She interrupted him with more of John's letters, and the amusing detail of the West Indian life stood her in good stead till the sounds of return brightened his face; and Johnnie sprang into the room loaded with treasures from a Christmas tree. Never had she seen the little fellow's face so merry, or heard his tongue go so fast, as he threw everything into her lap, and then sprang about from her to his papa, showing his prizes and presenting them. Here were some lemon-drops for papa, and here a beautiful box for mamma, and a gutta-percha frog for Helen, and a flag for Annie, and bon-bons for both, and for Sarah too, and a delightful story about a little Arthur, that nobody could have but the baby--Johnnie would keep it for him till he could read it.
'And what have you got for yourself, Johnnie!' said his father.
'I have the giving it!' said Johnnie.
'You are your mother's own boy, Johnnie,' said Arthur, with a sort of fond deep sadness, as the child mounted his footstool to put one of the lemon-drops into his mouth, watching to be told that it was good.
He went off to the nursery to feed Sarah on sugar-plums, and dispose the frog and banner on his sisters' beds to delight them in the morning; while Percy, coming in, declared that this had been the little boy's happiest time. He had been far too shy for enjoyment, perfectly well behaved, but not stirring a step from his protector, only holding his hand, and looking piteously at him if invited away; and Percy declared, he was as much courted as a young lady in her teens. Sitting down with him at a table surrounded by small elves, Percy had of course kept them in a roar of laughter, throughout which Johnnie had preserved his gravity, only once volunteering a whisper, that he wished Helen was there; but Percy thought that when unmolested by attention, he had seemed quietly amused. When admitted to the Christmas tree in its glory, he had been slightly afraid of it at first, as of an unexpected phenomenon, and had squeezed his friend's hand very tight; but as he perceived how things were going, his alarm had given place to silent joyous whispers, appropriating his gifts to those at home. He had no idea of keeping anything for himself; and Percy had distressed him by a doubt whether the book, as a godfather's gift, ought to be transferred. On this Johnnie was scrupulous, and Percy had been obliged to relieve his mind by repeating the question for him to Colonel Harrington, whether he might give the book to his little brother. This settled, Johnnie's happiness had been complete, and his ecstasy during their return, at having a present for everybody, was, said Percy, the prettiest comment he had ever known on the blessedness of giving.
It evidently struck Arthur. At night, Violet, from her sofa, heard him murmur to himself, 'My boy! my unselfish boy, what will you think of your father?' and then stifle a groan.
The next afternoon, Johnnie, having as a preliminary inscribed his brother's unwieldy name all over the fly-leaf, was proceeding most happily to read the book aloud, lying on the hearth-rug, with his heels in the air. He read his mamma into a slumber, his papa into a deep reverie, which resulted in his dragging himself up from his chair, by the help of the chimney-piece, and reaching pen and writing-case from Violet's table.
'Oh! papa!' whispered Johnnie, in an injured tone, at not having been asked to do the little service.