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The Mistletoe Bough

from school, and for the last week before their coming, all her thoughts had been to
prepare for their Christmas pleasures. She had arranged their rooms, making everything
warm and pretty. Out of her own pocket she had bought a shot-belt for one, and skates for
the other. She had told the old groom that her pony was to belong exclusively to Master
Harry for the holidays, and now Harry told her that still waters ran deep. She had been
driven to the use of all her eloquence in inducing her father to purchase that gun for
Frank, and now Frank called her a Puritan. And why? She did not choose that a mistletoe
bough should be hung in her father's hall, when Godfrey Holmes was coming to visit
him. She could not explain this to Frank, but Frank might have had the wit to understand
it. But Frank was thinking only of Patty Coverdale, a blue-eyed little romp of sixteen,
who, with her sister Kate, was coming from Penrith to spend the Christmas at Thwaite
Hall. Elizabeth left the room with her slow, graceful step, hiding her tears,--hiding all
emotion, as latterly she had taught herself that it was feminine to do. "There goes my lady
Fineairs," said Harry, sending his shrill voice after her.
Thwaite Hall was not a place of much pretension. It was a moderate- sized house,
surrounded by pretty gardens and shrubberies, close down upon the river Eamont, on the
Westmoreland side of the river, looking over to a lovely wooded bank in Cumberland.
All the world knows that the Eamont runs out of Ulleswater, dividing the two counties,
passing under Penrith Bridge and by the old ruins of Brougham Castle, below which it
joins the Eden. Thwaite Hall nestled down close upon the clear rocky stream about half
way between Ulleswater and Penrith, and had been built just at a bend of the river. The
windows of the dining-parlour and of the drawing- room stood at right angles to each
other, and yet each commanded a reach of the stream. Immediately from a side of the
house steps were cut down through the red rock to the water's edge, and here a small boat
was always moored to a chain. The chain was stretched across the river, fixed to the
staples driven into the rock on either side, and the boat was pulled backwards and
forwards over the stream without aid from oars or paddles. From the opposite side a path
led through the woods and across the fields to Penrith, and this was the route commonly
used between Thwaite Hall and the town.
Major Garrow was a retired officer of Engineers, who had seen service in all parts of the
world, and who was now spending the evening of his days on a small property which had
come to him from his father. He held in his own hands about twenty acres of land, and he
was the owner of one small farm close by, which was let to a tenant. That, together with
his half-pay, and the interest of his wife's thousand pounds, sufficed to educate his
children and keep the wolf at a comfortable distance from his door. He himself was a
spare thin man, with quiet, lazy, literary habits. He had done the work of life, but had so
done it as to permit of his enjoying that which was left to him. His sole remaining care
was the establishment of his children; and, as far as he could see, he had no ground for
anticipating disappointment. They were clever, good- looking, well-disposed young
people, and upon the whole it may be said that the sun shone brightly on Thwaite Hall.
Of Mrs. Garrow it may suffice to say that she always deserved such sunshine.
For years past it had been the practice of the family to have some sort of gathering at
Thwaite Hall during Christmas. Godfrey Holmes had been left under the guardianship of