|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 |
OLVIG was one of those timid little
a girls who hated to go to bed, not just because
it was bedtime, but because it was
so dark in her little room after the cheery
living room of her parents' cottage. She
would shriek with fear when a tiny mouse
ran across her path, and she would walk
miles to avoid going by the village pasture,
where terrifyingly big yet gentle
cows were grazing. She was a somewhat
lonely little girl, too, because certain of the big boys in the
village, after discovering how timid she was, used to tease her
by making sudden noises behind her back or by jumping at
her from dark corners. So most of the time she played by
herself or with the smaller children of the neighborhood.
Her father used to grow impatient with his daughter.
"What is to become of her?" he would ask his wife.
"Why, she's afraid of almost every living thing and makes
 up a few extra ghosts and hobgoblins from the other world
as well. I'm really worried. Sometimes I think the child
must be daft."
"That she's not," returned his wife warmly. "Holly
has a good sound little head on her shoulders, and it's only
this streak of timidity that makes her seem different from
other children. Some day something will happen that will
make her forget her fears; I feel sure of it. She's such a
good, affectionate child, she'd do anything for someone she
loved, even if it took the last ounce of her courage."
"Well, perhaps you're right," answered her husband,
"but I hate to see her going on like this. It isn't natural for
a child her age to go about alone all the time."
"As long as Holly has her flowers, she'll never be alone,"
said the mother. "She has such a way with them, our garden
is the loveliest in the village, even for the short summer
"Flowers!" exclaimed the big man in disgust. "We have
them in the yard in the summer, and then she putters over
those flower pots all winter in the house. Silliness, I call it!"
He stamped impatiently out of the cottage and left his
wife smiling half-sadly at a little window-box of the "silly"
 Holly's love for flowers and the luck she had in raising
them in the harsh northern climate were really remarkable.
As her mother had said, the little yard around the cottage
was lovely all through the summer with flowers of every hue.
Then, when the first sharp frost of the autumn was felt in
the air, Holvig tenderly transplanted into boxes and jars
those of the flowers and plants which would keep in the
house, and carefully gathered seeds from the others for the
Of course, like all the other children of the village,
Holvig hung her stocking on the door every Christmas Eve and
every Christmas morning discovered the same lovely gifts
and sweets. Being an affectionate child, she became
passionately devoted to good old Nicholas, an affection second
only to her love for her flowers. But, unlike the other
children in the village, she couldn't take for granted the
open-handed generosity of the wood-carver. She wanted to
express in some way her gratitude and appreciation that
someone did not think her queer and odd because she didn't
run about with the other children.
But what could she do? She thought and thought, and
finally hit upon something which might please Nicholas.
She would give him something that gave her more pleasure
 than anything else in the world: she would share her flowers
with him. She always had enough; in the summer the
garden was a riot of color, and in the winter she usually
had such a careful way of handling her plants, that there
were always some in blossom.
So, thoroughly pleased with her idea, the little girl
selected a small bouquet of bright blossoms from her
window-boxes, for it was now winter, and bundled herself up
in her cloak and cap and started for Nicholas' cottage.
"I'm glad he lives at the edge of the wood," Holvig
thought to herself, as she trudged along the road through
the deep snow. "I don't think I'd ever get to see him if he
lived way in the wood. I never could bear to go that far
from the village."
As she approached the wood-carver's cottage, she was
wondering what would be the best way of presenting her
"I'd like so much to see him and talk to him," she said
to herself. "I'm sure he doesn't know me, for they say he's
getting so old now he doesn't remember all the children in
the village, but just fills a stocking wherever he sees one.
But I think it would be more fun just to leave the flowers
outside the door, the way he leaves his gifts. That's
 what I'll do," she decided, and skipped along until she
reached the gateway to the cottage. She stole silently
across the yard, and was just about to leave her posies on
the doorstep when she was startled by a loud crash from the
near-by stable. Her heart almost stopped beating, then
raced and pounded with fear as she saw a big animal rushing
right towards her. She was too terrified to move; her feet
remained rooted in the snow; her icy hands held desperately
to the little bouquet of flowers. The awful thing made his
way straight to her; she shut her eyes and thought wildly,
"I'm going to die. He'll surely kill me." A moment which
seemed like a year passed, while she waited silently for death,
and then finding herself still alive and not hearing a sound
from the wild beast, she slowly opened her eyes and stared
straight into a pair of beautiful soft brown ones, which were
gazing at her with mild curiosity.
"Oh, it's a reindeer," she said to herself, losing a little
of her fear. "It must belong to Nicholas, only it might be
dangerous, just the same."
She was still too frightened to move, and finally the
reindeer, growing tired of standing still, came nearer and
nearer, until his nose touched the little bouquet. He opened
his mouth and nibbled a posy. He seemed to like the taste
 of it, for he started to nibble another. Holvig, too
astonished to save the first flower, awoke from her frightened
trance when she saw her whole bouquet in danger of being
devoured. She flew into a rage. She snatched her flowers
away from the deer's mouth and held them behind her back
with one hand, while with the other she pushed the surprised
head away from her and started to deal sharp rapid blows
on his shoulders and back. The reindeer stood his ground
for a moment, then turned and fled, followed closely by
Holvig, who was still so angry she supposed she could catch
the fleet-footed animal.
Suddenly she heard a voice behind her. "Here, here;
what are you doing to my Vixen? You're frightening him!"
Holvig turned and saw Nicholas standing in the doorway,
fat and rosy, his white hair standing like a halo around
"I frightened him!" gasped Holly. "I frightened something?"
"Yes, of course you did," said Nicholas. "Don't you
know deer are timid creatures and you shouldn't chase
"But he was eating your bouquet, and I became angry,
and—do you really mean to say he was frightened of me?"
 Nicholas laughed a little impatiently. "Yes. My
goodness, child, why do you keep saying that? Didn't you think
you could frighten an animal like that?"
"No," stated Holvig in a wondering tone. "I never
scared anybody in my life. Somebody's always frightening
me, you know."
Nicholas looked gravely down into the solemn little face.
"Come into my work-room and talk awhile," he said quietly.
"I think we shall have to get acquainted."
Then, after they were comfortably installed in the cheery
little room and Holvig had been given a bowl of warm
milk, Nicholas continued, "What is your name, my
"Holvig is my real name, but everyone calls me Holly,"
the little girl answered. "Oh, I almost forgot!" she
exclaimed, and she dashed out in the yard again and returned
in a few seconds bearing a somewhat bedraggled bunch of
"They look terrible now," she said sadly. "You see,
that Vixen ate some of them, and then I dropped them in
the snow when I started to chase him; but I guess there's
enough left, if you'd like them. I brought them for you,"
she finished shyly.
 Nicholas was so pleased by this offering, that he wanted
to know all about Holly's garden, and her winter plants, and
her house, and her parents, and everything. So gradually
the story came out, and the kind-hearted old wood-carver
soon had a good picture of the kind of life the little girl
had led,—timid, always shrinking away from something,
never quite happy unless she was alone among her
"Why, I'd never think you were a timid little girl," he
said encouragingly. "I think you did a very brave thing
to save my bouquet."
"Oh, do you?" asked Holly eagerly. " I was really
afraid at first," she confessed truthfully.
"Yes, perhaps you were, Holly. But to do something
you think is dangerous when you're really afraid is more
courageous than if you didn't feel any fear at all. Always
remember that, my dear," he said kindly, laying a hand
on the yellow curls.
"Yes, Nicholas, I will," promised the child solemnly,
"and I'll bring you some more flowers next week."
Then Holly said good-by and left the cottage. As she
crossed the yard, she noticed Vixen poking his head at
her from behind a tree. Her heart skipped a little, but
 she shut her lips together firmly, and walked over to the
"Boo! " said Holly to Vixen.
And Vixen turned and ran for deer life.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics