Santa Claus lives in the
Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his
toys are manufactured. His workmen, selected from the ryls, knooks,
pixies and fairies, live with him, and every one is as busy as can
be from one year's end to another.
It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is
happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking
between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees;
the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and
wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one
needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And
throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns
On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side
stands the huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons.
And between them the Valley lies smiling and peaceful.
One would think that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his
days to making children happy, would have no enemies on all the
earth; and, as a matter of fact, for a long period of time he
encountered nothing but love wherever he might go.
But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate
Santa Claus very much, and all for the simple reason that he made
The Caves of the Daemons are five in number. A broad pathway
leads up to the first cave, which is a finely arched cavern at the
foot of the mountain, the entrance being beautifully carved and
decorated. In it resides the Daemon of Selfishness. Back of this is
another cavern inhabited by the Daemon of Envy. The cave of the
Daemon of Hatred is next in order, and through this one passes to
the home of the Daemon of Malice--situated in a dark and fearful
cave in the very heart of the mountain. I do not know what lies
beyond this. Some say there are terrible pitfalls leading to death
and destruction, and this may very well be true. However, from each
one of the four caves mentioned there is a small, narrow tunnel
leading to the fifth cave--a cozy little room occupied by the
Daemon of Repentance. And as the rocky floors of these passages are
well worn by the track of passing feet, I judge that many wanderers
in the Caves of the Daemons have escaped through the tunnels to the
abode of the Daemon of Repentance, who is said to be a pleasant
sort of fellow who gladly opens for one a little door admitting you
into fresh air and sunshine again.
Well, these Daemons of the Caves, thinking they had great
cause to dislike old Santa Claus, held a meeting one day to discuss
"I'm really getting lonesome," said the Daemon of Selfishness.
"For Santa Claus distributes so many pretty Christmas gifts to all
the children that they become happy and generous, through his
example, and keep away from my cave."
"I'm having the same trouble," rejoined the Daemon of Envy.
"The little ones seem quite content with Santa Claus, and there are
few, indeed, that I can coax to become envious."
"And that makes it bad for me!" declared the Daemon of Hatred.
"For if no children pass through the Caves of Selfishness and Envy,
none can get to MY cavern."
"Or to mine," added the Daemon of Malice.
"For my part," said the Daemon of Repentance, "it is easily
seen that if children do not visit your caves they have no need to
visit mine; so that I am quite as neglected as you are."
"And all because of this person they call Santa Claus!"
exclaimed the Daemon of Envy. "He is simply ruining our business,
and something must be done at once."
To this they readily agreed; but what to do was another and
more difficult matter to settle. They knew that Santa Claus worked
all through the year at his castle in the Laughing Valley,
preparing the gifts he was to distribute on Christmas Eve; and at
first they resolved to try to tempt him into their caves, that they
might lead him on to the terrible pitfalls that ended in
So the very next day, while Santa Claus was busily at work,
surrounded by his little band of assistants, the Daemon of
Selfishness came to him and said:
"These toys are wonderfully bright and pretty. Why do you not
keep them for yourself? It's a pity to give them to those noisy
boys and fretful girls, who break and destroy them so
"Nonsense!" cried the old graybeard, his bright eyes twinkling
merrily as he turned toward the tempting Daemon. "The boys and
girls are never so noisy and fretful after receiving my presents,
and if I can make them happy for one day in the year I am quite
So the Daemon went back to the others, who awaited him in
their caves, and said:
"I have failed, for Santa Claus is not at all selfish."
The following day the Daemon of Envy visited Santa Claus. Said
he: "The toy shops are full of playthings quite as pretty as those
you are making. What a shame it is that they should interfere with
your business! They make toys by machinery much quicker than you
can make them by hand; and they sell them for money, while you get
nothing at all for your work."
But Santa Claus refused to be envious of the toy shops.
"I can supply the little ones but once a year--on Christmas
Eve," he answered; "for the children are many, and I am but one.
And as my work is one of love and kindness I would be ashamed to
receive money for my little gifts. But throughout all the year the
children must be amused in some way, and so the toy shops are able
to bring much happiness to my little friends. I like the toy shops,
and am glad to see them prosper."
In spite of the second rebuff, the Daemon of Hatred thought he
would try to influence Santa Claus. So the next day he entered the
busy workshop and said:
"Good morning, Santa! I have bad news for you."
"Then run away, like a good fellow," answered Santa Claus.
"Bad news is something that should be kept secret and never
"You cannot escape this, however," declared the Daemon; "for
in the world are a good many who do not believe in Santa Claus, and
these you are bound to hate bitterly, since they have so wronged
"Stuff and rubbish!" cried Santa.
"And there are others who resent your making children happy
and who sneer at you and call you a foolish old rattlepate! You are
quite right to hate such base slanderers, and you ought to be
revenged upon them for their evil words."
"But I don't hate 'em!" exclaimed Santa Claus positively.
"Such people do me no real harm, but merely render themselves and
their children unhappy. Poor things! I'd much rather help them any
day than injure them."
Indeed, the Daemons could not tempt old Santa Claus in any
way. On the contrary, he was shrewd enough to see that their object
in visiting him was to make mischief and trouble, and his cheery
laughter disconcerted the evil ones and showed to them the folly of
such an undertaking. So they abandoned honeyed words and determined
to use force.
It was well known that no harm can come to Santa Claus while
he is in the Laughing Valley, for the fairies, and ryls, and knooks
all protect him. But on Christmas Eve he drives his reindeer out
into the big world, carrying a sleighload of toys and pretty gifts
to the children; and this was the time and the occasion when his
enemies had the best chance to injure him. So the Daemons laid
their plans and awaited the arrival of Christmas Eve.
The moon shone big and white in the sky, and the snow lay
crisp and sparkling on the ground as Santa Claus cracked his whip
and sped away out of the Valley into the great world beyond. The
roomy sleigh was packed full with huge sacks of toys, and as the
reindeer dashed onward our jolly old Santa laughed and whistled and
sang for very joy. For in all his merry life this was the one day
in the year when he was happiest--the day he lovingly bestowed the
treasures of his workshop upon the little children.
It would be a busy night for him, he well knew. As he whistled
and shouted and cracked his whip again, he reviewed in mind all the
towns and cities and farmhouses where he was expected, and figured
that he had just enough presents to go around and make every child
happy. The reindeer knew exactly what was expected of them, and
dashed along so swiftly that their feet scarcely seemed to touch
the snow-covered ground.
Suddenly a strange thing happened: a rope shot through the
moonlight and a big noose that was in the end of it settled over
the arms and body of Santa Claus and drew tight. Before he could
resist or even cry out he was jerked from the seat of the sleigh
and tumbled head foremost into a snowbank, while the reindeer
rushed onward with the load of toys and carried it quickly out of
sight and sound.
Such a surprising experience confused old Santa for a moment,
and when he had collected his senses he found that the wicked
Daemons had pulled him from the snowdrift and bound him tightly
with many coils of the stout rope. And then they carried the
kidnapped Santa Claus away to their mountain, where they thrust the
prisoner into a secret cave and chained him to the rocky wall so
that he could not escape.
"Ha, ha!" laughed the Daemons, rubbing their hands together
with cruel glee. "What will the children do now? How they will cry
and scold and storm when they find there are no toys in their
stockings and no gifts on their Christmas trees! And what a lot of
punishment they will receive from their parents, and how they will
flock to our Caves of Selfishness, and Envy, and Hatred, and
Malice! We have done a mighty clever thing, we Daemons of the
Now it so chanced that on this Christmas Eve the good Santa
Claus had taken with him in his sleigh Nuter the Ryl, Peter the
Knook, Kilter the Pixie, and a small fairy named Wisk--his four
favorite assistants. These little people he had often found very
useful in helping him to distribute his gifts to the children, and
when their master was so suddenly dragged from the sleigh they were
all snugly tucked underneath the seat, where the sharp wind could
not reach them.
The tiny immortals knew nothing of the capture of Santa Claus
until some time after he had disappeared. But finally they missed
his cheery voice, and as their master always sang or whistled on
his journeys, the silence warned them that something was
Little Wisk stuck out his head from underneath the seat and
found Santa Claus gone and no one to direct the flight of the
"Whoa!" he called out, and the deer obediently slackened speed
and came to a halt.
Peter and Nuter and Kilter all jumped upon the seat and looked
back over the track made by the sleigh. But Santa Claus had been
left miles and miles behind.
"What shall we do?" asked Wisk anxiously, all the mirth and
mischief banished from his wee face by this great calamity.
"We must go back at once and find our master," said Nuter the
Ryl, who thought and spoke with much deliberation.
"No, no!" exclaimed Peter the Knook, who, cross and crabbed
though he was, might always be depended upon in an emergency. "If
we delay, or go back, there will not be time to get the toys to the
children before morning; and that would grieve Santa Claus more
than anything else."
"It is certain that some wicked creatures have captured him,"
added Kilter thoughtfully, "and their object must be to make the
children unhappy. So our first duty is to get the toys distributed
as carefully as if Santa Claus were himself present. Afterward we
can search for our master and easily secure his freedom."
This seemed such good and sensible advice that the others at
once resolved to adopt it. So Peter the Knook called to the
reindeer, and the faithful animals again sprang forward and dashed
over hill and valley, through forest and plain, until they came to
the houses wherein children lay sleeping and dreaming of the pretty
gifts they would find on Christmas morning.
The little immortals had set themselves a difficult task; for
although they had assisted Santa Claus on many of his journeys,
their master had always directed and guided them and told them
exactly what he wished them to do. But now they had to distribute
the toys according to their own judgment, and they did not
understand children as well as did 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 of no use to a girl who loves dolls. And Charlie Smith, who
delights to romp and play out of doors, and who wanted some new
rubber boots to keep his feet dry, received a sewing box filled
with colored worsteds and threads and needles, which made him so
provoked that he thoughtlessly called our dear Santa Claus a
Had there been many such mistakes the Daemons would have
accomplished their evil purpose and made the children unhappy. But
the little friends of the absent Santa Claus labored faithfully and
intelligently to carry out their master's ideas, and they made
fewer errors than might be expected under such unusual
And, although they worked as swiftly as possible, day had
begun to break before the toys and other presents were all
distributed; so for the first time in many years the reindeer
trotted into the Laughing Valley, on their return, in broad
daylight, with the brilliant sun peeping over the edge of the
forest to prove they were far behind their accustomed hours.
Having put the deer in the stable, the little folk began to
wonder how they might rescue their master; and they realized they
must discover, first of all, what had happened to him and where he
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 once there, it did not take him long to find out all
about the naughty Daemons and how they had kidnapped the good Santa
Claus to prevent his making children happy. The Fairy Queen also
promised her assistance, and then, fortified by this powerful
support, Wisk flew back to where Nuter and Peter and Kilter awaited
him, and the four counseled together and laid plans to rescue their
master from his enemies.
It is possible that Santa Claus was not as merry as usual
during the night that succeeded his capture. For although he had
faith in the judgment of his little friends he could not avoid a
certain amount of worry, and an anxious look would creep at times
into his kind old eyes as he thought of the disappointment that
might await his dear little children. And the Daemons, who guarded
him by turns, one after another, did not neglect to taunt him with
contemptuous words in his helpless condition.
When Christmas Day dawned the Daemon of Malice was guarding
the prisoner, and his tongue was sharper than that of any of the
"The children are waking up, Santa!" he cried. "They are
waking up to find their stockings empty! Ho, ho! How they will
quarrel, and wail, and stamp their feet in anger! Our caves will be
full today, old Santa! 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 did not forsake him. And, finding that the prisoner would
not reply to his jeers, the Daemon of Malice presently went away,
and sent the Daemon of Repentance to take his place.
This last personage was not so disagreeable as the others. He
had gentle and refined features, and his voice was soft and
pleasant in tone.
"My brother Daemons do not trust me overmuch," said he, as he
entered the cavern; "but it is morning, now, and the mischief is
done. You cannot 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 centuries I have
not visited my children."
"The little ones will be greatly disappointed," murmured the
Daemon of Repentance, almost regretfully; "but that cannot be
helped now. Their grief 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 a chance to lead some of them to my Cave of
"Do you never repent, yourself?" asked Santa Claus,
"Oh, yes, indeed," answered the Daemon. "I am even now
repenting that I assisted in your capture. Of course it is too late
to remedy the evil that has been done; but repentance, you know,
can come only after an evil thought or deed, for in the beginning
there is nothing to repent of."
"So I understand," said Santa Claus. "Those who avoid evil
need never visit your cave."
"As a rule, that is true," replied the Daemon; "yet you, who
have done no evil, are about to visit my cave at once; for to prove
that I sincerely regret my share in your capture I am going to
permit you to escape."
This speech greatly surprised the prisoner, until he reflected
that it was just what might be expected of the Daemon of
Repentance. The fellow at once busied himself untying the knots
that bound Santa Claus and unlocking the chains that fastened him
to the wall. Then he led the way through a long tunnel until they
both emerged in the Cave of Repentance.
"I hope you will forgive me," said the Daemon pleadingly. "I
am not really a bad person, you know; and I believe I accomplish a
great deal of good in the world."
With this he opened a back door that let in a flood of
sunshine, and Santa Claus sniffed the fresh air gratefully.
"I bear no malice," said he to the Daemon, in a gentle voice;
"and I am sure the world would be a dreary place without you. So,
good morning, and a Merry Christmas to you!"
With these words he stepped out to greet the bright morning,
and a moment later he was trudging along, whistling softly to
himself, on his way to his home in the Laughing Valley.
Marching over the snow toward the mountain was a vast army,
made up of the most curious creatures imaginable. There were
numberless knooks from the forest, as rough and crooked in
appearance as the gnarled branches of the trees they ministered to.
And there were dainty ryls from the fields, each one bearing the
emblem of the flower or plant it guarded. Behind these were many
ranks of pixies, gnomes and nymphs, and in the rear a thousand
beautiful fairies floated along in gorgeous array.
This wonderful army was led by Wisk, Peter, Nuter, and Kilter,
who had assembled it to rescue Santa Claus from captivity and to
punish the Daemons who had dared to take him away from his beloved
And, although they looked so bright and peaceful, the little
immortals were armed with powers that would be very terrible to
those who had incurred their anger. Woe to the Daemons of the Caves
if this mighty army of vengeance ever met them!
But lo! coming to meet his loyal friends appeared the imposing
form of Santa Claus, his white beard floating in the breeze and his
bright eyes sparkling with pleasure at this proof of the love and
veneration he had inspired in the hearts of the most powerful
creatures in existence.
And while they clustered around him and danced with glee at
his safe return, he gave them earnest thanks for their support. But
Wisk, and Nuter, and Peter, and Kilter, he embraced
"It is useless to pursue the Daemons," said Santa Claus to the
army. "They have their place in the world, and can never be
destroyed. But that is a great pity, nevertheless," he continued
So the fairies, and knooks, and pixies, and ryls all escorted
the good man to his castle, and there left him to talk over the
events of the night with his little assistants.
Wisk had already rendered himself invisible and flown through
the big world to see how the children were getting along on this
bright Christmas morning; and by the time he returned, Peter had
finished telling Santa Claus of how they had distributed the
"We really did very well," cried the fairy, in a pleased
voice; "for I found little unhappiness among the children this
morning. Still, you must not get captured again, my dear master;
for we might not be so fortunate another time in carrying out your
He then related the mistakes that had been made, and which he
had not discovered until his tour of inspection. And Santa Claus at
once sent him with rubber boots for Charlie Smith, and a doll for
Mamie Brown; so that even those two disappointed ones became
As for the wicked Daemons of the Caves, they were filled with
anger and chagrin when they found that their clever capture of
Santa Claus had come to naught. Indeed, no one on that Christmas
Day appeared to be at all selfish, or envious, or hateful. And,
realizing that while the children's saint had so many powerful
friends it was folly to oppose him, the Daemons never again
attempted to interfere with his journeys on Christmas Eve.