the first part of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
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
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."
"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
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
"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
"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.
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
"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
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
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 encirle 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
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:
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.