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A Kidnapped Santa Claus

by L. Frank Baum

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 supreme.

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 thing 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 children happy.

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 the matter.

"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."

"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 destruction.

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 quickly."

"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 content."

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 told."

"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 you."

"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 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 ...