Contrary to what most would think, he did like children. Most of the time, he preferred them over adults, as a matter of fact. Adults were full of self-importance and pretense, refusing to see what was right in front of them. Children - most of them, anyway - saw the truth, and accepted it for what it was until an adult came along to tell them it was all nonsense and that they should grow up and stop being childish. This saddened him. If one could not be childish when one was a child, why then, when could one be?
The best children, he found, were often the poorest in goods, and they were the ones he spent the most time with. Much of his work was done for the criminal element, the underground, yes; however, because of his preferences, and the location of his shop, the poor, and even homeless, were often in need of his services. They offered what they could in payment; usually his other stock in trade, information. That's one of the reasons he made it a point to befriend the poor, the homeless, especially the youngest of them - no one likes to feel invisible. When someone is seen as invisible, as less than human, they can go places and find out information that someone of more 'importance' would not have the opportunity to overhear. He, himself, knew what it was like to be invisible; both in his former work and in this one, the higher in society he moved, the more those around him were likely to deny his appearance, or even existence.
All year long, while the world around him slept, he would be at his woodwork, yes; but one could only do so much of that, and at times he had no guests, he could focus on another thing he enjoyed doing: making toys. He started the last week of December, preparing himself for the coming year, adding things as they were finished to the dusty red sack he had long ago procured for that purpose. Spinning tops would go in, simply made but colourful and very enjoyable to so many ages. Close behind, yo-yos and cups-and-balls -also called bilbo- , using string he had set aside for that purpose as it came wrapped around deliveries. In times like this, one never let anything go to waste. On the side, rolling hoops and sticks, carefully carved and sanded, as the children so loved. As the year advanced, and he had more time to work on them, he would make more complex pieces like locomotive engines with wheels that actually moved, and wooden boats that could float, a string attached for easy retrieval. A few special children would get carefully carved, fully painted wooden horses, much like the ones that pulled his wagon, moving his guests from place to place. Finally, then, some of his favourite projects - the dolls. Mostly variants of peg dolls, he took great care in carving and sanding them, making sure their joints could move, then painting their little faces and hairstyles into place, often having a specific child in mind when he did so. He always had bits of cloth about from his guests, bits too large to discard yet too small to make anything for humans out of; these pieces were perfect to make a full outfit for a doll. He stitched the fabric carefully, used to delicate stitches from decades of sewing up his clients - facial restoration was very challenging, but the skills he learned in it were very useful. The dolls would be added to the sack.
Finally, finally, for the adults, as he could, he would take the bits of fabric he had left and carefully stitch the pieces together until he had a piece he deemed suitable; layering it with others to make what some would call a crazy quilt; but to those few he was able to gift with them, they could be called the difference between life and death.
When Christmas Eve arrived, and the moon was high in the sky, he would close his shop and climb the narrow stairs to his living quarters above; doffing his mourning crepe, he would pull on that old suit and coat from his work days and pull his silver hair back into a ponytail. A worn crimson cloak would come from its trunk for its yearly wearing, and his recognizable talons would be hidden in mittens. He would gather his sack, the rolling hoops slung over his free arm. Back down the stairs and into his courtyard he would travel, footfalls barely audible even in the crunch of the snow. Up to the rooftops he would go, first visiting those with no homes at all; those children that helped him the most often, the ones so very thankful for even a simple acknowledgement, kind smile or words, or bits of food. He knew their squats, and would listen until all was still, then come in, silent as Death, but with nothing of the kind on his mind. They might awake when it felt like wind brushed their face, or with the rays of the sun, finding new socks for them, filled with nuts and penny candy; perhaps some apples in with the toys, a bit of coke for the fire, or scarves to help fight off the winters' chill.
For those that had homes, it was much the same; for Death, walls and locked doors were no barrier, after all. Quietly he entered, hand dipping into his sack once more to leave a carved soldier for this one, a pouch of baked clay marbles for that one, a carefully made kite for another. And if a child should see him, why, they would think it was Saint Nicholas of pale hair and red velvet, on his visit. He was always careful to only visit those that he knew the Saint would not be able to visit, to drape one of his quilts over a huddled sleeping form near the sparse fire, to leave little treats to make those of all ages smile upon awakening, to leave them with the sense of wonder that conditions had forced from them long before.
When the first hint of dawn started to lighten the sky, he was back in his courtyard, checking on Bess and the horses, giving them pets and carrots and soft words of affection; and when it was day, he would step out of his shop and move his display coffins back outside, letting all of London know that the Undertaker was open for business once more.
And if one of his young friends would happen to see him and show off what Nicholas had left for them the night before, he would clap his hands in delight and exclaim with joy over how simply marvelous their new toy was, loving the happiness that shone in their face, as it only can through the eyes of a child.
The undertaker shows a hidden side of himself, playing Saint Nicholas for those who would not have a holiday otherwise.
thats so cute i loved it <3
This little tale filled me with Christmas feels. Wonderfully written.
I love this so much <3
*applauds and smiles* Aww I really loved to read it. This would be perfect as a Christmas story to read on Christmas~