Tears rolled down her faded cheeks as she looked at
the parchment. Nobody but a woman placed as she had been for years can
form any conception of what a mortgage on the homestead means.
It means a perpetual fear upon the soul lest, by any
failure to meet the interest, the home will be lost, and the family
turned adrift upon the world. It means a constant leaden weight upon the
heart, lest the creditor will swoop down some day, claim his money, and
turn the family adrift without any means of making a livelihood. To a
fond and anxious mother it means many a sleepless night; many a deep
sigh as she goes from bed to bed to tuck up the dear ones, who, all
unconscious of their mother’s anxiety, are sleeping sweetly and
peacefully; many a deep sigh lest the roof which shelters to-night may
be seized tomorrow; it means when the interest is overdue, many a
roundabout circuit through the town to avoid the man who acts as
collector; it means living in perpetual fear, when arrears have
accumulated, lest every stranger who drives down the lane may be the
sheriff coming to seize the household goods, and to expel the family
penniless upon the world.
Ever since Colin had been adopted by the widow, I had
seen to it that she was much more than repaid for any expense to which
she was put on his behalf, and I had always contrived to have her in a
position to pay the interest in good time. But to pay the mortgage off
was beyond my power, and during many years before Colin’s adoption there
was not one of the experiences just described through which she had not
passed. Aye, and further experiences did she suffer, experiences which
man with his rougher instincts and nature is unable to comprehend, much
less describe. Deep into her soul had the iron entered.
Little wonder that tears flowed down her cheeks when
she looked at the document and heard Colin’s words. Yes, and let the
tears flow; let them flow freely! It will take an ocean of such tears to
efface the deep furrows in the forehead and the lines about the eyes,
and to wipe away the sorrow and heaviness in the heart, the weariness in
the mind, the startled, anxious look in the face, left by years of
painful anxiety and torturing suspense. The emotion that swept over the
good woman’s soul as a flood covers the land when the dyke is thrown
down, would not be restrained; for thirty years it had been pent up.
When duty, stern duty, had to be faced, the widow faced it bravely, but
now that full relief had come, she gave way.
Colin was deeply moved by her emotion, for he had
never seen her yield before. It touched the young man greatly to witness
the breakdown of this staunch nature. It was with difficulty that he
could restrain his own tears. He held the widow’s hands tenderly in his,
and stroked her bowed and gray head lovingly, while the tide continued
at the flood. Then when the wave was spent and began to subside, Colin
spoke to her tenderly and sweetly about her life, and about all she had
been to her children and to himself.
The widow listened in silence, then, raising her eyes
to Colin’s, she said: "My son, God has been good to me, indeed. All my
sons have proved worthy, honest boys, and my girls too have been all
that I could ask. And then He sent you to me at a time when the oil was
very low in the widow’s cruse. I think it was to try my faith, but how
gloriously He has kept His covenant to be a father to the fatherless and
a husband to the widow!"
Colin bowed his head, and the widow went on:
‘How darkly we at first see through the glass, Colin,
my son; but as the years have passed, how wonderfully He has unfolded
His plan. And soon," she added, while a calm light shone on her
beautiful countenance, "‘we shall see face to face.’"
While Mrs. McNabb was handling the mortgage discharge
which Colin had placed in her hands, a small document fell out of its
folds and fluttered to the floor. Colin picked it up and placed it in
"What is it, Colin?" she asked.
"You must read it for yourself, mother," answered Colin. "Here are
Mrs. McNabb adjusted them, and read slowly, as she made out the
THE BANK OF ENGLAND
Pay to the order of Mrs. McNabb of the Scotch Settlement, Upper
Canada, the sum of One Thousand Pounds Sterling, and charge the same
to my account.
The widow’s eyes opened wide with surprise as she
finished reading. "Why, what can this mean?" she said, addressing Colin.
"I suppose, mother dear, it means what it says; it is
a check on the bank of England in your favour for a thousand pounds
"Yes, but who on earth is Beaumont, and why should he
give me a thousand pounds sterling?" said the widow, in surprise.
"Can’t you guess who he is?" said Colin, with a
roguish smile on his face.
"Beaumont — Beaumont?" said
the widow, slowly and reflectively. And then suddenly the light broke
upon her, and she said: "Why, bless your heart, Colin, it’s you! 1 had
quite forgotten that you were an earl, and that your title is Beaumont.
To me you are just plain Colin, and if you were an earl a thousand times
over, I am afraid it would make no difference."
"But I would not have it make any difference,"
answered Colin. "Why should it? Am I not just the same boy that you took
to your home and heart and befriended?"
"Yes, that you are!" answered the widow. "And I am so
glad that God has given you the right kind of heart to accept and
appreciate His favours. But why have you given me this?" she added,
holding up the check. "I am sure I do not need it, now that you have
paid off the mortgage and my boys are doing so well."
"I am merely Heaven’s ambassador," answered Colin,
"sent to discharge the covenant made so long ago with you that the
‘barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail,’
and it is in that spirit that you must accept it."
Mrs. McNabb sat silent for a time. After a while
Colin told her that he was going to take Katie back with him to England,
and he asked her if she would not come with Lizzie and visit them in
their home in the old land.