So the Child listened at the chimney for Santa Claus and watched for him when sleighs flew by over the snowy streets and wanted to touch his rosy cheeks and his red cloak trimmed with white fur.
“I am old enough now to see Santa Claus,” the Child said. That was quite true, because he was seven years old. “Show him to me, Mother,” he begged.
“Oh, I cannot do that,” the Child’s mother said. “I can tell you about Santa Claus, but I cannot show you his face.”
“May I go out and look for Santa Claus, myself, then?” the Child asked. “This is the day before Christmas, and if I do not see him today, you know I shall have to wait a whole year.”
“Yes, you may go out and look for Santa Claus,” the Child’s mother said, and she brought him his warm coat and cap and his red mittens. “But do not go too far away from home, for Santa Claus stays very close to the homes where there are children on Christmas Eve,” she added
So the Child started out. He was very sure that he would know Santa Claus when he saw him. Ever since he was a very little boy he had seen pictures of Santa Claus. He would be a jolly, fat, little, old man with twinkling eyes and a nose like a cherry. He would wear a long red cloak and, perhaps, he would be in his toy shop making toys, of which he would give the Child a great many. Or he would be driving his sleigh full of toys through the city, and the Child would know that he was coming by the tinkling sound of his silver bells.
At the gate, the Child met his grandfather. He was a very old man with white hair and spectacles. But he could play horse as well as the Child, and all the Child’s nicest toys, the stone blocks, and the train with tracks, and all the rest, his grandfather had given him. Now, his grandfather’s arms were full of fat, mysterious parcels. One parcel bulged as if it were a toy fire engine, and another parcel bulged as if it were a baseball mask, and a ball, and gloves.
“Where are you going?” the Child’s grandfather asked.
“I am going to see Santa Claus,” the Child answered.
The grandfather smiled until his blue eyes shone. “Will you know Santa Claus when you see him?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” the Child said. “Santa Claus is an old man with white hair, and twinkling eyes, and a nose like a cherry—” but the Child suddenly stopped.
“Oho!” his grandfather laughed, and the Child listened in surprise. He had never heard such a merry laugh before. His grandfather rubbed his nose that the cold had painted as red as a cherry. Then his grandfather was gone, and the Child went on, wondering.
The streets were full of people, their arms crowded with big white parcels tied with red ribbon. Some of them carried great green wreaths and bunches of holly. There were so many grocery teams and toy shop teams and flower shop teams that the Child was afraid to cross the street. He went part of the way across. Then he saw the horses coming, and he did not know which way to go. He might have been hurt, but a kind hand took hold of his and helped him safely across the street. He looked up at the man, who wore a long red cloak trimmed with white.
“Who are you?” the Child asked.
“One of the Christmas helpers,” the man said. “I stand here at the street corner and ring a Christmas bell, and people who pass by give me money for my poor ones. And where are you going?” he asked the Child.
“Will you know Santa Claus when you see him?” the man asked.
“Oh, yes,” the Child said. “Santa Claus wears a long red cloak trimmed with white—” But then the Child stopped
The man pulled his red cloak about him. It was very cold and he had no fire. Then he took his place at the street corner again. The Child watched him and then went on, wondering.
A little farther on, there was an old man, sitting in a shop and making toys. Once he had been a soldier, but now he was able to do nothing but sit at his workbench carving and gluing and painting playthings for children. The Child went in and watched him work. There were wooly lambs that would bleat and toy horses with harnesses on the shelves of the toy shop. There were dolls with blue eyes, and dolls with brown eyes, and dolls that could talk, and dolls that could walk, all waiting there for Christmas Eve. The toyman, himself, was fitting wheels on wooden carts and wheelbarrows, and as he worked, he sang a quaint little tune with these words:
A little green tree, From a far white hill,
Made a Christmas tree,
By my merry skill—
Then the toyman, who used to be a soldier, turned to the Child who was just going out of the shop. “Where are you going?” the toyman asked the Child.
“Will you know Santa Claus when you see him?” the toyman asked.
“Oh, yes,” the Child said. “Santa Claus will be making toys—” but he did not say any more, for the toyman got down from his bench and put a box of quaintly carved little wooden animals in the Child’s happy hands. It was a good gift, for each animal was different, and it had taken the toyman many evenings to cut them out.
“Merry Christmas to you from Santa Claus!” said the toyman, as the Child thanked him and went on, wondering.
Now it was Christmas Eve, and so the Child started home. The lights from the Christmas candles shining from many windows made a bright path for him, and he felt very happy indeed. He knew how pleasant it would be at home. The Christmas tree would be set up, waiting for the gifts that each one was going to give the others. There would be a fire of new logs in the fireplace, and holly wreaths at the windows, and he would hang up his stocking. The Child felt as glad as if Santa Claus were walking home by his side through the snowy street, but he thought, just before he reached home, “I wish that I could hear Santa Claus’s bells!”
Then the Child stopped, and listened. He heard, coming toward him on the frosty air, the sound of many silver-toned bells. The Christmas star had shone out in the sky as soon as the sun set. Now the church bells were ringing, some near and some far, to welcome the Holy Child of Christmas Eve. Their chiming was as wonderful as the sound of the strings of silver bells on Santa Claus’s sleigh.
“I shall know Santa Claus by the sound of his bells,” the Child repeated to himself.
Then he came home, and his mother was very glad to have him back.
“Did you see Santa Claus?” she asked.
“Oh, yes!” the Child answered, for he was quite sure about it now. “I saw him when I met grandfather, and I saw him standing in a red cloak at the street corner and helping the poor. I saw him in the toyman’s shop, and I heard his bells ringing just now. I saw Santa Claus everywhere,” the Child said.