mountain to
Anton looked at it in amazement as John, still
breathless from his headlong rush down the mountain,
gasped out that he had done it.
"Why, John!" he cried at last, and dealt his friend a
great slap on the back
 that made him stagger, for he had grown, too, and still
remained a head taller than John. "Tell me now, did you
do that? I should have said Frau Ampezzang herself did
Since Frau Ampezzang was the best animal carver in the
valley, Anton could have bestowed no higher praise and
John, well satisfied, presently burst out laughing, and
Anton burst out laughing too and there they stood and
laughed and laughed, though if they had been asked what
they were laughing at I doubt if either of them could
"I have brought a basketful of blocks up the mountain,"
John said at last, "and all summer on rainy days I
shall carve. And next winter I shall learn to carve
many other kinds of animals; when you know one the
others are easy," he added boastfully; "and then I
 go to the Fair and sell them and buy the hat," for it
was every boy's ambition to possess as soon as possible
the broad-rimmed, wide-crowned hat with a ribbon band
that the young men wore on holidays.
"Now think!" and Anton regarded him almost with envy.
"Yes, that is well. And as for me, I am to go to the
Big Alp with Herr Weidl and his men. I go in a week,
and I am to help with the cows and drive them down the
mountain before the snow comes."
For neither of the boys was to herd the neighbors'
goats any more. No, that was past and gone. Younger
boys would take their place, but both of them were too
full of the future and too eager to test the new life
to spare a regret for the loss of those long days on
 mountain side, lying in the hot sun and the keen air,
dreaming of robbers and knights and Minnesingers, of
the world of cities and the Big Alp. No, the world of
cities and the Big Alp were drawing near, and their
hearts beat high with expectancy. The boy's life was
over for them. John was now to help his father with the
farming and Anton, as he had said, was to go to the Big
There were rainy days when no work could be done out of
doors and the first one of these that came saw John
bending over the table he had made ready, while Father
and Mother Hofer hung over him entranced, as with slow,
sure strokes he chipped away the wood and modelled from
it a tiny donkey as perfect as the one he had brought
"They are the best I ever saw," was
 Father Hofer's proud comment as he stood critically
surveying a row of them that in course of time stood
side by side on the table.
They were all alike, even to the little bunch on the
knee and the characteristic position of the hind leg.
"I will buy a tree and cut you plenty of wood, John,
and next winter you shall stay at home and carve all
you please," said Father Hofer, who could yet scarcely
believe his eyes that a son of his had really become a
carver; "and none of the family before him ever did
it," he said many times, looking at John in a dazed
But this plan did not suit John in the least. "No,
father," he said, "I must go back and learn to make a
horse and a cow and all the rest."
So when the first snow fell, down
 went John into the Toy Valley again, leaving a bundle
of finished donkeys on the shelf at home. "When I get
my basket full of all sorts of fine animals you shall
see how I will sell them!" he boasted merrily.
Frau Ampezzang was almost as pleased as John over his
success, although she must soon lose a valuable
apprentice, for he could no longer spend his time
cutting out blocks for her to finish.
"You must now carve a horse," she told him, "it will be
very easy for you, it is so like the donkey," and
taking a block, she skilfully shaped it, showing him
just where the two differed.
Then John tried. It was indeed very easy, too easy as
it proved, for John had quite finished one before he
discovered to his dismay that what he had so easily
made was no horse at all but only
an-  other donkey! The only difference was that there was no
little bunch above the knee and the hind leg was a
"Never mind, John," said Frau Ampezzang, patiently, "it
is a beautiful donkey. No one could make a better, and
in time you will make as good a horse." So John tried
again, and again he turned out a donkey. Again and
again he ended in the same way until even Frau
Ampezzang gave up in despair.
"You must try something quite different," she declared,
"you must try a sheep; that you cannot make into a
donkey." And she carved a sheep before his eyes, then
started a new block and told him to go ahead with it.
John strove laboriously over the sheep and when he got
done behold!—it was
 a donkey with unnaturally short legs and strangely
placed ears, but a donkey for all that, as any one who
looked at it would have said at once. Yes, it was a
donkey, though a precious queer one.
When this became known the people young and old all
over the Toy Valley shouted with delight. Not that they
disliked John, but it was so funny and they were so
used to laughing at him that when he succeeded they had
nothing left to joke about. They all shouted with
delight, for it was funny, all but Angelica. She did
not laugh nor make fun of John but pitied him in her
More than ever they called the unlucky boy Donkey John,
but when in midwinter all the toys were exhibited as
usual, what do you think happened?
 One row of donkeys took the prize. The people said they
had never seen anything like them, for though of wood
they seemed to be alive. So to the amazement of nearly
everybody Donkey John took the prize at the toy
contest, and after that, though the people still called
him Donkey John, the name grew to be a compliment, for
never had so young a boy taken the prize before.
"It is as though the donkeys had been made by an old
carver descended from a race of carvers," the people
said, and wondered greatly, and many among them began
to shake their heads and say, "I knew how it would be."
"I told you so." "I predicted from the start that John
Hofer would become a great man among us." And they all
did their best to show him how well they thought of
 and it was forgotten in the Toy Valley that the name
"Donkey John" had ever meant anything uncomplimentary.
His success at the contest encouraged John greatly and
he worked with renewed energy, but try as he would and
try what he would, cow, lamb, dog, fish, or bird, the
result was always the same. From under his hand came
forth a procession of donkeys. If he tried a fish he
got a flat donkey with a comical head that made the
people die a-laughing. If he tried a cow he got a lank
and bony donkey, equally amusing. No matter what he
tried out came out some form of donkey. It was as
though the wood were bewitched.
And the joke of it was, the people did not know he was
trying to make anything but donkeys, excepting Frau
Ampezzang of course. She knew and pitied
 him from the bottom of her heart, he tried so hard. No,
the people, quite awed at his success as a
prize-winner, could not imagine his being unable to do
anything he wanted to. They laughed at his strange
beasts and said to each other, "Oh, he was always a
comical rogue." "Now who else could do anything so
clever as that!" "Think of joking in donkeys in that
splendid way," and more and more of them went about
saying, "I told you so."
If John had been a genius, as they seemed to think he
was, he could not have been more highly esteemed.
At last the snow began to melt and the sweet smell of
springtime crept over mountain and valley, and John
could make nothing but donkeys. All kinds of donkeys,
but after all, only donkeys.
 "Never mind," said good Frau Ampezzang, trying to
comfort him as was her wont. "You have conquered one
thing. No one can carve a donkey like you. I cannot
myself do it so well. And nearly every family sticks to
one animal. The Wolferlos make horses, as you know, and
have made them for generations. The Roesslers carve
only pigs, their next neighbors make wagon wheels, and
the Hoefflers dolls. Why not be satisfied to make
"Because," replied John sadly, "you can make all the
animals so well and I wanted to learn them all too, and
be like you." Then looking up he added, half laughing
and half crying, "I want to go out into the world with
a basketful of fine toys on my back. I do not want to
sell at the warehouse here
 where everything is piled in together. I want to go to
the fairs and see for myself."
"Donkeys sell well at the fairs, John," said Frau
Ampezzang, then shook her head and added, "you are over
young to be knocking about the world, John. You should
be content to do as the rest of us do—all but the
older men, who still carry their toys on their backs
and go to the fairs. Do you know you can go every
Saturday to Herr Malnitz and he will buy all you have,
and give you the worth of your time?"
John knew this well enough, but he also knew that Herr
Malnitz gave only half what one could get at the fairs
and in the cities, and then—how could one, not being a
minnesinger in a bygone age, ever see anything of that
great world beyond the mountains if one
 worked from fall to spring only to sell one's toys to
This John did not say to Frau Ampezzang, but something
very like it he thought as he walked along home having
ended his apprenticeship in the Toy Valley.