A Kidnapped Santa Claus eBook: Page2

L. Frank Baum (1996)

where they thrust the prisoner into a secret caveand chained him to the rocky wall so that he could not escape.

  "Ha, ha!" laughed the Daemons, rubbing their hands together with cruelglee. "What will the children do now? How they will cry and scoldand storm when they find there are no toys in their stockings and nogifts on their Christmas trees! And what a lot of punishment theywill receive from their parents, and how they will flock to our Cavesof Selfishness, and Envy, and Hatred, and Malice! We have done amighty clever thing, we Daemons of the Caves!"

  Now it so chanced that on this Christmas Eve the good Santa Claus hadtaken with him in his sleigh Nuter the Ryl, Peter the Knook, Kilterthe Pixie, and a small fairy named Wisk--his four favorite assistants.These little people he had often found very useful in helping him todistribute his gifts to the children, and when their master was sosuddenly dragged from the sleigh they were all snugly tuckedunderneath the seat, where the sharp wind could not reach them.

  The tiny immortals knew nothing of the capture of Santa Claus untilsome time after he had disappeared. But finally they missed hischeery voice, and as their master always sang or whistled on hisjourneys, the silence warned them that something was wrong.

  Little Wisk stuck out his head from underneath the seat and foundSanta Claus gone and no one to direct the flight of the reindeer.

  "Whoa!" he called out, and the deer obediently slackened speed andcame to a halt.

  Peter and Nuter and Kilter all jumped upon the seat and looked backover the track made by the sleigh. But Santa Claus had been leftmiles and miles behind.

  "What shall we do?" asked Wisk anxiously, all the mirth and mischiefbanished from his wee face by this great calamity.

  "We must go back at once and find our master," said Nuter the Ryl, whothought and spoke with much deliberation.

  "No, no!" exclaimed Peter the Knook, who, cross and crabbed though hewas, might always be depended upon in an emergency. "If we delay, orgo back, there will not be time to get the toys to the children beforemorning; and that would grieve Santa Claus more than anything else."

  "It is certain that some wicked creatures have captured him," addedKilter thoughtfully, "and their object must be to make the childrenunhappy. So our first duty is to get the toys distributed ascarefully as if Santa Claus were himself present. Afterward wecan search for our master and easily secure his freedom."

  This seemed such good and sensible advice that the others at onceresolved to adopt it. So Peter the Knook called to the reindeer, andthe faithful animals again sprang forward and dashed over hill andvalley, through forest and plain, until they came to the houseswherein children lay sleeping and dreaming of the pretty gifts theywould find on Christmas morning.

  The little immortals had set themselves a difficult task; for althoughthey had assisted Santa Claus on many of his journeys, their masterhad always directed and guided them and told them exactly what hewished them to do. But now they had to distribute the toys accordingto their own judgment, and they did not understand children as well asdid old Santa. So it is no wonder they made some laughable errors.

  Mamie Brown, who wanted a doll, got a drum instead; and a drum is ofno use to a girl who loves dolls. And Charlie Smith, who delights toromp and play out of doors, and who wanted some new rubber boots tokeep his feet dry, received a sewing box filled with colored worstedsand threads and needles, which made him so provoked that hethoughtlessly called our dear Santa Claus a fraud.

  Had there been many such mistakes the Daemons would have accomplishedtheir evil purpose and made the children unhappy. But the littlefriends of the absent Santa Claus labored faithfully and intelligentlyto carry out their master's ideas, and they made fewer errors thanmight be expected under such unusual circumstances.

  And, although they worked as swiftly as possible, day had begun tobreak before the toys and other presents were all distributed; so forthe first time in many years the reindeer trotted into the LaughingValley, on their return, in broad daylight, with the brilliant sunpeeping over the edge of the forest to prove they were far behindtheir accustomed hours.

  Having put the deer in the stable, the little folk began to wonder howthey might rescue their master; and they realized they must discover,first of all, what had happened to him and where he was.

  So Wisk the Fairy transported himself to the bower of the Fairy Queen,which was located deep in the heart of the Forest of Burzee; and oncethere, it did not take him long to find out all about the naughtyDaemons and how they had kidnapped the good Santa Claus to prevent hismaking children happy. The Fairy Queen also promised her assistance,and then, fortified by this powerful support, Wisk flew back to whereNuter and Peter and Kilter awaited him, and the four counseledtogether and laid plans to rescue their master from his enemies.

  It is possible that Santa Claus was not as merry as usual during thenight that succeeded his capture. For although he had faith in thejudgment of his little friends he could not avoid a certain amount ofworry, and an anxious look would creep at times into his kind old eyesas he thought of the disappointment that might await his dear littlechildren. And the Daemons, who guarded him by turns, one afteranother, did not neglect to taunt him with contemptuous words in hishelpless condition.

  When Christmas Day dawned the Daemon of Malice was guarding theprisoner, and his tongue was sharper than that of any of the others.

  "The children are waking up, Santa!" he cried. "They are waking up tofind their stockings empty! Ho, ho! How they will quarrel, and wail,and stamp their feet in anger! Our caves will be full today, oldSanta! Our caves are sure to be full!"

  But to this, as to other like taunts, Santa Claus answered nothing.He was much grieved by his capture, it is true; but his courage didnot forsake him. And, finding that the prisoner would not reply tohis jeers, the Daemon of Malice presently went away, and sent theDaemon of Repentance to take his place.

  This last personage was not so disagreeable as the others. He hadgentle and refined features, and his voice was soft and pleasant in tone.

  "My brother Daemons do not trust me overmuch," said he, as he enteredthe cavern; "but it is morning, now, and the mischief is done. Youcannot visit the children again for another year."

  "That is true," answered Santa Claus, almost cheerfully;"Christmas Eve is past, and for the first time in centuriesI have not visited my children."

  "The little ones will be greatly disappointed," murmured the Daemon ofRepentance, almost regretfully; "but that cannot be helped now. Theirgrief is likely to make the children selfish and envious and hateful,and if they come to the Caves of the Daemons today I shall get achance to lead some of them to my Cave of Repentance."

  "Do you never repent, yourself?" asked Santa Claus, curiously.

  "Oh, yes, indeed," answered the Daemon. "I am even now repenting thatI assisted in your capture. Of course it is too late to remedy theevil that has been done; but repentance, you know, can come only afteran evil thought or deed, for in the beginning there is nothing torepent of."

  "So I understand," said Santa Claus. "Those who avoid evil need nevervisit your cave."

  "As a rule, that is true," replied the Daemon; "yet you, who have doneno evil, are about to visit my cave at once; for to prove that I sincerelyregret my share in your capture I am going to permit you to escape."

  This speech greatly surprised the prisoner, until he reflected that itwas just what might be expected of the Daemon of Repentance. Thefellow at once busied himself untying the knots that bound Santa Clausand unlocking the chains that fastened him to the wall. Then heled the way through a long tunnel until they both emerged in theCave of Repentance.

  "I hope you will forgive me," said the Daemon pleadingly. "I am notreally a bad person, you know; and I believe I accomplish a great dealof good in the world."

  With this he opened a back door that let in a flood of sunshine, andSanta Claus sniffed the fresh air gratefully.

  "I bear no malice," said he to the Daemon, in a gentle voice; "and Iam su
re the world would be a dreary place without you. So, goodmorning, and a Merry Christmas to you!"

  With these words he stepped out to greet the bright morning, and amoment later he was trudging along, whistling softly to himself, onhis way to his home in the Laughing Valley.

  Marching over the snow toward the mountain was a vast army, made up ofthe most curious creatures imaginable. There were numberless knooksfrom the forest, as rough and crooked in appearance as the gnarledbranches of the trees they ministered to. And there were dainty rylsfrom the fields, each one bearing the emblem of the flower or plant itguarded. Behind these were many ranks of pixies, gnomes and nymphs, andin the rear a thousand beautiful fairies floated along in gorgeous array.

  This wonderful army was led by Wisk, Peter, Nuter, and Kilter, who hadassembled it to rescue Santa Claus from