In honor of Nick and Lucy, his work began on Nick’s feast day on December 6 and continued on until Lucy’s feast day on December 13. Every night of that one-week period, he awoke in the small hours of the early morning, under the utter black winter sky, intending to reward the good deeds of local children, which he’d kept a scribbled list of throughout the year.
How to surprise them with this reward when their families’ front doors were locked at night presented a problem. Not long into this annual custom, however, he couldn’t help but notice that on the front stoops of these homes, the muddiest wooden shoes were also the smallest. They belonged, of course, to the children.
And so, the very practical Klausen slinked through the streets with his large bag of Dutch waffle cookies, nougat candy, oranges – and the gingerbread men cookies which Yinna Claus of China had introduced.
He crammed the small wooden shoes with these goodies until that one last night of the Lucy Claus feast, when he came to the local orphanage. There were so many children there, not enough room could be found on the stoop for all their muddy wooden shoes. Looking upward, however, he noticed a very large brick chimney rising high. As Klausen climbed the side of the building, his footing shifted. Some brick pieces broke and fell loudly to the ground.
The old man who lived next door awoke. He looked out his window, shocked to spot Clausen on the orphanage roof. Thinking him a robber, the old man flung on his robe and ran to the local constable. And never having climbed down a chimney, Klausen nearly dropped straight down, clanging the copper bed-warmers and boiling pots and roasting spits at the bottom of the open-fireplace. The children awoke and came streaming from every room. So too did the manager of the orphanage who also thought him a robber. And just then the constable burst in, determined to find this mistaken robber and lock him up in the local prison.
When Klausen’s bag opened, however, and out spilled Yinna Claus’s gingerbread, the children shrieked with joy and so ran and jumped with frenzy, it gave Clausen time to rise, dust off and locate the back door. And when the children tore open his bag, the oranges rolled out, all over the floor, and the constable twisted and turned, trying to step around them, until he fell flat – and angry. Klausen had just enough time to run to the Delft city limits. By then, the constable was not far behind him. And when Klausen made it all the way to Amsterdam, the Delft constable alerted the Amsterdam authorities who began a search for Klausen.
And when Klausen escaped them by heading north and west, across the border into the lands of what would later be called Germany, and then Denmark, the Delft and Amsterdam authorities were joined by police officials from those regions. When he boarded a small ship as a stowaway onto the Baltic Sea which took him further west and further north, sailors from the lands he passed on either side, from Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. It had been nearly a year since he had been on the run, but when he landed in old St. Petersburg, Russia, Klausen believed he was finally safe, for the hundreds of sailors following him, began to shiver in the cold north winds, and turned their ships around.
The tale of the mysterious Dutch robber who left gingerbread in children’s wooden shoes, however, had spread to newspapers and it was not long before Russian soldiers picked up the search to seize Klausen and not long before he continued west from St. Petersburg, still on the run. Just as the Lucy Claus festival approached and the cold of the season grew bitter with wind and dark nights grew blacker and longer, Klausen suddenly found himself at the edge of the legendary Forest of Arkhangelsk. He had no choice but to enter, his last hope for rest and freedom. The Russian soldiers were right behind him.
Klausen had no food or water. His clothes were tattered, his shoes torn. Still, he walked deeper and deeper into the darker and darker Forest of Arkhangelsk. Even in the daytime, the ancient, massive black trees no long permitted any of the few rays of sun that did briefly shine in the winter.
Klausen began to falter. Hungry wolves began to howl. He feared that the traditions of Nick Claus and Lucy Claus would be lost and that meant worthy children, some forgotten all year long, might not even be remembered at Christmas and other winter celebrations. It began to snow so heavily that even the ground beneath the impenetrable forest trees became blanket. Klausen fell. He tried to rise but was too weak. As he fell into a deep sleep from which he feared he might never rise, he stirred awake.
A pleasant scent was carried to him, of frying potatoes and onions and boiling apples. Managing to raise his head, through the snow which covered him, Klausen took heart at the sight of a welcoming blue glow. He dragged himself towards it to make out two small wooden buildings, a large barn and, in front of it, a humble black-wood farmhouse.
In a small window of the house there were eight blue candles shining brightly, for in this home it was the month of Kislev and the last day of festival of light.
Deciding to use all the energy he could, Klausen ran to the house in the thick snow. He was so hungry, cold and tired, however, he fell, weaker than he had ever been. He was giving way, his energy and his hope gone. So weak was Klausen that when what looked like a bear closed in over him, he did not resist. And when he gave up, he was wrapped in warmth.
It was not a bear at all, but the daughter of a hunter, a girl with golden braids named Sadie.
Seeing Klausen from the window, Sadie had run out to cover him with one of her father’s old black bear coats. In summers, Sadie tended to the harvest in the small open field beside her father’s farmhouse. Strong of mind and body she lifted Klausen and the truth is that, by now, he was thin and light. She brushed the snow from his face, and pressed her warm lips upon his forehead. Simply by the power of her gentle touch yet strong care, Klausen fell immediately in love. He did not need to see her.
In the farmhouse, Sadie lived alone with her father the hunter. He was away now, soon to return, having left to trade pelts in town. While she loved her father, Sadie argued strongly against him. They had enough bearskin pelts and wolf fur hats to keep them warm and food to nourish them. Why did he insist on killing more bears for more pelts for more gold they did not need? She could not understand how their religious tradition saved the life of a pig from being killed for food, yet not the bears or the wolves in the forest for pelts, or the cows or the deer at their farm, for food. The cows provided them with dairy, and the deer plowed the fields where she grew an abundance of vegetables.
Like the miracle of keeping lamps lit for eight days with just one day’s worth of oil, Sadie managed to create a full dinner for Klausen from her small, remaining round of cheese and the few potato and onion pancakes and applesauce she was cooking. Once he was warm and fed, Sadie excused herself, taking some dried grains from her cupboard, and left the house without explanation. Klausen was curious. He slipped out of the house to watch her enter the barn. And then he heard her speaking. He came up to the barn, its door just ajar and witnessed a scene he never forgot.
There in the barn, the gentle Sadie was encircled by eight reindeer, each gently brushing their head against her shoulder as she spoke to each by name. Unlike any animals he had ever seen, these deer so loved Sadie for her so loving them, that they waited patiently as she fed them grains and hay in the barn. These massive and strong beasts were her dearest friends; they were her brothers and sisters, her protectors, her companions. He’d never met someone like Sadie. Suddenly sensing that Klausen was watching, she told her deer about him. Each one came to him with trust, and brushed their heads against his shoulder too. Sadie confessed to Klausen that as a mere child, she had so passionately forbidden her father from harming the deer that they had come to always protect and trust her alone.
Just when Klausen could not believe the great blessing of Sadie, they both heard the sound of horses being led by her father’s horn in the distance. The Russian Army was catching up with Klausen. Sadie knew he could no longer run away. She hoped that, with her and the deer, they could get away in another way.
Before running inside to grab all her worldly belongings in an old red trunk, Sadie pointed out an old sleigh in the corner and told Klausen to immediately harness the deer. They would need the power of all eight to run faster and further than the Russian Army. Close enough to see Sadie and Klausen pulled by the deer, her father the hunter yelled angrily at his daughter, insisting that she halt. But Sadie never looked back. She seized the reins of her eight deer friends, and urged them on.
Like magic, the large deer moved in unison, their hooves barely touching the ground as graceful as a ballet, somehow dodging and turning to dash through the thicket of trees. “Animals will push themselves far further than any human can or will, when it is love that moves them,” Sadie explained to Klausen. And so they did, for her. The deer ran faster and further, faster and further and reached the edge of the Forest of Arkhangelsk hours before any human could have.
They kept dashing, through the villages and towns, heading onward, northward. It looked as if their hooves barely touched the snow. Alerted by this commotion, the local constables now dashed out after them, for despite the bitter cold temperatures to have captured the notorious robber of Delft would have made the town of Arkhangel famous throughout the world. There was no further north, however, the deer could run, for the White Ocean now stood just in front of them. The Russian Army by now had gotten through the forest and they on their horses were closing in on Sadie, Klausen and the deer.
Still they kept dashing – right up to the edge of the water. Then suddenly, abruptly, the deer came to a complete halt. They knew they couldn’t run on water. It would endanger them all. Klausen feared he was about to finally be captured. What happened next forever changed history.
Her eyes twinkling in mischief, Sadie gave a snap to the eight reindeer reins. And the deer so loved and so completely trusted Sadie, they ran right out into the White Ocean.
It was solid ice.
No ship of any kind in all the world could get through this ice.
But Sadie’s deer could run over it.
She snapped the reins again, and the deer leaped higher and longer. And when they encountered patches of water and thin ice, she snapped twice and the deer suddenly flew over those soft spots.
And higher and longer the deer flew, and soon they grew accustomed to it. And further north they went. And higher and longer they flew. Not even the deer had known they were capable of this, especially going for so long without food. The undying love felt by the non-human being for the human being, however, fueled them onward and upward. Few humans can understand the depth of this or reciprocate, especially in those days.
But Sadie did.
And Clausen learned that from her.
Nobody in Russia could spot them any longer.
One report from nearby Finland, however, claims that an entire isolated village had witnessed a breathtaking view in silhouette against the brief rays of morning sun on that bitter cold day, and it was of two people in love flying in the sky, pulled by eight reindeer.
They built a small cottage at first, but the furry coats of the reindeer kept them warm until springtime. Clausen had never before slept with animals, but he realized that they saved his life that first winter.
At the first sign of melting snow and a running river, he and Sadie began to immediately build their own wood cabin. And again, it was the deer who pulled the lumber from the nearby forest.
As the harvest time began to approach, and they were not yet done, Sadie trusted the intelligence, skill, courage and loyalty of the deer and gave them her winter coat. They flew back to her village and landed in the garden of her sister Merry.
Pulling up her coat with his teeth, one reindeer gave evidence that Sadie had not entirely disappeared. Merry knew Sadie’s secret language with her deer and learned to trust them and even convince their other sister Ivy as well as both their husbands, and all their children, to pile into the sleigh, bringing the warmest of clothes. And when Merry, Ivy, their husbands and children all arrived, they helped build more cabins.
Soon, there was a thriving winter colony and a headquarters for the Claus family at the isolated North Pole. Sadie christened the growing compound Claushaus, and that is still its official name, though everyone now calls it Santa’s Castle.
And the next year, they built upwards into tall towers that gave them all the only view of the world from the very top point on earth. And Sadie sent the deer down again one year, to fetch some cousins who understood her ways.
Sadie Claus brought mirth all winter long, with her humor, compassion – but also her forthrightness. While she was Mrs. Claus at the North Pole, making dinner from any non-human was strictly forbidden. She allowed her sisters to cultivate gardens to grow vegetables. The truth was, however, Sadie had little taste for vegetables. She had Klausen’s old family recipe for Christmas cookies from Lucy Claus and gingerbread men from Yinna Claus and made good use of the snow and ice and the cream from the top of the milk of the deer to make a treat she considered perfectly healthy to eat as long as it lasted. She called it “iced cream.”
And while not everyone understood how it was that the deer understood Sadie and Sadie understood the deer, it was a gift she would pass on to her son, destined to someday assume his father’s responsibilities.
So, with Klausen Claus able to now plan his winter gift-giving to children of the lower world from Claushaus, Sadie Claus nurtured him and nurtured her reindeer in a peaceful place she chose, knowing all along that it wasn’t the outside cold that mattered, it was the fact that inside, it was always warm.
THE CHARACTERS AND STORYLINE OF THIS SERIES ARE COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL
Categories: Secret History of Mrs. Claus