The sun had set, and it was already almost dark, when several gentle knocks were heard at the door, the children were frightened lest some new misfortune was coming, but it was not so. Five children, three girls and two boys, between the ages of four and thirteen, entered timidly. They remained standing silently, and looking at the door as if they expected some one. Madame Tube and her children were much astonished at such an unexpected arrival, but in a few minutes a servant entered, carrying two heavy baskets. “Well?” she cried to the children, as she put down her heavy load. Upon this the two boys advanced towards Raphael, and leading him into a corner, dressed him in a suit of their own clothes, which although they had been worn, were still strong and good; they also gave him a new pair of strong boots and cloth cap. In the meantime their sisters had given Madame Tube and Madelaine warm gowns, flannel petticoats, and shoes. All this was done in silence—on the one side from timidity—on the other from astonishment.
At last the servant said, “It is as dark as a dungeon here—where Christmas presents are giving, there should be light to see them;” and taking from one of her baskets a large parcel of candles, a match, and two candlesticks, she soon illuminated the little chamber. Then the young visitors began to empty the baskets, and with delighted looks spread before the poor family a large loaf of bread, a piece of beef ready cooked, a cheese, butter, coffee, sugar, rice, salt, some plates, knives and forks, cups and saucers, a coffee-pot, saucepans, and a kettle.
Madame Tube was overwhelmed. She said, “You must be mistaken, these things are not intended for us, they are for some other people.”
The children smiled at each other, but the servant answered, “All are really for you, Madame Tube; the children have thought of nothing else but the pleasure of giving them to you—they have talked of it day and night.”
“May we come in?” asked a voice at the door. It opened, and a gentleman entered; a sweet-looking lady was leaning on his arm. “May we also see the gifts?” he said.
“Papa, mama,” exclaimed the children, joyously, as they surrounded their beloved parents.
“And how are you, Madame Tube?” inquired the gentleman; “do you feel better? Christmas week has been a sad one for you, we will hope that the new year is about to open more brightly.”
The gentleman’s face was not unknown to Madame Tube; she reflected a moment, and then recollected it was the king’s minister, who had accompanied her to the hospital. Madelaine also recognised the benevolent man, and the blind boy knew his voice the moment he spoke. They all surrounded their noble benefactor and thanked him with tears of gratitude; but he stopped them by saying, “My children wished to have this pleasure—it is they who have collected all these little things—and is it not true,” he continued, turning to his children, “that there is more happiness in giving than in receiving?”