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JOHN GOES TO SCHOOL
EXT morning John was up long before daylight and fired the
big stove. Then he went to bed again and slept until
his uncle shook him, saying, "Come, John, fetch the
water now and help with the breakfast."
John jumped up and ran about the house doing everything
he could think of. He remembered what his mother did at
home and tried his best to do it in the same way. While
Uncle Francesco was cooking porridge over the open fire
 in the smoke-stained kitchen he swept up the floor of
the other room and set the bowls on the table. Then he
ran and milked the goat that stood bleating by the
door. He carried down some fodder for it from the top
of the house, and after breakfast went into the shed
and chopped wood until he heard a sound that made him
stop and run to the door.
The sound he had heard was the clappity-clap,
clappity-clap of a great many wooden shoes pattering
over the stony pavement of the narrow street, and when
he looked out he saw a long file of boys and girls
walking along with books under their arms. It was the
school children going to church for the morning
prayers, and in a little while they came clattering
back and disappeared into a doorway nearly opposite his
 "Come, John, now you will go to school," and Uncle
Francesco led him through the doorway where the
children had disappeared, then through a narrow passage
and into a large room full of boys and girls seated at
The teacher stood in front and when Uncle Francesco
introduced John, he took his hand and looked at him
kindly. Then Uncle Francesco went away and left John in
the roomful of children, who all looked at him and some
that he knew smiled and nodded their heads.
The teacher gave him a seat and a book and John really
tried to remember what was told him, but it was hard
work and he was glad when recess came and they all went
outside for a few minutes to breath the fresh air. The
school-room was so close it made his head ache, but he
forgot that when his young
 friends gathered around him, and he told them he had
come down the mountain to stay all the winter and go to
After school he went home and did his work and was too
busy to think much about his home on the mountain top.
Indeed, it seemed as though Uncle Francesco thought of
one thing after another for him to do until bedtime and
then he was so sleepy he barely sent a thought up
John did not get on very well in school, though
everybody liked him. He was so good-natured they could
not help it, and he knew how to do so many things. But
when it came to books—well, the less said about that
The master, who liked John very much indeed, declared
he might as well try to teach a stone post to read.
 was not quite fair, for John did do better than a stone
post, though perhaps not much better. He would sit
staring at his book as though the letters in it were so
many black beetles, until the master rapped him on the
head and told him to quit staring and think a little.
But this John either could not or would not do. He no
sooner got a book before him than he began to stare at
it in that idiotic way, and he confessed long
afterwards that half the time he did not see the
letters at all, but only all sorts of toy animals
capering over the pages as they used to do through the
grass on the mountain side when he took the goats to
And that is the only thing any one ever had against
John, that he did not pay better attention to his
books. He was great at arithmetic though, and
 could add 19 and 37 in his head as quick as a flash,
but he always did his arithmetic in his head; if he
tried to put down the sums he could not do them at all.
The master gave him a certain little book to see if it
would not wake him up, and it did to an extent. It was
a book about the Minnesingers, in easy words. The
Minnesingers were minstrels or wandering singers who
lived in that part of the world in early times. They
went about the kings' courts and sang their beautiful
songs and between times did a good deal of hard
fighting, for they were knights who wore armor as well
as sweet singers. At least this was true of the
Minnesingers told about in John's book. I should like
to write down one of their songs for you if I could
only remember it well enough.
 But perhaps you would not care for them as they were
all love songs. Or course the time may come when you
will feel differently. There is another reason why you
might not care particularly for the songs, that is,
they were sung in German.
I suspect that was the real trouble with John. In his
school all the books were printed in German, a language
he could not understand, for though the people of the
Toy Valley did not talk English neither did they speak
German. They had a language of their own but there were
no books written in it; so when John went to school he
had to poke his poor little pug nose into a German book
from morning to night.
Just think of it! It does make one feel sorry for him,
yet he should have tried; for after all the story of
 discovering America, of Ulysses wandering about the
world, of William Tell, and the Minnesingers, and all
the other famous stories, can be told about as well in
German as in English. Now John, who, so far as books
went, had no language at all, should have tried his
best to learn to read in whatever language came handy.
But he did not understand this, though after he got his
book about the Minnesingers he did better; at least he
learned to read that one book. In fact, he almost
learned everything in it by heart. But he did not learn
German after all, and he was well punished for it
later, as you will see.
Far, far better than books he liked the half-hour out
of doors with the children, and better yet the walks he
sometimes took along the snowy paths to their homes.
For as soon as winter came
 everybody in the Toy Valley began carving. Even the
children helped their parents after school, and John
was never so happy as when sitting on a bench and
watching his schoolmates at their work.
He did not do this very often, it is true, as the
school hours were long and Uncle Francesco kept him
pretty busy at home. Uncle Francesco evidently believed
the old adage that "Satan finds some mischief still for
idle hands to do," and saw to it that John did not get
into mischief for lack of employment. Even on Saturdays
he had to clean coppers,—which was no idle jest,—for
everybody cooked in copper pots and kettles and had
copper milk jugs and copper coffee pots,—there was no
end to the coppers. And every one of them had to get a
good polishing every Saturday afternoon.
 It is true that everybody was doing it, and it was not
so bad when the weather permitted one to sit outside on
the bench by the door and rub away until one got a
shining row of them, when all one's neighbors were
out-of-doors, too, in plain sight doing the same thing.
But, notwithstanding all this, John was sometimes
allowed to go visiting on a half-holiday, and then it
was that he found his way to some carver's home, even
when the other children were out with their sleds.
He went oftenest to watch the Wolferlos family where
Angelica sat putting the red paint in the horses'
nostrils with her yellow hair wound about her pretty
head and her mouth puckered up in that comical way
whenever she put on a spot. Truth to tell, he went
there oftener than anywhere else, and sometimes he went
 to the edge of the cliff and looked down on the brown
roof that sheltered her.
"Where have you been, John?" his uncle always asked him
when he came home, and then he would tell him where he
had been and all that had happened. He talked so much
about the carving that his uncle one day asked him why
he felt such an interest.
"Because," replied John, his face reddening, "I hope
sometime to carve, myself."
"Tut, tut, John, none of the family has ever carved."
"Frau Ampezzang says I can learn. She says it is only
'want to hard enough and keep at it long enough.' "
"But where can you get the tools? They cost money."
John looked at his uncle and his face
 got very red though his eyes were steady as he replied,
"I pray every night to the good Lord to send me a tool
to begin with."
John did not always go to visit the carvers when he was
out. He sometimes went sledding with the rest; and
because he had lived up on the mountain all his life he
could outsled any boy in the valley. They poked a great
deal of fun at him in school, but out on the slopes he
was the leader of them all and they did exactly as he
On his way about the village he often passed the fine
large house of Herr Malnitz, underneath which was a
store-room where he kept wood for carving, for he was
one of the most prosperous carvers in the community.
John sometimes stopped to look at the two handsome
squirrels he kept in a large
 cage and one day Herr Malnitz called out to him and
"John, if you will bring me some cones down from the
mountain to feed the squirrels I will give you a piece
of good wood which you can sell for a handful of copper
"That I will do," said John, eagerly, "but I will not
sell the wood. I will keep it for my own use, for I,
too, shall learn to carve."
Herr Malnitz laughed loud and long.
"Why, John," said he, "how can you carve? You are a
clumsy boy and none of your family has ever carved. It
"I shall learn," replied John, unabashed, "only give me
"That I will when you bring the cones; but I advise you
to sell it as soon as you can."
 Everyone knew of John's desire to carve and every one
laughed at him for it; it was absurd, they said, for a
boy whose family were none of them carvers.
"He will never cut anything but his fingers," the
But this did not trouble John, who was always ready for
any fun that came along and always ready to laugh—even
at himself if nothing funnier was in sight.
And so the winter passed quickly away and John began to
think of the time when he should go up the mountain
again. His father had come to see him only once and his
heart longed for the dear home and his mother and old
Franz and Anton to whom he would have so much to tell.
But all the time he never once forgot his wish to be a
carver nor to pray every night for the tool.
 At last the longed-for day came. School was over and
John, with his bundle strapped to his shoulders,
started up the mountain.
As he said good-bye to him, Uncle Francesco slipped
something into his hand, saying, "You have been a good
boy, John, and I shall be glad to see you back next
John started up the mountain as though he had wings on
his feet, for he held in his hand a broad, sharp,
chisel-shaped piece of steel, the tool he needed to
begin his carving!
Suddenly he stopped under a roadside shrine, fell on
his knees, clasped his hands, and fervently thanked the
good God who had answered his prayer.