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Is There A Santa Claus?
by [?]

* * * * *

AND so we sat and talked, and I told my kind friends that my own dear old mother, whom I have not seen for years, was very, very sick in far-away Denmark and longing for her boy, and a mist came into my hostess’s gentle eyes and she said, “Let us cable over and tell her how much we think of her,” though she had never seen her. And it was no sooner said than done. In came a man with a writing-pad, and while we drank our coffee this message sped under the great stormy sea to the far-away country where the day was shading into evening already though the sun was scarce two hours high in Washington:


Mrs. Riis, Ribe, Denmark :

Your son is breakfasting with us. We send you our
love and sympathy.


For, you see, the house with the holly in the hall was the White House, and my host was the President of the United States. I have to tell it to you, or you might easily fall into the same error I came near falling into. I had to pinch myself to make sure the President was not Santa Claus himself. I felt that he had in that moment given me the very greatest Christmas gift any man ever received: my little mother’s life. For really what ailed her was that she was very old, and I know that when she got the President’s dispatch she must have become immediately ten years younger and got right out of bed. Don’t you know mothers are that way when any one makes much of their boys? I think Santa Claus must have brought them all in the beginning–the mothers, I mean.

I would just give anything to see what happened in that old town that is full of blessed memories to me, when the telegraph ticked off that message. I will warrant the town hurried out, burgomaster, bishop, beadle and all, to do honor to my gentle old mother. No Santa Claus, eh? What was that, then, that spanned two oceans with a breath of love and cheer, I should like to know. Tell me that!

After the coffee we sat together in the President’s office for a little while while he signed commissions, each and every one of which was just Santa Claus’s gift to a grown-up boy who had been good in the year that was going; and before we parted the President had lifted with so many strokes of his pen clouds of sorrow and want that weighed heavily on homes I knew of to which Santa Claus had had hard work finding his way that Christmas.

It seemed to me as I went out of the door, where the big policeman touched his hat and wished me a Merry Christmas, that the sun never shone so brightly in May as it did then. I quite expected to see the crocuses and the jonquils, that make the White House garden so pretty, out in full bloom. They were not, I suppose, only because they are official flowers and have a proper respect for the calendar that runs Congress and the Executive Department, too.

I stopped on the way down the avenue at Uncle Sam’s paymaster’s to see what he thought of it. And there he was, busy as could be, making ready for the coming of Santa Claus. No need of my asking any questions here. Men stood in line with bank-notes in their hands asking for gold, new gold-pieces, they said, most every one. The paymaster, who had a sprig of Christmas green fixed in his desk just like any other man, laughed and shook his head and said “Santa Claus?” and the men in the line laughed too and nodded and went away with their old.