Here is a story told to me many years ago by a lady passenger on a cruise ship upon which I was working. We were sailing a Christmas cruise and she knew of my interest in storytelling. She thought it appropriate for the occasion. I have been telling it ever since. It is called:
The Little Lame Donkey
THE LITTLE LAME DONKEY.
It was a cold night. There was a full moon and it lit up the snow-covered meadow where the little lame donkey stood alone.
He had been there since the spring when he arrived with a small travelling fair. He was limping then and his owner decided to leave him behind when the fair moved on. The little donkey did not mind. At least he wouldn’t have to pull the heavy cart in which children sat while he took them around the short circuit around the fairground. He was quite content to stay in the meadow. There was plenty of grass to eat and the local farmers who owned the adjoining fields threw him cabbages, turnips and carrots and saw that he always had plenty of water to drink.
But he was lonely. Particularly tonight, for it was Christmas Eve and all donkeys know about Christmas. After all, was it not one of his ancestors who carried Mary to Bethlehem?
He heard the far away village church clock strike midnight and in his utter loneliness, he brayed a long, sad bray. And then he heard a different sound. A very quiet jingling, tinkling sound. It became louder and seemed to be passing overhead! The donkey looked up but could see nothing. The jingling sound faded away and was replaced by another sound, crunching footsteps in the snow! Someone was walking up the meadow towards him! The donkey suddenly felt excited! Who could it be, out at this time on Christmas Eve?
It was a man, quite large, wearing a heavy fur coat and hood. He seemed to be carrying a bulky load on his shoulder. As he got closer, the donkey noticed that the man had a bushy white beard and twinkling eyes. “Hello old chap, how are you getting along?” the man said. He removed the large bulky sack from his shoulder and laid it down at his feet.
The donkey thought that he already knew the answer before he asked nervously, “Hello, who are you?” The large man smiled, ”Well, I’m known by different names in different places. Sometimes I’m called Sinterklass, and occasionally, Kriss Kringle. Often I’m called St. Nicholas and Santa Claus but given the choice, I quite like being called Father Christmas!
The donkey said, "But I thought you rode on a sleigh drawn by reindeer?” “So I do” replied Father Christmas, “but I have nearly finished my deliveries for this year and I have let the reindeer go on ahead. They have been working very hard. I heard you braying just now and I thought you sounded lonely, so I decided to come and see you”.
“Where are you going now?” asked the donkey. “Well my final delivery is at Green Meadow Bottom and I have a couple of calls to make on the way”. “But Green Meadow Bottom is twelve miles away!” said the donkey. “I know” said Father Christmas, “but if I keep going, it won’t take me too long!”
The donkey looked at the large sack at his feet. “I could help you” he said. “You could lift the sack on to my back and I could carry it for you!”. “But what about your lame leg?” answered Father Christmas. “I can do it!” insisted the little donkey. The old man smiled. “Very well” he said, “and so you shall!” He lifted the sack gently on to the donkey’s back and off the two of them went, across the meadow, down into the valley and over the hill.
They chatted as they walked and the time passed quickly. They made four stops on the way, as Father Christmas took mysterious and exciting looking packages from the sack and left them on doorsteps and windowsills. They eventually arrived at Green Meadow Bottom. A band of blue, yellow and orange light began to appear over the horizon. Dawn was breaking. The donkey noticed a wisp of smoke curling from the chimney of Green Meadow Farm, the home of the Appleyards.
“Up and about already!” said Father Christmas as he lifted the sack for the final time from the donkey’s back. “Time I wasn’t here!” He patted the donkey on the neck. “Cheerio, old chap, take care and I’ll see you next year!” The donkey looked around but Father Christmas was nowhere to be seen!
Just then the back door of the farmhouse opened as Mrs. Appleyard came out to feed the chickens. Her eyes fell upon the donkey. “Well, for goodness sake!” she exclaimed and turned back to call into the farmhouse, “Mr. Appleyard! Boys! Come and look, we have a visitor!”
Mr. Appleyard appeared in his pyjamas, slippers and dressing gown. He removed the unlit pipe from his mouth. “My word!” he said, “This is a surprise!” He made his way over to the donkey. “Look Martha!” He called to her, “I think Father Christmas has been”. He patted the little donkey, and then bent down, to examine the sack.
By this time the three boys in the household had arrived. It was Christmas morning and they were excited! They made straight for the donkey and for a moment forgot about the sack, still bulging with gifts. “Look Dad!” said one of the boys. “There is some tinsel string around the donkey’s neck, and a label!” Mr. Appleyard looked at the label and read the message aloud, “Here is a special present for you all – He has a lame leg, take care of him and have a very Merry Christmas!”
Well they did look after him. They loved him. And Mr.Appleyard, who knew a lot about animals, helped the donkey’s leg to get better. In the springtime, he was well enough to give the boys a ride around the farm yard and he was never lonely ever again and as far as I know, he is with them still!
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