Several months passed away, and Christmas was approaching; but with that period came more trials to the poor family. Their rent would then become due, and Madame Tube, owing to her long illness, had been unable to earn anything towards it. What little Madelaine gained at Teuzer’s, was only sufficient to buy food of the poorest description. The severe season had added much to their sufferings; and they looked forward with great anxiety lest the landlord should turn them out in the snow, if they were unable to pay him.
Master Teuzer was preparing for the approaching Christmas fair a great quantity of little articles for children. This gave Madelaine plenty of employment; and thus, those things which would contribute to the amusement of other children, were to her a source of gain, and of the purest and best gratification, for she hoped to earn enough to pay her mother’s rent. With this view, she devoted her mornings to working at Master Tenzer’s, instead of going to school. Her absence would, no doubt, have been excused, had she gone to her teacher and mentioned the reason of her staying away, but by neglecting to do so, Madelaine committed a fault, the consequences of which were very serious.
The most diligent and best conducted children of the free-school received rewards two days before Christmas, in the large schoolroom, where numbers of ladies assembled, bringing different gifts for the poor children, and rejoicing at the sight of their happiness. Madelaine knew that she should not be of the number of those who received rewards, for she had not been long enough at school. She felt no envy or ill-temper on this account, but wished greatly to see the other children enjoying themselves; and in the afternoon she said to her brother, “Come, my Raphael, let us go to the fair together, and afterwards to the school; it is not good for you to sit in the house always, and although you cannot see, yet you can hear the sound of happy voices, the bells of the sledges, the hymns of the children, and then I will describe to you exactly all the beautiful things in the booths, the wind-mills that turn round, the rocking-horses, the gingerbread men, and quantities of other pretty things. Come, my Raphael.” His mother also encouraged the poor boy to go with his sister; so having washed his face, neatly parted his hair, and arranged his poor but carefully darned clothes as tidily as possible, Madelaine took his hand, and led him out. The cold air brought a slight color into his pale cheeks, and the cheerful sounds raised his spirits, a contented smile lighted up his features, which generally wore an expression of suffering. He listened with pleasure to the animated descriptions of his sister, and willingly agreed to accompany her to the school. As they approached it, a long procession of happy-looking children passed them; several of those in Madelaine’s class nodded to her, and one of them separating herself from the others, ran up to Madelaine, and said hastily, “Is it true, Madelaine, that you have stayed away from school without leave for six days? An apprentice told our teacher, and he is very angry with you.”