Little tales of the desert.
by Ethel Twycross Foster
Part 1 CHRISTMAS ON THE DESERT
Start of Story
MARY was worried. To-morrow would be Christmas. Christmas! a day always
spent close to New York City, that place where Santa Claus obtained all
the contents of his wonderful pack. Here she was, out in the heart of
the great Arizona Desert. Her little head was sorely puzzled over many
things. Around her were sand, rocks and mountains; no snow, no ice, save
on the tops of the distant peaks. How was Santa to draw his gift-laden
sleigh over barren stretches of sage brush and sand? Besides, he surely
would be far too warm, with his heavy fur coat and cap, to say nothing
of the poor reindeer who could scarcely live in such a country.
Mary and her mother had joined her father at his mine, where they were
going to spend the winter, sleeping in a tent, eating in a tent, but
spending the remainder of the time out of doors, under the clear, blue
sky and breathing the sweet, pure air.
Mary enjoyed all these things and no troubled thought crossed her mind
until the approach of Christmas. She sought counsel with her mother, but
Mother merely looked wise and said "wait." Mothers, somehow, seem to
know all about these things and Mary had great confidence in hers, and
so she ceased to worry, but still she wondered.
Christmas Eve at last arrived and Mary with many misgivings retired
early, as children often do in order to hasten the coming of the day.
She slept well, but awoke just as the sun came peeping up from behind
the distant mountains.
She sat up on her cot very suddenly and rubbed her eyes. What was that
rapidly moving object coming over the brow of the nearest hill? She
hurried into her clothes and went out. As the speck came nearer it
began to take definite form. But how strange! What did it all mean? Mary
stood and stared with wide open eyes. Quickly it came nearer and nearer
and presently rolled over the nearest rise and swung up in front of the
Mary had seen many interesting sights during her short life of six
years, but never one so strange.
First came twelve little burros with harnesses nearly hidden by holly
berries, while behind was the queerest chariot that ever popped out of a
fairy tale. The wheels were covered with blue and yellow flowers and
above was an immense Spanish dagger with the center removed, and in its
place stood the same dear old Santa Claus, whom Mary had seen every year
of her life.
Mary had never before seen him in his desert costume.
Instead of his warm fur coat, he wore a kakhi coat and trousers, with
high top boots, a bright red scarf around his neck and a wide sombrero
hat. Below the hat peeped out the same kindly, bright eyes above the
rosy cheeks and snowy white beard. Beside him, instead of the usual
evergreen tree, a large, queer, crooked limbed joshua tree, was
standing. It was literally laden with presents, and all was lighted up,
not with candles or wax tapers, but with the crimson blossoms of the
Spanish dagger. On every dagger point was hung a gift. There were grown
up presents for father and mother and the cook and the miners; and there
was a real doll with blue eyes and teeth, that said "Papa," and "Mama,"
and cried exactly like the dolls found in far away New York. There was a
tea set and a little kakhi suit. There was a cute little set of
furniture made from cactus burrs, to say nothing of the delicious cactus
candy, and other sweetmeats which must have come from a far away town.
Santa descended with a bow and a smile to all, distributed the gifts,
joined them for a moment at breakfast, for the dear old man works very
hard and gets hungry, and then with a cheery, "Merry Christmas to all,"
he was off again, leaving behind one of the little burros named Bepo,
for Mary's own use.
As he sped away over the sand toward the next camp, Mary gave a sigh and
turned to her mother with a happy laugh, saying, "I guess Santa looks
after the little girls and boys everywhere, doesn't he, Mamma?"