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Is There A Santa Claus?
by [?]

“DEAR MR. RIIS:

“A little chap of six on the Western frontier writes to us:

“‘Will you please tell me if there is a Santa
Claus? Papa says not.’

“Won’t you answer him?”

That was the message that came to me from an editor last December just as I was going on a journey. Why he sent it to me I don’t know. Perhaps it was because, when I was a little chap, my home was way up toward that white north where even the little boys ride in sleds behind reindeer, as they are the only horses they have. Perhaps it was because when I was a young lad I knew Hans Christian Andersen, who surely ought to know, and spoke his tongue. Perhaps it was both. I will ask the editor when I see him. Meanwhile, here was his letter, with Christmas right at the door, and, as I said, I was going on a journey.

I buttoned it up in my great coat along with a lot of other letters I didn’t have time to read, and I thought as I went to the depot what a pity it was that my little friend’s papa should have forgotten about Santa Claus. We big people do forget the strangest way, and then we haven’t got a bit of a good time any more.

* * * * *

NO Santa Claus! If you had asked that car full of people I would have liked to hear the answers they would have given you. No Santa Claus! Why, there was scarce a man in the lot who didn’t carry a bundle that looked as if it had just tumbled out of his sleigh. I felt of one slyly, and it was a boy’s sled–a “flexible flyer,” I know, because he left one at our house the Christmas before; and I distinctly heard the rattling of a pair of skates in that box in the next seat. They were all good-natured, every one, though the train was behind time–that is a sure sign of Christmas. The brakeman wore a piece of mistletoe in his cap and a broad grin on his face, and he said “Merry Christmas” in a way to make a man feel good all the rest of the day. No Santa Claus, is there? You just ask him!

And then the train rolled into the city under the big gray dome to which George Washington gave his name, and by-and-by I went through a doorway which all American boys would rather see than go to school a whole week, though they love their teacher dearly. It is true that last winter my own little lad told the kind man whose house it is that he would rather ride up and down in the elevator at the hotel, but that was because he was so very little at the time and didn’t know things rightly, and, besides, it was his first experience with an elevator.

As I was saying, I went through the door into a beautiful white hall with lofty pillars, between which there were regular banks of holly with the red berries shining through, just as if it were out in the woods! And from behind one of them there came the merriest laugh you could ever think of. Do you think, now, it was that letter in my pocket that gave that guilty little throb against my heart when I heard it, or what could it have been? I hadn’t even time to ask myself the question, for there stood my host all framed in holly, and with the heartiest handclasp.

“Come in,” he said, and drew me after. “The coffee is waiting.” And he beamed upon the table with the veriest Christmas face as he poured it out himself, one cup for his dear wife and one for me. The children–ah! you should have asked them if there was a Santa Claus!