|The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus|
|by Amelia C. Houghton|
|Draw close to the fire, all you who believe in the spirit of Christmas, whether you call it Santa Claus, or simply good will to men; and listen to the story of Nicholas the Wandering Orphan who became Nicholas the Wood-carver, a lover of little children. Follow him through his first years as a lonely little boy, who had the knack of carving playthings for children; then as a young man, busy over the little toys; then as a prosperous, fat, rosy old man, who overcomes all sorts of difficulties in order to attain his ambition, a toy for every child in the village. Learn how he started to drive a beautiful sleigh drawn by prancing reindeer; why he first came down a chimney; how he filled the first stocking; where the first Christmas tree was decorated; and finally how he came to be known as Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus. Ages 6-10 |
FTEN after that, Holly brought a
bouquet of her flowers to Nicholas, and she
and the wood-carver soon became very
good friends. Nicholas would sit at his
bench and work at his little toys, and
Holly would sit on a stool at his feet
and talk and talk. Without the little girl's
suspecting it, her old friend would lead her
to tell him of her fears, and she discovered
that talking about them here in this cosy
little room made them seem somehow less important.
"Did a mouse ever sit still and look at you?" asked
"Oh, no," said little Holly terrified. "I'd die if he did
"Well now, why do you suppose he runs when he sees
you? Does he ever run at you?" pursued the old man, with
a twinkle in his bright blue eyes.
 "No, he always runs the other way," said Holly.
"Now I wonder why he does that," remarked Nicholas.
Holly laughed,—a somewhat ashamed little laugh.
"I suppose he's afraid of me," she said slowly, discovering
a new idea.
"Exactly," said wise old Nicholas.
Another time he said in a conversational tone, "Now
take rabbits, for instance. Are you afraid of rabbits,
"Oh, no," answered the little girl proudly. "That's
one thing I know to be even more timid than I am. Why,
they'd even run at my shadow!"
"That's true; they are fearful little creatures," said
Nicholas. Then he continued, "Did you ever see where
rabbits live, Holly?"
"Yes, they go down into little holes in the ground, don't
"Mmmm," answered Nicholas, seeming to be busy
examining a little doll's face he was carving. "They must
be terribly dark, those little holes, don't you think so,
Holly?" The little girl nodded her head. "And yet those
little animals you think are so timid go way down there to
bed every night and probably don't think anything of it."
 Holly's forehead wrinkled. "I see what you mean,
Nicholas. But if my room were really as dark as a rabbit's
hole, maybe I wouldn't mind; but you see, it's only half dark,
and the chairs and tables look so terrible in the dim light
that comes through the window. I sometimes think they
Nicholas put down his toy and turned a surprised face
towards the little girl. "Goblins!" he exclaimed. "Now
here am I well past sixty years old, and I never heard of
goblins. What are they, Holly?" he asked in an interested tone.
Holly looked confused, then a doubtful expression
crept into her voice. "Why, I don't exactly know," she
confessed. "But I've always heard of them," she ended
"You little silly," laughed Nicholas tenderly, drawing
the child up on his knee. "Now, you listen to me,
Holly," he went on seriously. "We're friends, aren't
The little girl smiled lovingly at the kind, rosy face so
close to hers and nodded her head vigorously.
"And you believe I wouldn't tell you something that
wasn't true, don't you?"
 Holly nodded again.
"Well, I'm going to tell you something. There aren't
any goblins, and there aren't any bogie-men, and there
aren't any terrible creatures who just run around trying to
harm little children. If you're a good girl, and say your
prayers before you go to bed every night, nothing can harm
you. Do you hear me? Nothing."
Holly looked very much impressed.
"It'll be hard at first," she said. "But if I think I see
a goblin in my room, I'll just say to him, 'Nicholas says you
just aren't, you old goblin!' "
They both laughed, and Nicholas hugged the little girl
and told her it was time to run home to her supper.
The winter months passed this way, and when spring
arrived, just when it was time for planting, Holly fell sick.
All through the short summer weeks, she lay on her bed,
weakened by a fever, recognizing no one, not even her
beloved Nicholas. He brought flowers to her, hoping that
they might bring back the wandering little mind, but she
only pushed them away and went on with her delirious
ravings of big black giants and horrible goblins. For with
her illness, all her almost-forgotten fears had returned, and
with a heavy heart, Nicholas realized that all their friendly
 little talks during the winter had been completely wiped from
She gradually recovered. The fever left her the same
pale timid little girl she had been when she had first brought
a bouquet to Nicholas' door. She trembled in her dark
little room and, during the day, sat at the window and
stared dejectedly out at the bare, cold little yard, where
there were no flowers. It was winter again, but this year
the interior of her cottage was just as bare of blossoms
as the garden, because there had been no flower-growing
during her illness.
Holly was more heavy-hearted than she had ever been
during her entire life. Everything seemed black to her.
Her nights were terror-filled in spite of all Nicholas had told
her; but more than anything else she worried because she
had no flowers. For long months to come, she would have
nothing to bring to Nicholas,—nothing for her kind old
friend, who had tried to do so much for her. She pressed
her thin little face against the window pane and looked with
tear-filled eyes out into her bleak front yard.
Two boys were passing the gate and paused to wave
kindly at her. Holly waved back and wiped her eyes.
She pushed open the casement a little and called out,
 "What's that green stuff you have under your arm,
The boys came over to the window. Karl held up an
armful of beautiful branches,—lovely little warm red
berries scattered among shiny pointed green leaves.
"Why, it's beautiful!" exclaimed Holly, clasping her
hands, and her dull eyes beginning to sparkle a little.
"What is it? Where did you get it, Karl?"
"We got it in the woods,—way back in the part they
call the Black Forest. It grows like this, right in the middle
of the winter. I don't know what the name of it is."
"Oh, it's pretty," said Holly again. "But—but—did
you say the Black Forest?"
"Yes," answered Karl, "and it's black all right. The
sun hardly ever gets through those trees, and if you get lost
there, I guess you'd stay lost."
"Yes, sir," added the other boy. "I wouldn't go there
alone, I can tell you. Well, come on, Karl. We've got to
The two boys went on their way, leaving Holly with
the picture of the bright red berries and shiny green leaves
still in her mind. How Nicholas would love that cheery
little plant! The warm little berries somehow reminded her
 of him, so bright and rosy. But the Black Forest! She
"There must be all kinds of terrible things in that
place," she thought. " Wild animals and strange noises,
and maybe, behind the trees,—goblins!"
She shook a little; then, suddenly, she had a mental
picture of herself in Nicholas' cottage, saying, "I'll just look
at him and say, 'Goblin, Nicholas says you just aren't!' "
Holly buried her tortured little face in her hands. "Oh,
if I only dared to do it," she almost sobbed. " He says to
do a thing when you are really afraid is braver than if you
felt no fear at all. But that's a horrible place; even the
boys are afraid to go there alone. But I haven't any
flowers for him! And he's so kind to us children, and spring
is so far away!"
So she sat there for a long time, her mind turning from
one decision to the other. "I've got to do it, to show him.
No, I can't, I can't! Something terrible would happen to
me. But he said nothing could harm a good child, and I've
tried to be good. It's a bright day; maybe there would be
some sun in the forest. If I hurried and found the berries
quickly, maybe I could be back again before nightfall.
I—think—I'm going to do it!"
 And she almost ran for her cloak, before she had a
chance to change her mind, and before her mother returned
from the village.
Nicholas looked up from his work and saw a little
figure flying along the road, right past his cottage and into
"That looked like Holly," he thought startled. "No,
it can't be. She's not well yet,—besides," he shook his
head sadly, "the poor little thing would be too terrified
to go into the woods. It must be some other village
An hour later, however, he was interrupted in his work
by a frantic woman. It was Holly's mother. "Oh, I thought
she was here," the woman said distracted. "When I
came home and found her gone, I was angry that she had
gone out while she was still so weak, but I was sure I'd
find her with you. Oh, where has she gone? She's lost!
And it's beginning to storm!"
Nicholas was rapidly pulling on his bright red coat and
fur-trimmed cap. "I'll find her, don't you worry." He
looked out at the gray afternoon sky, filled with
leaden-colored clouds. Already the air was filled with millions
of snowflakes, scurrying and tumbling in every direction,
 and striking fear in the heart of the man and woman
who knew there was a little girl out somewhere in the
"I know where to look," said Nicholas. "I'll take
the small sled and Vixen; he's the best one for narrow
passing, and he's sure-footed over rocks and steep places. You
sit down here and get comfortable, and I'll have your Holly
here before the snow covers my front walk."
So the round little figure bustled about, energetic and
sound in spite of his sixty-odd years, and in a few moments
was lost in the wild flurry of snow.
Holly, meanwhile, had found the red berries with the
shiny green leaves, and her joy on seeing the cheerful little
plant almost chased away the thoughts of what awful things
might be lurking behind the huge tree trunks or hiding on
the boughs waiting to spring down at her. She gathered
a large armful of the plants, and then started back again,
her heart beginning to pound once more as the light inside
the forest grew dimmer and dimmer.
THE LIGHT INSIDE THE FOREST GREW DIMMER AND DIMMER.
"I can't understand it," she murmured, her knees
trembling as she tried to find the narrow path. "It can't
be any later than three o'clock and the sun was quite bright
when I came in here. Oh!" she finished in a terrified tone,
 as she felt the cold touch of a snowflake on her cheek, then
another, then another. " I don't mind the snow so much,"
she continued as she hurried along in the dim light. "The
trees grow so thick I don't think there would be enough
snow to block my way, but it's getting darker and darker."
She started to run now, as the snow whirled in white
mists around her, wrapping the trees in its ghostly mantle
and making little white spirits out of low bushes and shrubs.
The wind whistled through the branches and moaned high
up in the tree-tops; it caught at Holly's cloak and whirled
it around her head. In her terrified fancy, it seemed that
some ghostly hand was plucking at her and trying to keep
her in this terrible place.
She began to run, her arms clutching her bundle of
berries, her head bent to breast the storm, her feet tripping
over rocks and stumps hidden in the snow. She breathed
heavily; in spite of the biting wind, she felt her head grow
hotter and hotter; her heart was pounding so hard she
thought it would burst through her ribs.
"I can't see anything," she sobbed. "It's getting
darker and darker; I can't lift my feet; the trees are falling
on me. OH!" she shrieked aloud as her terrified eyes saw
a huge form looming at her through the clouds of snow.
 She closed her eyes and fell face down in front of Nicholas
When she next opened her eyes, she was in the
wood-carver's cottage. Her mother was holding her in her arms;
Nicholas' kind face was bent over her.
"Where are my flowers?" was her first question. "I
went in the Black Forest alone to get them for you. Where
Nicholas put the red berries in her arms. "Here
they are, dear. Did you bring them to me?"
"Yes, Nicholas. And I was afraid; but I never will be
again. I know that now."
Nicholas wiped his eyes. "You shouldn't have gone
so soon after you were sick. But I love the little blossom.
What is its name?"
"I don't know, but I liked it because it reminded me of
you; it's so round and red and shiny," said the little girl with
a mischievous laugh.
"That's funny," answered Nicholas, "it reminded me of
you, somewhat. It's so brave and gay growing out there
in the darkness and the cold, and the little berries have the
blood-red of courage in them. So I think I'll christen your
little flower. From now on we'll call it `Holly.'"
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