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Chapter 6 Claus Leaves the Forest

  • When good Queen Zurline had touched the golden chalice with her fair lips an_t had passed around the circle in honor of the travelers' return, the Maste_oodsman of the World, who had not yet spoken, turned his gaze frankly upo_laus and said:
  • "Well?"
  • The boy understood, and rose slowly to his feet beside Necile. Once only hi_yes passed around the familiar circle of nymphs, every one of whom h_emembered as a loving comrade; but tears came unbidden to dim his sight, s_e gazed thereafter steadfastly at the Master.
  • "I have been ignorant," said he, simply, "until the great Ak in his kindnes_aught me who and what I am. You, who live so sweetly in your forest bowers,
  • ever fair and youthful and innocent, are no fit comrades for a son o_umanity. For I have looked upon man, finding him doomed to live for a brie_pace upon earth, to toil for the things he needs, to fade into old age, an_hen to pass away as the leaves in autumn. Yet every man has his mission,
  • which is to leave the world better, in some way, than he found it. I am of th_ace of men, and man's lot is my lot. For your tender care of the poor,
  • forsaken babe you adopted, as well as for your loving comradeship during m_oyhood, my heart will ever overflow with gratitude. My foster-mother," her_e stopped and kissed Necile's white forehead, "I shall love and cherish whil_ife lasts. But I must leave you, to take my part in the endless struggle t_hich humanity is doomed, and to live my life in my own way."
  • "What will you do?" asked the Queen, gravely.
  • "I must devote myself to the care of the children of mankind, and try to mak_hem happy," he answered. "Since your own tender care of a babe brought to m_appiness and strength, it is just and right that I devote my life to th_leasure of other babes. Thus will the memory of the loving nymph Necile b_lanted within the hearts of thousands of my race for many years to come, an_er kindly act be recounted in song and in story while the world shall last.
  • Have I spoken well, O Master?"
  • "You have spoken well," returned Ak, and rising to his feet he continued: "Ye_ne thing must not be forgotten. Having been adopted as the child of th_orest, and the playfellow of the nymphs, you have gained a distinction whic_orever separates you from your kind. Therefore, when you go forth into th_orld of men you shall retain the protection of the Forest, and the powers yo_ow enjoy will remain with you to assist you in your labors. In any need yo_ay call upon the Nymphs, the Ryls, the Knooks and the Fairies, and they wil_erve you gladly. I, the Master Woodsman of the World, have said it, and m_ord is the Law!"
  • Claus looked upon Ak with grateful eyes.
  • "This will make me mighty among men," he replied. "Protected by these kin_riends I may be able to make thousands of little children happy. I will tr_ery hard to do my duty, and I know the Forest people will give me thei_ympathy and help."
  • "We will!" said the Fairy Queen, earnestly.
  • "We will!" cried the merry Ryls, laughing.
  • "We will!" shouted the crooked Knooks, scowling.
  • "We will!" exclaimed the sweet nymphs, proudly. But Necile said nothing. Sh_nly folded Claus in her arms and kissed him tenderly.
  • "The world is big," continued the boy, turning again to his loyal friends,
  • "but men are everywhere. I shall begin my work near my friends, so that if _eet with misfortune I can come to the Forest for counsel or help."
  • With that he gave them all a loving look and turned away. There was no need t_ay good by, by for him the sweet, wild life of the Forest was over. He wen_orth bravely to meet his doom—the doom of the race of man—the necessity t_orry and work.
  • But Ak, who knew the boy's heart, was merciful and guided his steps.
  • Coming through Burzee to its eastern edge Claus reached the Laughing Valley o_ohaho. On each side were rolling green hills, and a brook wandered midwa_etween them to wind afar off beyond the valley. At his back was the gri_orest; at the far end of the valley a broad plain. The eyes of the young man,
  • which had until now reflected his grave thoughts, became brighter as he stoo_ilent, looking out upon the Laughing Valley. Then on a sudden his eye_winkled, as stars do on a still night, and grew merry and wide.
  • For at his feet the cowslips and daisies smiled on him in friendly regard; th_reeze whistled gaily as it passed by and fluttered the locks on his forehead;
  • the brook laughed joyously as it leaped over the pebbles and swept around th_reen curves of its banks; the bees sang sweet songs as they flew fro_andelion to daffodil; the beetles chirruped happily in the long grass, an_he sunbeams glinted pleasantly over all the scene.
  • "Here," cried Claus, stretching out his arms as if to embrace the Valley,
  • "will I make my home!"
  • That was many, many years ago. It has been his home ever since. It is his hom_ow.