Welcome to Part 4 of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum. Claus continues his life journey to become the Santa Claus we know today. But, as with any fairytale, he had skills to learn and there is something wicked in his way.
If you missed Part 3, you will find it here.
How Little Mayrie Became Frightened
The winter was over now, and all the Laughing Valley was filled with joyous excitement. The brook was so happy at being free once again that it gurgled more boisterously than ever and dashed so recklessly against the rocks that it sent showers of spray high in the air. The grass thrust its sharp little blades upward through the mat of dead stalks where it had hidden from the snow, but the flowers were yet too timid to show themselves, although the Ryls were busy feeding their roots. The sun was in remarkably good humor, and sent his rays dancing merrily throughout the Valley.
Claus was eating his dinner one day when he heard a timid knock on his door.
“Come in!” he called.
No one entered, but after a pause came another rapping.
Claus jumped up and threw open the door. Before him stood a small girl holding a smaller brother fast by the hand.
“Is you Tlaus?” she asked, shyly.
“Indeed I am, my dear!” he answered, with a laugh, as he caught both children in his arms and kissed them. “You are very welcome, and you have come just in time to share my dinner.”
He took them to the table and fed them with fresh milk and nut-cakes. When they had eaten enough he asked:
“Why have you made this long journey to see me?”
“I wants a tat!” replied little Mayrie; and her brother, who had not yet learned to speak many words, nodded his head and exclaimed like an echo: “Tat!”
“Oh, you want my toy cats, do you?” returned Claus, greatly pleased to discover that his creations were so popular with children.
The little visitors nodded eagerly.
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “I have but one cat now ready, for I carried two to children in the town yesterday. And the one I have shall be given to your brother, Mayrie, because he is the smaller; and the next one I make shall be for you.”
The boy’s face was bright with smiles as he took the precious toy Claus held out to him; but little Mayrie covered her face with her arm and began to sob grievously.
“I—I—I wants a t—t—tat now!” she wailed.
Her disappointment made Claus feel miserable for a moment. Then he suddenly remembered Shiegra.
“Don’t cry, darling!” he said, soothingly; “I have a toy much nicer than a cat, and you shall have that.”
He went to the cupboard and drew out the image of the lioness, which he placed on the table before Mayrie.
The girl raised her arm and gave one glance at the fierce teeth and glaring eyes of the beast, and then, uttering a terrified scream, she rushed from the house. The boy followed her, also screaming lustily, and even dropping his precious cat in his fear.
For a moment Claus stood motionless, being puzzled and astonished. Then he threw Shiegra’s image into the cupboard and ran after the children, calling to them not to be frightened.
Little Mayrie stopped in her flight and her brother clung to her skirt; but they both cast fearful glances at the house until Claus had assured them many times that the beast had been locked in the cupboard.
“Yet why were you frightened at seeing it?” he asked. “It is only a toy to play with!”
“It’s bad!” said Mayrie, decidedly, “an’—an’—just horrid, an’ not a bit nice, like tats!”
“Perhaps you are right,” returned Claus, thoughtfully. “But if you will return with me to the house I will soon make you a pretty cat.”
So they timidly entered the house again, having faith in their friend’s words; and afterward they had the joy of watching Claus carve out a cat from a bit of wood and paint it in natural colors. It did not take him long to do this, for he had become skillful with his knife by this time, and Mayrie loved her toy the more dearly because she had seen it made.
After his little visitors had trotted away on their journey homeward Claus sat long in deep thought. And he then decided that such fierce creatures as his friend the lioness would never do as models from which to fashion his toys.
“There must be nothing to frighten the dear babies,” he reflected; “and while I know Shiegra well, and am not afraid of her, it is but natural that children should look upon her image with terror. Hereafter I will choose such mild-mannered animals as squirrels and rabbits and deer and lambkins from which to carve my toys, for then the little ones will love rather than fear them.”
He began his work that very day, and before bedtime had made a wooden rabbit and a lamb. They were not quite so lifelike as the cats had been, because they were formed from memory, while Blinkie had sat very still for Claus to look at while he worked.
But the new toys pleased the children nevertheless, and the fame of Claus’ playthings quickly spread to every cottage on plain and in village. He always carried his gifts to the sick or crippled children, but those who were strong enough walked to the house in the Valley to ask for them, so a little path was soon worn from the plain to the door of the toy-maker’s cottage.
First came the children who had been playmates of Claus, before he began to make toys. These, you may be sure, were well supplied. Then children who lived farther away heard of the wonderful images and made journeys to the Valley to secure them. All little ones were welcome, and never a one went away empty-handed.
This demand for his handiwork kept Claus busily occupied, but he was quite happy in knowing the pleasure he gave to so many of the dear children. His friends the immortals were pleased with his success and supported him bravely.
The Knooks selected for him clear pieces of soft wood, that his knife might not be blunted in cutting them; the Ryls kept him supplied with paints of all colors and brushes fashioned from the tips of timothy grasses; the Fairies discovered that the workman needed saws and chisels and hammers and nails, as well as knives, and brought him a goodly array of such tools.
Claus soon turned his living room into a most wonderful workshop. He built a bench before the window, and arranged his tools and paints so that he could reach everything as he sat on his stool. And as he finished toy after toy to delight the hearts of little children he found himself growing so gay and happy that he could not refrain from singing and laughing and whistling all the day long.
“It’s because I live in the Laughing Valley, where everything else laughs!” said Claus.
But that was not the reason.
How Bessie Blithesome Came to the Laughing Valley
One day, as Claus sat before his door to enjoy the sunshine while he busily carved the head and horns of a toy deer, he looked up and discovered a glittering cavalcade of horsemen approaching through the Valley.
When they drew nearer he saw that the band consisted of a score of men-at-arms, clad in bright armor and bearing in their hands spears and battle-axes. In front of these rode little Bessie Blithesome, the pretty daughter of that proud Lord of Lerd who had once driven Claus from his palace. Her palfrey was pure white, its bridle was covered with glittering gems, and its saddle draped with cloth of gold, richly broidered. The soldiers were sent to protect her from harm while she journeyed.
Claus was surprised, but he continued to whittle and to sing until the cavalcade drew up before him. Then the little girl leaned over the neck of her palfrey and said:
“Please, Mr. Claus, I want a toy!”
Her voice was so pleading that Claus jumped up at once and stood beside her. But he was puzzled how to answer her request.
“You are a rich lord’s daughter,” said he, “and have all that you desire.”
“Except toys,” added Bessie. “There are no toys in all the world but yours.”
“And I make them for the poor children, who have nothing else to amuse them,” continued Claus.
“Do poor children love to play with toys more than rich ones?” asked Bessie.
“I suppose not,” said Claus, thoughtfully.
“Am I to blame because my father is a lord? Must I be denied the pretty toys I long for because other children are poorer than I?” she inquired earnestly.
“I’m afraid you must, dear,” he answered; “for the poor have nothing else with which to amuse themselves. You have your pony to ride, your servants to wait on you, and every comfort that money can procure.”
“But I want toys!” cried Bessie, wiping away the tears that forced themselves into her eyes. “If I can not have them, I shall be very unhappy.”
Claus was troubled, for her grief recalled to him the thought that his desire was to make all children happy, without regard to their condition in life. Yet, while so many poor children were clamoring for his toys he could not bear to give one to them to Bessie Blithesome, who had so much already to make her happy.
“Listen, my child,” said he, gently; “all the toys I am now making are promised to others. But the next shall be yours, since your heart so longs for it. Come to me again in two days and it shall be ready for you.”
Bessie gave a cry of delight, and leaning over her pony’s neck she kissed Claus prettily upon his forehead. Then, calling to her men-at-arms, she rode gaily away, leaving Claus to resume his work.
“If I am to supply the rich children as well as the poor ones,” he thought, “I shall not have a spare moment in the whole year! But is it right I should give to the rich? Surely I must go to Necile and talk with her about this matter.”
So when he had finished the toy deer, which was very like a deer he had known in the Forest glades, he walked into Burzee and made his way to the bower of the beautiful Nymph Necile, who had been his foster mother.
She greeted him tenderly and lovingly, listening with interest to his story of the visit of Bessie Blithesome.
“And now tell me,” said he, “shall I give toys to rich children?”
“We of the Forest know nothing of riches,” she replied. “It seems to me that one child is like another child, since they are all made of the same clay, and that riches are like a gown, which may be put on or taken away, leaving the child unchanged. But the Fairies are guardians of mankind, and know mortal children better than I. Let us call the Fairy Queen.”
This was done, and the Queen of the Fairies sat beside them and heard Claus relate his reasons for thinking the rich children could get along without his toys, and also what the Nymph had said.
“Necile is right,” declared the Queen; “for, whether it be rich or poor, a child’s longings for pretty playthings are but natural. Rich Bessie’s heart may suffer as much grief as poor Mayrie’s; she can be just as lonely and discontented, and just as gay and happy. I think, friend Claus, it is your duty to make all little ones glad, whether they chance to live in palaces or in cottages.”
for, whether it be rich or poor, a child’s longings for pretty playthings are but naturalQueen of the Fairies, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, L. Frank Baum
“Your words are wise, fair Queen,” replied Claus, “and my heart tells me they are as just as they are wise. Hereafter all children may claim my services.”
Then he bowed before the gracious Fairy and, kissing Necile’s red lips, went back into his Valley.
At the brook he stopped to drink, and afterward he sat on the bank and took a piece of moist clay in his hands while he thought what sort of toy he should make for Bessie Blithesome. He did not notice that his fingers were working the clay into shape until, glancing downward, he found he had unconsciously formed a head that bore a slight resemblance to the Nymph Necile!
At once he became interested. Gathering more of the clay from the bank he carried it to his house. Then, with the aid of his knife and a bit of wood he succeeded in working the clay into the image of a toy nymph. With skillful strokes he formed long, waving hair on the head and covered the body with a gown of oakleaves, while the two feet sticking out at the bottom of the gown were clad in sandals.
But the clay was soft, and Claus found he must handle it gently to avoid ruining his pretty work.
“Perhaps the rays of the sun will draw out the moisture and cause the clay to become hard,” he thought. So he laid the image on a flat board and placed it in the glare of the sun.
This done, he went to his bench and began painting the toy deer, and soon he became so interested in the work that he forgot all about the clay nymph. But next morning, happening to notice it as it lay on the board, he found the sun had baked it to the hardness of stone, and it was strong enough to be safely handled.
Claus now painted the nymph with great care in the likeness of Necile, giving it deep-blue eyes, white teeth, rosy lips and ruddy-brown hair. The gown he colored oak-leaf green, and when the paint was dry Claus himself was charmed with the new toy. Of course it was not nearly so lovely as the real Necile; but, considering the material of which it was made, Claus thought it was very beautiful.
When Bessie, riding upon her white palfrey, came to his dwelling next day, Claus presented her with the new toy. The little girl’s eyes were brighter than ever as she examined the pretty image, and she loved it at once, and held it close to her breast, as a mother does to her child.
“What is it called, Claus?” she asked.
Now Claus knew that Nymphs do not like to be spoken of by mortals, so he could not tell Bessie it was an image of Necile he had given her. But as it was a new toy he searched his mind for a new name to call it by, and the first word he thought of he decided would do very well.
“It is called a dolly, my dear,” he said to Bessie.
“I shall call the dolly my baby,” returned Bessie, kissing it fondly; “and I shall tend it and care for it just as Nurse cares for me. Thank you very much, Claus; your gift has made me happier than I have ever been before!”
Then she rode away, hugging the toy in her arms, and Claus, seeing her delight, thought he would make another dolly, better and more natural than the first.
He brought more clay from the brook, and remembering that Bessie had called the dolly her baby he resolved to form this one into a baby’s image. That was no difficult task to the clever workman, and soon the baby dolly was lying on the board and placed in the sun to dry. Then, with the clay that was left, he began to make an image of Bessie Blithesome herself.
This was not so easy, for he found he could not make the silken robe of the lord’s daughter out of the common clay. So he called the Fairies to his aid, and asked them to bring him colored silks with which to make a real dress for the clay image. The Fairies set off at once on their errand, and before nightfall they returned with a generous supply of silks and laces and golden threads.
Claus now became impatient to complete his new dolly, and instead of waiting for the next day’s sun he placed the clay image upon his hearth and covered it over with glowing coals. By morning, when he drew the dolly from the ashes, it had baked as hard as if it had lain a full day in the hot sun.
Now our Claus became a dressmaker as well as a toymaker. He cut the lavender silk, and nearly sewed it into a beautiful gown that just fitted the new dolly. And he put a lace collar around its neck and pink silk shoes on its feet. The natural color of baked clay is a light gray, but Claus painted the face to resemble the color of flesh, and he gave the dolly Bessie’s brown eyes and golden hair and rosy cheeks.
It was really a beautiful thing to look upon, and sure to bring joy to some childish heart. While Claus was admiring it he heard a knock at his door, and little Mayrie entered. Her face was sad and her eyes red with continued weeping.
“Why, what has grieved you, my dear?” asked Claus, taking the child in his arms.
“I’ve—I’ve—bwoke my tat!” sobbed Mayrie.
“How?” he inquired, his eyes twinkling.
“I—I dwopped him, an’ bwoke off him’s tail; an’—an’—then I dwopped him an’ bwoke off him’s ear! An’—an’ now him’s all spoilt!”
“Never mind, Mayrie dear,” he said. “How would you like this new dolly, instead of a cat?”
Mayrie looked at the silk-robed dolly and her eyes grew big with astonishment.
“Oh, Tlaus!” she cried, clapping her small hands together with rapture; “tan I have ‘at boo’ful lady?”
“Do you like it?” he asked.
“I love it!” said she. “It’s better ‘an tats!”
“Then take it, dear, and be careful not to break it.”
Mayrie took the dolly with a joy that was almost reverent, and her face dimpled with smiles as she started along the path toward home.
The Wickedness of the Awgwas
I must now tell you something about the Awgwas, that terrible race of creatures which caused our good Claus so much trouble and nearly succeeded in robbing the children of the world of their earliest and best friend.
I do not like to mention the Awgwas, but they are a part of this history, and can not be ignored. They were neither mortals nor immortals, but stood midway between those classes of beings. The Awgwas were invisible to ordinary people, but not to immortals. They could pass swiftly through the air from one part of the world to another, and had the power of influencing the minds of human beings to do their wicked will.
They were of gigantic stature and had coarse, scowling countenances which showed plainly their hatred of all mankind. They possessed no consciences whatever and delighted only in evil deeds.
Their homes were in rocky, mountainous places, from whence they sallied forth to accomplish their wicked purposes.
The one of their number that could think of the most horrible deed for them to do was always elected the King Awgwa, and all the race obeyed his orders. Sometimes these creatures lived to become a hundred years old, but usually they fought so fiercely among themselves that many were destroyed in combat, and when they died that was the end of them. Mortals were powerless to harm them and the immortals shuddered when the Awgwas were mentioned, and always avoided them. So they flourished for many years unopposed and accomplished much evil.
I am glad to assure you that these vile creatures have long since perished and passed from earth; but in the days when Claus was making his first toys they were a numerous and powerful tribe.
One of the principal sports of the Awgwas was to inspire angry passions in the hearts of little children, so that they quarreled and fought with one another. They would tempt boys to eat of unripe fruit, and then delight in the pain they suffered; they urged little girls to disobey their parents, and then would laugh when the children were punished. I do not know what causes a child to be naughty in these days, but when the Awgwas were on earth naughty children were usually under their influence.
Now, when Claus began to make children happy he kept them out of the power of the Awgwas; for children possessing such lovely playthings as he gave them had no wish to obey the evil thoughts the Awgwas tried to thrust into their minds.
Therefore, one year when the wicked tribe was to elect a new King, they chose an Awgwa who proposed to destroy Claus and take him away from the children.
“There are, as you know, fewer naughty children in the world since Claus came to the Laughing Valley and began to make his toys,” said the new King, as he squatted upon a rock and looked around at the scowling faces of his people. “Why, Bessie Blithesome has not stamped her foot once this month, nor has Mayrie’s brother slapped his sister’s face or thrown the puppy into the rain-barrel. Little Weekum took his bath last night without screaming or struggling, because his mother had promised he should take his toy cat to bed with him! Such a condition of affairs is awful for any Awgwa to think of, and the only way we can direct the naughty actions of children is to take this person Claus away from them.”
“Good! good!” cried the big Awgwas, in a chorus, and they clapped their hands to applaud the speech of the King.
“But what shall we do with him?” asked one of the creatures.
“I have a plan,” replied the wicked King; and what his plan was you will soon discover.
That night Claus went to bed feeling very happy, for he had completed no less than four pretty toys during the day, and they were sure, he thought, to make four little children happy. But while he slept the band of invisible Awgwas surrounded his bed, bound him with stout cords, and then flew away with him to the middle of a dark forest in far off Ethop, where they laid him down and left him.
When morning came Claus found himself thousands of miles from any human being, a prisoner in the wild jungle of an unknown land.
From the limb of a tree above his head swayed a huge python, one of those reptiles that are able to crush a man’s bones in their coils. A few yards away crouched a savage panther, its glaring red eyes fixed full on the helpless Claus. One of those monstrous spotted spiders whose sting is death crept stealthily toward him over the matted leaves, which shriveled and turned black at its very touch.
But Claus had been reared in Burzee, and was not afraid.
“Come to me, ye Knooks of the Forest!” he cried, and gave the low, peculiar whistle that the Knooks know.
The panther, which was about to spring upon its victim, turned and slunk away. The python swung itself into the tree and disappeared among the leaves. The spider stopped short in its advance and hid beneath a rotting log.
Claus had no time to notice them, for he was surrounded by a band of harsh-featured Knooks, more crooked and deformed in appearance than any he had ever seen.
“Who are you that call on us?” demanded one, in a gruff voice.
“The friend of your brothers in Burzee,” answered Claus. “I have been brought here by my enemies, the Awgwas, and left to perish miserably. Yet now I implore your help to release me and to send me home again.”
“Have you the sign?” asked another.
“Yes,” said Claus.
They cut his bonds, and with his free arms he made the secret sign of the Knooks.
Instantly they assisted him to stand upon his feet, and they brought him food and drink to strengthen him.
“Our brothers of Burzee make queer friends,” grumbled an ancient Knook whose flowing beard was pure white. “But he who knows our secret sign and signal is entitled to our help, whoever he may be. Close your eyes, stranger, and we will conduct you to your home. Where shall we seek it?”
“‘Tis in the Laughing Valley,” answered Claus, shutting his eyes.
“There is but one Laughing Valley in the known world, so we can not go astray,” remarked the Knook.
As he spoke the sound of his voice seemed to die away, so Claus opened his eyes to see what caused the change. To his astonishment he found himself seated on the bench by his own door, with the Laughing Valley spread out before him. That day he visited the Wood-Nymphs and related his adventure to Queen Zurline and Necile.
“The Awgwas have become your enemies,” said the lovely Queen, thoughtfully; “so we must do all we can to protect you from their power.”
“It was cowardly to bind him while he slept,” remarked Necile, with indignation.
“The evil ones are ever cowardly,” answered Zurline, “but our friend’s slumber shall not be disturbed again.”
The Queen herself came to the dwelling of Claus that evening and placed her Seal on every door and window, to keep out the Awgwas. And under the Seal of Queen Zurline was placed the Seal of the Fairies and the Seal of the Ryls and the Seals of the Knooks, that the charm might become more powerful.
And Claus carried his toys to the children again, and made many more of the little ones happy.
You may guess how angry the King Awgwa and his fierce band were when it was known to them that Claus had escaped from the Forest of Ethop.
They raged madly for a whole week, and then held another meeting among the rocks.
“It is useless to carry him where the Knooks reign,” said the King, “for he has their protection. So let us cast him into a cave of our own mountains, where he will surely perish.”
This was promptly agreed to, and the wicked band set out that night to seize Claus. But they found his dwelling guarded by the Seals of the Immortals and were obliged to go away baffled and disappointed.
“Never mind,” said the King; “he does not sleep always!”
Next day, as Claus traveled to the village across the plain, where he intended to present a toy squirrel to a lame boy, he was suddenly set upon by the Awgwas, who seized him and carried him away to the mountains.
There they thrust him within a deep cavern and rolled many huge rocks against the entrance to prevent his escape.
Deprived thus of light and food, and with little air to breathe, our Claus was, indeed, in a pitiful plight. But he spoke the mystic words of the Fairies, which always command their friendly aid, and they came to his rescue and transported him to the Laughing Valley in the twinkling of an eye.
Thus the Awgwas discovered they might not destroy one who had earned the friendship of the immortals; so the evil band sought other means of keeping Claus from bringing happiness to children and so making them obedient.
Whenever Claus set out to carry his toys to the little ones an Awgwa, who had been set to watch his movements, sprang upon him and snatched the toys from his grasp. And the children were no more disappointed than was Claus when he was obliged to return home disconsolate. Still he persevered, and made many toys for his little friends and started with them for the villages. And always the Awgwas robbed him as soon as he had left the Valley.
They threw the stolen playthings into one of their lonely caverns, and quite a heap of toys accumulated before Claus became discouraged and gave up all attempts to leave the Valley. Then children began coming to him, since they found he did not go to them; but the wicked Awgwas flew around them and caused their steps to stray and the paths to become crooked, so never a little one could find a way into the Laughing Valley.
Lonely days now fell upon Claus, for he was denied the pleasure of bringing happiness to the children whom he had learned to love. Yet he bore up bravely, for he thought surely the time would come when the Awgwas would abandon their evil designs to injure him.
He devoted all his hours to toy-making, and when one plaything had been completed he stood it on a shelf he had built for that purpose. When the shelf became filled with rows of toys he made another one, and filled that also. So that in time he had many shelves filled with gay and beautiful toys representing horses, dogs, cats, elephants, lambs, rabbits and deer, as well as pretty dolls of all sizes and balls and marbles of baked clay painted in gay colors.
Often, as he glanced at this array of childish treasures, the heart of good old Claus became sad, so greatly did he long to carry the toys to his children. And at last, because he could bear it no longer, he ventured to go to the great Ak, to whom he told the story of his persecution by the Awgwas, and begged the Master Woodsman to assist him.
Thus ends Part 4. See you tomorrow to find out how the wicked Awgwas will be overcome. Happy Reading!
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