The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
L. Frank Baum

Part 2 out of 2

And on the third day after the declaration of war a mighty army was at
the command of the King Awgwa. There were three hundred Asiatic
Dragons, breathing fire that consumed everything it touched. These
hated mankind and all good spirits. And there were the three-eyed
Giants of Tatary, a host in themselves, who liked nothing better than
to fight. And next came the Black Demons from Patalonia, with great
spreading wings like those of a bat, which swept terror and misery
through the world as they beat upon the air. And joined to these were
the Goozzle-Goblins, with long talons as sharp as swords, with which
they clawed the flesh from their foes. Finally, every mountain Awgwa in
the world had come to participate in the great battle with the immortals.

The King Awgwa looked around upon this vast army and his heart beat
high with wicked pride, for he believed he would surely triumph over
his gentle enemies, who had never before been known to fight. But the
Master Woodsman had not been idle. None of his people was used to
warfare, yet now that they were called upon to face the hosts of evil
they willingly prepared for the fray.

Ak had commanded them to assemble in the Laughing Valley, where Claus,
ignorant of the terrible battle that was to be waged on his account,
was quietly making his toys.

Soon the entire Valley, from hill to hill, was filled with the little
immortals. The Master Woodsman stood first, bearing a gleaming ax
that shone like burnished silver. Next came the Ryls, armed with
sharp thorns from bramblebushes. Then the Knooks, bearing the spears
they used when they were forced to prod their savage beasts into
submission. The Fairies, dressed in white gauze with rainbow-hued
wings, bore golden wands, and the Wood-nymphs, in their uniforms of
oak-leaf green, carried switches from ash trees as weapons.

Loud laughed the Awgwa King when he beheld the size and the arms of
his foes. To be sure the mighty ax of the Woodsman was to be dreaded,
but the sweet-faced Nymphs and pretty Fairies, the gentle Ryls and
crooked Knooks were such harmless folk that he almost felt shame at
having called such a terrible host to oppose them.

"Since these fools dare fight," he said to the leader of the Tatary
Giants, "I will overwhelm them with our evil powers!"

To begin the battle he poised a great stone in his left hand and cast
it full against the sturdy form of the Master Woodsman, who turned it
aside with his ax. Then rushed the three-eyed Giants of Tatary upon
the Knooks, and the Goozzle-Goblins upon the Ryls, and the
firebreathing Dragons upon the sweet Fairies. Because the Nymphs were
Ak's own people the band of Awgwas sought them out, thinking to
overcome them with ease.

But it is the Law that while Evil, unopposed, may accomplish terrible
deeds, the powers of Good can never be overthrown when opposed to
Evil. Well had it been for the King Awgwa had he known the Law!

His ignorance cost him his existence, for one flash of the ax borne by
the Master Woodsman of the World cleft the wicked King in twain and
rid the earth of the vilest creature it contained.

Greatly marveled the Tatary Giants when the spears of the little
Knooks pierced their thick walls of flesh and sent them reeling to the
ground with howls of agony.

Woe came upon the sharp-taloned Goblins when the thorns of the Ryls
reached their savage hearts and let their life-blood sprinkle all the
plain. And afterward from every drop a thistle grew.

The Dragons paused astonished before the Fairy wands, from whence
rushed a power that caused their fiery breaths to flow back on
themselves so that they shriveled away and died.

As for the Awgwas, they had scant time to realize how they were
destroyed, for the ash switches of the Nymphs bore a charm unknown
to any Awgwa, and turned their foes into clods of earth at the
slightest touch!

When Ak leaned upon his gleaming ax and turned to look over the field
of battle he saw the few Giants who were able to run disappearing over
the distant hills on their return to Tatary. The Goblins had perished
every one, as had the terrible Dragons, while all that remained of the
wicked Awgwas was a great number of earthen hillocks dotting the plain.

And now the immortals melted from the Valley like dew at sunrise, to
resume their duties in the Forest, while Ak walked slowly and
thoughtfully to the house of Claus and entered.

"You have many toys ready for the children," said the Woodsman, "and
now you may carry them across the plain to the dwellings and the
villages without fear."

"Will not the Awgwas harm me?" asked Claus, eagerly.

"The Awgwas," said Ak, "have perished!"

Now I will gladly have done with wicked spirits and with fighting and
bloodshed. It was not from choice that I told of the Awgwas and their
allies, and of their great battle with the immortals. They were part
of this history, and could not be avoided.

8. The First Journey with the Reindeer

Those were happy days for Claus when he carried his accumulation of
toys to the children who had awaited them so long. During his
imprisonment in the Valley he had been so industrious that all his
shelves were filled with playthings, and after quickly supplying the
little ones living near by he saw he must now extend his travels to
wider fields.

Remembering the time when he had journeyed with Ak through all the
world, he know children were everywhere, and he longed to make as many
as possible happy with his gifts.

So he loaded a great sack with all kinds of toys, slung it upon his
back that he might carry it more easily, and started off on a longer
trip than he had yet undertaken.

Wherever he showed his merry face, in hamlet or in farmhouse, he
received a cordial welcome, for his fame had spread into far lands.
At each village the children swarmed about him, following his
footsteps wherever he went; and the women thanked him gratefully for
the joy he brought their little ones; and the men looked upon him
curiously that he should devote his time to such a queer occupation as
toy-making. But every one smiled on him and gave him kindly words,
and Claus felt amply repaid for his long journey.

When the sack was empty he went back again to the Laughing Valley and
once more filled it to the brim. This time he followed another road,
into a different part of the country, and carried happiness to many
children who never before had owned a toy or guessed that such a
delightful plaything existed.

After a third journey, so far away that Claus was many days walking
the distance, the store of toys became exhausted and without delay he
set about making a fresh supply.

From seeing so many children and studying their tastes he had acquired
several new ideas about toys.

The dollies were, he had found, the most delightful of all playthings
for babies and little girls, and often those who could not say "dolly"
would call for a "doll" in their sweet baby talk. So Claus resolved
to make many dolls, of all sizes, and to dress them in bright-colored
clothing. The older boys--and even some of the girls--loved the
images of animals, so he still made cats and elephants and horses.
And many of the little fellows had musical natures, and longed for
drums and cymbals and whistles and horns. So he made a number of toy
drums, with tiny sticks to beat them with; and he made whistles from
the willow trees, and horns from the bog-reeds, and cymbals from bits
of beaten metal.

All this kept him busily at work, and before he realized it the winter
season came, with deeper snows than usual, and he knew he could not
leave the Valley with his heavy pack. Moreover, the next trip would
take him farther from home than every before, and Jack Frost was
mischievous enough to nip his nose and ears if he undertook the long
journey while the Frost King reigned. The Frost King was Jack's
father and never reproved him for his pranks.

So Claus remained at his work-bench; but he whistled and sang as
merrily as ever, for he would allow no disappointment to sour his
temper or make him unhappy.

One bright morning he looked from his window and saw two of the deer
he had known in the Forest walking toward his house.

Claus was surprised; not that the friendly deer should visit him, but
that they walked on the surface of the snow as easily as if it were
solid ground, notwithstanding the fact that throughout the Valley the
snow lay many feet deep. He had walked out of his house a day or two
before and had sunk to his armpits in a drift.

So when the deer came near he opened the door and called to them:

"Good morning, Flossie! Tell me how you are able to walk on the snow
so easily."

"It is frozen hard," answered Flossie.

"The Frost King has breathed on it," said Glossie, coming up, "and the
surface is now as solid as ice."

"Perhaps," remarked Claus, thoughtfully, "I might now carry my pack of
toys to the children."

"Is it a long journey?" asked Flossie.

"Yes; it will take me many days, for the pack is heavy," answered Claus.

"Then the snow would melt before you could get back," said the deer.
"You must wait until spring, Claus."

Claus sighed. "Had I your fleet feet," said he, "I could make the
journey in a day."

"But you have not," returned Glossie, looking at his own slender legs
with pride.

"Perhaps I could ride upon your back," Claus ventured to remark, after
a pause.

"Oh no; our backs are not strong enough to bear your weight," said
Flossie, decidedly. "But if you had a sledge, and could harness us to
it, we might draw you easily, and your pack as well."

"I'll make a sledge!" exclaimed Claus. "Will you agree to draw me if
I do?"

"Well," replied Flossie, "we must first go and ask the Knooks, who are
our guardians, for permission; but if they consent, and you can make a
sledge and harness, we will gladly assist you."

"Then go at once!" cried Claus, eagerly. "I am sure the friendly
Knooks will give their consent, and by the time you are back I shall be
ready to harness you to my sledge."

Flossie and Glossie, being deer of much intelligence, had long wished
to see the great world, so they gladly ran over the frozen snow to ask
the Knooks if they might carry Claus on his journey.

Meantime the toy-maker hurriedly began the construction of a sledge,
using material from his wood-pile. He made two long runners that
turned upward at the front ends, and across these nailed short boards,
to make a platform. It was soon completed, but was as rude in
appearance as it is possible for a sledge to be.

The harness was more difficult to prepare, but Claus twisted strong
cords together and knotted them so they would fit around the necks of
the deer, in the shape of a collar. From these ran other cords to
fasten the deer to the front of the sledge.

Before the work was completed Glossie and Flossie were back from the
Forest, having been granted permission by Will Knook to make the
journey with Claus provided they would to Burzee by daybreak the
next morning.

"That is not a very long time," said Flossie; "but we are swift and
strong, and if we get started by this evening we can travel many miles
during the night."

Claus decided to make the attempt, so he hurried on his preparations
as fast as possible. After a time he fastened the collars around the
necks of his steeds and harnessed them to his rude sledge. Then he
placed a stool on the little platform, to serve as a seat, and filled
a sack with his prettiest toys.

"How do you intend to guide us?" asked Glossie. "We have never been
out of the Forest before, except to visit your house, so we shall not
know the way."

Claus thought about that for a moment. Then he brought more cords and
fastened two of them to the spreading antlers of each deer, one on the
right and the other on the left.

"Those will be my reins," said Claus, "and when I pull them to the
right or to the left you must go in that direction. If I do not pull
the reins at all you may go straight ahead."

"Very well," answered Glossie and Flossie; and then they asked: "Are
you ready?"

Claus seated himself upon the stool, placed the sack of toys at his
feet, and then gathered up the reins.

"All ready!" he shouted; "away we go!"

The deer leaned forward, lifted their slender limbs, and the next
moment away flew the sledge over the frozen snow. The swiftness of
the motion surprised Claus, for in a few strides they were across the
Valley and gliding over the broad plain beyond.

The day had melted into evening by the time they started; for, swiftly
as Claus had worked, many hours had been consumed in making his
preparations. But the moon shone brightly to light their way,
and Claus soon decided it was just as pleasant to travel by night
as by day.

The deer liked it better; for, although they wished to see something
of the world, they were timid about meeting men, and now all the
dwellers in the towns and farmhouses were sound asleep and could not
see them.

Away and away they sped, on and on over the hills and through the
valleys and across the plains until they reached a village where Claus
had never been before.

Here he called on them to stop, and they immediately obeyed. But a
new difficulty now presented itself, for the people had locked their
doors when they went to bed, and Claus found he could not enter the
houses to leave his toys.

"I am afraid, my friends, we have made our journey for nothing," said
he, "for I shall be obliged to carry my playthings back home again
without giving them to the children of this village."

"What's the matter?" asked Flossie.

"The doors are locked," answered Claus, "and I can not get in."

Glossie looked around at the houses. The snow was quite deep in that
village, and just before them was a roof only a few feet above the
sledge. A broad chimney, which seemed to Glossie big enough to admit
Claus, was at the peak of the roof.

"Why don't you climb down that chimney?" asked Glossie.

Claus looked at it.

"That would be easy enough if I were on top of the roof," he answered.

"Then hold fast and we will take you there," said the deer, and they
gave one bound to the roof and landed beside the big chimney.

"Good!" cried Claus, well pleased, and he slung the pack of toys over
his shoulder and got into the chimney.

There was plenty of soot on the bricks, but he did not mind that, and
by placing his hands and knees against the sides he crept downward
until he had reached the fireplace. Leaping lightly over the
smoldering coals he found himself in a large sitting-room, where a dim
light was burning.

From this room two doorways led into smaller chambers. In one a woman
lay asleep, with a baby beside her in a crib.

Claus laughed, but he did not laugh aloud for fear of waking the baby.
Then he slipped a big doll from his pack and laid it in the crib. The
little one smiled, as if it dreamed of the pretty plaything it was to
find on the morrow, and Claus crept softly from the room and entered
at the other doorway.

Here were two boys, fast asleep with their arms around each other's
neck. Claus gazed at them lovingly a moment and then placed upon the
bed a drum, two horns and a wooden elephant.

He did not linger, now that his work in this house was done, but
climbed the chimney again and seated himself on his sledge.

"Can you find another chimney?" he asked the reindeer.

"Easily enough," replied Glossie and Flossie.

Down to the edge of the roof they raced, and then, without pausing,
leaped through the air to the top of the next building, where a huge,
old-fashioned chimney stood.

"Don't be so long, this time," called Flossie, "or we shall never get
back to the Forest by daybreak."

Claus made a trip down this chimney also and found five children
sleeping in the house, all of whom were quickly supplied with toys.

When he returned the deer sprang to the next roof, but on descending
the chimney Claus found no children there at all. That was not often
the case in this village, however, so he lost less time than you might
suppose in visiting the dreary homes where there were no little ones.

When he had climbed down the chimneys of all the houses in that
village, and had left a toy for every sleeping child, Claus found that
his great sack was not yet half emptied.

"Onward, friends!" he called to the deer; "we must seek another village."

So away they dashed, although it was long past midnight, and in a
surprisingly short time they came to a large city, the largest Claus
had ever visited since he began to make toys. But, nothing daunted by
the throng of houses, he set to work at once and his beautiful steeds
carried him rapidly from one roof to another, only the highest being
beyond the leaps of the agile deer.

At last the supply of toys was exhausted and Claus seated himself in
the sledge, with the empty sack at his feet, and turned the heads of
Glossie and Flossie toward home.

Presently Flossie asked:

"What is that gray streak in the sky?"

"It is the coming dawn of day," answered Claus, surprised to find that
it was so late.

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Glossie; "then we shall not be home by
daybreak, and the Knooks will punish us and never let us come again."

"We must race for the Laughing Valley and make our best speed,"
returned Flossie; "so hold fast, friend Claus!"

Claus held fast and the next moment was flying so swiftly over the
snow that he could not see the trees as they whirled past. Up hill
and down dale, swift as an arrow shot from a bow they dashed, and
Claus shut his eyes to keep the wind out of them and left the deer to
find their own way.

It seemed to him they were plunging through space, but he was not at
all afraid. The Knooks were severe masters, and must be obeyed at all
hazards, and the gray streak in the sky was growing brighter every moment.

Finally the sledge came to a sudden stop and Claus, who was taken
unawares, tumbled from his seat into a snowdrift. As he picked
himself up he heard the deer crying:

"Quick, friend, quick! Cut away our harness!"

He drew his knife and rapidly severed the cords, and then he wiped
the moisture from his eyes and looked around him.

The sledge had come to a stop in the Laughing Valley, only a few feet,
he found, from his own door. In the East the day was breaking, and
turning to the edge of Burzee he saw Glossie and Flossie just
disappearing in the Forest.

9. "Santa Claus!"

Claus thought that none of the children would ever know where the toys
came from which they found by their bedsides when they wakened the
following morning. But kindly deeds are sure to bring fame, and fame
has many wings to carry its tidings into far lands; so for miles and
miles in every direction people were talking of Claus and his
wonderful gifts to children. The sweet generousness of his work
caused a few selfish folk to sneer, but even these were forced to
admit their respect for a man so gentle-natured that he loved to
devote his life to pleasing the helpless little ones of his race.

Therefore the inhabitants of every city and village had been eagerly
watching the coming of Claus, and remarkable stories of his beautiful
playthings were told the children to keep them patient and contented.

When, on the morning following the first trip of Claus with his deer,
the little ones came running to their parents with the pretty toys
they had found, and asked from whence they came, they was but one
reply to the question.

"The good Claus must have been here, my darlings; for his are the only
toys in all the world!"

"But how did he get in?" asked the children.

At this the fathers shook their heads, being themselves unable to
understand how Claus had gained admittance to their homes; but the
mothers, watching the glad faces of their dear ones, whispered that
the good Claus was no mortal man but assuredly a Saint, and they
piously blessed his name for the happiness he had bestowed upon
their children.

"A Saint," said one, with bowed head, "has no need to unlock doors if
it pleases him to enter our homes."

And, afterward, when a child was naughty or disobedient, its mother
would say:

"You must pray to the good Santa Claus for forgiveness. He does not
like naughty children, and, unless you repent, he will bring you no
more pretty toys."

But Santa Claus himself would not have approved this speech. He
brought toys to the children because they were little and helpless,
and because he loved them. He knew that the best of children were
sometimes naughty, and that the naughty ones were often good. It is
the way with children, the world over, and he would not have changed
their natures had he possessed the power to do so.

And that is how our Claus became Santa Claus. It is possible for any
man, by good deeds, to enshrine himself as a Saint in the hearts of
the people.

10. Christmas Eve

The day that broke as Claus returned from his night ride with Glossie
and Flossie brought to him a new trouble. Will Knook, the chief
guardian of the deer, came to him, surly and ill-tempered, to complain
that he had kept Glossie and Flossie beyond daybreak, in opposition to
his orders.

"Yet it could not have been very long after daybreak," said Claus.

"It was one minute after," answered Will Knook, "and that is as bad as
one hour. I shall set the stinging gnats on Glossie and Flossie, and
they will thus suffer terribly for their disobedience."

"Don't do that!" begged Claus. "It was my fault."

But Will Knook would listen to no excuses, and went away grumbling and
growling in his ill-natured way.

For this reason Claus entered the Forest to consult Necile about
rescuing the good deer from punishment. To his delight he found his
old friend, the Master Woodsman, seated in the circle of Nymphs.

Ak listened to the story of the night journey to the children and of
the great assistance the deer had been to Claus by drawing his sledge
over the frozen snow.

"I do not wish my friends to be punished if I can save them," said the
toy-maker, when he had finished the relation. "They were only one
minute late, and they ran swifter than a bird flies to get home
before daybreak."

Ak stroked his beard thoughtfully a moment, and then sent for the
Prince of the Knooks, who rules all his people in Burzee, and also for
the Queen of the Fairies and the Prince of the Ryls.

When all had assembled Claus told his story again, at Ak's command,
and then the Master addressed the Prince of the Knooks, saying:

"The good work that Claus is doing among mankind deserves the support
of every honest immortal. Already he is called a Saint in some of the
towns, and before long the name of Santa Claus will be lovingly known
in every home that is blessed with children. Moreover, he is a son of
our Forest, so we owe him our encouragement. You, Ruler of the
Knooks, have known him these many years; am I not right in saying he
deserves our friendship?"

The Prince, crooked and sour of visage as all Knooks are, looked only
upon the dead leaves at his feet and muttered: "You are the Master
Woodsman of the World!"

Ak smiled, but continued, in soft tones: "It seems that the deer which
are guarded by your people can be of great assistance to Claus, and as
they seem willing to draw his sledge I beg that you will permit him to
use their services whenever he pleases."

The Prince did not reply, but tapped the curled point of his sandal
with the tip of his spear, as if in thought.

Then the Fairy Queen spoke to him in this way: "If you consent to Ak's
request I will see that no harm comes to your deer while they are away
from the Forest."

And the Prince of the Ryls added: "For my part I will allow to every
deer that assists Claus the privilege of eating my casa plants, which
give strength, and my grawle plants, which give fleetness of foot, and
my marbon plants, which give long life."

And the Queen of the Nymphs said: "The deer which draw the sledge of
Claus will be permitted to bathe in the Forest pool of Nares, which
will give them sleek coats and wonderful beauty."

The Prince of the Knooks, hearing these promises, shifted uneasily on
his seat, for in his heart he hated to refuse a request of his fellow
immortals, although they were asking an unusual favor at his hands,
and the Knooks are unaccustomed to granting favors of any kind.
Finally he turned to his servants and said:

"Call Will Knook."

When surly Will came and heard the demands of the immortals he
protested loudly against granting them.

"Deer are deer," said he, "and nothing but deer. Were they horses it
would be right to harness them like horses. But no one harnesses deer
because they are free, wild creatures, owing no service of any sort to
mankind. It would degrade my deer to labor for Claus, who is only a
man in spite of the friendship lavished on him by the immortals."

"You have heard," said the Prince to Ak. "There is truth in what
Will says."

"Call Glossie and Flossie," returned the Master.

The deer were brought to the conference and Ak asked them if they
objected to drawing the sledge for Claus.

"No, indeed!" replied Glossie; "we enjoyed the trip very much."

"And we tried to get home by daybreak," added Flossie, "but were
unfortunately a minute too late."

"A minute lost at daybreak doesn't matter," said Ak. "You are
forgiven for that delay."

"Provided it does not happen again," said the Prince of the
Knooks, sternly.

"And will you permit them to make another journey with me?" asked
Claus, eagerly.

The Prince reflected while he gazed at Will, who was scowling, and at
the Master Woodsman, who was smiling.

Then he stood up and addressed the company as follows:

"Since you all urge me to grant the favor I will permit the deer to go
with Claus once every year, on Christmas Eve, provided they always
return to the Forest by daybreak. He may select any number he
pleases, up to ten, to draw his sledge, and those shall be known among
us as Reindeer, to distinguish them from the others. And they shall
bathe in the Pool of Nares, and eat the casa and grawle and marbon
plants and shall be under the especial protection of the Fairy Queen.
And now cease scowling, Will Knook, for my words shall be obeyed!"

He hobbled quickly away through the trees, to avoid the thanks of
Claus and the approval of the other immortals, and Will, looking as
cross as ever, followed him.

But Ak was satisfied, knowing that he could rely on the promise of the
Prince, however grudgingly given; and Glossie and Flossie ran home,
kicking up their heels delightedly at every step.

"When is Christmas Eve?" Claus asked the Master.

"In about ten days," he replied.

"Then I can not use the deer this year," said Claus, thoughtfully,
"for I shall not have time enough to make my sackful of toys."

"The shrewd Prince foresaw that," responded Ak, "and therefore named
Christmas Eve as the day you might use the deer, knowing it would
cause you to lose an entire year."

"If I only had the toys the Awgwas stole from me," said Claus, sadly,
"I could easily fill my sack for the children."

"Where are they?" asked the Master.

"I do not know," replied Claus, "but the wicked Awgwas probably hid
them in the mountains."

Ak turned to the Fairy Queen.

"Can you find them?" he asked.

"I will try," she replied, brightly.

Then Claus went back to the Laughing Valley, to work as hard as he
could, and a band of Fairies immediately flew to the mountain that had
been haunted by the Awgwas and began a search for the stolen toys.

The Fairies, as we well know, possess wonderful powers; but the
cunning Awgwas had hidden the toys in a deep cave and covered the
opening with rocks, so no one could look in. Therefore all search for
the missing playthings proved in vain for several days, and Claus, who
sat at home waiting for news from the Fairies, almost despaired of
getting the toys before Christmas Eve.

He worked hard every moment, but it took considerable time to carve
out and to shape each toy and to paint it properly, so that on the
morning before Christmas Eve only half of one small shelf above the
window was filled with playthings ready for the children.

But on this morning the Fairies who were searching in the mountains
had a new thought. They joined hands and moved in a straight line
through the rocks that formed the mountain, beginning at the topmost
peak and working downward, so that no spot could be missed by their
bright eyes. And at last they discovered the cave where the toys had
been heaped up by the wicked Awgwas.

It did not take them long to burst open the mouth of the cave, and
then each one seized as many toys as he could carry and they all flew
to Claus and laid the treasure before him.

The good man was rejoiced to receive, just in the nick of time, such a
store of playthings with which to load his sledge, and he sent word to
Glossie and Flossie to be ready for the journey at nightfall.

With all his other labors he had managed to find time, since the last
trip, to repair the harness and to strengthen his sledge, so that when
the deer came to him at twilight he had no difficulty in harnessing them.

"We must go in another direction to-night," he told them, "where we
shall find children I have never yet visited. And we must travel fast
and work quickly, for my sack is full of toys and running over the brim!"

So, just as the moon arose, they dashed out of the Laughing Valley and
across the plain and over the hills to the south. The air was sharp
and frosty and the starlight touched the snowflakes and made them
glitter like countless diamonds. The reindeer leaped onward with
strong, steady bounds, and Claus' heart was so light and merry that he
laughed and sang while the wind whistled past his ears:

"With a ho, ho, ho!
And a ha, ha, ha!
And a ho, ho! ha, ha, hee!
Now away we go
O'er the frozen snow,
As merry as we can be!"

Jack Frost heard him and came racing up with his nippers, but when he
saw it was Claus he laughed and turned away again.

The mother owls heard him as he passed near a wood and stuck their
heads out of the hollow places in the tree-trunks; but when they saw
who it was they whispered to the owlets nestling near them that it was
only Santa Claus carrying toys to the children. It is strange how
much those mother owls know.

Claus stopped at some of the scattered farmhouses and climbed down the
chimneys to leave presents for the babies. Soon after he reached a
village and worked merrily for an hour distributing playthings among the
sleeping little ones. Then away again he went, signing his joyous carol:

"Now away we go
O'er the gleaming snow,
While the deer run swift and free!
For to girls and boys
We carry the toys
That will fill their hearts with glee!"

The deer liked the sound of his deep bass voice and kept time to the
song with their hoofbeats on the hard snow; but soon they stopped at
another chimney and Santa Claus, with sparkling eyes and face brushed
red by the wind, climbed down its smoky sides and left a present for
every child the house contained.

It was a merry, happy night. Swiftly the deer ran, and busily their
driver worked to scatter his gifts among the sleeping children.

But the sack was empty at last, and the sledge headed homeward; and
now again the race with daybreak began. Glossie and Flossie had no
mind to be rebuked a second time for tardiness, so they fled with a
swiftness that enabled them to pass the gale on which the Frost King
rode, and soon brought them to the Laughing Valley.

It is true when Claus released his steeds from their harness the
eastern sky was streaked with gray, but Glossie and Flossie were deep
in the Forest before day fairly broke.

Claus was so wearied with his night's work that he threw himself upon
his bed and fell into a deep slumber, and while he slept the Christmas
sun appeared in the sky and shone upon hundreds of happy homes where
the sound of childish laughter proclaimed that Santa Claus had made
them a visit.

God bless him! It was his first Christmas Eve, and for hundreds of
years since then he has nobly fulfilled his mission to bring happiness
to the hearts of little children.

11. How the First Stockings Were Hung by the Chimneys

When you remember that no child, until Santa Claus began his travels,
had ever known the pleasure of possessing a toy, you will understand
how joy crept into the homes of those who had been favored with a
visit from the good man, and how they talked of him day by day in
loving tones and were honestly grateful for his kindly deeds. It is
true that great warriors and mighty kings and clever scholars of that
day were often spoken of by the people; but no one of them was so
greatly beloved as Santa Claus, because none other was so unselfish as
to devote himself to making others happy. For a generous deed lives
longer than a great battle or a king's decree of a scholar's essay,
because it spreads and leaves its mark on all nature and endures
through many generations.

The bargain made with the Knook Prince changed the plans of Claus for
all future time; for, being able to use the reindeer on but one night
of each year, he decided to devote all the other days to the
manufacture of playthings, and on Christmas Eve to carry them to the
children of the world.

But a year's work would, he knew, result in a vast accumulation of
toys, so he resolved to build a new sledge that would be larger and
stronger and better-fitted for swift travel than the old and clumsy one.

His first act was to visit the Gnome King, with whom he made a bargain
to exchange three drums, a trumpet and two dolls for a pair of fine
steel runners, curled beautifully at the ends. For the Gnome King had
children of his own, who, living in the hollows under the earth, in
mines and caverns, needed something to amuse them.

In three days the steel runners were ready, and when Claus brought the
playthings to the Gnome King, his Majesty was so greatly pleased with
them that he presented Claus with a string of sweet-toned
sleigh-bells, in addition to the runners.

"These will please Glossie and Flossie," said Claus, as he jingled the
bells and listened to their merry sound. "But I should have two
strings of bells, one for each deer."

"Bring me another trumpet and a toy cat," replied the King, "and you
shall have a second string of bells like the first."

"It is a bargain!" cried Claus, and he went home again for the toys.

The new sledge was carefully built, the Knooks bringing plenty of
strong but thin boards to use in its construction. Claus made a high,
rounding dash-board to keep off the snow cast behind by the fleet
hoofs of the deer; and he made high sides to the platform so that many
toys could be carried, and finally he mounted the sledge upon the
slender steel runners made by the Gnome King.

It was certainly a handsome sledge, and big and roomy. Claus painted
it in bright colors, although no one was likely to see it during his
midnight journeys, and when all was finished he sent for Glossie and
Flossie to come and look at it.

The deer admired the sledge, but gravely declared it was too big and
heavy for them to draw.

"We might pull it over the snow, to be sure," said Glossie; "but we
would not pull it fast enough to enable us to visit the far-away
cities and villages and return to the Forest by daybreak."

"Then I must add two more deer to my team," declared Claus, after a
moment's thought.

"The Knook Prince allowed you as many as ten. Why not use them all?"
asked Flossie. "Then we could speed like the lightning and leap to
the highest roofs with ease."

"A team of ten reindeer!" cried Claus, delightedly. "That will be
splendid. Please return to the Forest at once and select eight other
deer as like yourselves as possible. And you must all eat of the casa
plant, to become strong, and of the grawle plant, to become fleet of
foot, and of the marbon plant, that you may live long to accompany me
on my journeys. Likewise it will be well for you to bathe in the Pool
of Nares, which the lovely Queen Zurline declares will render you
rarely beautiful. Should you perform these duties faithfully there is
no doubt that on next Christmas Eve my ten reindeer will be the most
powerful and beautiful steeds the world has ever seen!"

So Glossie and Flossie went to the Forest to choose their mates, and
Claus began to consider the question of a harness for them all.

In the end he called upon Peter Knook for assistance, for Peter's
heart is as kind as his body is crooked, and he is remarkably shrewd,
as well. And Peter agreed to furnish strips of tough leather
for the harness.

This leather was cut from the skins of lions that had reached such an
advanced age that they died naturally, and on one side was tawny hair
while the other side was cured to the softness of velvet by the deft
Knooks. When Claus received these strips of leather he sewed them
neatly into a harness for the ten reindeer, and it proved strong and
serviceable and lasted him for many years.

The harness and sledge were prepared at odd times, for Claus devoted
most of his days to the making of toys. These were now much better
than the first ones had been, for the immortals often came to his
house to watch him work and to offer suggestions. It was Necile's
idea to make some of the dolls say "papa" and "mama." It was a
thought of the Knooks to put a squeak inside the lambs, so that when a
child squeezed them they would say "baa-a-a-a!" And the Fairy Queen
advised Claus to put whistles in the birds, so they could be made to
sing, and wheels on the horses, so children could draw them around.
Many animals perished in the Forest, from one cause or another, and
their fur was brought to Claus that he might cover with it the small
images of beasts he made for playthings. A merry Ryl suggested that
Claus make a donkey with a nodding head, which he did, and afterward
found that it amused the little ones immensely. And so the toys grew
in beauty and attractiveness every day, until they were the wonder of
even the immortals.

When another Christmas Eve drew near there was a monster load of
beautiful gifts for the children ready to be loaded upon the big
sledge. Claus filled three sacks to the brim, and tucked every corner
of the sledge-box full of toys besides.

Then, at twilight, the ten reindeer appeared and Flossie introduced
them all to Claus. They were Racer and Pacer, Reckless and Speckless,
Fearless and Peerless, and Ready and Steady, who, with Glossie and
Flossie, made up the ten who have traversed the world these hundreds
of years with their generous master. They were all exceedingly
beautiful, with slender limbs, spreading antlers, velvety dark eyes
and smooth coats of fawn color spotted with white.

Claus loved them at once, and has loved them ever since, for they are
loyal friends and have rendered him priceless service.

The new harness fitted them nicely and soon they were all fastened to
the sledge by twos, with Glossie and Flossie in the lead. These wore
the strings of sleigh-bells, and were so delighted with the music they
made that they kept prancing up and down to make the bells ring.

Claus now seated himself in the sledge, drew a warm robe over his
knees and his fur cap over his ears, and cracked his long whip as a
signal to start.

Instantly the ten leaped forward and were away like the wind, while
jolly Claus laughed gleefully to see them run and shouted a song in
his big, hearty voice:

"With a ho, ho, ho!
And a ha, ha, ha!
And a ho, ho, ha, ha, hee!
Now away we go
O'er the frozen snow,
As merry as we can be!

There are many joys
In our load of toys,
As many a child will know;
We'll scatter them wide
On our wild night ride
O'er the crisp and sparkling snow!"

Now it was on this same Christmas Eve that little Margot and her
brother Dick and her cousins Ned and Sara, who were visiting at
Margot's house, came in from making a snow man, with their clothes
damp, their mittens dripping and their shoes and stockings wet through
and through. They were not scolded, for Margot's mother knew the snow
was melting, but they were sent early to bed that their clothes might
be hung over chairs to dry. The shoes were placed on the red tiles of
the hearth, where the heat from the hot embers would strike them, and
the stockings were carefully hung in a row by the chimney, directly
over the fireplace. That was the reason Santa Claus noticed them when
he came down the chimney that night and all the household were fast
asleep. He was in a tremendous hurry and seeing the stockings all
belonged to children he quickly stuffed his toys into them and dashed
up the chimney again, appearing on the roof so suddenly that the
reindeer were astonished at his agility.

"I wish they would all hang up their stockings," he thought, as he
drove to the next chimney. "It would save me a lot of time and I
could then visit more children before daybreak."

When Margot and Dick and Ned and Sara jumped out of bed next morning
and ran downstairs to get their stockings from the fireplace they were
filled with delight to find the toys from Santa Claus inside them. In
face, I think they found more presents in their stockings than any
other children of that city had received, for Santa Claus was in a
hurry and did not stop to count the toys.

Of course they told all their little friends about it, and of course
every one of them decided to hang his own stockings by the fireplace
the next Christmas Eve. Even Bessie Blithesome, who made a visit to
that city with her father, the great Lord of Lerd, heard the story
from the children and hung her own pretty stockings by the chimney
when she returned home at Christmas time.

On his next trip Santa Claus found so many stockings hung up in
anticipation of his visit that he could fill them in a jiffy and be
away again in half the time required to hunt the children up and place
the toys by their bedsides.

The custom grew year after year, and has always been a great help to
Santa Claus. And, with so many children to visit, he surely needs all
the help we are able to give him.

12. The First Christmas Tree

Claus had always kept his promise to the Knooks by returning to the
Laughing Valley by daybreak, but only the swiftness of his reindeer
has enabled him to do this, for he travels over all the world.

He loved his work and he loved the brisk night ride on his sledge and
the gay tinkle of the sleigh-bells. On that first trip with the ten
reindeer only Glossie and Flossie wore bells; but each year thereafter
for eight years Claus carried presents to the children of the Gnome
King, and that good-natured monarch gave him in return a string of
bells at each visit, so that finally every one of the ten deer was
supplied, and you may imagine what a merry tune the bells played as
the sledge sped over the snow.

The children's stockings were so long that it required a great many
toys to fill them, and soon Claus found there were other things
besides toys that children love. So he sent some of the Fairies, who
were always his good friends, into the Tropics, from whence they
returned with great bags full of oranges and bananas which they had
plucked from the trees. And other Fairies flew to the wonderful
Valley of Phunnyland, where delicious candies and bonbons grow thickly
on the bushes, and returned laden with many boxes of sweetmeats for
the little ones. These things Santa Claus, on each Christmas Eve,
placed in the long stockings, together with his toys, and the children
were glad to get them, you may be sure.

There are also warm countries where there is no snow in winter, but
Claus and his reindeer visited them as well as the colder climes, for
there were little wheels inside the runners of his sledge which
permitted it to run as smoothly over bare ground as on the snow. And
the children who lived in the warm countries learned to know the name
of Santa Claus as well as those who lived nearer to the Laughing Valley.

Once, just as the reindeer were ready to start on their yearly trip, a
Fairy came to Claus and told him of three little children who lived
beneath a rude tent of skins on a broad plain where there were no
trees whatever. These poor babies were miserable and unhappy, for
their parents were ignorant people who neglected them sadly. Claus
resolved to visit these children before he returned home, and during
his ride he picked up the bushy top of a pine tree which the wind had
broken off and placed it in his sledge.

It was nearly morning when the deer stopped before the lonely tent of
skins where the poor children lay asleep. Claus at once planted the
bit of pine tree in the sand and stuck many candles on the branches.
Then he hung some of his prettiest toys on the tree, as well as
several bags of candies. It did not take long to do all this, for
Santa Claus works quickly, and when all was ready he lighted the
candles and, thrusting his head in at the opening of the tent,
he shouted:

"Merry Christmas, little ones!"

With that he leaped into his sledge and was out of sight before the
children, rubbing the sleep from their eyes, could come out to see who
had called them.

You can imagine the wonder and joy of those little ones, who had never
in their lives known a real pleasure before, when they saw the tree,
sparkling with lights that shone brilliant in the gray dawn and hung
with toys enough to make them happy for years to come! They joined
hands and danced around the tree, shouting and laughing, until they
were obliged to pause for breath. And their parents, also, came out
to look and wonder, and thereafter had more respect and consideration
for their children, since Santa Claus had honored them with such
beautiful gifts.

The idea of the Christmas tree pleased Claus, and so the following
year he carried many of them in his sledge and set them up in the
homes of poor people who seldom saw trees, and placed candles and toys
on the branches. Of course he could not carry enough trees in one
load of all who wanted them, but in some homes the fathers were able to
get trees and have them all ready for Santa Claus when he arrived; and
these the good Claus always decorated as prettily as possible and hung
with toys enough for all the children who came to see the tree lighted.

These novel ideas and the generous manner in which they were carried
out made the children long for that one night in the year when their
friend Santa Claus should visit them, and as such anticipation is very
pleasant and comforting the little ones gleaned much happiness by
wondering what would happen when Santa Claus next arrived.

Perhaps you remember that stern Baron Braun who once drove Claus from
his castle and forbade him to visit his children? Well, many years
afterward, when the old Baron was dead and his son ruled in his
place, the new Baron Braun came to the house of Claus with his train
of knights and pages and henchmen and, dismounting from his charger,
bared his head humbly before the friend of children.

"My father did not know your goodness and worth," he said, "and
therefore threatened to hang you from the castle walls. But I have
children of my own, who long for a visit from Santa Claus, and I have
come to beg that you will favor them hereafter as you do other children."

Claus was pleased with this speech, for Castle Braun was the only
place he had never visited, and he gladly promised to bring presents
to the Baron's children the next Christmas Eve.

The Baron went away contented, and Claus kept his promise faithfully.

Thus did this man, through very goodness, conquer the hearts of all;
and it is no wonder he was ever merry and gay, for there was no home
in the wide world where he was not welcomed more royally than any king.


1. The Mantle of Immortality

And now we come to a turning-point in the career of Santa Claus, and
it is my duty to relate the most remarkable that has happened since
the world began or mankind was created.

We have followed the life of Claus from the time he was found a
helpless infant by the Wood-Nymph Necile and reared to manhood in the
great Forest of Burzee. And we know how he began to make toys for
children and how, with the assistance and goodwill of the immortals,
he was able to distribute them to the little ones throughout the world.

For many years he carried on this noble work; for the simple,
hard-working life he led gave him perfect health and strength.
And doubtless a man can live longer in the beautiful Laughing Valley,
where there are no cares and everything is peaceful and merry,
than in any other part of the world.

But when many years had rolled away Santa Claus grew old. The long
beard of golden brown that once covered his cheeks and chin gradually
became gray, and finally turned to pure white. His hair was white,
too, and there were wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, which showed
plainly when he laughed. He had never been a very tall man, and now
he became fat, and waddled very much like a duck when he walked. But
in spite of these things he remained as lively as ever, and was just
as jolly and gay, and his kind eyes sparkled as brightly as they did
that first day when he came to the Laughing Valley.

Yet a time is sure to come when every mortal who has grown old and
lived his life is required to leave this world for another; so it is
no wonder that, after Santa Claus had driven his reindeer on many and
many a Christmas Eve, those stanch friends finally whispered among
themselves that they had probably drawn his sledge for the last time.

Then all the Forest of Burzee became sad and all the Laughing Valley
was hushed; for every living thing that had known Claus had used to
love him and to brighten at the sound of his footsteps or the notes of
his merry whistle.

No doubt the old man's strength was at last exhausted, for he made no
more toys, but lay on his bed as in a dream.

The Nymph Necile, she who had reared him and been his foster-mother,
was still youthful and strong and beautiful, and it seemed to her but
a short time since this aged, gray-bearded man had lain in her arms
and smiled on her with his innocent, baby lips.

In this is shown the difference between mortals and immortals.

It was fortunate that the great Ak came to the Forest at this time.
Necile sought him with troubled eyes and told him of the fate that
threatened their friend Claus.

At once the Master became grave, and he leaned upon his ax and stroked
his grizzled beard thoughtfully for many minutes. Then suddenly he
stood up straight, and poised his powerful head with firm resolve, and
stretched out his great right arm as if determined on doing some
mighty deed. For a thought had come to him so grand in its conception
that all the world might well bow before the Master Woodsman and honor
his name forever!

It is well known that when the great Ak once undertakes to do a
thing he never hesitates an instant. Now he summoned his fleetest
messengers, and sent them in a flash to many parts of the earth.
And when they were gone he turned to the anxious Necile and
comforted her, saying:

"Be of good heart, my child; our friend still lives. And now run to
your Queen and tell her that I have summoned a council of all the
immortals of the world to meet with me here in Burzee this night. If
they obey, and harken unto my words, Claus will drive his reindeer for
countless ages yet to come."

At midnight there was a wondrous scene in the ancient Forest of
Burzee, where for the first time in many centuries the rulers of the
immortals who inhabit the earth were gathered together.

There was the Queen of the Water Sprites, whose beautiful form was as
clear as crystal but continually dripped water on the bank of moss
where she sat. And beside her was the King of the Sleep Fays, who
carried a wand from the end of which a fine dust fell all around, so
that no mortal could keep awake long enough to see him, as mortal eyes
were sure to close in sleep as soon as the dust filled them. And next
to him sat the Gnome King, whose people inhabit all that region under
the earth's surface, where they guard the precious metals and the
jewel stones that lie buried in rock and ore. At his right hand stood
the King of the Sound Imps, who had wings on his feet, for his people
are swift to carry all sounds that are made. When they are busy they
carry the sounds but short distances, for there are many of them; but
sometimes they speed with the sounds to places miles and miles away
from where they are made. The King of the Sound Imps had an anxious
and careworn face, for most people have no consideration for his Imps
and, especially the boys and girls, make a great many unnecessary sounds
which the Imps are obliged to carry when they might be better employed.

The next in the circle of immortals was the King of the Wind Demons,
slender of frame, restless and uneasy at being confined to one place
for even an hour. Once in a while he would leave his place and circle
around the glade, and each time he did this the Fairy Queen was
obliged to untangle the flowing locks of her golden hair and tuck
them back of her pink ears. But she did not complain, for it was not
often that the King of the Wind Demons came into the heart of the
Forest. After the Fairy Queen, whose home you know was in old Burzee,
came the King of the Light Elves, with his two Princes, Flash and
Twilight, at his back. He never went anywhere without his Princes,
for they were so mischievous that he dared not let them wander alone.

Prince Flash bore a lightning-bolt in his right hand and a horn of
gunpowder in his left, and his bright eyes roved constantly around, as
if he longed to use his blinding flashes. Prince Twilight held a
great snuffer in one hand and a big black cloak in the other, and it
is well known that unless Twilight is carefully watched the snuffers
or the cloak will throw everything into darkness, and Darkness is the
greatest enemy the King of the Light Elves has.

In addition to the immortals I have named were the King of the Knooks,
who had come from his home in the jungles of India; and the King of the
Ryls, who lived among the gay flowers and luscious fruits of Valencia.
Sweet Queen Zurline of the Wood-Nymphs completed the circle of immortals.

But in the center of the circle sat three others who possessed powers
so great that all the Kings and Queens showed them reverence.

These were Ak, the Master Woodsman of the World, who rules the forests
and the orchards and the groves; and Kern, the Master Husbandman of
the World, who rules the grain fields and the meadows and the gardens;
and Bo, the Master Mariner of the World, who rules the seas and all
the craft that float thereon. And all other immortals are more or
less subject to these three.

When all had assembled the Master Woodsman of the World stood up to
address them, since he himself had summoned them to the council.

Very clearly he told them the story of Claus, beginning at the time
when as a babe he had been adopted a child of the Forest, and telling
of his noble and generous nature and his life-long labors to make
children happy.

"And now," said Ak, "when he had won the love of all the world, the
Spirit of Death is hovering over him. Of all men who have inhabited
the earth none other so well deserves immortality, for such a life can
not be spared so long as there are children of mankind to miss him and
to grieve over his loss. We immortals are the servants of the world,
and to serve the world we were permitted in the Beginning to exist.
But what one of us is more worthy of immortality than this man Claus,
who so sweetly ministers to the little children?"

He paused and glanced around the circle, to find every immortal
listening to him eagerly and nodding approval. Finally the King of
the Wind Demons, who had been whistling softly to himself, cried out:

"What is your desire, O Ak?"

"To bestow upon Claus the Mantle of Immortality!" said Ak, boldly.

That this demand was wholly unexpected was proved by the immortals
springing to their feet and looking into each other's face with dismay
and then upon Ak with wonder. For it was a grave matter, this parting
with the Mantle of Immortality.

The Queen of the Water Sprites spoke in her low, clear voice, and the
words sounded like raindrops splashing upon a window-pane.

"In all the world there is but one Mantle of Immortality," she said.

The King of the Sound Fays added:

"It has existed since the Beginning, and no mortal has ever dared to
claim it."

And the Master Mariner of the World arose and stretched his limbs, saying:

"Only by the vote of every immortal can it be bestowed upon a mortal."

"I know all this," answered Ak, quietly. "But the Mantle exists, and
if it was created, as you say, in the Beginning, it was because the
Supreme Master knew that some day it would be required. Until now no
mortal has deserved it, but who among you dares deny that the good
Claus deserves it? Will you not all vote to bestow it upon him?"

They were silent, still looking upon one another questioningly.

"Of what use is the Mantle of Immortality unless it is worn?" demanded
Ak. "What will it profit any one of us to allow it to remain in its
lonely shrine for all time to come?"

"Enough!" cried the Gnome King, abruptly. "We will vote on the
matter, yes or no. For my part, I say yes!"

"And I!" said the Fairy Queen, promptly, and Ak rewarded her with a smile.

"My people in Burzee tell me they have learned to love him; therefore
I vote to give Claus the Mantle," said the King of the Ryls.

"He is already a comrade of the Knooks," announced the ancient King of
that band. "Let him have immortality!"

"Let him have it--let him have it!" sighed the King of the Wind Demons.

"Why not?" asked the King of the Sleep Fays. "He never disturbs the
slumbers my people allow humanity. Let the good Claus be immortal!"

"I do not object," said the King of the Sound Imps.

"Nor I," murmured the Queen of the Water Sprites.

"If Claus does not receive the Mantle it is clear none other can ever
claim it," remarked the King of the Light Elves, "so let us have done
with the thing for all time."

"The Wood-Nymphs were first to adopt him," said Queen Zurline. "Of
course I shall vote to make him immortal."

Ak now turned to the Master Husbandman of the World, who held up his
right arm and said "Yes!"

And the Master Mariner of the World did likewise, after which Ak, with
sparkling eyes and smiling face, cried out:

"I thank you, fellow immortals! For all have voted 'yes,' and so to
our dear Claus shall fall the one Mantle of Immortality that it is in
our power to bestow!"

"Let us fetch it at once," said the Fay King; "I'm in a hurry."

They bowed assent, and instantly the Forest glade was deserted. But
in a place midway between the earth and the sky was suspended a
gleaming crypt of gold and platinum, aglow with soft lights shed from
the facets of countless gems. Within a high dome hung the precious
Mantle of Immortality, and each immortal placed a hand on the hem of
the splendid Robe and said, as with one voice:

"We bestow this Mantle upon Claus, who is called the Patron
Saint of Children!"

At this the Mantle came away from its lofty crypt, and they carried it
to the house in the Laughing Valley.

The Spirit of Death was crouching very near to the bedside of Claus,
and as the immortals approached she sprang up and motioned them back
with an angry gesture. But when her eyes fell upon the Mantle they
bore she shrank away with a low moan of disappointment and quitted
that house forever.

Softly and silently the immortal Band dropped upon Claus the precious
Mantle, and it closed about him and sank into the outlines of his body
and disappeared from view. It became a part of his being, and neither
mortal nor immortal might ever take it from him.

Then the Kings and Queens who had wrought this great deed dispersed to
their various homes, and all were well contented that they had added
another immortal to their Band.

And Claus slept on, the red blood of everlasting life coursing swiftly
through his veins; and on his brow was a tiny drop of water that had
fallen from the ever-melting gown of the Queen of the Water Sprites,
and over his lips hovered a tender kiss that had been left by the
sweet Nymph Necile. For she had stolen in when the others were gone
to gaze with rapture upon the immortal form of her foster son.

2. When the World Grew Old

The next morning, when Santa Claus opened his eyes and gazed around
the familiar room, which he had feared he might never see again, he
was astonished to find his old strength renewed and to feel the red
blood of perfect health coursing through his veins. He sprang from
his bed and stood where the bright sunshine came in through his window
and flooded him with its merry, dancing rays. He did not then
understand what had happened to restore to him the vigor of youth, but
in spite of the fact that his beard remained the color of snow and
that wrinkles still lingered in the corners of his bright eyes, old
Santa Claus felt as brisk and merry as a boy of sixteen, and was soon
whistling contentedly as he busied himself fashioning new toys.

Then Ak came to him and told of the Mantle of Immortality and how
Claus had won it through his love for little children.

It made old Santa look grave for a moment to think he had been so
favored; but it also made him glad to realize that now he need never
fear being parted from his dear ones. At once he began preparations
for making a remarkable assortment of pretty and amusing playthings,
and in larger quantities than ever before; for now that he might
always devote himself to this work he decided that no child in the
world, poor or rich, should hereafter go without a Christmas gift if
he could manage to supply it.

The world was new in the days when dear old Santa Claus first began
toy-making and won, by his loving deeds, the Mantle of Immortality.
And the task of supplying cheering words, sympathy and pretty
playthings to all the young of his race did not seem a difficult
undertaking at all. But every year more and more children were born
into the world, and these, when they grew up, began spreading slowly
over all the face of the earth, seeking new homes; so that Santa Claus
found each year that his journeys must extend farther and farther from
the Laughing Valley, and that the packs of toys must be made larger
and ever larger.

So at length he took counsel with his fellow immortals how his work
might keep pace with the increasing number of children that none might
be neglected. And the immortals were so greatly interested in his
labors that they gladly rendered him their assistance. Ak gave him
his man Kilter, "the silent and swift." And the Knook Prince gave him
Peter, who was more crooked and less surly than any of his brothers.
And the Ryl Prince gave him Nuter, the sweetest tempered Ryl ever
known. And the Fairy Queen gave him Wisk, that tiny, mischievous but
lovable Fairy who knows today almost as many children as does Santa
Claus himself.

With these people to help make the toys and to keep his house in order
and to look after the sledge and the harness, Santa Claus found it
much easier to prepare his yearly load of gifts, and his days began to
follow one another smoothly and pleasantly.

Yet after a few generations his worries were renewed, for it was
remarkable how the number of people continued to grow, and how many
more children there were every year to be served. When the people
filled all the cities and lands of one country they wandered into
another part of the world; and the men cut down the trees in many of
the great forests that had been ruled by Ak, and with the wood they
built new cities, and where the forests had been were fields of grain
and herds of browsing cattle.

You might think the Master Woodsman would rebel at the loss of his
forests; but not so. The wisdom of Ak was mighty and farseeing.

"The world was made for men," said he to Santa Claus, "and I have but
guarded the forests until men needed them for their use. I am glad my
strong trees can furnish shelter for men's weak bodies, and warm them
through the cold winters. But I hope they will not cut down all the
trees, for mankind needs the shelter of the woods in summer as much as
the warmth of blazing logs in winter. And, however crowded the world
may grow, I do not think men will ever come to Burzee, nor to the
Great Black Forest, nor to the wooded wilderness of Braz; unless they
seek their shades for pleasure and not to destroy their giant trees."

By and by people made ships from the tree-trunks and crossed over
oceans and built cities in far lands; but the oceans made little
difference to the journeys of Santa Claus. His reindeer sped over the
waters as swiftly as over land, and his sledge headed from east to
west and followed in the wake of the sun. So that as the earth rolled
slowly over Santa Claus had all of twenty-four hours to encircle it
each Christmas Eve, and the speedy reindeer enjoyed these wonderful
journeys more and more.

So year after year, and generation after generation, and century after
century, the world grew older and the people became more numerous and
the labors of Santa Claus steadily increased. The fame of his good
deeds spread to every household where children dwelt. And all the
little ones loved him dearly; and the fathers and mothers honored him
for the happiness he had given them when they too were young; and the
aged grandsires and granddames remembered him with tender gratitude
and blessed his name.

3. The Deputies of Santa Claus

However, there was one evil following in the path of civilization that
caused Santa Claus a vast amount of trouble before he discovered a way
to overcome it. But, fortunately, it was the last trial he was forced
to undergo.

One Christmas Eve, when his reindeer had leaped to the top of a new
building, Santa Claus was surprised to find that the chimney had been
built much smaller than usual. But he had no time to think about it
just then, so he drew in his breath and made himself as small as
possible and slid down the chimney.

"I ought to be at the bottom by this time," he thought, as he
continued to slip downward; but no fireplace of any sort met his view,
and by and by he reached the very end of the chimney, which was
in the cellar.

"This is odd!" he reflected, much puzzled by this experience. "If
there is no fireplace, what on earth is the chimney good for?"

Then he began to climb out again, and found it hard work--the space
being so small. And on his way up he noticed a thin, round pipe
sticking through the side of the chimney, but could not guess what it
was for.

Finally he reached the roof and said to the reindeer:

"There was no need of my going down that chimney, for I could find no
fireplace through which to enter the house. I fear the children who
live there must go without playthings this Christmas."

Then he drove on, but soon came to another new house with a small
chimney. This caused Santa Claus to shake his head doubtfully, but he
tried the chimney, nevertheless, and found it exactly like the other.
Moreover, he nearly stuck fast in the narrow flue and tore his jacket
trying to get out again; so, although he came to several such chimneys
that night, he did not venture to descend any more of them.

"What in the world are people thinking of, to build such useless
chimneys?" he exclaimed. "In all the years I have traveled with my
reindeer I have never seen the like before."

True enough; but Santa Claus had not then discovered that stoves had
been invented and were fast coming into use. When he did find it out
he wondered how the builders of those houses could have so little
consideration for him, when they knew very well it was his custom to
climb down chimneys and enter houses by way of the fireplaces.
Perhaps the men who built those houses had outgrown their own love for
toys, and were indifferent whether Santa Claus called on their
children or not. Whatever the explanation might be, the poor children
were forced to bear the burden of grief and disappointment.

The following year Santa Claus found more and more of the
new-fashioned chimneys that had no fireplaces, and the next year still
more. The third year, so numerous had the narrow chimneys become, he
even had a few toys left in his sledge that he was unable to give
away, because he could not get to the children.

The matter had now become so serious that it worried the good man
greatly, and he decided to talk it over with Kilter and Peter and
Nuter and Wisk.

Kilter already knew something about it, for it had been his duty to run
around to all the houses, just before Christmas, and gather up the
notes and letters to Santa Claus that the children had written,
telling what they wished put in their stockings or hung on their
Christmas trees. But Kilter was a silent fellow, and seldom spoke of
what he saw in the cities and villages. The others were very indignant.

"Those people act as if they do not wish their children to be made
happy!" said sensible Peter, in a vexed tone. "The idea of shutting
out such a generous friend to their little ones!"

"But it is my intention to make children happy whether their parents
wish it or not," returned Santa Claus. "Years ago, when I first
began making toys, children were even more neglected by their parents
than they are now; so I have learned to pay no attention to thoughtless
or selfish parents, but to consider only the longings of childhood."

"You are right, my master," said Nuter, the Ryl; "many children would
lack a friend if you did not consider them, and try to make them happy."

"Then," declared the laughing Wisk, "we must abandon any thought of
using these new-fashioned chimneys, but become burglars, and break
into the houses some other way."

"What way?" asked Santa Claus.

"Why, walls of brick and wood and plaster are nothing to Fairies.
I can easily pass through them whenever I wish, and so can Peter
and Nuter and Kilter. Is it not so, comrades?"

"I often pass through the walls when I gather up the letters," said
Kilter, and that was a long speech for him, and so surprised Peter and
Nuter that their big round eyes nearly popped out of their heads.

"Therefore," continued the Fairy, "you may as well take us with you on
your next journey, and when we come to one of those houses with stoves
instead of fireplaces we will distribute the toys to the children
without the need of using a chimney."

"That seems to me a good plan," replied Santa Claus, well pleased at
having solved the problem. "We will try it next year."

That was how the Fairy, the Pixie, the Knook and the Ryl all rode in
the sledge with their master the following Christmas Eve; and they had
no trouble at all in entering the new-fashioned houses and leaving
toys for the children that lived in them.

And their deft services not only relieved Santa Claus of much labor,
but enabled him to complete his own work more quickly than usual, so
that the merry party found themselves at home with an empty sledge a
full hour before daybreak.

The only drawback to the journey was that the mischievous Wisk
persisted in tickling the reindeer with a long feather, to see them
jump; and Santa Claus found it necessary to watch him every minute and
to tweak his long ears once or twice to make him behave himself.

But, taken all together, the trip was a great success, and to this day
the four little folk always accompany Santa Claus on his yearly ride
and help him in the distribution of his gifts.

But the indifference of parents, which had so annoyed the good Saint,
did not continue very long, and Santa Claus soon found they were
really anxious he should visit their homes on Christmas Eve and leave
presents for their children.

So, to lighten his task, which was fast becoming very difficult
indeed, old Santa decided to ask the parents to assist him.

"Get your Christmas trees all ready for my coming," he said to them;
"and then I shall be able to leave the presents without loss of time,
and you can put them on the trees when I am gone."

And to others he said: "See that the children's stockings are hung up
in readiness for my coming, and then I can fill them as quick as a wink."

And often, when parents were kind and good-natured, Santa Claus would
simply fling down his package of gifts and leave the fathers and
mothers to fill the stockings after he had darted away in his sledge.

"I will make all loving parents my deputies!" cried the jolly old
fellow, "and they shall help me do my work. For in this way I shall
save many precious minutes and few children need be neglected for lack
of time to visit them."

Besides carrying around the big packs in his swift-flying sledge old
Santa began to send great heaps of toys to the toy-shops, so that if
parents wanted larger supplies for their children they could easily
get them; and if any children were, by chance, missed by Santa Claus
on his yearly rounds, they could go to the toy-shops and get enough to
make them happy and contented. For the loving friend of the little
ones decided that no child, if he could help it, should long for toys
in vain. And the toy-shops also proved convenient whenever a child
fell ill, and needed a new toy to amuse it; and sometimes, on
birthdays, the fathers and mothers go to the toy-shops and get pretty
gifts for their children in honor of the happy event.

Perhaps you will now understand how, in spite of the bigness of the
world, Santa Claus is able to supply all the children with beautiful
gifts. To be sure, the old gentleman is rarely seen in these days;
but it is not because he tries to keep out of sight, I assure you.
Santa Claus is the same loving friend of children that in the old days
used to play and romp with them by the hour; and I know he would love
to do the same now, if he had the time. But, you see, he is so busy
all the year making toys, and so hurried on that one night when he
visits our homes with his packs, that he comes and goes among us like
a flash; and it is almost impossible to catch a glimpse of him.

And, although there are millions and millions more children in the
world than there used to be, Santa Claus has never been known to
complain of their increasing numbers.

"The more the merrier!" he cries, with his jolly laugh; and the only
difference to him is the fact that his little workmen have to make
their busy fingers fly faster every year to satisfy the demands of so
many little ones.

"In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child,"
says good old Santa Claus; and if he had his way the children would
all be beautiful, for all would be happy.


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