“There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane” (1921)
10-26-2011 11:22 AM
A 1921 story about Santa Claus' childhood (he was the grandson of Mother Goose), his little brothers and sister, how he began to make toys, how he developed the custom of leaving toys for sleeping children on Christmas Eve, and how he got married.
Click here for a printable version.
If you enjoy this story, you might also like this Christmas story by the same author:
"The Great Adventure of Mrs. Santa Claus"
* * * * * * * *
"There Was a Boy who Lived on Pudding Lane" by Sarah Addington
From The Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1921
A True Account, if Only You Believe it, of the Life and Ways of Santa, Eldest Son of Mr. and Mrs. Claus
This brief biography of a great hero, Santa Claus, is entered upon with the reverence due to the nature of the undertaking, and with the timidity that necessarily arises from the fact that it is a breaking of new ground.
Just why historians have in all epic accounts ignored probably the greatest international figure that ever existed is a mystery to the author, for whom the antecedents, early life and young manhood of Santa Claus have always been immensely fascinating.
Nevertheless, the life of this great man has never been written; and even Mr. Wells, in a history of life from the amoeba to the Peace Conference, has not so much as a footnote on Santa Claus, though there are critics of youthful, and therefore unprejudiced, minds who will rate him far above Napoleon, Lincoln and Garibaldi.
To shed light, then, on the life of a popular idol, shamefully neglected by historians, is the purpose of this little study, which has been carefully and scientifically compiled from original sources.
The author is fully aware that her story cannot add a single huzza to the world’s acclaim of Santa Claus, for he has gloriously risen above the conspiracy of historians to world-wide celebrity. She writes the account to please herself, and possibly a few other fellow admirers (preferably under twelve) who, like her, must know where Santa Claus lived as a little boy, what his mother was like, and how he got started in his enchanting business, before admitting this to be a perfect world.
* * * * * * * *
Once upon a time in the kingdom of Old King Cole there lived a father and a mother and a fat little boy who was always dressed in a bright red suit. The father, whose name was Mr. Claus, was a baker, and he lived on Pudding Lane, between the butcher and the candlestick-maker.
Mr. Claus was really about the best baker in the world. He knew so well how to make little cake puppies with red currant eyes. And he knew so well how to make funny gingerbread Brownies with black raisin eyes. He made great fat loaves of bread, warm and golden and crusty. And he made little plum tarts that a boy could eat up in one gobble, and a girl could eat up in two.
All the boys and girls that lived on Pudding Lane used to play around Mr. Claus’ shop, and Mr. Claus, being a generous baker, almost always gave them cake-dough puppies or gingerbread Brownies when they came. And often, when he was busy, he would send out his little boy, Santa, to give the children their pastries.
* * * * * * * *
The children loved the little fat Santa even more than they did the cake-dough puppies and the gingerbread Brownies. He was such a jolly little chap, with a smile that crinkled up his round nose, blue eyes brimful of merriment, and a waddle that made all the children laugh, as he staggered under loaves and cookies.
“You look like your grandmother’s gander when you walk,” they would cry.
And sure enough, he did walk very much like his grandmother’s gander. But this was a high humor, indeed, for his grandmother was that great person, Mother Goose, and her gander was a bird much admired by the children of Pudding Lane.
Almost every day the children would come, and Santa would give them sweet things from the bakeshop until they couldn’t eat any more. Pretty soon Mr. Claus began to complain.
“How can I make money, Santa, if you give away everything and leave me nothing to sell? Yesterday you gave away every cookie in the shop and left only the cinnamon cow on the counter. And her right horn was broken off.”
But little Santa knew that his father was not serious, and that everything was really going very well indeed. For they were warm and cosy in their rooms behind the shop, and they had plenty of hot soup and sausages to eat. Moreover, every night when the butcher and the candlestick-maker came over to sit with the baker, they always said that business was good and praised Old King Cole to the skies.
* * * * * * * *
One day Santa was told he had two little brothers. “Two!” he cried. This was a surprise. And sure enough, there in a cradle near the stove he saw them, a pair of squirming, purplish objects, who made dreadful faces at him when he peeped at them and gave out strange noises. They were very odd creatures indeed, and little Santa wondered if they’d ever grow up to be anything at all, with that start.
But they did. They soon learned to smile in a wide, toothless fashion that made Santa laugh uproariously. Then they astonished him by walking. Little Santa began to see that they were turning into human beings after all. And just as he was beginning to like the little fellows very much indeed, he was told one morning that two more little brothers had come to town.
* * * * * * * *
Two more! This was astounding. Santa could hardly believe his ears. And yet when he went to look, there they were, two more little squirming, purplish things in the same old cradle.
The butcher and the candlestick-maker came over to pay their respects. The butcher brought a juicy chop for the mother of the five little Claus boys, and the candlestick-maker brought a lovely pewter candle holder. But Mr. Claus appeared very doleful.
“I don’t see how I can feed so many,” he confided to his friends.
“Cheer up, they’re all boys and they’ll be earning their own bread before you know it,” said the candlestick-maker consolingly.
“Yes, cheer up,” said the butcher. “There’s Santa now, almost six. I’ll give him a job as an errand boy before many months.”
Mr. Claus shook his head sadly. “He’d give away all your chops and chickens, as he gives away my cookies and tarts now.”
Santa heard this and, for the first time since he was a baby, he wanted to cry. He felt so sorry for his father—his poor father, who worked night and day and seemed to be so worried! Little Santa made up his mind then and there to stop giving pastries away so profusely.
* * * * * * * *
That afternoon Santa lay on the ground watching the clouds roll by. There were great puffy clouds that made him think of the wool on Bo-Peep’s flock. There were little stringy clouds, like the rags in Mrs. Claus’ ragbag. There were slim silver clouds that swan around like fishes in the blue ocean of the sky. And there was one beautiful cloud that looked like a snow-covered mountain.
Santa, on his back, watched the clouds a long time, thinking gravely of his hardworking father. Finally he grew sleepy, and he had almost dozed off when suddenly, over the top of a beautiful peaked cloud, he saw a black speck appear.
“It must be a bird,” said Santa to himself.
The speck came nearer and grew larger and blacker, and then all at once Santa jumped to his feet and began waving frantically. For the speck was a great deal more than a bird. It was Santa’s grandmother, old Mother Goose, coming to visit them on her high-flying gander.
In just a minute, there she was on the ground beside him, twinkling eyes, sharp nose, pointed hat, and all. At the sight of her, all the children came running, and Santa just jumped up and down with excitement and joy.
Mother Goose smiled at them all, gave Santa a good grandmotherly hug, took off her glasses and wiped them, shook some strawberry lollypops out of her pockets, and then rushed into the house. For of course Mother Goose was more interested in her daughter, Mrs. Claus, and her new grandsons than she was in the village children.
* * * * * * * *
Everything seemed more cheerful after Mother Goose got there.
“It’s nice to have a lot of children,” she told the melancholy Mr. Claus. “Look at the Old Woman Who Lives in a Shoe. She has so many children she doesn’t know what to do. But she wouldn’t know what to do if she didn’t have them, because she told me so. And it’s a good thing for little Santa that he has brothers,” she went on, “or he would have been spoiled. There’s Mistress Mary, an only child, and such a contrary girl I never saw. If she had little brothers and sisters to think about, she’d soon get over that contrariness.”
“But she has a very pretty garden,” put in Santa.
For every day he stopped to look at Mistress Mary’s garden, which was right next to the pasture where the Claus cow fed.
“Fiddlesticks!” said Mother Goose. “Silverbells and cockleshells—who wants to raise such useless nothing? The girl ought to be growing cabbages and corn.”
* * * * * * * *
Mother Goose was a practical old lady, you see. But although little Santa liked cabbage soup and corn bread as well as anybody, he secretly was glad that Mistress Mary had a beautiful, and not a useful, garden. For when the wind blew he could almost hear the silverbells ring in the garden. And when the sun shone the cockleshells glistened as brightly as they did on the seashore where they came from.
At supper, around the hearthstone, the family gossiped comfortably of this and that.
“Simple Simon says he met you going to the fair,” said Mother Goose to Mr. Claus, helping herself to another jelly bun.
“Yes, I took some pies to the fair,” replied Mr. Claus, “and Simon asked me to let him taste my ware. But the fellow didn’t have a penny, so I couldn’t give him any, of course.” Mr. Claus took another bowlful of soup from the pot on the heart.
“Well, Simon is a real simpleton,” said Mother Goose, “but he’s a harmless fellow. My goodness, Santa child, no wonder you’re a roly-poly puddin’ and pie. That’s the third helping of porridge you’ve had. He needs a new suit, Nellie.” (Nellie was Mrs. Claus’ first name.)
“Yes, he does,” replied Mrs. Claus. “But I’ve been so busy making clothes for the other children, I haven’t had time for Santa.”
“Well, the little fellows look real well in their apple-green trousers and canary-colored coats, but I’m nor sure, Nellie, that those suits are as practical as Santa’s red one.”
There she was again, just as sensible a grandmother as anybody ever had.
* * * * * * * *
Little Santa really did stop giving away all his father’s pastries. For now that he had four little brothers he found that he was very busy helping his mother to care for them. And since they were always wanting something, he didn’t miss the fun of giving, after all. If you had four little brothers, you would know just how much there was for Santa to do. He used to feed the first batch of twins. (Mr. Claus always spoke of them as “batches,” as though they were cookies.) He helped them into their apple-green trousers and played bear with them in the back yard. He held the second batch, one on each knee, while they drank milk from pewter mugs and crunched crackers between their new little teeth.
But although the little Claus babies were warm and well-fed and rosy, they didn’t have any toys to play with, like a good many other children on Pudding Lane. And little Santa, who was now seven years old, going on eight, used to worry a great deal about that. For he could see how much fun the other children had with their hobbyhorses and kites and blocks.
Then it was that Santa had a wonderful idea. It was really the most wonderful idea a little boy ever had. It was a great secret, too, and he didn’t tell anybody, not even his mother. But his mother knew that he had a secret, for he would go to the woodshed and stay there sometimes all afternoon, and she could hear the sound of hammering and sawing.
And one day when Santa came in to supper after a long afternoon in the woodshed his father sniffed the air and said, “I smell red paint.”
Little Santa gave a jump and asked: “How can you tell it’s red by smelling it?”
“Oh,” said Mr. Claus, “can’t I tell white icing from chocolate when I smell it? Then why can’t I tell red paint from yellow with the same nose?”
Santa pondered this deeply. He really didn’t see where his father was wrong, and yet he couldn’t tell the color of paint from its smell, no matter how hard he sniffed. He kept on wondering about it until he went to bed, when he found that red paint came off on his washcloth from his left cheek. Then he knew that his father had been teasing him, and he chuckled out loud at the joke.
But still little Santa did not tell where the red paint came from, and nobody asked any questions.
He kept on going out to the woodshed every day, and all the time his secret kept getting more wonderful. Santa even dreamed about it at night, and in the morning when he jumped out of bed it was the first thing he thought of.
* * * * * * * *
It was getting pretty cold these days. Mother Claus had dived deep into the walnut chest and brought out all the family woolens. Father Claus had stuffed the wood-box full of hickory logs. Almost every night Jack Frost came while the family were all asleep, and with a silver needle he embroidered the cottage windows, left shining roses patterned there, lacy spider webs, and a thousand stars or two. Santa used to try to catch Jack Frost at his work, but he never, never could.
It was cold in the woodshed, too, but Santa kept going there, and every night when he came back for supper his cheeks were redder than ever, and his fat little hands looked like purple plums.
“It’ll be the Holy Day next week,” observed his mother one night at table. “We must get a new candlestick from the candlestick-maker and a fine goose from the butcher, and we will all sing carols the night before in honor of the Holy Child’s birthday.”
When Mrs. Claus mentioned the Holy Child’s birthday little Santa almost wriggled out of his chair, and he honestly thought for a moment that his wonderful secret was going to burst right out from his lips. So he buttoned them together more tightly than ever, until his jaws fairly ached with the effort.
Mrs. Claus noticed his ill-concealed excitement. “My goodness, Santa, what are you wriggling all over your chair about? Sit up straight there, like a good boy. It’s only a baby that may squirm like that.”
* * * * * * * *
Mrs. Claus soon began to prepare for the Holy Day. First, she went to the candlestick-maker next door and asked to see his new stock.
The candlestick-maker was a little, thin, bent-over man with a face like a fox. Many people thought him objectionable, and it is true that he was forever making his nephew Jack jump over a candlestick, which was rather an unpleasant habit. Jack was nimble, and Jack was quick, and did not really seem to mind very much. Still most of the villagers thought that the candlestick-maker was very disagreeable to keep Jack jumping that way all the time. However, the Clauses liked the candlestick-maker very much, and he liked them.
When Mrs. Claus went into the shop the candlestick-maker jumped from his workbench, smoothed out his dirty leather apron and smiled his best smile. He didn’t have a tooth in his head, poor man, so his smile was rather queer until you got used to it.
Mrs. Claus looked over the new stock of candlesticks, pewter and brass and copper. And they were all so beautiful the poor lady could not, for the life of her, decide which one she wanted. For the pewter one had a handle as delicately turned as a bracelet. The brass one had been polished until it glittered like a sunbeam in the candlestick-maker’s old dark shop. And the copper one was tall and red like a tiger lily.
* * * * * * * *
Well, Mrs. Claus just stood and looked at them all until her eyes ached. Finally she gave it up.
“Which one shall I take, neighbor?” she besought the candlestick-maker.
The old man smiled and laid the copper holder in her hand, and Mrs. Claus declared that it was the very one she had wanted all the time.
“Then why didn’t you pick it out yourself?” asked the curious Santa.
The old candlestick-maker cackled and showed his toothless gums. “The little feller don’t know women, do he?” he asked Mrs. Claus.
Mrs. Claus laughed too, and just then, Jack, the candlestick-maker’s nephew, came in.
The candlestick-maker turned a sharp face to his nephew. “Jack, be nimble; Jack, be quick——” he began.
But Mrs. Claus did not wish to stay for the exhibition and hastily left the shop.
They next went to the butcher’s, on the other side of their own house.
“Ho, ho, ho,” said the butcher when he saw them coming; “here’s company. Sorry I can’t offer you a pipe, Mrs. Claus, but something tells me you wouldn’t accept it if I did; ho, ho, ho!”
* * * * * * * *
The butcher was, you see, a very genial person. His jokes were not always good jokes, to be sure. But as Mrs. Claus said, a jokester can’t always turn out a funny joke any more than a baker can, every single time, turn out a perfect pie. She said this one time to Mr. Claus when he grumbled that the butcher’s jests were sometimes tiresome.
The butcher was a big, broad-chested fellow with great arms, fine yellow mustache, and an enormous white apron that covered him from chin to toe. And Mrs. Claus always said he had the best meat in the kingdom. How Mrs. Claus knew this was something of a mystery, for she had never been outside the town, and there was no other butcher on Pudding Lane. Still, Mrs. Claus always said this, and nobody questioned her word. And by and by everybody on Pudding Lane began to say that this butcher had the best meat in the kingdom, though not one of them had ever tasted any other meat.
To-day Mrs. Claus bought a handful of tripe and then she asked the butcher what about his Holy Day fowls.
“Finest in the kingdom, Mrs. Claus,” replied the butcher, rubbing his hands together.
At last Santa understood. His mother had learned that this meat was the best in the kingdom because the butcher said so himself! And of course, he knew.
So Mrs. Claus ordered a gray goose for the Holy Day, and they departed.
“Gray geese are good eating, Santa,” she told the little boy on the way home, “and gray goose feathers don’t get so dirty in bed pillows.”
When they got home Mrs. Claus declared that they must all get down to business immediately and learn their Holy Day carols. So she got out a kitchen spoon to beat time with, and they all got down to business and sang carols. Father Claus rumbled and roared. Mother Claus sang high and loud and got very red in the face. Santa shouted his best, now in the soprano part, now in the alto, and often half-way between.
The first batch of twins yelled fervently on one note. And the babies squealed with delight at the racket.
When they had all sung until they were hoarse and breathless, Mother Claus laid down the spoon. “Now we’re all ready for the Holy Child’s birthday,” she said.
And once more little Santa nearly burst with his wonderful secret that he had kept so many days.
* * * * * * * *
The day before the Holy Child’s birthday Mrs. Claus couldn’t find Santa high or low. He wasn’t in the butcher’s or the candlestick-maker’s. He wasn’t in the woodshed. He wasn’t anywhere. Mrs. Claus got very impatient.
“Here I am cooking a goose, making new candles, scrubbing the hearth, and there’s no Santa to help me do a thing,” she said to Mr. Claus at dinner. “Where in the kingdom do you suppose the child is?”
But Mr. Claus didn’t know. So Mrs. Claus had to go on with her work without any help from anybody. She certainly was much annoyed, and was preparing to give Santa a good scolding when he got back. He had never done such a naughty thing before. In fact, he had never done anything really naughty before, and Mrs. Claus didn’t know what to make of him. But it got dark, and Santa didn’t come back, and then Mrs. Claus got fearfully worried.
She put on a hood and went hurrying down Pudding Lane to the Town Crier’s. “Get out your bell, Mr. Crier,” she said.
“What, is pussy in the well again?” asked the Crier.
“Worse than that,” replied Mrs. Claus. “My oldest boy, Santa, is lost.”
“Have you looked upstairs and downstairs and in my lady’s chamber?” asked the Town Crier.
“We have no upstairs and we have no lady’s chamber,” answered Mrs. Claus; “but we have searched every nook of the downstairs, and he hasn’t been home for hours upon hours, and now it’s as black as a witch outdoors.”
* * * * * * * *
So the Town Crier left his supper and took out his great bronze bell. He went up and down Pudding Lane. He went east to the crossroads and west to the bridge. He went up and down Pinafore Pike and down and up Raspberry Road. And everywhere he sang out: “Little Santa Claus is lost! All folks turn out and hunt!”
And as the Crier went his round Mr. and Mrs. Claus sat beside the stove, each one hugging a batch of twins, mourning their lost boy, the jolly, fat, good little Santa.
So they waited, weeping and sad, the little brothers asleep in their arms, while the men in the neighborhood gathered lanterns and ropes and bells and started to find the lost child.
It was quiet and cold in the little room back of the shop. No sound came to the waiting mother and father. The Holy Child’s candle winked and blinked in the window. What a sad Holy Day for the Claus family! Then suddenly, with a bump and a clatter, down the chimney came a red-clad figure, with a bag on his arm and a merry chuckle.
“Why, Santa Claus!” exclaimed his mother, jumping up to hug her little boy.
Father Claus jumped up, too, and the four little brothers woke up and immediately began to laugh at the sight of their roly-poly Santa, who had a smudge on his cheek and was dancing and laughing as if he would split his fat little sides.
“Santa Claus,” cried Mrs. Claus again, “wherever have you been?”
And then came the wonderful secret.
“I have toys for my little brothers,” cried Santa. “I kept them in a box on the roof, so of course I had to come down the chimney. Good thing I’m fat, mother, or it would have scraped my bones.”
He laughed again and began to open his bag. And his brothers’ eyes got as big as moons at the things he tumbled out!
“Here’s a rocking horse for Matthew,” he shouted, “and a kite for little Mark. Here’s a set of blocks for Luke, and a top that spins for John.”
Such hilarity as there was then! Matthew climbed on the wooden horse and rocked until he was dizzy and fell over backwards on his head. It was a peculiar-looking horse, made of boards and barrel staves, with its green yarn tail stuck way on the right side by mistake. But it did rock; oh my, yes! Little Santa had spent days balancing it on its barrel-stave rockers.
Mark shouted with glee over his blue paper kite. Luke built a high tower of blocks which tumbled right over on John’s whirling top. And everybody danced and screamed at everything that happened.
* * * * * * * *
Finally, when they were all out of breath, Mother Claus brought in cinnamon eggnog, and Father Claus built up the fire.
“Santa, however did you think of such a beautiful surprise?” asked Mother Claus.
Little Santa almost fell out of his chair with delight. But he couldn’t give his mother any satisfactory answer. “I just did,” was all that he could say.
“And how did you learn to make those toys out of kindling wood and left-over bits?” asked his father.
“I don’t know,” he answered, and he blushed with pride and pleasure at his father’s question.
“Won’t the neighbors all be surprised when they hear of this?” asked Mrs. Claus. And then she remembered something and gave a little cry. “My goodness, Mr. Claus,” she said to her husband, “do you suppose the men are still out looking for Santa? We were so excited about the toys we forgot to tell them he was found again.”
“Great snakes!” exclaimed Mr. Claus. “Great snakes!” was his favorite expression; but if the poor man had ever seen a great snake I’m sure he would have run seven miles. He jumped up to run and tell the Crier.
But just then all the men who had been hunting for little Santa came up Pudding Lane to the door. “We can’t find him,” said the leader of the search party.
* * * * * * * *
Then he looked in through the door and saw all the Clauses, merry as could be, around the blazing fire with Santa in their midst.
“What’s this?” he asked, frowning. “Did you play a hoax on us, baker?”
All the men began to growl and for a moment it sounded like a storm coming up a mile away.
Mr. Claus quickly began to explain. “It was a Holy Day surprise,” he said. “Little Santa made all these toys for his brothers and came down the chimney with them. We thought he was lost, but he was on the roof.”
“I would have come sooner, only I went to sleep,” confessed Santa.
“Come in, friends,” urged Mr. Claus, “and look at the things our Santa made. He’ll make a first-rate apprentice, Mr. Carpenter.”
So it was that Santa found himself much admired and complimented. Finally, however, after all the men had drunk eggnog, wiped off their mustaches carefully, and departed for home, Santa went to bed. And he knew that his wonderful secret had been a huge success, and he resolved to make toys for his little brothers every single Holy Day.
* * * * * * * *
It was shortly after Holy Day that the Clauses brought out the old cradle for a new baby, and this time it was a girl. How pleased everybody was! Nobody felt doleful this time, for Mr. Claus had learned that the soup always did go around after all; and Mother Claus had wished so hard for a daughter.
The baby grew fast as the spring came along, and by summer, when the winds were warm and the bushes on Raspberry Road showed green knobs, she began to be fretful.
“Her teeth ache,” said the piper’s wife as she held her one day.
“Her teeth?” exclaimed Santa. “How could they ache? She hasn’t any.” Santa laughed aloud at the blunder the piper’s wife had made.
“Of course she has,” rejoined the piper’s wife promptly; “only you can’t see ’em, Santa. Ha, ha, the joke’s on you!”
Little Santa, feeling rather foolish, said no more. Mrs. Claus came out of the house with her sewing. And as Santa sat drowsily in the sun, watching the bees and dragon flies and humming birds in their flight from flower to flower, the two women chatted.
“And where’s the baker to-day?” asked the piper’s wife. “I noticed the shop was closed.”
“He’s gone to the royal kitchen to teach the Queen of Hearts how to make her favorite tarts,” answered Mrs. Claus proudly.
* * * * * * * *
She was glad the piper’s wife had asked that question. For the Clauses had thought it a great honor for the Queen of Hearts to send for the baker, and Mrs. Claus did want everybody to know of the occasion.
The piper’s wife had a piece of news from Hamelin. “They say there’s a plague of rats over there,” she said.
“My goodness!” said Mrs. Claus. “Are they very bad?”
“Very bad,” replied the piper’s wife. “They get in the porridge and climb in the beds and swarm the streets.”
“Dear me!” said Mrs. Claus. “That is terrible.”
“Yes,” went on the piper’s wife. “But there’s a piper—my husband knows him—who has agreed to pipe them all away for a certain sum of money.”
“Well, that’s a blessing,” said Mrs. Claus. “Think of having rats in your babies’ beds.”
She shivered, and though the day was very warm, little Santa shivered too at the very thought of rats in his bed.
Mrs. Claus was going to have a party. She wrote her invitations: “Mrs. Claus humbly craves the honor of your presence”—and in the lower left-hand corner added: “Q.E.D.”
“What does it mean?” asked the baker.
“I don’t know rightly,” replied his wife; “but they always put it at the bottom of invitations.”
“Well, it ought to have a ‘U’ in it,” criticized the baker. “‘Q’ is always followed by ‘U.’”
“It does hardly seem right,” admitted Mrs. Claus; but she sent the invitations that way just the same.
All the grown-ups on Pudding Lane were invited and every one accepted. Mrs. Claus then began to plan her refreshments. It was a hard problem, for there were Mr. and Mrs. Spratt, who were so queer about meat; and there was Miss Muffett, who was on a diet of curds and whey. Finally Mrs. Claus decided to have everything she could think of, so that everybody would be pleased.
The day was set for Wednesday; the hour was ten minutes after three; and now, on Tuesday, there was a great cleaning and scrubbing and cooking going on in the little cottage. Santa was a great help. He went up the hill for water and never stumbled once, though it was the same hill where Jack and Jill had had their frightful accident. He scoured the copper candlestick that was tall and red like a tiger lily. He took care of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and his little sister.
In the midst of everything, the butcher came running back into the house, followed by the baker and the candlestick-maker.
“Whatever is the matter?” asked Mrs. Claus. “I don’t fancy having three men at their ease in my kitchen whilst I work at a thousand and one things.”
* * * * * * * *
“Fetch all the children,” commanded the baker. “Fetch Santa and the first batch of twins and the second batch of twins, fetch the little one, and take them all to your breast and hold them there.”
Mrs. Claus stared at her husband. “Has the good man lost his wits, neighbor?” she asked the candlestick-maker.
“Do as he says, Mrs. Claus,” replied the candlestick-maker, “and be nimble, be quick.”
Mrs. Claus turned to the butcher. “Are they stark mad, butcher?” she asked. “Tell me, quick, has the summer heat curdled their brains and addled their minds completely?”
The butcher began to speak. “First collect your children——”
But Mrs. Claus, poor woman, began to cry, and then they hastened to explain.
“It’s that piper at Hamelin,” said the baker. “He piped away the rats, but the mayor wouldn’t pay, and then he piped away the children into a big deep pit. And now the Town Crier says he’s on his way here——”
Mrs. Claus screamed and ran into the yard. In two minutes she had all her children herded into the kitchen. And in another two minutes she had them all in bed, with cotton stuffed in their ears.
* * * * * * * *
The next morning the Town Crier gave out the news that the Pied Piper of Hamelin had headed the other way. So all the Claus children jumped out of bed, pulled the cotton out of their ears and rejoiced loudly at their freedom. But this was the day of the party, and bustling preparations were soon on foot again.
“Why is the party called for ten minutes after three?” asked Mr. Claus at dinner.
They were all stuffing their food down hurriedly in order to get the table cleared before the company should come.
“Well, a body has to set some time or other,” answered Mrs. Claus, “and ten minutes after three sounded genteel to me.”
Mr. Claus did not understand this and neither did Santa, but Mrs. Claus was well content with the hour.
Oh, such a scramble as it was to get all the Clauses dressed for that party! First Mr. Claus had to have a clean baker’s apron and cap, starched so stiff he scarcely dared to move. Then Santa had to scrub his ears, brush his red suit and shine his shoes until they hurt his eyes with their glare. After that the first batch of twins were washed and put into their apple-green trousers and canary-colored coats, and the next batch were washed and put into their funny little bloomers and shirts of orange and blue.
Good gracious, it was nearly ten minutes after three! The baby was hurried into her white dress, and at last Mrs. Claus appeared, with her hair curled, her feet in new kid slippers and, instead of her old brown apron, she wore a handsome dress of green muslin. She smiled at Santa, but her smile did not last longer than a second, for she confessed that her new slippers did pinch horribly.
“Whatever made you get ’em so small?” asked Mr. Claus. He was fussy and nervous, poor man. Parties didn’t come easy to him.
“It was the only pair they had in the shop,” said Mrs. Claus. “What else could I do?”
Then she hobbled to the door on her poor pinched feet and looked down Pudding Lane.
“Mercy on us, here they come!” she cried, lining up the family in a nice straight row.
* * * * * * * *
Sure enough, down Pudding Lane they came in their best bibs and tuckers, old Mother Hubbard, Mr. and Mrs. Spratt, Miss Muffett and her mother, Tommy Tucker’s parents, the piper and his wife, Doctor foster, old Toby Sizer, and all the rest. It was indeed a most imposing procession.
Mrs. Claus shook hands with everybody, hoped they were well and offered them chairs. They sat in a circle, while Mrs. Claus and Mr. Claus and Santa hurried to pass around food. For, of course, the food was the main thing.
There were great rolls of freshly browned sausage. There were plates of steaming onions. There was a bite of cheese for everybody. There were fruits and plenty of pastries from the shop. Miss Muffett had a special bowl of curds and whey, but her mother, bless you, had three helpings of sausage! It had always been said that she thought her daughter’s diet a bit silly. Mother Hubbard was seen to slip a bit of meat into her pocket. The old woman always did that at parties. And finally, when all the company had eaten until they could not hold another crumb, there was conversation.
“I notice you limp some, Mrs. Claus. Have you a crick in your knee?” asked Mrs. Horner politely.
“No,” confessed Mrs. Claus with a slight moan, “I have no crick in my knee, neighbor. But my shoes”—she was ashamed to admit it, but she went on bravely—“are too tight.”
“Why, Mrs. Claus,” said Mrs. Horner reprovingly, “you ought not to wear a tight shoe. Better throw the pair away than ruin good feet.”
Old Toby Sizer, the miser, grunted at such extravagance, and Mrs. Spratt, who was a very thrifty woman, spoke up. “Oh, I would never throw them away, Mrs. Claus,” she said. “Why don’t you save them until your little girl grows up? They would do nicely for her when she is a young woman.”
* * * * * * * *
This was considered a happy idea by all present, and so Mrs. Claus excused herself and went into the bedroom. When she returned to the company it was in old house slippers. It was true that they did not look any too handsome worn with that elegant green muslin dress. But the good lady was comfortable at any rate.
Just as she joined the party again, a messenger appeared at the door. “Old King Cole is calling for his fiddlers three,” he said. “Are they here, baker?”
Three skinny little men with fiddles under their arms sprang forward, wiping the last crumbs from their sharp chins.
“Yes, we are,” spoke up the first fiddler quite promptly. “We’ll follow immediately, messenger.”
Then, when the messenger had gone, the first fiddler spoke again, this time in a grumbling tone. “Never go anywhere that that man doesn’t send for us,” he said.
Mrs. Claus murmured in a consoling manner, and the piper’s wife spoke up. “But he’s a merry old soul, fiddler.”
“Oh, yes,” replied the first fiddler, sighing. “But if he only were not quite so merry, ’twould not be such a dog’s life for us. Well, good day, all.”
The first fiddler sprang out of the door, and the other fiddlers sprang out after him. The fiddlers three always jumped and leaped everywhere. People said it was because they were so used to jumping and leaping for the king.
Little Santa was more sorry than anybody else that they had gone, for he did love a jolly jig such as they played.
But his mother had other plans for him anyway, it seemed. “It is time for the cow, Santa,” she reminded him.
* * * * * * * *
Santa did not like to leave the party, but of course he could not neglect the poor old cow, either. So out he went, resolved to hurry and get her back before the company should leave. The pasture was at the other end of Pudding Lane, next to Mistress Mary’s garden, and Santa hurried there as fast as his legs would carry him.
All at once he heard a faint noise, like the whistle of a far-away redbird. He looked high above him into all the trees, and he looked low into the bushes, but he saw nothing except green leaves everywhere; there was no sign of any bird.
The whistling came louder and louder, and then as Santa got closer to the pasture he saw Mistress Mary hurrying out of her garden. She ran up Raspberry Road, and when Santa looked to see why she was running so fast, he saw all the village children running too. And in front of them was a dancing man in brown, piping the most wonderful tune that was ever piped in the world.
It was the Pied Piper of Hamelin! The wicked man who piped children into a pit and left them there to die!
Little Santa was stiff with horror as he saw the dancing, piping man and remembered his rascally deeds. He was so frightened that he just stood still for a moment and didn’t know what to do.
Then, as the music went on, he suddenly wanted to follow it too. But he remembered his mother’s remedy and, quickly tearing some of the white cotton trimming from his red suit, he stuffed it into his ears. But he kept thinking: “I must save the children of Pudding lane from the Pied Piper; I must, I must, I must.”
* * * * * * * *
He ran as hard as his fat legs would go to catch up with the procession of children that was trooping away on Raspberry Road.
“Come home,” he begged them, “or the Pied Piper will take you to a big black cave, as he did the children of Hamelin.”
But the children would not listen, but kept dancing behind the piper, never knowing the horrible fate that was in store for them.
Santa was desperate. What could he do? The children would not listen to his warnings. They would soon be in the Pied Piper’s big black pit, and all the mothers in Pudding Lane would cry their eyes out.
Santa wrung his fat hands in despair.
* * * * * * * *
And just then he had an idea. He shouted to the children again: “Come home to Pudding Lane and I will make every one of you a toy for next Holy Day.”
The children turned their backs like a flash on the dancing piper. “You really will, Santa?” asked Bo-Peep.
“I will,” promised Santa rashly.
“Me too, Santa?” asked Tommy Tucker.
“Everybody,” promised Santa again. “Just come home now.”
“Hurrah for Santa Claus!” shouted Jack Horner.
And in a moment they were all trooping back home while the Pied Piper danced alone on Raspberry Road, never dreaming they had forsaken him.
When the children all marched into Mrs. Claus’ grown-up party everybody was most surprised, and Mrs. Claus was really much annoyed.
“Why in the world did you bring all the children of the town to my grown-up party, Santa?” she questioned him. “And where, pray, is the cow?”
But when all the parents had been told of what had happened that afternoon, they praised little Santa to the skies. They kissed him and blessed him and called him good boy until he thought he would die of embarrassment. And Mrs. Claus declared that as a reward he should go to market with her to buy a fat pig the very next time she went.
So that was really the way the young Santa got started on his annual habit of making Holy Day gifts for all the children he knew.
That next Holy Day was the best Holy Day that Old King Cole’s people ever had. And ever after that Santa made toys for the Holy Day, and he became the most-loved person in the kingdom, even though he was but a little boy, the son of a poor baker.
* * * * * * * *
When Santa was almost a man and had been making toys for years and years and years, the family gathered around the stove one day to decide about his future.
“He will be a baker and help me in the store,” said Father Claus, who was longing for a good long rest anyway.
“He will be a carpenter,” said Mother Claus. “He’s too handy with his tools to be a baker, Mr. Claus.”
“He will be a toy maker,” said the children.
At that Santa’s face grew bright. “Yes, I’d like to be a toy maker,” he said. “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John can help you in the bakeshop, father. Only”—the boy stopped a moment—“I shouldn’t want to sell toys, you know.”
“You shouldn’t want to sell toys!” repeated Mrs. Claus. “Why, Santa Claus, what ever do you mean? Of course you want to sell toys. No such toys were ever seen in the kingdom, and you will take in silver and gold by the bagful if you make them as a trade.”
But young Santa was not pleased. “I couldn’t sell them, after giving them away all these years,” he said.
At that Mrs. Claus lost her patience. “And who, pray, is to pay for your lodging the rest of your life? Your poor father, who has worked so hard? Your younger brothers? Shame, Santa!”
Poor young Santa Claus was very sorrowful. “No, mother, no one is to pay for my lodging. But I must make toys to give away, I really must. I could never make them to sell.”
The matter was left undecided and everybody was very much worried. For here was Santa, almost grown up, and there seemed to be no work for him to do. Santa himself was especially downcast, for he could not see, for the life of him, how he could ever make toys to give away and yet earn his lodging at the same time. And yet he felt inside him that it would really be wrong for him to take money for his wonderful toys. And so it was a perplexing problem.
Then one day, without any warning, Mother Goose swished down into their midst with a great flourish of skirts, straight from the clouds, on her trusty gander. There was great rejoicing, for the lively old lady was much loved by her family and her visits were far too seldom. She gave them all a hug, and when she got to Santa she gave him an extra squeeze or so, for of all the children he was her favorite.
* * * * * * * *
Then Mother Goose, whose eyes were as sharp as needles, noticed that there was a touch of sadness about the young man’s face. “Come, now, what’s the matter?” she asked.
Santa did not answer and, as Mother Goose looked around the family, she saw that they all were distressed about something.
“Come; tell me immediately,” she commanded.
So they told her what was troubling them. And after they had finished, Mother goose sat silently thinking, thinking, thinking, for seven minutes. What could be done about her dear Santa and his strange desire to make toys and give them away to children the rest of his life? At the end of the seven minutes she looked up, and the whole family drew a breath of relief; for whenever Mother goose put her head to a difficulty she always solved it.
“I have it,” she announced. “Santa shall make toys for the children’s Holy Day the rest of his life, and I myself will get Old King Cole to set him up in the business. Old King Cole has money bags full of gold. It’s time he did something handsome with it.”
With that Mother Goose got up from her chair, hopped on the gander, and in a moment was out of sight, almost before the family could catch their breath.
She had gone to see Old King Cole.
The family waited and waited for Mother Goose to return, fearful that she might fail in her errand, hopeful that she might succeed. They trembled as they waited; they hardly dared move; nobody spoke. Santa himself felt that he would die if Mother Goose came back without the king’s promise.
* * * * * * * *
It seemed as if they had waited forever, when a flash of petticoats was seen through the window and in three seconds Mother Goose was with them again. Her face was triumphant.
“The king says he will,” she cried. “It seems, Mr. Claus, that the king feels very much indebted to you for teaching the queen to make tarts. She had always been such a restless woman. Well, well, Santa, there you are. What do you think of your old grandmother?” The old lady laughed in delight at the good work she had done. Then she remembered something. “Oh, I forgot to say that there is one condition: The king says that every child must be asleep on the night before Holy Day, or else, Santa, you cannot make their toys forever. But I guess they’ll go to sleep all right if they want our Santa to make toys for them.”
The old lady laughed again and then remembered something else. “Oh, yes, here’s the rest of it: You are to live, Santa Claus, in the great North Country, where the king has a big house and workshop, reindeer and sleighs galore.”
At this Santa’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, and the rest of the family just gasped.
Mrs. Claus found her tongue first, as usual. “In the North Country!” she exclaimed. “Why, Mother Goose, how ever will he get there?”
“Oh, he’ll get there all right,” replied Mother Goose. “Old King Cole will see to that.”
Such excitement as there was on Pudding Lane when it was learned that young Santa Claus was to be set up in the toy-making business by the king! How everybody gaped when it was told that he was to go far away to the North Country to live in a big, big house and ride behind reindeer galore. The news flew from house to house like wildfire, until finally everybody except the Town Crier knew all about it.
The Town Crier was so busy calling out the price of butter that he didn’t hear the story until his wife told him that evening. Then he hurried forth to ring the bell and cry the news. Nobody stopped him, for the Town Crier was getting a bit old and slow, and they were quite used to his calling out news that really wasn’t news at all.
* * * * * * * *
For days the Claus family worked hard to get Santa ready for his long journey to the North Country, where he was to live the rest of his life. Mrs. Claus made twelve red suits, each one a bit larger than the former one, for it was supposed that Santa would get just a little stouter each year. Mr. Claus baked many plum puddings and fruit cakes. The butcher brought over a ham. Mrs. Claus packed a boxful of flannels and goose oil and camphor against the freezing cold of the North.
And though they were all busy, they were just a little sad, too, to think of losing Santa. And Santa himself was depressed at the thought of going away so far. He knew he would be lonely even in the midst of his beloved toy making.
One day he was thinking of this as he watched Mother Claus pack flannels into a box. All at once his mother looked up and, as if she had been reading his mind, spoke.
“Santa, it is not right for you to go to the North Country alone,” she said.
“I shall be lonely,” answered the young Santa.
“Then you must take a wife with you,” said his mother decisively.
Young Santa stared. “A wife!” he said in amazement.
“A wife,” repeated his mother. “Of course you must have a wife. What ever have we been thinking of not to get you a wife!”
Being a woman of action, Mrs. Claus left her packing, went into the bakeshop, and told Mr. Claus of her decision. Mr. Claus agreed that Santa must have a wife. And so it was decided, though young Santa had not the faintest notion how to get a wife.
* * * * * * * *
“How do you get a wife?” he asked his father. It was really a very terrifying thought.
“You go out and court her,” replied his father. “You take her sweets and posies. You make yourself agreeable to her and her family. You then get on your knees and say, ‘Curly-locks, curly-locks, will you be mine?’ And if she’s anything of a woman, she says she will. And that’s all there is to it.”
“But if her hair isn’t curly?” objected Santa.
“All the better, she will be immensely flattered,” answered Mr. Claus.
It sounded easy enough. But the next question was: Who should the wife be?
“Jill is a nice girl,” suggested Mr. Claus.
“Too clumsy,” said Mother Claus. “Always falling and sprawling around.”
“Would Bo-Peep do?” asked Father Claus.
“Bo-Peep’s all right,” answered his wife. “But she’s always off somewhere, hunting lost sheep. I hardly think she’d make a good, practical wife.”
Then Mrs. Claus herself thought of Bessie, the candlestick-maker’s niece, who had just come to Pudding Lane. And Santa knew immediately that she was the very one. Bessie was a lovely girl with hair like streaming sun and the most gleeful laugh in the whole world, and Santa had long been admiring her as quite the nicest girl he knew. He was sure she would make an excellent wife, and that with her in the North Country he would never be lonely.
So that evening he went a-courting. He took posies and sweets, he made himself very agreeable, and he said: “Curly-locks, curly-locks, will you be mine?”
He did not get on his knees, being a bit stout for that, but he made a deep bow, for his mother had said that would do very well for a fat fellow.
Bessie said she would be happy to become Mrs. Santa Claus. Santa rushed home to tell the glorious news.
“Bless us all!” said Mrs. Claus.
“Great snakes!” said Mr. Claus.
Then they all went to bed.
* * * * * * * *
The wedding was held in the bakeshop at noon on the following Monday. Pudding Lane had never seen such a grand occasion. Everybody was there, even the king and queen. The fiddlers three played the music. Mistress Mary supplied the flowers from her garden. There was a great feast of tarts that the Queen of Hearts made with her own royal hands. Everybody had on new clothes. Santa’s sister, now a big girl, wore the kid slippers that had pinched her mother’s feet at that other party so long ago.
Only Mrs. Solomon Grundy was not in holiday mood. She, poor woman, kept referring to her own unfortunate marriage. But then everybody was used to Mrs. Grundy, so nobody really listened to her as she mumbled: “Married on Wednesday, ill on Thursday,” and so on.
And after all the celebration and feasting, the Happy Couple, as the Town Crier called them, rode off in a golden chariot lent by the king. Mother Claus cried a few tears, Father Claus snuffled a bit, the candlestick-maker went back to his bench, croaking and shaking his head. But in the golden chariot Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus were as happy as birds. They rode along Raspberry Road, turned at Pinafore Pike, went through Hamelin and Banbury Cross, and finally they came to the edge of the North Country, where it was beginning to be cold. Into the North Woods went the golden chariot, and every hour it grew colder and colder. At last they came to open country where deep, thick snow lay on the ground. There they were met by a sleigh and eight reindeer, whose bells jingled a noisy, sweet, welcome to them. Into the sleigh they jumped, and then they were off, slipping across the snow like a flash of light, until they came to the great house where they were to live.
What a wonderful house it was—a great, wide, low building, furnished in log furniture and bearskins, and with a fire blazing in every room! Mrs. Santa Claus cried aloud when she saw it, and Santa himself stamped around saying “Ho, ho, ho” and rubbing his hands with pleasure. It was surely the best place in the world to live, they thought.
But the next day they buckled right down to business, for of course there were heaps and heaps of toys to be made. And Santa was most anxious to get everything done in good time.
* * * * * * * *
All year long Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus worked to make toys. Santa cut down straight pine and spruce trees. He carved dolls and horses and rabbits out of the wood, and Mrs. Claus painted them until her arms ached. He made dolls of sawdust and linen, and Mrs. Claus dressed them in the latest doll styles, in blue and pink silk, with lace on the edge of their bonnets. Santa made a roomful of rocking horses; it seemed that every little boy in the world wanted a rocking horse. And Mrs. Claus made candy until she said she thought she’d turn into candy. Whereupon Santa told her she was sweet enough for that anyway!
And then, on Christmas Eve, he started out, bundled to the chin in fur robes. The sleigh was running over with toys. He carried his pockets full, too, and under his arm was a bundle of dolls that just would not squeeze in any place else.
“And will you hurry back, Santa Claus?” asked his wife anxiously.
“If all the children are abed and asleep as they should be, I’ll be back by the crack of dawn,” he promised.
“And if some little boy or girl is awake?” questioned Mrs. Claus fearfully.
Santa sighed deeply at the thought of such a calamity. “I should simply have to bring all the toys home again, and we could never try the business again. For Old King Cole explicitly said that every child must be sound asleep on the eve before Holy Day, or we’d have to go back to Pudding Lane and be bakers the rest of our lives.”
Then he was off with a snap and a flourish, and Mrs. Claus went back into the house to sit by the fire and wait. The clock ticked, ticked, ticked. The snow outside fell softly, softly, softly. The fire burned lower, lower, lower. And Mrs. Claus’ heart almost stood still, so fearful was she that some boy or girl would be awake and spoil Santa’s visit.
* * * * * * * *
Supposing, she thought to herself, that little Polly Flinders had sat up to warm her toes in the cinders, as she was so fond of doing. Oh, dear, poor Mrs. Claus almost wept at the very thought.
Or supposing that Greedy Nan insisted on staying up, as she always, always did when Sleepyhead suggested bed. Or supposing some little boy hid behind a sofa and peeped!
Well, Mrs. Claus could hardly bear these thoughts. She got up and paced the floor in her anxiety. And when she did that even Santa’s cat, who had been snoozing by the wood box, became restless. He followed Mrs. Claus as she walked back and forth. He wondered where his master was and what was the matter with Mrs. Claus. He had a worried frown between his green eyes and his whiskers drooped dolefully.
It was almost the crack of dawn. Mrs. Claus strained her ears for the faraway sound of sleigh bells, and peered out of the window for the first sight of a sleigh. But she heard no sound and saw nothing in the distance. Oh, she was so afraid they would have to give up the toy-making business and go back to Pudding Lane!
* * * * * * * *
But just at that moment dawn cracked! A dim light shone in the east. The snowbirds began to chirp. The stars faded softly out. And then, in a rush of snow and with a clamor of bells, came Santa, driving the reindeer with one hand and waving to Mrs. Claus with the other, laughing aloud: “Ho, ho, ho!”
In a second he was in the house, stamping and chuckling, puffing like a great steam engine. “It’s all right, Mrs. Claus, it’s all right!” he shouted. “Every child was sound asleep and we can go on forever now.”
At this wonderful news Mrs. Claus cried a bit, then set to work getting Santa’s breakfast.
The cat, hearing that all was well again, grinned broadly and climbed up into Santa’s lap. Santa sat by the fire, stroking him and chuckling aloud.
And so it is that Santa Claus has come every year since that first Christmas, and will keep on coming—forever.
* * * * * * * *
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