Now, when the good Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, there were among his people three beautiful maidens, daughters of a nobleman. Their father was so poor that he could not afford to give them dowries. Now in those times and in that land, no maid could marry without a dowry so these three lovely young maidens could not wed the youths who loved them.
The poor nobleman. Things did not go well for him and finally he became so very poor that he no longer even had money with which to buy food or clothes for his daughters. He was overcome by shame and sorrow as his daughters wept continually for they were both cold and hungry.
One day, just before Christmas, Saint Nicholas heard of the sad state of this noble family. So that very night, when the maidens were asleep, and the father was watching, sorrowful and lonely, Saint Nicholas took a handful of gold, and, tying it in a purse, set off for the nobleman's house. Creeping quietly and silently up to the open window, he threw the purse into the chamber, so that it fell on the bed of the sleeping maidens.
The father picked up the purse. When he opened the pouch, he discovered the gold. He rejoiced greatly and awakened his daughters. He gave most of the gold to his eldest child for a dowry. The very next day she wed the young man whom she loved with all her heart.
A few days later Saint Nicholas filled another purse with gold, and, as before, went by night to the nobleman's house and tossed the purse through the open window. Thus the second daughter was enabled to marry the young man whom she loved.
Now, the nobleman felt very grateful to the unknown one who threw purses of gold into his room. He longed to know who his benefactor was so he could thank him. So the next night he watched beneath the open window. And when all was dark, lo! good Saint Nicholas came for the third time, carrying a silken purse filled with gold, and as he was about to throw it on the youngest maiden's bed, the nobleman caught him by his robe, and said:
"Oh good Saint Nicholas! why do you hide yourself thus?"
And he knelt down and kissed the saint's hands and feet. Now Saint Nicholas, overcome with confusion at having his good deed discovered, begged the nobleman to tell no man what had happened.
Thus the nobleman's third daughter was enabled to marry the young man whom she loved; and she and her father and her two sisters lived happily for the remainder of their lives.