From the Children’s Friend, 1904 –
At Santa’s Home
By J. Lenore Smith
Old Santa Claus sat in his toy-shop busily working. He was feeling just a little big queer, too, because it was nearly Christmas-time, and there were a great many toys to finish. Mrs. Santa Claus was with him and, of course, was helping. Sitting all around her in tiny chairs, just like a kindergarten circle, were the dollies, all waiting to have their bonnets and dresses tried on. Mrs. Santa Claus sat in the center, and heaped up on both sides of her were piles of pink and blue silks, muslins, and yards of ginghams for gowns, aprons, and bonnets.
Oh, how fast her needle flew! “Come here, Dolly Grey,” said she to a little doll with short, white hair and sleepy blue eyes; “your sunbonnet and apron are done, and while I fasten them on I wish to tell you something, You know you are soon to take a long journey, and I hope, Dolly Grey, you will enjoy it. Santa has not told me who your mother is to be, but I trust she will be a loving mother, and – Dolly Grey – wherever you are, remember that your sunbonnet and apron are as nice as the silken ones, for it is not the clothes that make the good dollies. Good-bye!”
Mrs. Santa Claus gave Dolly Grey two smacks on either cheek which left them so pink that the other dolls on the opposite side of the room cast admiring glances at her. She did not notice them, however, for she was thinking of the advice Mrs. Santa Claus had given her, and of the beautiful bow tied so stiffly under her chin.
“Lillian, so airy! Lillian, the fairy!” cried Mrs. Santa Claus. “Your wings are ready!”
Up jumped a dolly with fluffy golden hair and diamond dust sprinkled all through it.
Mrs. Santa Claus sat her on a pile of gauzy white, and while fastening on her wings said: “Santa will leave you on top of the Christmas-tree. Don’t get too near the candles, dear, and never allow your mistress to take you out in the rain. Here is a star to remember me by,” then Mrs. Santa Claus placed a tiny gold star in Lillian’s hair.
“Dinah, your time is next,” said Mrs. Santa Claus, beckoning to a black dolly whose costume was complete except for her red caps. “You are a good doll, Dinah, but remember – do not get your nose bumped; it spoils your looks. Which duster do you want, the orange or the red? The orange? All right. Let’s see,” said Mrs. Santa Claus, viewing the dollies in a business-like way. “How many dollies want white dresses?”
“I do! I do!” cried six dolls in chorus.
“Who would like pink?”
“We should! we should!” cried another group of dollies.
So Mrs. Santa Claus commenced to snip and snap her scissors and baste and stitch pink and white muslins and very quick her work was, too, for in a few minutes every doll in the circle, whether it was rag, bisque or china, had on her Christmas gown.
“Now, dollies,” said Mrs. Santa Claus, “will you please all stand while I say a few good-bye words to you?”
There was a rustle of skirts and a swish of silks as the dolls arose.
Mrs. Santa Claus continued: “Dollies all, it makes me feel very sad to think of you leaving me so soon. I love you all and have tried to be a mother to you. As you look around the circle you will notice your dresses are not alike. You see you all have different hair and eyes, therefore I thought it best to dress you to suit them. Good-bye, dears! Be obedient to your new mamas, and here’s a merry Christmas to you all – forward, march!”
Clip! clatter! went the dollies’ feet on the hard floor. “By-by Mamma Santa,” the girl-dollies cried, while the sailor boys waving their natty blue caps, sang out:
We’ll sail, we’ll sail, we’ll sail through the sky so blue;
but our ship we’ll tack,
For ‘tis Santa Claus pack,
And our sweetheart’s his good wife so true.
“Well done!” cried old Santa Claus himself, stopping in the midst of his work to see the dolls as they passed by.
“What next?” asked Mrs. Santa Claus.
“You might visit the toy-rooms and see how the work is coming on there,” said Santa; “here are the keys.”
“I’ll go at once,” said Mrs. Santa Claus, glancing at the keys. “Let me see. Room 1, rocking horses!” Click went the key, open came the door, and what a pretty sight met her eyes! Gray horses, brown horses, white horses, and dapple horses, all getting their manes and tails brushed for their new masters. The walls were hung with red, orange, and blue blankets, while shining harnesses were being rubbed by the Brownie Helpers. Mrs. Santa Claus closed the door. Room 2, Music. It was great fun to be in that room. There were toy pianos being tuned, tin horns being painted, and music-boxes being wound by the Brownie Helpers. In Room 3 were Noah’s animals finding their partners and marching in by twos to their arks.
Mrs. Santa Claus was much pleased with the work going on in these rooms, and after visiting Room 4, where toys, balls, and jumping jacks were being spun, tossed, and hopped by the Brownies, she left the toy shop, and in a few minutes stood before the door which opened into the candy room. What do you think the door of that candy room was made of? A shining sheet of barley sugar, and it glistened like beautiful glass.
Mrs. Santa Claus knocked softly on the door. Out peeped a little Brownie in white cap and apron. ‘May I come in?” asked Mrs. Santa Claus. “Yes,” answered the Brownie. “It is good you came this morning, though, because our candy is nearly all made. Today is taffy-day; do you not think it looks nice?’
Mrs. Santa Claus nodded, but was interrupted in her speech by the Brownies bursting out into song.
All the while the brownies were singing they were stretching the taffy over hooks, and modeling the small pieces into cows, rabbits, and dogs. The Brownies seemed to enjoy it, too, but not a bit did they eat, because, you know, the taffy was for Santa Claus to take in his pack on Christmas Eve.
“Well!” said Mrs. Santa Claus, as she glanced at a line of Brownies carrying away tins of cream taffy wrapped in pink papers, “everything is nearly ready. How glad Santa will be1 I must go at once and tell him. I shall not forget to say, little Brownies, that his helpers have done very much toward making little children happy on Christmas day.”
* * * * *
Jingle! jingle! ring the bells! Softly, feathery, falls the snow! Hark! We are up at Santa Claus’s home! Listen, who is that speaking? “Now, Dancer – now, Prancer, slow, slow!” I do believe it is Santa Claus himself, and it must be the night before Christmas. My, what a bustle there is about the house, and how busy the Brownie helpers are, adjusting the reindeer harness and packing the presents in Santa Claus’s sack. The reindeer are in a hurry to start, too, and are pawing with their tiny hoofs and tossing their antlers. Santa looks as happy as a king, and his cheeks are like red apples.
Mrs. Santa Claus stands in the doorway directing the helpers. The sleigh is fairly loaded down with gifts; there doesn’t seem to be room for much more. No, there isn’t even a place for another toy. Bravo, Mr. Santa Claus, what a jolly-looking pack1 Santa Claus is taking the reins. Oh! oh! they are starting! Old Santa is laughing. Mrs. Santa Claus waves her apron; the Brownies are pelting the sleigh with snowballs! “A merry, merry Christmas,” cry they all, and then – whirl – zip – the sleigh has vanished, but good will and peace reign in Santa Claus’s home.