David also learned that there is another peculiar thing about it. In circumstances like this a little boy has the right, when he arrives at the toy shop, to choose for himself the thing he wants to buy. No grown-up will interfere with his judgment; the law won’t allow it. The trouble is that it is pretty hard for him to make up his mind. When there is such a great array of drums and swords and soldiers’ caps and guns and bears that jump, it is not an easy thing to select the toy that will please him most of all.
Why not buy a train of cars and a track to run it on? But if he bought that, then how could he get along without a jumping-jack that threw up its arms and legs when you pulled the string? And if he took the jumping-jack, then what about an iron savings bank with a monkey on top that shook his head with thanks when you dropped the money in? Lovely things, all of them, but David put them from him. He did it with decision, but with a nervous haste which told of wavering courage.
Such things were not for him. They are only for boys who are not soldier-men. And besides, they might cost too much. If the price went higher than five cents David would be lost, for many precepts had been forced upon him in regard to the waste of money, and the value people put on it, and the way they have to work for it. So thus far the nickel had marked the very summit of his financial transactions.
All the same, a strange wistfulness came into David’s eyes when he put aside poor jumping-jack. Such a dear of a jumping-jack he was! You could have kissed the jolly red paint of him, and the pretty toy bank was a thing to hug tight under your arm. That is why the little boy’s voice was such a weak and far-away voice when he presently asked:—
“Would two five centses get him, do you think?”
“When it’s your birthday,” said the Doctor, “it’s all right to spend three five centses.”
Here, then, was David’s chance. The jumping-jack was almost his, when his shoes squeaked a warning. Thus suddenly was he reminded that he was a brave little soldier-man. He now saw that such a purchase would be ridiculous. Something serviceable is what he must have, something that Mother would like and want him to keep. No silly toys for him! But, oh, if only the Doctor would insist a little on the jumping-jack!
David turned reluctantly away; he choked down the queerness in his throat and firmly laid hands on a gilt-rimmed mustache cup. His lips twitched and his eyes winked, but the look in his face was the look of a soldier-man. No intervention from the Doctor could shake his determination.
With coaxing insinuation the Doctor said, “We haven’t seen all the things, you know.”
Hope kindled in David’s eyes.
“Maybe,” he said with enthusiasm, “maybe this costs more than three five centses. Does it?”
“Wouldn’t you rather have a drum?” asked the salesman.