by Terri Reinhart, illustrated by Patrick Reinhart
The pine marten was the fiercest little animal in the forest.
When other animals came near him, he growled and snarled and snapped at them.
Then the animals ran away.
When people walked through the forest, he hid in the bushes growling and snarling and snapping at them as they traveled by his bush. Then the people would walk a little faster to get away from the fierce little animal.
One day the pine marten heard people coming.
There were lots of people marching straight through his forest!
The pine marten hid in a bush by the path. As the people passed him he began to growl and snarl and snap his teeth.
The people all rushed past the pine marten, except one man. He stopped and looked down at the fierce little animal.
Suddenly, the pine marten did not feel so fierce. He tried to run away, but was caught in the brambles of the bush.
The man bent down and gently picked up the pine marten and put him in his pocket.
"I am St. Nicholas and you, my little friend, are coming with me."
The fierce little animal started to scrabble and scratch, but it was no use.
He stayed in St. Nicholas' pocket all the way across the forest.
He stayed in St. Nicholas' pocket when everyone boarded a ship and they sailed all the way across the sea.
When they finally arrived on the other shore, St. Nicholas' helpers carried bags filled with flour, apples, nuts and honey cakes.
They traveled to a town where the people were very poor and very hungry.
St. Nicholas and his helpers left food on each and every doorstep.
Then St. Nicholas took the pine marten out of his pocket and looked him squarely in the eye.
"No more growling, no more snarling and no more snapping.
I have work for you to do," he said.
St. Nicholas sent the pine marten into each house with a coin.
Inside each house, he dropped each coin into a stocking that hung by the fire.
He worked all night long.
When morning came and he was finished with his work, he was very tired.
He was happy to go back inside St. Nicholas' pocket.
The little pine marten was so sleepy that he did not know when they boarded their ship and sailed across the sea for home.
He did not even wake up when they arrived at his forest.
When they arrived at the pine marten's home, St. Nicholas lifted him out of his pocket and put him down on the ground.
"Your work is done now, my little friend. You can go free."
But the little pine marten wanted to stay with St. Nicholas.
From that time on, the pine marten lived in the woods close to St. Nicholas' house and whenever St. Nicholas needed his help, he was always right there.
A St. Nicholas Story or The Fiercest Little Animal In The Forest by Terri Reinhart, illustrated by Patrick Reinhart, copyright © 2009 Patrick's Press. Used by permission.
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