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´╗┐Title: Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
Author: Baum, L. Frank (Lyman Frank), 1856-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" ***

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus


by

L. Frank Baum



Contents

YOUTH

   1.  Burzee
   2.  The Child of the Forest
   3.  The Adoption
   4.  Claus
   5.  The Master Woodsman
   6.  Claus Discovers Humanity
   7.  Claus Leaves the Forest


MANHOOD

   1.  The Laughing Valley
   2.  How Claus Made the First Toy
   3.  How the Ryls Colored the Toys
   4.  How Little Mayrie Became Frightened
   5.  How Bessie Blithesome Came to the Laughing Valley
   6.  The Wickedness of the Awgwas
   7.  The Great Battle Between Good and Evil
   8.  The First Journey with the Reindeer
   9.  "Santa Claus!"
  10.  Christmas Eve
  11.  How the First Stockings Were Hung by the Chimneys
  12.  The First Christmas Tree


OLD AGE

   1.  The Mantle of Immortality
   2.  When the World Grew Old
   3.  The Deputies of Santa Claus



YOUTH



1.  Burzee

Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee?  Nurse used to sing of it
when I was a child.  She sang of the big tree-trunks, standing close
together, with their roots intertwining below the earth and their
branches intertwining above it; of their rough coating of bark and
queer, gnarled limbs; of the bushy foliage that roofed the entire
forest, save where the sunbeams found a path through which to touch the
ground in little spots and to cast weird and curious shadows over the
mosses, the lichens and the drifts of dried leaves.

The Forest of Burzee is mighty and grand and awesome to those who steal
beneath its shade.  Coming from the sunlit meadows into its mazes it
seems at first gloomy, then pleasant, and afterward filled with
never-ending delights.

For hundreds of years it has flourished in all its magnificence, the
silence of its inclosure unbroken save by the chirp of busy chipmunks,
the growl of wild beasts and the songs of birds.

Yet Burzee has its inhabitants--for all this.  Nature peopled it in the
beginning with Fairies, Knooks, Ryls and Nymphs.  As long as the Forest
stands it will be a home, a refuge and a playground to these sweet
immortals, who revel undisturbed in its depths.

Civilization has never yet reached Burzee.  Will it ever, I wonder?



2.  The Child of the Forest

Once, so long ago our great-grandfathers could scarcely have heard it
mentioned, there lived within the great Forest of Burzee a wood-nymph
named Necile.  She was closely related to the mighty Queen Zurline, and
her home was beneath the shade of a widespreading oak.  Once every
year, on Budding Day, when the trees put forth their new buds, Necile
held the Golden Chalice of Ak to the lips of the Queen, who drank
therefrom to the prosperity of the Forest.  So you see she was a nymph
of some importance, and, moreover, it is said she was highly regarded
because of her beauty and grace.

When she was created she could not have told; Queen Zurline could not
have told; the great Ak himself could not have told.  It was long ago
when the world was new and nymphs were needed to guard the forests and
to minister to the wants of the young trees.  Then, on some day not
remembered, Necile sprang into being; radiant, lovely, straight and
slim as the sapling she was created to guard.

Her hair was the color that lines a chestnut-bur; her eyes were blue in
the sunlight and purple in the shade; her cheeks bloomed with the faint
pink that edges the clouds at sunset; her lips were full red, pouting
and sweet.  For costume she adopted oak-leaf green; all the wood-nymphs
dress in that color and know no other so desirable.  Her dainty feet
were sandal-clad, while her head remained bare of covering other than
her silken tresses.

Necile's duties were few and simple.  She kept hurtful weeds from
growing beneath her trees and sapping the earth-food required by her
charges.  She frightened away the Gadgols, who took evil delight in
flying against the tree-trunks and wounding them so that they drooped
and died from the poisonous contact.  In dry seasons she carried water
from the brooks and pools and moistened the roots of her thirsty
dependents.

That was in the beginning.  The weeds had now learned to avoid the
forests where wood-nymphs dwelt; the loathsome Gadgols no longer dared
come nigh; the trees had become old and sturdy and could bear the
drought better than when fresh-sprouted.  So Necile's duties were
lessened, and time grew laggard, while succeeding years became more
tiresome and uneventful than the nymph's joyous spirit loved.

Truly the forest-dwellers did not lack amusement.  Each full moon they
danced in the Royal Circle of the Queen.  There were also the Feast of
Nuts, the Jubilee of Autumn Tintings, the solemn ceremony of Leaf
Shedding and the revelry of Budding Day.  But these periods of
enjoyment were far apart, and left many weary hours between.

That a wood-nymph should grow discontented was not thought of by
Necile's sisters.  It came upon her only after many years of brooding.
But when once she had settled in her mind that life was irksome she had
no patience with her condition, and longed to do something of real
interest and to pass her days in ways hitherto undreamed of by forest
nymphs.  The Law of the Forest alone restrained her from going forth in
search of adventure.

While this mood lay heavy upon pretty Necile it chanced that the great
Ak visited the Forest of Burzee and allowed the wood-nymphs as was
their wont--to lie at his feet and listen to the words of wisdom that
fell from his lips.  Ak is the Master Woodsman of the world; he sees
everything, and knows more than the sons of men.

That night he held the Queen's hand, for he loved the nymphs as a
father loves his children; and Necile lay at his feet with many of her
sisters and earnestly harkened as he spoke.

"We live so happily, my fair ones, in our forest glades," said Ak,
stroking his grizzled beard thoughtfully, "that we know nothing of the
sorrow and misery that fall to the lot of those poor mortals who
inhabit the open spaces of the earth.  They are not of our race, it is
true, yet compassion well befits beings so fairly favored as ourselves.
Often as I pass by the dwelling of some suffering mortal I am tempted
to stop and banish the poor thing's misery.  Yet suffering, in
moderation, is the natural lot of mortals, and it is not our place to
interfere with the laws of Nature."

"Nevertheless," said the fair Queen, nodding her golden head at the
Master Woodsman, "it would not be a vain guess that Ak has often
assisted these hapless mortals."

Ak smiled.

"Sometimes," he replied, "when they are very young--'children,' the
mortals call them--I have stopped to rescue them from misery.  The men
and women I dare not interfere with; they must bear the burdens Nature
has imposed upon them.  But the helpless infants, the innocent children
of men, have a right to be happy until they become full-grown and able
to bear the trials of humanity.  So I feel I am justified in assisting
them.  Not long ago--a year, maybe--I found four poor children huddled
in a wooden hut, slowly freezing to death.  Their parents had gone to a
neighboring village for food, and had left a fire to warm their little
ones while they were absent.  But a storm arose and drifted the snow in
their path, so they were long on the road.  Meantime the fire went out
and the frost crept into the bones of the waiting children."

"Poor things!" murmured the Queen softly.  "What did you do?"

"I called Nelko, bidding him fetch wood from my forests and breathe
upon it until the fire blazed again and warmed the little room where
the children lay.  Then they ceased shivering and fell asleep until
their parents came."

"I am glad you did thus," said the good Queen, beaming upon the Master;
and Necile, who had eagerly listened to every word, echoed in a
whisper: "I, too, am glad!"

"And this very night," continued Ak, "as I came to the edge of Burzee I
heard a feeble cry, which I judged came from a human infant.  I looked
about me and found, close to the forest, a helpless babe, lying quite
naked upon the grasses and wailing piteously.  Not far away, screened
by the forest, crouched Shiegra, the lioness, intent upon devouring the
infant for her evening meal."

"And what did you do, Ak?" asked the Queen, breathlessly.

"Not much, being in a hurry to greet my nymphs.  But I commanded
Shiegra to lie close to the babe, and to give it her milk to quiet its
hunger.  And I told her to send word throughout the forest, to all
beasts and reptiles, that the child should not be harmed."

"I am glad you did thus," said the good Queen again, in a tone of
relief; but this time Necile did not echo her words, for the nymph,
filled with a strange resolve, had suddenly stolen away from the group.

Swiftly her lithe form darted through the forest paths until she
reached the edge of mighty Burzee, when she paused to gaze curiously
about her.  Never until now had she ventured so far, for the Law of the
Forest had placed the nymphs in its inmost depths.

Necile knew she was breaking the Law, but the thought did not give
pause to her dainty feet.  She had decided to see with her own eyes
this infant Ak had told of, for she had never yet beheld a child of
man.  All the immortals are full-grown; there are no children among
them.  Peering through the trees Necile saw the child lying on the
grass.  But now it was sweetly sleeping, having been comforted by the
milk drawn from Shiegra.  It was not old enough to know what peril
means; if it did not feel hunger it was content.

Softly the nymph stole to the side of the babe and knelt upon the
sward, her long robe of rose leaf color spreading about her like a
gossamer cloud.  Her lovely countenance expressed curiosity and
surprise, but, most of all, a tender, womanly pity.  The babe was
newborn, chubby and pink.  It was entirely helpless.  While the nymph
gazed the infant opened its eyes, smiled upon her, and stretched out
two dimpled arms.  In another instant Necile had caught it to her
breast and was hurrying with it through the forest paths.



3.  The Adoption

The Master Woodsman suddenly rose, with knitted brows.  "There is a
strange presence in the Forest," he declared.  Then the Queen and her
nymphs turned and saw standing before them Necile, with the sleeping
infant clasped tightly in her arms and a defiant look in her deep blue
eyes.

And thus for a moment they remained, the nymphs filled with surprise
and consternation, but the brow of the Master Woodsman gradually
clearing as he gazed intently upon the beautiful immortal who had
wilfully broken the Law.  Then the great Ak, to the wonder of all, laid
his hand softly on Necile's flowing locks and kissed her on her fair
forehead.

"For the first time within my knowledge," said he, gently, "a nymph has
defied me and my laws; yet in my heart can I find no word of chiding.
What is your desire, Necile?"

"Let me keep the child!" she answered, beginning to tremble and falling
on her knees in supplication.

"Here, in the Forest of Burzee, where the human race has never yet
penetrated?" questioned Ak.

"Here, in the Forest of Burzee," replied the nymph, boldly.  "It is my
home, and I am weary for lack of occupation.  Let me care for the babe!
See how weak and helpless it is.  Surely it can not harm Burzee nor the
Master Woodsman of the World!"

"But the Law, child, the Law!" cried Ak, sternly.

"The Law is made by the Master Woodsman," returned Necile; "if he bids
me care for the babe he himself has saved from death, who in all the
world dare oppose me?"  Queen Zurline, who had listened intently to
this conversation, clapped her pretty hands gleefully at the nymph's
answer.

"You are fairly trapped, O Ak!" she exclaimed, laughing.  "Now, I pray
you, give heed to Necile's petition."

The Woodsman, as was his habit when in thought, stroked his grizzled
beard slowly.  Then he said:

"She shall keep the babe, and I will give it my protection.  But I warn
you all that as this is the first time I have relaxed the Law, so shall
it be the last time.  Never more, to the end of the World, shall a
mortal be adopted by an immortal.  Otherwise would we abandon our happy
existence for one of trouble and anxiety.  Good night, my nymphs!"

Then Ak was gone from their midst, and Necile hurried away to her bower
to rejoice over her new-found treasure.



4.  Claus

Another day found Necile's bower the most popular place in the Forest.
The nymphs clustered around her and the child that lay asleep in her
lap, with expressions of curiosity and delight.  Nor were they wanting
in praises for the great Ak's kindness in allowing Necile to keep the
babe and to care for it.  Even the Queen came to peer into the innocent
childish face and to hold a helpless, chubby fist in her own fair hand.

"What shall we call him, Necile?" she asked, smiling.  "He must have a
name, you know."

"Let him be called Claus," answered Necile, "for that means 'a little
one.'"

"Rather let him be called Neclaus,"** returned the Queen, "for that
will mean 'Necile's little one.'"

The nymphs clapped their hands in delight, and Neclaus became the
infant's name, although Necile loved best to call him Claus, and in
afterdays many of her sisters followed her example.

Necile gathered the softest moss in all the forest for Claus to lie
upon, and she made his bed in her own bower.  Of food the infant had no
lack.  The nymphs searched the forest for bell-udders, which grow upon
the goa-tree and when opened are found to be filled with sweet milk.
And the soft-eyed does willingly gave a share of their milk to support
the little stranger, while Shiegra, the lioness, often crept stealthily
into Necile's bower and purred softly as she lay beside the babe and
fed it.

So the little one flourished and grew big and sturdy day by day, while
Necile taught him to speak and to walk and to play.

His thoughts and words were sweet and gentle, for the nymphs knew no
evil and their hearts were pure and loving.  He became the pet of the
forest, for Ak's decree had forbidden beast or reptile to molest him,
and he walked fearlessly wherever his will guided him.

Presently the news reached the other immortals that the nymphs of
Burzee had adopted a human infant, and that the act had been sanctioned
by the great Ak.  Therefore many of them came to visit the little
stranger, looking upon him with much interest.  First the Ryls, who are
first cousins to the wood-nymphs, although so differently formed.  For
the Ryls are required to watch over the flowers and plants, as the
nymphs watch over the forest trees.  They search the wide world for the
food required by the roots of the flowering plants, while the brilliant
colors possessed by the full-blown flowers are due to the dyes placed
in the soil by the Ryls, which are drawn through the little veins in
the roots and the body of the plants, as they reach maturity.  The Ryls
are a busy people, for their flowers bloom and fade continually, but
they are merry and light-hearted and are very popular with the other
immortals.

Next came the Knooks, whose duty it is to watch over the beasts of the
world, both gentle and wild.  The Knooks have a hard time of it, since
many of the beasts are ungovernable and rebel against restraint.  But
they know how to manage them, after all, and you will find that certain
laws of the Knooks are obeyed by even the most ferocious animals.
Their anxieties make the Knooks look old and worn and crooked, and
their natures are a bit rough from associating with wild creatures
continually; yet they are most useful to humanity and to the world in
general, as their laws are the only laws the forest beasts recognize
except those of the Master Woodsman.

Then there were the Fairies, the guardians of mankind, who were much
interested in the adoption of Claus because their own laws forbade them
to become familiar with their human charges.  There are instances on
record where the Fairies have shown themselves to human beings, and
have even conversed with them; but they are supposed to guard the lives
of mankind unseen and unknown, and if they favor some people more than
others it is because these have won such distinction fairly, as the
Fairies are very just and impartial.  But the idea of adopting a child
of men had never occurred to them because it was in every way opposed
to their laws;  so their curiosity was intense to behold the little
stranger adopted by Necile and her sister nymphs.

Claus looked upon the immortals who thronged around him with fearless
eyes and smiling lips.  He rode laughingly upon the shoulders of the
merry Ryls; he mischievously pulled the gray beards of the low-browed
Knooks;  he rested his curly head confidently upon the dainty bosom of
the Fairy Queen herself.  And the Ryls loved the sound of his laughter;
the Knooks loved his courage; the Fairies loved his innocence.

The boy made friends of them all, and learned to know their laws
intimately.  No forest flower was trampled beneath his feet, lest the
friendly Ryls should be grieved.  He never interfered with the beasts
of the forest, lest his friends the Knooks should become angry.  The
Fairies he loved dearly, but, knowing nothing of mankind, he could not
understand that he was the only one of his race admitted to friendly
intercourse with them.

Indeed, Claus came to consider that he alone, of all the forest people,
had no like nor fellow.  To him the forest was the world.  He had no
idea that millions of toiling, striving human creatures existed.

And he was happy and content.


** Some people have spelled this name Nicklaus and others Nicolas,
   which is the reason that Santa Claus is still known in some lands
   as St. Nicolas.  But, of course, Neclaus is his right name, and
   Claus the nickname given him by his adopted mother, the fair nymph
   Necile.



5.  The Master Woodsman

Years pass swiftly in Burzee, for the nymphs have no need to regard
time in any way.  Even centuries make no change in the dainty
creatures; ever and ever they remain the same, immortal and unchanging.

Claus, however, being mortal, grew to manhood day by day.  Necile was
disturbed, presently, to find him too big to lie in her lap, and he had
a desire for other food than milk.  His stout legs carried him far into
Burzee's heart, where he gathered supplies of nuts and berries, as well
as several sweet and wholesome roots, which suited his stomach better
than the belludders.  He sought Necile's bower less frequently, till
finally it became his custom to return thither only to sleep.

The nymph, who had come to love him dearly, was puzzled to comprehend
the changed nature of her charge, and unconsciously altered her own
mode of life to conform to his whims.  She followed him readily through
the forest paths, as did many of her sister nymphs, explaining as they
walked all the mysteries of the gigantic wood and the habits and nature
of the living things which dwelt beneath its shade.

The language of the beasts became clear to little Claus; but he never
could understand their sulky and morose tempers.  Only the squirrels,
the mice and the rabbits seemed to possess cheerful and merry natures;
yet would the boy laugh when the panther growled, and stroke the bear's
glossy coat while the creature snarled and bared its teeth menacingly.
The growls and snarls were not for Claus, he well knew, so what did
they matter?

He could sing the songs of the bees, recite the poetry of the
wood-flowers and relate the history of every blinking owl in Burzee.
He helped the Ryls to feed their plants and the Knooks to keep order
among the animals.  The little immortals regarded him as a privileged
person, being especially protected by Queen Zurline and her nymphs and
favored by the great Ak himself.

One day the Master Woodsman came back to the forest of Burzee.  He had
visited, in turn, all his forests throughout the world, and they were
many and broad.

Not until he entered the glade where the Queen and her nymphs were
assembled to greet him did Ak remember the child he had permitted
Necile to adopt.  Then he found, sitting familiarly in the circle of
lovely immortals, a broad-shouldered, stalwart youth, who, when erect,
stood fully as high as the shoulder of the Master himself.

Ak paused, silent and frowning, to bend his piercing gaze upon Claus.
The clear eyes met his own steadfastly, and the Woodsman gave a sigh of
relief as he marked their placid depths and read the youth's brave and
innocent heart.  Nevertheless, as Ak sat beside the fair Queen, and the
golden chalice, filled with rare nectar, passed from lip to lip, the
Master Woodsman was strangely silent and reserved, and stroked his
beard many times with a thoughtful motion.

With morning he called Claus aside, in kindly fashion, saying:

"Bid good by, for a time, to Necile and her sisters; for you shall
accompany me on my journey through the world."

The venture pleased Claus, who knew well the honor of being companion
of the Master Woodsman of the world.  But Necile wept for the first
time in her life, and clung to the boy's neck as if she could not bear
to let him go.  The nymph who had mothered this sturdy youth was still
as dainty, as charming and beautiful as when she had dared to face Ak
with the babe clasped to her breast; nor was her love less great.  Ak
beheld the two clinging together, seemingly as brother and sister to
one another, and again he wore his thoughtful look.



6.  Claus Discovers Humanity

Taking Claus to a small clearing in the forest, the Master said: "Place
your hand upon my girdle and hold fast while we journey through the
air; for now shall we encircle the world and look upon many of the
haunts of those men from whom you are descended."

These words caused Claus to marvel, for until now he had thought
himself the only one of his kind upon the earth; yet in silence he
grasped firmly the girdle of the great Ak, his astonishment forbidding
speech.

Then the vast forest of Burzee seemed to fall away from their feet, and
the youth found himself passing swiftly through the air at a great
height.

Ere long there were spires beneath them, while buildings of many shapes
and colors met their downward view.  It was a city of men, and Ak,
pausing to descend, led Claus to its inclosure.  Said the Master:

"So long as you hold fast to my girdle you will remain unseen by all
mankind, though seeing clearly yourself.  To release your grasp will be
to separate yourself forever from me and your home in Burzee."

One of the first laws of the Forest is obedience, and Claus had no
thought of disobeying the Master's wish.  He clung fast to the girdle
and remained invisible.

Thereafter with each moment passed in the city the youth's wonder grew.
He, who had supposed himself created differently from all others, now
found the earth swarming with creatures of his own kind.

"Indeed," said Ak, "the immortals are few; but the mortals are many."

Claus looked earnestly upon his fellows.  There were sad faces, gay and
reckless faces, pleasant faces, anxious faces and kindly faces, all
mingled in puzzling disorder.  Some worked at tedious tasks; some
strutted in impudent conceit; some were thoughtful and grave while
others seemed happy and content.  Men of many natures were there, as
everywhere, and Claus found much to please him and much to make him sad.

But especially he noted the children--first curiously, then eagerly,
then lovingly.  Ragged little ones rolled in the dust of the streets,
playing with scraps and pebbles.  Other children, gaily dressed, were
propped upon cushions and fed with sugar-plums.  Yet the children of
the rich were not happier than those playing with the dust and pebbles,
it seemed to Claus.

"Childhood is the time of man's greatest content," said Ak, following
the youth's thoughts.  "'Tis during these years of innocent pleasure
that the little ones are most free from care."

"Tell me," said Claus, "why do not all these babies fare alike?"

"Because they are born in both cottage and palace," returned the
Master.  "The difference in the wealth of the parents determines the
lot of the child.  Some are carefully tended and clothed in silks and
dainty linen; others are neglected and covered with rags."

"Yet all seem equally fair and sweet," said Claus, thoughtfully.

"While they are babes--yes;" agreed Ak.  "Their joy is in being alive,
and they do not stop to think.  In after years the doom of mankind
overtakes them, and they find they must struggle and worry, work and
fret, to gain the wealth that is so dear to the hearts of men.  Such
things are unknown in the Forest where you were reared."  Claus was
silent a moment.  Then he asked:

"Why was I reared in the forest, among those who are not of my race?"

Then Ak, in gentle voice, told him the story of his babyhood: how he
had been abandoned at the forest's edge and left a prey to wild beasts,
and how the loving nymph Necile had rescued him and brought him to
manhood under the protection of the immortals.

"Yet I am not of them," said Claus, musingly.

"You are not of them," returned the Woodsman.  "The nymph who cared for
you as a mother seems now like a sister to you; by and by, when you
grow old and gray, she will seem like a daughter.  Yet another brief
span and you will be but a memory, while she remains Necile."

"Then why, if man must perish, is he born?" demanded the boy.

"Everything perishes except the world itself and its keepers," answered
Ak.  "But while life lasts everything on earth has its use.  The wise
seek ways to be helpful to the world, for the helpful ones are sure to
live again."

Much of this Claus failed to understand fully, but a longing seized him
to become helpful to his fellows, and he remained grave and thoughtful
while they resumed their journey.

They visited many dwellings of men in many parts of the world, watching
farmers toil in the fields, warriors dash into cruel fray, and
merchants exchange their goods for bits of white and yellow metal.  And
everywhere the eyes of Claus sought out the children in love and pity,
for the thought of his own helpless babyhood was strong within him and
he yearned to give help to the innocent little ones of his race even as
he had been succored by the kindly nymph.

Day by day the Master Woodsman and his pupil traversed the earth, Ak
speaking but seldom to the youth who clung steadfastly to his girdle,
but guiding him into all places where he might become familiar with the
lives of human beings.

And at last they returned to the grand old Forest of Burzee, where the
Master set Claus down within the circle of nymphs, among whom the
pretty Necile anxiously awaited him.

The brow of the great Ak was now calm and peaceful; but the brow of
Claus had become lined with deep thought.  Necile sighed at the change
in her foster-son, who until now had been ever joyous and smiling, and
the thought came to her that never again would the life of the boy be
the same as before this eventful journey with the Master.



7.  Claus Leaves the Forest

When good Queen Zurline had touched the golden chalice with her fair
lips and it had passed around the circle in honor of the travelers'
return, the Master Woodsman of the World, who had not yet spoken,
turned his gaze frankly upon Claus and said:

"Well?"

The boy understood, and rose slowly to his feet beside Necile.  Once
only his eyes passed around the familiar circle of nymphs, every one of
whom he remembered as a loving comrade; but tears came unbidden to dim
his sight, so he gazed thereafter steadfastly at the Master.

"I have been ignorant," said he, simply, "until the great Ak in his
kindness taught me who and what I am.  You, who live so sweetly in your
forest bowers, ever fair and youthful and innocent, are no fit comrades
for a son of humanity.  For I have looked upon man, finding him doomed
to live for a brief space upon earth, to toil for the things he needs,
to fade into old age, and then to pass away as the leaves in autumn.
Yet every man has his mission, which is to leave the world better, in
some way, than he found it.  I am of the race of men, and man's lot is
my lot.  For your tender care of the poor, forsaken babe you adopted,
as well as for your loving comradeship during my boyhood, my heart will
ever overflow with gratitude.  My foster-mother," here he stopped and
kissed Necile's white forehead, "I shall love and cherish while life
lasts.  But I must leave you, to take my part in the endless struggle
to which humanity is doomed, and to live my life in my own way."

"What will you do?" asked the Queen, gravely.

"I must devote myself to the care of the children of mankind, and try
to make them happy," he answered.  "Since your own tender care of a
babe brought to me happiness and strength, it is just and right that I
devote my life to the pleasure of other babes.  Thus will the memory of
the loving nymph Necile be planted within the hearts of thousands of my
race for many years to come, and her kindly act be recounted in song
and in story while the world shall last.  Have I spoken well, O Master?"

"You have spoken well," returned Ak, and rising to his feet he
continued: "Yet one thing must not be forgotten.  Having been adopted
as the child of the Forest, and the playfellow of the nymphs, you have
gained a distinction which forever separates you from your kind.
Therefore, when you go forth into the world of men you shall retain the
protection of the Forest, and the powers you now enjoy will remain with
you to assist you in your labors.  In any need you may call upon the
Nymphs, the Ryls, the Knooks and the Fairies, and they will serve you
gladly.  I, the Master Woodsman of the World, have said it, and my Word
is the Law!"

Claus looked upon Ak with grateful eyes.

"This will make me mighty among men," he replied.  "Protected by these
kind friends I may be able to make thousands of little children happy.
I will try very hard to do my duty, and I know the Forest people will
give me their sympathy and help."

"We will!" said the Fairy Queen, earnestly.

"We will!" cried the merry Ryls, laughing.

"We will!" shouted the crooked Knooks, scowling.

"We will!" exclaimed the sweet nymphs, proudly.  But Necile said
nothing.  She only folded Claus in her arms and kissed him tenderly.

"The world is big," continued the boy, turning again to his loyal
friends, "but men are everywhere.  I shall begin my work near my
friends, so that if I meet with misfortune I can come to the Forest for
counsel or help."

With that he gave them all a loving look and turned away.  There was no
need to say good by, by for him the sweet, wild life of the Forest was
over.  He went forth bravely to meet his doom--the doom of the race of
man--the necessity to worry and work.

But Ak, who knew the boy's heart, was merciful and guided his steps.


Coming through Burzee to its eastern edge Claus reached the Laughing
Valley of Hohaho.  On each side were rolling green hills, and a brook
wandered midway between them to wind afar off beyond the valley.  At
his back was the grim Forest; at the far end of the valley a broad
plain.  The eyes of the young man, which had until now reflected his
grave thoughts, became brighter as he stood silent, looking out upon
the Laughing Valley.  Then on a sudden his eyes twinkled, as stars do
on a still night, and grew merry and wide.

For at his feet the cowslips and daisies smiled on him in friendly
regard; the breeze whistled gaily as it passed by and fluttered the
locks on his forehead; the brook laughed joyously as it leaped over the
pebbles and swept around the green curves of its banks; the bees sang
sweet songs as they flew from dandelion to daffodil; the beetles
chirruped happily in the long grass, and the sunbeams glinted
pleasantly over all the scene.

"Here," cried Claus, stretching out his arms as if to embrace the
Valley, "will I make my home!"

That was many, many years ago.  It has been his home ever since.  It is
his home now.



MANHOOD



1.  The Laughing Valley

When Claus came the Valley was empty save for the grass, the brook, the
wildflowers, the bees and the butterflies.  If he would make his home
here and live after the fashion of men he must have a house.  This
puzzled him at first, but while he stood smiling in the sunshine he
suddenly found beside him old Nelko, the servant of the Master
Woodsman.  Nelko bore an ax, strong and broad, with blade that gleamed
like burnished silver.  This he placed in the young man's hand, then
disappeared without a word.

Claus understood, and turning to the Forest's edge he selected a number
of fallen tree-trunks, which he began to clear of their dead branches.
He would not cut into a living tree.  His life among the nymphs who
guarded the Forest had taught him that a live tree is sacred, being a
created thing endowed with feeling.  But with the dead and fallen trees
it was different.  They had fulfilled their destiny, as active members
of the Forest community, and now it was fitting that their remains
should minister to the needs of man.

The ax bit deep into the logs at every stroke.  It seemed to have a
force of its own, and Claus had but to swing and guide it.

When shadows began creeping over the green hills to lie in the Valley
overnight, the young man had chopped many logs into equal lengths and
proper shapes for building a house such as he had seen the poorer
classes of men inhabit.  Then, resolving to await another day before he
tried to fit the logs together, Claus ate some of the sweet roots he
well knew how to find, drank deeply from the laughing brook, and lay
down to sleep on the grass, first seeking a spot where no flowers grew,
lest the weight of his body should crush them.

And while he slumbered and breathed in the perfume of the wondrous
Valley the Spirit of Happiness crept into his heart and drove out all
terror and care and misgivings.  Never more would the face of Claus be
clouded with anxieties; never more would the trials of life weigh him
down as with a burden.  The Laughing Valley had claimed him for its own.

Would that we all might live in that delightful place!--but then,
maybe, it would become overcrowded.  For ages it had awaited a tenant.
Was it chance that led young Claus to make his home in this happy vale?
Or may we guess that his thoughtful friends, the immortals, had
directed his steps when he wandered away from Burzee to seek a home in
the great world?

Certain it is that while the moon peered over the hilltop and flooded
with its soft beams the body of the sleeping stranger, the Laughing
Valley was filled with the queer, crooked shapes of the friendly
Knooks.  These people spoke no words, but worked with skill and
swiftness.  The logs Claus had trimmed with his bright ax were carried
to a spot beside the brook and fitted one upon another, and during the
night a strong and roomy dwelling was built.

The birds came sweeping into the Valley at daybreak, and their songs,
so seldom heard in the deep wood, aroused the stranger.  He rubbed the
web of sleep from his eyelids and looked around.  The house met his
gaze.

"I must thank the Knooks for this," said he, gratefully.  Then he
walked to his dwelling and entered at the doorway.  A large room faced
him, having a fireplace at the end and a table and bench in the middle.
Beside the fireplace was a cupboard.  Another doorway was beyond.
Claus entered here, also, and saw a smaller room with a bed against the
wall and a stool set near a small stand.  On the bed were many layers
of dried moss brought from the Forest.

"Indeed, it is a palace!" exclaimed the smiling Claus.  "I must thank
the good Knooks again, for their knowledge of man's needs as well as
for their labors in my behalf."

He left his new home with a glad feeling that he was not quite alone in
the world, although he had chosen to abandon his Forest life.
Friendships are not easily broken, and the immortals are everywhere.

Upon reaching the brook he drank of the pure water, and then sat down
on the bank to laugh at the mischievous gambols of the ripples as they
pushed one another against rocks or crowded desperately to see which
should first reach the turn beyond.  And as they raced away he listened
to the song they sang:

  "Rushing, pushing, on we go!
  Not a wave may gently flow--
    All are too excited.
    Ev'ry drop, delighted,
  Turns to spray in merry play
  As we tumble on our way!"


Next Claus searched for roots to eat, while the daffodils turned their
little eyes up to him laughingly and lisped their dainty song:

  "Blooming fairly, growing rarely,
    Never flowerets were so gay!
  Perfume breathing, joy bequeathing,
    As our colors we display."


It made Claus laugh to hear the little things voice their happiness as
they nodded gracefully on their stems.  But another strain caught his
ear as the sunbeams fell gently across his face and whispered:

  "Here is gladness, that our rays
    Warm the valley through the days;
  Here is happiness, to give
    Comfort unto all who live!"


"Yes!" cried Claus in answer, "there is happiness and joy in all things
here.  The Laughing Valley is a valley of peace and good-will."

He passed the day talking with the ants and beetles and exchanging
jokes with the light-hearted butterflies.  And at night he lay on his
bed of soft moss and slept soundly.

Then came the Fairies, merry but noiseless, bringing skillets and pots
and dishes and pans and all the tools necessary to prepare food and to
comfort a mortal.  With these they filled cupboard and fireplace,
finally placing a stout suit of wool clothing on the stool by the
bedside.

When Claus awoke he rubbed his eyes again, and laughed, and spoke aloud
his thanks to the Fairies and the Master Woodsman who had sent them.
With eager joy he examined all his new possessions, wondering what some
might be used for.  But, in the days when he had clung to the girdle of
the great Ak and visited the cities of men, his eyes had been quick to
note all the manners and customs of the race to which he belonged; so
he guessed from the gifts brought by the Fairies that the Master
expected him hereafter to live in the fashion of his fellow-creatures.

"Which means that I must plow the earth and plant corn," he reflected;
"so that when winter comes I shall have garnered food in plenty."

But, as he stood in the grassy Valley, he saw that to turn up the earth
in furrows would be to destroy hundreds of pretty, helpless flowers, as
well as thousands of the tender blades of grass.  And this he could not
bear to do.

Therefore he stretched out his arms and uttered a peculiar whistle he
had learned in the Forest, afterward crying:

"Ryls of the Field Flowers--come to me!"

Instantly a dozen of the queer little Ryls were squatting upon the
ground before him, and they nodded to him in cheerful greeting.

Claus gazed upon them earnestly.

"Your brothers of the Forest," he said, "I have known and loved many
years.  I shall love you, also, when we have become friends.  To me the
laws of the Ryls, whether those of the Forest or of the field, are
sacred.  I have never wilfully destroyed one of the flowers you tend so
carefully; but I must plant grain to use for food during the cold
winter, and how am I to do this without killing the little creatures
that sing to me so prettily of their fragrant blossoms?"

The Yellow Ryl, he who tends the buttercups, made answer:

"Fret not, friend Claus.  The great Ak has spoken to us of you.  There
is better work for you in life than to labor for food, and though, not
being of the Forest, Ak has no command over us, nevertheless are we
glad to favor one he loves.  Live, therefore, to do the good work you
are resolved to undertake.  We, the Field Ryls, will attend to your
food supplies."

After this speech the Ryls were no longer to be seen, and Claus drove
from his mind the thought of tilling the earth.

When next he wandered back to his dwelling a bowl of fresh milk stood
upon the table; bread was in the cupboard and sweet honey filled a dish
beside it.  A pretty basket of rosy apples and new-plucked grapes was
also awaiting him.  He called out "Thanks, my friends!" to the
invisible Ryls, and straightway began to eat of the food.

Thereafter, when hungry, he had but to look into the cupboard to find
goodly supplies brought by the kindly Ryls.  And the Knooks cut and
stacked much wood for his fireplace.  And the Fairies brought him warm
blankets and clothing.

So began his life in the Laughing Valley, with the favor and friendship
of the immortals to minister to his every want.



2.  How Claus Made the First Toy

Truly our Claus had wisdom, for his good fortune but strengthened his
resolve to befriend the little ones of his own race.  He knew his plan
was approved by the immortals, else they would not have favored him so
greatly.

So he began at once to make acquaintance with mankind.  He walked
through the Valley to the plain beyond, and crossed the plain in many
directions to reach the abodes of men.  These stood singly or in groups
of dwellings called villages, and in nearly all the houses, whether big
or little, Claus found children.

The youngsters soon came to know his merry, laughing face and the kind
glance of his bright eyes; and the parents, while they regarded the
young man with some scorn for loving children more than their elders,
were content that the girls and boys had found a playfellow who seemed
willing to amuse them.

So the children romped and played games with Claus, and the boys rode
upon his shoulders, and the girls nestled in his strong arms, and the
babies clung fondly to his knees.  Wherever the young man chanced to
be, the sound of childish laughter followed him; and to understand this
better you must know that children were much neglected in those days
and received little attention from their parents, so that it became to
them a marvel that so goodly a man as Claus devoted his time to making
them happy.  And those who knew him were, you may be sure, very happy
indeed.  The sad faces of the poor and abused grew bright for once; the
cripple smiled despite his misfortune; the ailing ones hushed their
moans and the grieved ones their cries when their merry friend came
nigh to comfort them.

Only at the beautiful palace of the Lord of Lerd and at the frowning
castle of the Baron Braun was Claus refused admittance.  There were
children at both places; but the servants at the palace shut the door
in the young stranger's face, and the fierce Baron threatened to hang
him from an iron hook on the castle walls.  Whereupon Claus sighed and
went back to the poorer dwellings where he was welcome.

After a time the winter drew near.

The flowers lived out their lives and faded and disappeared; the
beetles burrowed far into the warm earth; the butterflies deserted the
meadows; and the voice of the brook grew hoarse, as if it had taken
cold.

One day snowflakes filled all the air in the Laughing Valley, dancing
boisterously toward the earth and clothing in pure white raiment the
roof of Claus's dwelling.

At night Jack Frost rapped at the door.

"Come in!" cried Claus.

"Come out!" answered Jack, "for you have a fire inside."

So Claus came out.  He had known Jack Frost in the Forest, and liked
the jolly rogue, even while he mistrusted him.

"There will be rare sport for me to-night, Claus!" shouted the sprite.
"Isn't this glorious weather?  I shall nip scores of noses and ears and
toes before daybreak."

"If you love me, Jack, spare the children," begged Claus.

"And why?" asked the other, in surprise.

"They are tender and helpless," answered Claus.

"But I love to nip the tender ones!" declared Jack.  "The older ones
are tough, and tire my fingers."

"The young ones are weak, and can not fight you," said Claus.

"True," agreed Jack, thoughtfully.  "Well, I will not pinch a child
this night--if I can resist the temptation," he promised.  "Good night,
Claus!"

"Good night."

The young man went in and closed the door, and Jack Frost ran on to the
nearest village.

Claus threw a log on the fire, which burned up brightly.  Beside the
hearth sat Blinkie, a big cat give him by Peter the Knook.  Her fur was
soft and glossy, and she purred never-ending songs of contentment.

"I shall not see the children again soon," said Claus to the cat, who
kindly paused in her song to listen.  "The winter is upon us, the snow
will be deep for many days, and I shall be unable to play with my
little friends."

The cat raised a paw and stroked her nose thoughtfully, but made no
reply.  So long as the fire burned and Claus sat in his easy chair by
the hearth she did not mind the weather.

So passed many days and many long evenings.  The cupboard was always
full, but Claus became weary with having nothing to do more than to
feed the fire from the big wood-pile the Knooks had brought him.

One evening he picked up a stick of wood and began to cut it with his
sharp knife.  He had no thought, at first, except to occupy his time,
and he whistled and sang to the cat as he carved away portions of the
stick.  Puss sat up on her haunches and watched him, listening at the
same time to her master's merry whistle, which she loved to hear even
more than her own purring songs.

Claus glanced at puss and then at the stick he was whittling, until
presently the wood began to have a shape, and the shape was like the
head of a cat, with two ears sticking upward.

Claus stopped whistling to laugh, and then both he and the cat looked
at the wooden image in some surprise.  Then he carved out the eyes and
the nose, and rounded the lower part of the head so that it rested upon
a neck.

Puss hardly knew what to make of it now, and sat up stiffly, as if
watching with some suspicion what would come next.

Claus knew.  The head gave him an idea.  He plied his knife carefully
and with skill, forming slowly the body of the cat, which he made to
sit upon its haunches as the real cat did, with her tail wound around
her two front legs.

The work cost him much time, but the evening was long and he had
nothing better to do.  Finally he gave a loud and delighted laugh at
the result of his labors and placed the wooden cat, now completed, upon
the hearth opposite the real one.

Puss thereupon glared at her image, raised her hair in anger, and
uttered a defiant mew.  The wooden cat paid no attention, and Claus,
much amused, laughed again.

Then Blinkie advanced toward the wooden image to eye it closely and
smell of it intelligently:  Eyes and nose told her the creature was
wood, in spite of its natural appearance; so puss resumed her seat and
her purring, but as she neatly washed her face with her padded paw she
cast more than one admiring glance at her clever master.  Perhaps she
felt the same satisfaction we feel when we look upon good photographs
of ourselves.

The cat's master was himself pleased with his handiwork, without
knowing exactly why.  Indeed, he had great cause to congratulate
himself that night, and all the children throughout the world should
have joined him rejoicing.  For Claus had made his first toy.



3.  How the Ryls Colored the Toys

A hush lay on the Laughing Valley now.  Snow covered it like a white
spread and pillows of downy flakes drifted before the dwelling where
Claus sat feeding the blaze of the fire.  The brook gurgled on beneath
a heavy sheet of ice and all living plants and insects nestled close to
Mother Earth to keep warm.  The face of the moon was hid by dark
clouds, and the wind, delighting in the wintry sport, pushed and
whirled the snowflakes in so many directions that they could get no
chance to fall to the ground.

Claus heard the wind whistling and shrieking in its play and thanked
the good Knooks again for his comfortable shelter.  Blinkie washed her
face lazily and stared at the coals with a look of perfect content.
The toy cat sat opposite the real one and gazed straight ahead, as toy
cats should.

Suddenly Claus heard a noise that sounded different from the voice of
the wind.  It was more like a wail of suffering and despair.

He stood up and listened, but the wind, growing boisterous, shook the
door and rattled the windows to distract his attention.  He waited
until the wind was tired and then, still listening, he heard once more
the shrill cry of distress.

Quickly he drew on his coat, pulled his cap over his eyes and opened
the door.  The wind dashed in and scattered the embers over the hearth,
at the same time blowing Blinkie's fur so furiously that she crept
under the table to escape.  Then the door was closed and Claus was
outside, peering anxiously into the darkness.

The wind laughed and scolded and tried to push him over, but he stood
firm.  The helpless flakes stumbled against his eyes and dimmed his
sight, but he rubbed them away and looked again.  Snow was everywhere,
white and glittering.  It covered the earth and filled the air.

The cry was not repeated.

Claus turned to go back into the house, but the wind caught him
unawares and he stumbled and fell across a snowdrift.  His hand plunged
into the drift and touched something that was not snow.  This he seized
and, pulling it gently toward him, found it to be a child. The next
moment he had lifted it in his arms and carried it into the house.

The wind followed him through the door, but Claus shut it out quickly.
He laid the rescued child on the hearth, and brushing away the snow he
discovered it to be Weekum, a little boy who lived in a house beyond
the Valley.

Claus wrapped a warm blanket around the little one and rubbed the frost
from its limbs.  Before long the child opened his eyes and, seeing
where he was, smiled happily.  Then Claus warmed milk and fed it to the
boy slowly, while the cat looked on with sober curiosity.  Finally the
little one curled up in his friend's arms and sighed and fell asleep,
and Claus, filled with gladness that he had found the wanderer, held
him closely while he slumbered.

The wind, finding no more mischief to do, climbed the hill and swept on
toward the north.  This gave the weary snowflakes time to settle down
to earth, and the Valley became still again.

The boy, having slept well in the arms of his friend, opened his eyes
and sat up.  Then, as a child will, he looked around the room and saw
all that it contained.

"Your cat is a nice cat, Claus," he said, at last.  "Let me hold it."

But puss objected and ran away.

"The other cat won't run, Claus," continued the boy.  "Let me hold that
one."  Claus placed the toy in his arms, and the boy held it lovingly
and kissed the tip of its wooden ear.

"How did you get lost in the storm, Weekum?" asked Claus.

"I started to walk to my auntie's house and lost my way," answered
Weekum.

"Were you frightened?"

"It was cold," said Weekum, "and the snow got in my eyes, so I could
not see.  Then I kept on till I fell in the snow, without knowing where
I was, and the wind blew the flakes over me and covered me up."

Claus gently stroked his head, and the boy looked up at him and smiled.

"I'm all right now," said Weekum.

"Yes," replied Claus, happily.  "Now I will put you in my warm bed, and
you must sleep until morning, when I will carry you back to your
mother."

"May the cat sleep with me?" asked the boy.

"Yes, if you wish it to," answered Claus.

"It's a nice cat!" Weekum said, smiling, as Claus tucked the blankets
around him; and presently the little one fell asleep with the wooden
toy in his arms.

When morning came the sun claimed the Laughing Valley and flooded it
with his rays; so Claus prepared to take the lost child back to its
mother.

"May I keep the cat, Claus?" asked Weekum.  "It's nicer than real cats.
It doesn't run away, or scratch or bite.  May I keep it?"

"Yes, indeed," answered Claus, pleased that the toy he had made could
give pleasure to the child.  So he wrapped the boy and the wooden cat
in a warm cloak, perching the bundle upon his own broad shoulders, and
then he tramped through the snow and the drifts of the Valley and
across the plain beyond to the poor cottage where Weekum's mother lived.

"See, mama!" cried the boy, as soon as they entered, "I've got a cat!"

The good woman wept tears of joy over the rescue of her darling and
thanked Claus many times for his kind act.  So he carried a warm and
happy heart back to his home in the Valley.

That night he said to puss: "I believe the children will love the
wooden cats almost as well as the real ones, and they can't hurt them
by pulling their tails and ears.  I'll make another."

So this was the beginning of his great work.

The next cat was better made than the first.  While Claus sat whittling
it out the Yellow Ryl came in to make him a visit, and so pleased was
he with the man's skill that he ran away and brought several of his
fellows.

There sat the Red Ryl, the Black Ryl, the Green Ryl, the Blue Ryl and
the Yellow Ryl in a circle on the floor, while Claus whittled and
whistled and the wooden cat grew into shape.

"If it could be made the same color as the real cat, no one would know
the difference," said the Yellow Ryl, thoughtfully.

"The little ones, maybe, would not know the difference," replied Claus,
pleased with the idea.

"I will bring you some of the red that I color my roses and tulips
with," cried the Red Ryl; "and then you can make the cat's lips and
tongue red."

"I will bring some of the green that I color my grasses and leaves
with," said the Green Ryl; "and then you can color the cat's eyes
green."

"They will need a bit of yellow, also," remarked the Yellow Ryl; "I
must fetch some of the yellow that I use to color my buttercups and
goldenrods with."

"The real cat is black," said the Black Ryl; "I will bring some of the
black that I use to color the eyes of my pansies with, and then you can
paint your wooden cat black."

"I see you have a blue ribbon around Blinkie's neck," added the Blue
Ryl.  "I will get some of the color that I use to paint the bluebells
and forget-me-nots with, and then you can carve a wooden ribbon on the
toy cat's neck and paint it blue."

So the Ryls disappeared, and by the time Claus had finished carving out
the form of the cat they were all back with the paints and brushes.

They made Blinkie sit upon the table, that Claus might paint the toy
cat just the right color, and when the work was done the Ryls declared
it was exactly as good as a live cat.

"That is, to all appearances," added the Red Ryl.

Blinkie seemed a little offended by the attention bestowed upon the
toy, and that she might not seem to approve the imitation cat she
walked to the corner of the hearth and sat down with a dignified air.

But Claus was delighted, and as soon as morning came he started out and
tramped through the snow, across the Valley and the plain, until he
came to a village.  There, in a poor hut near the walls of the
beautiful palace of the Lord of Lerd, a little girl lay upon a wretched
cot, moaning with pain.

Claus approached the child and kissed her and comforted her, and then
he drew the toy cat from beneath his coat, where he had hidden it, and
placed it in her arms.

Ah, how well he felt himself repaid for his labor and his long walk
when he saw the little one's eyes grow bright with pleasure!  She
hugged the kitty tight to her breast, as if it had been a precious gem,
and would not let it go for a single moment.  The fever was quieted,
the pain grew less, and she fell into a sweet and refreshing sleep.

Claus laughed and whistled and sang all the way home.  Never had he
been so happy as on that day.

When he entered his house he found Shiegra, the lioness, awaiting him.
Since his babyhood Shiegra had loved Claus, and while he dwelt in the
Forest she had often come to visit him at Necile's bower.  After Claus
had gone to live in the Laughing Valley Shiegra became lonely and ill
at ease, and now she had braved the snow-drifts, which all lions abhor,
to see him once more.  Shiegra was getting old and her teeth were
beginning to fall out, while the hairs that tipped her ears and tail
had changed from tawny-yellow to white.

Claus found her lying on his hearth, and he put his arms around the
neck of the lioness and hugged her lovingly.  The cat had retired into
a far corner.  She did not care to associate with Shiegra.

Claus told his old friend about the cats he had made, and how much
pleasure they had given Weekum and the sick girl.  Shiegra did not know
much about children; indeed, if she met a child she could scarcely be
trusted not to devour it.  But she was interested in Claus' new labors,
and said:

"These images seem to me very attractive.  Yet I can not see why you
should make cats, which are very unimportant animals.  Suppose, now
that I am here, you make the image of a lioness, the Queen of all
beasts.  Then, indeed, your children will be happy--and safe at the
same time!"

Claus thought this was a good suggestion.  So he got a piece of wood
and sharpened his knife, while Shiegra crouched upon the hearth at his
feet.  With much care he carved the head in the likeness of the
lioness, even to the two fierce teeth that curved over her lower lip
and the deep, frowning lines above her wide-open eyes.

When it was finished he said:

"You have a terrible look, Shiegra."

"Then the image is like me," she answered; "for I am indeed terrible to
all who are not my friends."

Claus now carved out the body, with Shiegra's long tail trailing behind
it.  The image of the crouching lioness was very life-like.

"It pleases me," said Shiegra, yawning and stretching her body
gracefully.  "Now I will watch while you paint."

He brought the paints the Ryls had given him from the cupboard and
colored the image to resemble the real Shiegra.

The lioness placed her big, padded paws upon the edge of the table and
raised herself while she carefully examined the toy that was her
likeness.

"You are indeed skillful!" she said, proudly.  "The children will like
that better than cats, I'm sure."

Then snarling at Blinkie, who arched her back in terror and whined
fearfully, she walked away toward her forest home with stately strides.



4.  How Little Mayrie Became Frightened

The winter was over now, and all the Laughing Valley was filled with
joyous excitement.  The brook was so happy at being free once again
that it gurgled more boisterously than ever and dashed so recklessly
against the rocks that it sent showers of spray high in the air.  The
grass thrust its sharp little blades upward through the mat of dead
stalks where it had hidden from the snow, but the flowers were yet too
timid to show themselves, although the Ryls were busy feeding their
roots.  The sun was in remarkably good humor, and sent his rays dancing
merrily throughout the Valley.

Claus was eating his dinner one day when he heard a timid knock on his
door.

"Come in!" he called.

No one entered, but after a pause came another rapping.

Claus jumped up and threw open the door.  Before him stood a small girl
holding a smaller brother fast by the hand.

"Is you Tlaus?" she asked, shyly.

"Indeed I am, my dear!" he answered, with a laugh, as he caught both
children in his arms and kissed them.  "You are very welcome, and you
have come just in time to share my dinner."

He took them to the table and fed them with fresh milk and nut-cakes.
When they had eaten enough he asked:

"Why have you made this long journey to see me?"

"I wants a tat!" replied little Mayrie; and her brother, who had not
yet learned to speak many words, nodded his head and exclaimed like an
echo: "Tat!"

"Oh, you want my toy cats, do you?" returned Claus, greatly pleased to
discover that his creations were so popular with children.

The little visitors nodded eagerly.

"Unfortunately," he continued, "I have but one cat now ready, for I
carried two to children in the town yesterday.  And the one I have
shall be given to your brother, Mayrie, because he is the smaller; and
the next one I make shall be for you."

The boy's face was bright with smiles as he took the precious toy Claus
held out to him; but little Mayrie covered her face with her arm and
began to sob grievously.

"I--I--I wants a t--t--tat now!" she wailed.

Her disappointment made Claus feel miserable for a moment.  Then he
suddenly remembered Shiegra.

"Don't cry, darling!" he said, soothingly; "I have a toy much nicer
than a cat, and you shall have that."

He went to the cupboard and drew out the image of the lioness, which he
placed on the table before Mayrie.

The girl raised her arm and gave one glance at the fierce teeth and
glaring eyes of the beast, and then, uttering a terrified scream, she
rushed from the house.  The boy followed her, also screaming lustily,
and even dropping his precious cat in his fear.

For a moment Claus stood motionless, being puzzled and astonished.
Then he threw Shiegra's image into the cupboard and ran after the
children, calling to them not to be frightened.

Little Mayrie stopped in her flight and her brother clung to her skirt;
but they both cast fearful glances at the house until Claus had assured
them many times that the beast had been locked in the cupboard.

"Yet why were you frightened at seeing it?" he asked.  "It is only a
toy to play with!"

"It's bad!" said Mayrie, decidedly, "an'--an'--just horrid, an' not a
bit nice, like tats!"

"Perhaps you are right," returned Claus, thoughtfully.  "But if you
will return with me to the house I will soon make you a pretty cat."

So they timidly entered the house again, having faith in their friend's
words; and afterward they had the joy of watching Claus carve out a cat
from a bit of wood and paint it in natural colors.  It did not take him
long to do this, for he had become skillful with his knife by this
time, and Mayrie loved her toy the more dearly because she had seen it
made.

After his little visitors had trotted away on their journey homeward
Claus sat long in deep thought.  And he then decided that such fierce
creatures as his friend the lioness would never do as models from which
to fashion his toys.

"There must be nothing to frighten the dear babies," he reflected; "and
while I know Shiegra well, and am not afraid of her, it is but natural
that children should look upon her image with terror.  Hereafter I will
choose such mild-mannered animals as squirrels and rabbits and deer and
lambkins from which to carve my toys, for then the little ones will
love rather than fear them."

He began his work that very day, and before bedtime had made a wooden
rabbit and a lamb.  They were not quite so lifelike as the cats had
been, because they were formed from memory, while Blinkie had sat very
still for Claus to look at while he worked.

But the new toys pleased the children nevertheless, and the fame of
Claus' playthings quickly spread to every cottage on plain and in
village.  He always carried his gifts to the sick or crippled children,
but those who were strong enough walked to the house in the Valley to
ask for them, so a little path was soon worn from the plain to the door
of the toy-maker's cottage.

First came the children who had been playmates of Claus, before he
began to make toys.  These, you may be sure, were well supplied.  Then
children who lived farther away heard of the wonderful images and made
journeys to the Valley to secure them.  All little ones were welcome,
and never a one went away empty-handed.

This demand for his handiwork kept Claus busily occupied, but he was
quite happy in knowing the pleasure he gave to so many of the dear
children.  His friends the immortals were pleased with his success and
supported him bravely.

The Knooks selected for him clear pieces of soft wood, that his knife
might not be blunted in cutting them; the Ryls kept him supplied with
paints of all colors and brushes fashioned from the tips of timothy
grasses; the Fairies discovered that the workman needed saws and
chisels and hammers and nails, as well as knives, and brought him a
goodly array of such tools.

Claus soon turned his living room into a most wonderful workshop.  He
built a bench before the window, and arranged his tools and paints so
that he could reach everything as he sat on his stool.  And as he
finished toy after toy to delight the hearts of little children he
found himself growing so gay and happy that he could not refrain from
singing and laughing and whistling all the day long.

"It's because I live in the Laughing Valley, where everything else
laughs!" said Claus.

But that was not the reason.



5.  How Bessie Blithesome Came to the Laughing Valley

One day, as Claus sat before his door to enjoy the sunshine while he
busily carved the head and horns of a toy deer, he looked up and
discovered a glittering cavalcade of horsemen approaching through the
Valley.

When they drew nearer he saw that the band consisted of a score of
men-at-arms, clad in bright armor and bearing in their hands spears and
battle-axes.  In front of these rode little Bessie Blithesome, the
pretty daughter of that proud Lord of Lerd who had once driven Claus
from his palace.  Her palfrey was pure white, its bridle was covered
with glittering gems, and its saddle draped with cloth of gold, richly
broidered.  The soldiers were sent to protect her from harm while she
journeyed.

Claus was surprised, but he continued to whittle and to sing until the
cavalcade drew up before him.  Then the little girl leaned over the
neck of her palfrey and said:

"Please, Mr. Claus, I want a toy!"

Her voice was so pleading that Claus jumped up at once and stood beside
her.  But he was puzzled how to answer her request.

"You are a rich lord's daughter," said he, "and have all that you
desire."

"Except toys," added Bessie.  "There are no toys in all the world but
yours."

"And I make them for the poor children, who have nothing else to amuse
them," continued Claus.

"Do poor children love to play with toys more than rich ones?" asked
Bessie.

"I suppose not," said Claus, thoughtfully.

"Am I to blame because my father is a lord?  Must I be denied the
pretty toys I long for because other children are poorer than I?" she
inquired earnestly.

"I'm afraid you must, dear," he answered; "for the poor have nothing
else with which to amuse themselves.  You have your pony to ride, your
servants to wait on you, and every comfort that money can procure."

"But I want toys!" cried Bessie, wiping away the tears that forced
themselves into her eyes.  "If I can not have them, I shall be very
unhappy."

Claus was troubled, for her grief recalled to him the thought that his
desire was to make all children happy, without regard to their
condition in life.  Yet, while so many poor children were clamoring for
his toys he could not bear to give one to them to Bessie Blithesome,
who had so much already to make her happy.

"Listen, my child," said he, gently; "all the toys I am now making are
promised to others.  But the next shall be yours, since your heart so
longs for it.  Come to me again in two days and it shall be ready for
you."

Bessie gave a cry of delight, and leaning over her pony's neck she
kissed Claus prettily upon his forehead.  Then, calling to her
men-at-arms, she rode gaily away, leaving Claus to resume his work.

"If I am to supply the rich children as well as the poor ones," he
thought, "I shall not have a spare moment in the whole year!  But is it
right I should give to the rich?  Surely I must go to Necile and talk
with her about this matter."

So when he had finished the toy deer, which was very like a deer he had
known in the Forest glades, he walked into Burzee and made his way to
the bower of the beautiful Nymph Necile, who had been his foster mother.

She greeted him tenderly and lovingly, listening with interest to his
story of the visit of Bessie Blithesome.

"And now tell me," said he, "shall I give toys to rich children?"

"We of the Forest know nothing of riches," she replied.  "It seems to
me that one child is like another child, since they are all made of the
same clay, and that riches are like a gown, which may be put on or
taken away, leaving the child unchanged.  But the Fairies are guardians
of mankind, and know mortal children better than I.  Let us call the
Fairy Queen."

This was done, and the Queen of the Fairies sat beside them and heard
Claus relate his reasons for thinking the rich children could get along
without his toys, and also what the Nymph had said.

"Necile is right," declared the Queen; "for, whether it be rich or
poor, a child's longings for pretty playthings are but natural.  Rich
Bessie's heart may suffer as much grief as poor Mayrie's; she can be
just as lonely and discontented, and just as gay and happy.  I think,
friend Claus, it is your duty to make all little ones glad, whether
they chance to live in palaces or in cottages."

"Your words are wise, fair Queen," replied Claus, "and my heart tells
me they are as just as they are wise.  Hereafter all children may claim
my services."

Then he bowed before the gracious Fairy and, kissing Necile's red lips,
went back into his Valley.

At the brook he stopped to drink, and afterward he sat on the bank and
took a piece of moist clay in his hands while he thought what sort of
toy he should make for Bessie Blithesome.  He did not notice that his
fingers were working the clay into shape until, glancing downward, he
found he had unconsciously formed a head that bore a slight resemblance
to the Nymph Necile!

At once he became interested.  Gathering more of the clay from the bank
he carried it to his house.  Then, with the aid of his knife and a bit
of wood he succeeded in working the clay into the image of a toy nymph.
With skillful strokes he formed long, waving hair on the head and
covered the body with a gown of oakleaves, while the two feet sticking
out at the bottom of the gown were clad in sandals.

But the clay was soft, and Claus found he must handle it gently to
avoid ruining his pretty work.

"Perhaps the rays of the sun will draw out the moisture and cause the
clay to become hard," he thought.  So he laid the image on a flat board
and placed it in the glare of the sun.

This done, he went to his bench and began painting the toy deer, and
soon he became so interested in the work that he forgot all about the
clay nymph.  But next morning, happening to notice it as it lay on the
board, he found the sun had baked it to the hardness of stone, and it
was strong enough to be safely handled.

Claus now painted the nymph with great care in the likeness of Necile,
giving it deep-blue eyes, white teeth, rosy lips and ruddy-brown hair.
The gown he colored oak-leaf green, and when the paint was dry Claus
himself was charmed with the new toy.  Of course it was not nearly so
lovely as the real Necile; but, considering the material of which it
was made, Claus thought it was very beautiful.

When Bessie, riding upon her white palfrey, came to his dwelling next
day, Claus presented her with the new toy.  The little girl's eyes were
brighter than ever as she examined the pretty image, and she loved it
at once, and held it close to her breast, as a mother does to her child.

"What is it called, Claus?" she asked.

Now Claus knew that Nymphs do not like to be spoken of by mortals, so
he could not tell Bessie it was an image of Necile he had given her.
But as it was a new toy he searched his mind for a new name to call it
by, and the first word he thought of he decided would do very well.

"It is called a dolly, my dear," he said to Bessie.

"I shall call the dolly my baby," returned Bessie, kissing it fondly;
"and I shall tend it and care for it just as Nurse cares for me.  Thank
you very much, Claus; your gift has made me happier than I have ever
been before!"

Then she rode away, hugging the toy in her arms, and Claus, seeing her
delight, thought he would make another dolly, better and more natural
than the first.

He brought more clay from the brook, and remembering that Bessie had
called the dolly her baby he resolved to form this one into a baby's
image.  That was no difficult task to the clever workman, and soon the
baby dolly was lying on the board and placed in the sun to dry.  Then,
with the clay that was left, he began to make an image of Bessie
Blithesome herself.

This was not so easy, for he found he could not make the silken robe of
the lord's daughter out of the common clay.  So he called the Fairies
to his aid, and asked them to bring him colored silks with which to
make a real dress for the clay image.  The Fairies set off at once on
their errand, and before nightfall they returned with a generous supply
of silks and laces and golden threads.

Claus now became impatient to complete his new dolly, and instead of
waiting for the next day's sun he placed the clay image upon his hearth
and covered it over with glowing coals.  By morning, when he drew the
dolly from the ashes, it had baked as hard as if it had lain a full day
in the hot sun.

Now our Claus became a dressmaker as well as a toymaker.  He cut the
lavender silk, and nearly sewed it into a beautiful gown that just
fitted the new dolly.  And he put a lace collar around its neck and
pink silk shoes on its feet.  The natural color of baked clay is a
light gray, but Claus painted the face to resemble the color of flesh,
and he gave the dolly Bessie's brown eyes and golden hair and rosy
cheeks.

It was really a beautiful thing to look upon, and sure to bring joy to
some childish heart.  While Claus was admiring it he heard a knock at
his door, and little Mayrie entered.  Her face was sad and her eyes red
with continued weeping.

"Why, what has grieved you, my dear?" asked Claus, taking the child in
his arms.

"I've--I've--bwoke my tat!" sobbed Mayrie.

"How?" he inquired, his eyes twinkling.

"I--I dwopped him, an' bwoke off him's tail; an'--an'--then I dwopped
him an' bwoke off him's ear!  An'--an' now him's all spoilt!"

Claus laughed.

"Never mind, Mayrie dear," he said.  "How would you like this new
dolly, instead of a cat?"

Mayrie looked at the silk-robed dolly and her eyes grew big with
astonishment.

"Oh, Tlaus!" she cried, clapping her small hands together with rapture;
"tan I have 'at boo'ful lady?"

"Do you like it?" he asked.

"I love it!" said she.  "It's better 'an tats!"

"Then take it, dear, and be careful not to break it."

Mayrie took the dolly with a joy that was almost reverent, and her face
dimpled with smiles as she started along the path toward home.



6.  The Wickedness of the Awgwas

I must now tell you something about the Awgwas, that terrible race of
creatures which caused our good Claus so much trouble and nearly
succeeded in robbing the children of the world of their earliest and
best friend.

I do not like to mention the Awgwas, but they are a part of this
history, and can not be ignored.  They were neither mortals nor
immortals, but stood midway between those classes of beings.  The
Awgwas were invisible to ordinary people, but not to immortals.  They
could pass swiftly through the air from one part of the world to
another, and had the power of influencing the minds of human beings to
do their wicked will.

They were of gigantic stature and had coarse, scowling countenances
which showed plainly their hatred of all mankind.  They possessed no
consciences whatever and delighted only in evil deeds.

Their homes were in rocky, mountainous places, from whence they sallied
forth to accomplish their wicked purposes.

The one of their number that could think of the most horrible deed for
them to do was always elected the King Awgwa, and all the race obeyed
his orders.  Sometimes these creatures lived to become a hundred years
old, but usually they fought so fiercely among themselves that many
were destroyed in combat, and when they died that was the end of them.
Mortals were powerless to harm them and the immortals shuddered when
the Awgwas were mentioned, and always avoided them.  So they flourished
for many years unopposed and accomplished much evil.

I am glad to assure you that these vile creatures have long since
perished and passed from earth; but in the days when Claus was making
his first toys they were a numerous and powerful tribe.

One of the principal sports of the Awgwas was to inspire angry passions
in the hearts of little children, so that they quarreled and fought
with one another.  They would tempt boys to eat of unripe fruit, and
then delight in the pain they suffered; they urged little girls to
disobey their parents, and then would laugh when the children were
punished.  I do not know what causes a child to be naughty in these
days, but when the Awgwas were on earth naughty children were usually
under their influence.

Now, when Claus began to make children happy he kept them out of the
power of the Awgwas; for children possessing such lovely playthings as
he gave them had no wish to obey the evil thoughts the Awgwas tried to
thrust into their minds.

Therefore, one year when the wicked tribe was to elect a new King, they
chose an Awgwa who proposed to destroy Claus and take him away from the
children.

"There are, as you know, fewer naughty children in the world since
Claus came to the Laughing Valley and began to make his toys," said the
new King, as he squatted upon a rock and looked around at the scowling
faces of his people.  "Why, Bessie Blithesome has not stamped her foot
once this month, nor has Mayrie's brother slapped his sister's face or
thrown the puppy into the rain-barrel.  Little Weekum took his bath
last night without screaming or struggling, because his mother had
promised he should take his toy cat to bed with him!  Such a condition
of affairs is awful for any Awgwa to think of, and the only way we can
direct the naughty actions of children is to take this person Claus
away from them."

"Good! good!" cried the big Awgwas, in a chorus, and they clapped their
hands to applaud the speech of the King.

"But what shall we do with him?" asked one of the creatures.

"I have a plan," replied the wicked King; and what his plan was you
will soon discover.

That night Claus went to bed feeling very happy, for he had completed
no less than four pretty toys during the day, and they were sure, he
thought, to make four little children happy.  But while he slept the
band of invisible Awgwas surrounded his bed, bound him with stout
cords, and then flew away with him to the middle of a dark forest in
far off Ethop, where they laid him down and left him.

When morning came Claus found himself thousands of miles from any human
being, a prisoner in the wild jungle of an unknown land.

From the limb of a tree above his head swayed a huge python, one of
those reptiles that are able to crush a man's bones in their coils.  A
few yards away crouched a savage panther, its glaring red eyes fixed
full on the helpless Claus.  One of those monstrous spotted spiders
whose sting is death crept stealthily toward him over the matted
leaves, which shriveled and turned black at its very touch.

But Claus had been reared in Burzee, and was not afraid.

"Come to me, ye Knooks of the Forest!" he cried, and gave the low,
peculiar whistle that the Knooks know.

The panther, which was about to spring upon its victim, turned and
slunk away.  The python swung itself into the tree and disappeared
among the leaves.  The spider stopped short in its advance and hid
beneath a rotting log.

Claus had no time to notice them, for he was surrounded by a band of
harsh-featured Knooks, more crooked and deformed in appearance than any
he had ever seen.

"Who are you that call on us?" demanded one, in a gruff voice.

"The friend of your brothers in Burzee," answered Claus.  "I have been
brought here by my enemies, the Awgwas, and left to perish miserably.
Yet now I implore your help to release me and to send me home again."

"Have you the sign?" asked another.

"Yes," said Claus.

They cut his bonds, and with his free arms he made the secret sign of
the Knooks.

Instantly they assisted him to stand upon his feet, and they brought
him food and drink to strengthen him.

"Our brothers of Burzee make queer friends," grumbled an ancient Knook
whose flowing beard was pure white.  "But he who knows our secret sign
and signal is entitled to our help, whoever he may be.  Close your
eyes, stranger, and we will conduct you to your home.  Where shall we
seek it?"

"'Tis in the Laughing Valley," answered Claus, shutting his eyes.

"There is but one Laughing Valley in the known world, so we can not go
astray," remarked the Knook.

As he spoke the sound of his voice seemed to die away, so Claus opened
his eyes to see what caused the change.  To his astonishment he found
himself seated on the bench by his own door, with the Laughing Valley
spread out before him.  That day he visited the Wood-Nymphs and related
his adventure to Queen Zurline and Necile.

"The Awgwas have become your enemies," said the lovely Queen,
thoughtfully; "so we must do all we can to protect you from their
power."

"It was cowardly to bind him while he slept," remarked Necile, with
indignation.

"The evil ones are ever cowardly," answered Zurline, "but our friend's
slumber shall not be disturbed again."

The Queen herself came to the dwelling of Claus that evening and placed
her Seal on every door and window, to keep out the Awgwas.  And under
the Seal of Queen Zurline was placed the Seal of the Fairies and the
Seal of the Ryls and the Seals of the Knooks, that the charm might
become more powerful.

And Claus carried his toys to the children again, and made many more of
the little ones happy.

You may guess how angry the King Awgwa and his fierce band were when it
was known to them that Claus had escaped from the Forest of Ethop.

They raged madly for a whole week, and then held another meeting among
the rocks.

"It is useless to carry him where the Knooks reign," said the King,
"for he has their protection.  So let us cast him into a cave of our
own mountains, where he will surely perish."

This was promptly agreed to, and the wicked band set out that night to
seize Claus.  But they found his dwelling guarded by the Seals of the
Immortals and were obliged to go away baffled and disappointed.

"Never mind," said the King; "he does not sleep always!"

Next day, as Claus traveled to the village across the plain, where he
intended to present a toy squirrel to a lame boy, he was suddenly set
upon by the Awgwas, who seized him and carried him away to the
mountains.

There they thrust him within a deep cavern and rolled many huge rocks
against the entrance to prevent his escape.

Deprived thus of light and food, and with little air to breathe, our
Claus was, indeed, in a pitiful plight.  But he spoke the mystic words
of the Fairies, which always command their friendly aid, and they came
to his rescue and transported him to the Laughing Valley in the
twinkling of an eye.

Thus the Awgwas discovered they might not destroy one who had earned
the friendship of the immortals; so the evil band sought other means of
keeping Claus from bringing happiness to children and so making them
obedient.

Whenever Claus set out to carry his toys to the little ones an Awgwa,
who had been set to watch his movements, sprang upon him and snatched
the toys from his grasp.  And the children were no more disappointed
than was Claus when he was obliged to return home disconsolate.  Still
he persevered, and made many toys for his little friends and started
with them for the villages.  And always the Awgwas robbed him as soon
as he had left the Valley.

They threw the stolen playthings into one of their lonely caverns, and
quite a heap of toys accumulated before Claus became discouraged and
gave up all attempts to leave the Valley.  Then children began coming
to him, since they found he did not go to them; but the wicked Awgwas
flew around them and caused their steps to stray and the paths to
become crooked, so never a little one could find a way into the
Laughing Valley.

Lonely days now fell upon Claus, for he was denied the pleasure of
bringing happiness to the children whom he had learned to love.  Yet he
bore up bravely, for he thought surely the time would come when the
Awgwas would abandon their evil designs to injure him.

He devoted all his hours to toy-making, and when one plaything had been
completed he stood it on a shelf he had built for that purpose.  When
the shelf became filled with rows of toys he made another one, and
filled that also.  So that in time he had many shelves filled with gay
and beautiful toys representing horses, dogs, cats, elephants, lambs,
rabbits and deer, as well as pretty dolls of all sizes and balls and
marbles of baked clay painted in gay colors.

Often, as he glanced at this array of childish treasures, the heart of
good old Claus became sad, so greatly did he long to carry the toys to
his children.  And at last, because he could bear it no longer, he
ventured to go to the great Ak, to whom he told the story of his
persecution by the Awgwas, and begged the Master Woodsman to assist him.



7.  The Great Battle Between Good and Evil

Ak listened gravely to the recital of Claus, stroking his beard the
while with the slow, graceful motion that betokened deep thought.  He
nodded approvingly when Claus told how the Knooks and Fairies had saved
him from death, and frowned when he heard how the Awgwas had stolen the
children's toys.  At last he said:

"From the beginning I have approved the work you are doing among the
children of men, and it annoys me that your good deeds should be
thwarted by the Awgwas.  We immortals have no connection whatever with
the evil creatures who have attacked you.  Always have we avoided them,
and they, in turn, have hitherto taken care not to cross our pathway.
But in this matter I find they have interfered with one of our friends,
and I will ask them to abandon their persecutions, as you are under our
protection."

Claus thanked the Master Woodsman most gratefully and returned to his
Valley, while Ak, who never delayed carrying out his promises, at once
traveled to the mountains of the Awgwas.

There, standing on the bare rocks, he called on the King and his people
to appear.

Instantly the place was filled with throngs of the scowling Awgwas, and
their King, perching himself on a point of rock, demanded fiercely:

"Who dares call on us?"

"It is I, the Master Woodsman of the World," responded Ak.

"Here are no forests for you to claim," cried the King, angrily.  "We
owe no allegiance to you, nor to any immortal!"

"That is true," replied Ak, calmly.  "Yet you have ventured to
interfere with the actions of Claus, who dwells in the Laughing Valley,
and is under our protection."

Many of the Awgwas began muttering at this speech, and their King
turned threateningly on the Master Woodsman.

"You are set to rule the forests, but the plains and the valleys are
ours!" he shouted.  "Keep to your own dark woods!  We will do as we
please with Claus."

"You shall not harm our friend in any way!" replied Ak.

"Shall we not?" asked the King, impudently.  "You will see!  Our powers
are vastly superior to those of mortals, and fully as great as those of
immortals."

"It is your conceit that misleads you!" said Ak, sternly.  "You are a
transient race, passing from life into nothingness.  We, who live
forever, pity but despise you.  On earth you are scorned by all, and in
Heaven you have no place!  Even the mortals, after their earth life,
enter another existence for all time, and so are your superiors.  How
then dare you, who are neither mortal nor immortal, refuse to obey my
wish?"

The Awgwas sprang to their feet with menacing gestures, but their King
motioned them back.

"Never before," he cried to Ak, while his voice trembled with rage,
"has an immortal declared himself the master of the Awgwas!  Never
shall an immortal venture to interfere with our actions again!  For we
will avenge your scornful words by killing your friend Claus within
three days.  Nor you, nor all the immortals can save him from our
wrath.  We defy your powers!  Begone, Master Woodsman of the World!  In
the country of the Awgwas you have no place."

"It is war!" declared Ak, with flashing eyes.

"It is war!" returned the King, savagely.  "In three days your friend
will be dead."

The Master turned away and came to his Forest of Burzee, where he
called a meeting of the immortals and told them of the defiance of the
Awgwas and their purpose to kill Claus within three days.

The little folk listened to him quietly.

"What shall we do?" asked Ak.

"These creatures are of no benefit to the world," said the Prince of
the Knooks; "we must destroy them."

"Their lives are devoted only to evil deeds," said the Prince of the
Ryls.  "We must destroy them."

"They have no conscience, and endeavor to make all mortals as bad as
themselves," said the Queen of the Fairies.  "We must destroy them."

"They have defied the great Ak, and threaten the life of our adopted
son," said beautiful Queen Zurline.  "We must destroy them."

The Master Woodsman smiled.

"You speak well," said he.  "These Awgwas we know to be a powerful
race, and they will fight desperately; yet the outcome is certain.  For
we who live can never die, even though conquered by our enemies, while
every Awgwa who is struck down is one foe the less to oppose us.
Prepare, then, for battle, and let us resolve to show no mercy to the
wicked!"

Thus arose that terrible war between the immortals and the spirits of
evil which is sung of in Fairyland to this very day.

The King Awgwa and his band determined to carry out the threat to
destroy Claus.  They now hated him for two reasons: he made children
happy and was a friend of the Master Woodsman.  But since Ak's visit
they had reason to fear the opposition of the immortals, and they
dreaded defeat.  So the King sent swift messengers to all parts of the
world to summon every evil creature to his aid.

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.



OLD AGE



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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