A happy season is in prospective. Christmas is approaching with its time-honored customs and endearing associations. High and low, rich and poor, have the same fond anticipations. In the lowly cot, surrounded by miles of wilderness, little faces brighten as quickly at mention of Christmas as those who are reared in the lap of luxury and expectant of fond remembrance in showers of valuable presents in endless variety.
Preparations were being commenced at Government House on an extensive scale. Lady Douglas was remarkable for the labors of love in her family at this approaching season. Christmas was to her a time of unalloyed happiness. “Peace and good will” reigned supreme. Every minute was spent in promoting happiness by devotion, recreation or charity. The last was one of her most pleasing enjoyments, for which Lady Douglas received many blessings. From her childhood this noble lady had exercised her leisure moments in relieving the wants of the poor, often leaving to them food and clothing with her own hands.
At the suggestion of Miss Douglas, who was always ready for any important duty, a party was proposed to visit the woods to procure boughs for greening the grand hall and drawing-room. Foremost was Johnnie Douglas, master of ceremonies, whose presence on the occasion was indispensable; so said Johnnie, throwing a mischievous glance at Lady Rosamond as a reminder of his services on a former expedition. The rising color on his victim’s face brought a reprimand from Mary Douglas.
“Don’t be of such importance, Johnnie, there are plenty of gentlemen at our command.”
“Ha, ha, ha,” roared the young gentleman in undisguised and unsuppressed fits of laughter.
“Miss Mary, don’t be of too much importance; there may not be so many gentlemen at your command as you reckon on,” said Johnnie, bent on following up his argument; “Mr. Howe is engaged, Mr. Trevelyan goes on parade this morning, Charles is away; now where are the reserves? Answer—Fred, and your humble servant.”
“Well, Johnnie, you are holding your ground manfully,” exclaimed Sir Howard, smiling as he passed through the group in the lower hall, where they still sat discussing the grounds of Johnnie’s superiority.
Decision turning in favor of the champion, the party set off—boys, ladies, and children—forming a pretty sight. Lady Douglas stood on the balcony waving approval and beaming with happy smiles.
The shouts of Master Johnnie, laughter of the ladies, and romping of the children, kept the woods busy in the constant repetition of echoes on every side.
“Oh, Lady Rosamond,” cried the hero of the expedition, eager to maintain his position, “here is the brook, but where is the water to receive some one with another cooling reception, and where is Mr. Trevelyan with his gallant service and kind sympathy?—Not hinting of the hasty retreat of your valuable pioneer!”