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
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
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
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
"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
"Perhaps I could ride upon your back," Claus ventured to remark, after
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
"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
"And will you permit them to make another journey with me?" asked
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
"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,
"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
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.
next part:OLD AGE