Weak sunlight, a welcome change from the blinding white snow, shone as Nicholas completed his carving. “I intend to. Thank you so much for your hospitality,” he replied. “For you.” He held out the carved horse. “If I come through again, I will paint it.”
Matilda’s smile lit her face and warmed Nicholas’s heart.
“I’d better get Rudy steamed up and hitched.” Nicholas shrugged his old cloak over his shoulders and pulled on his thick gloves.
“There’s plenty of split wood in the shed, please take some. You’ve more than repaid us for your stay.”
Normally, Nicholas would not have accepted, but it would save him time and he needed to return quickly to his wife. “Thank you.”
The chilly air nipped at his exposed cheeks as he left the inn, but the sunshine warmed him. He smiled as he stomped through the snow to the barn where his wagon and Rudy waited.
Nicholas patted the horse’s metal shoulder. “Rudy, my friend, let’s get you steaming.” Rudy’s eye swiveled and an ear twitched, but he did not have enough power for anything else, yet.
Nicholas flipped up the hatch on the big horse’s boiler and loaded in as much wood as would fit. Next he secured the hatch and pushed the igniter. After a moment, steam hissed and Rudy’s nose glowed red.
The mechanical horse neighed and pawed the ground as the steam built, anxious to be on his way.
“Easy there, we’ll be on the trail soon enough.”
Nicholas checked the harness and found it secure. Finally he loaded enough wood into the wagon to get him home.
“Okay, Rudy, take her out.” Nicholas stepped back to give Rudy room.
The mechanical complied with a toss of his head, pulling the wagon out into the snow.
Nicholas shut the barn door and climbed into his sleigh. He pulled the lever that raised the wheels above the level of the runners, and the wagon, now a sleigh, settled into the snow. He took up the reins and flicked them, urging Rudy forward a few more steps.
“Nicholas!” Matilda waved from the doorway. “Here, before you leave.”
Rudy pulled the sleigh to the front of the inn and stopped, issuing a steamy nicker as Matilda came out into the snow with a basket in her hands.
“Provisions for a few days.”
“Matilda, you’ve already given me fuel for my journey.”
“Yes, fuel for your wonderful Rudy, now here is fuel for you. Take care, and we look forward to seeing you next year.”
Matilda placed the basket in his sleigh and stepped back, the cool air turning her cheeks pink. She waved.
Nicholas pushed one more button and the magnets that held the small balls inside the sleigh bells released. The merry jingle filled the town as he and Rudy trotted toward home.
Campbell, J.A.. The Toy Maker (Kindle Locations 81-111). Inkwolf Press. Kindle Edition.
The generosity of the innkeeper is just the beginning. I absolutely love Rudy and the toymaker. The examples of kindness, sacrifice and love are inspiring.
The toys are creative and the ending well, you’ll see!This is a must read for all ages at Christmas!
5 Contented Purrs for J.A.!
When Julie is not writing she’s often out riding horses, or working sheep with her dogs. She lives in Colorado with her three cats, Kira and Bran, her border collies, her Traveler-in training, Triska, and her Irish Sailor. She is the author of many Vampire and Ghost-Hunting Dog stories the Tales of the Travelers series, and many other young adult books. She’s a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Dog Writers of America Association and the editor for Story Emporium fiction magazine.