Read Chapter V - The donkey of Berties Home / the Way to be Happy, free online book, by Madeline Leslie, on

Before Mr. Curtis had engaged men to dig his cellar, Miss Susan Taylor closed her school for the season.

“I’m afraid Bertie will be wild with excitement,” mamma said one day to her husband, “I wish he had some regular employment.”

“I’ve been thinking of that, my dear,” he answered.

“There is a great deal of knowledge to be gained beside that in books.  Our son is inquisitive and eager, and will learn a great deal by being allowed to watch the operations as they proceed.  When he sees the work of the different trades, and what belongs to a mason, or carpenter, he will remember it much better than if he read it in his book.”

“But, Lawrence, I’m afraid he will learn bad words from some men you will employ; or if not, he may be in their way.”

Mr. Curtis smiled.  “As to the first,” he said, “we must train our children so well at home that they will know better than to imitate rude manners or rough expressions.  So far, I am happy to say that I have never seen men more free from profanity than those I have met in this quiet village.

“As to your second objection, an occasional caution will be all that is necessary for Herbert.  And if he should cause a little delay by his questions, I will see that the men are no losers.”

“But how will he get back and forth so many times in a day?”

“That question will be solved to-morrow, Cecilia; next to the hope of benefiting your health, my object in removing to this place is to educate our children for usefulness.  A few dollars more or less, to accomplish that end, will never be regretted by either of us.”

“If Bertie ever makes as good a man as his father, I shall be content,” remarked the lady, smiling.

“And if Winnie learns to imitate one half her mother’s virtues, I shall be a happy father,” he returned, bowing with an arch glance in her face.

After dinner the next day, Nancy, the nurse, was giving the children a bath, preparatory to a walk around the farm, when a man drove into the yard with the queerest little carriage you ever saw.  The carriage was drawn by a funny-looking animal, with long ears and awkward-shaped legs.

“Papa, mamma!” shouted Bertie, “look, see what has come; see what a queer horse.”

Mr. Curtis went to the door and his wife followed him.

“I’ve brought you a donkey at last,” said the man, jumping briskly from the carriage.

“Is he docile?” asked papa.

“He’s as tame as an old sheep.  He’s five years old.  A gentleman bought him for his children; and they’ve made a plaything of him.  The little girl cried when I drove him away.  I couldn’t have bought him at any price until I gave my word he should have the best of care.  The young gentleman himself can harness and unharness him, and for the matter of that he can drive all over the country with him.”

All this while Bertie had been palling grass and feeding the patient creature; but now he sprang a foot from the ground, exclaiming, with a flush of joy, ­

“Papa, papa, did you buy the donkey for me? is it mine? my own?”

“Yes,” answered papa.  “It is your’s; and I shall ask Mr. Taylor to give you a stall in the barn, where you can feed it and groom it yourself.”

“Oh, papa!  I’m going to be a real good boy, I’m so very much obliged to you; may I ride a little now?”

“He ought to have some oats before he’s used much,” said the man who brought him.  “He’s travelled twenty-five miles this morning.”

“I’ll give him some, right away.”

“Jump in then, and drive him to the barn,” said papa.  “I see Mr. Taylor, and I’ll talk with him about entertaining your donkey.  That was one more than he agreed to board.”

Bertie knew by his papa’s mouth that he was joking, and, more happy than I can tell you, he jumped into the funny carriage and began to pull at the reins.  But the donkey had begun to nibble the sweet, fresh grass and did not like to move.

“Go along,” shouted the boy, “go along,” and then the animal pricked up his ears, and trotted off to his new home in Mr. Taylor’s great barn.