The authorities had not decided what they would do with these plantations—whether they would hold them as Government property, or allow the owner to control them. In consideration of her being a widow of fifteen years’ standing, they at length determined upon the latter course. It would be necessary to take out a lease from the authorities after obtaining one from the owner. I proceeded at once to make the proper negotiations.
Another widow! My first experience in seeking to obtain a widow’s plantation was not encouraging. The first widow was young, the second was old. Both were anxious to make a good bargain. In the first instance I had a rival, who proved victorious. In the second affair I had no rival at the outset, but was confronted with one when my suit was fairly under way. Before he came I obtained a promise of the widow’s plantations. My rival made her a better offer than I had done. At this she proposed to desert me. I caused the elder Weller’s advice to be whispered to him, hoping it might induce his withdrawal. He did not retire, and we, therefore, continued our struggle. He was making proposals on his own behalf; I was proposing for myself and for Mr. Colburn, who was then a thousand miles away.
My widow (I call her mine, for I won at last) desired us to give her all the corn and cotton then on the plantations, and half of what should be produced under our management. I offered her half the former and one-fourth the latter. These were the terms on which nearly all private plantations were being leased. She agreed to the offer respecting the corn and cotton then standing in the field, and demanded a third of the coming year’s products. After some hesitation, we decided upon “splitting the difference.” Upon many minor points, such as the sale of wood, stock, wool, etc., she had her own way.
A contract was drawn up, which gave Colburn and myself the lease of the two plantations, “Aquasco” and “Monono,” for the period of one year. We were to gather the crops then standing in the field, both cotton and corn, selling all the former and such portion of the latter as was not needed for the use of the plantations. We were to cultivate the plantations to the best of our abilities, subject to the fortunes of flood, fire, and pestilence, and the operations of military and marauding forces. We agreed to give up the plantations at the end of the year in as good condition as we found them in respect to stock, tools, etc., unless prevented by circumstances beyond our control. We were to have full supervision of the plantations, and manage them as we saw fit. We were to furnish such stock and tools as might be needed, with the privilege of removing the same at the time of our departure.
Our widow (whom I shall call Mrs. B.) was to have one-half the proceeds of the corn and cotton then on the plantations, and seven twenty-fourths of such as might be produced during the year. She was to have the privilege of obtaining, once a week, the supplies of butter, chickens, meal, vegetables, and similar articles she might need for her family use. There were other provisions in the contract, but the essential points were those I have mentioned. The two plantations were to be under a single management. I shall have occasion to speak of them jointly, as “the plantation.”