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carpenters were busy cutting the yule logs, which were their annual presents to their customers. The butchers had their faculties engrossed by the calculations as to how their beasts would cut up into rounds and chines and briskets. Old and young, gentry and artisan, all were bent upon preparing for and enjoying the nearing feast,—the feast of fat things. Alas ! it was to most nothing solemn or suggestive ; only a day on which bodily powers might be exercised beyond control, -a day with which the soul had nothing to do.
Crocodilla Clacker, like her neighbours, had her hands full. There were cakes to make, — for every caller must have a slice of cake between Christmas week, and Twelfth Day-a good honest slice, so that if the recipient were so disposed, there would be enough to carry home, after enjoying a fair allowance at the time, wrapped in a clean pocket-handkerchief. There were standing pies to concoct to send to those benighted relatives in the south who were supposed only to eat food fit to eat when the Christmas hamper from Clack reached them. There was brown bread to make,—that deep-coloured, gingerbread-like substance, so dear to the Yorkshire palate,--bread that must soak so many hours lest it should be sad. And then, too, there was furmenty to crea, wherein great skill was necessary to make the wheat tender, and yet keep it whole; and to mix it with sugar and spice that would delicately flavour without giving a decided taste. Yet with all this Crocodilla was indefatigable in her attendance on poor suffering Susy.
Her jelly and mutton-broth and eggless rice-puddings were the only things the invalid's appetite fancied; and her cheerful, commonplace conversation was just suitable for one who was in danger of morbidly brooding on her trial.
And Susy lay and listened to histories of cakes and pies, and wondered inwardly whether the time would ever come when the aching of her heart and the pain of her body
would cease, and she would live to be interested in what now seemed petty, inconsequential, every-day doings.
“She bears it beautifully,” every one said, in allusion to her calm sweet manner. But no one knew of the bitter tears and the constant cries for help to support her, with which in those weary days and nights the poor girl besieged Heaven ; nor how sharp was the conflict between despair and trust. But trust in Almighty love triumphed, as it always will, no matter how hard the burden nor how sore the wound. And Susy never grudged her lover's death : she only grieved for her own loss in him ; for Willy Somers had gone in the first bloom of his earnest, honest manhood, with an untarnished name ; and Susy could trust and believe he was safe in a happier home than even her love could have made him.
BUILT ON SAND. MR. POLKELY SETON went to the Great Northern Station to meet his wife, with the firm determination to let her see he was pretty offended by her independent behaviour, and quite resolved to resent it; and as Linda neared the platform, and saw him standing there grimmer and more upright, if possible, than ever, she felt nervously anxious as to the reception she would receive. No kindling of his eyes, no relaxing of the deep lines round his mouth were apparent as he handed her out of the train ; and yet his heart was beating with the pleasure of seeing her again. Luckily Linda did not show her fear; but the moment her feet touched the platform, she raised her face to be kissed, and said smilingly, “Oh, we are so glad to get here,”—
simply meaning they were so glad to come to the end of their long, cold journey ; a construction which Mr. Seton happily misunderstood.
“So I should think,” he replied, meeting the fresh, red lips more than half way; and believing she was glad to get away from her own poor relations back to his luxurious home, he could not remember one word of the dignified rebuke he had been treasuring up to give her.
Bell, too, had a gracious welcome; and Bell, too, held up her face for a sisterly salute. After all, Mr. Seton found himself in his easy, warm carriage, unable to say an unkind word to either of his pretty companions, and only eager to have them comfortably sheltered by his own hearth. He considered himself weakly generous, though, in keeping silence on his wife's wilful conduct. But though his indignation was bribed into silence for the present, it only slumbered, and was by no means vanquished altogether.