JOHN MAKES A PAIR OF WOODEN SHOES
HE next summer John had rather a hard time at home, for
his father was discouraged if he was not, and wanted
him to give up going into the Toy Valley and stay at
home and work with him.
"You will never be anything but a drudge for the
others," said the father angrily, "and you will not
earn your living."
Yet when the fall came John was back in school, and
back in his place
 at the Ampezzangs' carving table, for which Uncle
Francesco was no doubt to blame. "Give him another
chance," he begged, "he is a good boy and if ever a
soul tried he has. Give him time."
Besides having grown very fond of John and wanting him
to succeed Uncle Francesco had given him his first
tool, you remember, and so felt somewhat responsible
for the consequences.
So John was back in his old place once more and you may
be sure he lost no time, for he knew very well that
unless he learned to carve something this winter it was
all up with him. He worked so steadily that he grew
quite thin, and finally he was able to finish up the
front legs very neatly, as well as the neck and most of
the head. But there he stuck. The finishing touches on
 long ears and the shape of the nose as well as the
difficult work on the hind legs had yet to be left to
He now turned out the neatest little blocks, blocks
that any one could see were intended for donkeys, and
that the Ampezzangs had no trouble in quickly finishing
up, though he was yet very slow.
Out of every dozen that he made they let him keep two
to work on himself, and gradually he began to chisel
out the hind legs giving them a fine natural shape and
placing them one a little before the other as donkeys
stand. The Ampezzangs only needed to give the finishing
touches now to make the clumsy legs more slender, carve
down the tail and the clumsy nose.
But this stage lasted so long that
 every one but John would have given up in despair. Every
time he tried to finish a piece he invariably cut off
all the corners that ought to stay on and quite ruined
the legs and ears.
And more than ever he was ridiculed by the successful
carvers, who possibly began to be a little bit afraid
he would succeed, for they had grown so accustomed to
saying he wouldn't that they felt rather ashamed at the
thought of having to take it all back.
"You will never do it, Donkey John," they
declared,—"why don't you go into the forest and cut
wood with your father? Yours is not a family of
carvers. Go back to your own work."
When they talked this way before Angelica, John felt
very badly and looked out of the corner of his eye to
see how she was taking it. Once she said,
 "Don't you mind them, John. Frau Ampezzang says you do
well and that some day you will finish," and that day
John did the neatest work he had ever done yet. Indeed,
it took so few strokes to finish up the shape that he
put the toy in his pocket and started off to the
"I will show it to her," he said to himself, "and tell
her I did it. Then maybe she will think well of me and
let me bring her a basket of nuts in the fall."
He saw her outside as he drew near the house and
hastened his steps, but as soon as she looked at him he
could not go any further. His face got very red and the
hand in his pocket that held the toy began to burn and
then turn cold, and he felt so badly that he turned and
ran across the bridge and up the
moun-  tain side beyond, and when he got above the big cliff
and stood on a broad windswept pasture with mighty
peaks standing around it he was covered with sweat,
although the day was cold enough. When he looked down,
her house was a tiny speck from where he stood.
He took the finished toy from his pocket and looked at
it, his face getting redder and redder, and then he
loosened a stone under a ledge of rock, put in the toy,
covered it up, and went slowly away.
How it happened nobody knew, but one day when the boys
were sliding down the long hill beyond the big mill,
Angelica was struck by a sled as she attempted to pass.
It was John's sled that struck her and flung her
violently into the snow. He was also thrown off
 but he was not hurt, and, wild with fright, ran to the
limp little form lying so still in the cold snow.
He took her in his arms and carried her home and then
went away feeling very sad and unhappy, for the doctor
said she was badly hurt and would have to stay in bed a
long time. The next day John stopped as he was passing
to look at the spot where she had fallen, in the white
snow he saw a dark object. It was one of the little
wooden shoes she had had on at the time of the
John put it in his pocket and searched a long time for
the other without finding it. "She can do nothing with
one shoe," he thought to himself, hating to give it up.
He went to his own room in Uncle Francesco's house and
stood the shoe on the window sill and looked at it
 a long time. It comforted him to have it, for it seemed
as though she were near him and not unfriendly, even
after the terrible harm he had done her. At last a
thought that had been working somewhere in the back of
his brain came forth—he would make her a pair of new
shoes to wear when she got well!
Not knowing how to make shoes he had to confide his
plan to Uncle Francesco who knew very well and who
seemed to understand, for he gave John two pieces of
wood and showed him how, watching and guiding him very
carefully but never touching the shoes himself, as
though he guessed how John felt about doing it all with
his own hands.
Now wooden shoes are not as hard to cut out as donkeys,
and John made very
 fair progress, though he was so slow that Uncle
Francesco used to tell him that Angelica would be grown
up before he got the shoes done.
Donkey-making suffered in those days, and Frau
Ampezzang wondered why John did not come as often as
usual. "I hope he is not losing interest at this late
day," she said anxiously to her husband.
But if the shoes went slowly they went well. John's
skill as a carver told here, and when, with a good deal
of oversight from Uncle Francesco, he once had the rude
form hewn out he proceeded to finish them with a care
not often bestowed on wooden shoes.
"It seems, John, that you can carve something besides
donkeys when you want to," said Uncle Francesco, slily,
and John laughed and got very red.
 One day he went to Angelica's house. He had not been
there since the accident, though he had asked her
brother every day in school how she was.
He went into the room where she was sitting up in bed
and she held out her hand to him and told him he was
not to blame.
"I ran across after you started and my foot slipped,"
she explained. "The fault was mine for I should not
have done it."
This made John feel very happy and particularly as she
told him she would soon be able to walk again.
"But what shall I do for shoes!" she exclaimed. "I lost
one in the snow and my brothers were not able to find
John longed to tell her about the lost shoe and of the
pretty new pair he was making for her, using that as a
 but he could not get up his courage. So he went home
determined to work day and night so the shoes should be
ready by the time she was able to walk.
One day a month later he took them to her house. She
had been about for some time and had on a pair of
shoes, but they were not nearly so pretty as the result
of John's desperate efforts.
She admired the shoes and so did all the family until
John was ready to expire with joy and embarrassment. He
went off on wings, not so much as suspecting that
Angelica had outgrown the shoes in those long weeks
when she had to lie still and could do nothing but
After he had gone she tried to put them on, but it was
no use. Her brothers began to laugh and make fun of
John, at which Angelica burst into
 tears, and the good mother comforted her and said the
shoes were too pretty to wear anyway and that any boy
who ever told that the shoes were too small, or teased
John about them, should have a good beating from the
Now the father's beating was not a thing to be striven
for, and besides, they were
good-hearted boys beneath all their nonsense and they
loved their little sister dearly, so John did not know
until years afterwards that while he was slaving over
the shoes Angelica was growing out of them.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics