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A Christmas Carol For Children
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A Christmas Song
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Hymn For The Nativity
EDWARD THRING Happy night and happy silence ...

A Christmas Letter From Australia
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So Now Is Come Our Joyfulst Feast
GEORGE WITHER So, now is come our joyfulst f...

In Excelsis Gloria
When Christ was born of Mary free, In Bethlehe...





On Santa Claus






GEORGE A. BAKER, JR.

Brave old times those were. In the first half of the seventeenth
century, we mean; before there was any such place as New York and
Manhattan Island was occupied mostly by woods, and had a funny little
Dutch town, known as New Amsterdam, sprouting out of the southern end of
it. Those were the days of solid comfort, of mighty pipes, and unctuous
doughnuts. Winter had not yet been so much affected by artificiality as
he is now-a-days, and was contented to be what he is, not trying to pass
himself off for Spring; and Christmas--well, it was Christmas. Do you
know why? Because in those times Santa Claus used to live in a great old
house in the midst of an evergreen forest, just back of the Hudson, and
about half-way between New Amsterdam and Albany. A house built out of
funny little Dutch bricks, with gables whose sides looked like
stair-cases, and a roof of red tiles with more weathercocks and chimneys
sticking out of it than you could count. Phew, how cold it was there!
The wind roared and shouted around the house, and the snow fell steadily
half the year, so that the summers never melted it away till winter came
again. And Santa Claus thought that was the greatest pleasure in life:
for he loved to have enormous fires in the great fire-places, and the
colder it was, the bigger fires he would have, and the louder the winds
roared around his chimney. There he sat and worked away all the year
round, making dolls, and soldiers, and Noah's arks, and witches, and
every other sort of toy you can think of. When Christmas Eve came he'd
harness up his reindeers, Dasher, and Prancer, and Vixen, and the rest
of them, and wrap himself up in furs, and light his big pipe, and cram
his sled full of the doll-babies and Noah's arks, and all the other toys
he'd been making, and off he'd go with a great shout and tremendous
ringing of sleigh-bells. Before morning he'd be up and down every
chimney in New Amsterdam, filling the stout grey yarn stockings with
toys, and apples, and ginger-bread, laughing and chuckling so all the
while, that the laughs and chuckles didn't get out of the air for a week
afterwards.

But the old house has gone to ruin, and Santa Claus doesn't live there
any longer. You see he married about forty years ago; his wife was a
Grundy, daughter of old Mrs. Grundy, of Fifth Avenue, of whom you've all
heard. She married him for his money, and couldn't put up with his plain
way of living and his careless jollity. He is such an easy-going, good
natured old soul, that she manages him without any trouble. So the first
thing she did was to make him change his name to St. Nicholas; then she
made him give up his old house, and move into town; then she sent away
the reindeers, for she didn't know what Ma _would_ say to such an
outlandish turn-out; then she threw away his pipe because it was vulgar,
and the first Christmas Eve that he went off and stayed out all night
she had hysterics, and declared she'd go home to her Ma, and get a
divorce if he ever did such a thing again. She'd have put a stop to his
giving away toys every year, too, only she thought it looked well, and
as it was, she wouldn't let him make them himself any more, but
compelled him to spend enormous sums in bringing them from Paris, and
Vienna, and Nuremberg.

So now Santa Claus is St. Nicholas, and lives in a brown stone house on
Fifth Avenue, a great deal handsomer than he can afford, and keeps a
carriage, not because he wants it, but because Mrs. Shoddy, next door,
keeps one; and loves, not to be jolly himself and to make everybody else
so, but to please his wife's mother. He has to give an awful pull, what
with his wife's extravagance, and the high prices of Parisian and
Viennese toys, to make both ends meet, although he does speculate in
stocks, and is very lucky. Instead of looking forward to Christmas with
pleasure, and thinking what a good time he will have, he pulls out his
ledger, and groans, and wonders how on earth he's going to make his
presents this year, and thinks he would stop giving them entirely, only
he's so mortally afraid of his mother-in-law, and he knows what she'd
say if he did. So he borrows money wherever he can, and sends over to
Paris for fans, and opera-glasses, and bon-bon boxes, and jewelry, and
when they come he sits down in his parlor and lets his wife tell him
just what to do with them. So she takes out her list and runs over the
names; she has all the rich people down, for she is a religious woman,
and the Bible says unto him that hath, it shall be given. This is the
way she talks: The little Croesuses must have some very elegant things,
of course; their mother's a horrid old cat, but Croesus could help you
very much in business. And there are the Centlivres; we must pick out
something magnificent for them; they give a party Christmas night: of
course the presents will be on exhibition, and I shall sink with shame
if any one else's are handsomer than ours. So she goes on, until all
the rich people are disposed of. Then Santa Claus asks: How about the
Brinkers, my dear? The Brinkers are great favorites of his. Good
gracious, dearest! How often have I told you, you mustn't manifest such
an interest in those Brinkers? What would Ma say if she knew you
associated with such common people! But, I'm Dutch myself, pet. Of
course you are, darling, but there's no need of letting every one know
it! St. Nicholas hardly dares to do it, but he finally suggests very
meekly: The poor children, my darling. Bother the poor children, my
dear! They're a most affectionate couple, you know. Then St. Nicholas
sighs and sighs, and sends for his messengers, and they all come in with
long faces, and take off big packages to the Croesuses and the
Centlivres, and the rest of them. The messengers do their work entirely
as a matter of business, so there isn't a sign of a laugh, nor a symptom
of a chuckle in the air next day. The little Croesuses first cry,
because they haven't received more, and then fight over what they have;
then they eat too much French candy, and get sick and cross, and the
whole house is filled with their noise. So mamma has a headache; and
papa longs for his office, and misses the tick-tick of the stock
telegraph, and thinks what a confounded nuisance holidays are. That is
what Christmas is like in good society.

But I must tell you a secret. Away up in the fourth-story of his grand
house, where his wife never goes, St. Nicholas has a little workshop,
and there he sits whenever he gets a chance, making the most wonderful
dolls, and gorgeous soldiers, and miraculous jumping-jacks, and tin
horns--such quantities of tin horns! Some one ought to speak to him
about those tin horns. But after all they please the poor children, so
we suppose it's all right. Now do you know what he does with these
things? On Christmas Eve he gets his old sled down from the stable away
up by the North Pole, and as soon as his wife is fast asleep, he puts on
his old furs and gets out from under his shirts in his bureau drawer a
Dutch pipe, three times as big as the one his wife threw away, and off
he goes. He tumbles down all the poor people's chimneys, and fills up
the stockings to overflowing, and plants gorgeous Christmas trees in all
the Mission schools.

He has a glorious good time, and laughs and chuckles tremendously,
except when, once in a while, he thinks of what would happen if his wife
found him out.

So there's a little fun going on after all.

Do you know, if it were not for this performance of his, we should wish
with all our heart that St. Nicholas were dead and buried. But we must
say, we wish his wife would die, and that all the Grundy family would
follow her good example, for between them they've spoiled a good many
jolly people besides St. Nicholas.





Next: A Christmas Carol

Previous: A Christmas Carol For Children



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