Historical Children's Literature Collection

The Christmas box: or, Timely conviction 1804

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 'inwftaw" i' ''
The Public may inspect a much larger
Collection of
to instruct and amuse
Than are to be met with at any other Shop i»*
tl. Bryer, Printer, Bridge-street, Blackfrhn.
ALFRED Waller having l^
his father during the tender yea,]
of infancy, was brought up wit
the tenderest attention by a truly-
affectionate mother, whose chief
felicity centered in her beloved
children; but when Alfred was
about six years of age, this amiable
woman was reduced from affluence
to poverty, by the failure of her
banker; and she^ no longer knew
how to support the little family
which had hitherto experienced no
serious difficulties.
A 2
Whilst she  was  weeping  over
her sad reverse  of fortune,  and
earnestly praying for some provi^
'ential assistance, she received a
ter from her worthy neighbour
Archibald  Freeport, contain-
. g a bank note for twenty pounds,
nd expressing a desire to render
her every possible assistance. The
good baronet stated that he had
known  Mr.   Waller many years
zgQy   and  should   deem   himself
happy in alleviating the distress of
his widow.    He therefore proposed in the most delicate manner,
that Alfred should spend the greatest part of his time  at Freeport-
liouse, as a companion to young
Archibald %   and that every  ex-
ertion should be made to place his
sisters in a respectable situation.
These proposals were consequently accepted with the warmest
gratitude; and Alfred soon became
the bosom-friend, as well as the
play-mate, of Sir Archibald's only
In the same village resided a
Mr. Glover, whose son Robert, a
youth of about nine years old, had
contracted a strict intimacy with
Archibald Freeport, but his character was by no means so open
or ingenuous as that of Alfred,
and his selfishness was so apparent
on almost every occasion, that it
required the whole of Archibald's
good nature, to pass it over in si^
A 3
knee, Fhe youths, however, were
accustomed to play together two
or three times a week, and Robert
generally found means to wheedle
his companion out of something.
One morning, in the beginning
of January, Robert went to Free-
port House, at an earlier hour than
usual, and, rinding Alfred by himself, began to enquire what Christ^
mas boxes his friend Archibald
had received; "for," said he, M as
his father is so immensely rich, he
must have had some noble presents."
Alfred, having no idea of the
end to which this question led,
readily replied, that his benefac-?
tor's   son   had   indeed   received
'    -s
f  '
several valuable Christmas boxes,
among which were a microscope,
a case of drawing instruments, a
draft-board, a dozen china figures,,
several companies of French and
English soldiers cast in lead, a
quantity of ivory fish and counters,
a large plum cake, and a quantity
of candied orange peel; besides
some boxes of sweetmeats, and
, several bottles of capiilaire,
Robert's eyes sparkled with delight at the account of these rich
presents, and in the fulness of his
heart he whispered to Alfred, as
a most important secret, that Archibald was finely taken in. Alfred was shocked at the expression, but he  had sufficient  pru*
dence to conceal his anger while
lie required an explanation.
" Why," said Robert, rubbing
his hands with evident pleasure,
" you must know that I and Archibald agreed, about six weeks
ago, to go equal shares in ai] our
Christmas boxes which should be
in their nature divisible. Now it
happens that with the exception
of a cake and a few preserves, I
have only received one Christmas
box, and this," said he, drawing
out an elegant gold watch, " cannot possibly be divided. You see
u Yes," said Alfred, " I see too
plainly that my worthy friend is
to be  cheated  by  your superior
dexterity.    He will only receive
half a cake and some  preserves
for all that he is to give up.   But
permit me to tell you that I find
it very difficult  to   believe your
assertion   with   respect   to  $mir
Christmas boxes; and even if it
be true that you have had no more,
it must be base and ungenerous indeed, to take such an unjust advantage.    Surely it would be more
to your honour, were you candidly
to  tell him  the  affair,   and quit
him of his promi-e." ?
Robert received this salutary
advice with a contemptuous toss
of the head, and declared that he
would insist upon Archibald's fulfilling his engagement in the strict*
 10     THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
est manner, and that if he attempted to go from his word, he
should be hooted through every
thoroughfare in the village, and
publicly proclaimed a cheat and
deceiver. "Go," said he, "and
tell this to your friend, and at the
same time add, I wish him joy
that he is so finely taken in."
Alfred's face was suffused with
■the glow  of honest indignation,
while Robert  addressed  him  in
this  manner, and  when  he had
done  speaking,  the   brave  little
fellow replied • " It appears, Master Glover, that you wish to add
insult  to   your   ungenerous  proceeding; but with respect to your
threats of enforcing   Archibald's
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.      11
promise, they are truly contemptible.    " What,"  continued he,
" do you suppose him as base as
yourself, that   he   would   break
his   wor$,    or   try    to    outwit
another ?  Should he act in  that
manner, insignificant as I may be,
and   wholly   dependant   on   his
father's bounty, I would never look
. upon him again ; but I know him
too well to think him capable of
any dishonourable action."    Robert felt embarrassed by the conscious dignity with which Alfred
delivered these noble sentiments;
but he pretended to pay no attention, and, taking up his hat, sauntered out of the house.
Alfred   went   immediately   in
 12       THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
search   of   his   friend,   and,    at
length,   found   him   iii    another
apartment, perusing a letter Which
he had just received from the ungenerous Robert.—Alfred was in*
deed astonished at the provoking
language in which it Was written^
and thought still more meanly of
the writer than he had done before; but, on Archibald's asking
his advice, with respect to the di-*
vision of the Christmas boxes, he
declared  it  would  admit  of no
doubt, but half must be fairly and
truly given up,
Poor Archibald could not con*
ceal his vexation, but declared he
thought Robert had asserted a
falsity; and therefore he did not
think himself bound to abide by
his promise. " You know," said
he, " that Glover had much better Christmas boxes than myself,
both last year and the preceding,
and I naturally supposed	
" O ! my friend," cried Alfred,
'! you are rightly served ; for I
perceive you thought to have had
the advantage, whereas fortune
has turned against you ; but it is
impossible that you should go
from your engagement. I innocently told him all that you had
received, and although you may
feel reluctant to part with one half
of such a treasure, yet reflect that
you will have plenty left; and
above   all   things  consider how
much reputation such an action
wil^l gain you.    Every one who
hears of the transaction will love
and admire you when they consider how willingly you sacrificed
your childish amusements to preserve your word inviolate ; while
Robert will be universally scorned
for his meanness;'and if, as you
suppose, he has really deceived us,
depend upon it, he will never be
able to look you in the face again,
bat will  ever feel  ashamed and
confounded before such superior
Archibald listened to his friend
witfuprofound attention, and was
so effectually convinced of the
kindness and propriety of his ad-
vice, that he embraced him with
all the warmth of fraternal affection, calling him his brother and
preserver, and desiring that all the
Christmas boxes might be divided
immediately."     il Yes,   my dear
friend," said he, " I will learn to
scorn the baubles that had almost
seduced me from the path of honour, and you yourself shall halve
them, that Robert may have  his
share without further delay."
As soon as the boys had breakfasted, they ran to Archibald's
study, in order to divide the presents, which completely filled a
large two handled basket. " Well,"
said Alfred, beginning to count
them, " here are two hundred fish
 16      THE   CHRfSTMAS   BOX.
and   twenty counters, six companies of soldiers —-—
" Ah !" sighed Archibald, " how
pleased we should have been in
ranging those troops against each
other in a winter evening."
" Ps>haw, never mind them," replied Alfred, u you shall keep the
English, and few as they are, they
are worth a host of Frenchmen.
These fish too, must be divided,
one hundred for you, and as many
for Robert. A draft-board and
microscope. Give him the draft-
board, the other will prove more
useful and entertaining."
" O my sweet china images!"
said Archibald, " it will grieve
me to part with these!" * "Ho,
no,"  replied Alfred,   " you will
not be grieved when they are gone;
the four seasons shall be given to
Robert, and the  muses shall remain to adorn your study : however,  as the greatest  number of
these fall to your share, you must
ht me   throw in the other   fish
and   counters,   to   make   up for
them.    These copper-plates  may
be   exactly  divided;   and    now
nothing remains but the cake, the
sweetmeats and capillaire, which
I would advise vou to  divide in
his presence, lest he should think
you had eaten any of them before
his arrival."
Archibald heaved a deep sigh,
• and   desired that  Robert   might
take the things away as soon as
possible. " I would not for the
world," said he, " violate my promise, or have any occasion for
self-reproach; but I am compelled
to acknowledge, that the sight of
these treasures distresses me, and
I tremble lest I should repent of
the resolution I have formed."
Alfred exhorted him to think
no more about it; but to consider
that  he had done his duty; and
would  consequently secure  himself the esteem and admiration of
all good men.    I will fetch Robert directly," said he, " and am
sure you  will soon perceive the
effects of all I have told you."
When this friendly adviser had
left the room, Archibald approached the table with a sorrowful countenance, and bitterly
regretted his folly in having made
so foolish an engagement. " In
addition to my loss of all these
charming things," said he, lc I
shall have the mortification of being laughed at, for making such
a ridiculous bargain. All that
heap of pretty things must be
given up, and for nothing!—No,
it is not so either. My word is
something—my honour is at stake,
and I must act as others ought to
act by me."
During this speech, Archibald's
sister had been looking in at the
door,  and   new  approached  the
table, enquiring whether he intended one of those shares for her ?
He replied that he should have
been extremely happy to have
given her such a proof of brotherly
affection; but that he had the
riiisfortune to tell her, those things
were not at his disposal; for that
he had bargained with Robert to
divide^ their Christmas boxes, and
he was obliged to give him up one
half of every thing upon the table,
although he had received nothing
in return but a few preserves and
half a plum-cake.
" I'll tell you what," said Matilda, iK this is a trick, contrived
between Robert and Alfred, and
I have not the least doubt but Al
fred will have his share for the
trouble he has taken. There is no
compulsion, that you should give
up any thing, and when they
come to take all their treasures
away, let them see that you are
not to be laughed at."
Archibald represented that he
had pledged his word in the most
solemn manner, and must consequently be considered as a cheat,
if he did not fulfil it. Matilda,
however, laughed at all his scruples; and, at length, declared she
would run and tell her papa, that
he might be prevented from acting
in so ridiculous a manner. With
this declaration she rushed out of
the apartment, and left Archibald
to his own reflections.
 82       THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
c" Well," said he, after a pause
of some minutes, " I dtmt know
but Matilda may be in the right;
for if my papa should mrbid me
to follow Alfred's advice, I shall
keep every thing, and yet not falsify my word.    Yet I am not satisfied with this.     I ought not to
have made such a bargain without
thinking of   every  circumstance,
and fixing my resolution accordingly.     I  would    fain   act with
justice, and  yet  I   hardly  know
how to give up so much to a boy
who is, very probably,  deceiving
and laughing at me.    I wish Alfred would return—O, here he is.
Alfred,   what do you  think  my
sister has proposed ? She says she
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.       23
will acquaint my papa with this
business, and then he will lay such
commands upon me, that I need
not be accused of breaking my
promise, though I shall keep all
my play-things."
" Shall you preserve your peace
of mind <" asked Alfred.    " I see
you are conscious that  it would
be   impossible.    Why then,   my
dearest friend, will you attempt to
stifle the feelings of honour and
generosity, when you know how
much  inward   satisfaction   results
from following them ? You know
that these toys are not necessary to
your   happiness,   and when   they
are gone, you shall find me more
industrious to procure you  othej
 24       THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
sources of amusement. Robert
will very soon be here, and will
naturally expect you to keep your
word. Shall he then have to say,
that he found you a deceiver, that
you had amused him with a gr&ss
falsity, and had acted altogether
tinzvorthy of your birth and cha--
" No, my faithful friend," said
Archibald, " this shall never be
said of me ; but, on the contrary,
I will give up more than half, that
Robert may see how much I can
despise such childish toys when
put in competition with my honour. My sister has used "her utmost efforts to dissuade me from
acting in this manner, and I am
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.      25
now fully resolved to yield to your
more salutary counsel."
Alfred was much affected by
this speech, and imagined that
Archibald had never before appeared so dignified or so amiable
as at this moment. Whilst he
was complimenting him, however, on his noble resolution, a
tap at the door announced the arrival of young Glover, < and the
two amiable friends consequently
broke off their conversation.
Robert entered with an embarrassed air, and after much
hemming and coughing, he stammered out some expressions of
regret for his Christmas box having been so trifling.    Archibald
 26       THE   CHRISTMAS   BqX.
begged him to be seated, and observed, that the things on the table might probably make up for
his disappointment. " Here,"
said he, " are all my presents,
which have been halved pretty
equally, but as the muses, which
I wish to retain, are more valuable than the seasons, I have
thrown into your heap the whole
of my ivory fish and counters.
The microscope and draft-board
cannot be divided, and therefore,
according to our agreement, I
might have kept theni both, but I
have chosen to put the draft-board
to vour share. Here also are
some fine copper plates which I
understand you did not know of;
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.       27
but I should scorn to keep them
back on that account. The ca-
pillaire and sweetmeats 1 wish you
to divide, and here is a large cake,
the half of which belongs to you;
but I must run and fetch a knife to
cut it.
Archibald ran down stairs,
humming a lively tune while Robert sat silently surveying the
Christmas boxes, and evidently
covered ^vith the deepest confusion. " Well," Raid Alfred to
him, " you perceive that I did
not misiake the character of my
friend when I ventured to assure
you, that he would need neither
threats nor force to make him fulfil a promise.    Any other youth in
c 2
■ ■■>■
 28      THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
his situation might have reproached
you for wishing to deprive him of
so much, or, at least, he might
have given you your share with reluctance ; but you see he is happy
- in fulfilling what he considers as
an indispensable duty, and he not
only gives you the half, but even
throws in more, of his own generosity, as if anxious to convince
you that he values hishonour above
every other gratification."
Robert's face was crimsoned
with the blush of conscious guilt,
and when Archibald re-entered
the room, he could scarcely lift
up his eyes to look at him.—
Archibald saw his confusion ; but
instead of taking any notice of it,
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.      2.9
he proceeded to divide the cake,
and then placing the largest heap
of play things carefully in a basket, he presented them to Robert,
earnestly assuring him that he offered more than half of all he had
received.    " My heart," said he,
" does not accuse me of having
held  back anything, or of using
any evasion.    I have   acted   honourably,   and you  are  perfectly
welcome    to    all   these    things.
Take  them   therefore,   my  good
friend, and I  sincerely wish you
mav  find   in  them  an agreeable
source of entertainment."
This mild speech had such a
powerful effect upon Robert, that
he was unable to make any an-
30      THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
swer, and at length burst into a
flood of tears, pushing back the
basket of presents, and declaring,
with many sobs, that he considered himself a mean, pitiful fellow, for having acted so basely towards such a generous and amiable
" Acted   basely !"    exclaimed
Archibald, " Why, it is impossible that you can have acted basely
by me ! as we are both children of
respectable friends, and have been •
intimate from our infancy."
" Alas, yes ;" sighed Robert,
" but those very circumstances tend
to aggravate my guilt, and to increase my confusion. I own, with
the deepest shame,  that   I have
deceived you ; for although I have
not received any playthings or
sweetmeats this Christmas from
my father, here are four new guineas which I begged him to give
me in their stead. You see, therefore, that I was indeed a deceiver,
while you acted so nobly toward
me. If you will pardon me, and
again admit me to your friendr
ship, I will strive to merit your
approbation ; but if not, I shall be
most completely miserable. Here
are the two guineas which of right
belong to you, and I wish I could
atone for my contemptible conduct."
Alfred was enraptured at this
explanation, and Archibald not
only  forgave   his   deceiver,   but
 52      THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.       33
pressed him to his bosom, in the
most affectionate manner, telling
him that he felt abundantly happy
in a circumstance which had happily tended to discover the real
feelings and sentiments of each
others heart.
In the midst of these kind assurances, Matilda  came running
into the room, and said that Alfred  n ust  go  immediately to her
papa.    All parties were vexed at
this interruption, and poor Alfred
in particular, as he was anxious
to witness the termination of so
interesting    a   scene.     Matilda,
however, refused to wait a single
moment,     and     pulled    Alfred
along by  the   arm,   exclaiming,
" Would you wish, papa, to wait
for you ?"
When they had left the room,
Archibald frankly acknowledged
that his generous conduct had resulted entirely from the exhortations of his young friend, and
Robert made a similar confession. It was therefore determined that all the Christmas boxes
should be given to that faithful
friend and adviser, and the footman was immediately called to
carry the basket to Alfred's mother ; but while they were adjusting the soldiers, and the china-
images, Alfred knocked at the
door, and desired to be let in
immediately.     The young   folks
 34       THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX*
were vexed at this interruption;
but, at length, they placed the
footman behind the door, and
then admitted their good friend,
whom they endeavoured to amuse
till the basket should be got off.
By mere accident, however, the
little fellow got a glimpse of it;
and discovered the whole contrivance. He was deeply affected
by such a proof of generosity;
and thanked his friends repeatedly
for their kind intentions, but positively declared, he could not
think of accepting anything.—
Archibald insisted, Alfred begged,
and even the footman exhorted
him to lay aside this resolution;
but he remained inflexible, till, at
t *
THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.      35
length Sir Archibald, having overheard the whole conversation, put
an end to the dispute.
" I have heard all the particulars
of this business," said he, " and
must tell you Archibald, and you
master Glover, that you acted imprudently in making any agreement
relative to your Christmas boxes.
Your present behaviour, however,
does honour to your hearts and
your understandings ;. and Alfred
has shewn so much delicacy and
disinterestedness that he^ shall be
rewarded. I desire therefore that
each of you may keep your respective presents, and at the same
time I give him a Christmas box
which will be more useful to him-
 36        THE   CHRISTMAS   BOX.
self and his worthy mother—With
these words, Sir Archibald presented the worthy Alfred with a
draft for a sum of money, which
purchased a little annuity for his
widowed mother, and rendered
herself and her little offspring completely happy.—Archibald and
Robert were ever afterward inseparable friends, and Alfred was
happy beyond expression, in contemplating the comfort of his family, or in listening to the warm
applauses which were bestowed
on his conduct, by all who heard
the adventure of the Christmas
Brycrj Printer, Bridge Street, Black-friars.


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