QUIRE KENSON, the richest man in
the village, came driving up to Nicholas'
cottage door one day, with a commission
to carve a new chest for his youngest
daughter, who was planning to be married.
Nicholas was attracted by the
sound of silver bells and reindeer's hoofs
on the snow; he looked out of his window
and saw the beautiful equipage the
Squire traveled about in,—a shiny, red
sleigh, drawn by two beautiful reindeer—Donder and Blitzen
they were called by the children of the village, because they
traveled so swiftly, like thunder and lightning. Nicholas
gazed at the two beautiful animals and thought how much
more rapidly they would carry him about on Christmas Eve
than his old horse, who was getting slower and slower as the
years went on.
Then Nicholas hastened to open the door for the Squire,
 who stated his errand briefly and gave directions about the
size of the chest and when he expected it to be finished. All
the while he was talking, the wood-carver was gazing admiringly
at the fine suit of red deerskin his visitor was wearing.
As he nodded and made notes of the instructions, his eyes
missed no detail of the Squire's outfit; the suit was made in
the fashion of the district—that is, the coat rather long and
belted at the waist, the trousers loose and caught in at the
calf by shining leather leggings. Soft, white ermine bound
the coat at the collar, the cuffs, and around the bottom;
the same beautiful fur was around the close-fitting red
After the Squire had finished his errand, and had driven
off, led by Donder and Blitzen's flying hoofs, Nicholas went
on with the task in hand, but with his mind on the beautiful red suit.
"There's no reason why I can't have one, too," he said
to himself. " I have all my winter supplies in and the
wood all paid for, and there is still a bag of gold coin that
I will never be able to spend. The Widow Arpen could well
make use of some of it, and they say that she is the cleverest
needlewoman in the village. I think I'll drive over
there tomorrow and see what can be done. I've gone
 around looking like a poor orphan instead of a well-to-do
wood-carver long enough."
So the next day Nicholas paid a visit to Widow Arpen's
"I want a fine red suit, Mistress Arpen," he stated.
"You know the one the Squire wears?" The woman
nodded. "Well, of course, I can't afford such fine, soft
deerskin; besides, there's no time to have all that skin dressed
and prepared; and I know very well I can't have mine
trimmed with real ermine. Now what could you suggest?"
The widow thought a moment. "Well," she said
finally, "we could get a good bolt of strong homespun from
the weaver, and I could dye it myself. I have had a won
derful red from stewing rowan berries. Then I'm sure we
could get enough pure white rabbit skins from Lief the
trapper to trim the neck and cuffs. It would make a fine suit,
and you'd look splendid in it, Nicholas."
Nicholas rose, well pleased with the plan for the work.
He took out of his pocket a handful of gold coins and laid
them on the table.
"There," he said, "I think that will take care of the
material and the labor."
"But—but, Nicholas, it's more than enough!" the
 widow exclaimed. "Why, half of this would keep my family
all through the winter."
"Then keep it, woman," smiled Nicholas. "You've
had a hard time since your good man died to keep your
little family warm and well fed. I have enough and to
spare, so let's not quibble over a few gold coins. I'll not
be the man to die with a chest of them found buried under
The widow stood at her door and watched Nicholas
drive away through the snow. "Eh, there's a fine man,"
she murmured, the gold pieces jingling through her fingers.
"A fine, big man."
So she bought the homespun, which she dyed a beautiful
bright red. And then a strange thing happened. She
had no pattern to go by, as Nicholas was wearing the only
tunic he owned, and could spare no time from his work to
have a fitting, so the widow cut and sewed the suit with the
image of a fine, big man constantly before her. Nicholas
was not a short man by any means, but he was rather thin,
and yet as Mistress Arpen planned and pieced the suit
together, she knew she was sewing for a fine, generous man,
and made the suit to fit Nicholas' heart instead of his body.
On the day the work was finished, and the last loving
 stitch had been placed in the soft rabbit trimming, Nicholas
arrived to try on his suit. He went into the widow's little
inner room, and came out a few minutes later—and what a
picture he made!
"I can't see it, Mistress Arpen," said Nicholas doubtfully,
"for that little piece of glass in your room shows only
a portion of me at a time. Yet it did seem to go on
rather—rather loosely," he finished tactfully, not wishing to hurt
The widow gave one look and burst into tears. "Oh,
Nicholas, I've spoiled your suit; I've spoiled it! I thought
you were bigger; whatever made me cut it so wide? Oh,
what shall I do?"
Trying to comfort the woman, Nicholas forgot his own
dismay at the size of his garments.
"There, we won't worry about it. Look, the length is
all right. It's only that I'm not as fat as I might be. Why
if I ate all the vegetables and meal the villagers send me,
I'll warrant in a few months' time you'd never notice the
extra cloth in this coat. And the trousers will be all right
as soon as I buy a pair of leggings to stuff them in. And
what a fine cap this is! See how close it fits, and how
warm-looking this fur band is!"
"I'M NOT AS FAT AS I MIGHT BE."
 So gradually he made the widow forget her disappointment,
and to reassure her that he really did not mind the
ludicrous figure he must make with his tall, gangly form
clothed in loose, baggy folds, he insisted on wearing it home,
and sat up high on the seat of his sleigh and seemed not to
notice the stares and nudges of the villagers.
When he arrived home, however, he sat down in the
huge suit and burst into loud laughter. "What a sight I'll
make going around like this for months to come! And yet
I'll have to wear it out; it would be sinful to waste
Then another funny thought struck him. He slapped
his knee and laughed again. "Perhaps I could even stuff
some of my toys into my suit. How the children would
laugh! But there's only one thing to be done. It's very
clear that I'm too thin for my height. I shall really have
to eat oatmeal in the morning instead of just a piece of
bread; and I must drink more milk, and cook some of those
vegetables that go to waste in the storeroom."
"I SHALL REALLY HAVE TO EAT OATMEAL IN THE MORNING."
So Nicholas kept his big red suit, and soon the villagers
became used to the tall figure in the bright red trousers and
tunic, the close-fitting stocking-cap trimmed with white fur,
and the shiny black leather belt and leggings. And what
 do you think happened after Nicholas had carefully eaten
vegetables and milk week after week? His face became full
and rosy, his chest filled out, his arms and legs grew more
muscular and rounded, and he even
began to acquire—whisper it—a belly!