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you any pleasure to hear it, I must not withhold the confession. Yes, I do love your sonso much, so much, that it will make me an old maid!"
Mrs. Clifton laughed a little, low, jolly laugh. (The lady very seldom laughed; and when she did, it had a strange, exceedingly pleasant effect upon the hearer: it was a very agreeable surprise, revealing, as it were, under that grave, stern surface, traces of a mine of wit, humour, fun, and mischief that must have existed, and frequently sparkled forth, ere the sorrow and the seriousness of life smothered and extinguished it.) She laughed her little, low, jolly laugh, and replied, "That were a strange effect of love, Catherine; but, trust me, it will not be so with Archer's consent."
"Dear Mrs. Clifton, forgive me for saying again that you are very much mistaken. Never, never in his life has Major Clifton bestowed upon me one word or look that might be misconstrued by the vainest woman into a preference !"
Well, Kate, I know that! I know that he has never addressed you on the subject; but I know that he will do so; for he loves you, Catherine, and has loved you from the first hour he ever saw you even from the-the night he sat and studied you in your brother's cabin; and it is just as certain that you will be his wife as that you both will live to marry. So, dearest, let there be no more reserve between us. Consider this marriage sure, as it really is (so far as any future event is sure); and let me talk freely, for my time and opportunity is short."
Catherine raised her eyes to the sallow, almost cadaverous face of the lady, and a conviction of the truth and reality of what she predicted forced itself upon her with a sharp pang.
'Now, dear Catherine, I did not ask you for that troubled look. Will your heart ache because a dry leaf drops in the autumn, rather than hangs shivering on the tree through half the winter? But, dear child, I allude to this coming event, not to cast its shadow' over you, but to explain why I wish now to use these days in making you as conversant with the idiosyncracies of your future companion as only years of married life could do, and to prevent years, perhaps, of misunderstanding and sorrow. There is something dreadful in the discovery of unsuspected faults after marriage, and something very, very mournful in the
disappointment of the trusting affection, and in the saddened efforts of the heart to adjust itself to the circumstances― efforts that in one case out of ten, perhaps, succeed. But if the worst is known before marriage, the man or the woman may consider well whether they have the strength of heart to conquer their own faults, and bear with those of their companion. That you would do all this for your husband, Kate, I am convinced. I only talk now to smooth your path of duty." The lady here released Catherine from the embrace in which she had held her through this conversation, and desired her to ring for the servants to come in to prayers.
Catherine, as had been her custom for several weeks past, upon account of Mrs. Clifton's weakness, conducted the evening devotions.
When prayers were over, and the servants dismissed, Catherine attended Mrs. Clifton to her chamber, and assisted her with affectionate care until she had retired to bed; then, after receiving the lady's parting kiss, she hastened into her own chamber, threw herself upon the bed, and gave way to a long-pent burst of sorrow. Within the last three years Catherine had seen much sickness, death, and bereavement: one after another of her associates or relations had faded and fallen, and she had mourned their loss; and her life had taken a sombre hue, and sunk into a depressed tone. But that this beloved friend, this kind benefactress, this dear, dear companion, this more than mother, sister, all to her heart, should pass away from the earth and be seen no more-oh! it brought a sense of desolation that threw a shadow and a chill over all the future-over even the bright hopes shining in the distance. And then the identity of the love she bore mother and son together forced itself upon her heart; and she felt that a union with the son could not give her perfect content unless the mother were there to share her love and service, and to participate in their happiness. Without that mother's presence, their plan of life would be unfinished, their circle of love incomplete. And oh! came the sharp, agonising question, how could she ever bear to lose the light, and warmth, and strength imparted daily, hourly from that dear face that face which had never looked on her but in affection-that face, the very image of Clifton's own, except that it was sweeter, holier, and never, never harsh-how could she ever
bear to lose her sweet resting-place on that more than maternal bosom-that bosom on which she could ever lay her aching head, or aching heart, in perfect peace and confidence, sure of being understood, sure of being sympathised with? Oh! life would be darkened, indeed, when she should pass away. The sense of sorrow was so sharp, so agonising, that the girl could have thrown herself upon the floor-could have wrestled with Heaven in wild prayer, that this life might be saved, and this sharp anguish spared her.. But Catherine was habitually self-restrained, and she bore this mental anguish as she would have endured severe physical pain-in silence, in patience, until her soul was subdued to the meekness of resignation; and then prayer brought
And she met the lady in the morning with a cheerful countenance, and they spent the day as usual.
So passed the winter and the spring. Though Mrs. Clifton failed visibly from day to day, she still continued her rides around the farm, and her general supervision of the household and of agricultural affairs, and her instructions to Catherine. Her people, who well knew the nearly hopeless state of her health, foretold that their mistress would keep up and out to the very last, and finally die in her chair; indeed, while flesh and blood wasted away, her nervous energy seemed unimpaired, and her cheerfulness was undiminished. She talked of her approaching departure as calmly and pleasantly as she would have talked of going to Richmond, never obtruding the subject, however, unless necessity demanded its introduction.
The serenity and cheerfulness of the lady affected Catherine very beneficially, "familiarising" to her feelings the future, immortal life. Catherine endeavoured to persuade her to have a physician.
"Why, so I would, Kate, if I had any specific disease; but when all the frame is wearing out together very slowly and quietly, why call in a doctor to disturb the harmony of natural decay, and painfully build up one portion of the sinking frame at the expense of another? Why not fade and fall easily, as all else in benign nature does?"
Catherine next suggested writing for Major Clifton to hasten home.
Why, my child? Why, because I am going the common
road, should others be hurried and worried? Everything in blessed nature and Divine Revelation teaches us a sweeter lesson. No, Archer set out for a twelve months' tour; let him complete it. He will return this autumn. Quite time enough, Catherine. I shall live till then, and longer. I can calculate the progress of my body's failing, and the duration of my life, with almost mathematical precision. I shall live to meet Archer, and to see you married, Catherine, and to leave you willing to survive me and be happy without me. And why not, dear? for shall I not be happier still ?"
And so, in sweet mutual confidence, in cheerful resignation, and in patient hope, the summer passed, and autumn arrived in its glory.
NOTWITHSTANDING all her habitual calmness and cheerful patience, Mrs. Clifton began to grow uneasy at her son's protracted stay. He had been absent a year and a month; and even now, instead of setting out on his return, he only wrote of coming home soon. At one time he was at Vienna, at another at Berlin, then at the Hague-progressing, indeed, but very, very slowly, towards England and Liverpool, from which port he intended to embark. Every letter that came from him at this period was opened and read with visible uneasiness by his mother. At length the glad tidings came, a letter from the mid-ocean, brought by a swift sailing packetboat that had spoken the vessel in which he had embarked. He was hastening home, and might now be expected at any hour. The news contained in his letter excited the invalid so much upon the evening of its reception that she passed a sleepless night, and rose the next morning weaker than she had ever been before-so weak, indeed, that she was obliged, in coming down stairs, to lean on the arms of Catherine and her maid for support; and when she reached the parlour, she was compelled to recline in an easy-chair, propped up by pillows, and with her feet supported by a foot-cushion. But her cheerfulness was undiminished. She gave many direetions as to the adjustment and adornment of the room, and
the preparation of certain dainties. Lastly, she called Catherine to her side, and took her hand. Catherine did not appear to the best advantage, with her plain, dark gingham dress, and her chestnut hair divided simply above her forehead, rippling in tiny wavelets around her broad temples, and gathered into a twist behind. This plainness of style did not become her strongly-marked features. And the lady saw it, for she gazed thoughtfully upon the girl a while, and then, lifting her hand, disengaged a portion of her tresses from the comb, and let them fall, turning into natural ringlets down her cheeks, saying, "There, Catherine; when hair curls naturally and voluntarily, it is certain that the face it belongs to requires it so, and that it should be permitted to follow its nature, for nature does all things well. Why don't you always wear your hair so? It is so much prettier."
Because, dear lady, I never thought it of any importance how my hair was fixed, so that it looked neat. But I will wear it this way, if it pleases you.”
"It does. Your face is not a classic one, dear Kate; and none but a classic face can bear that Attic simplicity of style. Your countenance is a very noble one, Kate; but its very nobility is hard and stern, without the softening shadow of these ringlets nature has bestowed upon you. There now, look in the mirror, my little Oliver Cromwell; your face is much more womanly than before."
Catherine found it so. The soft, bright, drooping curls shaded and rounded her large, square forehead into beautiful proportion to her other features, and softened the expression of the whole. No girl but is pleased to see herself improved in beauty; and it was with a bright blush, half of pleasure, half of modesty, that the maiden returned to the lady's side. Now, dear Kate, you must leave off that dingy gingham, and wear white wrappers in the morning. It is early in the season, and you can wear white a month longer yet; and by the end of that time, I suppose, the world will expect you to wear black. You have no white wrappers, though, my dear?”
"No, madam, I never had one."
"Well, you have two white cambrie dresses, without ornament; they will do for morning-dresses. Do me the kindness to wear them. Nay, now, Catherine, my dear, no hesitation; I will have it so. Go at once and put on one of them."
Kate complied, and in a short time returned to the par