"D ONDER and Blitzen, Dasher and Vixen, Dancer and Prancer, Comet and Cupid," repeated Tuktu to herself, and her eyes were like stars. "Do the children out in the Great World love them?"
You should have seen Santa's eyes twinkle then. And you should have seen all the laugh wrinkles around his eyes. "I suspect they do," said he. "I suspect they do, for they love me and they must love the ones who bring me to them each year. But they have never seen my reindeer, so I really don't know."
And then you should have seen Tuktu's eyes open. "Do you mean," she asked, "that they never, never have seen your deer?"
Santa Claus nodded. "That's what I mean," said he. "You see, the night before Christmas when I make that magic trip, I must go so far and I must go so fast that there is no time, not even one wee minute, to waste. And so, no one sees me then. Sometimes little boys and girls hide and watch for me and for my deer. But they never see us. And those little boys and girls do not always find all the things they hoped I would bring them."
A dreamy look had come into Tuktu's eyes, a very far-away look. "Do they have as fine deer out there in the Great World as we have here?" she asked.
The laugh wrinkles wrinkled up more than ever, and Santa Claus laughed right out. "They have no deer at all, Little One," said he. "That is, they have no reindeer. Most of them would not know a reindeer if they saw one."
"No reindeer!" cried Tuktu, and such a look of
astonishment as spread over her face. "How can they
live without the wonderful deer? Oh, I am so sorry for
those children. I
"What do you wish, Child?" Santa Claus asked in his kindly voice. "Tell me what you wish, for you know it is my business to make the wishes of children come true."
Tuktu hesitated. She dropped her eyes shyly. "I wish," she said very softly, "that I could send them some reindeer."
Santa Claus looked at her sharply. He could read her thoughts and there was not one single little thought of self there. She was thinking of the children who had never seen the reindeer and how wonderful it would be if only they could see the blessed eight. When she looked up and saw Santa's kindly eyes studying her, she spoke impulsively.
"Kind Santa Claus," said she, speaking hurriedly, so hurriedly that the words tripped over each other, "couldn't you go down early some year with your blessed deer so that the children of the Great World might see them? I know they would love them, just as I do."
Santa Claus sighed. "I am afraid," said he, "there isn't time. You know it takes time to train deer, and there are no deer in all the Great Northland so well trained as those which take me out into the Great World every Christmas. You saw the eight chosen to-day. It will take me most of my time from now until Christmas to get them properly trained for that magic journey. If the deer were better trained when I got them, I might be able to do it. You know I do not even have to have reins, they are so perfectly trained. That is why when I am through with them, they are the finest sled-deer in all the world. They are no longer magic deer, but they are wonderful sled-deer. So you think the children of the Great World would like to see the deer? Perhaps they would! Perhaps they would! I shall have to think it over, my dear. I certainly shall have to think it over."
"Oh, if you only would!" cried Tuktu, her dark eyes
shining with excitement.
Down somewhere in the midst of the wonderful mist a silver bell rang. It was so clear, so sweet, that Tuktu turned her head to listen. When she looked back—Santa Claus had disappeared. The bell rang again and from out the curtain of mist came Santa's voice once more.
"Good-bye, little girl," said he. "The great herd moves, and you must leave the valley. But remember this, my dear, that whenever you think of others, others will think of you. And to those who love is love given in return. That is why Christmas is. Remember that, my dear, and always your Christmas will be merry. Better than that, it will be happy."
Abruptly, Whitefoot turned and begaon to move away.