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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter L - Fate busy with Colin


WILLIE deferred his departure for New York until a week after Jamieís funeral, and Mr. Rolphe remained too. He liked the quiet respite from work, and the long drives he took through the country with the boys were particularly agreeable to him. Besides, the wholesome, homely fare, the honest welcome, the kindness of the brothers and sisters, the frank, simple atmosphere of the widowís life, and the long conversations that he had with her, appealed especially to a man of his nature.

He talked with Mrs. McNabb about the relationship that existed between her son and his daughter Helen, and so deftly did he approach and discuss the subject, that the perturbation Willieís communication regarding his engagement to Helen caused her at first, owing to the disparity of fortune between the two, was entirely dissipated. Mr. Rolphe exacted a promise from her that she would visit New York the following year; he desired that she should meet Mrs. Rolphe, as well as Helen, who would naturally be anxious to meet Willieís mother.

After Mr. Rolphe and Willie returned to New York, the latter, on Mrs. Rolpheís advice, retired from the army, and entered the service of the railway company, taking up the work Jamie had been doing. By the most assiduous application to business, the young man rose in the service of the company, and soon came to be regarded as one of its most efficient and trustworthy employees. As the fiancť of Helen Rolphe, he was naturally a welcome visitor at the Rolphe home, while the distinction he gained in the war made him a young man of some celebrity, all of which, added to his natural frankness and good breeding, caused him to become very popular. He had lost his shyness and diffidence, but he was constitutionally of a retiring disposition, and as long as he lived was never fond of general society. Indeed, I have often thought that his ideal of happiness would have been banishment to a secluded island in the sea, with Helen as his sole companion.

As for Colin, he remained at the homestead for a time after Jamieís death, not having settled upon any plan for the future. He would link his arm in Katieís and wander with her about the farm. Sometimes I fancied I liked Colin so well that I was jealous of the attentions he bestowed upon others, but this jealousy did not obtain in Katieís case. I loved the girl, I think, quite as fondly as a father; she was so bright and cheerful, and withal so wise, thoughtful for others, and self-forgetful.

How often, in the evenings, I have sat in the lane beneath the old butternut tree, and shaded myself behind its great trunk, as the lovers went by! I think the shadow cast over their young hearts by the death of Jamie served to enhance the earnestness of their intercourse, and to bind them more closely together.

I was sitting under the butternut tree one evening, in the twilight, when I saw them coming. When they reached the tree, Colin said, "Youíre tired, Katie dear, let us rest here for a moment, before we go into the house." Katie agreed, and the lovers sat down. There was nothing for me to do but to make my presence known. At the risk of startling them I arose hastily, and said : ó"I thought you two would have wandered to the end

of the lane, and not disturbed an old bachelor in the enjoyment of his reveries and his pipe. I was willing to allow you to pass without breaking in on you, and you might have been equally considerate of me, but I shall leave you now to yourselves. I observe that you manage to bear up with Christian fortitude in each otherís company."

I was backing away when Colin said: "Oh, please, Uncle Watty, donít run off like that! Katie and I have no secrets, and nothing to say to each other that a dear old soul like you could not hear. As a confirmed old bachelor, you might not understand our language, but I assure you, it is quite harmless and perfectly rational. Is it not, Katie?" And Katieís eyes gleamed with delight in the soft moonlight which was stealing upon us.

Ah, yes, I could see that Katie knew all about it! But I was still fearful lest the lovers desired to be alone, and was again preparing to leave, when Katie said: "Please, Uncle Watty, for my sake, if you wonít for Colinís, sit down, and let us all three talk. You know such glorious evenings as these canít last, and you know how good a thing companionship is."

Katieís gaze was fixed upon the far-off hill, over which the moon had just risen; there was moisture on her long eyelashes and in her glistening eyes. I knew that she was thinking of Jamie. So I sat down quietly near her feet, and smoked in silence. A charmed spell seemed to have touched the scene. Katieís words, I think, turned our thoughts to Jamie, and we three sat silently there. I donít know what Colin and Katie thought of that hour, but it lives with me. Ah, those sacred hours of silence on the old farm, close to nature and to God! It was Colin that spoke first.

"Uncle Watty," he said, "I have been greatly exercised in mind of late with regard to my future. You know I canít afford to waste my life here, and I must be up and doing, for when Katie and I get married there will be two of us to support. I must come to some decision very soon, and I do wish you would help me to decide."

This was what I well understood must come, although I had tried to keep my mind from contemplating the subject. I was growing old, Colin was all I had on earth to care for, I had grown to love him very much, and I viewed with pain the prospect of the inevitable separation; for I well knew that the young manís ambition would carry him away from the homely, simple life and scenes among which I had cast my lot for life. I thought deeply for a moment or two before answering, then I said, ó for I think procrastination has always been one of my besetting sins : ó"Donít let us worry ourselves to-night about the subject, my dear Colin, let the present moment be sufficient to us. To-morrow you and I shall have a talk about your future, and perhaps decide on the best course to pursue."

Colin seemed satisfied, and we sat in silence again for a time. Presently a sound came floating across the fields. We all bent our ears and listened, and soon the words of a song came to us. In the name of all that is incongruous, it was Goarden, the hired man! In an instant the whole spirit of the scene had changed. He was returning from making a call on the young widow who kept the "far toll-gate," and who, it was reported, had her cap set for Goarden. He was singing that old song "Lottie Lane," and as it was a full quarter of a mile to the Concession, the effect seemed much more pleasing than when sung by Goarden at close range. Here is a verse I recall : ó

Oh, I once was gay as a lark in May,
And my young heart beat in tune;
For my way was bright, and my step was light
As a linnetís wing in June.
All is sad and drear, all is darkness here,
As I wander in my woe, ó

But
sometime again I will meet Lottie Lane,
Though never here below.

How often we have all stood at the door of the homestead of an evening and listened to Goarden, as he trod the Concession light-heartedly, and sang his songs! I think he fancied that the settlers used to listen, for he sang with as much gusto as he would at a "hoe-down," or when the boys were gathered about the fireplace after a logging bee. Goarden usually sang with special gusto upon his return from the county town late in the evening of a fall fair-day. He generally returned "three sheets in the wind," or, as Muckle Peter would say, "a trifle high"; but as he always had his pockets full of sugar sticks, "black man," bullsí eyes, peppermints, and such like for the

children; who would gather about him and cry, "Me farin' on you, Goarden, me farmí on you!" he was usually a welcome visitor. Drunk or sober, Goarden dispensed his hospitalities with a lavish hand. By the time he was opposite the gate to the homestead he had finished "Lottie Lane," and after whistling a bit, he struck up a livelier song, which opened like this : ó

Oh, if ever I get married, it will be in June,
When the flowers and the meadows they are in full bloom.
It was then I spied my true love by the light of the moon,
All on the banks of the Roses.

Chorus

Oh, itís come, lassie, come, wonít you come along with me;
From your daddy and your mammy Iíll soon set you free.
I will fold you in my arms, love,
And happy we will be,
All on the banks of the Roses.

Goarden had reached only the thirteenth stanza when his voice died away in the distance, as he drifted over the hill and disappeared in the black ash swamp. His singing had broken the spell that was upon Colin, Katie, and myself, and as the last faint note reached us from over the hill and died away, Katie said, "I think we had better return to the house; mother will be growing anxious about us, and we must have been here such a long time."

Colin rose at once, but I was still inclined to give my thoughts, which were busy, full play; so I said: "You might leave me here, children, for another pipe; the night is too glorious to forsake, and besides, I want to turn Colinís affairs over in my mind, and see what suggestion I can make."

But I had no need to exercise myself over Colinís future. Fate was busy with that subject, and was doing the work far more swiftly and effectively than a hundred poor instruments like myself could have done.

I watched with fondness the retreating figures of the lovers as they walked silently, arm in arm, up the lane. They were happy, and I was not unhappy. I lay till midnight under the old tree. I watched the moon, after she had risen above the hill, mount the heavens, and as she mounted, so mounted my hopes and aspirations for the future of the two young people who were so dear to me.


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