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OU'D never recognize the wood-carver's
cottage now as the peaceful little dwelling
it once had been. In order to shelter
his eight reindeer, Nicholas had to build
an extra shed which was almost as large
as the cottage itself. All would be well if
the animals stayed where they belonged,
but Vixen seemed to take delight in
butting his head against the door of his
stall so that Nicholas had to rebuild it
three times. He would hear a loud crash and look up from
his work with a sigh. "I suppose that's Vixen again. Now
if he were only as quiet and gentle as his brothers—well,
I don't suppose I'd like him as well," he concluded with a
rueful shake of his head.
The little reindeer returned his master's affection, but
chose the most noisy means of expressing it. He wanted to
be as close to Nicholas as possible and would break down
 one partition after another, in order that he might finally
caper up to the door of his cottage and leap around delightedly
until his friend noticed him.
Nicholas tried to be severe. "Now, this time, you'll
be punished. I have too much work to do to bother
chasing you around." And he would make a mad dash after the
young imp, who only treated it as a game and retreated
quickly behind a neighboring tree, poking his head drolly
around the trunk and almost laughing with glee at Nicholas'
fat form panting for breath as he tried to catch him.
Then Nicholas would try coaxing. "There now, be a
good little reindeer. If you don't behave, I won't take you
out with me on Christmas Eve, and you know we all want
to have a fine showing. There's that secret I told you
about, in the shed." He finally reached Vixen's side, and
placing his arm lovingly around his neck, talked gently
and soothingly to the little animal, who looked with soft,
delighted eyes at his master.
And Nicholas would lead him back to his stall and return
to his work satisfied that once more he had quelled this
young rebel. He had no trouble at all with the old deer,
Donder and Blitzen; and Prancer, Dasher, Dancer, Cupid,
and Comet were gentle creatures who patiently endured all
 the nips on the ear which was Vixen's way of teasing his
more settled brothers.
Nicholas was completing plans for a Christmas Eve
grander than any he had ever had. He worked day and
night to finish his toy-making; he made a final inspection
of the mysterious object in the wood-shed; he scrubbed
and curried his reindeer until their hides were sleek and shining.
Finally the great night arrived. Nicholas made many
trips back and forth to the wood-shed, his arms laden with
bright little dolls, houses, boats, and animals. After three
hours of preparation, everything seemed to be ready. It
was almost midnight. Nicholas opened the stall where his
reindeer were waiting and led them out into the yard.
"Donder and Blitzen at the head," he said, "then
Dasher and Dancer, because they're the next strongest, and
then Comet and Cupid; and then Prancer and—why
The other deer looked resignedly at their master and
settled down to wait. You might know Vixen would be up
to something at such an important time!
Nicholas dashed madly in and out of the stable, calling,
"Vixen! Vixen! you young imp, where are you? If I
catch you, I'll . . ."
 Suddenly there was an answering whimper from somewhere
over his head. He looked up; Donder and Blitzen
looked up at their bad child; Prancer, Dasher, Dancer,
Cupid, and Comet looked up at their mischievous young
brother, who was perched on the roof of the cottage, playfully
butting the chimney with his horns.
"You bad reindeer! How did you get up there? Oh,
I see. Climbed the low shed and then jumped over to the
cottage roof. And how are you going to get down, hey?
Well, I'll tell you," Nicholas shouted, really angry now, for
he would stand no trifling about his Christmas visits to the
children. "I'll tell you; you won't get down. You'll
stay there, for all I care. I'll leave Prancer at home and
take only six. I suppose you are afraid to jump down again,
you bold imp! Well, I'll not help you. I'm through with
Vixen whimpered again. He was really sorry, and he
was really frightened, so frightened that he couldn't remember
clearly how it was he had reached the roof. He leaned
against the chimney, and wet tears ran down his nose. He
looked beseechingly down at Nicholas, but his master turned
sternly away and began harnessing the other deer together.
Vixen became annoyed. How dare they leave without
 him! He stamped an angry little hoof on the hard crust of
snow. Crack went the crust, and Vixen toppled over on
the roof and felt himself carried down the slope, swiftly,
swiftly; carried right over the edge, and landed head first
in a soft snow-bank right at Nicholas' feet. All you could
see of the naughty little fellow were his four hoofs waving
madly in the air. Nicholas began to laugh, the other reindeer
lifted their heads in the air and seemed to enjoy the scene
too, and it was a thoroughly ashamed and meek little reindeer
who finally scrambled out of the snow-bank and took
his place quietly beside Prancer.
HIS FOUR HOOFS WAVING MADLY IN THE AIR.
Now for the big show! Nicholas finished tying the eight
reindeer to each other with a harness bright with jingling
silver bells; he slowly backed them to the wood-shed door,
which he opened, disclosing a most beautiful sight. There
stood a bright, shining red sleigh, trimmed with silver stripes
and stars, the runner curving up in front to form a swan's
head, the back roomy enough to hold toys for several villages
full of children. Nicholas backed his reindeer into the
shafts; he climbed up on the high seat, beautifully padded
with cushions made of soft doe-skin; he took out of the socket
a long, shiny black whip, snapped it in the air, and they were
 The villagers were awakened from their sleep by a
merry jingling of silver bells, by the stamp of reindeer's
hoofs on the hard snow, by the snap of a whip. They
peeked out from behind their curtains and saw a brave
sight. They saw by the white light of the moon, a shining
red sleigh drawn by eight prancing reindeer, whose flying
hoofs went as fast as lightning; they saw a well-loved
figure perched high up on his seat, snapping a long, black
whip in the air with one hand and guiding his reindeer with
the other—a big, round man dressed in a red belted tunic,
trimmed with white fur, baggy trousers stuffed into high
black leggings, and a close-fitting red stocking-cap which
flew in the wind. They were not close enough to see how
the sharp rush of air made his rosy cheeks even rosier, and
nipped his nose so that it, too, was almost the color of his
suit, and stung his bright blue eyes so that they twinkled
and glistened like the Christmas snow; they were not close
enough to see his face, but one and all, as they returned to
their warm beds, murmured out of full hearts, "That's
Nicholas, on his way to the children. God bless him!"