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BOOK SECOND YOUNG BLOOD I THE MAJOR'S CHRISTMAS ON Christmas Eve the great logs blazed at Chericoke . From the open door the red light of the fire streamed through the falling snow upon the broad drive where the wheel ruts had frozen into ribbons of ice. The naked boughs of the old elms on the lawn tapped the peaked roof with twigs as cold and bright as steel, and tpe two high urns beside the steps had an iridescent fringe around their marqle basins. In the hall, beneath swinging sprays of mistletoe and holly, the Major and his hearty cronies were dipping apple toddy from the silver punch bowl half hidden in its "Yreath of evergreens. Behind them the panelled parlour was aglow with warmth, and on its shining wainscoting Great-aunt Emmeline , under her Christmas garland, held tier red apple stiffly away from the skirt of her amber brocade. The Major, who had just filled the rector's glass, let the ladle fall with a splash, and hurried to the open door. 93 94 The Battle-Ground "They're coming, Molly!" he called excitedly, "I hear their horses in the drive. No, bless my soul, it's wheels! The Governor's here, Molly! Fill their glasses at once - they'll be frozen through! " Mrs. Lightfoot, who had been watching from the ivied panes of the parlour, rustled, with sharp exclamation , into the hall, and began hastily dipping from the silver punch bowl. "I really think, Mr. Lightfoot, that the house would be more comfortable if you'd be content to keep the front door closed," she found time to remark. "Do take your glass by the fire, Mr. Blake; I declare, I positively feel the sleet in my face. Don't you think it would be just as hospitable , Mr. Lightfoot, to open to them when they knock? " "\Vhat, keep the door shut on Christmas Eve, Molly! " exclaimed the Major from the front steps, where the snow was falling on his bare head. "V{hy, you're no better than a heathen. It's time you were learning your catechism over again. Ah, here they are, here they are! Come in, ladies, come in. The night is cold, but the welcome's warm. - Cupid, you fool, bring an umbrella, and don't stand grinning there. - Here, my dear Miss Lydia, take my arm, and never mind the weather; we've the best apple toddy in Virginia to warm you with, and the biggest log in the woods for you to look at. Ah, come in, come in," and he led Miss Lydia, in her white wool "fascinator," into the house where Mrs. Lightfoot stood waiting with open arms and the apple toddy. The Governor had insisted upon carrying his wife, lest she chill her The Major's Christmas 95 feet, and Betty and Virginia, in their long cloaks, fluttered across the snow and up the steps. As they reached the hall, the Major caught them in his arms and soundly kissed them. "It isn't Christmas every day, you know," he lamented ruefully, "and even our friend Mr. Addison wasn't steeled against rosy cheeks, though he was but a poor creature who hadn't been to Virginia. But come to the fire, come to the fire. There's eggnog to your liking, Mr. Bill, and just a sip of this, Miss Lydia, to warm you up. You may defy the wind, ma'am, with a single sip of my apple toddy." He seized the poker and, while Congo brought the glasses, prodded the giant log until the flames leaped, roaring, up the chimney and the wainscoting glowed deep red. "What, not a drop, Miss Lydia?" he cried, in aggrieved tones, when he turned his back upon the fire. Miss Lydia shook her head, blushing as she untied her" fascinator." She was fond of apple toddy, but she regarded the taste as an indelicate one, and would as soon have admitted, before gentlemen, a liking for cabbage. "Don't drink it, dear," she whispered to Betty, as the girl took her glass; "it will give you a vulgar colour." Betty turned upon her the smile of beaming affection with which she always regarded her family. She was standing under the mistletoe in her light blue cloak and hood bordered with swan's-down, and her eyes shone like lamps in the bright pallor of her face. "Why, it is delicious! " she said, with the pretty The Battle-Ground...


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