DURING the months that were quickly
passing, and bringing Colin so rapidly to that period when he must plunge
into the world’s vortex, and seek what Dame Fortune had in store for him,
Willie, in the great city of New York, had been patiently struggling,
against hardship, adversity, and discouragement, to make a success of his
humble position. He never neglected to write to his mother, and his bulky
letters, breathing forth a courageous, hopeful spirit, and full of the
little incidents he knew would please her, were happily read over and over
again by her. Many times I have been a silent witness of the triumphant
joy depicted on Mrs. McNabb’s face as she concluded one of Willie’s
letters. Often the tears came to her eyes as she silently meditated on her
son’s struggle with the world, but so long as she realised that he was
true to the compass needle of honour and truth, she was happy.
Through the long winter evenings she
would sit knitting socks for her boys, and if she did put ribs in the ones
which she sent to Willie in a parcel at Christmas, who shall accuse her of
partiality? Perhaps she fancied it was much colder in New York than it was
in the Scotch Settlement; anyhow, was not Willie with the great folks of
that great city, and should he not wear ribbed socks? No doubt the
gentlemen there all wore ribbed socks.
Willie had made substantial
progress. The man who was over him soon discovered that he could place
absolute dependence on him, and that he was faithful, active, and
ambitious. These qualities soon procured promotion for the young man, and
by the arrival of the second Christmas after his departure from home,
Willie was able to announce that he was receiving seventy-five pounds a
year, and in the letter containing the announcement, he enclosed ten
pounds for his mother. He also sent a box containing some appropriate
present for each of his sisters and brothers. He frequently wrote to each
one of them, and appeared to take special pleasure in writing to Colin,
concerning whose future he was interesting himself. It was his intention
to try to secure a situation for him in New York. This he no doubt would
have done but for the trend of national events in the Great Republic.
The question of slavery and the
emancipation of the slaves was then the all-important, all-consuming issue
before the people, and events were rapidly drifting to that awful
culmination, — the civil war
between the North and South.
It was of course natural
that Willie’s feelings should be enlisted on the side of the North. He
sent his mother "Uncle Tom’s Cabin." The newspapers which he also sent to
his home kept us fairly well informed of the critical situation, and we
all learned to admire the great central figure in modern American history
— Abraham Lincoln.
It was about this time we (I include
myself in the widow’s household because I was so much interested that I
knew all that was going on) received the newspaper from Willie containing
the "Hero in New York" article, which the reader may imagine occasioned no
little interest and excitement in the family circle.
When the account had been read to
the widow, who suspected throughout the entire article that it was her son
who was the hero, her heart went out in deep gratitude that he had been
able to accomplish such an heroic act. Indeed, when the facts became known
throughout the settlement, Willie’s fame was at a high pitch.
"It’ll no’ be onything less than
Preesident o’ th’ United States they’ll be makin’ o’ hum," said Auld
Peggy, the next time she drank a cup of tea at the widow’s. "I can see by
yer cup, Mustress McNabb," she added, "thet Wullie is gaun tae be a great
maun, an’ ye ought aye tae be prood o’ hum."
The widow did not need the
exhortation of Auld Peggy to be proud of her son.