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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter LV - The Mortgage is paid


THE voyage was uneventful, and we reached England in due time. When we landed, Mr. Briggs sent a telegram to Beaumont, announcing our arrival so that a suitable welcome might be accorded the new master. The reception was all that could be desired; indeed, it was more hearty and spontaneous than the circumstances led us to expect.

Colin bore himself in his new circumstances with becoming modesty and dignity. It was remarkable what a favourable impression he made, not only upon his own people but also upon the neighbouring country gentlemen, who took the earliest opportunity of calling to welcome him, but who, having heard that his earlier circumstances had been spent amid rude surroundings, had half feared to find a rather uncongenial sort of person. He was, indeed, unfamiliar with many conventionalities of etiquette, but this was something of vastly less importance in their eyes than in the minds of persons not "to the manner born"; while his manliness, straightforward sincerity, and unaffected good breeding, were qualities they held in the highest esteem.

I parted with Colin for a time, to call upon those of my own acquaintances who were still living, my guardian had long since gone to his rest. But as the reader is not interested in my affairs, I shall not weary him with an account of my visits.

Mr. Briggs and Mr. Bartley lent Colin invaluable assistance in transacting the necessary business of the estate. When the false Earl of Beaumont died, it was thought by many that the estates were heavily encumbered, but this popular impression was doubtless due to a report as to the financial condition of affairs when he succeeded to the earldom. By dint of careful management, all debts had been wiped off, and there was a satisfactory surplus in the treasury when Colin succeeded to the title.

The six months mentioned by Colin to Katie being up, we prepared to return to Canada. I could see that Colin was longing to see his sweetheart, with whom he had maintained a weekly correspondence. So we set sail from Liverpool, and reached New York three weeks later. After a day or two spent with the Rolphes, during which Colin and Willie had a number of confidential conferences, of the nature of which I was not informed, we set out for Ontario, and in a couple of days were at the old homestead again.

"My dear mother," said Colin, addressing Mrs. McNabb, the second morning after our arrival (he loved to please the widow by calling her mother), "for sixteen or eighteen years there has been one special service to you that I have cherished in my heart and have been anxious to perform. Nothing would induce me to forego the pleasure of rendering the little service that for so many years I fondly dreamed of. Here is a legal discharge of the mortgage upon your homestead," and Colin deposited the document in the widow’s lap.

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 her hand.

"What is it, Colin?" she asked.

"You must read it for yourself, mother," answered Colin. "Here are your glasses."

Mrs. McNabb adjusted them, and read slowly, as she made out the words:

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.

(Signed) BEAUMONT.

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 sterling."

"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.

At first the widow demurred, but later on, when the girls began to coax her, she gave a half promise that she might go. She did not like the sea, and she had lived so long in the settlement that she feared if she left it she might never get back again. But the more the projected visit was discussed, the more reconciled did the widow become, and before a week had elapsed, the girls had so worked upon their mother as to exact a definite promise that she would visit the old land.


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