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Chapter 5 How Bessie Blithesome Came to the Laughing Valley

  • One day, as Claus sat before his door to enjoy the sunshine while he busil_arved the head and horns of a toy deer, he looked up and discovered _littering cavalcade of horsemen approaching through the Valley.
  • When they drew nearer he saw that the band consisted of a score of men-at- arms, clad in bright armor and bearing in their hands spears and battle-axes.
  • In front of these rode little Bessie Blithesome, the pretty daughter of tha_roud Lord of Lerd who had once driven Claus from his palace. Her palfrey wa_ure white, its bridle was covered with glittering gems, and its saddle drape_ith cloth of gold, richly broidered. The soldiers were sent to protect he_rom harm while she journeyed.
  • Claus was surprised, but he continued to whittle and to sing until th_avalcade drew up before him. Then the little girl leaned over the neck of he_alfrey and said:
  • "Please, Mr. Claus, I want a toy!"
  • Her voice was so pleading that Claus jumped up at once and stood beside her.
  • But he was puzzled how to answer her request.
  • "You are a rich lord's daughter," said he, "and have all that you desire."
  • "Except toys," added Bessie. "There are no toys in all the world but yours."
  • "And I make them for the poor children, who have nothing else to amuse them,"
  • continued Claus.
  • "Do poor children love to play with toys more than rich ones?" asked Bessie.
  • "I suppose not," said Claus, thoughtfully.
  • "Am I to blame because my father is a lord? Must I be denied the pretty toys _ong for because other children are poorer than I?" she inquired earnestly.
  • "I'm afraid you must, dear," he answered; "for the poor have nothing else wit_hich to amuse themselves. You have your pony to ride, your servants to wai_n you, and every comfort that money can procure."
  • "But I want toys!" cried Bessie, wiping away the tears that forced themselve_nto her eyes. "If I can not have them, I shall be very unhappy."
  • Claus was troubled, for her grief recalled to him the thought that his desir_as to make all children happy, without regard to their condition in life.
  • Yet, while so many poor children were clamoring for his toys he could not bea_o give one to them to Bessie Blithesome, who had so much already to make he_appy.
  • "Listen, my child," said he, gently; "all the toys I am now making ar_romised to others. But the next shall be yours, since your heart so longs fo_t. Come to me again in two days and it shall be ready for you."
  • Bessie gave a cry of delight, and leaning over her pony's neck she kisse_laus prettily upon his forehead. Then, calling to her men-at-arms, she rod_aily away, leaving Claus to resume his work.
  • "If I am to supply the rich children as well as the poor ones," he thought, "_hall not have a spare moment in the whole year! But is it right I should giv_o the rich? Surely I must go to Necile and talk with her about this matter."
  • So when he had finished the toy deer, which was very like a deer he had know_n the Forest glades, he walked into Burzee and made his way to the bower o_he beautiful Nymph Necile, who had been his foster mother.
  • She greeted him tenderly and lovingly, listening with interest to his story o_he visit of Bessie Blithesome.
  • "And now tell me," said he, "shall I give toys to rich children?"
  • "We of the Forest know nothing of riches," she replied. "It seems to me tha_ne child is like another child, since they are all made of the same clay, an_hat riches are like a gown, which may be put on or taken away, leaving th_hild unchanged. But the Fairies are guardians of mankind, and know morta_hildren better than I. Let us call the Fairy Queen."
  • This was done, and the Queen of the Fairies sat beside them and heard Clau_elate his reasons for thinking the rich children could get along without hi_oys, and also what the Nymph had said.
  • "Necile is right," declared the Queen; "for, whether it be rich or poor, _hild's longings for pretty playthings are but natural. Rich Bessie's hear_ay suffer as much grief as poor Mayrie's; she can be just as lonely an_iscontented, and just as gay and happy. I think, friend Claus, it is you_uty to make all little ones glad, whether they chance to live in palaces o_n cottages."
  • "Your words are wise, fair Queen," replied Claus, "and my heart tells me the_re as just as they are wise. Hereafter all children may claim my services."
  • Then he bowed before the gracious Fairy and, kissing Necile's red lips, wen_ack into his Valley.
  • At the brook he stopped to drink, and afterward he sat on the bank and took _iece of moist clay in his hands while he thought what sort of toy he shoul_ake for Bessie Blithesome. He did not notice that his fingers were workin_he clay into shape until, glancing downward, he found he had unconsciousl_ormed a head that bore a slight resemblance to the Nymph Necile!
  • At once he became interested. Gathering more of the clay from the bank h_arried it to his house. Then, with the aid of his knife and a bit of wood h_ucceeded in working the clay into the image of a toy nymph. With skillfu_trokes he formed long, waving hair on the head and covered the body with _own of oakleaves, while the two feet sticking out at the bottom of the gow_ere clad in sandals.
  • But the clay was soft, and Claus found he must handle it gently to avoi_uining his pretty work.
  • "Perhaps the rays of the sun will draw out the moisture and cause the clay t_ecome hard," he thought. So he laid the image on a flat board and placed i_n the glare of the sun.
  • This done, he went to his bench and began painting the toy deer, and soon h_ecame so interested in the work that he forgot all about the clay nymph. Bu_ext morning, happening to notice it as it lay on the board, he found the su_ad baked it to the hardness of stone, and it was strong enough to be safel_andled.
  • Claus now painted the nymph with great care in the likeness of Necile, givin_t deep-blue eyes, white teeth, rosy lips and ruddy-brown hair. The gown h_olored oak-leaf green, and when the paint was dry Claus himself was charme_ith the new toy. Of course it was not nearly so lovely as the real Necile; but, considering the material of which it was made, Claus thought it was ver_eautiful.
  • When Bessie, riding upon her white palfrey, came to his dwelling next day, Claus presented her with the new toy. The little girl's eyes were brighte_han ever as she examined the pretty image, and she loved it at once, and hel_t close to her breast, as a mother does to her child.
  • "What is it called, Claus?" she asked.
  • Now Claus knew that Nymphs do not like to be spoken of by mortals, so he coul_ot tell Bessie it was an image of Necile he had given her. But as it was _ew toy he searched his mind for a new name to call it by, and the first wor_e thought of he decided would do very well.
  • "It is called a dolly, my dear," he said to Bessie.
  • "I shall call the dolly my baby," returned Bessie, kissing it fondly; "and _hall tend it and care for it just as Nurse cares for me. Thank you very much, Claus; your gift has made me happier than I have ever been before!"
  • Then she rode away, hugging the toy in her arms, and Claus, seeing he_elight, thought he would make another dolly, better and more natural than th_irst.
  • He brought more clay from the brook, and remembering that Bessie had calle_he dolly her baby he resolved to form this one into a baby's image. That wa_o difficult task to the clever workman, and soon the baby dolly was lying o_he board and placed in the sun to dry. Then, with the clay that was left, h_egan to make an image of Bessie Blithesome herself.
  • This was not so easy, for he found he could not make the silken robe of th_ord's daughter out of the common clay. So he called the Fairies to his aid, and asked them to bring him colored silks with which to make a real dress fo_he clay image. The Fairies set off at once on their errand, and befor_ightfall they returned with a generous supply of silks and laces and golde_hreads.
  • Claus now became impatient to complete his new dolly, and instead of waitin_or the next day's sun he placed the clay image upon his hearth and covered i_ver with glowing coals. By morning, when he drew the dolly from the ashes, i_ad baked as hard as if it had lain a full day in the hot sun.
  • Now our Claus became a dressmaker as well as a toymaker. He cut the lavende_ilk, and nearly sewed it into a beautiful gown that just fitted the ne_olly. And he put a lace collar around its neck and pink silk shoes on it_eet. The natural color of baked clay is a light gray, but Claus painted th_ace to resemble the color of flesh, and he gave the dolly Bessie's brown eye_nd golden hair and rosy cheeks.
  • It was really a beautiful thing to look upon, and sure to bring joy to som_hildish heart. While Claus was admiring it he heard a knock at his door, an_ittle Mayrie entered. Her face was sad and her eyes red with continue_eeping.
  • "Why, what has grieved you, my dear?" asked Claus, taking the child in hi_rms.
  • "I've—I've—bwoke my tat!" sobbed Mayrie.
  • "How?" he inquired, his eyes twinkling.
  • "I—I dwopped him, an' bwoke off him's tail; an'—an'—then I dwopped him an'
  • bwoke off him's ear! An'—an' now him's all spoilt!"
  • Claus laughed.
  • "Never mind, Mayrie dear," he said. "How would you like this new dolly, instead of a cat?"
  • Mayrie looked at the silk-robed dolly and her eyes grew big with astonishment.
  • "Oh, Tlaus!" she cried, clapping her small hands together with rapture; "tan _ave 'at boo'ful lady?"
  • "Do you like it?" he asked.
  • "I love it!" said she. "It's better 'an tats!"
  • "Then take it, dear, and be careful not to break it."
  • Mayrie took the dolly with a joy that was almost reverent, and her fac_impled with smiles as she started along the path toward home.