M OTIONLESS, facing the curtain of glorious mist, Whitefoot stood. On his back, as motionless, sat Tuktu. Once more the clicking of many feet had begun. The great herd was moving. Tuktu did not turn to look. She was not exactly frightened, but she was filled with a great awe. She felt as if she could not take her eyes from that curtain of mist, even if she would. The clicking back of her grew fainter. Then it ceased altogether. Still Whitefoot stood motionless.
Directly in front of Tuktu the mist began to glow, first faintly pink, then a beautiful rose, and finally a rich, warm red. Tuktu drew a long breath and closed her eyes.
When she opened them again, there stood before her one such as she had never seen before.
He was short and jolly and round and fat,
With a fur trimmed coat and a fur trimmed hat.
He was dressed all in red. His hair was white and he wore a long, white beard. Never had Tuktu seen such a beard before. Eskimos have beards that are straggly and black. His eyes twinkled, like the twinkling of the stars on a frosty night. Around them were many fine wrinkles. They were laugh wrinkles. He was laughing now.
He laughed "Ha! Ha!" and he laughed "Ho! Ho!"
"Hello, little girl," he cried, "Hello!
What are you doing alone up here?
Have you come in search of your straying deer?"
Tuktu and Santa Claus
Poor Tuktu! She couldn't find her tongue. She knew who this must be. She knew that this must be the Good Spirit—the Good Spirit whom no one had ever seen. She felt that she ought to slip from Whitefoot's back and bow herself at the Good Spirit's feet. But she couldn't move. No, sir, she couldn't move. When at last she could find her tongue, all she could do was to whisper, "Are you the Good Spirit?"
Those eyes looking at her in such a kindly way, twinkled more than ever, and all the little laugh wrinkles around them grew deeper. He began to shake all over. He shook and shook. And he laughed so merrily that presently Tuktu herself began to laugh. She couldn't help it. It was catching. Yes, sir, it was catching.
"Ho! Ho!" said he, "My dear Tuktu,
It may be I am that to you.
I hope I am. It seems to me
That nothing could much nicer be.
"But elsewhere all the great world 'round,
Wherever there are children found,
I'm known as Santa Clause, my dear;
Or else, perchance, of me you hear
As Old Saint Nick, who once a year
With pack and sleigh and wondrous deer
To little folk who have been good,
And done those things that children should,
Brings Christmas Day the books and toys
That always gladden girls and boys.
But when the Christmas season ends
I hasten here to where my friends
The Fairies, Elves, and busy Gnomes
For countless years have made their homes.
Ho! Ho! Ho! You are, my dear,
The first who ever ventured here."
It was such a jolly voice, and those eyes twinkled so, and he shook all over so when he laughed, that Tuktu no longer had the slightest fear. "If you please, Good Santa," said she, "I have never heard of Christmas. What is Christmas?"
Santa's face sobered. No longer was the twinkle in his eyes, nor the laugh in the wrinkles around them. All the lines softened from his face and it became very beautiful. Simply, so that Tuktu could fully understand, he explained that Christmas is the season of loving thought. It is the season when self is forgotten and the desire of each is to make others happy.
It was a wonderful story he told her, a wonderful story of how all through the long years he had carried Christmas joy to the boys and girls of all the great world. He told her how all the year through the Fairies and Elves and Trolls and Gnomes were busy down in this valley, hidden by the wondrous many-colored mist, making the things which he was to take on his yearly journey to make glad the hearts of little children. He explained how it grieved him when sometimes he could leave nothing, because a little girl or a little boy had not been good. He told her how the Spirit of Love was abroad throughout all the Great World in the Christmas season, and how those who do for and give to others are the ones in whom the Christmas spirit lives all the year through, and who thus find the greatest happiness.
"It is not in receiving, my dear," said he,
"But in giving in love you will find to be
That fullness of joy, and that sweet content
For the beautiful Christmas season meant."
"And does no one give to you, kind Santa?" Tuktu asked a little breathlessly.
You should have heard Santa Claus laugh then. Indeed, you should have heard him laugh! You should have seen his eyes twinkle. "Every year I receive the greatest gift in all the Great World," said he.
"And what is that?" whispered Tuktu.
"The love of little children," replied Santa Claus. "Not in all the Great World is there any gift to compare with the love of little children. And it is mine—all mine—every Christmas."