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CHAPTER XXVII.

CATHERINE.

COLONEL CONYERS exercised tact and discretion in availing himself of the privilege granted him by Georgia. In consideration of the recent affliction of the family, he made up a very quiet and appropriate party namely, the lady's father, the artist, a pale young clergyman who was suffering for country air, and the wife and sister of the latter.

After his arrival at White Cliffs, Mrs. Georgia gave him every opportunity of renewing his acquaintance with Catherine, and every encouragement to persist in his suit. Girls, she said, were often whimsical, and Catherine was especially shy, but disposed to think highly of her suitor, and well worth the trouble of perseverance. Colonel Conyers thereupon grew importunate, and Catherine became distressed at his persistence, and announced her intention of returning to Hardbargain. When her lover heard this, his grief seemed unbounded; he had so long counted on success, so long been deceived by Mrs. Georgia's assurances, and by Catherine's gentleness of denial, that now, when his hopes were quite overthrown, he became passionate and vehement in his demonstrations of sorrow. His trouble affected Catherine very deeply; she went and sat down by him, and laid her hand upon his shoulder, and said, in her gentle, sympathetic tones, "Do not grieve so; indeed, I am not worth so much love, or so much regret-indeed, I am not. I am a poor girl, very ignorant of society, very full of weakness and

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error.

"O Catherine! Catherine! that is nothing to the purpose. You are what you are; and I adore you! Do not make me wretched !"

"Heaven knows I do not wish to! I am your friend— indeed I am. I would do anything in the world to give you peace, indeed I would, except

"Except love me, proud girl!"

"Proud? No, I am not proud. Why should I be? Do not mock me! Indeed I feel that you have conferred the greatest honour upon me in your preference. An offer of his hand is the highest mark of respect and confidence a

man can give a woman; the world would think it higher still, coming from one of your rank to one of mine. I myself should in any case be proud of your regard, only—” "Well? Only ?"

"Only I feel so grieved to see you look so sorrowfully; but

Well, my dear girl, well! but what ?”

She

She paused; a slight blush suffused her cheek. gathered courage and went on to say, "I do not know why I should not speak anything that may be upon my heart, at whatever cost to my natural feelings, if the hearing of it will do good to any human being. Yes, I will speak, for your sake. I do not fear to speak, for I have perfect confidence in you. Listen, then, Colonel Conyers, dear friend. You are not the only one who has missed earthly happiness. I think it must be written in the book of fate that we may not have those whom we love too deeply-in other words, that we may not have idols. It seems to me that, notwithstanding all other troubles, it would make us too happy, in an existence designed chiefly for trial and probation."

"That is a sad, strange, despairing sentiment for one so young!"

"No, not despairing-for if we may not have joy, there remain the peace and cheerfulness found in duty; and if we may not have the love of the heart's idol, there remain the affection of relatives, the esteem of friends, the love of God, and the hope of heaven."

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Catherine, you have loved. Tell me about it, my child." I intended to tell you about it. It is the best proof of entire confidence and esteem that I can give you. It will show you how highly I value you, and it will assure you also of the utter impossibility of getting a heart that is not mine to give-if it were worth giving."

She paused in great embarrassment, her cheeks were suffused with blushes, yet she seemed resolved to proceed. As if to assist her, he said, "This being whom you deify with your love, my child, what a splendid, what a magnificent nature he must have! what transcendent personal attractions! what an intellect! what a heart! Is it not so? Tell me!"

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Ah, no! you are mistaken. These things excite admiration and wonder; they do not of themselves win affection.

Oh, no! he of whom you speak is not so handsome as you are; he has no more mind than you have, and not so much heart; even I admit that."

"And yet you love him, and can love him!"

Even so do you wonder at it? Have not you passed by women-handsome, graceful, accomplished-to fix upon a plain country girl like me?"

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Oh, but not women with your candour, purity, and strength of mind. O Kate! what depths of truth and innocence you have revealed in the very confession you have made me! Who else but yourself dared make such a reve

ulation ?"

Catherine looked up at the speaker in doubt.

"Go on, dear girl. Tell me that this man adores you, and I will never, while I live, trouble you with myself again."

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Ah, no! it was nothing like that which I set out to tell you. Ah, no! I only wished to let you know that your case of disappointed affection is not solitary; that I, too, have missed life's crowning joy-the love of one I love. He does not even notice me now. I never permit myself to dream that he will ever love me. Yet I would like to live with him, to serve him-myself unknown, unnoticed, if I might only be near him. I envy the waiting-maids and men, and even the dogs, who are full-feasted every day with the presence for which my heart starves. I would like to give my life to his service, but I am unnecessary to his smallest need. Well! I cannot do him any good; but I serve one who is dear to him, and so I stay the hunger of my heart. Please do not think ill of me for telling you all this. It would grieve me to have you think any evil of me. I esteem you, and want your esteem. I have done some violence to my instincts in telling you this. Do not think -ill of me for doing so. I only do it that you may know you are not the only one in this world who is--not happy."

"Think ill of you, Catherine? Do anything but adore you, and mourn your loss for ever, if lose you I must ?—O Heaven!"

This life is a tragedy; for always that which is dearest is lost in it, and it ends in death. The closing scene is the corpse, the shroud, the coffin, and the curtain drops upon the grave; all beyond is hidden, except to the eye of faith.

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My experience of life has been all darkness, clouds, and storm; and the transient gleams of gladness or of hope have been, not like the sunshine, but like the lightning. Yet through all the grief, and gloom, and the tempting doubt, the still, small voice' of God's spirit has spoken to my soul, and comforted me."

"O Catherine, my child! that I could make your life all sunshine—that you would let me try! I do believe I could make you happy.'

Catherine shook her head slowly, with a sad smile, saying, "We all believe that. We all think that in us only is vested the power of making those we love happy. It is because we know that we are willing, anxious to do more for them than any other person would. It is a fond error. Our efforts, our greatest sacrifices are often needless, as we ourselves are nothing to our gods of flesh."

"Am I nothing-nothing to you, then ?" "You are my dear and honoured friend."

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"O Catherine, I could make your life happy! Nay, but do not look incredulous-I know I could. My love is not selfish, like that of most other men. It is perfectly disinterested; it only asks to serve you; it only desires to see you at ease. Dear Kate, you have told me all on your heart; you might lay that heart, with all its burden of unrequited affection, upon my bosom, and I would comfort and sustain it until I should win its love all to myself."

Again, and more mournfully, the girl shook her head. "Do not pursue this subject, Colonel Conyers. Dear friend, by dwelling upon our wild wishes, they grow to seem hopes, and probabilities, and certainties. In my youth--”

"In your youth! How many years ago was that, Catherine ?"

"Strange! but at eighteen, I really feel no longer young." "Yet it is not winter, but a wintry spring, that chills your young life. That is not uncommon. Spring-the spring of hope, the spring of joy, the spring of life-will open indeed by-and-by, and be all the warmer and brighter for its lateness; and my Catherine shall feel younger-but for increased wisdom-at twenty-five than she does now at eighteen; that lot is for her, whosesoever treasure she may be. But what was she going to say happened in her long-past youth ?"

Catherine smiled, and said, "Well, then, when life was newer and fresher, believing, as I do now, all the promises of the Bible—and saying, as I do now, that the days of miracles are not passed, and never will be so, until the days of God's omnipotence and man's faith is passed-I used to say that I would pray for what I wanted, though the granting of my prayer should seem to involve an impossibility; but now, later in life, I have learned a better lesson still, from the example of my Master. He might have saved Himself by a miracle; but He chose rather to endure the cross and the shame for the working out of His Father's will and purpose. God has a purpose and a will in every, the humblest life; and now, for all other vain and childish petitions, I substitute the words of the Saviour, 'Not My will, but Thine be done.'"

"Catherine, you must be happy, even in this world, you are so good; you must be made happy in the end.”

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Ah, I should be sorry to set up the plea of goodness when I see so many people so much better than I am suffer so deeply. It is too often represented that goodness is rewarded in this world; but oh! how can anyone remember the life and death of a thousand martyrs, and the crucifixion of the Saviour, and not feel that it is not so, and not feel that the reverse is often so!"

"O Catherine! that is a very gloomy doctrine, and I will not believe it! There is a hopeful text of Scripture that comes into my mind: 'Godliness is profitable in all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and that which is to come.' It is the clouds of your wintry spring that make everything look so gloomy to you!"

"It is not a gloomy doctrine! Oh, no! not gloomy, by all the hope and illumining of the glorious Resurrection and Ascension."

CHAPTER XXVIII.

WINTER EVENINGS AT THE FARM.

CATHERINE returned to Hardbargain on Christmas-eve. It was a clear, cold, crisp afternoon, and the level sun threw a glistening, yellow lustre, like powdered gold-dust, over the

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