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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXX - Willie and Colin preparing for War


IT was not long after Willie’s first visit to the Rolphes, as just described, that the impending national rupture occurred, and hostilities broke out between the North and the South. It was little wonder that thousands of the most worthy young subjects of Her Majesty living in Canada near the boundary of the northern states (the only portion of Canada that was fairly well settled at that time) should share the anti-slavery feelings of the North and hasten to take part in the rebellion. Willie was one of these, and at President Lincoln’s call for soldiers, the first thing the young man did was to wait upon Mr. Rolphe and let him know what was in his mind.

"Do you not think that you are a little young and inexperienced?" said the president, eyeing the impetuous young man. He was secretly proud to witness the spirit shown by this young Canadian, but thought it his duty to warn the lad of the dangers and responsibilities attendant upon the step which he proposed taking.

"Well, it’s true I am not very old," answered Willie, "but I am rugged and strong, and my sympathies are so completely with the cause that I feel I could not be happy or contented without doing my share to help it along."

"Well, my brave boy, this is a tremendously serious step that you contemplate taking, and a final decision must not be too hastily reached. You must write to your mother, and I shall do the same. The whole matter must be laid before her, as I should not like to take the responsibility of advising you. Besides, there is no special haste for a few days or even weeks, for it is quite apparent that hostilities, having once begun, will continue a long time. Meantime, I will talk to my brother, Captain Rolphe, about you. He has been commissioned to raise a battalion, and if anything comes of your suggestion, I should like to have you join his force."

Willie was leaving the office after he had expressed his thanks, when Mr. Rolphe called him back and said : —"I say, McNabb, I understand your mother has a large family, and being a widow, I doubt not but she would suffer if she lacked your assistance. In the event of your going forward with the troops, I would be much pleased to place one of your brothers in your position, and give him such advancement as might be deemed best. In this way the remittance, which I have been given to understand you send to your mother, need not be withdrawn."

This was the one thing above all others which pleased Willie. The only misgiving he had about the entire project of participating in the war was the consequent financial loss his mother would experience.

In addition to this, his brother Jamie had grown to be a great strong lad, much older looking than his actual years, and he had been urging Willie for some time to secure employment for him, so that he might be enabled to make a start in the world. Here was an excellent opening, and it seemed to Willie, as he thanked Mr. Rolphe and withdrew, promising to write home at once, that the way was opening for the advancement of Jamie.

As for Colin, Willie had his own thoughts in regard to the lad. He had always, since leaving the settlement, kept up a correspondence with Colin, and the more recent letters that passed between them contained matters and proposals which Colin did not discuss even with me or Mrs. McNabb. As might be suspected, the boys were corresponding about the impending war. The last letter which Willie sent Colin contained the young man’s decision to join the Northem army, and he added that if he succeeded he would endeavour to have Colin go with him. They were to go as comrades in arms.

It is not difficult to imagine how such a proposal would appeal to the fancy of a lad like Colin. Indeed, a new existence seemed to have dawned for him. There was an elasticity in his step, a new fire in his eye, a buoyancy in his movements, for which none of us were able to account at the time, and it was only after "the plan of campaign" was fully matured and laid before us, that we finally understood the secret spring which had entered into Colin’s life.

It was naturally a great shock to Mrs. McNabb when she learned, first through her son and afterwards through Mr. Rolphe, of Willie’s proposition; and when she realised that it also entailed the loss from her home of Colin and Jamie, her grief, which she tried to conceal, was deep-seated.

Mrs. McNabb, however, was the last woman to stand in the way of her son’s answering what she believed to be the call of God to service in His name. Their lives had been given, she was convinced, to be employed, or if need be yielded up, in His service.

She made one request, however, saying that if Willie decided to go to the war, she would like to have him come home to see her first. She added that she had a nice bundle of warm socks knitted for him, and if he felt that God had called him to take part in the great struggle to liberate the slaves, he could perhaps spare a few days to visit his home, more especially as she would like to look over his clothes and give them a thorough overhauling and mending.

And so it fell out that Willie decided to go to the front; and it was arranged that Colin should accompany him, and Jamie should take the vacant position in the railway offices as proposed by President Rolphe.

Willie and Colin were to be attached to the battalion raised by Captain Rolphe, who had been advanced to the rank of colonel before his force moved south. President Rolphe made special representations to his brother on behalf of the two young Canadians, and everything possible was done to assist them, and make their path as plain as possible. It was nearly the end of March when Willie arrived in the settlement to visit his home before joining his regiment.


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