THE GAMEKEEPER'S DAUGHTER
bell attached, and a leather muzzle that ought to allay the fears of the most nervous.
" Yes, little woman, I am Santa Claus—himself!" he repeated, with his jolly chuckle.
" I—I—beg your pardon," stammered Nancy, quite confused.
" It's all right," he replied good-humouredly. " Now shall I see you home before I continue my rounds ?"
" Oh, may I come with you ? " The words had dropped out of her mouth before she could stop herself.
Santa Glaus shook his head. " Come with me, indeed ? I should think not! Come with me ? 'Pon my word !" Then he hesitated and smiled, and said kindly, " Well, come along, dear. You're a good, brave little girl. But you must know I've never made such an exception before. However, it's so odd to find a child who doesn't know me— even such a little village mouse as you—that we must really make one another's acquaintance."
He drew Nancy under his cloak to keep her extra warm, and to hide her from view, and he showed her how she could peep out. Then he took her by the hand, and the quaint pair proceeded along the mysterious-looking forest until they came to the part Nancy loved best. There, heaps and heaps of fir-trees grew, the tall ones protecting the wee ones,