the Ninth Concession
Chapter XLVII - Breaking the News to Mother
THREE days before the time set for
the departure of Willie for New York, a messenger arrived at the home of
Mrs. McNabb, having come with the greatest despatch straight from that
city. He bore the following letter from Mr. Rolphe, addressed to Willie.
DEAR WILLIE: A great calamity has
happened, and my heart almost fails in
the effort to break the news to you. Prepare your mind for a great
shock. I have scarcely the courage to tell you that your noble brother
Jamie is no more. His young life has been rudely cut off in the midst of
its great promise and usefulness. I am coming myself with the remains,
and will be but a short time behind the messenger. Have all arrangements
made for the burial. I was with the poor boy at the end, and he
expressed a wish to be buried at the foot of the orchard, near his
favourite apple-tree. He said the sound of the little burn, as it
rippled over the stones, would help him to rest peacefully. He added
that he had a strange fancy he would be lonesome if laid away in the
cemetery. He would like to be on the old homestead near where the cows,
the sheep, and the horses would graze. Poor lad, he was so cheerful, and
so willing to die! His only regret seemed to be the shock that his death
would cause his mother. I hope God will give you all grace to bear this
sorrow. You will know how best to break the news to his mother.
Trusting God will sustain you all
in this sore trial, I remain,
Your faithful but sorrowful friend,
Willie was down at the barn when
the messenger delivered the letter, and for a time after he read its
contents he could hardly realise what had happened, so sudden and
startling was the news. He hastily sought Wallace and Colin, and
imparted the sad intelligence to them.
While the boys, with blanched
faces and bated breath, were discussing the best plan for breaking the
awful news to their mother, she came upon them unawares, having been in
the barn on some errand. Her instinct told her, as she looked from one
face to another, that something terrible had happened.
"What is it, my boys?" she asked.
"Some calamity has befallen us."
"Yes," they answered, but they
remained silent. "You, Wallace, tell me what it is," said the mother,
appealing to her first-born. I had always observed, during my
intercourse with the family, that Mrs. McNabb, in all critical
instances, appealed to Wallace. Somehow she leaned upon him as her chief
prop and family bulwark, and, to his credit be it said, he never failed
Wallace remained silent for a
moment or two, and then he said: "Its Jamie, mother. Its about poor
Jamie. Hes " but he could get no farther; his voice choked, and he
turned his face away from her.
"What has happened to Jamie?"
asked the now faltering mother. "Did that stranger that drove down the
lane a few minutes ago bring evil tidings of my boy?"
"Yes, mother," answered Colin, who
was the coolest of the three.
"And what news did he bring?"
asked the mother.
"Very bad news, mother," answered
Colin, slowly, approaching Mrs. McNabb, and taking her hands kindly in
"Not the worst!" she gasped.
Colin bowed his head, and with a
voice choking with emotion, said, "No; but, mother dear, Jamie is dead."
The blow was too great for the
widows now weakened heart. She tottered against a bench, trying to sit
down, and then relapsed into unconsciousness. The boys bore her tenderly
to the orchard close by, and there laid her on the grass, while they
tried to revive her.
But it seemed a long time to her
anxious sons before there was any sign of returning consciousness. Colin
told me afterwards that he thought her dead, so pale and placid she
looked, as her form lay prone and silent upon the sod. Indeed so
peaceful and oblivious to all trouble did she seem, that the lad could
scarcely resist a feeling of regret that she must awaken to the
heartrending realisation of her sorrow.
She opened her eyes wonderingly at
last, and gazed on her boys bending over her. She lay very still and
quiet on the green grass, but when she looked at her sons a second time,
her eyes wore the light of intelligence. She appeared too weak in
body to move, but she breathed naturally, and the boys knew she was
conscious and was silently wrestling with her burden. At length the
heartbreaking silence was broken.
"Gods will be done !" she
murmured. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the
name of the Lord! "
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