BUT the pleasant days sped all too
rapidly, and at last the hour came when the three young men must say
good-bye and plunge into the great world which held so much of uncertainty
for them. I shall not dwell upon the parting scenes or attempt to depict
the regret that was experienced over the departure of the boys. They were
all very popular with the young people in the settlement.
I may be partial (perhaps it is
natural that I should be), but I think the keenest regret was felt in
parting with Colin, especially among the boys and girls of the place.
Colinís brightness, cheerfulness, and readiness to lend a hand made him
the friend of nearly every one.
It was arranged that Wallace should
drive the boys to Prescott. The trip would occupy three or four days, and
I had managed to be included in the party. The St. Lawrence would be
crossed at that place, and the remainder of the journey to the nearest
railway point was not long. The night before the boys crossed the river, I
took a walk with Colin. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and we
strolled down the road by the river several miles.
"Colin, my boy," I said, as we were
retracing our steps, "you are going to the war, and while I do not desire
to alarm you in the slightest, it is only right that you should realise
the risks you are taking."
"I think I am not unmindful of the
danger," Colin answered; "but I believe I am following the path of duty,
and I hope that I shall return in safety and honour."
"Please God it may be so!" I
answered. "There has been something on my mind for a long time that I
wanted to tell you, and I think it but right that you should know it
before we separate, for God only knows how long."
"Please donít say that!" replied
Colin, adding enthusiastically, "you and I have been such chums all these
years, havenít we, Uncle Watty?" And he placed his arm affectionately
across my shoulders. I felt a thrill of joy, for I loved the lad, on his
own account as well as that of my sister.
"Do you remember that beautiful
picture in the locket that I showed you some time ago?" I said.
"Remember it?" answered Colin.
"Could any one forget a face like that?"
"Well, that is the picture of your
mother," I said.
I had never had much conversation
with Colin about himself. He knew that he was not Mrs. McNabbís son, and
he knew that I was his uncle, but he never questioned me closely, and the
story of his father and mother was too sad a one for me to discuss with
him, more especially in view of the shadow that rested over the marriage
of his parents. We both appeared, somehow, to avoid the subject. The first
time it ever came up was when Colin was about eight years old. He came
home from school one evening furious because Bill Pepperís boy had in an
angry moment told him his father was a murderer and that his name was
Wasby. He was so very young when he went to the widowís to live, that he
scarcely remembered he was not born there, and it was not until he grew up
that he began to wonder why he was not told more.
I had shown Colin the picture of his
mother a week or two before, but owing to some interruption which occurred
at the time, I did not explain to him who it was. Now, however, I
determined to give the boy the locket, so that he might carry his motherís
likeness with him to the war.
Colin gazed long and earnestly at
the portrait, even though the bright moonlight afforded but an indifferent
view of it. He was returning it to me, when I said: "No, Colin, it is
yours. I brought it with me, intending to give you the locket, that
you might carry it to the war with you."
Before we reached the inn, I told
Colin everything except that the validity of his parentsí marriage had
been assailed, and that otherwise he would have been the heir to great
estates. I could see, as we walked along the old road by the great dark
stream, across which the beams from the moon cast a bar of silver, that
Colin was preoccupied. He was thinking about his mother, whose beautiful
face had stirred him deeply. I left him to himself and to his thoughts,
and the rest of the walk that night was in silence, broken only by the
noise of our footfalls, and the rippling of the water as it struck upon
the shore and receded.
"Why, where on earth have you two
been?" said Wallace, who was standing in the doorway looking for us, as we
approached the inn.
"Away down the road for miles," I
"We feared you were lost, and we
were just thinking of organising a search party," said Willie, coming out
of the hostelry.
As it was late, and the boys were to
start very early in the morning, we soon retired.
After a hurried breakfast, the
ferry-boat was announced as being at the wharf, and in a few minutes the
boys and their boxes were aboard. The goodbyes were quickly said, and the
boat pushed off leaving Wallace and me standing on the bank waving our
handkerchiefs, while the three stout-hearted lads answered us in the same
way, until their figures grew small and they were finally lost to sight.
Two days later Wallace and I were
back on the farm, where the old routine was taken up. At the earnest
solicitation of Mrs. McNabb, I consented to become one of her household,
making my home there when I was not absent from the settlement. The place
seemed dreadfully lonely for a while.