Aunt Eunice, who understood managing blacks better than his timid mother or his inexperienced wife, was to be his housekeeper in that new home of his, where the colonel and his family would always be welcome; and having thus provided for those for whom it was his duty to care, he bade adieu to Kentucky, and returned to Snowdon in time to join the Christmas party at Terrace Hill, where Irving Stanley was a guest, and where, in spite of the war clouds darkening our land, and in spite of the sad, haunting memories of the dead, there was much hilarity and joy—reminding the villagers of the olden time when Terrace Hill was filled with gay revelers. Anna Millbrook was there, more beautiful than in her girlhood, and almost childishly fond of her missionary Charlie, who she laughingly declared was perfectly incorrigible on the subject of surplice and gown, adding that as the mountain would not go to Mahomet, Mahomet must go to the mountain; and so she was fast becoming an out-and-out Presbyterian of the very bluest stripe.
Sweet Anna! None who looked into her truthful, loving face, or knew the beautiful consistency of her daily life, could doubt that whether Presbyterian or Episcopal in sentiment, the heart was right and the feet were treading the narrow path which leadeth unto life eternal.
It was a happy week spent at Terrace Hill; but one heart ached to its very core when, at its close, Irving Stanley went back to where duty called him, trusting that the God who had succored him thus far, would shield him from future harm, and keep him safely till the coming autumn, when, with the first falling of the leaf, he would gather to his embrace his darling Adah, who, with every burden lifted from her spirits, had grown in girlish beauty until others than himself marveled at her strange loveliness.
* * * * *
On the white walls of a handsome country seat just on the banks of the Connecticut, the light of the April sunset falls, and the soft April wind kisses the fair cheek and lifts the golden curls of the young mistress of Spring Bank—for so, in memory of the olden time, have they named their new home—Hugh and Alice, who, arm in arm, walk up and down the terraced garden, talking softly of the way they have been led, and gratefully ascribing all praise to Him who rules and overrules, but does nought save good to those who love Him.
Down in the meadow land and at the rear of the building, dusky forms are seen—the negroes, who have come to their Northern home, and among them the runaway, who, ashamed of his desertion, has returned to his former master, resenting the name of contraband, and dismissing the ultra-abolitionists as humbugs, who deserved putting in the front of every battle. Hugh knows it will be hard accustoming these blacks to Northern usages and ways of doing things, but as he has their good in view as well as his own, and as they will not leave him, he feels sure that in time he will succeed, and cares but little for the opinion of those who wonder what he "expects to do with that lazy lot of niggers."
On a rustic seat, near a rear door, white-haired old Sam is sitting, listening intently, while dusky Mug reads to him from the book of books, the one he prizes above all else, stopping occasionally to expound, in his own way, some point which he fancies may not be clear to her, likening every good man to "Massah Hugh," and every bad one to the leader of the "Suddern 'Federacy," whose horse he declares he held once in "ole Virginny," telling Mug, in an aside, "how, if 'twasn't wicked, nor agin' de scripter, he should most wish he'd put beech nuts under Massah Jeffres' saddle, and so broke his fetched neck, 'fore he raise sich a muss, runnin' calico so high that Miss Ellis 'clar she couldn't 'ford it, and axin' fifteen cents for a paltry spool of cotton."
In the stable yard, Claib, his good-humored face all aglow with pride, is exercising the fiery Rocket, who arches his neck as proudly as of old, and dances mincingly around, while Lulu leans over the gate, watching not so much him as the individual who holds him. And now that it grows darker, and the ripple of the river sounds more like eventide, lights gleam from the pleasant parlor, and thither Hugh and Alice repair, still hand in hand, still looking love into each other's eyes, but not forgetting others in their own great happiness.
Very pleasantly Alice smiles upon Mrs. Worthington and Aunt Eunice sitting by the cheerful fire just kindled on the marble hearth; and then, withdrawing her hand from Hugh's, trips up the stairs and knocking at a door, goes in where Densie sits, watching the daylight fade from the western sky, and whispering to herself of the baby she could not find when she went back to her home in the far-off city. Without turning her head, she puts to Alice the same question she puts to every one:
"Have you children, madam?" and when Alice answers no, she adds: "Be thankful then, for they will never call you a white nigger, as 'Lina did her mother. Poor 'Lina, she died, though saying 'Our Father.' Will you say that with me?"
"Yes, Densie, it's almost time to say our evening prayer, I came for you," Alice rejoins, and taking the crazed creature's hand, she leads her gently down to the parlor below, where, ere long, the blacks are all assembled, and kneeling side by side, they follow with stammering tongues, but honest hearts, their beloved master as he says first the prayer our Savior taught, and then with words of thankful praise asks God to bless and keep him and his in the days to come, even as He has blessed and kept them in the days gone by.