THE MISTLETOE BOUGH
THE MISTLETOE BOUGH
"Let the boys have it if they like it" said Mrs. Garrow pleading
to her only daughter on behalf of her two sons.
"Pray don't mamma" said Elizabeth Garrow. "It only means romping.
To me all that is detestable and I am sure it is not the sort of
thing that Miss Holmes would like."
"We always had it at Christmas when we were young."
"But mamma the world is so changed."
The point in dispute was one very delicate in its nature hardly to
be discussed in all its bearings even in fiction and the very
mention of which between mother and daughter showed a great amount
of close confidence between them. It was no less than this. Should
that branch of mistletoe which Frank Garrow had brought home with
him out of the Lowther woods be hung up on Christmas Eve in the
dining-room at Thwaite Hall according to his wishes; or should
permission for such hanging be positively refused? It was clearly a
thing not to be done after such a discussion and therefore the
decision given by Mrs. Garrow was against it.
I am inclined to think that Miss Garrow was right in saying that the
world is changed as touching mistletoe boughs. Kissing I fear is
less innocent now than it used to be when our grand-mothers were
alive and we have become more fastidious in our amusements.
Nevertheless I think that she made herself fairly open to the
raillery with which her brothers attacked her.
"Honi soit qui mal y pense" said Frank who was eighteen.
"Nobody will want to kiss you my lady Fineairs" said Harry who
was just a year younger.
"Because you choose to be a Puritan there are to be no more cakes
and ale in the house" said Frank.
"Still waters run deep; we all know that" said Harry.
The boys had not been present when the matter was decided between
Mrs. Garrow and her daughter nor had the mother been present when
these little amenities had passed between the brothers and sister.
"Only that mamma has said it and I wouldn't seem to go against
her" said Frank "I'd ask my father. He wouldn't give way to such
nonsense I know."
Elizabeth turned away without answering and left the room. Her
eyes were full of tears but she would not let them see that they
had vexed her. They were only two days home 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 Major Garrow and as he had
always spent his Christmas holidays with his guardian this
perhaps had given rise to the practice. Then the Coverdales were
cousins of the Garrows and they had usually been there as children.