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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXVIII - Mrs Rolphe


IT is perhaps unnecessary to say that Willie suddenly became a popular hero in New York. The newspapers rang with praises of his heroism. Hundreds dropped into the office to see and shake hands with the brave rescuer of Helen Rolphe. It was all very embarrassing to the boy, who was naturally of a modest, retiring disposition. He could not see that he had, done anything extraordinary or anything more than any one should do under the circumstances. Naturally he was pleased at his success, and he experienced that glow of satisfaction which always follows the performance of a successful act. In the offices his fellow-clerks treated him with great deference.

Two days after the rescue, when the bustle in connection with the establishment of new offices was subsiding, Mr. Roiphe’s messenger asked Willie to go to the chief’s office, as he wished to see him. Willie was more nervous as he entered the presence of the influential official than he was when climbing the lightning-rod.

"My dear young man," said Mr. Rolphe with warmth, advancing to where Willie stood, and taking both his hands in his, "I would have sent for you sooner to speak of that terrible event, but I could hardly trust myself to discuss it. The nervous strain I underwent had completely shaken me. Helen is my only daughter, and had she been lost, I cannot tell what would have become of her mother." Willie stood silent, not knowing what to say.

"But for your bravery we should have lost her. How you managed to do it, God only knows, and I can but ascribe your success to His will and His mercy. However, you were the instrument, and the debt we owe you cannot be measured."

"Please, Mr. Rolphe, don’t think of it in the way you speak," answered Willie. "Why should I not take the risk, when the poor girl’s life was in peril? Indeed, it wasn’t so much, after all, when you come to think how easy it was for me to climb."

"Mrs. Rolphe has asked me to bring you home to dinner to-morrow evening," said Mr. Roiphe. "She is impatient to meet you."

"Oh," said Willie, naturally perturbed, and not knowing what to say. He wanted to decline.

"You must come," said Mr. Rolphe, noticing Willie’s hesitation. "Indeed, I should expect instructions to bring you home by force, if you were to decline. Remember, to-morrow evening! Mrs. Rolphe says she cannot wait any longer."

Willie left the president’s office feeling somewhat worried about the approaching visit, as he had been accustomed, owing to the inferior nature of his own position, to regard that of the president with awe, and he had always surrounded that prominent official with a halo of importance.

When the next evening arrived, Willie, who had "spruced himself up" for the occasion, waited in his little office for the president’s messenger. Presently he came, and Willie following him, found Mr. Rolphe in the best of humours, ready to start. A carriage was waiting at the door, and the youth entered it with shyness and trepidation.

As the vehicle rolled along Broadway, towards the residential portion of the city, the boy fancied that all eyes were riveted upon him, and he felt that every one was wondering who that youth might be who was driving with the president. Mr. Rolphe seemed to understand Willie’s diffidence, and he talked kindly and in the most familiar strain, seeking if possible to gain the lad’s confidence and put him at ease before the house was reached.

Mr. Rolphe lived in one of those rambling old houses in the suburbs which were famous half a century ago for their seclusion and roomy comfort. It was enclosed by trees, and had ample grounds about it. The lawns were neatly kept, and there was a pleasing air of order and discipline about the surroundings.

"And this is the lad that saved my Helen’s life!" were the words addressed to Willie, the moment he alighted at the door, by a beautiful elderly woman, who stood waiting for the carriage. With radiant face and tear-dimmed eyes she advanced towards Willie, and taking his hand kindly, she bent forward and kissed him warmly on the cheek.

Willie thought that, with the exception of his mother (who, to him, was always the most beautiful woman on earth), he never saw a kinder face or a grander looking person than Mrs. Rolphe. She was tall and stately, but comfortable looking. Her hair was prematurely white, and rolled back, exposing a forehead and face instinct with intelligence and motherly affection. Her great blue eyes beamed forth kindness. She put him at his ease at once by saying: "I want you to take a walk with me in the garden to see the flowers and the trees, and the fowls, and other things that will remind you of home, for Mr. Rolphe tells me you were brought up on a farm."

Then, with her charming conversational powers and her womanly instinct, she talked to Willie about the garden, the flowers, the vegetables, and the dogs which came bounding after them, until she realised that he was quite at ease. She also asked him about his mother, and his brothers and sisters, and in a short time she had the boy telling her all about the people at home, and the place where he was brought up. She noted with a smile of approval and pleasure Willie’s reverence for his mother.

After this she adroitly directed the conversation to the event that was uppermost in her mind, for she wanted to hear the story from the lips of the rescuer himself. After she had induced Willie to describe the rescue, which he did with more than necessary modesty, she said impulsively, and with tears of emotion that she could not restrain : —"How can we ever be thankful enough to God for sending you to save our child? I agree with my husband that it was a miracle, but it was so awful. And to think that a strange boy from a strange country should be present to save Helen! Indeed, my boy, I must write to your mother. She is surely proud of a son like you."

And Mrs. Rolphe did write to Mrs. McNabb a warm, kindly letter, filled with gratitude for the act of her son. The reply received from the widow was characteristic. She wrote very modestly about her son’s act, and expressed her devout thanks that he had been the honoured instrument in Heaven’s hands of saving the life of Mrs. Rolphe’s only daughter. She spoke of the temptations which beset boys in a great city like New York, and expressed a wish that Mrs. Rolphe might give her boy any such advice as he might stand in need of. No other reward, she concluded, would so amply repay her for the service Willie had rendered.

Before Mrs. Rolphe had finished her talk with Willie, a pleasant voice was heard from the direction of the house calling "Mother ! Mother!"

"There’s Helen looking for us," said Mrs. Rolphe, and replying to her daughter’s call, they walked towards the young girl.


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