With much care he carved the head in the likeness of the lioness, even to the two fierce teeth that curved over her lower lip and the deep, frowning lines above her wide-open eyes.
When it was finished he said:
"You have a terrible look, Shiegra."
"Then the image is like me," she answered; "for I am indeed terrible to all who are not my friends."
Claus now carved out the body, with Shiegra's long tail trailing behind it. The image of the crouching lioness was very life-like.
"It pleases me," said Shiegra, yawning and stretching her body gracefully. "Now I will watch while you paint."
He brought the paints the Ryls had given him from the cupboard and colored the image to resemble the real Shiegra.
The lioness placed her big, padded paws upon the edge of the table and raised herself while she carefully examined the toy that was her likeness.
"You are indeed skillful!" she said, proudly. "The children will like that better than cats, I'm sure."
Then snarling at Blinkie, who arched her back in terror and whined fearfully, she walked away toward her forest home with stately strides.
4. How Little Mayrie Became Frightened
The winter was over now, and all the Laughing Valley was filled with joyous excitement. The brook was so happy at being free once again that it gurgled more boisterously than ever and dashed so recklessly against the rocks that it sent showers of spray high in the air. The grass thrust its sharp little blades upward through the mat of dead stalks where it had hidden from the snow, but the flowers were yet too timid to show themselves, although the Ryls were busy feeding their roots. The sun was in remarkably good humor, and sent his rays dancing merrily throughout the Valley.
Claus was eating his dinner one day when he heard a timid knock on his door.
"Come in!" he called.
No one entered, but after a pause came another rapping.
Claus jumped up and threw open the door. Before him stood a small girl holding a smaller brother fast by the hand.
"Is you Tlaus?" she asked, shyly.
"Indeed I am, my dear!" he answered, with a laugh, as he caught both children in his arms and kissed them. "You are very welcome, and you have come just in time to share my dinner."
He took them to the table and fed them with fresh milk and nut-cakes. When they had eaten enough he asked:
"Why have you made this long journey to see me?"
"I wants a tat!" replied little Mayrie; and her brother, who had not yet learned to speak many words, nodded his head and exclaimed like an echo: "Tat!"
"Oh, you want my toy cats, do you?" returned Claus, greatly pleased to discover that his creations were so popular with children.
The little visitors nodded eagerly.
"Unfortunately," he continued, "I have but one cat now ready, for I carried two to children in the town yesterday. And the one I have shall be given to your brother, Mayrie, because he is the smaller; and the next one I make shall be for you."
The boy's face was bright with smiles as he took the precious toy Claus held out to him; but little Mayrie covered her face with her arm and began to sob grievously.
"I--I--I wants a t--t--tat now!" she wailed.
Her disappointment made Claus feel miserable for a moment. Then he suddenly remembered Shiegra.
"Don't cry, darling!" he said, soothingly; "I have a toy much nicer than a cat, and you shall have that."
He went to the cupboard and drew out the image of the lioness, which he placed on the table before Mayrie.
The girl raised her arm and gave one glance at the fierce teeth and glaring eyes of the beast, and then, uttering a terrified scream, she rushed from the house. The boy followed her, also screaming lustily, and even dropping his precious cat in his fear.
For a moment Claus stood motionless, being puzzled and astonished. Then he threw Shiegra's image into the cupboard and ran after the children, calling to them not to be frightened.
Little Mayrie stopped in her flight and her brother clung to her skirt; but they both cast fearful glances at the house until Claus had assured them many times that the beast had been locked in the cupboard.