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 A LITTLE SANTA CLAUS

IT was seasonable weather — everybody said so.  Jack Frost had made his appearance, and drawn all sorts of fantastic figures on the windows, and hardened the ground, to the great annoyance of footballers, and frozen the ponds over, to the great delight of the youngsters.  And now the snow was falling, covering, as with a beautiful mantle, the leafless trees and hedgerows, and spreading on the ground a delightfully soft white carpet.  Oh! what a glorious time everybody was going to have!  What a fine old Christmas it was going to be!

The old people said that there was every prospect of it being an old-fashioned Christmas, and it reminded them of bygone days.  The young people clapped their hands with glee, snowballed each other in evident enjoyment, and kept “the pot a-boiling” in sliding across the ponds or in sleighing down the little hill-sides.

And it would be Christmas Day on the morrow!  And to-night, at midnight, the Christmas waits would go out, bidding, in sweet song, Christians to awake and salute the happy morn; and to-night, too, at midnight, Santa Claus would start on his rounds, leaving surprise, mirth, and happiness in his train.

Ah! good old Santa Claus, with his snow-white beard, and his fur-lined coat, with its capacious pockets, filled with all manner of sweet and acceptable things for the children!  How his coming is anxiously awaited.  No wonder that Willie Almond, as he looked through the window and saw a man coming down the road, wearing a great overcoat with its pockets buldging out, and covered with a thick coating of snow, called out to his mother, “See, mamma, see!  Santa Claus is coming.”

His mother looked to where he pointed and smingly said, “No, Willie, that is not Santa Claus.  He only comes at night, when all good little children are in bed and fast asleep.”

“Why does he come then, mamma?”

“Oh! I don’t know, unless he thinks that some little boys would be dissatisfied with what he brought them, and would want what he intended for somebody else.”

“Why does he not take presents to all good little boys and girls, mamma?”

“I really do not know, Willie,” answered Mrs. Almond.  “Does he not do so?”

“No, he does not, because there’s Fred Wilson, who holds my hand whilst I learn to slide, and who won’t let the other boys tease me, and Santa Claus does not take him anything.”

“How do you know?” inquired Willie’s mother.

“Oh! I asked him this morning,” replied Willie, “and he said that nobody ever brought him anything at Christmas, and he didn’t know anything about Santa Claus, and he asked me who he was.  Do you know who Santa Claus is, mamma?”

Mrs. Almond was taken aback for a moment by this question.  She did not like to spoil the child-like vision which her boy, in common with most children, had of Santa Claus and his Christmas visits, and yet she felt that it would be wrong not to take Willie into her confidence and tell him the whole truth, so she said, “Yes, Willie, I know Santa Claus.”

“Do you really, mamma?” cried Willie in great glee.  “Do tell me all about him.”

“Most little boys and girls,” replied Mrs. Almond, “have parents and relatives and friends who love them, and who would like to make them presents in this way.  Each one of these is a Santa Claus.  It is an old custom which I should not like to see die out.  It is pleasant to think of a Santa Claus who loves all children, and it should make us think of Him who loves us all, whether young or old, because we are His children and He is always giving us good gifts.”

Willie seemed a little disappointed, as most people do, at having his dream dispelled, but he soon brightened up and said, “Manama, could I be a Santa Claus?”

“Yes! you could, Willie,” answered his mother.
 “Everybody can be a Santa Claus in carrying joy and happiness to some of their fellow-beings.”

Willie was silent a moment, and then an idea seemed to strike him.

“Mamma!” he said, “I should like to be a Santa Claus.  If my Santa Claus would only bring my presents a little bit sooner I would take them to Fred Wilson, because he has no Santa Claus of his own.  He has no dada, and his mamma is poor.  He told me that she could not always buy him clothes when he wanted them, and he showed me this morning that the snow went through his boots.  Can I not take him something, mamma?”

“Bless you, my child,” said Mrs. Almond, with tears of joy in her eyes, “you shall take him something.  Wait till your father comes home and we will see if we cannot make you into a little Santa Claus.”

When Mr. Almond returned home from business, he was made acquainted with Willie’s desires, and it hardly needs to be told that when he realised his little son’s generosity and Christian spirit, he was visibly touched; a lump seemed to rise in his throat, and tears crept quietly into his eyes.  Taking Willie upon his knee, he asked him what he would like his friend to have.  Willie, however, had not considered details.  He only felt that he should like Fred Wilson to have a few nice things, such as Santa Claus generally brought to him, and he particularly wanted Fred to feel that he had a Santa Claus as well as anybody else.

“Do you want Santa Claus to take your presents to Fred Wilson?” asked Willie’s father.
 
Willie paused for a moment.  It was a great sacrifice.  Then he said, cheerfully, “Yes, dada, that’s what I want.”

After tea, Mr. and Mrs. Almond went to the town to make some Christmas purchases, and you may be sure that they did not forget the requirements of Santa Claus.  First they bought some of the choicest and best oranges, apples, grapes, etc.  Then they went to the confectioner’s, and got very tastefully designed mince pies, and some really pretty boxes of chocolate and other tempting delicacies.  Not content with these, they went to the bookseller’s and selected some very beautifully illustrated books containing stories of a few of the best men and women that England ever produced.  Next they called at a bootmaker’s and ordered a pair of substantially made boys’ boots, the only condition being that, as they did not know the exact size required, the shopman would exchange them if necessary.

All these articles were to be sent to Mr. Almond’s, and after transacting one or two other little matters of business, Mr. and Mrs. Almond took the tram and were at home before any of the parcels arrived.

They were thus able to receive them without Willie’s knowledge, and he knew not what they had done until his mother called him to see the articles intended for Fred Wilson, which she had neatly arranged on the kitchen table.  Oh! how delicious they appeared to Willie!  He was too full to speak.  It was a trying moment, and when his mother asked him if he would have them, or must they send them to Fred Wilson, he almost broke down.  Like a flash, however, the poverty of Fred Wilson and his mother, and his ignorance of Santa Claus, appeared before him, and with a slight quiver in his voice, he replied, “No, mamma, let us send them to Fred Wilson.”

After that the pretty things tempted him no more, and he helped his mother to pack them up as willingly and as good-humouredly as if the articles were being packed for himself.

Then the question arose as to how they should be conveyed to their destination, and Mr. Almond suggested that as Willie was the real Santa Claus in this case, he should take the gifts himself.

So Willie was dressed in a big overcoat with big pockets, into which he put as many of the things as he possibly could, and the remainder he carried under his arms; and when the evening was sufficiently far advanced as to warrant the thought that the recipient of these precious goods would be gone to bed, Willie, accompanied by his mother, set forth on his Christmas mission of sending good-will not only to men, but to little children.

How Mrs. Wilson was affected by the visit of the little Santa Claus, and how she promised to place the good things so that Fred would see them as soon as he awoke on Christmas morn, we need not say.

Willie returned home and went to bed happier than he had ever felt before, and when he opened his eyes in the morning and saw his stockings full, and numerous other parcels tied to the bed, waiting for him, he ran downstairs, and kissing his mother and father, said:

Oh! mamma and dada, isn’t it nice?  We have all been Santa Clauses.  You have been big Santa Clauses, and I have been a little Santa Claus.”

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