ICHOLAS did not leave the wood-carver
on Christmas Day, or the next year, or
the next. He stayed on in the little
cottage, which was now bright and clean,
and a happy dwelling for two happy
people. For old Marsden had forgotten
his grouch in the daily association with
Nicholas' sunny disposition; he cheerfully
taught Nicholas all he knew of his
difficult trade, so that as the boy grew
in years and strength, his knowledge of wood-carving
soon matched that of his old master. Marsden bought
a horse and sleigh for the trips outside of town, which
were also used by Nicholas on his Christmas Eve visits
to the children in the village. For although the little
ones he had played with had grown up and stopped
playing with toys, there were new babies in every household
every year, and each one was taught to expect
 from Nicholas, the wood-carver, a little toy on Christmas
One bright summer morning, Nicholas was sitting on a
bench outside the cottage door, carving away at a half-finished
chair leg and whistling cheerfully as he worked. He was
then twenty years old, a tall young man, the yellow hair a
little darker, but with the same blue eyes, rosy cheeks, and
ready smile. He stopped his work to listen to the birds
singing in the trees overhead and to enjoy the warm sunlight
shining down on him. Suddenly two children ran up
the path leading to the cottage door, bursting with news.
"Nicholas," one of them panted, "Nicholas, there are
two men in the village who have been asking where old
Marsden lives. They are on their way here now. Who
do you suppose they are? They said . . ."
"Hush," said the other child, "here they are now."
Two men, about ten or fifteen years older than Nicholas,
were coming slowly up the path. They seemed surprised
to see him working at the bench, and one of them spoke.
"Excuse me, but they told us in the village that we
would find Bertran Marsden here. If we have made a mistake, . . ."
"No," answered Nicholas, "this is Bertran Marsden's
 cottage. I am only his apprentice. I'll call him. He has
a nap every afternoon now. You see, he's getting rather
The two men looked at each other with shamed eyes.
"Yes, he must be old now. Don't disturb him. We'll
"No, here he is now," said Nicholas.
Marsden had appeared in the doorway and was looking
from one to the other with puzzled eyes.
One of the men stepped forward. "Father," he
"Father!" Marsden tottered a little; Nicholas put out
a steadying arm.
"Yes, don't you remember us, Father? I am Henrik
and this is Lons. We left you years ago, but we finally
made our fortune and are ready to take you home."
"Take me home!" Old Marsden straightened himself.
"This is my home, and you are two strange men to me."
"No, Father," answered Lons. "We are your two sons.
We are sorry we left you alone years ago, but boys are
thoughtless, and we wanted only the adventure and didn't
think how much we might be hurting you. If you'll forgive
us now, . . ."
 The old man looked at his two sons for a long moment.
"Yes, of course I'll forgive you. If you had come back
a few years ago, I couldn't have done it. I have found
another son. This is Nicholas, who lives with me, and who
does most of my work now."
The sons looked at Nicholas, then back at their father
again, uncertain how to go on. Finally Henrik spoke.
"We've just bought a house in the next village, Father.
Lons and I have a fishing boat there, and we're doing well.
We want you to come there and live with us. We want to
make up to you for the years we were away."
Marsden shook his head. "No, my lads; I have my
little cottage here, and Nicholas helps me with my work.
I don't need anything, and I couldn't live without working."
Lons answered quickly. "But you could go on working
in our village, Father. There's no wood-carver there,
and if you insist, there are many people who would give you
something to do. We so want to have you; we've been
planning all through our travels how, when we came home
again, we'd take care of you and live with you and make you
forget that we were ever heedless boys who ran away for
an adventure. And Nicholas here,—why, he could easily
take over the business in this village, if he's as good as you
 say. He's young, and probably ambitious; why don't you
give him a chance, Father?"
None of the arguments seemed to make much impression
on the old man until the end; then he listened attentively
and paused a while before he spoke.
"Yes," he said slowly. "Nicholas deserves something
like this. He could do it easily. He's a bright lad . . ."
Nicholas interrupted. "Don't think of me, master.
If you don't want to go with them, we'll go on living here
together just the same as before. I don't want to take your
"There, lad," said Marsden, laying a hand on Nicholas'
shoulder, " I don't want to leave you either, but you're
young, and youth should be given a chance. Besides,"
he paused, and looked at the two tall men standing before
him, as anxious and nervous as boys, their eyes pleading
silently with their father, " besides, these are my own
sons, and I think they need me as much as I need
Henrik and Lons sprang over to the old man's side.
"Father, does it mean you will . . ."
Marsden nodded his head, grown almost white in the
last few years. " Yes, I'll just move along to the next
vil-  lage with you, my sons, and I'll leave this cottage and my
tools with my other son, Nicholas."
He put a loving hand on Nicholas' shoulder, and then
the four went inside the house to discuss how and when the
move would be made.
A week later, Nicholas found himself the owner of a
two-room cottage, a perfect set of wood-carver's tools, and
a well-established business which should keep him housed,
fed, and clothed for life. At first he was lonely in the little
cottage after Marsden had left with his sons, but he soon
became interested in his work, which kept him so busy he
had no time to feel alone. Then, too, there was almost
always a child or two chatting to him or playing with
its toys on the cottage floor.
Nicholas divided his day now so that he spent only
part of his time on the orders he received; the rest of the
day and most of the evenings he worked on toys for the next
Christmas; for he now had such a long list of children
it took months to complete the set of gifts he had to make.
He continued his practice, established the year he had
to deliver the chest on Christmas Day, of making his rounds
on Christmas Eve; and one year, he was considerably surprised
and touched to see that the children had hung
 on their doors little embroidered bags filled with oats for his
horse. So now, instead of leaving the toys piled up in the
doorway, he put them in the little bags.
So it was a busy, happy existence that Nicholas led in
the little wood-carver's cottage on the outskirts of the village,
and as he grew older, the sound of children's voices
lifted in their play became dearer and dearer to him; and
the children, in their turn, loved to be near the tall, kind man
with the light-colored beard whom everybody called Nicholas, the wood-carver.