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Title: Santa Claus' Message - A Christmas Story
Author: Tregaskis, E. Franklin
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 "Santa Claus' Message - A Christmas Story" ***

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produced from scans of public domain works at The National
Library of Australia.)


                             SANTA CLAUS’

                           A CHRISTMAS STORY


                         E. FRANKLIN TREGASKIS

                               AUTHOR OF
                         “BOYSIE IN THE BUSH,”
                        “SANTA CLAUS’ MESSAGE”


                        PRINTED BY T. J. HIGHAM

                          BLACKBURN, VICTORIA


                         Santa Claus’ Message:

                          A Christmas Story.

Twenty-foot was an almost deserted mining camp, and presented the
desolate appearance of such localities: A wide valley, honeycombed by
old workings, and strewn with debris. On one side stretched miles of
barren ranges, denuded of heavy trees, which had been felled to feed
the boilers and timber the underground workings when some of the quartz
reefs had been developed, after the alluvial gold had been won. These
also had petered out. On the other side of the valley were farms, for
here rich volcanic soil overlay the silurian formation. Consequently,
there was still a small population in the district, which accounted for
the survival of a place of worship, a State school, general store,
blacksmitreplace with shop, and, on a side road, a coffee palace.
There were only two men here now seeking gold, or fossicking, as it
is called. One was a relic of the sixties, known behind his back as
Bushranger Bill, or B.B., who, needless to say, had never followed that
occupation, and probably, had he visited the barber (who was also the
local blacksmith) more regularly, would never have been so designated.
The second fossicker was a man of different stamp. With his family,
he lived about a mile above the township, at the head of the gully,
in a comfortable, though small, cottage, surrounded by a garden. He
had brought his young wife here in the early seventies, just after
the volcanic land had been made available for selection, but too late
to secure a holding, and here he had remained, digging, with varying
results. When there was enough rain, he sluiced the old workings, and,
with the aid of one of the defunct companies’ dams, could win gold
during several months of the year. During the dry spells he sought old
tailings and headings among the abandoned holes, and had them carted
to the sluice boxes. It was a precarious existence (I use the word
purposely). Still, to him, the life presented a certain fascination,
and occasional “windfalls” lured him on.

At the time of which I write, funds were very low--in fact, there were
none. It had been a dry winter, the wash dirt put through was poor,
and only a portion had been treated, for Hampton had not been able to
sluice since August, and now, near the end of December, rain looked as
far off as ever. Troubles seldom come singly. The local storekeeper
had died recently, and his successor, who decided to run the business
on city lines, discouraged long credit. Formerly, the family had the
necessaries of life assured, for the old storekeeper knew that when
the dirt paid, his account had been squared; but this stranger had
intimated that unless a payment was forthcoming the account would be
closed. There were now three children. The eldest, about ten years, was
named Hope. Some of the schoolgirls, whose parents were in comfortable
circumstances, sometimes called her “The folorn Hope”--but this is
Christmas time; we will not recall slights nor unkindness now. The
other two were twins--Grace and Joy. The eldest child was robust and
dark, like her father; the twins were fair, and resembled the mother,
but had short golden curls, like spiral springs. They were about seven
years old.

It was within a few days of Christmas, and the parents were talking
over ways and means. “We must have some extra things for the children,”
the mother said. She had an anxious, but not unhappy, expression. Her
life for years had been one long struggle to make ends meet. There had
always been sufficient food, though of the plainest, sometimes even
making a meal of goareplace with milk and potatoes. At times, for days
their larder knew no butchereplace with meat, when her husband chanced
to shoot a rabbit or other game. It was providing clothes and shoes for
the children which was the great burden, so that she could send them
suitably clad to school. What had gone to her heart most was keeping
Hope, at times, from Sunday school, because of her shabby boots. How
often had she washed and ironed the childrereplace with clothes, and
mended their much-worn socks, after the little ones were asleep! Still,
through it all, she was not unhappy. “replace withe these miniatures of
my grandparents, in a gold frame. It could be sold for a good sum. Mr.
Stowman would buy it at any time. Leave that at the store for security,
and take the letter, too, stating its value. Mr. Douglas does not know
us yet.”

The husband pressed his hands over his face. His voice, though
strained, was gentle.

“I never expected to bring you to this, Jessie. We should have left
this life long ago, but those rich patches in the old workings drew me
on. This must end it. When there is water enough, and replace withe
cleaned up, replace withl take a position in Sydney.”

“replace withe been very happy here, more so than many of my companions
in the old life. I realise this when reading between the lines of their
letters,” replied the wife.

So the miniatures found their way into the Douglas safe, and the good
business man said, in his most oily manner: “Of course, we respect
your word, Mr. Hampton, and, looking over the old ledgers, I find you
have always paid up. Still, you woreplace with object to my getting
confirmation of Mr. Stowmareplace with letter? Business is business,
you know.”

B.B. had visited the “Corfie Palis,” as the sign announced it, a place
which much belied its name, for it did not resemble a palace in any
land. It was built of galvanised iron and stringy bark, and coffee was
never seen on the premises. There was a tradition that a traveller
could procure a cup of tea, if he waited long enough. They certainly
dispensed hop beer, and other liquid refreshment.

B.B. was on his way home (it was two days before Christmas), and sat
down to rest on an old red gum log on the hillside, which had proved
too tough to split, and too heavy to cart away. Many a camp fire
had been lighted against it, in years gone by. Now the bracken fern
provided, on one side, a soft bed, and some dogwood scrub, a shield. As
this looked inviting, B.B. sought repose.

It was now evening. The lingering rays of the sun streaming over the
western hills made even the score-lined gullies and unsightly mullock
heaps, with their undergrowth fringes of green, things of beauty. The
three children were seeking a stray goat, and chanced to sit on the
old log to rest. “We are going to have a lovely Christmas,” said Joy;
“roast beef and plum pudding, and almonds and raisins.”

B.B. thought he heard voices. He had heard and seen many strange things
in the bush, after drinking hop beer and other beverages at the coffee

“I think replace with rather do without them,” replied Hope, who was
sedate beyond her years. “Perhaps I should not tell you that mother
sold those pictures in the gold frame to buy us clothes and things.”

“Of course, pictures are very pretty,” assented Joy, “but something
nice to eat is much better; and they are real raisins, too, like mother
used to have in England--not the sort you put in puddings, but hanging
on stalks; and the almonds are a lot nicer than the nuts we get out of

“I wonder what Santa Claus will bring us this year?” said Grace.

“My socreplace with not very big,” remarked Joy; “replace with like to
hang up a sugar bag, only it would look greedy.”

Joy like da lot, poor child!

       *       *       *       *       *

Oh! you girls whose every wish has been granted, whose every fancy has
been gratified, have you any thought for your poorer sisters, whose
lives are so restricted, yet they are thankful for so little, and
through it all are good and happy? We hope so!

The children ran off, chasing each other round the deserted holes
and heaps. B.B. sat up and looked after them. Having worked as a
“hatter”[A] for so many years, he had contracted the habit of voicing
his thoughts. “Poor little beggars! And the old man is too proud to
take a fiver!” B.B. always had gold. He was still watching the children
fading in the distance, when he struck his hands together. “replace
withe got it! replace withl salt his claim. Hreplace withl never find
out its Bendigo gold. He doesreplace with know the game.”

[A] A gold digger who works by himself.

There is an unwritten law, strictly observed among the diggers, that
no man shall go down the shaft of another, without invitation; and to
do so at night during the “rushes” was carrying onreplace with life in
onreplace with hand; and B.B. was aware of this.

Just after midnight B.B., dressed in a diggereplace with woollen
jumper, which hung down to his knees, a woollen muffler right up to
his chin, and a felt hat, with a crown pushed up like a cone, appeared
about a quarter of a mile from Hamptoreplace with home. There was a
slight surface depression here, which seemed to indicate a “gutter”
below. Several holes had been sunk along it years before, without
payable results. B.B., who was an authority, had told Mr. Hampton that
he thought the old workings were not worth spending time on.

B.B. looked warily round, on emerging from the scrub, then cautiously
approached, and, after a casual glance at the windlass, seized the
rope and disappeared. The shaft was only about 18 feet deep. A drive
ran in for some distance from each end along the gutter. B.B. produced
a candle, and examined the workings, then drew a tin containing gold
dust from his pocket. He paused, again studied the strata and slate
underfoot, then tested it with a pick. Now, B.B. was a geologist--of
a sort. He had not learned the science by correspondence, but by
working on most of the alluvial fields in the “rush” days. The candle
burned down almost to the clay, as he hesitated. Then he remarked:
“False bottom, like the McIvor lead,” and returned the gold to his
pocket. Taking a length of broken board, he wrote on it with a piece
of pipe-clay, and drove the sharp end into the floor, at the entrance
to one of the drives, remarking: “If he gets nothing out of it,
replace withl salt his show later.” Although he could read print, B.B.
did not profess to be able to write--in fact, he used to sign for
his minereplace with right with a cross--so the spelling presented
difficulties, in particular the word “father.”

Although B.B. believed his nocturnal visit had been unobserved, he was
mistaken, for a small white-robed figure had been standing at a window,
looking toward the ranges, just made discernable by the rising moon.
She noticed someone emerge from the saplings, and approach the claim.
Hope neither spoke nor moved, but gazed, spell-bound. Yes, it was Santa
Claus! She could see the hoar frost sparkling all over him. (In the
dryest season, at that altitude, there is a heavy dew, so on every
minute hair of the diggereplace with clothes, and every hair of his
whiskers, glistened a particle of moisture.) Strange he should come a
night too soon, and not to the house, she thought, as B.B. disappeared
down the shaft. Her eyes never left the spot. Then, after what seemed a
long time, the figure reappeared, crossed the flat, and was enveloped
in the foliage. But, in the broad light of day, Hope was not quite sure
that the whole occurrence was not a dream, so, being a reserved child,
she held her peace.

During breakfast the father said: “replace withl not go to work to-day,
as there are several things about the place that require seeing to.
replace withl just bring home the tools and windlass rope.”

“Couldreplace with we get them for you?” enquired Hope.

“Be careful of the twins, then, and on your return you can help me with
the pudding,” said the mother.

“replace withl go down the shaft and put the tools in the bucket, one
at a time, and you two can wind them up. Mind you both doreplace with
let go the handles at the same time,” cautioned Hope.

Many a shaft had she descended, for, by swinging the rope from side to
side, she could reach the footholes made in either side of the shaft,
with her toes, but not without the aid of the rope. When her eyes
became accustomed to the subdued light, she saw the message:


So it was not a dream, after all. She was far from an excitable child,
but her heart beat faster, as she determined to test the value of the
message. She quickly ascended, and lowered the twins, and then set to
work, meanwhile telling her sisters of the visitor.

“Is that the way to spell it?” enquired Grace.

“We must not make remarks about kind friends,” admonished Hope. “Santa
Claus is very, very old, and perhaps they spelled that way when he was
a boy in the Reindeer country.”

“Of course,” agreed Joy. “Did you see the sledge and reindeer?”

“No; I think he must have left them on the back track,” she replied.

“Perhaps he got bogged. Pointereplace with father did last winter,” put
in Joy.

“Not this weather,” said Grace. “Besides, reindeers are very strong.
Think what big horns they have.”

“Well, I expect he just put on their nosebags, with moss in them, and
gave them a rest. replace with sure he is a kind man, for he loves
children, and I believe he put some gold here for us to buy things for
mother. Now you can tell that horrid Mabel that you have seen Santa
Claus. She said it was all made up.” This from Joy.

The slate floor was only a couple of inches in depth; then came some
rubble “headings.” These Hope put carefully aside. Then came the wash
dirt. She understood enough of the art to seek here for the gold, so,
taking a double handful, and spreading it on the notice board, she
examined it, in the lightest position, under the shaft. Joy was the
first to cry “nugget.” The children had often seen such when the father
had been “cleaning up” the sluice boxes. As they spread and re-spread
the wash, each particle of gold was deposited in a pannikin. Just as
the first lot of wash was being scraped into the bucket, a voice called
out: “Below, there! Are you stealing your fathereplace with gold?
replace with coming down.”

“We doreplace with want you! Go away!” shouted Hope. Then, putting the
pannikin in the hole she had dug, she whispered to the twins: “Go and
sit there, and doreplace with move for anything.”

“replace with not frightened of girls. replace with coming down,
anyway.” The speaker, Master Pierpoint, a boy of about twelve,
evidently led the simple life, judging by his apparel, which consisted
of a striped blue cotton shirt, rather small, cut-down moleskin pants,
much too large, and one hayband suspender.

“Now, Pointer, if you do replace withl hit you with this board, so

A body obstructed the light, then two bare legs appeared overhead. Hope
made two vigorous blows with the board. There was a yell, “Yoreplace
withe broken my little toe,” followed by several more yells as the legs
rapidly vanished. “You spiteful, black-eyed, turned-up-nose native cat!
Oh, my toe! replace withl get square with you, and you two grinning,
curley-headed little bandicoots.” Pointereplace with natural history
must have received a bump, also.

On landing, he took the peg out of the windlass, revolved the barrel,
so that the rope ran out and fell down the shaft. “Now you can stop
down there until you starve,” he yelled down to them, and limped away.

“replace withl tell father what he called us,” said Grace, who was
sensitive. “We careplace with help our hair being curly. And how are
we to get up, Hope? Daddy will come for us, and we must not tell
tales unless he asks us about the rope. Boys are all like that; they
careplace with help it.”

“replace with glad I woreplace with grow up into a boy; arereplace with
you, Grace?” said Joy, with fervor.

“While we are waiting for father we will pick out all the gold we can,”
said Hope.

So they set to work, unmindful of the passage of time.

“This is all our gold, because we found it,” said Hope; “and we will
give it all to mother, just as father does, except what we keep to
buy them presents. Now, each choose. Joy first, because she is the

It is remarkable the capital Joy made out of such a short period. She
never allowed anyone to overlook the fact.

“replace withl choose a new frying pan, because ours has a crack in it,
and, if I can have two ‘goes,’ a side of bacon.”

“replace withl buy a strip of carpet for mothereplace with bedside,
and two glass dishes to put jam in, instead of saucers,” said Grace.

“replace withl get her a piano to play on and teach us, and a silk
dress like Mrs. Browreplace with, only more rustley,” chose Hope. “And
Daddy, we will buy him a box full of old books; he likes the smellie
sort, without pictures in them.”

“I think we should buy him something nice to eat; chocolates and dates;
they smell so nice,” said Joy.

“No!” replied Hope, with decision; “men doreplace with care what they
have to eat as long as there is enough of it.” Joy heaved a sigh. “Glad
replace with not going to be a man. Will we be allowed to buy anything
for ourselves?”

“Certainly not! Nice people doreplace with buy themselves presents.”
Joy heaved another long-drawn sigh.

They were so engrossed in picking out small nuggets, from the size of
irregular peas to large pins’ heads, that their fathereplace with
voice, “Below there,” quite startled them. “Alreplace with well,”
replied Hope; “I could not climb up.”

“Your mother became anxious. Nice diggers yoreplace withl make, letting
your rope free,” he said, as he descended by the foot holes. “We have
a Christmas present for mother,” said Hope, “just feel the weight,” as
she held a half-filled pannikin toward him. At first he could not see
clearly in the subdued light, for the day was cloudy, and most of the
particles of gold were covered with clay. Still, a few shone brightly.
Then all the blood seemed to rush to his heart, then surge back again,
and throb at his temples. He leaned against the wall, and for a few
seconds gasped for breath and could not see clearly. Had the dreams of
years come true? Had success crowned his efforts at last? Still, he
said never a word.

Hope, aided by Joy, told the story. “And this is the board. Daddy,
with the writing on it.” He had not touched the pannikin, but examined
the board carefully; there was nothing visible. He produced a candle
and matches from a tin box; not a sign of a letter. At first, while
the children were speaking, he thought it might have been B.B., but
recollected that he could not write. No! It must have been a dream, and
that conclusion was adhered to.

“I think it was God sent him, because mother is so good,” said Grace,
who was devout.

“I believe He did,” replied the father, earnestly.

“Now, children, you must hurry home and help your mother.”

“Oh! do ‘wind’ us up,” requested Joy. It would have been much quicker
to have carried each up on his back, but he made a large loop at
one end of the rope, climbed up, and attached the other end to the
windlass. Then, Hope put Joy first--being the younger--into the loop,
tucked her clothes under her, and the father slowly ‘wound’ her up. As
he landed each twin, he looked into her eyes and said, “Daddreplace
with girl,” and each daddreplace with girl bored her curly head into
his chest, as evidence of her affection. Those two were doubly dear to
their parents; for some time previously when that scourge, diphtheria,
swept through the district, it carried their little brother in its
train, and for many anxious days the parents were afraid that the twins
would follow, and they were so like their mother. With the assistance
of the rope, Hope soon appeared.

“Now, not a word to your mother until dinner time. Come and call me,
and bring the barrow and two sugar bags for the wash dirt in the

Here in parentheses we state: (Although the false bottom ran for some
distance along the lead, the rest of the wash was scarcely worth
sluicing.) B.B. had unconsciously driven in the board just over a rich
pocket. Still there was gold enough to buy a grazing farm on the rich
volcanic land, and when the rains came in February and March, with
B.replace with. assistance, the accumulated wash was sluiced, and the
returns provided funds to purchase stock. B.B. would not accept wages,
but the lease of the dam was transferred to him, and he had the use of
the races and sluice boxes; but he would pay rent for the cottage, so
every fortnight he called at the farm, and placed two shillings on the
kitchen table.

The last time I heard from there, the family were living in comfort,
and B.B.--well, he was the same old B.B. Now we must return.

There was one member of this family who never forgot that Christmas
morning, who laid and watched the daylight break over the eastern
mountains, and listened to the magpies welcoming the coming day.
Gradually the sun appeared, his shading beams turning every dewdrop on
leaf and fern into a matchless gem. Even the unsightly “mullock” heaps
shared in the splendour, and reflected hues of purple and of gold as
if kind nature, forgiving mareplace with wantoness, were endeavouring
to “cover transgressions with love,” and as the children, in tune with
the Angelic Choir on this glad Christmas morning, chanted

    “Hark! the Herald Angels sing,
     Glad tidings of our New-Born King.”

it found an echo in each grateful heart, but with a sweeter melody in
the mothereplace with, as she realised that the struggle to provide for
her little brood was at an end. And I trust the reader and the writer
will hear that same glad song, and each heart will echo the message,

    “On earth peace, goodwill to men.”

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