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Age Rating 8 Plus.

Little tales of the desert.

by Ethel Twycross Foster


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 camp. 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?"


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