OLLY was no longer little Holly; she
was a lovely slender young girl and led
a happy life, her childish terrors long
forgotten. She hummed a gay little carol
that Christmas morning, as she walked
along the road towards Nicholas' cottage,
her arms filled with the bright red berries
that bore her own name. She still
continued the practice of bringing flowers all
year round to her old friend, and every
Christmas Eve she would go into the Black Forest to gather
holly with which to decorate his cottage on Christmas
It was almost noon, and as she approached the house,
she noticed how silent and empty it looked without
Nicholas' head at the window, bent over his work, and with no
smoke coming from the chimney.
"Poor thing," thought the girl affectionately. "He's
 probably all tired out from his trip last night. I won't
waken him. I'll just go in and make his fire and put the
She stole silently into the cold little cottage, and soon
had a warm blaze crackling on the hearth. She cast an
anxious glance now and then towards the closed door that
led to Nicholas' bedroom; she was so afraid of disturbing his
slumber. But she heard no sound and busied herself
decking the walls and windows with gay branches. Then, with
one spray still in her hand, she looked around uncertainly,
and not finding another bare spot in the living-room, she
decided to bring it in to place beside Nicholas, so the branch of
holly would be the first thing he'd see when he opened his eyes.
She opened the door quietly and stole over to the bed.
"Why, the darling was so tired he fell asleep with his
clothes on," she murmured tenderly.
For the fat round figure lay there, still dressed in the
bright red suit with the white fur and the shiny black
leggings and close-fitting stocking cap.
"Here's your holly," whispered the girl, bending over
Nicholas. Then, with a startled exclamation, she dropped
the blood-red blossoms all over the still figure and sprang
 "Nicholas, Nicholas!" she screamed. "Oh, he's dead!
She ran bareheaded out into the snow, stumbled blindly
down the road into the village, and with tears streaming
down her face, called loudly for the townsfolk.
They gathered in little groups to listen to her story.
The women murmured in broken tones, between sobs,
"He's dead!" and clasped their wondering little children
closer, as if to comfort them for the loss of their dearest
friend. The men looked down to the ground and up at the
sky and every place but into each other's eyes, for no man
wanted to see the tears that stood there. "Yes, he's dead,"
they all sighed deeply. "Who's dead, Mother? Is it
Nicholas?" asked the children. "Won't he come to us
any more on Christmas Eve?"
And the parents had to turn away from the wide
childish eyes because they didn't want to say to them that
awful sentence, "Yes, Nicholas is dead."
The bells tolled, and the village was in darkness
Christmas night. Vixen and his brothers whimpered in their
stalls, and the holly glowed red over a still loving heart in a