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Father;" and here followed the sermon. The manner of the young preacher was modest, natural, calm, and sweet, as befitted the gentle words of the text, and the consoling subject of the sermon-FAITH IN PROVIDENCE-the child-like faith that comes through the heart and not through the head. Catherine had thought he could not help her; never had she been more in error in her life. That pale young preacher had a divine message for her for her; an answer to her unsolvable problem; a message, providentially, the most direct, pointed, strong, startling that ever fell from lips touched with fire, revivifying the soul of the receiver; a message that satisfied every doubt, and calmed every fear, and replied to every question as perfectly, as satisfyingly as if Heaven had spoken; a message that aroused faith, revived hope, rekindled love till all the soul glowed with divine fire. She was wrapped, entranced, carried away by the eloquence, power, and pathos of this divinely-inspired discourse. She never saw the young preacher before or after, but he had dropped a celestial treasure deep into where she kept it safe-a talisman through all the trials of life.
She left the church loving, hopeful, strong in faith, strong to act and endure, patient to wait. So elevated and inspired was her soul, that it illumined her whole countenance; and when the county ladies crowded around her at the churchdoor to condole with her on the departure of Major Clifton, and to press hospitalities upon her, and to urge her not to mope in widowhood at home, their benevolent purposes were forgotten in their surprise, and the first words were, "Why, how brightly you look this morning, Mrs. Clifton !"
Catherine promised many visits, and extended many invitations, and, finally, was glad to escape and enter her carriage, to dwell in lonely, loving reverence upon the words she had heard. And she reached home, and the Word departed not from her, neither that day nor the next, nor through life; and, with the perfect faith in God, perfect trust in her future came : and again she whispered to herself the charming thoughts, 'I will wait patiently-I will work faithfully. The post of duty, as of hope, is my husband's house and home. He trusts me, at least, even now, with the charge of this great plantation. Construe it as he may, it is a mark of great confidence. I will be true to the trust."
And then, indeed, as she whispered these words to her
heart, hope, sweet hope, inspired her more and more, and strengthened her more and more, and she felt that he still loved her she felt it by that sure instinct that teaches a woman when she is beloved, though no word, look, or gesture reveals it to her; and she acted upon this feeling, although almost unconscious of its existence as a motive. And she knew that she would be useful to him, substantially useful to him, where she was; for with her it was not enough to be devoted, soul and body, to his interests-no, “ wishing well" must have a "body in it," in order "to be felt." She communed with her heart, asking, "What, besides the service of God, do I really live for in this world? For his happiness. Yes, my profound heart, that is it! For his good, his interests, his welfare. I have not been an obstacle to his happiness. I have not been a stumbling-block in the way of his marrying another.. No! for I feel that he loves me as he never loved another; and I love him as he was never loved by another; and has any other the instinct, the inspiration, the strength, and patience to bear with him that God has placed in my heart? I will believe and trust in the Lord and His inspirations. And heart, and brain, and hands-all that I am, and all that I have, will I devote to his service; and until he restores me, that alone shall make my occupation and my happiness.'
The next morning being Monday, she arose with the intention of taking seriously in hand the business of the estate. This was now the first of December, and there was a great deal to be done before the close of the year, in financial as well as in domestic and agricultural matters. The overseer and the hired farm-labourers had all been paid in advance, up to the first of January; and Major Clifton had left Catherine twelve hundred dollars in cash for her own current expenses. All this money she had at once determined to devote to another purpose-namely, to recalling some of those notes which would fall due on the first of the year. She determined, also, in order to help to clear off the incubus of debt for the coming year, to try to find a tenant for Hardbargain, and to devote the rent to the taking up of the remaining notes. She went into a patient and thorough examination of the overseer's accounts, and discovered, with much pain, that he had embezzled the funds trusted to him for the payment of the hired hands; and a stricter review of
his conduct resulted in the detection of other malpractices, that decided Catherine to give him warning. A very little observation convinced her, also, that the “baker's dozen of hired labourers, all his own kinfolks," were an unnecessary and expensive set of idle parasites, of whom she determined to rid the plantation at the end of the year. She finally concluded still further to lower the scale of expenditures, by parting with her housekeeper. She reconciled herself to this last step. when she heard of a place in the neighbourhood to which Mrs. Mercer might go. Yet Catherine did not wish to make these important changes without again consulting Major Clifton; and, perhaps let the whole truth be told-perhaps poor Kate was desirous to hear from him, and glad of a fair business excuse to write. And she wrote the following note. She had some trouble with it. It was the first (except the lines at the funeral) she had ever written him; and, under all the circumstances, she hesitated how to begin, or how to end it. She disliked to address him as a mere acquaintance, and she shrank from any warmer manner of greeting. Finally, she wrote as she would have written to a friend, thus :-
“ White Cliffs, Dec. 8, 1812.
"DEAR MAJOR CLIFTON,—After a very careful investigation of the affairs of the plantation, and much patient thought concerning them, I have concluded, if I have your approbation and authority for doing so, that the establishment can be cut down so as to reduce the annual expenditure to about one-half its present amount; also, that the Hardbargain farm can be let for a sum double the annual amount of what we can save at White Cliffs; and, finally, that the aggregate of these moneys, saved and acquired, will be sufficient, in two years, to pay off the accumulated debts oppressing the estate. (Here followed a more detailed account of her plans.) Please write, and let me know if I have your authority for proceeding.
"Yours, faithfully, CATHERINE."
In due time, Catherine received the answer. She seized it with an eager hand. She opened it with trembling fingers. She most unreasonably hoped, poor girl! for some kind, relenting word-some token of approbation or affection.
Truly, she believed in miracles. This was the precious epistle
Hampton, Dec. 16, 1812.
MADAM,-Your favour of the 8th instant lies before me. I beg leave to reiterate now what I said at parting-namely, that I have not the slightest hesitation in leaving the plantation to your own exclusive charge and direction-having no doubt that self-interest will guide your talent into the surest means of recruiting the resources of the estate. Let Hardbargain, by all means, if it please you to do it; remembering that I have nothing to do with that cunningly-acquired little piece of property of yours. Regarding the dismissal of the housekeeper, the overseer, and the hired farm-labourers, whom you consider as supernumeraries, send them off, by all means, if you think it proper to do so. I myself, perhaps, should have hesitated, ere I sent them adrift upon the world; but money-saving is, I presume, a plebeian instinct. Finally, pray govern in your own way, without ever again thinking it to be necessary to consult,
CATHERINE's arrangements for the year were all completed by the first of January; and with less inconvenience to others, and consequently with less pain to herself, than she had dared to anticipate.
She heard that Turnbull, the cashiered overseer, had purchased a piece of land in the valley-(doubtless with the embezzled funds, but of that she did not think)-built upon it a log-cabin, and set up as a farmer upon his own footing; and that he had taken his tribe of sons and nephews to assist him. She was very much pleased to know that they were out of the way of swindling others as they had swindled Clifton, and also that they were equally removed from want and suffering.
Mrs. Mercer, by her warm recommendation, had found a
very eligible situation as housekeeper to an elderly single gentleman-a planter in the neighbourhood-and her benevolence was set at rest in regard to the old woman.
Lastly, she had let Hardbargain to excellent tenants—a young New Englander and his wife, who took it ready-furnished and stocked as it was, and designed to work the land and keep a school.
The negroes had their usual carnival at Christmas, lasting till after New Year; during which, all that had been engaged in the last twelve months were married, and wedding-parties were given and dances got up, &c. &c.
But on the second of January, Catherine caused them all to be assembled in her presence, and told them that she should, on the next Monday and thereafter, set them to work in earnest; that their overseer was gone-(" Thank Marster Lord for that!" exclaimed several)-but that she herself would be their overseer for the ensuing year. (“You'll be fair, young mistress ! We ain't afeard o' you," said the same.) She waved her hand for silence and attention, and then informed them farther-that though they should find her hereafter as heretofore, just, and moderate, and merciful, ready to give ear to their complaints, and settle their difficulties, and reward their zeal, yet that she should certainly require a more steady and systematic application to their duties than they had ever before given. She said, in conclusion, that their health, comfort, improvement, and happiness should be her care; but that even in this also she should need their co-operation. ("You shall hab it, missis'deed you shall, honey," from some of the older negroes.) Finally she dismissed them, telling them that she wished to see them all together again on Sunday evening at early candle-light, in the spinning-room, where she desired that they should assemble quietly.
On Saturday evening, when the women were done spinning, Catherine directed that all the wheels should be taken to one corner of the room, and crowded together, and that the settees and benches from the piazza and lawns should be brought in and arranged around the walls; and finally that a little reading-stand and chair should be brought for her own use. These preparations occupied but ten minutes, and the room was fitted up for family worship.
On Sunday evening, at the appointed hour, Catherine met