“But these presents were all given according to the way the children had behaved during the year. If they had been good and tried hard, they had the gifts they deserved. But if they had been naughty and disobedient, it was not a happy time for them.”
“I don’t believe the children were very fond of him,” cried Hans. “They must have been too much afraid of him.”
“That is true,” said his father. “But now, let us play some games. Christmas comes but once a year, and you have all been good children.”
The room soon rang with the shouts of Hans and his sisters. They played “Blind Man’s Buff” and other games. Their father took part in all of them as though he were a boy again. The good mother looked on with pleasant smiles.
Bedtime came only too soon. But just before the children said good night, the father took Hans one side and talked seriously yet lovingly with him. He told the boy of the faults he must still fight against. He spoke also of the improvement he had made during the year.
At the same time the mother gave words of kind advice to her little daughters. She told them to keep up good courage; to be busy and patient in the year to come.
“My dear little girls,” she whispered, as she kissed them, “I love to see you happy in your play. But the good Lord who cares for us has given us all some work to do in this world. Be faithful in doing yours.”
“Wake up, Bertha. Come, Gretchen. You will have to hurry, for it is quite late,” called their mother. It was one morning about a week after Christmas.
“Oh dear, I am so sleepy, and my bed is nice and warm,” thought Bertha.
[Illustration: Bertha’s Father and Mother.]
But she jumped up and rubbed her eyes and began to dress, without waiting to be called a second time. Her mother was kind and loving, but she had taught her children to obey without a question.
Both little girls had long, thick hair. It must be combed and brushed and braided with great care. Each one helped the other. They were soon dressed, and ran down-stairs.
As soon as the breakfast was over and the room made tidy, every one in the family sat down to work. Bertha’s father was a toy-maker. He had made wooden images of Santa Claus all his life. His wife and children helped him.
When Bertha was only five years old, she began to carve the legs of these Santa Claus dolls. It was a queer sight to see the little girl’s chubby fingers at their work. Now that she was nine years old, she still carved legs for Santa Claus in her spare moments.
Gretchen always made arms, while Hans worked on a still different part of the bodies. The father and mother carved the heads and finished the little images that afterward gave such delight to children in other lands.